God, An Ocean of Unfathomableness….

Eckhart says: “Reason can never comprehend God in the ocean of his unfathomableness.” 

The mystery of our oceans and our God. Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

Do these words teach you something of the mystery that Divinity is?  God as unfathomable, like the ocean is in all its depth and darkness and unexplored mysteries? 

If so, that is a very good thing; it is a sign of a spiritual depth and it rings true with what John of the Cross touches on when he says, “launch out into the depth.”  Do not stay on the shore watching, enter the deeper waters—especially in this new Age of Aquarius, the age of deeper waters, deeper mystery–even in the midst of deeper dangers and more present evil all around us.

To launch out into the depths and enter deeper waters often means to leave much behind.  This is why many of the new generation are leaving institutional religion.

Lighting the spark of God within.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

When our institutions are failing all around us, it is good to go to the ocean or deeper places of unfathomableness and let go of cheap god-talk and find the depths of our own souls.  Part of that depth is our capacity for wonder and for awe that strikes us and lights the fire, the spark of God in us.  

Thomas Aquinas said: The cause at which we wonder is hidden from us… We are united to God as to one Unknown….God alone knows the depths and riches of the Godhead, and divine wisdom alone can declare its secrets.

Indeed, for Aquinas the mind’s greatest achievement [is] to realize that God is far beyond anything we think. This is the ultimate in human knowledge: to know that we do not know God…By its immensity the divine essence transcends every form attained by the human intellect.

Eckhart echoes this teaching when he says: “whatever one says what God is, God is not; God is what one does not say of God, rather than what one says God is.”

“Title page of the first printed edition of the ZoharMantua, 1558. Library of Congress.” Photo by Possibly Simeon bar Yochai – Public Domain, Wikimedia

Psychotherapist and Hasidic mystic Estelle Frankel, in her important book, The Wisdom of Not Knowing, invites us to “befriend the unknown” and to “trade the certainty of the known for the unknown.” As a lifelong student of Jewish mysticism she has come to learn that being receptive to the unknown, in all its many facets, allows us to become more open, curious, flexible, and expansive in our personal and professional lives. This openness is the key to all learning and creativity. It is the gate that unlocks our wisdom and courage.

She cites the Zohar: “Thought cannot encompass Your divine essence” and she retranslates it as, “you cannot wrap your mind around God.” Wisdom is dialectical and thus “always involves a synergy of knowing and not knowing, discovery and mystery, action and stillness, words and silence.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 130f.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: Photo by Aaron Birch on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Have you learned that you cannot “wrap your mind around God”?  What follows from that?  Is our culture learning it, maybe the hard way?

Recommended Reading

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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15 thoughts on “God, An Ocean of Unfathomableness….”

  1. Avatar

    Save for grace and focused self-effort, one must ponder why it’s so hard to “wrap our mind” around God. While true, it’s too simplistic and unsatisfying an answer to say that it’s because divinity is unfathomable by conventional means, or that the mind itself is a poor tool for apprehending it. No, there’s something else, a series of inbred resistances orienting human souls in a direction far downstream from their Source. And save for relatively few, they remain there uninformed and unaware of same, rendering the lot un-whole (unholy) and unbalanced. Such is the bane of the present world order. Via illustration, as parent and source one wouldn’t make it THAT difficult for their offspring to know, grasp, or experience their necessary and loving parental presence and care– wouldn’t put it that far out of reach for them. The agonies of a struggling, helpless child would render that negligent, sadistic even, and with irreparable damages following. Subsequently, when the blessed remnant quizzically ask – “Why, Lord?” – the patronizing answer is usually – “because I said so” (Rm. 9:15).

  2. Avatar

    The words that speak to me in response to todays DM and the queries is… “entering the unknown… it is here that divine wisdom declares its secrets.” As Mathew has stated, there is alot of letting go and leaving much behind. Much of this letting go is about releasing our need to be rigidly in control, due to our many fears. The unknown with all of its uncertainty seems a bit frightening, yet at the same time its as if it is an invitation into something liberating. This something liberating… I sense as the freedom to be fearlessly curious… to become childlike once again… filled with a reclaimed sense of innocence… a restored sense of awe and wonder about life, lived in relationship with the infathomable mystery of God… to delve into living in the uncertainty of the unknown with a deep level of trust… letting go and leaving behind all the attachments we have to many things that create an illusion of safety, security and stability… that which we often deem necessary to survive, in what we perceive as a hostile, insecure and unstable world. I get the sense in courageously doing so… that there is an expansion that unfolds, evolves and emerges… from within the depths of our own hearts, minds and souls… that encountering of the essence and presence of the Spirit of the Divine unknown… becoming.

    1. Avatar

      I so appreciated and will reflect more deeply in my own life your thoughts on
      “Entering more deeply into the unknown…it is here that divine wisdom declares its secrets.”
      I pray daily for courage to let go of attachments especially to persons I love. From these deaths, griefs, I have experienced “an expansion that unfolds, evolves and emerges from the depths of my own heart, mind, body and soul…and encountered the presence of the Divine Holy Spirit.” Thank you so much, Sr. Brigid Cannon

  3. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You begin today with a quotation from Eckhart, who says: “Reason can never comprehend God in the ocean of his unfathomableness.” In the course of your meditation one comment that spoke to me was: “To launch out into the depths and enter deeper waters often means to leave much behind. This is why many of the new generation are leaving institutional religion.” I find in my own work as a Community Minister is that I have found far more people who are interested in spiritual things than there are who go to Church. They’ve left that behind. Psychotherapist and Hasidic mystic Estelle Frankel cites the Zohar: “Thought cannot encompass Your divine essence” and she retranslates it as, “you cannot wrap your mind around God.” You ask us: “Have you learned that you cannot ‘wrap your mind around God’?” Yes, I definitely have, and that is why books like Leslie Weatherhead’s THE CHRISTIAN AGNOSTIC is a good book to read. I find there is no Church as where I am totally at home in, and that’s why I am here–because this is the closest form of spirituality for me that I have found.

  4. Avatar

    Richard, I too echo your comment of not finding a church where I am totally at home in… and why I am here in this community through the DM’s… because for myself also like you, this is the place and space that is the closest form of spirituality that I identify and relate with. I also wanted to thank Mathew for the reference to the book mentioned in today’s DM, by the mystic Estelle Frankel, “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”, which I’ve just began reading. After having read just a few of the chapters thus far, I am encouraged to begin being less fearful of the unknown and hopefully more accepting of both knowing and not knowing the mystery of God… and getting used to this reality, as Mathew mentioned today.

  5. Avatar

    Today’s banner image of dark water in motion reminds me of the WEBB image of a seeming sea of roiling dark potential that generated the ‘Big Bang’. It was astonishing to learn that the dark matter [‘Mater’] underlying the evolving universe is what holds the universe together. Humans are not in control of the fundamentals of this universe. We can never ‘wrap our minds around’ the ‘Creator/Source’ of the system in which we are invited to participate. Our ideologies and idolatries are our failed attempts to put a ‘chokehold’ on that system.

  6. Avatar

    I find the idea that one cannot wrap one’s mind around God actually comforting and liberating. I do think that we can have experiences of/with God without being able to capture them in words, although many volumes have been written about mysticism and God. I cannot fully know myself or anyone else, although the efforts to do so must be made with the understanding that I can never get it all right–as Richard Rohr says, I am never as bad or as good as I think I am. The culture has not caught up with the ability to let go of control and power and embrace unknowing–it is too scary. Thus, the desperate attempts to stay in power and control others illustrated by the Supreme Court and many politicians. The state of Florida is a prime example of the fascism that results.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, You write: “I find the idea that one cannot wrap one’s mind around God, actually comforting and liberating.” I do too. I think it is a sign of “intellectual humility” to admit that we don’t know all–or even a small part of–all there is to know about God…

  7. Avatar

    I just love this meditation. Walking into the mystery and remembering how close we are to Beloved. Not always easy especially when I am in pain body but for me there is usually some beautiful knowing after settling into my pain. I practice Father Thomas Keating’s Welcome prayer to welcome the Divine indwelling and today it feels like a knife in my belly but I am slowed down to stillness and dive into the depth of pain. Today brings Mathew’s beautiful meditation and message I needed to hear and Meister Eckharts messages from Sermon number 9. “God is closer than I am to myself. For God is equally in all things and in all places and he is ready to give himself in the same way and to the same degree in every circumstance. The one who knows God best is the one who recognizes him equally everywhere.” I aspire to this expanded perception and remembering “to be so established and fixed in God that nothing can make an impression on it.” Thank you Matthew for your beautiful work, it makes a difference. I am experiencing a day full of depth.❤️

  8. Avatar

    It seem like most religions in human history have emphasized the cataphatic understanding of God with primary emphasis on God’s visible outer Creation, even though, except for Indigenous peoples, the sacredness, beauty, blessings, and Presence of God’s Spirit within us and Mother Earth has not always become an important part of most religions’ spirituality and wisdom… Consequently, the emphasis by most religions, and consequently most humanity in history, has been on understanding God as separate and beyond us, not present, within, and Immanent as part of the mystery of Apophatic spirituality and the Divine Feminine Spirit of Love~Wisdom… We have been living with the many tragic consequences/human suffering of this emphasis on God and Sacred Creation being separate from us, with most of humanity being stuck and ignorant living on unbalanced and toxic patriarchal values such as individuality, power, greed, and materialism… (oops, my 10 lines have ended).

  9. Avatar

    If, as healer and author Joel Goldsmith states, God is the substance of all form, then the interface we experience of / with them is Creation. Thus Creation Spirituality?! And how immense and deep must they be to have everything woven out of themselves and still not be seen at all directly.
    How then can we explain the (too rare in my case) mystical feeling of union with God: a sort of syntony?
    I love your explorations, Matthew, thank you so much, and I am forward for the Mystics Summit to start (counting the hours!)
    Alix from Belgium

  10. Avatar

    I thank you sharing your insight and journey.
    I choose to use Creator because it describes the action. God becomes a name without commonly accepted properties. For me, the greatest would be love.
    We talk about eternity and eternal, but only can only attempt to describe it from our temporal experience.
    I believe that our collective spirit, souls, are part of that collective “image and likeness” spirit breathed into humanity.
    Please email me for more thoughts than this space will allow.

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