Life

14. “world of appearances”

…although the spiritual world is within us, it is also outside us. Just as it was enough to learn within ourselves in order to discover this world, so it is enough to learn how to outside ourselves in order to perceive the spiritual world behind the world of appearances.

– Pierre Hadot: ‘Plotinus Or the Simplicity of Vision’, 1963

Actions with attachments bind us to the world of appearances; to the continual doing of more actions. But there is another way of performing action, and this is without desire and without fear. The doer of the non-attached actions is the most conscientious of men. Freed from desire and fear, he offers everything he does as a sacrament of devotion to his duty (surrenders all his actions to the Lord). All work becomes equally and vitally important. It is only toward the results of work – success or failure, praise or blame – that he remains indifferent. When action is done in this spirit, Krishna teaches, it will lead to the knowledge of what is behind action, behind all life; the ultimate Reality. And, with the growth of this knowledge, the need for further action will gradually fall away from us. We shall realize our true nature, which is God, sat-chit-ananda.

– Bhagavad Gita: ‘Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna’

Thus also, on account of the existence of the former (qualities), (admitted) owing to reference and so on, there is absence of contradiction, (as) Bâdarâyana (thinks). Thus also, i.e. although it be admitted that intelligence only constitutes the true nature of the Self, also the former nature, i.e. lordly power like that of Brahman, which is intimated by reference and the rest, is – with a view to the world of appearances – not rejected; and hence there is no contradiction. This is the opinion of the teacher Bâdarâyana.

– The Vedanta Sutras of Bâdarâyana, Commentary by Sankara, tr. by George Thibaut, 1896

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17. “luminous darkness”

Behind the father-image, behind the mother-image, behind the image of light inaccessible, and behind the image of profound abysmal darkness, there is something else which we cannot conceive at all. Saint Dionysius called it the ‘luminous darkness.’ Nargajuna called it sunyata, the void. Shankara called it Brahman, that of which nothing at all can be said, neti-neti, beyond all conception whatsoever. However, this in not atheism in the formal sense of the word. On the contrary, this is a profoundly religious attitude because it corresponds practically to an attitude toward a life of total trust in letting go. When we have images of God, they are all really exhibitions of our lack of faith.

– Alan Watts: ‘Images of God’

Wherefore John the Sublime, who penetrated into the luminous darkness, says, No one has ever seen God, thus asserting that knowledge of the divine essence is unattainable not only by men but also by every intelligent creature.

– Gregory of Nyssa: ‘Life of Moses’

It is in the deepest darkness, that we most fully possess God on earth, because it is then that our minds are most truly liberated from the weak, created lights that are filled with His infinite Light which seems pure darkness to our reason.

– Thomas Merton: ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’, 1961