Silence, Darkness, and the Ground of Being, continued

In yesterday’s DM, we established that depths of earth or ground or sky or ocean or soul, are invariably dark.  Dark and mysterious.  And so it is that there is an apophatic side to Divinity (meaning a side without light) as well as a cataphatic or light-filled side. 

Expression of the Hindu mantra “neti-neti” or “not this, not this” – attempting to uncover the Absolute by noting what it is not. Image by Listenwave Photography on Flickr.

We saw how the Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths–what mystics call the “inside” of things, the essence of things.  This is where divinity lies.  And the true self.  Eckhart calls God’s darkness a “superessential darkness, a mystery behind mystery, a mystery within mystery that no light has penetrated.”  Andrew Harvey proposes the apophatic divinity is “hidden from all our senses in a light so dazzling it registers on them as darkness.”

While we often meditate on the beauty and wonder and awe of creation, the light-filled side, it is also important to recognize the dark side, the ground of being and ground of the divine.

Darkness of the depths: New Zealand’s Waitomo caves with glowworms. Photo by Манько Марко on Wikimedia Commons.

Many mystics speak to this reality.  In the sixth century, the Syrian monk Dennis the Areopagite called God “superessential darkness” and a “darkness beyond light.”

Meister Eckhart repeats this language, telling us that “the final end is the mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead.”  Not only does this understanding of Divinity honor the dark and honor our unknowing, it also welcomes and makes room for the unspeakable and ineffable which is bigger than words. It makes room for silence and nothingness therefore.  “The Godhead has no name and will never be given a name—a truly hidden God.” (Eckhart)

Ancient galaxy is “brimming with dark matter.” Image credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of CA Irvine/D. Buote

We might ask: Are the mysterious Dark Energy and Dark Matter that scientists teach make up 97% of the universe also images of the Dark Divinity? Does the “double dark” theory plus Divinity as superessential darkness offer humankind a new kind of Trinity in our time?

Images of ground and darkness celebrate the divine as the Great Mystery.  Mystery is very shy around words and namings. Mystery does not want to be named. It wishes to remain hidden. The uniqueness of the Divine, the immensity of the Divine, renders it a great mystery that may well be beyond all naming and without any name.

Mystery invites silence.  Maybe this is why Eckhart says, “nothing in all creation is so like God as silence.”  Silence takes us more deeply into the ground of God “where our ground and God’s ground are the same.”

Le Silence, painted plaster sculpture by Auguste Preault (1842-1843). Photo by Nrswanson on Wikimedia Commons.

Eckhart puts it this way:

The mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead is unknown and never was known and never will be known. God dwells therein, unknown to the Godself.

David Bentley Hart encourages us to “reflect upon the mystery that manifests itself not as a thing among other things, but as the silent event of being itself.”  Being itself (as distinct from beings) is a “silent event.” 

Our distance from nature and ground and depths can interfere with this silence.  The result is noise and cacophony and no mystery and little ground or grounding.  

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, p. 233

See also Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 126f

Banner Image: “A Dark Landscape” Drawing by Herbert Crowley (1873–1937) on Wikimedia Commons

Have you experienced the Divine as “superessential darkness”?  What follows from that?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God

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.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past

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7 thoughts on “Silence, Darkness, and the Ground of Being, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Another powerful meditation, which I know i will reread.
    I love Andrew Harvey quote -apophatic divinity is “hidden from all our senses in a light so dazzling it registers on them as darkness”.
    For me in the darkness, the silence, the nothingness there is everything( I just don,t have any words to describe it)
    Maybe because we,ve let go so much of our ego that our ground is gods ground and we see, hear ,taste for glimpsing moments that which no words can explain but we know with all our being to be true and real? Maybe we too return to the godhead?
    Wonderful Wonderful meditation. X

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    First there was darkness….then the Spirit hovered over the darkness…The first beginnings….of the unknown mystery becoming known….bearing forth and birthing itself from the primordial womb…consciously giving witness to itself…whispered breath stirring over the void…sounding all things into the light of existence…
    First there was darkness…..deep stillness…the sound of silence….holy oneness…..eternal desire….I AM coming into being….creation unfolding….mirrored reflections….Divine expressions…images of likeness manifesting…
    And all was good….so very good. For there is no difference between the dark and the light….night and the day….for it is all the same….to the One to the many and the many to the One.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You sound like a more profound version of Genesis 1, and I think I prefer yours !!!

  3. Avatar
    Theodora Maestre

    From a book by Herb Kane, Pele: Goddesses of Hawaii’s Volcanoes:
    on page 10, Polynesian Genesis

    “In the beginning there was only the Darkness, an infinite, formless , black nothingness. But within that void there emerged a Thought, an intelligence that brooded throughout aeons of Darkness over an immensity of time and space.
    And in that darkness was created the womb of the Earth Mother whom the ancients knew as Papa. Light was created, the light of the Sky Father Wakea. In their embrace male light penetrated female darkness and from this union of opposites was created a universe of opposites.
    So it was that the Universe was given form and life. For only in the marriage of light and darkness can there be form. And only in sunlight can there be life and growth of living things, all which must be fathered by light and mothered in the womb, the egg or the soil.”

    On a trip to Hawaii decades ago I remember hearing about some of the early chants, and one of them went on and on for a long time….about the darkness. I can’t find the reference to that now, but I do remember being bowled over by the length of it, and the power in it.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you Theodora for sharing the Polynesian Genesis with us. Its different and yet seems somehow so familiar…

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