30 to 39

30. “Of what transcends all affirmation. What is beyond all negation”

The reason is this: in affirming the existence of what transcends all affirmation, we were obliged to begin from what is most akin to It and then make the affirmation upon which all the rest depended; but to attain in the theology of negation what is beyond all negation we are obliged to begin by denying what are most disparate from it.

– The Pseudo-Dionysius: ‘De Mystica Theologia’ (‘Negative and Affirmative Theologies’)

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31. “Advance toward the formless, what is without contour, Encountering nothingness”

As the soul advances towards the formless, unable to grasp what is without contour or to receive the imprint of reality so diffuse, it fears it will encounter nothingness, and it slips away.

– Plotinus: ‘The Good or The One’ VI, 9 [9]

The divine being is equal to nothing, and in it there is neither image nor form…[Therefore] When the soul…contemplates what consists of images, whether that be an angel’s image or its own, there is for the soul some thing lacking. Even if the soul contemplates God…the soul lacks something. But if all images are detached from the soul, and it contemplates only the Simple One, then the soul’s naked being finds the naked, formless being of the divine unity.

– Meister Eckhart: ‘Die Deutsche Werke’ 

The Sufis sought to lose what they currently perceived as labels, knowledge, concepts and to become empty (nothing) and attain the state of “void”; to attain a zero point so that they could become related to any state of being and achieve “everythingness”. Just as the discovery of zero in mathematics made the system possible, so too in the art of rebirth, the discovery of a state of “nothingness” (the void or emptiness) makes final integration a possibility.

– A. Reza Arasteh: ‘Final Integration in the Adult Personality’, 1965.

32. “supreme principle”

The Supreme must be an entity in which the two are one; it will, therefore, be a Seeing that lives, not an object of vision like things existing in something other than themselves: what exists in an outside element is some mode of living-thing; it is not the Self-Living.

– Plotinus: ‘The Six Enneads’

Plotinus has given its fullest development to Neo-Platonism. We will follow his working out of the two fundamental ideas which, in his view, sum up all philosophy.

(1) The Process of Emanation from a Supreme Principle, the one source of all existing things, explains the physical and the metaphysical worlds. According as this principle gives out its energy, it exhausts itself; its determinations follow a descending scale, becoming less and less perfect. The following are the successive steps in the process:

The One

At the head of the intelligible world, far removed from the world of sense (Plato), reigns One Supreme Essence. To safeguard its transcendence, Piotinus states it to be absolutely indeterminate (apeiron). No quality marks or defines it; nothing can determine it, for all determination implies limitation (negative theodicy). The Supreme Being has no attribute, not even intellect or will: knowledge and volition suppose a duality of knower and thing known, of that which wills and that which is willed; and all duality is irreconcilable with the infinitely perfect. However, as this negative concept has for basis the Divine perfection, Plotinus has recourse to positive descriptions, the insufficiency of which, moreover, he fully recognises. By preference he describes the Supreme Being as the First (to prôton), the One, the Universal Cause, Goodness (Plato), Light. Immutable in itself, this First Unitary Being does not diffuse its substance into other beings, as the advocates of substantialist pantheism maintain; but it permeates them by its activity (dynamic pantheism); and what we call the proper, specific substantiality of things is simply the product of this activity. Furthermore, this outflow of the Divine activity into all other beings is not direct and immediate; it is effected through the agency of intermediary forces which emanate successively from one another. And as the effect is always less perfect than the cause, these activities are arranged in gradation according to their respective degrees of perfection, each one occupying a position which is lower the greater the number of intermediate steps by which it communicates with the Divine energy. What are these intermediaries into which the Divine energy flows, as it were, by cascades? Plotinus reduces them to three: Intelligence and the World-Soul in the suprasensible order; and, in the sensible order, Matter.

– Maurice De Wulf: ‘History of Medieval Philosophy’, 1909

Only blankness, complete awareness, distinterestedness; the “artist-as-artist” only, of one and rational mind, “vacant and spiritual, empty and marvelous,” in symmetries and regularities only; the changeless “human content,” the timeless “supreme principle,” the ageless “universal formula” of art, nothing else.

– Ad Reinhardt, ‘Timeless in Asia’, Art News, January 1960

33. “hold to unity”

The chief difficulty is this: awareness of the One comes to us neither by knowing nor by the pure thought that discovers the other intelligible things but by a presence transcending knowledge. When the soul knows something, it loses its unity, it cannot remain simply one because knowledge implies discursive reason and discursive reason implies multiplicity. The soul then misses The One and falls into number and multiplicity. Therefore we must go beyond knowledge and hold to unity. We must renounce knowing and knowable, every object of thought, even Beauty, because Beauty, too, is posterior to The One and is derived from it as, from the sun, the daylight. That is why Plato says of The One, “It can neither be spoken nor written about.”

– Plotinus: ‘The Good or The One’ VI, 9 [9]