This is the fifth post in a series. Click here for part 1.
Cataphatic theology – not just a word that is fun to say, but a key part of our Mystical Theology. Here is another term: paradox. The term paradox is defined as something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible. What we have been presenting thus far in our synthesis is two approaches to God that are seemingly incompatible, but in reality are essential.
To contemplate that which cannot be comprehended, to seek to understand that which escapes our faculties, this is the definition of a paradox. Of course if we were living a while ago in the days before Einstein and his relativity, in the age of good old Newtonian Mechanics, we might have pushed these sorts of notions into the realm of fantasy; perhaps madness. But that wild haired scientist peeled back the layer of reality that we wrapped ourselves in like a blanket and showed us a world where time and space, the very things that we cling to for identity, were not constant at all. Then comes quantum mechanics… now we have things existing in two states at once, being in two places at once. Things that ‘exist’ do not ‘exist’ and then ‘exist’ again. What all of this has shown us is that the very fabric of reality allows for the existence of paradoxes. In fact it may be the coming together of these apparent contradictions that give us the best view of reality. (Dizzy yet?)
It is hard not to be reminded of some of the wisdom of Taoist philosophy here. The idea that between two opposites lies truth. Or perhaps the koans of Zen Buddhism Out of nowhere, the mind comes forth. How can something come from nothing? These sorts of riddles of paradox are used in Buddhist contemplation to “open the soul” of the contemplative. Don Dianda, author of “See for Your Self: Zen Mindfulness for the Next Generation,” put it this way in a blog for Elephant Journal:
The koan serves as a surgical tool used to cut into and then break through the mind of the practitioner… Koans aren’t just puzzles that your mind figures out suddenly and proclaims, “Aha! the answer is three!” They wait for you to open enough to allow the space necessary for them to enter into your depths—the inner regions beyond knowing.
So if we find our contemplation of God bringing us to the place of paradoxes, then we should not be surprised. Nature itself is fabricated by them, and they are perhaps passageways to enlightenment; union with God. (See Theosis)
So back to cataphaticism: which is making positive affirmations about God. Of course here we must be careful because there could perhaps be a fine line between contemplating God through making affirmations about God, and drawing dogmatic lines around God for the sake of poking out our tongue at those less enlightened than ourselves. This is perhaps where doctrinally centered paths, such as Christianity, can give some people just enough religion to harm themselves. (I am myself a Christian, so this is not a jab at anyone. It is an observation based on my own failures.) This brings us to the point of this series, a mystical approach to Theology. The entire purpose of Theology in this approach is inward transformation. The transmutation of our beings into the likeness of God. Here we must appeal again to St. Paul’s words as a definition: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Essentially what we say about God does not change God. We could say the most absurd things about God (and many have – myself included at times) and God would remain unchanged. We however are changed by what we say about God. This leads us to “Jacob’s Ladder” – the path to deification – cataphatic Theology. More to come …
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