Theologia Mystica 07

Seventh Discourse from the series of 15 discourses - Theologia Mystica by Osho.
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We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness, and through not seeing and not knowing to see and to know him who is beyond both vision and knowledge – by the very fact of neither seeing him nor knowing him. For this is truly to see and to know, and, through the abandonment of all things, to praise him who is beyond and above all. For this is not unlike the art of those who hew out a life-like image (from stone), removing from around it all which impedes clear vision of the latent form, showing its true and hidden beauty solely by taking away.
For it is, as I believe, more fitting to praise him by taking away than by ascription, for we ascribe attributes to him when we start from universals, and come down through the intermediate to particulars. But here we take away all things from him, going up from particulars to universals, that we may know openly the unknowable, which is hidden in and under all things that may be known. And we behold that darkness beyond being, concealed under all natural light.

We have praised those things which fitly pertain to the theology of affirmation; how the divine and excellent nature may be spoken of as one, and how as three; how in accord therewith the fatherhood of God may be explained, how the sonship, and in what manner the truth of the spirit may be revealed; how out of the incorporeal and undivided excellence they put forth these three interior lights of goodness, and how in himself and in themselves, and in their mutual and co-eternal propagation they remain together, nowhere going apart; how Jesus, while above all creation, may be in very truth of the substance of human nature…. We have told how he may be called good, being, life, wisdom, and power, and whatever else concerns the spiritual naming of God.
Theology is a perverse discipline; it is masochistic. It is a subtle way of torturing yourself, but very subtle. In fact, nobody has ever said that it is a hidden form of masochism, self-torture and perversion, but I would like to make it clear to you that the theology of all the religions is basically stupid. It talks about things it knows not. It talks about things which cannot be talked about. It goes on moving in a vicious circle of contradictions because religion is silence and theology is nothing but words.
In the East the division has been very clear, hence we have been saved from a very great curse. In the East, the mystic has never tried to be a theologian and the theologian has never been thought to be a mystic. They have been separate disciplines. In the West, theology has dominated, so much so that either a mystic had to talk in terms of theology or he had to be ready to be burned alive.
Dionysius must have felt the utter futility of all that he was saying. I can feel his pain. I can feel compassion and love for him. I can see the man knows. But the people who were in power were utterly ignorant of the truth. And he did not want to be burned alive so he had to talk in a stupid way.
Lao Tzu talks directly, Buddha’s statements are absolutely clear; there is nothing airy-fairy about them. Mahavira says whatever he wants to say without creating a great camouflage of big words, theories, ideologies, philosophies. They are very matter of fact people and very precise too, almost mathematically precise.
That’s why in the East the statements of all the great enlightened masters are known as sutras. Sutra means a very condensed statement, all that is nonessential has been eliminated, only the very essential has been expressed. They are like seeds. You can sow those seeds in your soul and a big tree will start growing in you with millions of flowers and millions of seeds. But the statements themselves are very small. They don’t go zigzag; they are straightforward, they go like an arrow. They don’t go in a roundabout way because they are not afraid to say whatever they feel like saying.
The West has not allowed that freedom. And now even in the East the Western disease is spreading. Now even in the East the freedom is disappearing.
I am continuously condemned just because I go on saying the truth as it is, without making any compromise with any kind of theology – of the Hindus, of the Jainas, of the Buddhists, of the Mohammedans, of the Christians. They are all against me. It is a strange phenomenon in the East. It has been the tradition in the West, but the disease has come to the East too. Otherwise in the East nobody has ever been crucified, nobody has ever been killed, poisoned, like Socrates, Jesus, al-Hillaj Mansoor and many others.
Buddha’s statements are far more dangerous than whatever Jesus has said. Jesus does not deny the existence of God; Buddha denies the existence of God, Mahavira denies the existence of God. Patanjali says that God is only an arbitrary hypothesis, you can use it if you want, but remember it has no truth about it; it is only a means toward meditation. See the radical revolutionary rebellious spirit of the statement from a man like Patanjali, who has never been surpassed as far as methodologies for the inner journey are concerned, who is the suprememost master of Yoga and meditative methods.
All over the world it is thought that meditation is a means to God, God is the end. Patanjali reverses the whole situation. He says, “Meditation is the goal, God is only a hypothesis.” If your mind is very childish and you need the support of a God to meditate, okay, you can take the support. But remember, the moment you have learned how to meditate, drop that support. It was just to help you in the beginning.
It is like small children’s books. If you look at them you will see big pictures, colored pictures, with small text. If a child has to be helped to understand things and words and language, that’s the only way. If you want to teach him what the word mango means you have to paint a colorful, very juicy looking mango. He is interested in the mango, he is not interested in the word mango. Children are very, very pragmatic, they are not as stupid as theologians. But through the picture you can help the child to understand the word mango. Slowly, slowly the picture will disappear, but it was only an arbitrary device.
Because we are all children as far as the ultimate truth is concerned, Patanjali says there are many supports. One of those supports is the belief in God. If it helps you to surrender the ego, good, if it helps you to drop the mind, good, because the ultimate thing, the essential thing, the important thing is how to drop the ego, how to drop the mind. Any excuse will do. God is just an excuse. Once the mind is dropped, God is also dropped because God was nothing but a thought in the mind. Once the ego is dropped, God is dropped because God was nothing but a projection of the ego. The ego means “I” and God means “thou.” How can the “thou” exist without the “I”? They can either both exist together or both disappear, evaporate together. They are simultaneous phenomena.
Mahavira, Patanjali, Buddha – all three deny any existence of God. Buddha goes a step further, he even denies the existence of the self, of the soul because he says the very idea of the self or the soul is in some indirect way protecting the idea of the ego. You can call it “self,” you can call it “soul,” but you have saved the idea of the ego in some subtle way. If the ego has to be dropped, eradicated totally, then all these ideas have also to be dropped. There is no God and no soul.
Then what remains? That which remains is without “I” and “thou.” Buddha calls it the truth. It is not an experience because there is no experiencer and no one experienced. It is not knowledge because there is no knower and no known. Buddha would have been killed in the West immediately, Patanjali would have been crucified, Mahavira would have been poisoned. In the East we accepted them.
One strange thing I would like to remind you of, in the East there has been freedom of thought, freedom of tremendous value as far as your thinking is concerned, but there has been no freedom of social forms. In the East there has been a deep slavery as far as social relationships are concerned, but absolute freedom for the intelligentsia, for intelligence – no social freedom, but absolute spiritual freedom.
In the West, just the opposite has been the case. Social freedom is there: if a couple are hugging each other on the sea beach it is nobody else’s concern in the West; that is their personal affair. They are not doing any harm to anybody, and who are you to interfere? But in the East it is almost inconceivable. You cannot even talk to your married wife in front of others during the day in the old traditional families. You cannot even talk to her, what to say about embracing or kissing her? Your own wife! I am not talking about somebody else’s wife – your own wife! You cannot talk with her in full daylight in front of somebody else. The wife cannot pronounce the name of the husband, that is insulting.
I have never heard my mother pronounce my father’s name. I have never even heard my father pronounce my mother’s name. For that I always respected him because that is not the traditional way. They would have to speak in a roundabout way. My father would always call my mother “Osho’s mother” – not direct, no direct relationship. Even when I went to college and to university and for years disappeared from the house, every night he would come home and knock on the door and call, “Osho’s mother.”
A father cannot even play with his own child in front of his own father. My mother used to tell me that when I was small my father could not carry me around, play with me because the family was big – the grandparents were there, uncles were there, others were there. It was not thought right that you should play with your own child because that shows you are related to your wife in a sexual way. Otherwise, from where has the child come? – a very indirect indication of it.
In the East there has been a social slavery. That’s why you are puzzled and the Pune people are puzzled. In the West there is social freedom – and not only with your own wife. Who cares? It is nobody else’s affair at all. You are totally free to relate with people. Everybody has a girlfriend, and not only young people.
Just a few months ago Mukta’s father died. He must have been seventy-five and he had a girlfriend – on the deathbed! He had a wife, children, everything, but also a girlfriend, a young girlfriend. And he was almost dying. He was hanging between death and life for months and he was a very rich man; he has left much money for the children, for the wife, for me via Mukta! But he has left half of the money to the girlfriend. And it is accepted; there is no problem.
There has been great social freedom in the West, but there has been no intellectual freedom the way it has existed in the East. Buddha condemned Mahavira’s standpoint vehemently. Buddha was criticized by Shankaracharya with no compassion. Shankaracharya was condemned and criticized by Ramanuja in the same way as Shankara had done to Buddha. And there was no problem. These people were listened to respectfully, with great honor because they were bringing more spiritual insights, different aspects of reality. Nobody ever thought that they were destroying religion – they were enriching it.
But today that has disappeared. Social freedom has not appeared in the East as it should appear, but intellectual freedom has disappeared. Now in the East to be a buddha is as dangerous as it was in the West.
Hence I can understand Dionysius, I am in the same situation. But I would not like to speak… It will look a little ridiculous, but I can speak very easily the way Hindus would like it or the Jainas would like it or the Buddhists would like it. It is only a game with words, but I don’t want to speak that way.
Dionysius must have been absolutely convinced that if he spoke the truth clearly and was caught, then his fate was going to be the same as Socrates or Jesus, and that was not going to serve truth at all. That was his personal decision.
In fact, I don’t agree. I would have like him to die like a Jesus, like a Socrates. But nobody can say for another how he should behave, everybody has to decide according to his situation. He decided to speak the language of theology, Christian theology.

A man walking across a bridge late one night noticed another on the parapet about to throw himself over. He rushed forward and shouted, “Don’t jump! Come, have a drink and talk things over.” It so happened that the would-be suicide was a great theologian.
They went to the nearest pub and spent the next hour discussing the oneness of God and the threeness of God, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, how many angels can dance on a pin-point, what the Holy Ghost is and things like that. Drinks finished, they went back to the bridge – and both jumped.

It was one of those universities in the West where attendance was not compulsory. One student of theology attended just one lecture and obtained ninety-six percent.
“Surely you could have got the four percent also,” his professor of theology suggested.
“Sure I could,” the student replied, “but I attended one of your classes and got confused.”

A woman graduate on a return visit to her Alma Mater ran into a professor of theology. “Don’t you remember me?” she asked. “You once asked me to marry you!”
“Ah yes!” nodded the professor. “And did you?”

It is a kind of insanity. It is a kind of chess with words. You can become very proficient at playing with words, but however proficient you are, anybody who has a little intelligence can see the utter nonsense of it all. And the libraries of the world are full of all these theological treatises, although fortunately nobody reads them; they are written by theologians for other theologians, nobody else reads them.

“Don’t you find writing a thankless job?” a great theologian was once asked.
He said, “On the contrary, everything I write is returned to me with thanks.”

The theologian’s mind works in a very strange way. He can make a mountain out of a molehill. In fact, if he is a great theologian, he can make a mountain even without a molehill! They have created great mountains. Sometimes it is good to look into their books just to see what man has been doing for centuries. And we have thought these people very intelligent!
All the religions are concerned with why God created the world. Nobody can really answer it – nobody will ever be able to answer it. In the first place nobody knows whether God ever created the world or not. In the second place, even if he created it, how can you answer why he created it? To know the answer he would have to be psychoanalyzed. He may not know himself.
Do you know what things you go on doing? If somebody really asks, “Why? Why have you fallen in love with this woman?” you shrug your shoulders. You say, “It just happened!”

A professor of theology to his agitated wife: “And another thing – it was not you I was whistling at twenty years ago, it was a taxi!”

Why have you fallen in love with a certain woman? And whatever reason you give will look absurd: her long nose, or the black hair, or the blond hair. When you think about these things you will feel embarrassed even to talk about them, even to say anything about them. So we have found a cover-up. We say, “Love happens, nobody knows why. It is a mysterious phenomenon.” There is nothing mysterious about it – it is just pure chemistry! You put a few chemicals in one bottle and a few chemicals in another bottle and they will fall in love. And of course they will also find reasons: that the neck of the bottle was so beautiful, it was so shapely, and the color inside – fantastic!

Once a theologian found it difficult to sleep at the inn he had put up in for the night. Scores of bugs in the bed made it difficult for him to drop off. Disgusted, he summoned the innkeeper and complained to him vehemently about the bugs.
“But sir,” the innkeeper protested. “There isn’t a single bug in this room!”
“I know, I know,” countered the theologian heatedly. “They aren’t single – they’re all married and have large families. I can see!”

People become accustomed to a particular way of thinking, and once you have become accustomed to a particular way of thinking it feels perfectly right to you – but only to you. Anybody else listening to you will find it very difficult to understand what nonsense you are talking about.

An arithmetical chap had to manage his children for a single evening when his wife was away. The following is a record of his activities for the evening: Opened door for children 108 times, shouted “Shut up!” 94 times, stopped quarrels 17 times, provided water to them 29 times, answered the phone 11 times, lost temper 45 times, cried and wept 29 times, ran after children 4 1/2 miles.

Once you are obsessed with a certain pattern of thinking, then to you it looks perfectly right. Now, this mathematical chap is doing something right – according to him everything has to be on record, written mathematically. To you it will look absurd.
These words of Dionysius will look very absurd to you, but there is an undercurrent hidden somewhere, that’s what I would like you to discover. And then you will be surprised, it is the same truth as Lao Tzu’s, as Buddha’s, as Zarathustra’s, as Jesus’. There is nothing different, it is just that out of necessity the language, the jargon he uses is that of a theologian. He must have been surrounded by theologians, he may have come from a family of theologians.
To become a bishop, the first bishop of Athens, seems to be a great honor. He must have been respected by the theologians, he must have many friends. Maybe for many generations his family was practicing the profession of the theologian, and he had become accustomed to talking in this way. Even though he became enlightened the old patterns may have continued, or knowingly he may not have dropped them.

It is said: Only a friend can become an enemy. A relative is one from the very start!

So he must have been surrounded by many enemies – relatives and friends. To satisfy them he speaks in a very tortuous way. Don’t get impatient with him. He says:
We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness…
We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness… Nobody before him, particularly in the Christian tradition, had ever talked about the darkness of God. God had always been thought of as light. He is the first in the Christian world to introduce a new vision of God as translucent darkness. It was dangerous because God had been thought of as pure light. Darkness is of the Devil, that’s why the Devil is always painted black. And God is just pure light, transparent light, light and nothing else.
He says: We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness… But I also feel that his choice is far better. Light is a momentary phenomenon; darkness is eternal – as eternal as God. Light divides. It is light and I can see you all as different persons. If suddenly darkness descends you will all disappear in the darkness, all distinctions will be lost: nobody will be rich, nobody will be poor; nobody will be young, nobody will be old; nobody will be a man, nobody will be a woman. Even if somebody is sitting there totally dead you will not know the distinction – who is dead and who is alive, who is a sannyasin and who is not a sannyasin. All distinctions will dissolve, darkness will overwhelm all distinctions; it will encompass you. Light cannot do that miracle, and in that way God is closer to darkness than to light.
Just to satisfy the Christian theological world he calls it translucent darkness, so they don’t feel too offended – translucent darkness, darkness which is full of light. If he had been free to say it he would have said simply darkness, pure darkness, unadulterated darkness. Why adulterate it with light?
You can see it in Lao Tzu, whatever he wants to say he says. He says, “I see that everyone in the world seems to be very clear, thoughtful; there is clarity in people’s minds. I am the only one who is muddle-headed because I cannot see distinctions. I am the only one who is unclear about everything. I am the only one for whom everything is vague, everything is melting and merging into everything else. I cannot define – I cannot say this is this and that is that.” He has the courage to call himself muddle-headed – no problem about it.
Darkness has depth; light is always shallow. Light is always finite, that’s why it is shallow and darkness is infinite, it is not shallow.
The Bible says in the beginning there was darkness – not light because how can there be light in the beginning? Who will bring the light? Who will create the light? Light has to be created; darkness is something uncreated. Darkness is like God because God is also uncreated. In the beginning there was darkness – that is a tremendously significant statement.
Dionysius says: We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness… Our only desire is to dwell in this darkness, in this infinity, in this distinctionless, unadulterated, abysmal darkness. We want to lose ourselves in it.
…and through not seeing and not knowing to see and to know him…
The only way to see God is to stop seeing, and the only way to know God is to drop all knowledge because your knowledge will be an interference. Your seeing will be your seeing; it will be a projection of your ego. You have to forget knowledge, you have to forget seeing. Ordinarily we think we see whatever is there. That is not true, that’s absolutely untrue.
Charles Darwin remembers in his memoirs that when he reached near a small island with his big ship, he was puzzled to know that nobody on the island could see the ship. It was really a strange experience. Such a big ship had never come before, so they had no idea about it, they had never heard of one. They knew only small boats, very small boats, fishing boats – only two persons at the most could sit in them. That was their traditional idea of a boat, and the ship was so huge that it simply eluded their vision; they could not see it.
You will not believe it. Even Charles Darwin could not believe it. When he inquired of people, they said, “What are you talking about? We don’t see anything.” Their seeing had become fixed, they had become accustomed to seeing certain things, and they would see only those certain things.
And this you can experience in many ways. For example, if you go into a primitive aboriginal society – there are many such societies still alive in the world. In India there are…
I have been many times to Bastar, to one of the most ancient aboriginal tribes, which is now slowly being destroyed by the Christian missionaries. Of course, with good intentions; they are destroying it thinking they are helping. They are making hospitals, and they have introduced diseases which the tribe had never known before. Of course, when missionaries come they bring many things with them: modern diseases… They have introduced modern education, of course with good intentions, they want to educate people, but as people become educated they become cunning, dishonest.
In Bastar it has been on record, government records – British government records say that Bastar is the only place where no divorce has ever happened, and Bastar is the only place where no theft has ever happened, and Bastar is the only place where sometimes murders happen but the murderers come to the police station to report, “I have murdered such and such a man.” And they come walking hundreds of miles to the police station, otherwise the police would never come to know. They cross hundreds of miles of thick jungle and mountains to come to the place where the police are available to inform; otherwise the police would never come to know that any murder has happened. And the murderers themselves come to inform them!
Such simplicity, such honesty: no theft, no cunningness, no deception, no exploitation. In Bastar there has never existed anything like taking interest on money; in fact, there exists no money at all, people only exchange things. In Bastar women are almost naked, just as men are almost naked. No man is interested in their breasts, no man at all. But when the missionaries come, their whole interest is in their breasts. And they have beautiful breasts – their womenfolk are very alive, wild and primitive, as alive as animals, and of course they have the same agility and the same flavor of wildness. But the missionary immediately becomes interested in their breasts.
If you see a woman, your first interest is in her breasts. Why? Your mind has become somehow focused from your very childhood. In all the civilized countries children are prohibited, as much as possible, by their mothers from feeding from the breast. Their mothers don’t like it because the more children feed from the breast, the more the breasts lose shape; they start hanging, they start looking ugly. So no mother wants the children to breast-feed. Naturally there is a reluctance, even if she has to feed them, it is with reluctance not with love. And that reluctance creates a deep desire in the child to cling to the breast.
Now the whole human civilization suffers from that clinging: your whole poetry, great poetry – Byron, Shelley, Keats, Kalidas. Don’t think that it is only in the West, don’t think that Indian culture is very spiritual; in fact, Kalidas, Bhavabhuti, the great Indian poets, talk much more of breasts than any Western poet has ever talked.
You can go into Indian temples and see: the breasts seem to be too big. Go to Khajuraho, Konarak, Puri, and the breasts seem to be inventions; such big breasts do not exist. And these are not my creations, remember – I have not made these temples. They are thousands of years old, they are absolutely Indian; they represent Indian culture, Indian religion. And you will be surprised to know that in these sculptures all kinds of perverted sexuality are depicted. From where does this perversion come? Repression brings it. You see that which has been repressed, you see that which has been denied. You don’t see that which is.
Now scientists say that your eyes only allow two percent of information to pass through; ninety-eight percent of information is prevented outside. And the same is true about other senses too.
If we want to know the truth we will have to learn some new way. That’s what meditation is all about: not seeing, not knowing. That is meditation, agnosia, because that is the only way to see and to know him. If you want to know him, if you want to know the truth, you will have to unlearn all your ways – Christian, Hindu, Mohammedan, Jaina, Buddhist. All your ways of seeing and knowing – you will have to drop all that. You will have to be utterly empty, in a state of not knowing, agnosia. Only then will you be able to see and know who he is:
…who is beyond both vision and knowledge…
The truth is beyond your vision and your knowledge because your knowledge is your knowledge; it is just ego confined. And when ego itself is a lie, how can it give you the truth?

A lie, says Murphy, is a very poor substitute for the truth, but the only one discovered so far.

The whole of theology is full of lies. The truth cannot be said, cannot be uttered, and still people go on talking about it. God has been talked about in millions of pages. About and about, around and around they go, in circles, never touching the center of the reality. That center can be touched not by thinking but only by meditation.
…he is beyond both vision and knowledge – by the very fact of neither seeing him nor knowing him.
So, remember. Many people come to me and say, “We want to see God.” Forget all about it. If you want to see God, you will never see him. You have to disappear.
Kabir says, “I longed, and I searched long for God, but I could not find him. Then one day I dropped that longing, that desire, that search, and since that moment he goes on following me. He is always with me. In fact, he has always been with me, but I was so occupied with searching that I never saw him.”
I call this the totally relaxed state of your being: when there is no search, no inquiry, no question, when you are so relaxed that you start falling deep within your own being. Soon you touch the rock bottom of it; from that touch great revelations happen. You are not inquiring about God, God starts inquiring about you.
That’s actually what Kabir says: “When I stopped searching for him, he started following me. Now he goes on calling me, ‘Kabir, Kabir, where are you going?’ And I don’t care a bit at all about him because I know, the moment I start caring about him he will disappear. Either I can be or he can be; we cannot both exist together.”
Jesus says the path, the bridge is straight but very narrow, so narrow that it cannot contain two persons.
For this is truly to see and to know, and, through the abandonment of all things, to praise him who is beyond and above all.
Now he goes on taking detours. He goes on putting in a little bit of Christian theology, just to befool the fools.
…through the abandonment of all things… Now Christians will think he is talking about renouncing things. He is not talking about renouncing things. He is saying that the abandonment of things means that you don’t look at things as things; that is abandonment, not renunciation. When you renounce something you still think about it in the same old way.
A man is greedy for money, he thinks money is very valuable, everything can be purchased through it. Then one day he comes to know that his whole effort was futile, that money cannot purchase everything, that money is nothing, that he has wasted his life. Realizing it, he renounces the money, he escapes from the world of money, but still he values money. Now he is thinking that by renouncing money he is going to attain truth. First he was thinking that by having money everything can be purchased; now he thinks that by renouncing money everything can be got, even truth. But the logic is the same. It has not changed a little bit – it is still the money. The focus is the money and the money is valuable. First he was accumulating it, now he is renouncing it, but he has not changed, his approach has not changed; money is still the target.
Dionysius says: …abandonment of all things… That is a totally different phenomenon. …the abandonment of things… means don’t look at things as things because all is full of God. Everything is so full, overflowing with God, that to call it a thing is not right. Nothing is dead, all is alive – of course, alive in different ways, but all is alive. Even a rock is alive. The man who has known God knows the aliveness of existence and knows the falsity of death. And if death is false then there is not a single thing in the world.
Ordinarily we go on doing just the opposite, we reduce persons to things. When you marry a woman… Before marriage she was a person, an independent person, and you were a person, an independent person; after marriage she becomes a wife, a thing, and you become a husband, a thing. The husband is not a person, the wife is not a person: the wife is a thing that has to be used, the husband is a thing that has to be used; they have become things, commodities. We reduce people to commodities, to things.
The man of vision, of meditation, raises things to persons. He even starts talking with things, with trees, with animals; he starts imparting personality to them.
St. Francis used to talk with trees. He would go to the trees and say, “Sisters, how are you? You look a little ill today.” When he died, just before dying he thanked all his disciples for all that they had done for him, and the last thing he did was to thank his donkey. He said, “Brother Donkey, you have been such a great servant to me. In what words can I be grateful to you?” To call the donkey a brother is spirituality. It is raising the donkey to a spiritual being. And Francis is calling him brother.
This is abandonment of things. Things disappear from the world. The world becomes full of beings.
For this is not unlike the art of those who hew out a life-like image (from stone), removing from around it all which impedes clear vision of the latent form, showing its true and hidden beauty solely by taking away.
Now, this is what I say – he is going into unnecessary theology. It may have been a necessity for him, but after two thousand years it looks very tortuous, meaningless. All that he wants to say is that God can be described more accurately by negatives. To say this simple thing he has to go in such a roundabout way so that the Christian theologians, the Church, the Pope, cannot catch hold of his idea.
All that he wants to say through this whole statement is contained in two words of the Upanishads: neti-neti, neither this nor that, or what Buddha calls via negativa. The truth is more clearly understood via negativa than via affirmativa because when you affirm, whenever you say something, whenever you attribute some quality to God, you give him a finiteness, a boundary. If you say God is beautiful then you have made him limited. Then what about ugliness? Where will ugliness go? If you say God is good, then what about bad? If you say God is this, then what about that? If you say God is man, if you say God is the father, then what about the woman, what about the mother? The moment you affirm something you negate much.
So via affirmativa on the surface seems to be affirming, but it affirms less and negates more, while on the contrary via negativa apparently negates but basically affirms. Via negativa means we don’t attribute qualities to God. That’s what Dionysius means by darkness. He is so dark you can’t see any aspects, any qualities in him. He is so dark that there is no distinction between ugliness and beauty. In darkness, what is the difference between a beautiful woman and an ugly woman?
That may be one of the reasons why for centuries people have decided to make love in the night, in darkness, because it helps one thing: the woman does not know how ugly you are, you don’t know how ugly she is. It is a good arrangement in a way. If you see the woman and the man naked in the light you will soon be bored with each other. The hidden remains attractive.
And women are more intuitive about it. That’s why when embracing you, kissing you, loving you, they will always close their eyes. To look at you in those moments is profane. It is far better to feel you with closed eyes rather than looking because looking is a partial phenomenon, feeling is total. When somebody is kissing a woman, she wants to feel him with all her cells from head to toe, from her guts, in her bones, in her blood, in her marrow – she wants to feel the kiss, to let it sink as deep into her as possible – while the man simply goes on looking.
The man is too interested in the superficial; he is an observer. That’s why he is so interested in pornographic magazines: Playboy, etcetera. He is so interested in seeing that he has completely forgotten feeling.
Via negativa: the mystic denies all qualities to God. God becomes a pure darkness, emptiness; you have to feel it. And the only way to feel the emptiness of God is to become empty yourself. God is a nothingness, and by nothingness I mean nothingness. So if you want to feel God you will have to become a nothingness. Buddha calls it shunyata, nothingness.
These are the two methods. The organized religions believe in via affirmativa, and the individual mystics have always believed in via negativa. Hence there has been a fight, a continuous struggle between the priest and the mystic. The priest is an enemy of the mystic. The priests have tried in every possible way to destroy the mystics because the mystics talk of a totally different process.
These two processes have to be understood. Via negativa means you start with the particular and you start moving toward the universal. And the universal means the infinite; the particular means the finite. You start with the particular.
For example, you fall in love with a master. That is something particular: a certain quality in the master, a certain presence around him, a certain light in his eyes, a certain gesture, a certain grace, anything, but it is particular. And then from the master you slowly start moving toward the ultimate master, the master of masters. That is universal. You can hold the hands of the master; you cannot hold the hands of God. You can touch the feet of your master, but you cannot touch the feet of God. The master is a visible reality; God is invisible. The master is just in between. You are almost a thing, God is nothing, the master participates in both. He participates with you, he is a human being, and he also participates with God because he has become a nothing.
That’s why Jesus says again and again, “I am the Son of God and also I am the Son of Man.” That’s his way of saying this paradox, that from one side he is the Son of Man, from the other side he is the Son of God. From one side he is a particular human being, from the other side he is just universal nothingness.
Via negativa starts with the particular and ends in the universal, starts with things and ends in nothings. Via affirmativa is just the reverse process. It starts with the universal: God the infinite, God the indefinable. And then it comes to the particular: the pope, the priest, who represents God. You need not bother about God – for that the pope is enough, he will take care, he is the mediator.
The master is not a mediator; the master is only a friend, he only gives you hints. And the master, if he is truly a master, is a master only if he becomes slowly, slowly less and less necessary to the disciple. That’s the definition of the perfect master, one who makes himself less and less needed by the disciple.
Buddha says, “If you meet me on the way, kill me immediately” – don’t hesitate for a single moment. The priest says, “I am always absolutely necessary, without me you cannot reach God.” The priest says, “Without me there is no God, I am the bridge, and the only bridge, so don’t go to other priests.” The Hindu priests will prevent you from going to the Christian priest and the Christian will prevent you from going to the Mohammedan priest. In fact, the Catholic will prevent you from going to the Protestant and the Protestant will do the same.
The priests and the popes and the imams and the ayatollahs – these people create the organized religions. And the moment a religion becomes organized it becomes dead, it becomes political, it becomes an institution.
For it is, as I believe, more fitting to praise him by taking away than by ascription, for we ascribe attributes to him when we start from universals, and come down through the intermediate to particulars. But here we take away all things from him, going up from particulars to universals, that we may know openly the unknowable, which is hidden in and under all things that we may be known. And we behold that darkness beyond being, concealed under all natural light.
He simply wants to say that rather than thinking in positive terms about God, think in negative terms. Dionysius here is pure buddha, just his language is Christian.
We have praised those things which fitly pertain…
But he is aware that this can be caught; what he is saying can be caught by the priests. So immediately he adds:
We have praised those things which fitly pertain to the theology of affirmation; how the divine and excellent nature may be spoken of as one, and how as three; how in accord therewith the fatherhood of God may be explained, how the sonship, and in what manner the truth of the spirit may be revealed; how out of the incorporeal and undivided excellence they put forth these three interior lights of goodness, and how in himself and in themselves, and in their mutual and co-eternal propagation they remain together, nowhere going apart; how Jesus, while above all creation, may be in very truth of the substance of human nature…. We have told how he may be called good, being, life, wisdom, and power, and whatever else concerns the spiritual naming of God.
He immediately adds, “We are not denying the positive.”
He is: …good, being, life, wisdom, and power, and whatever else concerns the spiritual naming of God. All the names of God – we are praising and affirming all those things too. We affirm that God is the Father, we affirm that Jesus is the Son, and we affirm also that Jesus is above all creation.
Now this he must be doing just to satisfy the stupid Church, the stupid theologians. Otherwise, how can he say that anybody is above all creation? Even God is not above all creation. God is creativity – how can Jesus be above creation? And if Jesus is above creation, then why not Dionysius, then why not Buddha, then why not Krishna, then why not Lao Tzu? Then every enlightened person is above creation. And then why should the unenlightened ones be under creation, not above creation? Because they also have the potential of becoming enlightened.
This he says only to satisfy the fools, but this is not his real approach. He has said clearly that the best way to describe God is that of: …the art of those who hew out a life-like image (from stone), removing from around it all which impedes clear vision of the latent form, showing its true and hidden beauty solely by taking away.
Negation, he says, is the way, not attributing positive qualities to God. The moment you attribute positive qualities to God you create belief in people, worship in people. You create churches and temples. You don’t create religiousness; you create only pseudo religion.
When you take away all qualities from God, when God is just a pure nothingness, only then will those who are really interested in knowing the truth become interested in him. Those who are ready to lose themselves, those who are ready to drown themselves, to surrender themselves, those who are ready to die and be reborn into that nothingness – only those few people will be interested, and they are the only religious people in the world.
My sannyasins have to be religious in this sense.
Enough for today.

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