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 God were without being. She is rather neither this thing nor that thing that we might express, He is a being above all being. She 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.’
In the Kabbalah God is also called Nothingness or Ayin, Mystical Nothingness: “Ayin, Nothingness, is more existent than all the being of the world….”
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….”
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 see again the power of Silence.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 132-138
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Mystical Nothingness, the Ayin.
Queries for Contemplation
Fr. Bede Griffiths reminds us that “we have always to go beyond” when involved in God talk. Do you find yourself and culture at this time in history willing to “go beyond” everyday God talk?
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
Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book
A centering book by Matthew Fox. This book of simple but rich meditations exemplifies the deep yet playful creation-centered spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart was a 13th-century Dominican preacher who was a mystic, prophet, feminist, activist, defender of the poor, and advocate of creation-centered spirituality, who was condemned shortly after he died.
“These quiet presentations of spirituality are remarkable for their immediacy and clarity.” –Publishers Weekly.
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times
A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book! Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit