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January 31, 2006


That's beautiful, as well as awesomely lucid. Thank you.

Thank you for this Beth. Very clear, very helpful and beautifully written. And it reminds me that I had promised myself to start reading Thomas Merton.

Very well put! Now if I can just find a way to direct all the poor folks searching Google for info on the via negativa toward this post rather than to my less than lucid blog...

I heard Joseph Campbell (yes, I know) describe god as the word we use to point toward that which is transcendent. It's my awkward touchstone. But it's like finding π. It's there, obviously, but it will not be pinned down.

The Way that can be described to death, is not the way to life.

Yes. Thank you.

Thanks Beth, I did not know the meaning of via negativa! This sounds really lovely and accepting of that something that is greater, ephemeral, intangible and without words.

"The via negativa does not negate beauty, life, light, and love; in fact it is a way to begin to see and embody them as they really are, existing side-by-side with their opposites, no longer denied but accepted and held, gently, in the other hand."

Amen, and sadhu.

Beth, this is simply very well expressed. I've read it several times. Thank you.

..which is not to say that a lot of us depressives
are not strongly attracted to the via negativa

I'm late to the party, Beth, but this is wonderful.

Theo, I think you're right. Partly because depression obstructs the other vias pretty efficiently -- we're left with the Via Negativa by default. But also because depression works by exposing the emptiness of my assertions of meaning: if I'm not making any such assertions, then it's out of a job.

Wonderfully clear, sensitive, and yes, *positive* expression of the Via Negativa, beth.
I would like to say a few words in defense of the Via Positiva, a term which I claim to have just invented. First I will start negatively by saying what it is not: it is not Positive Thinking. Not how to Win Friends and Influence People. Not Seven Steps to Success. Not Cheer Up for Goodness Sake. None of that jazz. Nor does it claim to have all the answers.

"....the via negativa means looking for answers about God and existence in "what is not" rather than saying “God is this, and God is this”, or declaring “here are the answers.....”

Instead of looking into "what is not", my VP looks into "what if?"
So, the dark silence is there and not denied or feared, but it becomes a backdrop, a blank screen on which images and sounds are projected. These are all questions in the form of potential answers and they are "positives" in the same way that a photo can be a positive. What I define as the VP is the active involvement in "What Ifness".
There. My speech is ended.

So wonderfully captured, Beth. And then held loosely. Perfect.

i read your post after going through a long chain of links to get to it, and it was like a breath of fresh air to me. i have felt this way about God/religion/faith/being for a long time, but didn't have the words for it. thank you for your clarity!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.