Void

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

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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.

47. “Interstices of void”

…Plato was well aware of the fact which Aristotle urges as a flaw in his theory, namely that it is impossible for all his figures to fill up space with entire continuity. In the structure of air and water there must be minute interstices of void; there must also be a certain amount of void for the reason that, the universe being a sphere it is impossible for rectilinear figures exactly to fill it up.

– John Cook Wilson: ‘On the Interpretation of Plato’s Timaeus’, 1889

Mr. Reinhardt is a puzzler. His tenacity over so long a period in the service of an increasingly tight premise is admirable. But the logical application of this premise (apparently, that by infinitely painstaking selection and discarding an artist may extract an irreducible essence from color and geometry, the bases of painting) has led him, , as it did not lead Mondrian, close to the discovery that essence but a void may lie at the end of his search.

– John Canaday: ‘Art, Running the Gamut’, New York Times, 21 October 1960

John Canaday, art critic of The New York Times, writing in 1960 of Mr. Reinhardt’s search for severe purity, said it “has led him, as it did not lead Mondrian, close to the discovery that essence but a void may lie at the end of his search.

– New York Times: ‘Ad Reinhardt, Painter, is Dead’, 1 September 1967