Abraham/Ibrahim

 

The pivotal notions of Identifiability and Expressibility in the Dharmic Tradition combine to become the notion of Association or ‘Granting Partnership’ in the Abrahamic literature [Hebrew Shituf, Arabic Shirk].

Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live‘ [Exodus: 33].

St Augustine [354-430 CE] arguably the most influential theologian of the later Western Christian Tradition [and whose roots were Neo-Platonic] famously wrote:

‘The best thing that man can say about God is to be able to be silent about Him, from the wisdom of his inner judgement. Therefore be silent and prate not about God, for whenever thou dost prate about God, thou liest, and committest sin. If thou wilt be without sin, prate not about God. Thou canst understand nought about God, for He is above all understanding. A master saith: If I had a God whom I could understand, I would never hold Him to be God’.

Orthodox Jews remove the vowels [YHWH] to limit expression, hence presumption, on the nature of Yahweh, of G-d [Elohim], a central theme of the Hebrew Torah. [‘Ten Sayings’; aseret ha-d’varîm].

The Aramaic Alaha, the common name for the Divine in the language that Jesus spoke, is in turn related to the Arabic Allah: ‘The God’, and the Hebrew: Eloah [Elohim, Elohai]. It was originally a loose reference to a regional deity and in-time appropriated into emerging Islam.

The principle prayer of Islam, the Shahadah reads:
La Ilaha il al-Lah’: ‘There is no God if it be not the God’.

It is an informed rendering of insight as Self-Eating Expression meant for the trained ear and in the language of the day. [But try explaining that to a modern day Mullah].

You may never re-present [express] Al-lah, the fundamental sin of Islam [Shirk]. ‘Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him, but He forgives anything else, to whom He pleases, to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed’ (Qur’an 4:48). The Kaaba in Mecca is an empty cube.


Within the Abrahamic Tradition you will see Inexpressibility at the heart of the parallel Mystic schools. And unlike in the Orthodox traditions here it was left free to unfold and not forced into a literal or contorted mythic template.

The Qabballah of the Jews; the Taṣawwuf [Sufism] of the Muslims; the Gnostic Texts of Christianity. Key mystic terms like the Jewish Aleph and the Islamic Fana originate here.

The final stage of practice in high Sufism is termed Fana al-Fana, the ‘Annihilation of Annihilation itself’. A Self-Negating Expression, naturally, necessarily.

The Neo-Platonic ‘One’ of Plotinus [sourced in Plato’s Parmenides] was the dominant European Mystical Tradition for a millennia. It was a principal influence on everyone from Thomas Aquinas to Meister Eckhart [‘God is ‘Namelessness’, wrote Eckhart who taught Aristotle at the Sorbonne, and promptly got arraigned by the Vatican]. 

Reality, wrote Plotinus was: ‘A Nameless Unity, indescribable, undefinable.. never known measure, stands outside number..is under no limit of any kind..is Everything and Nothing..’.


Perhaps no other Mystic influenced all three of the Abrahamic faiths as comprehensively as Plotinus [203-270]. He famously joined Gordian’s march on Persia in order to find his way to India. The campaign failed and he returned to Antioch. In 3rd Century Bharat, the understanding of Shūnyam was still not entirely dead; it would have been a worthwhile visit.