“Mythology is not a lie,” wrote [Joseph] Campbell, “mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” This is a crucial point that is so easily lost in translation but mustn’t be if we are aiming for true understanding of the work of the Avant-God: they are not merely trying to give us something new to believe. They are looking to shape the way we think, not just what we think.
It’s a concept that is difficult to define, but easy to illustrate. Metatheology, as I use the term, describes the experiential knowledge of our union and co-identity with the omnipresent Divine. It is what one encounters “beyond that bounding rim” of religious doctrine, symbology, practice, and even the spiritual path that brings one to the edge of the wheel.
In his abridged version of The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley wrote: “Many Catholic mystics have affirmed that, at a certain stage of that contemplative prayer in which, according to the most authoritative theologians, the life of Christian perfection ultimately consists, it is necessary to put aside all thoughts of the Incarnation as distracting from the higher knowledge of that which has been incarnated.”
That “higher knowledge” is the sole subject of metatheology –or, in the broader sense, metaphysics. The fact that it uses theology as the path to the jumping off point into “what can be known but not told” is what makes metatheology this specific expression of metaphysics.
It stands to reason, then, that metatheology also represents a convergence point of many different theologies, a point beyond the boundary of where one can go via discursive reasoning. This is, of course, simply Reality in its natural state, which is pre-verbal and pre-conceptual, and requires passage from dual to non-dual perception.
In the diagram to the left (like any map, this is an oversimplification, and has some inaccuracies –“Allah” should be “al haqq“), the mystic path through each of the major religious groups involves shifting from the exoteric outer circle toward the center. The middle circle is where the mind and heart are prepared for non-dual perception through deeper exploration of the metaphors inherent in the religious language. The next step to the inner blue circle of mysticism is the passage into non-dual perception itself. Mystics know the Divine as pure experience and pure love, and though they may use the specific name taught in their tradition, there is clear recognition that all the names in this inner circle denote the same Divine Reality. The distinction here between the Divine and the temporal, Creator and creation –indeed, God and oneself– is almost naught.
Metatheology is the knowledge represented by the red dot. No name for the Divine is given here, for “the Tao/Logos/Brahman etc that can be named is not the Eternal.” It is here in the direct, immediate experience of the nameless Reality, represented by this red dot, that the pantheistic, omnipresent Divine can be known beyond knowing, sensed beyond sensing, as the unitive basis and infinite ground for all knowledge and sensory perception.
The articles in this section will attempt to flesh out this basic skeletal concept of the inward path, from exoteric to esoteric to mystic to metatheological, and show that this is not only possible or desirable for certain adepts, but the true “end game” goal of ALL theological pursuit as we evolve toward unitive knowledge of the Self as sentient beings.
ARTICLES FROM NOT TWO
In the diet of our personal spirituality, theology –religious belief—is the comfort foods, and metatheology – metaphysical experience—is the leafy green vegetables. Both are necessary for optimal spiritual health.
In our own way, the Avant-God are all working together independently to disseminate, in a wide array of contexts and languages, the idea that a Oneness of immeasurable scope unites everything that exists in a web of “interbeing.”
America in the 21st century is a metaphysical disaster area of epic scope, and the rest of the world is falling all over itself to follow suit.
Love doesn’t save us by preserving us in our current form —nothing can do that. The emotion of love tends to want to preserve what it loves, so if you stay in the shallow end of the love pool, that’s likely all you’ll ever know of it. But if you go to the deep end and dive in, you’ll learn that love saves us by making us whole.
What the Trinity represents is the non-dual relationship between the finite and the Infinite, between that which is bound to linear time-space and that which is Eternal beyond time-space. While Jesus lived, it is said, He was fully human and fully God, a mystery until you see how non-dual thought makes them compatible: the finite human personage lived within the infinite Divine Person, which together we call the Son.
“If pantheism is the synthesis of the dialectic between theism and atheism, then it shares more than an etymological root with both concepts. There is something huge and essential in the antiquated notions of God that is missing in the modern iteration of the philosophy. It is something we consciously ignore, surely without the perils of damnation from above, but at the cost of a broader understanding of ourselves and a richer view of the interior landscape. In short, the mind matters, and it isn’t reducible to brain activity, any more than music is reducible to the mechanics of a radio.”
Success in the spiritual life is the ultimate cul-de-sac. Religion is a program of systematic futility, one level of failure to achieve after another, until it breaks you of the achievement habit.
We are the timeless essence of Existence, expressing itself in time as you and me, him and her, this and that, giving each its own unique perspective of the Whole. The experience of the soul –perhaps the verb “souling,” however clumsy for its newness, is the clearest way to convey it– is to be uniquely aware of the the universality of this expression.
Theology is the beginning of a trail of bread crumbs leading from literalism to esoteric practice to mystic experience and eventually into the cloud-hidden realm of metatheology. Most religious people, realizing they’ve found manna from heaven but ignoring the trail, crowd into the trailhead and fight over the limited apportionment of crumbs, and likewise most atheist rebuttals of faith only address this crowd because it is like shooting fish in a barrel.
What we generally call the ego, then, is not the natural experience of subjective selfhood, but that ghost-like feeling of observing our observations, of cataloging them within a nexus of memories, plans, ideas etc. and calling that nexus “Jane Doe” or “Joe Self” or “Waldo Noesta.” It is literally whatever you think you are in response to what you think you’re not.
There is nothing extraordinary about the mystic experience –in fact, once you know what it is, you will see that it is the most hyperordinary state of awareness you’ve ever experienced, and “normal” consciousness will seem like the mutation.
A monist God is as invisible as the retinae in your eyes –you won’t see it anywhere until you realize it is the ground of everything you see, then you will literally see it in/as everything.
In short: if the Flying Spaghetti Monster didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him. So someone did. Someone said, “if an absurd image of God is what it takes to unite us in our opposition to a stifling and ultimately dangerous mode of thought, here it is.”
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