Silence Invites in the God of Nothingness, continued

The psalmist advises us to “Be still and learn that I am God.”

Be still and know I am God. Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Silence is a kind of nothingness, an emptiness, a zero—what Thomas Merton calls a “golden zero.”

Often the encounter between humans and divinity is far beyond words.  Experiences of awe render us silent—as it did for Job.

So, too, does choosing to be silent, which is a big part of any meditation practice whether introvert meditation or extrovert (art as meditation).

Says Rumi:

Secretly we spoke,
That wise one and me.
I said, Tell me the secrets of the world.
He said, Sh…Let silence
Tell you the secrets of the world.

Hawaiian elder Nana Veary says: Silence means no repetitions, no affirmations, no denials, only a conscious acknowledgement of God’s allness. In the silence, one is beyond words and thoughts.

“Overlooking Kalalau Valley from Koke’e State Park, where Nana Veary held retreats to teach hoʻoponopono.” Image by syntheticaperture in Wikimedia Commons

Brain researcher Andrew Newberg demonstrated that in deep states of meditation we go beyond thought and drop into an “experience of boundlessness.” 

Psychologist and Hasidic mystic Estelle Frankel responds to that teaching this way: Evidently, our brains are hardwired to experience the mystical state of oneness we call ‘God’ and Kabbalists refer to as ayin or Ein Sof (literally, ‘Without End’). Ein Sof is the boundless and transcendent aspect of divinity that is beyond all form….When we emerge from such states of grace, our inner being opens more fully and new layers of soul are revealed to us.

May states of grace be our regular fare and food. 

Taoism considers God a Form Without Form and speaks of the Tao as “seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing.”  There’s that Nothing name again for Divinity. 

The yin-yang symbol has its roots in Taoism. Image by Rafael Javier from Pixabay

Indeed, the Tao is a “Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception.”  God is formless form that embraces all form, an image without image that encircles all images, existing but beyond conceiving, a membrane in which all things live, move and have their being.

Eckhart echoes the same teaching when he says “God is a not-God, a not-mind, a not-person, a not-image.”  Rather God is “a pure, clear One who is separate from all twoness.” 

How does one face or even image a pure clear One who is separate from all twoness?  Silence is one such way.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 137f., 136.

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

Banner image: Silent foggy morning. Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What is a “Formless Form”?  Does this understanding of Tao or Divinity free you up to let God be God and open you to more and possibly deeper understandings of Divinity?

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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13 thoughts on “Silence Invites in the God of Nothingness, continued”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day’s Meditation. 
    As always, we look forward to your comments!!
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  2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You are right, experiences of awe render us silent, but then there are times when we choose to be silent; which is a big part of any meditation or contemplative tradition. Psychologist and Hasidic mystic Estelle Frankel tells us that our brains are hardwired to experience the mystical state of oneness we call ‘God’ and Kabbalists refer to as ayin or Ein Sof (literally, ‘Without End’). Ein Sof is the transcendent aspect of divinity that is beyond all form… God is formless form that embraces all form, and Eckhart says: “Love God as God is–a not-God / a not-mind / a not-person / a not-image.” Rather God is “a pure, clear One who is separate from all twoness.” And you ask us: “What is a ‘Formless Form’?” Because the Tao is a “Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception” this thought frees me up to let God be God, and opens me to more and possibly deeper understandings of Divinity.

  3. Avatar

    Placing Job’s suffering and initial challenge to God in the context of the current theme of meditations on nothingness is very helpful. Somehow it led me to the suffering of Jesus on the cross and his anguished question “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” This was then followed by his enlightened request “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Like Job, Jesus gave the Father who had inspired Jesus’ vision of the the Kingdom of God to have the last word.

  4. Avatar

    All mystical teachings have their origins in unitive consciousness, the invisible order of silent Oneness. But ordinary human perception and thought tend to divide the field, splitting the whole into multiple parts like on a gridiron, the source of all earthly divisions and conflicts. Complicating things, each culture, language, religion, science, or philosophy has its own graven image (icon) and/or interpretation of that undivided One. Differing languages, icons and metaphors mirror the noumenal world, but add to confusing global “babblings” that obscure a clear vision of God, specifically, the identity of the universal substance/matrix of their forms. So, humanity didn’t fall from God’s once enchanted garden, rather, a universal understanding of God “fell” in mankind and is no small matter. That wouldn’t be problematic if the majority meditated in apophatic silence understanding same, but they don’t, won’t, or can’t. So, reversing Genesis 3-11’s many “fall of God” disorders besetting humanity must begin by looking through the lens of each splintered discipline and religious tradition (all at once) identifying their common denominator and primordial tradition. Anyone game?

    1. Avatar

      One mystical intuitive experience, one universal template of a mystical Path, one complex revelation (more than just the Formless One). The core is always still visible within the various traditions. It’s obscure because it was deliberately veiled, not to be casually spoken of (sacred discourse) and not to be shared with “the unworthy,” (especially women, who were usually shut out). Hidden in subtle theology and elusive poetry. Also, its complexities are often swirled together rather than clearly delineated, and suggested rather than analyzed. Part of this is because intuition catches the taste of the mystical truths and can invite a sincere person to pursue the hints deeper. Analyzing the experience intellectually flattens it, like a dead butterfly pinned, and rather than sharing its living grandeur, it turns it into a seemingly everyday, ordinary object of dissection . But lack of clear information has created much confusion. Poetry isn’t always the best tool in mysticism.

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    Formless form, is the eternal spirit, the essence of infinite possibilities… which when brought into focus… takes on substance and form. It is the void of beingness… where the inhale and the exhale… the egg and the seed… mysteriously meet and mingle into a unifying whole… continously giving birth… to things seen and unseen, within the visible and invisible realm of Oneness. It is the Great Mystery… that I AM THAT I AM… which invites us to be still and know that unfathomable eternal spirit of essence… of beingness within our soul… and the all and the everything of existence. It’s the INVITATION… to be still… and know… that calls and draws me into this mystery of the eternal spirit… that essence of beingness… that I AM. The heart is the pathway… where this Oneing of formless form… of essence and beingness unfolds, evolves and emerges… that frees God to be God through my own soul’s existence.

  6. Avatar

    Listen to silence-hear its music
    Listen with your heart-feel joy
    Be present-Be open
    Let Presence live within you
    Cradle pain-Carry one another
    Let worry drift away
    Stop talking-Stop your hurry
    Just listen-Wait
    Silence will speak

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    Thank you for these daily meditations,,,,, I am learning much from them. As a lay person, you put into words what I cannot, again thank you blessings ?

  8. Avatar

    Formless within, formless without
    He was seeking for six years; he tried the male-oriented approach. He was a warrior, the son of a great king, trained in the ways of war and fight and struggle. It was natural for him to seek God. He tried, he tried hard. He went from one Master to another One day he had renounced the whole world, then came the ultimate renunciation — one day he renounced the searching and seeking also…seeing the futility of it, just groping in the dark. That night when he dropped search became a woman. That night he relaxed under the Bodhi tree; there was nothing to do now.
    Man is a doer. Woman is a lover, not a doer. Man is the mind, woman is the heart. Man can create things, but cannot give birth to life. The seed falls into it, disappears underground, and one day a new life arises.
    That’s how a child is born.
    A womb is needed to give birth to God, OR, to give birth to yourself. You have to become a womb.
    Become a woman. of course, psychologically, spiritually. It has nothing to do with your body, but your attitude. Woman is patient. Just think of a man having a child in his belly for nine months. You cannot conceive that a man will be able to tolerate sameness as the absolute ground of reality.
    Buddha says: Things are not different, they are the same; they only look different, they only appear different. The tree and the rock, and you, and the animals and the stars, are not different. At the innermost core, reality is one and the same. Substance is one and the same, there are no distinctions. Distinctions are dreams
    You are
    Formless within, formless without

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