The Apophatic God is the God of darkness and silence and namelessness. God is therefore another expression of Nothingness who bursts the limits of human apprehension and human languaging. Thomas Aquinas says that
God is said to be nonbeing (non existens) not because God is lacking in being but because God is beyond all beings.
Meister Eckhart develops this idea when he declares that “God is a being beyond being and a nothingness beyond being” who consists of a “changeless existence and a nameless nothingness.”
He elaborates on this difficult-to-grasp concept which in fact goes beyond concepts when he says:
God is nothing. It is not, however, as if he were without being. He is rather neither this thing nor that thing that we might express, He is a being above all being. He is a beingless being….God is nothingness, and yet God is something.
Father Bede Griffiths comments on Hindu wisdom regarding God talk:
We cannot name Brahman. It is ‘not this, not this.’ Whatever word we use, whatever image, whatever concept, we have always to go beyond…One cannot stop with any name of God….We are all seeing that inexpressible mystery beyond, and that is Brahman, which is neti, neti, ‘not this, not this.’
The Buddhist concept of Shunyata or emptiness reminds us that a pregnant emptiness exists within beings and within the context of interconnection. Each being exists only in relationship. Eckhart has a similar teaching when he says “Relation accordingly is present in the essence of a thing, receives its being in the essence….”
In the Kabbalah God is also called Nothingness or Ayin, Mystical Nothingness: “Ayin, Nothingness, is more existent than all the being of the world….”
Jewish mysticism calls God “Ein Sof” or “that which thought cannot comprehend.” We are reminded that “All is one in the simplicity of absolute undifferentiation. Our limited mind cannot grasp or fathom this, for it joins infinity.” In this way we can say that “God is the annihilation of all thoughts, uncontainable by any concept. Indeed, since no one can contain God at all, it is called Nothingness, Ayin.”
If God is the erasure of all thoughts, we can see why meditation as emptying the mind is so fruitful for connecting us to the One. We can see the power of Silence.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 132, 134.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Al-one-ness. Photo by Max on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
How is God a “nameless nothingness” for you? When you see nothingness all around us, including nothingburgers of many kinds, does it help to know that God too is called Nothingness by mystics of many stripes and traditions?
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