One thing I love about the mystics is that they take us to the edge of consciousness.  They talk about the “All” and how “isness is God” (Eckhart) and they talk about Nothingness.

Meister Eckhart/Unio Mystica: A monk at whose center is a symbol uniting ratio and eros, heaven and earth, the male and the female energies in himself – thinking and feeling. Image by Hartwig HKD on Flickr.

Everything is both/and with the mystics—not either/or.  There is no dualism there but there is a great invitation for us all to stretch as we become truer to our deepest selves, our mystical selves.  And to touch both Isness and the All as well Nothing.

In my major work on Meister Eckhart where I translate 37 of his sermons (including a few treatises) and offer a commentary on each, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, the Index has 82 references to Nothingness!  And then it says: See also Darkness.

That is a lot of talk about nothing.  And nothingness. 

Nothingness experiences are not to be ignored.  They are part of the Via Negativa, part of the deep and dark and often hidden dimension to our souls.  “The ground of our soul is dark,” says Eckhart.  Hidden.  Mysterious.  Without a name.  Even “ineffable like God is.”  The apophatic God who “has no name and will never be given a name.”

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.

There is good reason to acknowledge nothingness and our experiences of nothingness for they often reveal deep truths to us—not only personal truths and mystical truths but social-political truths, metaphysical and psychological truths.  Any one of them can reveal experiences of nothingness.

There is nothingness everywhere.  Lately we have been meditating on the marvels of the something we call the universe and something we call our solar system and our home, the Earth.  These are brilliant somethings. 

But there is lots of emptiness between them, lots of space.  Lots of nothing.  Not to mention black holes.  Nothing and something dance together both in our souls and in the very bowels of the universe.

Pregnant nothingness: a possible birthing place for stars is the darkness of Molecular Cloud Barnard 68 Credit: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT Antu, ESO

Eckhart encourages us not to be afraid of nothingness, but to enter in so fully that we learn the meaning of God as nothingness and what it means to “negate negation.”  Indeed, “there is nothing in God that is to be feared.  Everything that is in God is only to be loved.”

“Nothingness” can mean no-thing.  Something more mysterious and more relational than a thing.  God is a no-thing; Eckhart calls God, among other things, a “nameless nothingness.”  To be continued


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, p. 194.  

Also from Matthew Fox, Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, p. 112.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

NOTE: Because Matthew’s video teaching was recorded on an IPhone in his car, the orientation of the recording is vertical rather than horizontal.

Banner Image: Close-up illustration of a black hole drifting through our Milky Way galaxy. The black hole is the crushed remnant of a massive star that exploded as a supernova and is now several times the mass of our Sun, trapping light due to its intense gravitational field. An estimated 100 million such black holes may wander our galaxy; the Hubble Space Telescope identifies them by their distortion of surrounding space and warping of the images of background stars lined up almost directly behind them. This gravitational “lensing” effect offers the only telltale evidence for their existence. Illustration Credit: FECYT, IAC

Queries for Contemplation

Do you feel stretched by being invited to entertain both the God who is the “All” and “Isness”—but also the God who is Nothing.  What lessons do you learn from experiences of Nothingness?


Recommended Reading

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.”  — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.  

Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality
Selected with an Introduction by Charles Burack

To encapsulate the life and work of Matthew Fox would be a daunting task for any save his colleague Dr. Charles Burack, who had the full cooperation of his subject. Fox has devoted 50 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship.  His more than 40 books, translated into 78 languages, are inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and have awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. Essential Writings begins by exploring the influences on Fox’s life and spirituality, then presents selections from all Fox’s major works in 10 sections.
“The critical insights, the creative connections, the centrality of Matthew Fox’s writings and teaching are second to none for the radical renewal of Christianity.” ~~ Richard Rohr, OFM.


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21 thoughts on “Experiencing Nothingness”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, I have a few things to say before getting to our Queries for Contemplation. You begin today by showing how mystics write about things like: “isness is God” (Eckhart). I wonder if Eckhart uses the phrase “isness is God”, in a similar way that “Being” is spoken of in philosophy, and especially in Heidegger’s BEING AND TIME. And it seems that Being is the opposite of Nothingness–note the title of Jean-Paul Sartre’s greatest philosophical work (dare I say, his Opus?): BEING AND NOTHINGNESS–and it seems that Sartre was the prophet, while Heidegger was the mystic (that is, in his writing). You mention that in you book, PASSION FOR CREATION, the Index has 80 entries for the word “Nothingness”, and it also says “see Darkness.” You also speak of the deep, dark, and often hidden dimension to our souls. “The ground of our soul is dark,” says Eckhart. In light of what I said of Heidegger and Sartre above, think of how Paul Tillich’s “ground of being” might fit into all the Being and Nothingness and darkness and the ground of the soul which Eckhart says is dark. Lately we have been meditating on the marvels of our galaxy and the universe, inspired by the images of the Webb Telescope. But despite all the beautiful images that we have seen come back to us, we can also see what amounts to many light years of darkness and nothingness. I love your words, “Nothing and something dance together both in our souls and in the very bowels of the universe.” And now for the Queries for Contemplation: “Do you feel stretched by being invited to entertain both the God who is the “All” and “Isness”—but also the God who is Nothing. Yes, but I am glad to be stretched! (Also see what I wrote above on this question). The second Question is: “What lessons do you learn from experiences of Nothingness?” In the context of my family I have never been Nothing but I have been called “a Nothing.” And sometimes I was even made to feel that I was nothing. I didn’t know that those were Via Negativa experiences, so I could never experience those things consciously. Now when I come to Via Negative experience I try to walk the path with consciousness and mindfulness. One last thing I will add is the experience of self-emptying or “kenosis” of Jesus recorded in Philippians 2:5-8. This passage of scripture is prefaced with these words: “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”–in other words we too are to empty ourselves as Jesus did. Finally, I love when you talk of Eckhart, after reading so much of him as I have myself, it seems as if you almost “channel” Eckhart. Remember, “Eckhart is my lifeboat”?

  2. Avatar
    Carmen Rumbaut

    Hi, I have a song I wrote and perform on guitar about this topic and I would like to share it with Matthew Fox and this community. I can send a video. Is there a place to send so I can share? I am no professional musician and am not selling anything.
    Thanks to all who make this Daily Meditation happen. Thanks to Matthew Fox who has been guiding me unknowingly since the 1980’s through Original Blessing and all the way through to the present. Living in Texas, this lifeline has been so precious.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Carmen, I am a singer songwriter and play the guitar, so I would love to hear what you have to share! I’m on the team that puts out the Daily Meditations; perhaps you could send it to me and I could share it with the rest of the team. Just email me at rkuykendall@mininster.com and we can talk about where to send it…

    2. Avatar

      I would love to hear your song, Carmen. Beethoven said: “Music is the Mediator Between the Spiritual and the Senses” I am an amateur musician too and playing music and composing has helped keep me sane.

  3. Avatar

    One of my favorite Upanishads within Hinduism pre-2500bc) is: “He who knows it (the Tat/TheOne) doesn’t know it. He who doesn’t think he knows it…Knows it.” “Tat Tuam Asi,” “You are It and It is You.” Within Hinduism, Shiva is the destroyer and Creator in their cultures Hindu Thought/Beliefs. She destroys the old to make way for the New Creation ever cycling as will our collective consciousness has, is, and will be. Cultures can merge as East Meets West and all of our diverse cultures and peoples meet each other and come home “Om”.

    Also the Tappas “sacred fire” celebrated way back then in early Hinduism and still now. As I understand it, everyone in the village, adults, adolescent and little children (bringing their little sticks of wood) would bring all their wood to create a huge bond fire in the center of the village to dance around and celebrate, ‘the Creation of the Uni-Verse.” They knew it (The Tat)way back then to be Energy/Light from which they, the Earth, the Sun, the Stars all were part of and emerged from.

    “Annica” in Buddhism is impermanence/change/cycling of everything…Being/Nothingness, Yin/Yang Dance, Matter/Energy, Lucidity & Darkness, Stars Being Born/Dying absorbed by Black Holes and then emerging again into who yet knows in theoretical physics and images we get to see from the Webb telescope imaging achievement.
    I love the Buddhist’s beautiful sand mandalas where the monks carefully create them and then carefully gather the sand again to later create another in the Infinite Universal Cycling. There is also the contrasting divisions that we witness so much now in each other and the gyrations in Mother Earth as she mirrors to us what we have done to Her sacred cycling and how She will continue. It is all part of the mix/mirroring each other, our traps, our limitations, our expanding consciousness…. If we pay attention, all is in Infinite Evolution/Infinite Cycling. As a walking meditation outside with the Earth/Star we are on we could trace the Infinity Symbol with our minds with each rhythmic step and breath of our given Being, saturated with gratitude for being alive in these our times.

    Mathew and others are bringing to our consciousness many systems of thoughts/beliefs/mystics/artists/poets/musicians/cultures/ideas that are all cycling now in my/yours minds. What a gift he is as an instrument of the Divine among us, in facilitating our much needed evolving Consciousness, Now!!! As a pscyhologist, I also love Carl Jung and the following:
    https://youtu.be/uqMgzjOKiuc
    https://drdarrylpokea.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/the-great-invocation.jpg

    https://drdarrylpokea.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/christlightprayer-web.jpg

    https://youtu.be/58a9zpPw9rI

    https://drdarrylpokea.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/tenzin-web.jpg

    https://drdarrylpokea.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/nelsonmandela-web.jpg

    1. Avatar

      Thank you, Darryl. I used “The Sand Castle” film to meditate on out of nothingness, something–together. And then out of something, nothingness. What a lovely way to consider nothingness.

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Darryl, Thank you for sharing with us your understanding of “nothingness” in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and for providing the links…

      1. Avatar

        And thank you Richard Reich-Kuykendall, for validating what I am growing in too also. You may be interested in my article:
        The Dark Night of the Soul Is The Gift of Illumination in Higher Consciousness.” https://drdarrylpokea.com/the-dark-night-of-the-soul-is-the-gift-of-illumination-in-higher-consciousness/

        I am Grateful as everyone who participates now may help us reach a critical mass in our collective consciousness to bring about what the Buddhists call Annica=impermanence/change/quantum flux/the evolution of the Christ Consciousness….. all these names given to IT (the One) already amongst us as we come Home “Om,” again in the Infinite.

  4. Avatar

    We are almost always so full of everything–of feelings, of media, of doing–that we seldom take time to experience nothingness. And when we do, it is often scary. Where did everything go? Maybe there are bears out there in the nothingness? Ah, but might there not be stars about to be birthed out there in the nothingness, shoots about to burst forth from the soil, songs or poetry yet to be written? I’m thinking this morning of an artist friend who creates art mostly out of found objects and used construction materials. Out of “nothingness,” he creates magnificent art. I especially love his shrines and madonnas. https://snowdriftart.com

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Michele, Thank you for your perspective on nothingness, where you speak of: “stars about to be birthed out there in the nothingness, shoots about to burst forth from the soil, songs or poetry yet to be written?” Also, I liked what you had to say about your artist friend, “who creates art mostly out of found objects and used construction materials. Out of “nothingness,” he creates magnificent art. And just FYI, after WWI there was a whole art movement called, “Dada” which was famous for using found objects in their art works…

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      Thank you Michele+McFadden for your words and bringing attention to snowdriftart.com …I love the radiance of their art forms as these represent what is deep in the unconscious minds of all of us. Their shrine around the dog touches me in my relationship to my 15 year old dog, Lydia, who is sometimes my spiritual director. You might enjoy my wife Jan’s art throughout my website, but particularly her Gaia painting in this article: https://drdarrylpokea.com/our-pets-teachers-of-the-rhythmic-dance/
      Darryl

  5. Avatar

    Many mystics said that the divine essence is nothing, i.e. no thing, that it is immanent in all things, yet is transcendent to everything. Mystics consider this seeming paradox to be a positive negation.

  6. Avatar

    Nothing and everything are in the same relationship as every other paradox or apparent contrary — like darkness/light, male/female, good/evil, etc. Each is the sleeping bit active partner of the other. And they are one, a unit, not a duality. The tip of the iceberg and the rest of the iceberg are the same iceberg.

  7. Avatar

    ‘One thing I love about the mystics is that they take us to the edge of consciousness.’ Oh how I love this too!
    I just wanted to add, that what I love about the practice of Focusing (deep listening as taught by Eugene Gendlin) is that we can sense that edge right in our bodies, and we can listen and feel something meaningful as it is coming into expression, right at the edge of nothing, in the company of a great unknowing. What I so much love about Focusing, as a practice, is that it goes much better in interaction–of course!!! since we are relational beings, interactional systems. And when we practice in the presence of another, then it’s easier to sit at the edge and not loose it. We have some help to stay right there and instead of flipping into the usual digressions of thinking about new experience.
    For me Focusing has become my main source of spiritual nurturance. All the while I was learning it, I was focusing on sensing the ‘felt sense’ and noticing it, how it changes, what comes, etc . . . and then, much later, I realized that the whole process of it, of keeping it company with my ‘larger system’ is for me, the pearl of great price. Right inside our bodies.
    And Matthew, . . . I absolutely am loving your meditations of late, of the universe story and the mystics. Just one line is decades of food. Deep bow and thanks to you, Mary Anne

  8. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Nothingness, for me personally has been experienced through being still… stilling the mind of its thinking… stilling the heart beat, through the breath… stilling the movements of the body, through a stance of resting in, being held. This being still is as Mathew stated, a process of kenosis… an emptying… a letting go… a letting be. This being still, is a pathway of deep listening… and out of this nothingness, comes something… that something is a conscious awareness of I AM.

  9. Avatar

    Thanks for all the responses! I will make a fresh video with all the enthusiasm that your interest has brought and then send to all (except YouTube since I don’t know how to do that yet) with much appreciation for this community.

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