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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: The via negativa is the “negative way” of getting to know God. It is the way of letting go.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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The via negativa is the “negative way” of getting to know God. It is the way of letting go. The basic assumption of this method is that G...
The via negativa is the “negative way” of getting to know God. It is the way of letting go.
The basic assumption of this method is that God is much greater than anything we can imagine. As human beings of limited intelligence, we have a tendency to get attached to ideas of God that are far inferior to the reality of God.
Once we have an idea that works for us, we get lazy. We hang onto our idea, fixing it in place, and we start taking God for granted. We assume that our idea is good enough for practical purposes and do not bother to look any deeper into the truth.
Fixed ideas of God are like tranquilizers to the spiritual life—they slow everything down to a crawl and inhibit normal functioning. As soon as we think we know what something is, we stop paying attention to it. It is the same with our relationship to God.
Via negativa suggests that we be proactive and dump our intellectual baggage as soon as possible. Think of it as a third step for your concept of God.
Surrender to God all your ideas about God.
Once the mind is clear, we can experience God directly. No more big ideas getting in the way.
In via negativa, also called the apophatic tradition, people often create “definitions” of God that are simply a list of things that God is not. In these lists, the authors place ideas that the members of their faith tradition hold dear. The idea is to shake things up by poking at those ideas that are the most fixed in our minds.
What follows is an attempt to phrase an apophatic definition of God for Big Book folk. It’s short, and stands to be expanded, but it probably contains enough to get you started on the negative way.
Take a deep breath.
Get centered.
Read out loud, if only in a whisper.
Read s-l-o-w-l-y.
If you find yourself wanting to defend a fixed idea, give it up.
Via Negativa for Big Book Folk
God is not a Higher Power.
God is not a psychic change.
God is not love, superhuman strength, and direction.
God is not the Great Reality deep down within us.
God is not Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind, or Spirit of Nature.
God is not Creator, nor is God Maker.
God is not Director, nor Principal, nor Father.
God is not a power that pulls chronic alcoholics back from the gates of death.
God is not everything, nor is God nothing.
God is not God as we understand him.
God is not freedom from mental obsession.
God is not a spiritual experience.
God is not a miracle of healing.
God is not the Presence of Infinite Power and Love.
God is not a Fellowship of the Spirit.
God is not the Road of Happy Destiny.
God is not a defense against the first drink.
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