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Encyclopedia > Negative theology

Negative theology - also known as the Via Negativa (Latin for "Negative Way") and Apophatic theology - is a theology that attempts to describe God by negation, to speak of God only in terms of what may not be said about God. Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in Latium, the region immediately surrounding Rome. ... Theology (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογος, logos, word or reason) means reasoned discourse concerning religion, spirituality and God. ... This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... Negation (i. ...


In brief, the attempt is to gain and express knowledge of God by describing what God is not (apophasis), rather than by describing what God is. The apophatic tradition is often allied with or expressed in tandem with the approach of mysticism, which focuses on a spontaneous or cultivated individual experience of the divine reality beyond the realm of ordinary perception, an experience often unmediated by the structures of traditional organized religion. Apophasis (Late Latin, from Greek apophanai, to say no [1]) refers, in general, to mentioning by not mentioning. Apophasis has specific meanings when used a figure of speech or as a logical device. ... Mysticism from the Greek μυστικός (mystikos) an initiate (of the Eleusinian Mysteries, μυστήρια (mysteria) meaning initiation[1]) is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is an... The word, Perception, comes from the latin word, capere, meaning to take, the prefix per- means completely. In psychology and the cognitive sciences, perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information. ... Churchianity is a negative description of organized religion that characterizes it as emphasizing the institutional forms of Christianity (traditions, rituals, committees, and programs) and omitting the actual gospel teachings of Jesus Christ that forms the basis of Christianity. ...


In negative theology, it is recognized that we can never truly define God in words. All that can be done is to say, it isn't this, but also, it isn't that either. In the end, the student must transcend words to understand the nature of the Divine. In this sense, negative theology is not a denial. Rather, it is an assertion that whatever the Divine may be, when we attempt to capture it in human words, we must inevitably fall short.

Contents

Apophatic description of God

In Negative theology, it is accepted that the Divine is ineffable - that is, human beings cannot describe the essence of God - and therefore ALL descriptions if attempted will be false: To say that something is ineffable means that it cannot or should not be spoken. ...

  • Neither existence nor nonexistence as we understand it applies to God, i.e., God is beyond existing or not existing. (One cannot say that God exists in the usual sense of the term; nor can we say that God is nonexistent.)
  • God is divinely simple. (One should not claim that god is one, or three, or any type of being. All that can be said is, whatever God is, is not multiple independent beings)
  • God is not ignorant. (One should not say that God is wise since that word arrogantly implies we know what wise means on a divine scale, whereas we only know what wise means to a man.)
  • Likewise, God is not evil. (To say that God can be described by the word 'good' limits God to what good means to human beings.)
  • God is not a creation (but beyond this we do not know how God comes to be)
  • God is not conceptually definable in terms of space and location.
  • God is not conceptually confinable to assumptions based on time.

Even though the via negativa essentially rejects theological understanding as a path to God, some have sought to make it into an intellectual exercise, by describing God only in terms of what God is not. One problem noted with this approach, is that there seems to be no fixed basis on deciding what God is not. This article or section may be confusing or unclear for some readers, and should be edited to rectify this. ... Existence is an ontological topic par excellence. ... In theology, the doctrine of divine simplicity says that God is without parts. ... Omniscience is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character/s including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe etc. ... José Mourinho José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix (pron. ... In religion and ethics, Evil refers to the bad aspects of the behaviour and reasoning of human beings —those which are deliberately void of conscience, and show a wanton penchant for destruction. ... Good may mean: Look up good in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Creation (theology) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... Space has been an interest for philosophers and scientists for much of human history. ... Two distinct views exist on the meaning of time. ...


Philosophy

Plato, Socrates and Aristotle all have various references to the 'One' (To Hen) the ineffable God. Hesiod has in his creation ontological (see Theogony), chaos begot the Protogenoi, Eros, Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus who begot Darkness Erebus and night Nyx. Chaos being also akin to anarchos. Plato also repeats this ontology in Timaeus 40e, 41e. PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ... Socrates (Greek: Σωκράτης, invariably anglicized as , Sǒcratēs; 470–399 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BCE – March 7, 322 BCE) was an ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Bust, traditionally thought to be Seneca, now identified by some as Hesiod. ... Wikisource has original text related to this article: Theogony Wikisource has original text related to this article: Theogony (in Greek) Theogony is a poem by Hesiod describing the origins of the gods of ancient Greek religion. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... In the Greek mythology the name Protogenoi (pl. ... Eros, a god in Greek mythology Eros can also refer to: The Greek word Eros, which means sexual love 433 Eros, an asteroid EROS, the Extremely Reliable Operating System Pjur Eros, a premium latex-safe personal lubricant Eros, the life instinct postulated by Freudian psychology, standing in opposition to Thanatos... Gaia (pronounced // or //) (land or earth, from the Greek ; variant spelling Gaea—see also Ge from ) is a Greek goddess personifying the Earth. ... Tartarus, or Tartaros is a place of eternal torment and suffering, similar to the Hell of Christianity, Netherworld of Pagan religions, the Hindu Naraka, Judaic Gehenna, Chinese Di Yu, Islamic Jahannam, and Roman Paradise. ... In Greek mythology Erebus (Έρεβος Erebos, Desert from eremos ) was a primordial god, the personification of darkness and shadow, which filled in all the corners and crannies of the world. ... In Greek mythology, Nyx (, Nox in Roman translation) was the primordial goddess of the night. ... Timaeus (c. ...


In the Christian tradition

Some Theologians have argued that the first to articulate the theology in Christianity was St Paul whose reference to the Unknown God in the book of Acts (Acts 17:23) is the foundation of works such as that of Pseudo Dionysius. However, others will point to Paul's further explanation that he is going to make the unknown god known (Acts 17:23. He then goes on to describe God as Lord of heaven and earth, the one who made all nations and who is not far from each of us. Against this, Paul use negative definitions to say that God is not served by human hands although this may be seen as a specific response to the tendency to create idols and shrines for the gods. This article is becoming very long. ... Paul of Tarsus (d. ... Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite is the name scholars have given to an anonymous theologian and philosopher of the 5th century, who wrote a collection of books (Corpus Areopagiticum) falsely ascribed to the Dionysius mentioned in Acts 17:34. ...


Exemplars of the via negativa, the Cappadocian Fathers of the 4th century said that they believed in God, but they did not believe that God exists. In contrast, making positive statements about the nature of God, which occurs in most other forms of Christian theology, is sometimes called 'kataphatic theology'. Adherents of the apophatic tradition hold that God is beyond the limits of what humans can understand, and that one should not seek God by means of intellectual understanding, but through a direct experience of the love (in Western Christianity) or the Energies (in Eastern Christianity) of God. Apophatic theology can be also seen as an oral tradition. "It must also be recognized that "forgery" is a modern notion. Like Plotinus and the Cappadocians before him, Dionysius does not claim to be an innovator, but rather a communicator of a tradition." [1] The Cappadocian Fathers are the 4th century church fathers Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, and Basils brother Gregory of Nyssa, who made major contributions to the definition of the Trinity finalized at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the Nicene Creed. ... As a means of recording the passage of time, the 4th century was that century which lasted from 301 to 400. ...


Negative theology played an important role early in the history of Christianity. Like in the works of Clement of Alexandria. Three more theologians who emphasized the importance of negative theology to an orthodox understanding of God, were Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great. John of Damascus employed it when he wrote that positive statements about God reveal "not the nature, but the things around the nature." It continues to be prominent in Eastern Christianity (see Gregory Palamas), and is used to balance kataphatic theology. Apophatic statements are crucial to much theology in Orthodox Christianity (see Vladimir Lossky). This article outlines the history of Christianity and provides links to relevant topics. ... Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens), was the first member of the Church of Alexandria to be more than a name, and one of its most distinguished teachers. ... Gregory of Nyssa ( 335 – after 394) was a Christian bishop and saint. ... A millennium-old Byzantine mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia John Chrysostom (347 - 407, Greek Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος ) was a notable Christian bishop from the 4th and 5th centuries in Syria and Constantinople. ... Basil (ca. ... John of Damascus (Latin: Iohannes Damascenus or Johannes Damascenus also known as John Damascene, Chrysorrhoas, streaming with gold—i. ... Eastern Christianity refers collectively to the Christian traditions and churches which developed in Greece, the Balkans, the rest of Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, northeastern Africa and southern India over several centuries of religious antiquity. ... Gregory Palamas (1296 - 1359) was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece, and later became Archbishop of Thessalonica. ... Orthodox Christianity is a generalized reference to the Eastern traditions of Christianity, as opposed to the Western traditions (which descend through, or alongside of, the Roman Catholic Church) or the Eastern Rite Catholic churches. ... Vladimir N. Lossky (May 26, 1903–February 7, 1958) was a 20th century Greek or Eastern Orthodox theologian. ...


Negative theology has a place in the Western Christian tradition as well, although it is definitely much more of a counter-current to the prevailing positive or cataphatic traditions central to Western Christianity. For example, theologians like Meister Eckhart and St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz), mentioned above, exemplify some aspects of or tendencies towards the apophatic tradition in the West. The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown) and St John's Dark Night of the Soul are particularly well-known in the West. Western Christianity refers to Catholicism, Protestantism, and Anglicanism (which is also usually included in the Protestant category). ... The Meister Eckhart portal of the Erfurt Church. ... Saint John of the Cross (Juan de la Cruz) was a Spanish Carmelite friar, born on June 24, 1542 at Fontiveros, a small village near Avila. ... The Cloud of Unknowing is a practical spiritual guidebook thought to have been written in the 14th century by an anonymous English monk who counsels a young student to seek God not through knowledge but through love. ... Dark Night of the Soul is a term used to describe a specific phase in a Christians prayer life. ...


In the Jewish tradition

In Jewish belief, God is defined as the Creator of the universe: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1); similarly, "I am God, I make all things" (Isaiah 44:24). God, as Creator, is by definition separate from the physical universe and thus exists outside of space and time. God is therefore absolutely different from anything else, and, as above, is in consequence held to be totally unknowable. It is for this reason that we cannot make any direct statements about God. (See Tzimtzum (צמצום): the notion that God "contracted" his infinite and indescribable essence in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which a finite, independent world could exist.) Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. ... The Creation of Light by Gustave Doré. Creationism can either refer to: the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, or the universe as a whole was specially created by a supreme being (often referred to specifically as God[1]) or by other forms of supernatural intervention. ... Genesis (Hebrew: , Greek: Γένεσις, having the meanings of birth, creation, cause, beginning, source and origin) is the first book of the Torah, the first book of the Tanakh and also the first book of the Christian Old Testament. ... Isaiah the Prophet in Hebrew Scriptures was depicted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... In Jewish Mysticism, Tzimtzum (צמצום Hebrew: contraction or constriction) refers to the notion in the Kabbalistic theory of creation that God contracted his infinite essence in order to allow for a conceptual space in which a finite, independent world could exist. ... This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... Infinity is a word carrying a number of different meanings in mathematics, philosophy, theology and everyday life. ... Antarctica Australia Africa Asia Europe North America South America Middle East Caribbean Central Asia East Asia North Asia South Asia Southeast Asia SW. Asia China Australasia Melanesia Micronesia Polynesia Central America Latin America Northern America Americas C. Africa E. Africa N. Africa Southern Africa W. Africa C. Europe E. Europe...


Bahya ibn Paquda shows that our inability to describe God is similarly related to the fact of His absolute unity. God, as the entity which is "truly One" (האחד האמת), must be free of properties and is thus unlike anything else and indescribable; see Divine simplicity. This idea is developed fully in later Jewish philosophy, especially in the thought of the medieval rationalists such as Maimonides and Samuel ibn Tibbon. Bahya ibn Paquda (also: Pakuda) Full name: Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda, known to Talmud scholars (in Hebrew) as the Rabbeinu Bechaya (Our Rabbi Behaya), was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived at Saragossa, Spain, in the first half of the eleventh century. ... There are a number of basic Jewish principles of faith that were formulated by medieval rabbinic authorities. ... In theology, the doctrine of divine simplicity says that God is without parts. ... Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. ... The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times. ... This article is not about continental rationalism. ... Commonly used image indicating one artists conception of Maimonidess appearance Maimonides (March 30, 1135 or 1138–December 13, 1204) was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain and Egypt during the Middle Ages. ... Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon, more commonly known as Samuel ibn Tibbon, was a Jewish philosopher and doctor. ...


It is understood that although we cannot describe God directly (מצד עצמו) it is possible to describe Him indirectly via His attributes (תארים). The “negative attributes” (תארים שוללים) relate to God Himself, and specify what He is not. The “attributes of action” (תארים מצד פעולותיו), on the other hand, do not describe God directly, rather His interaction with creation [2].

"God's existence is absolute and it includes no composition and we comprehend only the fact that He exists, not His essence. Consequently it is a false assumption to hold that He has any positive attribute... still less has He accidents (מקרה), which could be described by an attribute. Hence it is clear that He has no positive attribute whatever. The negative attributes are necessary to direct the mind to the truths which we must believe... When we say of this being, that it exists, we mean that its non-existence is impossible; it is living - it is not dead; ...it is the first - its existence is not due to any cause; it has power, wisdom, and will - it is not feeble or ignorant; He is One - there are not more Gods than one… Every attribute predicated of God denotes either the quality of an action, or, when the attribute is intended to convey some idea of the Divine Being itself - and not of His actions - the negation of the opposite." (Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, 1:58; see also Tanya Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah Ch. 8)

In line with this formulation, attributes commonly used in describing God in Rabbinic literature, in fact refer to the "negative attributes" - omniscience, for example, refers to non-ignorance; omnipotence to non-impotence; unity to non-plurality, eternity to non-temporality. Examples of the “attributes of action” are God as Creator, Revealer, Redeemer, Mighty and Merciful [3]. Similarly, God’s perfection is generally considered an attribute of action. Joseph Albo (Ikkarim 2:24) points out that there are a number of attributes that fall under both categories simultaneously. Note that the various Names of God in Judaism, generally, correspond to the “attributes of action” - in that they represent God as he is known. The exceptions are the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-W-H) and the closely related "I Am the One I Am" (אהיה אשר אהיה - Exodus 3:13-14), both of which refer to God in his "negative attributes", as absolutely independent and uncreated; see further under "Names of God in Judaism". Abstraction is the process of reducing the information content of a concept, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. ... There are a number of basic Jewish principles of faith that were formulated by medieval rabbinic authorities. ... Negation (i. ... Commonly used image indicating one artists conception of Maimonidess appearance Maimonides (March 30, 1135 or 1138–December 13, 1204) was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain and Egypt during the Middle Ages. ... The Guide for the Perplexed (Hebrew:מורה נבוכים, translit. ... Likkutei Amarim ( ליקוטי אמרים תניא, Hebrew, collection of statements), more commonly known as the Tanya, is an early work of Hasidic Judaism, written by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic dynasty, in 1797 CE. The name Tanya derives from the books first word, which is Aramaic... Rabbinic literature, in the broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of Judaisms rabbinic writing/s throughout history. ... Omniscience is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character/s including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe etc. ... Omnipotence (literally, all power) is power with no limits or inexhaustible, in other words, unlimited power. ... Joseph Albo was a Spanish rabbi, and theologian of the fifteenth century, known chiefly as the author of the work on the Jewish principles of faith, Ikkarim. ... Joseph Albo was a Spanish rabbi, and theologian of the fifteenth century, known chiefly as the author of the work on the Jewish principles of faith, Ikkarim. ... At the bottom of the hands, the two letters on each hand combine to form יהוה (YHVH), the name of God. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Yahweh. ... At the bottom of the hands, the two letters on each hand combine to form יהוה (YHVH), the name of God. ... Exodus is the second book of the Torah, the Tanakh, and the Old Testament. ... At the bottom of the hands, the two letters on each hand combine to form יהוה (YHVH), the name of God. ...


Since two approaches are used to speak of God, there are times when these may conflict, giving rise to paradoxes in Jewish philosophy. In these cases, two descriptions of the same phenomenon appear contradictory, whereas, in fact, the difference is merely one of perspective: one description takes the viewpoint of the "attributes of action" and the other, of the "negative attributes". See the paradoxes described under free will, Divine simplicity and Tzimtzum. Robert Boyles self-flowing flask fills itself in this diagram, but perpetual motion machines cannot exist. ... Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. ... Broadly speaking, a contradiction is an incompatibility between two or more statements, ideas, or actions. ... Free Will in Theology is an important part of the debate on free will in general. ... In theology, the doctrine of divine simplicity says that God is without parts. ... In Jewish Mysticism, Tzimtzum (צמצום Hebrew: contraction or constriction) refers to the notion in the Kabbalistic theory of creation that God contracted his infinite essence in order to allow for a conceptual space in which a finite, independent world could exist. ...


In Hinduism

Perhaps the most widespread use of Negative theology occurs in the Hindu scriptures, mainly the Upanishads, where Vedantic theologians speak of the nature of Brahman - Supreme Cosmic Spirit as beyond human comprehension. “Whenever we deny something unreal, is it in reference to something real”[Br. Sutra III.2.22]. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The Upanishads (उपनिषद्, Upanişad) are part of the Hindu Shruti scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy and are seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism. ... Vedanta , meaning literally the end section of the Vedas, is a branch of Hindu philosophy. ... Theology (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογος, logos, word or reason) means reasoned discourse concerning religion, spirituality and God. ... Brahman (Devanagari: ब्रह्म ) in the Vedantic schools of Hindu philosophy, is the signifying name given to the concept of the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality of all things in this universe. ...


The Taittiriya hymn speak of Brahman as 'one where the mind does not reach'. Yet the scriptures themselves speak of Brahman's positive aspect also such as - "Brahman is Bliss". The idea of using these contradictory descriptions is to show that the attributes of Brahman is "similar" to one experienced by mortals but not exactly the "same" in quality or quantity. The Yajur Veda यजुर्वेद is one of the four Hindu Vedas; it contains religious texts focussing on liturgy and ritual. ... Brahman (Devanagari: ब्रह्म ) in the Vedantic schools of Hindu philosophy, is the signifying name given to the concept of the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality of all things in this universe. ...


Negative theology figures in the Buddhist and Hindu polemics. The arguments go something like this - Is Brahman an object of experience? If so, how do you convey this experience to others who have not had a similar experience? The only way possible is to relate this "unique" experience to common experiences but explicitly negating their sameness. A replica of an ancient statue found among the ruins of a temple at Sarnath Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, a prince of the Shakyas, whose lifetime is traditionally given as 566 to 486 BCE. It had subsequently been accepted by... Polemic is the art or practice of disputation or controversy, as in religious, philosophical, or political matters. ...


The most famous expression of Negative theology in Upanishads is found in the chant, neti neti, meaning "not this, not this", or "neither this, nor that" . In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya is questioned by his students on the nature of God. He states, "It is not this and it is not that" (neti, neti). Thus, God is not real as we are real, nor is He unreal. He is not living in the sense humans live, nor is he dead. He is not compassionate (as we use the term), nor is he uncompassionate. And so on. We can never truly define God in words. All we can do is say, it isn't this, but also, it isn't that either. In the end, the student must transcend words to understand the nature of the Divine. In this sense, neti-neti is not a denial. Rather, it is an assertion that whatever the Divine may be, when we attempt to capture it in human words, we must inevitably fall short, because we are limited in understanding, and words are limited in ability to express the transcendent. The Upanishads (उपनिषद्, Upanişad) are part of the Hindu Shruti scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy and are seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism. ... In Tibet, many Buddhists carve mantras into rocks as a form of devotion. ... In Hinduism, and in particular Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, neti neti is a chant or mantra, meaning not this, not this, or neither this, nor that ( is sandhi from not so). Adi Shankara was one of the foremost Advaita philosophers who advocated the neti-neti approach. ... The prime Upanishad among the many Upanishads written in ancient India, known very widely for its profound philosophical statements. ... In Hinduism, and in particular Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, neti neti is a chant or mantra, meaning not this, not this, or neither this, nor that ( is sandhi from not so). Adi Shankara was one of the foremost Advaita philosophers who advocated the neti-neti approach. ...


In Buddhism

The diversity of Buddhist traditions results in various viewpoints concerning God. A replica of an ancient statue found among the ruins of a temple at Sarnath Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, a prince of the Shakyas, whose lifetime is traditionally given as 566 to 486 BCE. It had subsequently been accepted by...


The Theravada Buddhist school holds that the even the question of the existence of God is irrelevant to attaining nirvana, and so the beliefs of adherents regarding the existence or non-existence of God could span from believers to agnostics to atheists. Theravadists Buddhists as a group could certainly not be considered negative theologists.


Some Mayahana and Tantric buddhist schools admit the possibility of God.


Most schools do admit negative definitions of nirvana, which is unconfined to time, space, or even existence and non-existence. In the Nikayas, the Buddhist canon of scriptures, Gautama Buddha is recorded as describing Nirvana in terms of what it is not: "There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated." (Udana VIII.3). Standing Buddha sculpture, ancient region of Gandhara, northern Pakistan, 1st century CE, Musée Guimet. ...


Anatta, understood as "not-Soul," is the core adjective that forms the basis for most of Buddhist negative dialectics, wherein the core message to point to the Absolute and the soul in Buddhism is to deny Subjectivity and spiritual reality to any and all phenomena. Such as: "Form is anatta (not-Soul,) feelings are anatta, so too are perceptions, experiences, and empirical consciousness." [SN 3.196].


Anatta as a nihilistic dogma is a relatively modern secular conception only, of what was in earliest Buddhism, the methodology of negating (neti neti) all objective attributes falsely seen as Self/Soul, but which were in fact not the Soul (anatta). “None of these (aggregates) are my Soul indeed,” the most common passage in Buddhism. No place in Sutta does the context of anatta forward or imply the negation, the denial of the Soul "most dear, the light, the only refuge" [SN 2.100, AN 4.97], but rather, instructs and illuminates to the unlearned what the Soul was not.


The anatta taught in the Nikayas has merely relative value, it is not an absolute one. It does not say simply that the Soul (atta, Atman) has no reality at all, but that ego-conceptions (the 5 aggregates), with which the unlearned man identifies himself, are not the Soul (anatta) and that is why one should grow beyond them, become detached from them and be liberated. Yet becoming attached to "detachment" continues to turn the wheel of samsara. Since this kind of anatta does not negate the Soul as such, but rather, ensnares it more deeply into the ego's attachment to desire, the root of all suffering. The concept of annata, then, denies cognitive reality to those ego-conceptions that constitute the non-self (anatta), yet at the same time sets up another conception of "self" based on the delusional pursuit of "non-self." In this way, both the conception of "self" and the pursuit of "non-self" reveal themselves to be of no ultimate value. Instead of nullifying the atta doctrine--the pursuit of the "non-self," by negation as it were, the doctrine of the "non-self" proves itself to be a Way illuminated by the darkness that results from all mental conceptions about "soul" and "non-soul" leading to Nothing, or to sunyata, the concept of the Void which "is" beyond conceptionns of presence and absence, beyond categorical thought, yet, like the Tao, remains inexhaustible and ever-present.


It is of course true that the Buddha denied the existence of the mere empirical “self” in the very meaning of “my-self” (this person so-and-so, namo-rupa,an-atta), one might say in accordance the Buddha frequently speaks of this Self, or Spirit (mahapurisha), and nowhere more clearly than in the too often repeated formula 'na me so atta’, “This/these are not my Soul” (na me so atta’= anatta/anatman), excluding body (rupa) and the components of empirical consciousness (vinnana/ nama), a statement to which the words of Sankhara are peculiarly apposite.


Further, in the same section:"There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress." (Udana VIII.1)


In other Eastern traditions

Many other East Asian traditions present something very similar to the apophatic approach: for example, the Tao Te Ching, the source book of the Chinese Taoist tradition, asserts in its first statement: the Tao ("way" or "truth") that can be described is not the constant/true Tao. The Tao Te Ching (道德經, Pinyin: D Jīng, thus sometimes rendered in recent works as Dao De Jing; archaic pre-Wade-Giles rendering: Tao Teh Ching; roughly translated as The Book of the Way and its Virtue (see dedicated chapter below on translating the title)) is... Taijitu This article is about the Chinese character. ...


See also

Anattā “No-Self” Contrary to the Brahmanical theories of his time, the Buddha chose not to assume the existence of an eternal self or soul, although he would refer to the existence of the self-subjective to conditional phenomena and responsible for kamma i. ... Christian meditation is a form of quiet (but not necessarily silent) contemplation often associated with prayer or scripture study. ... The Eye of Providence or the all-seeing eye is a symbol commonly interpreted as representing the eye of God keeping watch on mankind. ... Weak theology -- in close association with deconstruction-and-religion -- is a school of thought within continental philosophical theology that has been heavily influenced by Jacques Derridas style of theorizing known as deconstruction. ... Arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed by philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers. ... This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... Mysticism from the Greek μυστικός (mystikos) an initiate (of the Eleusinian Mysteries, μυστήρια (mysteria) meaning initiation[1]) is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is an... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... In Hinduism, and in particular Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, neti neti is a chant or mantra, meaning not this, not this, or neither this, nor that ( is sandhi from not so). Adi Shankara was one of the foremost Advaita philosophers who advocated the neti-neti approach. ... Postmodern Christianity is an understanding of Christianity that is closely associated with the body of writings known as postmodern philosophy. ... In Jewish Mysticism, Tzimtzum (צמצום Hebrew: contraction or constriction) refers to the notion in the Kabbalistic theory of creation that God contracted his infinite essence in order to allow for a conceptual space in which a finite, independent world could exist. ... Weak theology -- in close association with deconstruction-and-religion -- is a school of thought within continental philosophical theology that has been heavily influenced by Jacques Derridas style of theorizing known as deconstruction. ...

External links and resources

  • Jewish material
    • "Paradoxes", in "The Aryeh Kaplan Reader", Aryeh Kaplan, Artscroll 1983, ISBN 0-89906-174-5
    • Understanding God, Ch2. in "The Handbook of Jewish Thought", Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim 1979, ISBN 0-940118-49-1
    • Chovot ha-Levavot 1:8, Bahya ibn Paquda - Online class, Yaakov Feldman
    • Attributes, jewishencyclopedia.com

  Results from FactBites:
 
Negative theology - Biocrawler (1069 words)
Adherents of negative theology hold that God, by definition, is that which is utterly beyond this universe and outside the bounds of what humans can understand.
Apophatic theology is critical of this approach, presupposing that it is doomed to result in false, idolatrous conclusions, when applied to the discovery of the being of God.
Negative theology is present in the Upanishads of Hinduism, when Hindu Vedantic theologians speak of the nature of Brahman.
Derrida and Nonsense Theology (5230 words)
Differance, like negative theology, refuses to equate God and existence, but goes one step further by refusing also any further mode of being that is somehow "more real" than the real.
Negative theology, with which this sort of paradoxical speech may be joined, simply puts off the question of presence and logocentrism.
Second, though, it may be a statement of negative theology, which is interesting but which will fail the Derridian test because it postpones, but continues to insist, on some likeness between God and the order of the world: Perfect Mind is still "speech," even if she may not be grasped.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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