The Way of Silence
There are times in our life when we feel like God is absent. We feel pain, isolation, and perhaps even terror. Many times we react to these experiences as if they are alien forces intruding on our life. While it is true we should do everything in our power to rid the world of suffering and isolation, we must realize that solitude, silence, and trust in the unseen are the counterparts of all that we fear and dread. This is shadow and darkness in everything. This is the Via Negativa: the Way of Silence.
Dwarfed by Everything
It is easy to feel small, insignificant. When we contemplate the sheer enormity of the cosmos and realize that we are only 1 out of about 7,046,000,000 people on one of the billions of planets circling round billions of stars in the billions of galaxies in the universe, it is easy to feel dwarfed by it all. It is easy to forget that the universe is not an accident. Every effect has a cause. Something had to start time. Something had to cause the big bang. Something had to start life, since life cannot come from unlife. There is an Intelligence behind the cosmos, as distant as the darkness and as close as our breath.
In these moments, it is helpful to rest in the Ground and Abyss of Being and Becoming, saying with Job:
"I know that you can do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from you. Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech you, and I will speak: I will demand of you, and you declare unto me. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees you. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:2-6)."
The easiest journey through the Via Negativa is through voluntarily emptying ourselves of our concepts of separate self. Realizing the depths of No self [Anatta (Pāli) or Anātman (Sanskrit)] and Emptiness [Shunyata], is difficult for the grasping mind, but natural to the serene.
Ponder the question: What am I?
I am my body, this material form. No, not really. This body is in a constant state of flux. Cells are constantly dying and being born. Your body is never the same body from moment to moment. What is different when the body dies? Something that had been there is gone. The life has gone out of the body. So the life must be separate from the body if it can leave it.
I am my sensations, my feeling: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. No, not really. You could loose any number of these senses and still exist. Your quality of life may change, but life itself is still there. So separation from sensation does not end life.
I am my perception, my cognition, my elemental concepts. No, not really. If a person suffers from brain damage making them no longer able to perceive, life does not depart.
I am my volition, my intellect, my opinions, and compulsions. No, not really. In totalitarian states, Alzheimer's disease, or any other condition where making complex mental formations is not possible, life does not depart.
I am my consciousness, knowledge, self awareness. No, not really. When we sleep, life does not end only to return when we awake.
What am I? I am Anatta (No Self). I am Buddha-dhatu, Buddha nature. What I am is something that no word can touch. I am no self, drawn from the sea of Emptiness [Shunyata] and Ayin of God. Why is it called emptiness? To prevent the mind from conceptualizing it. It is transcendent of all concepts.
One traditional form of meditation on this is:
I behold and know my body, I am not my body.
I behold and know my sensations, I am not my sensations
I behold and know my perceptions, I am not my perceptions.
I behold and know my compulsions, I am not my compulsions.
I behold and know my consciousness, I am not my consciousness.
I am the knower.
I am the witness
There is no knower.
There is no witness.
This is what Jesus meant when "he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God (Luke 9:23-27)."
In silence and meditation, we experience the depth of God, and come closest to the ineffable Maker of all things. Our Jewish brothers and sisters call meditation, "hitbodedut," which means self seclusion. If we do not accept Silence, we will not hear God. If we do not accept our pain, we will suffer rather than grow. The Prophet Elijah waited for the silence to hear the voice of God. St Bernadette and St Julian of Norwich endured their pain, and brought blessings to us all.
I am not encouraging isolation. I am encouraging people to ignore their pain or the pain of others. Until we accept silence, emptiness, and even pain as a valid part of our spiritual journey, we cannot do anything about them.
"When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he comes up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments (Hab 3:16-19)."
In that silence, we find the peace that passes all understanding. In silence, where no judgments can grow, we find rest in Providence.
Crucified with Christ
Where can God be found? "In the Via Negativa. In darkness and nothingness, in the silence and emptying, in the letting go and letting be, and in the pain and suffering that constitute an equally real part of our spiritual journey. This is Path Two (Fox, Creation Spirituality, 18)."
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Gal 2:20-21)."
The Wisdom of Equity
Posts from the Blog
In Proverbs 1:2-7, we are taught the four pillars of wisdom. In the Via Negativa, we build up the pillar of Equity (Meyshar). Meyshar means "evenness, uprightness, straightness, equity; evenness, level, smoothness (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon)."
Equity is "fairness or justice in the way people are treated (Merriam-Webster)," because we know we have no separate self and are inclined to unity and harmony.
In the Ministry
The Via Negativa is the Way of the Prophet. A Prophet is an interpreter of the oracles and hidden things of the Fullness of the Godhead (Eph 4:11-13)
During his life, Father Abraham built 4 altars. Each one represented a phase of his life. In the Via Negativa, we visit the Altar of Intimacy and Returning between the House of God and the Heap of Ruins from Genesis 12:8 and 13:3.
The Winged Bull represents the Gospel of Luke, who focused on the Via Negativa through the sacrifice and Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Ayin: The Emptiness of God
Yetzer ha–Tov: Our Inclination for Unity
Peace: The Word of God in Silence
Emptying: Letting Go of Images and Letting Silence be Silence
Being Emptied: Letting Pain be Pain: Kenosis
Sinking into Nothingness and Letting Nothingness be Nothingness.
Losing the Taste of Death