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  • Writer's pictureErika Murphy

Releasing God

I pray God to rid me of God. ~ Meister Eckhart

If I say that ‘God is good,' this is not true. I am good, but God is not good!. ~ Meister Eckhart

What could Eckhart — a faithful Dominican — possibly mean when he exclaims that he wants to be "rid" of God or that "God is not good"? In the timeless tradition of many mystics, Eckhart speaks in a language called "negative" or apophatic theology, which reorients our thinking by describing what God is not. Eckhart challenges us by drawing attention to the way we casually apply limited concepts to the infinitude of the divine. The human concept "good" can only apply to that which is limited, such as Eckhart himself. Eckhart wants to be free of false, limited thinking about God.

Similarly, the tradition of yoga uses the phrase "neti neti," which translates as "not this, not that," meaning that anything the mind encounters is limited, and therefore is not something with which to identify. When asking the question "who am I?" the mind must always answer "neti neti," since our true nature lies beyond the mind's experience.

However, what is beyond the mind is not beyond our ability to know. Yoga offers an opposite, and complementary, practice to negative theology that embraces everything as "iti iti," or "all this, all that." It celebrates and affirms that everything, even limitation itself, is God. The spiritual journey requires the mind to let go of identification with limitation as we joyfully celebrate everything as a manifestation of the divine.

Sometimes in our practice we need "neti neti," and other times, "iti iti." Together, they make up the extraordinary and delightful play of the divine in its boundless abundance. You can listen to this short chant as a culmination of the "not this," and the "all this." Ultimately, the mystery lies beyond words. After all, God asks: Who can say what I'm not?

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