This time of advent and of winter and of solstice approaching affords us an invitation to enter into the darkness, the darkness of our souls and of the Divinity that is called the apophatic Divinity

Walking through Edinburgh on a wintry night. Photo by Roan Lavery on Unsplash

The apophatic Divinity is captured by Eckhart who speaks of Divinity as “superessential darkness that has no name and will never be given a name.” 

Surely it is from such an awareness that Eckhart talks about “I pray God to rid me of God.”  That the theme of the via negativa that he stresses so much, that of letting go and letting be, includes letting go at times of all concepts and ideas and projections—even, and especially, those we put onto “God” or our understanding of God.  

Practical decisions and actions derive from such language and understanding of the divine.  Is Advent and the coming of Solstice and preparation for Christmas—as well as the season of light and Hanukkah—a reminder to honor the dark and not run from it?  The darkness has much to teach us of what is important.  It contains its own wisdom and lessons, one of which is silence and quiet and repose.

Even snow offers us silence and quiet and response in the time of winter (along with, obviously, the demands of shoveling and hastening its melting). Snow at its best is a kind of covering rendering things one again.

Snowy forest night, Banff, Canada. Photo by Neil Rosenstech on Unsplash

In my book, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, I translate the four paths of creation spirituality into four “commandments” or positive actions and practices.  The first goes like this: Thou Shalt Fall in Love at Least Three Times a Day (Via Positiva).

But the second, is this: Thou Shalt Dare the Dark (Via Negativa).  This is the lesson of the time of Winter.  Thomas Merton puts it like this, “love winter when the trees say nothing.”  Silence and nothingness are part of wintertime.  And they speak to our souls, winter speaks to our souls.

Meister Eckhart says that “the ground of the soul is dark.”  This implies that there is no moving from superficiality to depth—and every spiritual journey is about moving from the surface to the depths—without entering the dark.

The Divine is to be met in the depths of darkness as well as in the light.  Daring the dark means entering nothingness and letting it be nothingness while it works its mystery on us.  Daring the dark also means allowing pain to be pain and learning from it.  

To be continued.  

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 19f.

Also see Matthew Fox, Original Blessing.

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

Banner Image: Contemplating darkness. Photo by Mustafa ezz on Pexels.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you love the winter when the trees say nothing?  What does that mean to you?  What does winter of soul and season teach you about darkness, about depth, about silence?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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6 thoughts on “Winter, Advent and Honoring the Dark”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    This time of advent and of winter and of solstice approaching, affords us an invitation to enter into the darkness, the darkness of our souls and of the Divinity that is called, “the apophatic Divinity” which is studied in what is called, “Negative Theology” or in scholastic theology, the Via Negativa. Eckhart expresses this sense well when he writes of Divinity as “superessential darkness that has no name and will never be given a name.” And consider this: “God is nothing. No thing. God is nothingness; and yet God is something. God is neither this thing nor that thing that we can express. God is a being beyond all being; God is a beingless being.” And finally, “The Divine one is a negation of negations and a denial of denials.” I end with two of your “four commandments”: The first is: Thou Shalt Fall in Love at Least Three Times a Day (Via Positiva). The second, is: Thou Shalt Dare the Dark (Via Negativa). This is the lesson of the time of Winter….

  2. Avatar

    Be still and know that I AM
    Be still and know that I
    Be still and know that
    Be still and know
    Be still and
    Be still

  3. Avatar

    I was completing my Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya last night and an awareness came over me that I was not thinking, had no need to think and was only ‘just being’. I was ‘just existing’ and had no need to separate myself from anything else with thought. It is a very freeing experience to be ‘free of myself’ yet fully aware. — BB.

  4. Avatar

    One of the reasons I have been attracted to contemplative spirituality and the mystics has been the apophatic tradition of valuing silence, especially in contemplative prayer, in being open to a deeper intimate relationship with the Presence and Oneness of Divine Love in our hearts and All of Living co-Creation in our mysterious multidimensional Creator~Cosmos….

  5. Avatar

    Deepest within
    your utmost silence
    get comfortable with uncertainty.
    Want nothing.
    to ALL
    of the infinity
    of the One.

    This is what
    the mystics discover
    over and over again.

    Of course,
    it’s so much easier said than done
    which is why
    I keep stumbling.

  6. Avatar

    There is something about stark, naked, trees in a field of cold, cold snow that is inviting, even through the darkness of a gloomy day. It is very private, and very deep. It is impossible to describe: this feeling that is part grief for the loss of color and light and part joy for the emptiness that can be also freeing.

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