William Edelen: My Writing Philosophy

The Contrary Minister

I have been writing essays and columns for newspapers and Journals for over 40 years. My objective and focus from the very beginning has been to clear the religious debris of superstition and rediscover truth and facts in biblical studies and religious literacy.

In Greek, “apophasis” means denial or negation. The Greek word has the connotation of AFFIRMATION through negation as reflected in “Negative Theology”. It is a historical movement that begins with Plato, and it involved disposing of the myths of the Olympian gods, while AFFIRMING a revised version of the Unknown God, the unreachable, unmanifest but IMMANENT DEITY.

One of my strongest lectures, given to many University audiences over the past 30 years has been on the subject of REDEFINING GOD. I have given this lecture to full auditoriums many times from the University of Colorado, Pueblo, to Boise State University, to Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to the College of Santa Rosa, CA. and others. The lecture has always been received from standing ovations to lengthy applause.

Obviously it was, and is, a subject on the minds of many thinking human beings who are tired and embarrassed by the continuing pablum of a multitude of “preachers” and so called “religious” columns in countless newspapers and magazines.

“Negative Theology” (apophasis) was in its ultimate brilliance in the writings of Heraclitus, and Meister Eckhart, which dispelled a thousand years of encrusting myth that obscured the light of truth. Their writings were unembellished and unperfumed. People with false deep-seated opinions and beliefs are not only shocked, shaking, quivering and offended, but are confronted with new insights into the Mystery of the Divine energy that saturates the Universe.

It is Eckhart writing 800 years ago: “to watch a child pouring milk into a glass is to see God pouring God into God” and again “The eye by which I see God is the same eye as the eye by which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are the one and the same”…and again: “seeking God is like sitting on an ox looking for an ox to ride.”

With this consciousness, the Ultimate Reality, or Mystery of the Sacred, is apprehended directly without any mediation. Subject and object become ONE in a timeless, spaceless act that is ineffable and gloriously joyful. Beauty, light and love are seen as pervading the entire universe, including the individual self now merged in ONENESS with all the creation. The experience transcends the reach of any language.

Negative Theology crushes the superstitions of a God “out there” as a “window peeker” watching each one of us… or a being “out there separate from “down here”. The Dualism of a God “out there” constantly separates man and woman from God, nature from man, and spirit from matter.

No “Gods” are involved. The Universe and all that is was not “made” by some immortal being. But always WAS and WILL BE an eternal fire, arising and subsiding in measure. No beginning and no end. The Great Mystery for the billions of galaxies… as Taoism has always affirmed, as well as negative theologians and current Emersons and Thoreaus. The affirmation is something of a beyond understanding or comprehension beauty. The latest cosmology seems to agree that even the so-called BIG BANG may NOT have been the beginning of anything except the formation of our particular universe, which one day may “collapse” in on itself only to “arise” again, or it may be only one of many such universes engaged in the same rhythm. “God is a verb…not a noun” wrote Buckminster Fuller.

Perhaps this short essay explains my focus as a writer for these long and good years. To open up for new light the superstitions of many that have kept their brains in a mental concentration camp. The bottom line (as they say) is this: THROUGH NEGATION WE COME TO KNOW SOMETHING POSITIVELY. It has smashed old jars, chipped away at the accumulated crust of archaic beliefs that have obscured more beautiful and profound truths.

Those who smash jars and chip away crust have often been in the stream of mysticism. Carl Jung observed that: “The Creative Mystic has always been a thorn in the side of the dogmatic church, but it is to the Mystic that we owe all that is best in religion and humanity.”

This has been my life focus as a writer… walking TOWARD THE MYSTERY.