Winter Solstice, 2022: The Apophatic and Uncreated God

If God is the uncreated one, then we cannot know God since everything we know is created and has received its existence from other existences.

Attempting to illustrate the unimaginable: Illumination, ca.1220-1230 C.E., of God the Geometer, designing the cosmos. Codex Vindobonensis 2554, f.1 verso. Wikimedia Commons.

Deepak Chopra puts it this way: “God is uncreated. The universe cannot reveal God, since everything that exists is created.”

He writes: “Let’s assume that God is infinite. Our minds are not equipped to perceive the infinite. We perceive what we are prepared to see and know.” We are left ignorant and without language about that which is uncreated.

It is for this reason that we talk of God as “Superessential Darkness.”

The sixth century Syrian monk Dennis the Areopagite says God is “superessential darkness” and a “darkness beyond light.”  Eckhart repeats this language and says, “the final end is the mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead.”

Not only does this understanding of Divinity honor the dark and honor our unknowing, it also welcomes and makes room for the unspeakable and ineffable and that which is bigger than words. It makes room for silence and nothingness.  (And also eventually for poetry and art of many kinds including the arts of compassion and justice and social transformation, the Via Transformativa.)

Given today’s physics, we might ask: Are the mysterious Dark Energy and Dark Matter that scientists teach make up 97% of the universe also images of the Dark Divinity? Does the “double dark” theory plus Divinity as superessential darkness offer humankind a new kind of Trinity in our time? One wrapped in darkness?

Receptive all-one-ness. Photo by Max on Unsplash

God in this context becomes the Great Mystery. What is mystery is very shy around words and namings. Mystery does not want to be named. It wishes to remain hidden.  It invites us in to be with and to be still and to receive, not talk.

The uniqueness of the Divine, the immensity of the Divine, renders it a great mystery that may well be without any name.  As Meister Eckhart put it: 

The mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead is unknown and never was known and never will be known. God dwells therein, unknown to the Godself.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 125-127.

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

Banner Image: Darkness from which all emerges. Image by Peace,love,happiness from Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

Do these meditations on the Unnameable Mystery of Divinity assist you to let God be God and infinite and something greater than we can speak about or imagine?  Are you becoming at home with unknowing?  What difference does that make?

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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21 thoughts on “Winter Solstice, 2022: The Apophatic and Uncreated God”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You write today, “If God is the uncreated one, then we cannot know God since everything we know is created and has received its existence from other existences.” To me, believing in a panentheist God that is in all things, and all things are in God, then that means that the universe is in God, and God is in the universe–and we are the eyes of the universe looking at itself. Eckhart said, “The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me.” I guess I think, we know a lot more than we think… You then tell us that “The sixth century Syrian monk Denis the Areopagite says God is ‘superessential darkness’ and a ‘darkness beyond light.’ Eckhart repeats this language and says, “the final end is the mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead.” Not only does this understanding of the Divine honor our dark and unknowing, it also makes space for silence and nothingness. (And also eventually for poetry and art of many kinds including the arts of compassion and justice-making). Yesterday in our comments, one of our commentors (Gwen McGrenere) compared the apophatic G-d to Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which is a mystery even to scientists. And you, Matthew tell us it makes up 97% of the universe. also images of the Dark Divinity? God in this context becomes the Great Mystery. I’m very at home with unknowing. The problem is I’m around so many who think they know. Stephen Hawking wrote: “The opposite of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

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    Goodness this post raises so many questions for me. You write, “If God is the uncreated one, then we cannot know God since everything we know is created and has received its existence from other existences.” Why do we attribute everything to God then if we cannot know God? Is it then not true that God is in us and with us and that everything is a reflection of God. Yes all this is a mystery and there are many unknowns but isn’t the very act of attributing a name limit it and given that “God” by many believers is faulted for everything that happens in one’s life, then not accurate? [I don’t believe this but so many do.] If God is “superessential darkness” and a “darkness beyond light.” who and how did this darkness (energy) and the “uncreate one” evolve to be called “love”? I am okay with mystery and darkness – actually more comfortable with that than putting names on these things – but your post really has me thinking (and experiencing) about this.

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    Who professes that we will always be unknowing of God and also professes that we are ‘one with God’? Do we not speak out of both sides our our mouths?

    John 14: 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

    Matthew 11:27 All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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      That was a lot to take in! I’ll be pondering this mystery. And I’m so glad to say Happy Birthday ? to you, Rev Dr Fox and grateful for being on this journey with your guidance.

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        Happy birthday Matthew! You are a treasure! What a wonderful day to be born on. I appreciate your message on this very important day. I will use it as a meditation.

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    To be honest, I’m still learning how to be comfortable with the mystery of the unknown. What it teaches me is surrender, as well as an appreciation for and acceptance of moments of grace, when I allow myself to be drawn into the mystery of darkness and the beauty within this.

    The other day there was posted an image from the Webb telescope that captured a black hole drawing a star into the mysterious darkness of its center. As I gazed upon this image the link that Gwen posted within her comment yesterday, and the words of the anonymous writer came to mind.

    I realized that the reasons I resist surrendering to the unknown is due to my lack of trust in this mystery and the fear of what might happen if I let myself be drawn into the darkness. As I continued to ponder over this image of the black hole drawing a star into the darkness of its center it actually revealed to me the beauty of surrender, without resistance. It mirrored to me the mystical union that my soul actually longs for.

    The black hole also reflected the natural gravitational pull, the longing of this Great Mystery to draw into itself that which is created, hence mirroring this mystical union of being Oned With. If the star had resisted, it would have been flung away from the center of the darkness of this mystery, caught in the spiraling arms going round and round, until the next moment of grace offered, would once again draw it to surrender in trust.

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    A beautiful talk that spoke to me very deeply! What a gift you are to the world! It doesn’t surprise me that you were born on this sacred day where the sun stands still! Happy Birthday Matthew!

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    Happy birthday, Matthew! Thank you for all you have opened up to me this past year. You are a prophet, a mystic, a liturgist of the highest order and I have been so blessed and challenged by you. May your deep love and compassion always be given in your smile and laughter and calling us beyond where we thought we could go. Shalom. Deb Amatulli

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    I am at home with the unknowing and mystery of our Apophatic Godhead/Source, but I’m also ‘at home/One’ with our Beautiful Cataphatic God/Creator… both dimensions of the Divine Loving Diverse Oneness in All our multidimensions and diverse Cosmos… Our unique conscious eternal souls are ‘sparks’/parts of the Divine Loving Evolving Oneness of both our Apophatic Godhead and our Cataphatic God… These are my faithful, humble and human attempts at trying to understand with my evolving soul consciousness our Mysterious Divine Loving Conscious Nature within, among, and beyond us infinitely and eternally….

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    Kay and Annette Fernholz SSND

    Happy Birthday. Being born on the shortest day of the year must have given you more determination to fill each day to the brim with the cosmic revelations coming from your beautiful soul.
    So grateful

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    Happiest of Birthdays Matthew! You given us all so much! You are very important to me. Thank you and thank you to the creator for instilling you with such wisdom!

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    Blessings on your birthday…what a beautiful day to be born! Gratitude for your daily posts. So sorry to hear Holy Names College is closing. May you have many more turns of the Sun ?

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    Happy birthday, Matthew!
    The teachings of the various mystical Paths and religions, and the mystical experience itself, directly contradict Deepak Chopra’s statements. He says the universe “cannot” reveal God, since the universe is created and God is uncreated. Chopra thus implies a fundamental dualism. Mysticism teaches that God communicates Himself into all of creation and ESPECIALLY into the deepest consciousness of souls. God, in His Essence, is pure nondualistic ACT: He is create-ING, love-ING, be-ING, think-ING, reveal-ING. God does not stand AT ALL “outside of” ANY of His act or any part of its resultant emanation/creation. But, by His Action, He is create-ING something glimpsed in mystical consciousness, a Pure, timeless Act/Truth (which we call the Christ/Logos), reflecting a bigger template or examplar through which, and reflecting how, God’s Good Creation comes into being and which also teaches us our highest Ideal, our Soul’s Truth.
    This language, by the way, is an intellectual framework, a metaphor. It’s a way we can conceptualize complex intuitive Truths.
    Also: “God as Mystery” does NOT imply TOTAL “mystery”. Religions and the mystical teachings insist that SOMETHING about God CAN be known through the revelations of Holy Texts, Jesus, the wisdom of sages and prophets, and mystical revelations. God has not abandoned us.

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    The undefined infinite source of all things visible and invisible in whom we live and move and have our being is beyond all names and forms. However, the knowable creation is the expression of being of that divine mind. So we are defined, limited, finite beings within an unlimited infinitely mysterious and conscious cosmos. From the Big Bang to the present, the creative process of the cosmos has been one of generating definition by way of limitations created by the unlimited mind. So, defined reality is always less than the mind that created it. Nonetheless, because it is an expression of being of that mind, it suggests the meaning of divinity to us – the limited minds within creation. The cosmic mind beyond definition, calls us to an experience of its infinite mystery. In this process, the divine mind experiences, through us – the defined minds – the wonder of being.

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