Chapter 3

24 Apr

From my new book:

God is No-Thing;

                                 An Apophatic Assertion

        An Introduction for Humankind’s Transpersonal Actualization



Apophatic Considerations about Language

                    Can Human Language Define the Transcendental?

Using a primarily Buddhist and modern linguistic perspective, I will
highlight traditional apophatic considerations about language in this
chapter. Apophatic theology teaches that the transcendental is
ineffable or ultimately beyond description. Negative theology states
that since the human mind cannot grasp the infinity of existence, then
all words and concepts will fail to adequately describe it. Therefore,
human languages provide, at best, a hint of a description of
transcendence. Negative theology espouses the avoidance of making
affirmations about “God” so as to prevent placing “God” in a “cage of
concepts,” which not only limits humanity’s vision of the
transcendental but easily becomes an abstracted, dualism-based
ignorance of believing in permanence and separateness.
Nevertheless, cataphatic theologians make definitive statements about
the nature of God, such as God is omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving,
all-good, glorious, all-powerful, great, almighty, and so on. However,
in doing so, problems of theodicy and logic arise. For example, if God
is all-powerful, can “He” make a mountain which is too heavy for
Him to lift? In contrast, negative theology recognizes the limits and
failings of human logic to understand the sheer dimension of
transcendence. Therefore, in the assumptions of negative theology, it
is better to say what transcendence is not rather than to say what it is
because this places fewer limits on describing what (X) is.
Yet, clearly, negative theology is not a denial. Rather, it is an assertion
that whatever transcendental reality may be, when we attempt to
capture it in human categories and words, we inevitably fail. Some
theologians, like Saint Anselm, the eleventh-century Christian
theologian, famously wrote, “God is greater than anything that we
can conceive.” He also recognized that since human beings cannot
fathom the essence of God, then all descriptions of God are ultimately
insufficient, and conceptualization is useless. As the non-dualistic,
mystical experience cannot be stated in an abstract understanding,
apophatic theology maintains that one can never truly define the
transcendent reality in words. In the end, the believer must avoid the
dualism of words and concepts to best appreciate and experience the
nature of emptiness of non-dualism.
An awareness of the transcendental is possible, yet this awareness is
not based on cognitive constructions and dualistic logic. Being or (X)
is No-Thing, non-dualistic, prior to the subject-object division and,
instead, can be intuitively understood. While (X) is conceptually and
linguistically unknowable, and transcends all human
conceptualization, knowledge through silence, or negation of the
definitive, is intuitively possible in the silent and empty mind. As the
seventeenth-century German Catholic priest and physician Angelus
Silesius wrote, “God is a pure no-thing, concealed in now and here;
the less you reach for him, the more he will appear.”


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