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Published:December 10th, 2009 14:15 EST
Negative Theology: YHWH and the Name

Negative Theology: YHWH and the Name

By Sean Beelzebul

Negative theology is the art of writing, speaking or pronouncing words , poetry and scripture in a way that does not directly ascribe attributes to God. This sentence I have just written is not an example of negative theology simply because by writing the word "God` I have given God definition and it is therefore positive theology. So, what is this negative theology business?

Negative theology is not negative in the sense that it goes against theology, defiles or destroys it. On the contrary, negative theology has, throughout time been the mystic`s method of choice for reaching the point of unio mystica " with God. Examples of negative theology in the Christian tradition can be found in St. Thomas Aquinas, specifically the passages dealing with Pseudo-Dionysus. However, the majority of Christian theology is positive, not apophatic or negative in nature. At the risk of sounding too obscure, I will attempt to reproduce my own example of negative theology in a few lines here:

That which holds us, supports our being

Created not only nature, but what we free

The darkness and the light are one

In the ineffable flux which is

And was and forever will be.

The word ineffable, is important here, Those that practice the art of negative theology, whether within the Abrahamic tradition or not, will always ascribe God as being unknowable, yet paradoxically knowable through this form of theology, though of course not at the anthropomorphic level.

So, what is the significance of negative theology today, especially for me, Sean the religious critic? Well, it is simple: in a world of atheists and anthropomorphic theists, this art of negative theology has been devalued. False ideas of gain, profit and literal interpretation have taken its place. Negative theology rejuvenates the tattered decay of modern religion and supplies the practitioner a new hope, a new ideal, that unfortunately, lies outside the mainstream. For other examples of negative theology, I urge my readers to investigate the Sufi mystics of Islam, the Kabala`s treasure trove of writings, and even post-modernists like Emanuel Levinas.