November 19, 2008
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But creatures remain untouchable, inviolable. If God wants you to suffer a little, He allows you to learn just how inviolable they are. As soon as you try to possess their goodness for its own sake, all that is sweet in them becomes bitter to you, all that is beautiful, ugly. Everything you love sickens you. And at the same time your need to love something, somebody, increases a hundred times over. And God, Who is the only one who can be loved for His own sake alone, remains invisible and imaginable and untouchable, beyond everything else that exists.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is within you –the immortal words of Christ do not pertain exclusively to the patristic formulae of salvation through sacrament, nor do they point only to the mystical body itself as unitive and unifying salvation. Rather, the observation is most profound or religious truths, akin to the shahadatyn themselves, the depth of micrcosmic reality, the height of human possibility. Above the kataphatic lies the apophatic, and This is unapproachable, impenetrable. But the kataphatic is a Reality humanity mirrors, when cleansed of unnecessary and delimiting contingency.
–Ahson Azmat (Extract from: Between Kaf and Nun: Rings, Gardens, Cosmos and Imago Terrae: Towards an explanation of Sacred Tome and Space, found in Sophia vol 12, no1)
It is for this reason that the highest form of Gnostic spiritual writing, the highest and most challenging and most frustrating in many ways for the reader, is the apophatic/kataphatic contestation, of which the finest and purest example is found in Thunder Perfect Mind.
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.
It is only slightly, I would say, trailed behind by the Gospel of Philip itself. It holds the famous statement of Gnostic apophatic declaration:
Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers and sisters of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.
Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who hears the word “God” does not perceive what is correct, but perceives what is incorrect. So also with “the Father” and “the Son” and “the Holy Spirit” and “life” and “light” and “resurrection” and “the Church (Ekklesia)” and all the rest – people do not perceive what is correct but they perceive what is incorrect, unless they have come to know what is correct. The names which are heard are in the world [...] deceive. If they were in the spiritual realm, they would at no time be used as names in the world. Nor were they set among worldly things. They have an end in the spiritual realm.
What could be a better description of this philosophy than to say it is a prefiguring, written in the mythological and spiritualizing language of the first centuries of the Gnostic era, of the postmodern philosophy of Baudrillard’s simulacrum? I think it is also relevant for us to consider the warning of Max Horkheimer, the Frankfurt School philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, that we as a society are advancing far faster technologically than we are in terms of our actual substantive enlightenment as human beings. There is a difference between the substance of reason in the sense of “reasonableness”, and the process of “rationalization” — but unfortunately we collapse the two into the concept of the “ratio.” Of course, Gnosticism has never allowed for such a collapse, because of its healthy skepticism about the ability of the ratio per se to provide the salvation of either the human person or of humanity as a whole. It is important for us to hold onto that skepticism. It is a skepticism that is not anti-scientific and anti-rationalistic per se. We are not talking about the kind of anti-scientistic frenzy that has taken hold of conservative Protestantism with its bizarre hatred of genuine scientific endeavor and progress. But we are talking about a recognition that our science and our technology is sometimes advancing well beyond our moral capacity to deal with that advancing process. This is why we face issues like cloning and stem-cell research on which human society seems to be incapable of engaging in real dialogue beyond shouting and screaming matches that actually jettison any kind of reasonable debate in favor of competing fundamentalisms. We can see that is a typical problem in many parts of human life today. We actually have competing fundamentalisms. One fundamentalism of the left, one of the right; one of the Christians, one of the anti-Christians; one of the sexually repressed, one of those who seem to have no sense of the need for any kind of sexual morality based on human diversity and respect for the individual’s sexual identity.
–Brother Matthew Oroborous (From Basilides to Baudrillard… )
“The four elements stem from a single source element. This is alluded to in the verse, ‘and a river flows from Eden to water the Garden; from there it divides and becomes four major rivers.’ That is, there is a single source which divides into four — the four elements….. This source element is called the yesod hapashut, the ‘simple element,’ in that, at the source, everything is united as one, without differentiation.
Everything in the world is composed of four basic elements. Each element contains traces of all the others, even if only in microscopic proportion. Thus, domem (mineral) has ‘earth’ as its main component, but one can find traces of ‘water,’ ‘air’ and ‘fire’ within. The continued existence of the world is based upon the proper combination and interaction of these elements.
Each element is radically different in makeup from the others, yet God in His infinite wisdom created them in such a way that they could coexist and sustain life in an almost endless array of combinations — as long as that which they are sustaining is alive. When its ‘life’ ends, the elements disperse — creating a situation, conceptually, of the ‘World of Separation.’ Thus it is the life force that binds the disparate elements together so that man can exist…..
Although every person is made up of all four elements, there are four main roots, corresponding to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH). Each individual is rooted in his particular letter more than all the others. Correspondingly, he is also rooted in the specific element and character trait that derives from that letter. This is what accounts for the tremendous differences we find in people’s temparents. Some temperaments are rooted in fire, some in air, some in earth, some in water. The main thing is to harmonize their differences, for when difference, rather than harmony, is stressed, strife becomes the norm and people resist and oppose each other. This strife reverberates into their root elements, causing disharmony Above. As a result, the world is visited with destruction and sickness.
The main controlling force which can harmonize these differences is found in the single source element, the Tzaddik, The Tzaddik knows how to establish a proper balance between the various elements in his domain. This brings harmony and peace to each individual and to humanity as a whole.”“
— Nosson of Bratslav (Likutei Halachot)
Whoever is able to fulfill the first phase of the path, the phase of self-dissolution in the grace of the rose, and is able to break up the magnetic system of ordinary nature to which he is bound is immediately liberated. And although existentially still completely a nature being and so still in the world and within the system of the twelve aeons, such a person will no longer find any hindrance on account of this second sidereal birth. He has become a child of God. He has been freed of all ties forever.
- The Gnostic Mysteries of Pistis Sophia (Lectorium Rosicrucianum)
“O God, If I worship You for fear of Hell,
burn me in Hell without end.
And if I worship You in hope of Paradise,
Forbid it forever to me.
But if I worship You for You,
do not hold back from me Your everlasting Beauty.”
–Rabi a al-Basri (8th Cent Sufi Saint http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabi’a )
SHAHADATAIN: Bearing witness. In order to become a Muslim one must utter and believe in two Shahadas (Shahadatain): First Shahada: Ashhadu an la illa ill’allah. ( I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.) Second Shahada: Ashhadu anna Muhammadar rasoolullah. (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.) The Shahadatain is the gateway to Islam and the gateway to the Garden. It is easy to say, but to act on it is a vast undertaking which has far-reaching consequenccs, in both inward awareness and outward action, in this world and in the next world.
Cataphatic theology describes God positively according to what He has revealed of Himself in Scripture and nature. It is usually discussed as the opposite of Apophatic (or negative) theology, which attempts to describe God only in terms of what He is not.
Negative theology, also known as Apophatic theology, is a theological approach that describes God by negation, speaking of God only in terms of what He is not (apophasis) rather than presuming to describe what God is.
In negative theology, it is maintained that we can never truly define God in words. 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 will inevitably fall short.
Negative theology played an important role early in the history of Christianity. Three theologians who emphasized the importance of negative theology to an orthodox understanding of God, were Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great. It was employed by John of Damascus 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 Orthodoxy (see Gregory Palamas) where apophatic statements are crucial to much of their theology, and is used to balance cataphatic theology.