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from all sides the wanderers come
but the goal of their pilgrimage is the same

gnôthi seauton : know your Self !

Mysticology : the Study of the Mentality of Mystics

  postmodern theologies ?
  the universality of spirituality
  four paradigms of the Divine
  the universality of mysticism
  typology of mysticism
  the spiritual now
  the spiritual choice
  on atheism
criticism of the faiths

©  Wim van den Dungen

types of mystical experiences :

natural : nature as theophany or Presence of the Divine
personal : "my" Lord entering "my" life, our lives ... 
ascetical : when all is still, the Seer abides in his own form
sacramental : a holy symbol leading to the Divine invisible
cordial : the unifying experience of love transcending all divisions
silent : the unknowable essence of the Divine is ineffable

Stace, W.T. :
Mysticism and Philosophy
1960, 1.2

"There is a story, which I have read somewhere, to the effect that Mohammed once compared a scholar or philosopher who writes about mysticism without having had any mystical experience to a donkey carrying a load of books. (...) But the point of the story of Mohammed's donkey is perhaps not so much that the scholar has no right to investigate mysticism, but rather that it is a complete impossibility for him to do so if he has no mystical experience himself."

Plotinus :
III.8.10 and
translation :
MacKenna, 1917-1930

"Now when we reach a One -the stationary Principle- in the tree, in the animal, in Soul, in the All - we have in every case the most powerful, the precious element : when we come to the One in the Authentically Existent Beings - their Principle and source and potentiality - shall we lose confidence and suspect it of being - nothing ? Certainly this Absolute is none of the things of which it is the source - its nature is that nothing can be affirmed of it - not existence, not essence, not life - since it is That which transcends all these. But possess yourself of it by the very elimination of Being and you hold a marvel. Thrusting forward to This, attaining, and resting in yourself, seek to grasp it more and more - understanding it by that intuitive thrust alone, but knowing its greatness by the Beings that follow upon it and exist by its power." 

"Beholding this Being - the Choragus of all Existence, the Self-Intent that ever gives forth and never takes - resting, rapt, in the vision and possession of so lofty a loveliness, growing in Its likeness, what Beauty can the Soul yet lack ? For This, the Beauty supreme, the absolute, and the primal, fashions Its lovers to Beauty and makes them also worthy of love."

ps.-Dionysius :
The Mystical Theology
chapter 5
translation :
Luibheid, 1987

"We make assertions and denials of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond every assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things, and, by virtue of its preeminently simple and absolute nature, free of every limitation, beyond every limitation ; it is also beyond every denial."

Al-Ghazâlî :
Kîmiyâ-yi Sa'âdat
translation :
Zaehner, 1957

"Beyond this (the mystic) enjoys 'stations' and 'states' with The God Most High which are difficult to describe. Indeed some speak of them as 'isolation' and 'identity', and some speak of a divine indwelling in the soul. Anyone who is not firmly grounded in this science and is visited by such an ecstasy, cannot give a full description of what he experiences. Whatever he says sounds like plain infidelity."

Gospel of Thomas
logion 3

Jesus said : "If those who lead You say to You : 'See, the Kingdom is in heaven !', then the birds of the sky will be there before You. If they say to You, 'It is in the sea !', then the fish will be there before You. But the Kingdom is inside You and outside You. When You know Yourselves, then You will be known, and You will know that You are the children of the Living Father. But if You do not know Yourselves, then You dwell in poverty ; then You are that poverty."

Stace, W.T. :
Mysticism and Philosophy
1960, 8.3

"The mystic in any culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical consciousness. (...) The general conclusion regarding the relations between mysticism on the one hand and the area of organized religions (Christian, Buddhist, etc.) on the other is that mysticism is independent of all of them in the sensce that it can exist without any of them."

James, W. :
The Varieties of Religious Experience
1902, conclusions

"Disregarding the over-beliefs, and confining ourselves to what is common and generic, we have in the fact that the conscious person is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences come, a positive content of religious experience, which, it seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as it goes."

Kena Upanishad
first khanda, 3
translation :
Hume, 1921

"There the eye goes not ; Speech goes not, nor the mind. We know not, we understand not how one would teach It. Other, indeed, is It than the known, and moreover above the unknown. Thus have we heard of the ancients who to us have explained It."

Bucke, R.M. :
Cosmic Consciousness
1961, part III, XIII

"It will be well to state (...) that the marks of the Cosmic Sense are : a) the subjective light, b) the moral elevation, c) the intellectual illumination, d) the sense of immortality, e) the loss of fear of death, f) the loss of the sense of sin, g) the suddenness, instantaneousness of the awakening, h) the previous character of the man - intellectual, moral and physical, i) the age of illumination, j) the added charm to the personality so that men and women are always (?) strongly attracted to the person, k) the transfiguration of the subject of the change as seen by others when the cosmic sense is actually present."

Otto, R. :
Le Sacré
1995, 19
traduit par :
André Jundt

"L'obscurité mystérieuse, qu'aucun concept ne peut dissiper, qui entoure le numen ne signifie rien moins que l'impossibilité de le connaître. Le Deus absconditus et incomprehensibilis n'était assurément pas pour Luther un deus ignotus. Il ne le connaissait que trop bien, avec toute l'épouvante et le frisson de son âme découragée. Et de même l'apôtre Paul 'connaît la paix' qui, dans son incompréhensibilité est 'au-dessus de toute raison'".

Staal, F. :
Exploring Mysticism
1975, III.9

"If mysticism can from one point of view be said to consist of two domains, viz. a domain of phenomena that can be caused by human effort, and a domain of phenomena that cannot be caused by human effort, the experiential study of mysticism should obviously begin with the study of the former."

Underhill, E. :
1912, conclusion

"To be a mystic is simply to participate here and now in that real and eternal life ; in the fullest, deepest sense which is possible to man. It is to share, as a free and conscious agent -not a servant, but as a son- in the joyous travail of the Universe : its mighty onward sweep through pain and glory towards its home in God."

Apostel, L. :
"Atheisme et Agnosticisme"
Brussels, May 1986,

"Cet athéisme religieux ne sera d'ailleurs authentique que dans la mesure où il ressent de l'intérieur (et refuse constamment) le désir de Dieu. Mais nous ne rencontrons Dieu en tant que Dieu que dans la mesure ou nous n'avons pas besoin de lui, nous disent les meilleurs des croyants. Et nous avons tellement besoin de celui qui n'existe pas. C'est en réalisant cette profonde contradiction, que l'athéisme religieux (l'irréligion de l'avenir, pour J.M.Guyau) doit commencer sa lutte difficule et nécessaire."

Bergson, H. : 
Les Deux Sources de la Morale et de la Religion
1932, p.233 

"A nos yeux, l'aboutissement du mysticisme est une prise de contact, et par conséquent une coïncidence partielle, avec l'effort créateur que manifeste la vie. Cet effort est de Dieu, si ce n'est pas Dieu lui-même. Le grand mystique serait une individualité qui franchirait les limites assignées à l'espèce par sa matérialité, qui continuerait et pronlongerait ainsi l'action divine."

Futûhat al-makkiyya
translation :
Chittick, 1989

"The final end and ultimate return of the gnostics -though their entities remain immutably fixed- is that the Real is identical with them, while they do not exist. This station is possessed only by the gnostics. Hence they are contracted in the state of their expansion. (...) Hence the gnostic is known only through the fact that he brings opposites together, for all of him is the Real."

Sells, M.A. :
Mystical Languages of Unsaying, University of Chicago Press - Chicago, 1994, p.21, italics mine.

"When Plotinus writes that 'it is neither X not not X', he violates the logical rule of the excluded middle. When he writes that 'it is both X and not X' he violates the law of noncontradiction. (...) Real contradictions arise when the delimited, referential function of language encounters a rigorously apophatic notion of the unlimited. (...) Each proposition taken alone is self-contradictory, analytically incoherent. Meaning is generated between two propositions : it is within all things - it is beyond all things. In effect, the smallest semantic unity is not the sentence or proposition, but the double sentence or dual proposition. It is to this new semantic of the double proposition that apophatic dialectical logic applies."

Nâgârjuna : Mûlamadhyamakakârikâ, XXII:11.

"Empty should not be asserted.
"Non-empty should not be asserted.
Neither both nor neither should be asserted.
They are only used nominally."


All major spiritual traditions around the globe develop paths to salvation, have particular teachings and protect the deposit of their beliefs & shared faith. Together (in an ideal ecumenical consensus) they constitute a true "consensus catholicus" regarding the religions of humanity, the spiritual treasure of humankind, a mandala of possibilities leading up to the same goal : the spiritualization of humanity through salvation & realization.

It goes without saying such a mandala is -at present- an ideal in the minds of a few philosophers of religion (like the present author). Actually, the so-called ecumenical counsel for churches is not engaged in reaching a consensus regarding the different (often antinomical) elements, themes & metaphysics which constitute the faiths, but only wishes to emphasise what all religions have in common in the field of morality (as for example the "Golden Rule"). They aim at universal peace without universal understanding ! This is a mere spiritual humanism ! Hence to find a metaphysical rule enabling theology to harmonize ideas like "karma" (Hinduism) or "Dharma" (Buddhism) with the Judeo-Christian notion of the "resurrection of the body" does not seem worth the effort. Nevertheless, the participant observation of more than one religion teaches the overall importance of ideology, which is a "superstructure" (Staal, 1975) erected by the living core -of the spiritual community (apostles, prophets, teachers, companions, disciples, ...) around the founders- on the direct mystical experience (revelation, self-disclosure, unveiling, enlightenment, etc.) of the latter.

A philosophy of mysticism is occupied with the ecumenical fact that a direct experience of the Divine (understood as objective and/or subjective) is possible and can be attained by every individual.

Religions are living cultural entities occupied with the effort of mediating between humanity and the Divine. This happens not on an individual basis but through a collective. Common elements persist. Each religion translates the original mystical experience of its founder in terms of their own cultural heritage. A philosophy of religion tries to understand the nature of the Divine, irrespective of these cultural differences (not by excluding some but by including all). A philosophy of mysticism goes a step further and tries to grasp the nature of the experience founding the original community.

All five major religions of humanity (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity & Islam) define the situation of the "homo normalis" as difficult. They believe that a sacred objective symbol guarantees a better condition in the future (faith). The founding rules of dogma are :
(1) the founder(s) = the sacred symbol (?) and
(2) subjects < the sacred symbol >> the Divine (??) is accepted.
(3) the sacred symbol = the founder(s) + superstructure 1, ... n

These two rules read as follows :

(1) the founder(s) of a spiritual tradition are always identified with the sacred symbol they left behind. The sacred is defined as the "numinous" set apart from the rest. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the "people of the book", we find revealed scripture (texts deemed holy). Also in Hinduism, the Vedas are deemed beyond dispute. Only Buddhism forms the exception, for the Dharma & the Four Noble Truths can be discovered by anybody anytime. Indeed, they represent the natural law of salvation, as well as the way to move beyond it, and this through direct, unmediated experience ;
(2) the adherents of the dogmatic faiths may approach the Divine by means of the sacred symbol, implying an indirect, mediated path ;
(3) the sacred symbol used to connect with the Divine is a hybrid : the authentic teachings of the founder(s) as well as the superstructures erected upon the latter make an organic, inseparable whole. Each religion or spirituality initiates & maintains a set of theologies or teachings identified as superstructures made after the death of the founder, fashioning a spirito-social ideology.

features of a multiplication of superstructures

"The moment of religious consciousness starts from self-valuation, but it broadens into the concept of the world as a realm of adjusted values, mutually intensifying or mutually destructive. The intuition into the actual world gives a particular definite content to the bare notion of a principle determining the grading of values. It also exhibits emotions, purposes, and physical conditions, as subservient factors in the emergence of value."
Whitehead, A.N. : Religion in the Making, Fordham University Press - New York, 1996, pp.59-60, my italics.

Apologetically, each religion faces the distinction between authentic, historical ideas and possibly irrelevant, outdated & redundant balooney. The outcome of a possible study of the authenticity of the religions is intimately linked with this. How can we trust a religion relying more on the spiritual discipline of its elders than on the first rule of spirituality : (1) a human subject = founder < >> the Divine (!) ? At times, as in Buddhism, religious ideology is indeed rooted in the historical teachings of the founder. But all too often, religious ideas are the product of local whims, if not total absurdity. Then, the group-factor is largely responsible, for the masses need "practical" answers and "quick" solutions. Hence, all five religions were haunted by terrible schisms.

Hence, no general characterisation of the world religions is likely to satisfy everybody. Buddhism, Christianity & Islam are world religions because their salvic claim extends to every member of the human family. Judaism and Hinduism are ethnic, and conversions are not required and made extremely difficult.

Investigating the core of these standard salvic models will allow us to compare their essentials.

the mystics and their universality

My approach of spirituality will be critical & pragmatical and in accord with the methodology of participant observation applied to epistemological (or knowledge-producing) contexts (cf. Knowledge, 1995, Clearings, 2006, Criticosynthesis, 2008). As a philosopher interested in the possibilities of coherent thinking in all fields of all possible knowledge, including philosophy of religion & theology, I acknowledge mystical experience to be the direct experience of the Divine while some of its features are universal. The study of what mystics reveal about this inner, intimate exchange ("sub specie interioritatis") between a finite subject and the infinite absolute or "totaliter aliter" (radical other) is more important than the paradigms of the religions, called in afterwards to organize this truly universal fountain of salvation. These organizations translate the original elocutions and experiences into religious dogma. The original message is thus often, if not always, corrupted. "My Lord" become "our Lord" !

A philosophy of religion tries to analyze, describe & understand the nature of religion in the framework of a general picture of the world. In doing so, an attempt is made to grasp the religious categories of the major religions of humanity. This characterisation of the logic of each religion may involve defending or attacking various religious positions in terms of an a possible philosophy (or metaphysics) in accord with our contemporary sciences.

It should be clear by now modern science has not been able to prove the existence of the Divine. Nor has it disproven this category. To deny the existence of a Supreme Creative Being (i.e. atheism) or to leave the possibility open due to a lack of insight in this matter (i.e. agnosticism) are very common attitudes. The exception is given with Buddhism, which is non-theistic (accepting the Divine but no Supreme Creator). The problem with atheism is its insistence. Just like the sceptic who claims to know something most certainly is not the case (dogma in disguise), atheists think they know the Divine is a fiction, a projection à la Feuerbach of the human imagination, always active in finding out new illusions to make our mortality bearable, trying as we do to avoid the irreversible fate of physical death etc. etc.. Because of their materialistic paradigm, nothing beyond the collapse of the physical vehicle is thinkable, and so no inquiry into the possibility of operators beyond matter (like information & consciousness) is attempted. According to these people, the DIvine is an invention of the human mind. What a mind ! Clearly, Descartes' remark that the human mind is too feeble to invent such a gigantic category does not impress them.

The agnostics are more in accord with logic. They do not claim to know the DIvine does not exist. Neither do they work with the category of the Divine order. This attitude makes them more open than most atheists, who whould deny the Divine its existence even if they met It (probably relating this experience to some bio-chemical malfunction in their brains). Nevertheless, to remain indifferent regarding such an important issue makes them rather superficial and uninteresting in matters of philosophy, religion and spirituality. What can spiritualists do ? Refute every argument these atheists propose, and by doing so make it clear to would-be atheists theirs is not a logical position at all (although currently fashionable). As a result, some forms of atheism are as unfounded as the theist positions they fight.

Logic teaches the Divine either exists or not. Buddhism does not accept the existence of "God" but acknowledges enlightenment and the transcendence of the world and its wandering suffering. Science teaches Divine existence can not be proven or disproven (although suggestive pointers are present in al lot of its branches - cf. the cosmological proof). Science considers objective proof to be intersubjectively valid and repeatable. If we apply the latter conditions to the field of spirituality, we should not overlook the experience of the mystics, whether Yogi's, Vedantins, Buddhists, Qabalists, Sûfi's or Christian monks. Mystical experiences do have universal characteristics. So the question is : do the mystics prove the existence of the category of the Divine ? Is their experience intersubjective and is their spiritual technology valid in such a way anybody open enough to inquire earnestly is likely to experience identical facts ? Both questions may be answered with a "yes" !

"Qu'on adhère ou non à la religion, on arrivera toujours à se l'assimiler intellectuellement, quitte à se représenter comme mystérieux ses mystères. Au contraire le mysticism ne dit rien, absolument rien, à celui qui n'en a pas éprouvé quelque chose. (...) Nous nous représentons donc la religion comme la cristallisation, opérée par un refroidissement savant, de ce que le mysticisme vint déposer, brûlant, dans l'ame de l'humanité."
Bergson, H. : Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, 1932, chapitre III, my italics.

the logic of the making of a concept

the subjective & particular concept

Axiom : concept C is a mental construct based on perceptions in time of a subject x

Consider as given :
* a singular perception of a particular fact f by x or p(x)f
* a string of perceptions over time (dt) of a particular fact f by x or p(x)f.dt = p(x)f-1, p(x)f-2, ... p(x)f-n
* an ongoing process of perception over time (dt) shaping a perception-bank B concerning p(x)f.dt or Bp(x)f.dt

(1) p(x)f is the building block of C

1.1. The rules of the game of "true" knowing (see also Clearings, 2006 & Criticosynthesis, 2008), teach all possible facts (or aggregated events) -so do we fancy- possess the credentials of being itself, i.e. facts correspond with reality-as-such. Therefore fact f is not written as f(x), for no fact can be totally subjectified.
1.2. These same rules teach that knowledge is unthinkable without active, constructive, creative subjects of knowledge, involved in many forms of communication. The more symmetrical & free their multiple & varied discourses are, the better a consensual interpretation of the facts ensues. No communication can be totally deobjectified.

Hence, p(x)f depends on fact f and the mindgrid mg of x or p(x)f = mg(x) + f

the generalisation C arrived at by a particular subject x on the basis of the given perception-bank Bp(x)f.dt is a general notion combined over time : C = Bp(x)f.dt + ? As it is not logically possible to justify when the jump from the particular to the universal is to be made lawfully (cf. the induction problem) : the logical genesis of the concept remains a priori incomplete. Comparison (i.e. convention) alone explains why singular perceptions become strings. In fact the only thing we really know are singular instances, nothing more (cf. the Buddhist logic of Dharmakîrti and the scepticism of David Hume).

the intersubjective & universal concept

(4) A general notion or concept C is communicated to other subjects and confronted with other people's perceptions of the same facts. Through dialogue & argumentation a consensual, intersubjective concept C' regarding fact f arises. The movement from C to C' is the evolution of a concept. If the process of perception stops, the evolution is halted and gradually the meaning of C withers.

(5) Over a period of time the process of ungoing perceptions coupled with quasi permanent intersubjective confrontations define a constellation of consensual general notions regarding fact f which form a tradition T(f).

the rule of mysticism and the rule of traditional theology differ

The basic mysticological rule is :

a human subject < >> the Divine (!)

only < :
(1) in 4 nominal dimensions of space-time, consciousness (the fifth) aspires to transcend (cf. "ascendat oratio")
(2) only an initiatoric procedure exists without an adjacent probable ;
only >> :
(1) more than 4 dimensions of space-time answering the call (cf. "descendat gratia")
(2) the subjective answer has objective validity ;
both or < >> :
(1) direct, immediate, individual
(2) paradoxical, in essence ineffable, totalising
! : this rule is coherent

This "rule" belongs to the phenomenology of the experience of the Divine (also called "religious experience", but this notion is too laden with references to the organised religions to be used here). The latter part of the rule is not only an exceptional subjective occurence (comparable with "falling in love" or "having a marvelous orgasm") and hence an object of psychology. It also indicates a "total otherness" (cf. "totaliter aliter") both a personal and a depersonalized objectivity, manifesting as a spirito-moral fact, observable to those with whom it is shared, and so part of the living experience of those living in the context of the mystic (ethics). It is also accompanied by particular cognitive post-formal operations (epistemology).

Clearly spirituality is not an object of physics. Mysticism demands self-reflections beyond the nominal level. This could be an illusionary projection. The interior confrontation with total otherness is experienced as an answer, not as an interior dialogue. This could be a hallucination (a psychotic break). It could also be the whispers of gods, devas or angels. What counts are the results of this confrontation. This is the only valid criterion. Has one's moral sense been elevated ? Has one stopped acting out certain unwholesome things ? Has suffering ended ? Because in principle the common good can be defined, this rule is not wholly subjective and so coherent with our experiental approach ("cognitio Dei experimentalis").

In every mystical experience the relationship expressed by the rule is renewed. No mediation occurs. These ineffable & paradoxical features alter the co-ordination of actions & connect the creative constructs of the intellect with the reasoned mind. This delicate process has been insufficiently studied by most religions, at the detriment of their respective salvic efficacy. It has been touched by philosophy (cf. Plotinos, Spinoza, Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger, Whithead).

An important feature of this rule is its individual character. One can not learn how to become a mystic (cf. "individuum est ineffabile"). Nevertheless, an initiatoric procedure exists. Teachings and common experiences exist. These do not guarantee success, but do make the special occurrence altogether more probable.

The theological set of rules added by the religions is :

(1) a human subject = founder < >> the Divine (!)
(2) the founder(s) = the sacred symbol (?)
(3) subjects < the sacred symbol >> the Divine (??)

? : this rule is questionable but acceptable
?? : this rule is questionable & unacceptable

Ideally, the authentic elocutions & actions of a founding mystic (1) become the sacred symbols of the tradition initiated by the first direct witnesses or companions of the founder (2). These symbols encompass a model of the world, a theory on man, ethics & the afterlife and a salvic road, defined as the "right path". This superstructuring is also and always political, i.e. meant to organise the masses. Mostly within a couple of centuries after the founder's death, a large number of texts see the light, and a so-called "sacred" tradition ensues. A lot of this is purely legendary & mythical. Other, more intelligent inventions are man-made constructions built on a truly ineffable foundation. Unfortunately, history shows this traditional testimony is always questionable because quickly after a founder's physical death corruption occurs, redundancy & conflicts rise, schisms are proclaimed & battles are unleached. This is the sad history of the glorification of human inventions. In Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity & Islam differences operate and continue to do so and hence the fundamental message of unity was and is -historically- lost (each in its own way and with its own particular intensities).

The problem is simply this : every Jew should climb his own Horeb, every Hindu should be his own Seer (cf. "jivanmukti"), every Buddhist should become Buddha, every Christian should Deify to lovingly experience the Father (through the Son in the Holy Spirit), every Muslim should be the 99 Names of Allâh. As the highest peak is only reached by the few, most individuals adhering to what they believe to be the genuine words of the founder of their tradition, i.e. Abraham, the Vedic Seers, Moses, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus Christ, Mohammad ...

In a later stage, those who were not present "in the beginning" are called through missionary activity to participate in the sacred tradition (conversion), implying that because they adhere to the sacred symbol (3) they will become connected with the Divine, resulting "in optima forma" in their liberation (salvation).

In reality, even the simplest theology, narrative or philosophy regarding the sacred symbol (let it be objectified as a set of founding texts, holy actions, discourses of direct witnesses, an early spirito-social formation or rituals) is always but a relative superstructure (Staal, 1975), a complex & changing cultural form. Can a sacred tradition substitute the direct experience of the Divine ? Clearly it can not.

two post-formal states of consciousness

Both epistemology & mysticism suggest the evolution of the human mind is not completed after the formal-operatoric mode (cf. Piaget) has been mastered (cf. Knowledge & Love-Mysticism, 1994, see also Clearings, 2006 & Criticosynthesis, 2008). At least two more (meta-nominal) levels, strata or states of consciousness exist : Self-consciousness & cosmic consciousness. The former is a personal form of salvation (liberation), the latter has supramundane intentions, touching the universe as a whole (enlightenment).

This presence of a permanent "cosmic sense" within consciousness has to be shared. Genuine mystics decide this grand power must be used for the benefit of the race. It is never invested in personal (ego) or individual (Self) pursuits. The authentic spiritual choice is the immediate result or "effect" of a living mystical experience : moral elevation (Bucke, 1961). The dangers of a conscious evolution beyond the nominal levels but without the cosmic sense are like serpents coiled underneath wild flowers. For when this new sense is used to satisfy old desires, one has succumbed to the "temptation of the heart", leading to the misuse of spiritual authority (as history amply shows).

If the mind is not reasoned, it is impossible to arrive at a clear understanding about the possible enlightenments given by the intellect. It is clear that postmodern criticism highlights the relativity of presence. Criticism by itself does not stop the logocentric recuperation of the ineffable into static words & mental constructs claiming to represent being. The postmodern philosopher will only focus on the importance of the mystical experience if he is allowed to retain reason and its critical scrutiny of the contents of mind.

towards a pluralist meta-theology ?

In a postmodern, pluralist theology, the factual occurrence of mystical experiences is not given to a minority with more "élan vital", but is called an "everyday ecstasy" (Laski, 1980). Union also occurs in a secularised environment. Some even speak of "atheist religiosity" (Apostel, 1982). So when the salvation of humanity is at stake, an interest in the spirito-psychological, cognitive & metaphysical features of the universal mystical experience seems inevitable. It is essential to know the common denominator of all possible religions of the global village. This is revealed through the mystics of all major religions.

The multi-cultural theology of theologies of the 21th century must be faithful to the original mystics of the religions of humanity, i.e. voice their most intimate message with respect & reverence. To be credible it must reason against a syncretic world-religion. The combination of the unique features of the religions implies a loss of content which futilizes the idea of a single world religion.

Let us foster global thinking and local action.

"And meta-historical dialogues, conducted methodologically, will, I believe, eventually be crystallised into a philosophia perennis in the fullest sense of the term. For the philosophical drive of the human Mind is, regardless of ages, places and nations, ultimately and fundamentally one."
Izutsu, T. : Sufism and Taoism, University of California Press - Los Angeles, 1984, p.469.

In terms of salvic efficacy, a pluralist theology fully acknowledges every human who believes & acts in accord with a genuine religion will find liberation within the relative boundaries of that religion. The dialogue about the major doctrinal differences between the religions is meant to allow each religion to grow and change in accordance with its own eschatological perspectives. This pluralist, ecumenical theology of humanity has nothing to say about local theologies, except if they exclude other forms of religiosity.

But, authentic multi-culturalism does not abrogate the common denominator or eclipse the most important differences. Nor is the "consensus ecumenicus" a new faith, belief or spiritual "magister". Nevertheless, what is meta-cultural in religion, the "Golden Rule", is the most sublime Grand Prayer. Without a theology of religions the common practical goal (basic human needs & planetary peace) can not be achieved in concert. To realize the global consciousness necessary to solve our world problems together, nothing less will do. This is the challenge. May it lead to renewal. For cultures and their religions are living entities. To seek the common denominator and to challenge local theologies on the basis of a philosophy (i.e. a symbolised longing to be wise) is not a futile exercise to discover the authentic, perennial spiritual teaching.

What is the relative absolute regarding religion ? Can the universal language of the mystics serve us when we study the various conceptualizations of the Divine in different cultures to find the nuggets of gold in each and weave Ariadne's tread between them ? Is it possible to see glimpses of a theology of religions in accord with a philosophy (metaphysics) of religions ?

"A religion is a worldview, and one can only adopt or 'dwell in' a worldview and the form of life that it makes possible. The test of a worldview is not whether it corresponds with reality, a phrase that has no meaning, but whether it makes possible certain kinds of experiences, whether it enables one to orient oneself to the world in certain ways. Moreover, it follows that one cannot compare the truth of one religion with that of another ; one can only embrace a way of life."
Van Austin, H. : Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion, Cambridge University Press - Cambridge, 1997, p.251, my italics.

Postmodern theologies ?

Postmodernists deny the autonomy of presence. Radical postmodernists attack the katapathic or "positive" approaches to theology (the art & science of the Divine), stress the importance of the rethorics of "ni mot, ni concept" (Derrida) when dealing with their particular methodology (cf. deconstruction) and claim the guarantee absolutely no message is delivered is zero. Both the God of the faiths (revelation) & the God of the philosophers (intellect) are absolute monoliths of presence. So if the traditional super-essentiality of God ("existing" beyond all possible being and absence of being) is not maintained, the most interesting theology is negative (Derrida states that his "ni, ni" has no purpose, certainly not to come to a super-essential absolute being). The radical postmodernists were not impressed by the dynamics of process-philosophy, nor interested in a general theory on being (considered to be a futile & dangerous "Big Story"). Moreover, if "la différance n'est pas", then the core of deconstruction is what happens between the beings, i.e. their interrelatedness. Is it not possible to understand both the beings and their interactions ? Is absolute relativism possible without an absolute standard ? Is radical postmodernism able to withstand its own deconstruction ?

In a moderate, constructive postmodern approach, postmodern theology deals with presence & absence of the Divine. This means our critical intelligence is not applied to the contents of the faiths (based on a dogma of a unique & static revelation) but on the reality of those elements shared by all individuals living the mystical experience (alone or in communities). Before anything else, spirituality is experiental.

Following types of theological investigations emerged :

dogmatic (or fundamental) theology

Traditional dogmatic theology can not survive in the postmodern context. The exclusionist claim (based on a particular learned exegetical calculus) has to be dropped and the multi-cultural & globalist perspectives have to be harmonised. The intersubjective importance of certain texts is not questioned. Moreover, they can be of tremendous spiritual help to those who have been educated accordingly (cf. Sundén). However, no revelation is absolutely objective and able to encompass the absolute totality of being except absolute being Itself, i.e. sheer being or the Absolute in its absoluteness (cf. Ibn'Arabî and Buddhist emptiness). This sheer being is super-essential. Nothing can be said here (the highest possible dimension of being is ineffable - this is radical apophatism).

The logocentric presence of most sacred texts is brontosauric. A fundamental postmodern theology will have to move beyond an intelligence restricted to a particular faith. So in principle dogmatic theology is still possible, but only in a multi-cultural & globalist paradigm.

As far as I know many sacred texts do contain spiritual diamonds. Hence, a complete criticism of all dogmatic theologies of humanity is necessary (at least the major religions must be scrutinized). This means the combined effort of (a) delving into the original sources of a tradition (authenticity), (b) investigating the historical evolution of the central concepts of a given tradition (historicity) & (c) understanding via participant observation the pragmatics of the living tradition (actuality), and much more. 

What should result is a critical, multi-cultural matrix of key concepts, enabling us to formulate a globalist spirituality. Such a matrix will not be simple and consistent. Perhaps some parts of it will never combine (like moral dualism with ontological monism). The goal is a theology of theologies, i.e. a critical intelligence concerning the contents of the faiths of humanity. Will this ever see the light ? 

This globalist dogmatic theology is not the textbook of a new global religion. Each faith has a particular truth ("our" Lord is -at best- the salvic metaphor of a spiritual community, i.e. intersubjectively shared spiritual experiences rooted in the relationship between each individual and "his" Lord). But, no faith is salvic in an exclusive way and hence a global spiritual understanding may be the unifying, coherent superstructure of a diversity of spiritual expressions, of which the common denominator is individual spiritual experiences and the conscience of each one of us ("my" Lord being the foundation of the spirituality of each individual alone). Again, experience is what counts, not theory. Buddhism comes closest to this ideal.

spiritual theology

"La spiritualité est tout ce qui a rapport aux exercices intérieurs d'une âme dégagée des sens, qui ne cherche qu'à se perfectionner aux yeux de Dieu" (Littré)

This didactic theology focuses on the experiencing subject. Traditionally, it implements a spiritual conditioning which is limited by the constraints of the metaphors offered by the dogmatic revelation put into subjective practice by spiritual theology. Exceptionally, as in Buddhism, the spiritual intent is all about gaining access to the fundamental liberating experience. Often, a gradual development is envisaged (cf. "scala perfectionis"). The laws, structures and itinerary of this spiritual transformation (cf. "theosis") are studied.

Traditional spiritual theology is not a form of free study, for the central metaphors of salvation are given by dogmatic theology, i.e. are limited by the contents of the revelation at hand and depend on the way they were recorded and then transmitted to its direct spiritual environment. This implies all traditional spiritual theologies also deal with the so-called deviations, temptations and the going astray of the aspirant. But, heresies do not last because if they would they were not heresies but traditions (even the first orthodox Christians -the apostolic fathers of Roman Catholicism- were a "sect" amongst other competing fractions of renegate Jewish thought).

In a postmodern approach and in view of the incompleteness of the dogmatic project, spiritual theology can only focus on the spiritual development of the individual who already possesses what s/he is looking for (knowledge & experience of one's own true Self - the "imago Dei" hidden in the depths, or the preconditions to realize Buddhahood). So the question here is about the practice of Self-realization and spiritual auto-regulation rather than adherence to a preset superstructure with its particular iconography and super-Self projections (substituting "my" Lord by "our" Lord - cf. Ibn'Arabî).

The core of spiritual theology is the actual, immediate psychophysical actualisation of the individual Self (liberation) which is part of the Self-manifestation of the Divine (realization).

This "higher" Self is not the personal ego, with its mental, emotional & physical needs, values, norms & expectations. The ego as focus of consciousness witnesses only a limited fraction of the psychic totality (cf. depth-psychology) of which the Self is the true focus (cf. the findings of Jung & Assagioli). The ego exists in a pseudo-circularity, for at its fragile borders its self-produced shadows lurk and transgress (causing sorrow). In Buddhism, the higher state is the realization of the emptiness of the mind, one's Buddha-nature. There the Higher Self is a bridge, linking the nominal world with the ultimate reality.

The goal of a postmodern spiritual theology being the transformation of this pseudo-circularity (viewed as the cause of sorrow) into an elliptical consciousness gravitating around two foci of consciousness and able to switch from ego-identity to Self-identity at will (cf. Deikman's bi-modality) but nevertheless encompassing both (cf. "the Station of No Station" in the Sûfism of Ibn'Arabî or the transcendence of the world-order in Buddhism). Not only does the Self accompany all the perceptions of the empirical ego (cf. Kant), but it does this by making choices and regulating the ego to greater extention & unity. It does this through the imagination & through the mind.

Only in cosmic consciousness are both foci integrated.

symbolical (positive) theology

Traditionally, this theology is situated on the creative side of the bi-polarity of the Divine (implying a balanced perspective on both remoteness & nearness of the Divine). Its most elaborated forms are the highly ritualized approaches of the Divine based on cyclical repetitions (the Roman Mass and the Tibetan Kalachakra are fine examples). In abstracto, this theology deals with the metaphors of faith and the concrete shapes & customs which can be deduced. So moral theology is a form of symbolical theology, as is liturgy.

In a postmodern theology, the creative side can not be erected on a dogmatic plateau. If the Divine creates the Universe then nothing in the Universe is without the Divine (cf. the whole of creation as a theophany). So beside the metaphors of human mystical experience, symbolical theology has to incorporate the natural worlds as well. Especially in Christian theology this approach is lacking. The "goodness" of the Lord is only fully experienced after physical death and so this world is given to the devil. A total indifference to the grand & wholly Divine manifestations in the kingdoms of nature results from this dangerously incomplete approach (actually an implicit life-taking camouflaged by the overt opposite claim). Christian thinkers who proved the need for a natural perspective (like Theilhard de Chardin) were given a difficult time ! Indeed, the idea of an immortal soul, possessed by humans alone, stands in the way of an inclusive Christianity.

Mystics usually translate the metaphors of their faiths in living experience.They develop new images, concepts, general formulations and become the founders of schools & traditions. Very often their approach clashes with the existing traditions around them (as Buddhism clashed with Hinduism and Christianity with Judaism). The diversity of the modes (or spiritual style) translating their unitary experience shows the creativity and adaptability of the enlightened human spirit throughout the ages. It stresses the importance of the spiritual experience of each individual and points to the fact spirituality implies an individual change of consciousness. Communal spirituality is possible, but only when each individual is free to develop the spirituality of its "own" Lord (his own Buddha-nature).

When the itinerary of spiritual theology is completed (meaning the interior, invisible & absent is consciously acknowledged) each individual may (on the experience of its Lord, Self or Buddha-nature) develop an overt spiritual metaphor containing the criteria, codes & norms for "proper" spiritual conduct.
These will, so history show, refer to peace, joy and service to all beings.

mystical or ascetical (negative) theology

Super-essentiality highlights the difference between God and creation. Radical apophatism is only possible when God's essence is understood as sheer being, unmixed, one-fold, undifferentiated, precreational & simple. If the cognitive operations of traditional negative theology are applied (negation of all positives) but without the spiritual experiences based on the living relationships between each individual and "his" Lord, then this God is understood as the sole no-thing absolutely different from all other things. This radical transcendence limits God outside the things. Hence, both transcendence & immanence have to be maintained to glorify God with a theology witnessing "with both eyes". Likewise, the difference between "nirvâna" and "samsâra" is to be maintained if its dual-union has any meaning at all.

It is true to say God exists (for everything is a modality of Divine being), that God does not exist (for God's essence lies outside the modalities of Divine being and so transcends the immanent world-order), that God exist and does not exist (for everything exists in the intervals of Divine being), that God neither exists nor does not exist (for God's essence is absolutely unknown, the core of sheer being is forever veiled - cf. Plato, Nâgârjûna, Plotinus, ps.-Dionysius, John Scottus Eriugena, Ibn'Arabî, Pascal, Spinoza).

The universality of spirituality

Spirituality is an activity leading to the liberation of the whole human being, building a link with the Divine, aiming at the complete transfiguration of one's life through the realization of the Divine. Liberation calls for an anterior state of suffering, lack of satisfaction and absence of enlightenment.

It is an opportunity to walk the spiritual path and not to belong to a particular religion organising the spirituality of groups. The latter do not necessarily run against the aim of spirituality, but as groups tend to make up local meaning to superstructure experience (necessary to maintain order in a community, as monastic rules, both East and West, testify). They often force mystics to mould their spiritual lives in terms of the common, local approach, thus harming the essence of their practice : the liberation of the human spirit through a direct contact with the Divine.

mystics distinguish between liberation (salvation) & realization (deification)

In the Western ontological tradition before Descartes, man was a little solar system (or microcosm), composed of four parts : the mortal physical body, the mortal ego (mind), the immortal soul and the immortal, spirit (linking man with the macrocosm & the Active Intellect of the Divine). Clearly this view is an over-simplification of a the complex network of influences establishing the traditional Western anthropo-philosophical model, to be summarized as the multiple interactions between three cultural components (the Egypto-Greco-Roman, the Judeo-Christian & the Germano-Celtic), of which the latter has been the least understood. The overall characteristics of Mediterranean spirituality being rooted in ontology, the Divine is projected outwards (theo-ontology) and becomes an objective creator-God transcending the world. In the East, especially in Hinduism, an opposite movement is noted : the gods & goddesses are representations of the inner, Divine "âtman", realized through the transformation of subjectivity. In the latter, the fundamental equation is found, for the core of the "âtman" is nothing else than "Brahman", the Supreme God of the henotheist pantheon. Buddhism has outwitted both positions, and maintains the Divine is beyond affirmation and denial. This negative theology was never able to grow solid roots in the Western mentality, which is overall "katapathic", i.e. affirming God's existence at the expense of His creation.

In Western onto-theology, the physical body is composed of four elemental forces, the mind consists of three parts (thinking, feeling & acting), the soul is a diad (good versus evil) and the spirit is the reflection of the Divine in each human being (the "imago Dei"). The spirit of each human is thus the most subtle part of his or her soul or inner Self. Modern Western philosophy first divided this scholastic quaterny into two : extention, matter versus "être conscient", spirit (Cartesius). Later, 19th century materialism would reduce spirit to matter. Categories as physical body, mind, soul and spirit reflect contemporary terminology.

The four parts of the human microcosm belong to the different "strata" of existence. Here is a scheme based on Jewish mysticism (the Qabalah) :


One Divine Existence

spirit or Divine Spark

atmic - logoic - buddhic



creative models

soul or Self



veil between higher and
lower states & stations

upper versus
lower worlds

most inner versus
 outer life

metaphysical versus
physical realities


formative forces

mind or ego




physical world




In the West, liberation (or salvation) allows the soul to express its Self-ideas through an empirical ego and its physical body. Liberation transforms consciousness, but does not touch the free will of the empirical ego. So liberation can be lost. The realization of the Divine allows the Divine to express Its Plan in such a way through a liberated soul it becomes (completely similar to the) Divine. The realization of the Divine transfigures consciousness and can never be lost. The free will of the ego which realized its soul is the Will of the Divine. Liberation can be spoken of. So genuine guides or freedom-makers do exist. But the realization of the Divine as such is ineffable.

Liberation means at regular intervals one is able to commune with the Divine at will. One does not become or resemble the Divine. So liberation is contemplative & asks for the transformation of a circular consciousness (which has the empirical ego at its centre) into an elliptical consciousness (which has two foci : the empirical ego & the higher Self). Between both foci the swing of the pendulum still occurs. The ego (under the sway of re-emerging unspiritual habits) turns its back to the Self or the Self suddenly reaffirms its authority over the ego. The difference between a liberated soul & an ordinary human is very distinct (compare this with the difference between a free citizen an a slave). Yet, for a liberated soul the realization of the Divine seems still quite far away.

The realization of the Divine means the final, complete & irreversible surrender of the liberated Self-ego-body-system to the Divine by realising Self-consciousness IS Divine. Because this already liberated soul merges with the Divine, all states of consciousness are possible and both "heaven & earth" can be touched at will. Realize completely every part of Yourself IS Divine is the rule followed. This may be easily written down, but both difficult & simple to realize.

Liberation (salvation or illumination) is the conscious awareness, intuition or intellectual perception of the soul (the Self). When the mind is liberated, the aspirant becomes the Choice of the Divine. When the heart (with its emotions & feelings) is illuminated, the aspirant becomes the Voice of the Divine. Yet, both states of liberated consciousness are unstable (cf. the volatile nature of the "albedo" in alchemy).

continuously aspire

Traditions, schools, teachings & methods have the past in common. They represent the heritage of past spiritual understanding & wisdom.

The supreme way to accelerate both one's liberation & the realization of the Divine is conscious aspiration. Without it, nothing can be achieved or attained. A superficial interest in spiritual matters, whether emotional or cognitive, will never produce lasting spiritual results. The desire for spiritual growth should be first priority ; all the rest is less important. You may think this to be like jumping across or into an abyss. Can de finite contain the infinite (cf. Kierkegaard) ?

Genuine aspiration works in the awareness of the now. To take root in the awareness of eternity "right now" ("nunc ipsum") is accompanied by the sentiment of the "numen praesens" (cf. Otto, 1949).

This condition partly explains why mysticism has remained a borderline phenomenon. Only when certain practices are exercised at an early stage in life can relative success in the majority of cases become probable. A very good student needs 7 years to learn the stuff a general physician has to know (and perhaps another 14 to become a good physician in a given field of application). A mystic never stops learning and practicing.

How to act without lust for results (cf. Krishna's message to Arjuna) ? Aspiration is unlike striving towards a goal in the future (this would make it like earthbound temporality). Liberation is the result of an intensified will for immediate communion with one's higher Self. This only happens permanently in time present and thus both liberation & the realization of the Divine "happen" in the "always already" (Wilber, 1977) of the "just now", this is an "eternal now, without time, which is always received with new lust and in new joy" (John of Ruusbroec, ca.1335). When consciousness can operate in the now, liberation is felt to happen all the time, belonging to all ages. The liberated soul uses the egoic arrow of time without leaving a permanent consciousness of the active emptiness (with its sense of potentiality) in which space-time is rooted. So the opportunity for liberation is continuously given to all everywhere. 

The continuous repetition of the awareness of the "now" leads to the proper state of mind to do spiritual exercises. Living knowledge gives precise information to gather everything present in the immediate field of the observer necessary to remain focussed on the spiritual fountainhead and enter the "Palace of the King" (cf. Zohar). Living knowledge is the foundation of spiritual experience and proceeds from the rational mind towards reason enlightened by the intellect. It represents all possible spiritual procedures & convenants between humanity & the Divine. Entering this "Palace" is like liberation (salvation, communion, contemplation, illumination, expression of Self-ideas or Self-realization). Meeting the "King" face to face (i.e. the direct experience of His Glory, not of His Essence) is like realising one's spirit carries (as "Imago Dei") a "Divine Spark" which enlightens the soul & the Self.

In the East, in particular Buddhism, the foundation is found inward. The mind of enlightement ("bodhicitta") initiates a transformation of individuality which entails the realization of the fundamental nature of human beings. Realize this Buddha-nature, or emptiness of mind, and awakening occurs.

Four paradigms of the Divine

My triadic approach of reality is rooted in the epistemological consideration all knowledge implies (1) a knower (subject), (2) a particular knowledge (fact, experience) and (3) a known (object). The known (reality) is a limit-concept of reason necessary to explain our common experience of endurance, repetition, continuity & inertia (which could also be a collective illusion). This leads to the idea of matter. The knower (mind) is a limit-concept necessary to explain subjective influx. Better put : what we call "experience" always contains subjective connotations. This leads to the idea of consciousness. The particular knowledge (experience, fact) is a limit-concept necessary to explain what generations of knowers gather and solidify as shared knowledge (culture). This leads to the idea of information.


matrix of physicality

unity of existence

logos, reason
executive functions &
meaning, self-regulation
code, form, symbolization

the Divine as a Force :

A Supreme Being or "superpower of superpowers" is the origin of everything. Different powers animate every part of the cosmos (hylezoism). The natural world and its creative process are the expressions of these superbeings. These gods & goddesses guarantee the ongoingness of life and without them disasters & death result. Through sacrifice man, also a spirit, assures for himself & others their blessings. Man may at certain occasions communicate with them or become one of them. A code of conduct between the Divine forces is present. Ancestral spirits are the real bridges to this "other", invisible but spiritually very active side of the cosmos. A hierarchy is present but the "Great Spirit" crowns the spirit-world.

This Great Spirit created the cosmos. He is awesome & mysterious. This "one god alone" (Ancient Egypt - Old Kingdom) who creates & sustains a host of other gods & goddesses. In Ancient Egypt, with its cosmo-aquatic, temporal variation on the energy-model, the creator-god created him & herself (cf. Atum-Kheprer).

But the most learned people (the priest-theologians) understood the meaning of the Name of the "Great Spirit" called "Amun" was "to hide" & "invisible" (for example in the darkness of the deep ante-creational primordial waters) combined with "endurance" & "lasting" (the verb "men" - the emergence of the "primal hill" & the cult of the petrified rays of the Sun). In the Memphis Theology the god Ptah actually encompasses both the ante-temporal and the creational realms, and He creates the world with His Word.

Examples : myths of Ancient Sumer, Crete, Egypt, Greece, China and of Mayan's, Bantu's & Hopi's ;
Operator : matter ;

the Divine as a Mediator :

A Supreme Being exists. Being good, full & complete, it is deemed the ultimate plenitude of its own unique Absolute Being. The latter is without inner necessity or need for a complement outside Itself. This God-Creator or "summum bonum" fashions the cosmos as a free gift to Himself. He is "diffusivus sui" (Thomas of Aquinas). As humanity is created free, the Divine Creator takes the risk of chaos. Misuse of freedom leads to the human monster given to evil. This risk is taken in & the idea of a final judgement essential. However, at chosen points, this Divine One intercedes and intervenes in the historical order of events.

He inspires mystics & prophets (Judaism). He creates gods & goddesses (Vedism), even sends His own Son (Christianity) or He opens the spiritual path of peace to those who declare submit to the Oneness of The God (Islam). In this way He is the sole initiator of the spiritual traditions of humanity, Buddhism excluded. He assures the "old self" may be transformed into a "new sense of being", i.e. that a mediation between Divine & human may taken place thanks to His permanent, active creative planning, His generosity & mercy. Through covenants a higher state of consciousness may be achieved together with others. His mediation fashions a spiritual community.

Examples : early Vedism, messianic Judaism, Christianity, spiritual traditions of India (Hinduism), Islam (Qur'ân).
Operator : information ;

the Divine as the Unknown :

First & supreme cause are distinguished. Both causes are Divine but reveal the bi-polarity of the Divine. The first cause manifests reality. It is also called "Creator", "Father", "Crown", "saguna Brahman" or "First Elohîm". This first cause (or "second God" - cf. Philo of Alexandria) is the "optimum of being". It is part of creation and contains both its beginning & end. It is present in every part of creation and is the anchor of the relative permanence of being. This first cause, created & creating, reveals the exterior of the Divine, its existence. The supreme cause, creating & uncreated, is the Divine interior or Divine essence, a "being" beyond affirmation & denial, something totally & irreversibly infinite, ineffable, incomprehensible, uncreated sheerness. This essence of the Divine is God as God (cf. Sepher Zohar - cf. YHVH, 1995).

In the qabalah, God (= {ø}) and Demiurg (= 1) are clearly separated although considered one-fold & united, for the cosmos is the revelation of God (the manifestation of this first cause being prepared in the supreme inexpressible ante-spatiotemporality of God being just God). But God is a "Deus Absconditus", ineffable and so transcendent in an absolute way. God's Essence is God's Own, whereas His Kingdom (also called His "Glory") is also for us to partake in.

Examples : Mosaic Judaism, Dowism, Qabalah, Brahmanism, "via negativa" in Western mysticism, God in (neo)platonic & scholastic philosophy, in Sûfism ;
Operator : consciousness.

the Divine as Experience :

The experience of the Divine is the first rule of mysticism. A few teachings have to be accepted beforehand. But, they can be confirmed by one's own personal experience. This direct, immediate flash of enlightenment reveals one's fundamental nature, as well as the conditions and causes ruling the world-systems. Yoga, one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, and Buddhism have truly embraced this paradigm. In the West, parts of Jewish, Christian and Sufi mysticism have worked along these lines.

the method of science & the aim of mysticism

Care is needed not to relapse into a classical metaphysical picture clashing with the knowledge offered by our current sciences (cf. Prolegomena, 1994, Knowledge and Love-Mysticism, 1994, Knowledge, 1995, Chaos, 1996, The Rules of the Game of True Knowing, 1999, Proof of the Divine, 2005, Clearings, 2006, Criticosynthesis, 2008, Metaphysics, 2012).

Philosophers seek a comprehensive metaphysical concept of the Divine which should be able to withstand certain formal a priori tests (like the logic of the symbolic code in use) and a posteriori considerations like depth of meaning, complexity, local contexts & historical relevance. It is inevitable a philosophy of mysticism tries to develop a theological concept, i.e. a transcendent metaphysics. The "God of the philosophers" is indeed a conceptualization of the Divine outside the direct authority of any text considered as holy & inviolate. God is known as the light of reason (intellectual perception from Cusanus to Husserl), the conclusive argument (cf. the return of God in cosmology & psychology), the "élan" of theodicy and the totality of all possible events, changing but also eternal (cf. Whitehead). The Divine can also be posited as the experience beyond affirmation and negation (as in negative theology and in Buddhism).

In the contemporary context, a hermeneutical margin is drawn, and the many loose ends in the manifold systems of thoughts, symbolizing a possible perspective on the Divine, are carefully acknowledged. The same text is circumambulated again and again. Out of the invisible a visible totality may emerge. As the later Heidegger said, the mountain-peaks of this exercise are akin to poetry but hard as diamonds. 

Modern theologies promoted an exclusively closed & entropic model of being, coupled with a static & non-evolutive concept of the Divine. How to think the Divine in the light of relativity, quantum, chaos & super-string ? How to refine the reasonable mind without eclipsing the creative enlightments of the intellect (cf. Husserl) ?

Reason tends towards the unconditional and longs for unity (cf. Kant). But this movement away from multiplicity is not automatic (cf. Maslow & the conditions of the need to Self-realize). Just as Self-realization is triggered by the aspiring will, reason's enlightenment (by the intellect) is the outcome of a decentration of the mind's ego to allow for an eccentricity which reequilibrates around the Self (Knowledge & Love-Mysticism, 1994). Only at this stage is intellectual perception possible. Instead of being discursive, enlightened reason uses the imagination to reveal the underlying unity of being, its sameness (cf. Sufism, especially Ibn al-'Arabi). The insights of intellectual perception are poured into the moulds of imagined, visualized totalities. Without this imagination, reason would be unable to communicate its enlightenments and because of this use of imagination, no insight is absolute (absolute reality being ineffable). Neurologically, this process reduces the lateralization of the hemispheres.

"This activity of God in all Action, as the concomitant of His presence in all being, is taught by Angela de Foligno in the following energetic language : 'I understand', she says, 'that He is present ... in everything that hath being, in the demon, in the good Angel, in hell, in Paradise, in adultery, in murder, in every good work.' Hence it follows, as Dame Julian points out, that every act, even an act that is morally evil, is, as a positive act, good."
Watkin, E.I. :  The Philosophy of Mysticism, 1920, chapter II.

Manyness and sameness are the two poles of understanding. In the spiritual realm, both God's remoteness and His nearness have to be taken into consideration. They compensate each others limitations : too much remoteness leads to "lesser divinities", i.e. a form of nearness. Stressing nearness, leads to an incomprehensible discourse which may lead to a complete social isolation and loss of an intersubjective taxation of reality (i.e. psychosis). This issue relates to the correct metaphysical name of the Divine.

The Divine may be invoked as ancestors, good "spirits", angels, gurus, masters, gods, goddesses, but also as a Creator, a Divine Mind, God per se, Buddha-nature. At some point in their cognitive development, humans are bound to make spiritual choices, for no further spiritual growth is possible without the ability to express one's own Self-ideas at will in thoughts, feelings & actions. Happiness is more than the satisfaction of one's physical, psychological, social or political needs. Art, philosophy & poetry only suggest the path towards an ultimate spiritual freedom, perhaps also guide. But every man & every woman must -in order to liberate their consciousness- dare to be themselves & choose a lawful path for themselves. Although the Self is not to be considered immortal, substantial and unchanging, it remains a fundamental factor of individuality.

Science should always know transformation as ungoing change through process. No stagnation is allowed when the discovery that reality is permanent change is taken seriously. Moreover, if the evidence of parapsychology (Griffin, 1997) is integrated together with the extraordinary capacities of our physical brain (Austin, 1998) and its autosuggestive powers, the emergent paradigm contains interesting perspectives concerning the hidden, veiled capacities of humanity. Non-linearity is integrated. The superdynamics between order & chaos are a part of the total picture.

a mystical theology "unio mystica"
a totalizing picture of the world contemplation
an active imagination visualization
a quantum state of the brain ascetical practices

Polemics between spiritual traditions are futile, for the core of the spiritual experience is a person's direct contact with the Divine & the resulting spiritual conscience founded on humility, thanksgiving & sharing. The way this contact is made should only be rejected by society when the unsuccessful approach of the Absolute shapes additional suffering for the individual and/or his or her environment (cf. the criterion of severe mental disorder).

Surely the scope of one's spiritual life goes hand in hand with the capacities of the practitioner (probably mysticism is also partly a talent). So the concept of the Divine will vary as a function of the attainment of the mystic. Accordingly, the clarity or lucidity of the insights of Abraham, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus Christ, Patañjali, Mohammed and other major mystics differ. Although it is possible to analyze these sublime ideas and compare them, we do not possess the absolute standard. Therefore any judgement in this matter is only a probable assessment.

"These considerations would seem to lead us to a very important methodological problem regarding the possibility of meta-historical dialogues. The problem concerns the need of a common linguistic system. This is only natural because the very concept of 'dialogue' presupposes the existence of a common language between the two interlocutors."
Izutsu, T. : Sufism and Taoism, University of California Press - Los Angeles, 1984, p.471.

The universality of mysticism

The universal characteristics of the religious, sacred, numinous, mystical peak-experience have been summarised as follows (cf. Pahnke & Richards, 1972) :

(1) unity : the nominal distinctions between object & subject dissolve ;
(2) noetic quality : a conscious state, capable of contemplative, intuitive thought ;
(3) space-time-shift : everything happens in the perpetual "now" ;
(4) paradoxality : the experience involves the conjunction of opposites ;
(5) ineffability : the essence of the experience can not be verbalised ;
(6) temporality : this state is only exceptionally permanent (deification), one moves backwards, to settle at the nominal level without loss of memory.

In Knowledge & Love-Mysticism (1994) the love-mysticism of the Flemish mystic Beatrix of Nazareth (1200 - 1268) was scrutinised. The critique of her Seven Ways of Holy Love (1995) shows how mystical experience decentred the empirical ego in order to re-equilibrate the observer's whole system so a new element of eccentricity comes into play.

When this transformation has happened, the circular, lonely ego is able -at will- to contemplate the second focus (called Self) of an elliptical consciousness and gravitate around these two points of reference (the one profane, the other sacred) simultaneously without any experience of split, division or duality, for these foci of consciousness -together with their spans (the ellipse)- are continuously apprehended in the "eternal now".

In the contemplative realm, inside & outside merge and a renewed, more spiritual state of consciousness ensues. An extraordinary panorama unfolds before the inner witness. The cognitive features of this experience prove that a new mental operator has come into play, i.e. a post-formal operator exists (this possibility is rejected by modern materialistic science). This operator controls the calculus of infinities, organising reason's tendency towards the unconditional and is linked with the imagination.

The process of transformation (of circular into elliptical) leads to liberation. The process of transfiguration (of elliptical into Divine) involves realization. For the liberated one the elliptical state is not permanent. So most mystical experiences are temporal. The ego-body-system regains control and circularity is re-established. The process of transformation has not to be done over every time again, for traces of it are justify in one's memory, enabling a willed return of the contemplative state, depending on aspiration & being "in the eternal now". This involves the use of a spiritual type of depth-psychology.

"(...) the man who has had the Cosmic Sense for even a few moments only will probably never again descend to the spiritual level of the merely self conscious man, but twenty, thirty or forty years afterwards he will still feel within him the purifying, strengthening and exalting effect of that divine illumination (...)"
Bucke, R.M. : Cosmic Consciousness, III.V.

In general, genuine mystics are not particularly interested in the "superstructures" theology derives from their living elocution of the Divine (Staal, 1978). This often resulted in confrontations between the structures of written religious lore (cf. the Torah of Judaism, the New Testament of Christianity, the Qur'ân of Islam, ...) and the vivid, immediate, mystical liberations & realizations. The birth of new mystics does not stop at a certain point in history but continues to happen on Earth.

Theologians interpret the mystical experiences of the founders of spiritual dogma (patriarchs, evangelists, prophets ...) in terms of logocentric, fossilised forms, considered to be "for ever & ever". It even happens that the language itself is considered "divine" (cf. the history of Sanskit, Hebrew & Arabic - the language spoken by Jesus -Aramaic- being an extraordinary exception). So words in a text become "sacred" and can not be criticised, not even by genuine mystics mostly forced to accept the superstructures in order to survive. Especially Christianity & Islam reacted violently against the more reformative Divine insights of their "radical" (read : too honest ?) mystics (like the Flemish mystic Ruusbroec & the Sufi Al-Halladj). Generally speaking, the independent "Rosa mystica" is (too) rare.

So clearly a genuine, free, spiritual environment stimulating a true spiritual humanism is even less common. Although other examples exist, we focus on the exceptional conditions prevailing in Flanders between ca.1150 & the Concily of Vienne (1311).

In the 12th century, the Cistercian movement ignited the spirits of the religious populations living in what is now called "Belgium". The reformation of the formalised (fossilised) liturgy of Cluny implied the return of interiorization, operational spiritual practices & a genuine concern for spiritual liberation. The scope of this religious, mystical humanism was extraordinary. The experience of the Divine was considered to be given to everybody and mystical experience was the most excellent expression of the "imago Dei", hidden in the soul of every human being. To recover it and restore its brilliance was considered to be the "apex" of the spiritual quest of humanity. To invoke the Holy Spirit, freedom is necessary. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 -1153) initiated 68 monasteries on his own. Because his "Order of Cîtaux" limited the number of monasteries for woman, independent Cistercian monasteries arose. They had no direct link with the bishop, but abided by the rules anyway.

Between 1150 & 1200 another spiritual movement came into existence. The so-called "Beguines" formed small groups of spiritual woman. They had no official "rule of order" and did not mix with the traditional monasteries. They grouped in small houses around hospitals, attended holy service and helped the poor. Only later the so-called "beguinage" emerged. The rulers, the dukes of Brabant tolerated this activity. One of them even composed mystical songs ! This would not last. Under Clement V, the Concily of Vienne (1311) excommunicated the movement. In France some poor beguines were even executed ! A century later the theologians conjured that Jan of Ruusbroec was a heretic and that his books should be burned.,

The mysticism which bloomed during these ca.161 years was considerable. Its core ? The transforming & transfigurating (liberating & deifying) experience of Love, both as a whole and as a process of becoming more and more oned through love with the Divine. The most pressing theological problem was the status of the last phases of union. The accepted view in those days was called : "similitudo", i.e. mystical consciousness approximates the Divine without becoming Divine (the Divine shows Itself as It wills, not as It is). An emphasis on the otherness of the Deity strengthens the role of those monopolising mediation (& redemption), i.e. the Christ of the Roman Church. An emphasis on the immanence of the Deity, triggers the universalization of spirituality and identifies authentic spiritual virtue with a good conscience dictated by nothing else than a person's rational mind enlightened by a liberating contemplation & the individual's realization of the Divine (with the danger of "following caprice").

Love-mysticism can be traced in the writings of three major exponents of Flemish mysticism : Hadewijch of Antwerp (ca.1210 - 1260 ; Book of Visions), Beatrix of Nazareth (1200 - 1268 ; On Seven Ways of Holy Love) & Jan of Ruusbroec (1293 - 1381 ; The Spiritual Espousals). 

the qabalah of Jewish mysticism

The first distinguishing mark of the qabalah is the ineffable essence of God, who -although completely transcendent- fashions Creation (the cosmoi) by contracting the Infinite Light to a supreme point of singularity (Kether) in which ex nihilo (sui) Divine immanence occurs (cf. Luria). Transcendence (distance) & immanence (nearness) are mysteriously joined. Kether is God-in-Action and First Elohîm (cf. Sepher Zohar). "Elohîm" (a masculine plural of a feminine noun) signifies the androgynous nature of the Creator. This Light-Source of all being is a transcendence-in-immanence, an alternation between all possibilities and the necessity of the ultra-manifest which happens in a point of God's Infinite Light. This is pan-en-theism, for God is All, i.e. both a transcendent, ineffable essence (all the points of the Infinite Light) and the immanence of Creation, unfolding as a necessary result of the dynamics of the cascade of lights (Sephiroth) emanating from Kether. It is not a pure form of pantheism because God transcends Creation (by transcending Himself in the Infinite Light). Neither is this a form of theism, for no katapathic theology reveals God's essence (the "palaces of light" do not reveal the face of the King, for we only come face to face with His Glory).

The essence of God is irreversibly unknown. Abû Yazîd's : "I am not I, I am I, for I indeed am He, I am He, I am He, He", Hallâj's : "I am the Truth" or Ruusbroec's : "to be God with God" are excellent examples of incomplete unions.

The second major feature is the qabalah's interpretation of Wisdom as creative (intuitive) thought. Because the second Sephira (Chockmah, Wisdom) is the first numeration which fully belongs to God's immanence (Kether, the first Sephira, being in touch with Ain Soph Aur, the Infinite Light), most ancient Jewish masters teached that Wisdom is the Father of Existence (cfr. Sepher Zohar). The Words of Jesus suggest that the Cosmic Father should be associated with Kether, and that the Word of the Father (Chockmah) mediates as Logos between Creation and the Divine Life which is part of the manifest order as the (9) Elohîm and the One Divine Presence (Malkuth - cf. the Christian qabalah). Of course, in Orthodox Christianity, the Holy Trinity is transcendent and so beyond Kether.

The early Jesus-people (Q1-level) saw the "Son of Man" as the bringer of the Word of Wisdom. The Nicæan Creed concluded that Jesus is the unique Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity of Persons of one Divine Essence, each Person being fully God (co-substantiality). However, in Q1 no exclusive filiation is suggested.

The existence of the Elohîm may be experienced. The Divine Presence ("shekhinah") is acknowledged. A personal convenant with God-in-Creation may be realized. The unknown God named "YHVH" is "Elohîm" when Creator of the cosmos (cf. Genesis). In the Bible the word "Elohîm" has been wrongly translated as "God" (cf. Chouraqui).

Concerning this most important "experience of the Divine", the qabalah departs from a radical apophatic view (which actually abrogates all rituals & prayers, for God is absolutely disinterested in Creation). In fact, the qabalah partly agrees with the theology proposed by the Sufi masters, who suggest that Allâh's "Most Beautiful Names" are loci of manifestation and part of each human being's spiritual outfit - cf. Augustine's idea of an "Imago Dei" hidden in the depth of our memory. But contrary to Sûfism, the qabalah interpretes this Divine Immanence as feminine, as can be shown in its ideas on the "Shekinah", or "Divine Presence". Many parallels & similarities exist between this "Shekinah" and the neo-Platonic & Gnostic "Sophia" (the interaction between of Jewish mysticism of Gnosticism has been suggested by more than one contemporary scholar).

The "Shekinah" is not a Divine hypostasis but is created. She is the first and most perfect creature with whom God creates all other creatures. Through her God dwells in His Creation. In her He does not reveal His Essence, but through the "Shekinah" His Glory can be known to all of existence. So she is referred to as the King's Mother, Queen, Daughter, Sister, Bride, Mother of the Torah, the Kingdom (Malkuth), God's Throne & House (Binah), the Angel of God, Celestial Dame, Woman of Light, God's partner in the Sacred Marriage, etc ...

Although the introduction of the "Shekinah" is in accord with the necessary presence of a katapathic component in a balanced model on Divine bi-polarity, one may question the sexual interpretation and the elaborated symbolical personifications of the Divine. If the first of God's creatures is feminine then why is "Elohîm" a masculine plural of feminine noun (suggestive of a Supreme Being which encompasses all polarities, not only one) ? Moreover, if the feminine "Shekinah" is associated with the Greek "Sophia" (cf. "Chockmah", Wisdom) then why are Wisdom and the Right Pillar of Mercy exclusively masculine ? The whole idea of Wisdom being the first creature is also questionable. Wisdom refers to root-number "2", whereas the First Cause refers to root-number "1". Classical qabalah understood that the ante-numerical realm and the numerical Cosmos are ontologically different (cf. Luria's "tzimtzum"). So the formula : God = 0 = Kether = "1" (cf. Sepher Bahir & Sepher Zohar) is rejected because it leads to a theophany which even contradicts the milder forms of apophatism (so it could be interpreted as a reaction against too radical forms of apophatism which -because of the factual presence of the Torah- are also false). The division between the two polarities of the Divine demands that we know how to distinguish without loosing unity.

Adam Kadmon
the Perfect, Sacred, Ultimate OverHuman
(3) Spirit in (2) properties of light, zero point energy the Absolute I or Lord of the Worlds un-knowing insights into the ineffable nature of Elohîm or the Names (dim 7)
(2) Soul of (1) entelechy of life-field
complex chaotic activity of the brain
the Self 
and its Ideas :
my Lord
contemplation, intuition
analogous, connotative, artistic languages : Art (dim 6)
(1) Body-Mind-complex physical structures & fysiology from libidinal to formal cogition : Egoic digital, denotative, artificial languages : Science (dim 1 ... 5)

Types of mystical experience

Mysticism of Nature
Ascetical mysticism
Sacramental mysticism
Mysticism of Love
Mysticism of the unknown God

Let us distinguish between six types of mysticism, i.e. the willed experience of the Divine. This classification considers (in an ascending order of abstraction) which kind of totalized symbol of contemplation is used during the proposed spiritual training.

(1) mysticism of Nature :
symbol = Nature

Nature is a living whole. Nature is a theophany. Visible & invisible, coarse & subtle strata, layers or planes of manifestation constitute the architecture (or hierarchy) of a "spiritual calculus" in which the reverence for the ancestral spirits & the power of the local totem-figure play the role of "mediators" between this world & theirs, between life & death ...

This type of mystical experience restores Nature, enabling consciousness to experience the Divine as part of the natural kingdoms (minerals, plants, animals). Dramatic rituals, provoking a strong catharsis are typical. Also long & silent periods of total unity with the elements of planet Earth : air, fire, water & earth, and its solar & galactic conditions.

Examples :
Egyptian cult, Dionysian cult, Shamanism, "sympathetic" magic, astrology, divine medicine (cf. Hildegard of Bingen).

(2) mysticism of Person(s) :
symbol = gods or goddesses

Supernatural beings exist. They have a Divine Name and can be personalized. They are mediators able to liberate humanity for they belong to a kingdom "of the spirit" beyond the human, cultural kingdom. These hyper-beings are often pictured as independent and each one of them is the unique Creator of all the others (polytheism) or these super-beings are organized in a perfect order, crowned by a Deity unifying all gods & goddesses (henotheism).

By approximating the outer pattern of the Divine Person suited for the mystic, s/he is eventually liberated (saved) by this Person and led to a complete realization of the Divine through, with and in this Person.

History knows countless examples of Pantheons :
Cretian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Roman, Christian, Celtic, Nordic, ...

(3) ascetical mysticism :
symbol = the "First Mystic"

Initiation is forging a special link between a mortal and the Immortal Source. No liberation is possible without personal freedom. Only the exceptional are able to "plug in" and receive grace unaided by spiritual (human) beings. The meta-cultural kingdom can not become, if civilisation & the arts of living (the fruits of a "grand" culture) are abrogated. No animal is able to hunt without the power of the minerals of his physical body.

The ascetic acknowledges the code of conduct of a genuine spiritual tradition. As true disciples they accept the teachings of their "First Mystic" and pass the link with Him and His link with the Divine on unto new disciples. The core of these codes contains a set of rules regarding the economy of mind, affect & body, as to mobilise their concert and enter into a "spiritual brother -and sisterhood". In this realm abide those who accept the rule of the "First Mystic".

The ultimate, most authentic form of ascetical mysticism is the solitary hermit. The ladder is important as long as one is climbing. Unification with the archetype of the originator of a genuine spiritual tradition is found in "aloneness".

Examples :
Buddhist & Christian monasticism (Pachomius), classical yoga (Patañjali), various types of religious sects.

(4) sacramental mysticism :
symbol = a beautiful concert of representations of the Divine

A Divine sacrament is the conscious, willed representation on Earth of the hierarchy of Heaven, i.e. it involves an action in the visible towards the invisible. What in abstract was, is and will be (the invisible universe), is in fact expressed through the body (the visible universe). The Divine Spirit judges these conditions (or parameters) to be adequate to Incarnate.

A limited set of elements constitute the physical realm, understood as a receptacle. These elements are "sacramentaries", because their physical properties (certain features) serve as examples of physical conditions approximating the Divine (example : the excellence of the Deity within the physical realm corresponds with the implicate relatedness of photons moving through a flawless diamond).

Spiritual traditions organise their correspondences and develop a "sacramental discourse". This leads to ritual & ceremony. Genuine sacramental mysticism is the act of channelling Divine light by allowing it to cascade in steps, from the Deity (spirit) down to the levels of soul, mind & body, or vice versa (from body to spirit). The hierarchy is a ladder of lights. Each rung being enacted using the sacramentaries, creating a direct link between the invisible and the visible, the latter being the restored vessel which finally receives in order to bestow.

Each spiritual tradition has its own ritualism. Sacramental mysticism is the most active type of mysticism. But because of its attachment to "holy" objects, it is the most difficult to leave behind (for as soon as one has constructed a "holy" list of correspondences, one automatically invokes the need of "unholy" blasphemy & deconsecration, often projected outwards on strange objects & foreigners).

Examples :
karma-yoga, ancient rituals (Egyptian, Greek, Roman), Roman liturgy, alchemy, freemasonry, magic.

(5) love-mysticism :
symbol = the universal power of Love

In the physical universe, gravity is the most common force. This urge of bodies to attract each other is a beautiful contemplative symbol. Every being is drawn towards every other being. Beings are drawn to superbeings and vice versa. In this way kingdoms of allied beings arise and the Idea of the cosmos as one living whole unfolds (like the "rose of love"). In the spiritual universe (of mind, soul & spirit), Divine Love interconnects life directly. Ego & higher Self long to unite with the absolute I, the Deity and Its superbeings.

The Deity loves Its beings. Each and every being longs to be loved. The Divine response to the strong spiritual aspiration of a being engenders "Holy Love". This has particular ways & stations. Every "unholy" love can be opposed to hate. In Love, both are transcended. A transfigured longing grows and the fact is realized that in life non-dual Love is the strongest force.

Love-mysticism leads to intense, expressive & militant acts of charity, the sharing of spiritual fruits. As long as beings suffer, universal Joy is not a living fact (the Kingdom not yet established). No reason is better than the Feast of Love shared with All. This evidence is fully realized and yet the possibility that life on Earth is suffering is not ruled out (cf."contemptus mundi"). The mystic of Love is beyond the wheel and yet s/he feels & lives a dedicated life on Earth.

Examples :
bhakti-yoga, some mystery cults, the ideal of the Bodhisattva, Cistercian mysticism, devotional groups.

(6) mysticism of the unknown Divine :
symbol = undifferentiated, one-fold, unknown absolute reality

The Divine is bi-polar.

Divine essence or God is hidden, distant, withdrawn, secret, undifferentiated, uncreated, unborn, unmanifested, infinite, ineffable, incomprehensible, absolute, unknown. Divine essence is Not, without being Nothing. It is beyond fullness & emptiness. A Supreme Cause beyond all possible affirmation or denial. God radically precedes & transcends all possible objectifications, which are always part of His creation.

Divine existence or the Creator is First Cause of the cosmos and all its gods, goddesses, spirits, worlds, planes, layers, strata, fields, modalities, etc. This First Cause is Good, i.e. untainted by evil or chaos. Without this Divine existence nothing would be. Absolute nothingness does not exist. Everything in creation, except for the Creator's "Palace" (His enacted accidents, attributes or existences), is a mixture of light & darkness. The Creator & His hierarchy is good and salvic.

In the ontological variant, God-as-God and God-as-Creator are one Divinity. God-as-Creator is near, but God-as-God remains distant. Mind & reason are unable to solve this paradox of the Divine. Light emanates from the "summum bonum" of the cosmos, but beyond this Crown all is darkness.

In this radical apophatism, the mystics are unable to transcend creation and its unique Creator without uniting their consciousness with the hidden polarity of the Divine, namely Its essence, God-as-God, the unknown God. Consider that Vedânta, Râja Yoga, Sûfism & some mystics of Christ introduced claims of a consciousness which transcends Creation and which -without loss of identity- is oned with God-as-God.

For the mystics of the unknown Divine, the unqualified essence of the One Divinity is only for It to be in. Final transcendence is the total cessation of worldliness (cf.Patañjali). The supreme aim of the mystic is "to be as he was before he was", i.e. a perfect idea in the Divine mind, realising by way of denudation ("fanâ") the ecstasy of isolation in perfect & true union (cf. Junayd). They treasure the transcendent and never eliminate immanence, except at the end (when all I-ness is finished).

In the psychological variant, as in Buddhism, there is no Creator, only the Dharma enabling anyone to realize Buddhahood.

Examples :
Jewish mystics, Buddhism, orthodox Sufis (like Junayd), Flemish mystics (Hadewijch of Antwerp & Beatrix of Nazareth).

The spiritual now

Distinguish between physical, psychological & spiritual "time". Physical time involves the use of an objectified standard of measurement. The fact that in a "closed system" entropy increases links standard measurement with the so-called "thermodynamical arrow". Physical & biological time is like a one-dimensional line cut in three : past, present & future (cf. Minkowski). Psychological & biological time interconnect, for occasionally (when for example a person is under stress), two equal objective "moments" subjectively feel to last longer or shorter.

Spiritual "time" involves a very different logic. The idea of a line is replaced by a singular zero-point or a circle. This point is identified as the present moment. The argument is this (cf. Augustine) : the past is everything we can remember. When we forget it, this past "dies", i.e. it is not. So events in the past are not really substantial. The future is everything we can expect. If we expect nothing, the future has no hold on us right now. So events in the future are not substantial, for every time we recall or project something we never leave the present, eternal moment. Although it seems as if a string of moments succeed, in reality everything is always already (Wilber, 1977) in the verity of the moment.

The eternal now is the foundation of a new sense of being conscious. This temporal one-fold is compared by Christian mystics (like Jan of Ruusbroec) with the coming of the Bridegroom (Christ). But is has also been mentioned long before by Buddhists (cf. Lotus Sûtra 16 on the eternal duration of the life of the Buddha), Sufi's (cf. the timeless order of things where logical sequencing prevails, not temporal succession) and philosophers). What is usually dissipated by recollection & anticipation is now concentrated in every moment. Enormous amounts of energy (differences) are saved (equalized) by "living in the now". As soon as the mind discovers that the temporal sucession is a mind-projection (cf. Buddhism) of the physico-biological arrow of time, past & present collapse into the everlasting "now", i.e. in the only thing which really happens all the time, being of all times (cf. Kant's "transcendental Self").

isnow.jpg (36449 bytes)

It is very difficult to stay in this liberated state. Usually thoughts, feelings & actions stimulate one's memory and/or create strong future expectations. And the snow melts. The "golden" numinous moment seems lost and more nominal circumstances reappear. Only through prolonged spiritual training (triggered & sustained by a strong, willful aspiration) can we be made free enough to choose thoughts, feelings & actions which do not disturb liberation, i.e. a continuous, unbroken existence in, through & by the "now" (cf. Patañjali on unharmful fluctuations). This then is realization.

 The spiritual choice

Spiritual people put aside the need for worldly position, money & might. According to them, humankind's first duty is to restore the broken contact with the Divine. The solitary disciple attains on the wings of his or her own aspiration, enthusiasm & love. Why is this the ideal model of growth ? Because only an enlightened person is able to recognize another enlightened person (Krishnamurti, 1969). But ... only few aspirants are able to work alone. Solitude seems hard. However, most problems would be solved if people would be able to stay longer in one room and reflect (cf. Pascal).

In general, the solitary path of the hermit is very difficult. The warm shelter offered by genuine spiritual traditions (the blind faith to which the mind is made subservient) is without the shadow of a doubt less demanding than facing one's life as part of the Divine alone. Nevertheless, solitude is the safest route. Organized religions (the faiths) are too often used to justify the righteousness of worldly actions. Sometimes they actually slow down one's spiritual emancipation. These collective theo-social movements (necessary to channel popular devotion) may eclipse the fact that nowadys each person has the duty to develop an individual conscience free of tradition & dogma. Spirituality operating with an "outer", exoteric form (a community, church, outer order, fraternity, lodge or sangha) does not necessarily lead to an authentic, "inner", esoteric enlightenment, the sole aim of a strong spiritual aspiration.

the sectarian choice

People tend to have a lot of fears. This emotion is extremely strong and makes us fight or flight. Because spirituality introduces dimensions (or standards of objectification) beyond the nominal four-dimensional continuum and speaks in totalising symbols, it is able to reduce a person's fears by projecting all possible future in terms of the expected results of a highly relevant (if not significant) intercession of the Divine in one's personal and local worldly affairs. So by adhering to a certain faith, one is said, in the Abrahamic tradition, to move beyond worldly, nominal conditions and regain the original state before man's "Fall" ...

Secular science has recently been forced to study religious behaviour, especially to avoid the occurrence of mass-murder, sexual abuse & illegal practices. Fear is invoked to explain why people turn to religion, the deficit of the world religions to understand the emergence of so-called "new" religious movements and sects.

However, it is very difficult to define these terms to the point of juridical clarity & operational efficiency. In general, "new religious movement" is too undefinable, whereas "sect" is definitely a negative connotation, although scholars disagree about the criteria necessary to make the distinguishing element operational.

The universal experience of the mystics teaches that the best results are attained when the aspirant does not take the first step under coercion. If a person is not really willing to be liberated in the spiritual sense, nobody should interfere with this movement of the will, except if it can be proved that the freedom of another being is thereby affected. So distinguishing marks of a sectarian social formation are :

(1) the absence of a long preparation before the iniatoric step it taken ;
(2) the impossibility of leaving the social formation after initiation ;

In genuine spirito-communal formations the direct experience of the Divine is essential. All other considerations are trivial. Traditional forms are important in so far as they are relived in our present time. Because every individual is different, a living tradition is the ultimate model, i.e. a living variety of expressions of the unique experience of the One Divine. The deposit of faith is an open set of Divine revelations, ungoing and actual. From a mystical angle, the eternal, ever-lasting magister is only known at the end of the Last Day. So further marks are :

(3) a strong set of convictions, anchored in a sacred object and/or subject but not made to root in the individual's direct experience of the Divine ;
(4) absence of communication between the eternalized hierachical orders, the use of moral pressure & the limitation of verbal activity ;
(5) no focus on the ungoingness of the Divine revelations.

the choice of the mystics

In the past, mystics did not have a choice.

In the West, they had to conform to the superstructures of Christianity, in the East to the tenets of spiritual traditions like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Dowism or Shinto. Our secular global village has undone the strong links between education and religious conditioning (Laicism & secularization). Although some religious people (especially those fundamentalists dreaming of a theocratic world) may find this objectionable, the fact is that a secular environment offers a genuine mystic the freedom to truly experiment by making free choices. The elocutions of the Divine are not censored and if s/he is able to move beyond the indifference of both the more traditional religious folk & nihilist humanism, the work done may inspire to seek the safe haven of the Divine on the basis of the individual's conscience & spiritual sharing which does not coerce or convert.

Atheist humanism proves that a high moral standard does not necessitate faith in a religious dogma. Mystical experience evidences that spiritual states & stations do not necessitate the religions, but the latter are dry up without the former, except for the hermit. People are fully able to have esteem for themselves and others. As Maslow (1977) showed, Self-realization does not come automatically after the need of esteem has been fulfilled. Something more is needed : the active, unconditional engagement & aspiration of the personal, ego-based will to evolve beyond the "modal", reasonable mind. However, when realization really happens, only actions reveal. No verbalized knowledge about its essence is possible. Only the potential impact of exemplaric goodness (to given in order to bestow) is over. Genuine mystical experiences fashion strong personalities & trigger a care for all living beings, making cosmic consciousness (Bucke, 1961) to stand up to foster the collective good in the name of the Divine.

More than one collection of sublime spiritual books will be scrutinised : Pyramid Texts Coffin Texts, Vedas, Upanisads, Pentateuch, Tripitaka, Lao-Tzu, Words of Jesus, Yoga-Sûtra, Qur'ân, Edda, Zohar, etc.

Arguments of atheism

Atheism conjectures that the proposition P : "a Divine order exists" is untrue and that not-P ("a Divine order does not exist") is true. Corollary : the order of being is not infinite but finite (hence, infinity is not objective). Today, atheism goes hand in hand with materialism, scepticism, cynicism, humanism & nihilism, positions which are all radically rejected in this system* of philosophy. This is the coarse definition. To refine it, we need to distinguish between "Divine" and "God". Rejecting both is logical atheism, whereas non-theism accepts the former but rejects the latter (identified with a Creator), as in Buddhism. Indeed, as the word "God" is identified as Abrahamic, the generic word for spirituality is "Divine".

As far as they stand today, atheists have not been able to disprove the possibility of the existence of the Divine. No compelling reasons a priori were found proving that the Divine is unable to exist. The atheist minority on this planet surely has had a lot of time to demonstrate their negative hypothesis. And in certain rich countries, their conjectures were (and are) taught as a self-evident facts ! Indeed, so intense has been the negative past conditioning of the religions, that the child was thrown away with its bathwater. As if the Divine is only a construction invented to reduce fear or to be able to face difficult material and/or psychological circumstances !

Is it honest intellectual practice to take anything for granted ? It is not. So atheists could be wrong after all. The formal problem with atheism is the fact that it has no object of its own. A-theism is a position which defines itself as the negation of something else. Hence, as there are many forms of theisms (and deisms), there are many forms of atheism and so to say "I am atheist." is not saying much. The "minimum minimorum" being the notion that there is no Divine, God, Supreme Being or supernatural order of existence, which is shared by all forms of atheism.

Agnosticism claims to have no knowledge of the Divine and refrains from postulating anything about God or the Supreme Being. Hence agnosticism avoids to deal with the Divine. This position is rational. The agnostic acknowledges that a large majority of humanity are "believers", and hence, that "God" is at least an important multi-cultural phenomenon. They leave the possibility of God's existence open. God could exist (in that case the agnostic waisted considerable time) or God could not exist (what most agnostics a forteriori must hope, without knowing this to be true).

A large majority of humanity is preoccupied with the Divine. Modern technology (the pragmatism of modern science) has not eliminated the faiths nor the occurence of mystical experiences. The former have been undermined by criticism, and rightly so. The historical failure of the world religions is a fact nobody can deny. Conditioning, war, repression, discrimination, etc. have very often been caused by the superstructures the religions erected upon the fundamental experience of the Divine by their respective founders.

The study of modern metaphysics shows that although atheists & agnostics -by stressing the idea of the remoteness of the Divine- eventually to the point of relinquishing the concept of the Divine as such, they nevertheless reintroduce abstract concepts (universalia) to counter the excess of their mental darkness. This is a contradiction "in actu exercito". Hence, some atheists tried to develop a "logic of finiteness", a "strict nominalistic" position which excludes universal ideas. How to compare anything remains their major (unsurmountable) problem (cf. Kant's criticism of the scepticism of Hume). For when comparisons are done, abstractions are made, and the latter are "universalia", not just "flatus voci" ...

Kant showed that the rational mind is unable to prove the existence of God. It is true that the Christian concept of the Divine (rooted in Judaism, neo-Platonism & the books of the New Testament) can not be maintained, not even in the light of a historico-critical reading of the supposed "scriptural revelations". Scholastic philosophy had identified God with Plato's Idea of the Good (fountainhead of the unique, true & everlasting theo-ontology) and the ontological God of the Bible. This God-of-Absolute-Architecture was, not without undue drama, declared "dead" (cf. Nietzsche).

Have Europacentric scientists forgotten that the bankruptcy of the Christian concept does not disprove the possibility of a "Deus Revelatus" !? It only puts aside the notion of Christ's monopoly on Divine Revelation & redemption (exclusivism) and undermines all attempts to understand a given, historical set of books as a complete & final textualization of genuine disclosures (unveilings, revelations, presences) of the Divine. Their historical & socio-political importance is evident, even in modern civilizations. The deconstruction of scripture does not necessarily take place as the denial or the negation of the Divine. It is aimed at the unnecessary social "superstructures" (cf. Staal) erected on the genuine "mystical body" of any distinct group of sincere spiritual human beings. Some forms of atheism (with a serious Christian hangover) have reproduced the selfsame exclusivism which was their former jail, namely interpreting the end of Christianity (a historical fact) as the end of the Divine as such (this indicates how strong the christological identification between Christ & God had been).

As Ibn'Arabî showed in his philosophy of mysticism, the idea of each individual having a particular faith (or heart's intention) and a particular Lord (or one archetype in an infinite number of possible Self-manifestations of the Absolute) does not contradict the truth of the unveiling given to those mystics who perceive "the water of life" in the manifested world (because they are permanently reminded of the Divine archetypes manifesting paradoxically in all of creation). The "god of this faith" has to combat all the other "gods", whereas the mystic beholds multiplicity within unity. The "god of this faith" is a communal god, an "our Lord", whereas the Divine discloses as "my" Lord. The different revelations of the faiths have to contradict themselves, whereas the unity of experience & the light of Self-reflection are given to all mystics. 

Bergson's subtle suggestion that the personal, intimate, dynamical God-of-the-mystics (cf.the "Elohîm" or "Shekhinah" of qabalah, the Hindu "shakti", the "gunas" or "prâjñâ" of the yogins, the Self-manifestation of the Absolute in Sufism, i.e. God-in-Nature as witnessed in "baqâ") was the only possible path of return for God in the modern age, was not understood, if read at all. Kierkegaard's "leap into the absurd" was inconsistent with the mental snobbism & Europacentric narcissism of the 19th-century. Nietzsche's Dionysian ideas became associated with syphilitic insanity. Kant's project (in his old age) to develop an "immanent" metaphysics, allowing for a mild return of cosmological finality into the picture of being, was deemed unimportant for criticism per se and its place in the history of human thought. Notwithstanding the problems involved with the status of the transcendental Self of apperception, they promoted the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, and bluntly denied humanity an intellectual perception of the Self.

Around 1850, the modern monolith was proudly presented to the masses of Europe. A momentary crystal palace around the wonders of the future. With a proud voice these "modern" scientists announced the end of physics, in spite of a few dark clouds (containing their doom, namely the speed of light & the ultraviolet-catastrophy). They also claimed that nothing lighter than air would fly ... God had been, so they said, finally eliminated from the picture of knowledge (cf. Laplace's answer to Napoleon). Religion and its conception of an infinite, omnipotent God were needed to compensate for the finite, physical condition of humanity (Feuerbach). "Der Mensch ist, was er isst" (Moleschott). God is the ultimate neurosis (Freud) and religion opium (Marx).

Contemporary atheism realized that nothing can be demonstrated in an absolute way (reason is always dependent of axioms accepted "a priori"). In spite of two centuries of one-dimensional dogma (cf. Marcuse), modern science has not been able to reduce the demand for spirituality (of all kinds). Some intellectuals witness with fright the return of God in physics, psychology & philosophy. So in order to argue their relative positions, atheists & liberal humanists alike have come up with different areas which they propose as being positive evidence for the non-existence of the Divine in whatever form.

Actual lines of atheist argumentation are :

(1) God does not exist because the evil in the world would make Him a demon ;

This so-called "problem of evil" is analyzed elsewhere. It is a strong argument. Final in the case of Christianity, for how can a good Father possibly tolerate so much senseless evil ? It does not hold in religions which allow natural & moral evil to be part of theology. To give a positive definition of evil is always difficult. It implies that one explains why & how destruction & death are an intrinsic part of the Divine (cf. Judaism & Islam). Since neo-Platonism, Western philosophy has favoured a negative approach (evil as the lack of goodness). As a result chaos has not been understood.

"Progress in truth -truth of science and truth of religion- is mainly a progress in the framing of concepts, in discarding artificial abstractions or partial metaphors, and in evolving notions which strike more deeply into the root of reality."
Whitehead, A.D. : Religion in the Making, 1926.

Mystical experiences reveal the Divine-in-Nature. All mystics endure suffering, whether physical, psychological, social or spiritual. The problem of evil is also theirs. But the experience of pain & injustice does not force them to extinguish the desire to create and to transcend (actions, feelings, thoughts). On the contrary. They accept the conditions of factual life, distinguish between different types of evils & enact a change for the good. They always spear ahead to become more & more spiritual. They are not melancholic but optimists. The final end of the cosmos is perfection and, in the end, nothing will stop this. 

Other interesting atheist arguments are :

(2) God does not fit into the modern scientific paradigm ;

This argument became fashionable since Laplace. Recent advances in physics do not a priori discard the nation of a Divine being (cf. the return of finality and the cosmological proof). The idea accepted today, calls for several languages to exist next to each other, influencing each other. Science is only one of these languages and moreover a "special" one (for it deals with reality-for-us). 

Atheists try to advance a scientific language that does not need the category of the Divine. Nevertheless, the metaphysical background of the scientific discourse can never be obliterated. The Divine, as a metaphor for the absent, seems to fit into the postmodern approach. It is better for science to work explicitly
with metaphysical categories, than to deny them and be influenced by what are then unknown presuppositions & prejudices.

Recently, scientists in India discovered that during a seizure, temporal lobe epileptics often enter mystical states. This allowed Canadian researchers to isolate that part of the brain which executes mystical experiences (which is not the same as producing them). It is situated at the right side of the limbic system (cf. the amygdala). This area is also highly sensitive in the case of writers, artists, musicians and creative people in general. As a physical center, it is also linked with our genes.

These neuropsychologists were able to reproduce (through the electro-magnetic stimulation of that area) most (universal) characteristics of the mystical experience, although this stimulation did not integrate these elements (which is done by education & culture). However, after several exposures, the structure of the brain permanently changed and the "God-spot", like an antenna, captured "signals" which the brain then assembled. The result of the experience on those investigated was always positive. It reduced their fear of death and allowed them to see the cosmic meaning of everything. In itself, not a detestable outcome.

These experiments are fundamental. Instead of showing that "God is dead", they prove that our brains have a biological receptor for the experience of the Divine. If we decide to turn it off, then clearly no experience of the Divine is possible. Instead of proving that "God" is a construction of our brain, the "God-spot" is proof of the fact that "God" is part of human evolution, and hence not some retarded cultural construction. Feuerbach and Marx were wrong. The experience of the Divine is part of the fabric of our physical existence, namely in the form of a receptor enabling us to capture its music and musings. 

It was Descartes who said that finite, blind humans are unable to invent an infinite concept like "God".

(3) God's revelations are inconsistent ;

The inconsistency between individual revelations does not contradict the possibility of a higher perspective encompassing the individual parts and hence possibly eliminating the contradictions (cf. Ibn'Arabî on the problem of religious diversity).

(4) No revelation is unique.

In a postmodern approach, this fact is welcomed. Each individual has to meet his/her Lord directly and decide on the basis of the unveiling. Revelations are not meant to coerce but to guide. Truth is too vast to be contained by words.

  Hinduism Buddhism Judaism Christianity Islam
Psychology purusa + prakrti 5 factors of
ruach + nephesh body + soul (spirit) clay + spirit
Salvic model moksa, samâdhi release through nirvâna YHVH's covenant the imitation of Christ a total submission to Allâh
Theology the sleeping & the waking Brahman absolute reality is beyond all constructions  YHVH Elohîm is the Divine  God is One God in Three Persons there is no god
only The God
Mysticism âtman = (nirguna) Brahman nirvâna in this lifetime is possible only the Palace of the King may be known some spirits are transfigured by grace & oned with the Holy Spirit Allâh's chosen prophets share in His nearness
Philosophy 6 traditional schools with a variety of ontologies a variety of explanations of the nature of "nirvâna" philosophy serves theology philosophy serves theology neo-Platonic & Aristotelian interpretations of the founding texts

Criticism of the faiths

Growth & change are fundamental, also in religious matters. Even more than we realize, process is the substance of factual existence. A philosophy of the religions can not dismiss this evidence, nor the fruits of this changed perspective on life offered by our contemporary sciences.

Recently, chaostheory added its insights on causation, non-linearity & predictability in complex, dissipative systems which exist far away from equilibrium (like humans). This led to new & unforeseen relationships between order & chaos. By virtue of the relative metaphorical isolation of each spiritual tradition, traditional (even modern) theology is unable to assimilate these new scientific metaphors. Rooted in the Abrahamic traditions, they are stuck with an outdated onto-theology. It may also be necessary to transform each theology in such a way that its limited set of arguable ideas about the Divine does not hinder the ecumenical synergy of spiritual ideologies, values & attitudes. This synergy is not a new religion, church or community, it is a meta-cultural idea, a symphony of human spirituality offered to the Divine, each community in its own way. Exclusivism hinders genuine spiritual evolution.

Western philosophers tend to rely a lot on the mind. But criticism shows how our minds are limited. Spiritual traditions reveal extra-mental sources (imagination & intuition). But genuine spirituality has no power to coerce (cf. Qur-ân). Perhaps the finest of philosophies should know how to combine both with beauty (cf. Pascal).



Possible critical questions in each category :

strong doubt poor

Is the history of the founding texts of the faith known and understood ?
Has the founder written anything ? 
Who composed the founding texts and how ? 

Which logic characterizes the proposed spirito-ideological superstructure ?
Is this ideology a dogma or can it be adapted to changed circumstances ?
Does its practice liberate its adherents ?
Does the practices introduced by the faith lead to individual Self-realization ?
Does it interact with its social environment and how does this happen ?
measure of
religious tolerance
How does it interact with the other religions ?
relationship with
What is the attitude taken towards those who shun the Absolute and reject religion, faith & mysticism ?
Is it possible to reform the religion as it is today on the basis of new founding texts and an adjacent, coherent theology ?

Divine bi-polarity

The fundamental bi-polarity of the Divine involves the unity of contrasts between personal & impersonal, presence & absence, nearness & distance, intimacy & unlikeness, togetherness & solitude, qualified & unqualified, created & uncreated, manifested & unmanifested, effable & nameless, finite & infinite, relative & absolute, immanent & transcendent, accident & substance, existence & essence, unreality & reality, inaccessibility & accessibility. This bi-polarity is a bi-unity, for these contrasts are not contradictory but complementary. The Divine is the oneness of a "coincidentio oppositorum".

Hinduism :
henotheist affirmation & the negation of the mystics
theism and transtheism

In the Brihad-âranyaka Upanisad, the Supreme is "prajâpati" or "Lord of Creation". He created all the gods. They can be reduced to one, called "Brahman", existing in humans as "âtman", the soul ("Him alone I, the knowing, I, the immortal, believed to be the soul, the immortal Brahman" - fourth Brâhmana, 17). Already in the Kena Upanisad the two modes of existence beyond and with name & form ("nâma-rûpa") meet in the common ground : Brahman. Brahman is conceived of by him by whom It is not conceived of. He by whom It is conceived of, knows It not (cf.Kena, second "khanda"). This the earliest form of apophatic theology.

As the kataphatic "saguna Brahman" (Brahman with Nature) or "Îshvara", He creates gods & goddesses next to Him, but in de Vedânta these are illusionary ("mâyâ"). Sankara follows the Mândûkya Upanisad closely. The state of being of the inner Self ("âtman", "purusa") is that of the apophatic "nirguna Brahman", implying that all independent beings are operational illusions necessary to sustain the powerful magic of the Lord of Creation, with whom no unity is sought. The same line of reasoning can be found in the Yoga-Sûtra and the philosophy of the Sâmkhya. Divine existence is powerful magic, but does not end suffering (it is a supreme mode of becoming, not sheer being). Both Vedânta & Yoga move beyond Creation (metacosmic) and associate the top of the katapathic hierarchy ("Îshvara") at the Creator of "mâyâ", illusion or "vrittis", fluctuations.

Buddhism :
absolute denial and absolute affirmation
transtheism and non-theism

There are no permanent substances. Hence, there is no Divine Creator. There is no permanent soul. Divine beings may be present, but they do not derive their state from ontological permanence, but from their release from suffering through "nirvâna". No kataphatic onto-theology can be developed besides the "dharma" of the Buddha. The non-dual state is undifferentiated and beyond affirmation & denial. Apophatic theology is developed to the point of absolute atomism, for reality-as-such exists in the everpresent "now" or "moment of eternity" (cf. Dignâga system). 

Judaism :
strong denial & veiled affirmation
rather theomonism at work than monotheism

The Infinite ("Ain Soph") is beyond every possible being or not-being. It is impossible to know, experience or glimpse YHVH. The frontier between It & creation will never be crossed. The "Shekhinah"  (cf. the Elohîm) is the real Personal Presence of the Divine in the world. Mystics & prophets experience the full range of Divine immanence ("I Am") without misunderstanding the ineffable Name of YHVH. The convenant is physical, like circumcision & the Sabbath, but nobody knows "Ain Soph". The Torah is the Revelation of this unique Creator who is and becomes, Himself rooted in the "Ain Soph". The coming of the Messiah is also proof of strong kataphatic hopes. 

Christianity :
strong affirmation & bits of radical denial

The Latin scheme is kataphatic. The new convenant of God-the-Father, who was, is & will be the onto-theological Godhead or "summum bonum", was initiated by the Incarnation of Christ, His unique Son. The Divine being of Christ saves, for Jesus is also a complete & untainted human being. Through His Holy Spirit and in Him, we know of the Divine being of the Godhead, a Person who represents the uncreated & unborn Father of Creation. The mutual bond of love is the Person of the Holy Spirit, ever-cleansing the baptized Christian. Eastern (Greek) orthodox theology starts with "apophasis" and understands Divine existence as "energeiai" (works) and "diakriseis" (distinctions). Consequently its doctrine on the trinity & its christology differed from that of Rome.

Both theologies are clear-cut examples of elaborated theisms.

Dionysian mysticism is a clear example of a radical Christian form of "apophasis". God is unknowable in His essence ("ousia") and therefore all names are imperfect, even "Father", "Son" and "Holy Spirit". He is "hyperousion" or "hypertheos". Names are only symbolic titles. God is beyond the linguistic realm. He is the "coincidentio oppositorum" (Nicolas of Cusa), to which nothing can be placed in opposition. This "negatio negationis" may lead to mystical experiences beyond Creation (unqualified). This is an un-knowing knowing, beyond all being & not-being, and is wholly incommunicable (ineffable).

Islam :
radical denial & strong affirmation
harmony of theism & transtheism

The Names of Allâh tell what The God is not (His essence), what He is (His attributes) and how He interrelates with the universe (His acts). Attributes & acts are Outward. What He is not, reveals His Inward essence of Face. It is only for Him to witness. Clearly the unity ("tawhîd") of Allâh means that both His apophatism & kataphatism ground Islam. Everything is part of The God. 

The Sufism of Abû Yazîd's "I am not I, I am I, for I indeed am He, I am He, I am He, He" & Hallâj's "I am the Truth" seem proof of the possibility of a transcendent union. However, as no elocutions are possible, such identifications -if taken serious- point to a lack of spiritual maturity (cf. Junayd & Beatrix of Nazareth). As no theology of the unqualified is possible, only Divine poetry is justify over. Nevertheless, Allâh gave Adam all the Names to know. Everything is a Self-disclosure of The God. 

symbolizing the bi-polar unity of the Divine

In our current definition, "the Divine" = "all phenomena related to an Absolute order of being in all its possible states, stations, names & faces". The concrete experience of this order is what holds the "mystical body" of communing groups of mystics together, to say the least. The first general conclusion offered is that the experience of the Divine is a bi-polar unity. The first pole is "hidden" (absconditus), the second pole is "unveiled" (revelatus), hence :

Let us characterize :

  1. the hidden polarity as the "Divine unknown" or "{ø}", the empty set containing "all possibilities" ;

  2. the self-creating creator as "1" or the standard generating the complete cosmos Itself, Herself, Himself.

Study the way this bi-polarity operates in : 

(1) Hinduism :
A multiplicity of "gods & goddesses" created by one Supreme Being ("Brahman"). It is both the impersonal unknown ("nirguna" - without existence, discontinuity & continuity) & the personal Lord of Creation ("saguna" and thus linked with creation, becoming & the endless wheel of karma).
The Divine is : {ø} + "1"  and "1 = all" : a multiplicity of gods & goddesses headed by One Supreme God or henotheism ;

(2) Buddhism :
In creation no permanent unity can be found. Phenomenal identity is constructed. Visible unity is emptiness. The worlds are empty. For all of eternity did the Buddha ("1") reach "nirvâna" and discover the "dharma".
The Divine is : "all" reduced to "1" = {ø}

In a certain way, the Buddhists perfected what the Vedic seers had started. Many yoga's stress the importance of continuously paying homage to the Lord of Creation without getting entangled by this direct access to the marvelous celestial heavens, everseeking to merge with the undifferentiated, the "bottomlessly deep" (cf. Rigveda, Creation Hymn). Apparently this is exactely what "nirvâna" represents : a station of no-station beyond affirmation and denial.

(3) Judaism :
The one God is unknown. With 10 "Elohîm" or "Divine Names" He created the cosmos (cf. Genesis 1,3-29 : "and Elohîm said"). The Tree of Life is His scheme of salvation for Israel.
The Divine is : {ø} + "1" and "1 = 10" : Divine Beings, Crowned by One Most High

(4) Christianity :
The one God is the best of the best ("summum bonum"). He creates the order of the world out of His goodness. In Christ He is truly known to humanity and Their mutual love is the grace of the saints and the power of their intercessions.
The Divine is : {ø} reduced to "1 = 3" : a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit

(5) Islam :
The God Alone is His Inward Face, forever veiled (Divine essence) and His Outward Divine attributes or Names, fashioning everything that exists (engendering) and prescribing a path to eternal bliss & joy for all human beings.
The Divine is : {ø} + "1 = 99" = "all" Names of Allâh, The God

the measure of monism

Theologies mirroring the unity of the Divine are monistic. Those introducing two principles are dualistic. More than two principles defines the pluralistic.

(1) Hinduism :

The Divine is : {ø} + "1"  and "1 = all" : a multiplicity of gods & goddesses headed by One Supreme Creator
Everything is an outer aspect of the One God. The gods & goddesses are ambivalent. Kali, Shiva & Durga both manifest benevolence and malice. Brahman is both ante-creational and creator, both good and evil. This is a monism which engenders a polytheism (veiled henotheism).

(2) Buddhism :

The Divine is : "all" reduced to {ø}
This is consequent monism (nonduality) eliminating all possible positive theology beyond the Buddha and his discovery of the Dharma.

(3) Judaism :

The Divine is : {ø} + "1" and "1 = 10" : Divine Beings, Crowned by One Most High
Theomonism implies that God is One with many Divine Faces, whereas monotheism holds the principle of One Face. In Hebrew theomonism God has 10 Divine Faces (Names, Numerations, Emanations). In pre-exilic Hebrew religion YHadonaïVH creates light and darkness (cf. Isaiah 45:7). This seems consequent monism. He causes Abraham to pretend that Sarah is his sister rather than his wife (cf. Genesis 12:17). He repeatedly hardens the heart of Pharaoh (cf. Exodus) and He means to kill Moses (cf. Exodus, 4:24-26) etc. However, the monism of the Old Testament is inconsequent. Implicit dualism is apparent in the stories of the ruin of the "bene ha-Elohîm", hinted at in Genesis 6:1-5 and Psalm 82:1-7, suggesting the existence of a heavenly court and the sin of some of its members (namely -in Zechariah- the Satan). In Job, Satan is reproached for having successfully tempted the Lord ! In Hellenistic Judaism, the Lord was made wholly good and so evil was alien to Divine nature. The only "evil" being the fact that matter resists the Lord's will (cf. Philo of Alexandria). Conclusion : Judaism is a pseudo-monism.

(4) Christianity :

The Divine is : {ø} reduced to "1 = 3" : a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit
Again a theomonism, but with three "energies" or "persons". This Holy Trinity is sublime goodness, untouched by evil. "Sine diabolo nullus Dominus". Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, Incarnates in the world and assumes human flesh to break the power of the devil and repay the latter all the sins of humanity. The "prince of the world" tempts humanity into its fall. Christ saves his people.

(5) Islam :

The Divine is : {ø} + "1 = 99" Names of Allâh, The God
Sunnite theology stresses the incomparability of The God and knows the signs of His work in creation. Everything besides The God is evil, for only Allâh is ultimate goodness. He is not ultimate evil for absolute nonexistence is not. Theoretical Sufism will defend a consequent monism that allows for both a negative & a positive theology (although the former pole prevails). The proposed theomonism is universal, for each Name is the matrix of an infinite number of other names. Everything that exists is the result of The God's engendering command "Be". In that engendering command no moral distinctions occur (they are prophetically given by His revealed presciptive command). Good and evil alike are fashioned, for the world is a mixture. The perplexity resulting from the confrontation with suffering results from our limited potential relative to the infinite possibilities of the Divine (cf. Ibn'Arabî).

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initiated : 9 IV 1996 - last update : 26 XI 2010 - version n°51