The Four Paths are Non-Linear and Interdependent

We have taken a bit of a hiatus from the Via Negativa meditations to verge into the Via Creativa and Via Transformativa happenings around the Climate Strike and more.  Why are we meandering between the paths in this way? If we are going to learn to “pray the news” we must be flexible and always seeking what Eckhart calls “the God inside” of everything—even the news. 

The Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa, and Transformativa weave and intertwine with one another throughout our lives. Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

The Four Paths are decidedly non linear.  I have always imaged them as an open-ended spiral—and spirals go forward as well as backward and this spiral is one that expands and at times may contract as well.  One image I hold of what we are doing is this: Salt and peppering the Via Negativa with the VC and VT and VP also.  This salt and peppering can—and should—happen with each of the Four Paths. 

We saw in the Via Negativa how essential it is to remember the Via Positiva, to call it to mind, when the darkness hits—a teaching direct from Hildegard of Bingen when she was discussing her own dark night of the soul.  We saw in Eckhart’s dream of his being “pregnant with nothingness” how the Via Negativa culminates in the birthing of the Via Creativa.  And we saw early in these meditations how art as meditation is “the way of the prophets” (thus VC leading to VT).  The very goal of the Via Transformativa—justice and compassion—is to bring more and more beings to the table of the Via Positiva so all can participate in the splendor of life. 

While our life journey, like our body, functions as an organic, multidimensional whole, it is important to understand its parts. Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

So we must conclude that none of the paths stands alone or is isolated from the others, each flows in and out of the others, there is true interdependence at work here. 

Nevertheless for our mind’s sake and learning’s sake we do have to temporarily isolate each path to travel deeper and understand them more profoundly for each contains its own wisdom and truth and surprises.  Our minds learn by temporarily focusing on parts and then returning to the whole.

So in this and a few more subsequent meditations we want to return to some additional dimensions to the very rich Via Negativa Path before we move on to focus on the Via Creativa path.  One of these is the Apophatic Divinity, the Darkness of the Divine.  Consider this teaching from Thomas Aquinas for example: “We are united to God as to one Unknown.”

See Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, 130.
Banner Image: “Spiral Stairway,” Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

Queries for Contemplation

Meditations: What does it mean to hear of the Darkness of Divinity and the Unknownness of the Divine?  Does that slow one down a bit with one’s God talk?  Does it cause one to reflect more deeply?  And talk less frequently of the Divine?

Sit with the phrase “We are united to God as to one Unknown.”  Let it speak to you and to your deepest self.  What does it say to you?

How do you experience the Four Paths salt and peppering one another?

Recommended Reading

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview.  In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.

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5 thoughts on “The Four Paths are Non-Linear and Interdependent”

  1. Avatar

    The Daily Med today* and Rev. Fox’s phrase “super-sensual darkness” reminds me of a vision I’ve carried with me most of my life of what the unnamable God might be like. In my vision I see a blue-grey-green warm light, similar to the gloaming period at twilight, or just before daybreak. This gloaming light touches something very deep – it is wide, still, waters that are deep and flowing like an ocean, the depths of which I cannot fathom, and are as dark and unknowable as the darkest sky, as the darkest center of old-growth forest on a new moon night.

    I have a familiar sense of understanding but cannot capture in words alone, the immense energy that is flowing over, touching, and uniting both light-tinged sky and dark ocean. It is all-knowing, all-seeing presence, containing every emotion that human beings have ever felt and more, and its presence is like the deepest Peace one can know. It contains the beating heart of the universe. There is a whisper of sound, a light breeze with anticipation moving just ahead of a summer thunderstorm and the birds retake their nests. It is directionless and yet moves in all directions. It is not fully knowable, and yet is the deepest part of us.

    I sense that my vision is something like what the soul is like, or perhaps what the soul reflects.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Brent,
      Thank you for sharing this beautiful description of the “super-sensitive darkness”. You refer to it as something both earthly and unearthly and something knowable and yet unknown. I will think of it often when considering the Via Negativa.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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