Via Negativa

My cousin, the Rev. F. Vernon Wright, upon reading The Desert, a recent blog entry from the blog Carl & Me that I had posted on Facebook, commented that Carl “seems to be encountering some of the wisdom of the Apophatic tradition.”

Naturally, I had to google the word Apophatic since I had no idea what it meant. I found it described as via negativa or “negative theology” as in an attempt to achieve unity with the Divine through discernment, gaining knowledge of what God is NOT, rather than describing what God is.

For me, so far in the dreamwork, much of my work has been about understanding who I am not as opposed to who I am. Jung says God is where we are not. I thought I knew who I was, but it was a construct. I do not know who I am. The dreamwork, if we are willing, helps us to strip away who we are not. And it gives us the opportunity to push down past the outward projections, past the construct of the stories and lies, past the traumas, and into those feelings which seem to surround the core of our being. Feelings like pain, fear, love, vulnerability, ecstatic joy. These are feelings that I had rarely (perhaps never truly) experienced in their raw form, without a story to justify, explain, or attribute them to, before I started the dreamwork. And mostly, I rejected the less desirable feelings outright. It is hard to explain a “true” feeling, since emotional states are most definitely felt. For myself, I notice that my emotions typically manifest as a response to some external stimulus or, just as often, from some mental thought and can often project out from me onto the people around me or the world in general.

I am now noticing, as a result of this spiritual work, that the feelings that arise which are not of “story” or attached to some idea are more encompassing. They open me in some way and they radiate through me. There is a certain enfoldment which yields that fleeting feeling of connection. They are part of me but also part of something large than me. They are part of the deep well spring of the collective conscience.

My current homework is to be with the mulatto boy who is so different and feel my vulnerability, the grief, longing, tenderness of being with him knowing that he is me. And to notice when I feel defiant about being exposed or vulnerable.

In the past, if I felt fear or pain or vulnerability, I thought something was wrong with me (shame). I can still go there, but I am noticing more often that I don’t immediately default to “something is wrong”. I am becoming more comfortable simply being or sitting with difficult feelings, and being OK with it.

I don’t believe this work can be distilled into an affirmation through negation since it is through alchemy that we find the soul. The striping away is only a step towards alchemy in that it more fully reveals that which is of the soul through the negation of that which is not. The saying “more will be revealed” seems to fit with the idea of striping away since the process of revealing is to remove that which blocks.

I used to think the distance from my head to my heart was miles and eons, but space and time really mean nothing in this work, and that idea is really just my own defiance. The distance between seeing and feeling a connection to the boy and actually being the boy in my dreams seems like miles and eons, but it is not a journey of time or distance. It is a journey of feeling. This homework has taken me to the ineffable feelings of grief (love remembered), longing and tenderness. They are some of the raw materials necessary for alchemy.

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