Christian mysticism and other mystical traditions

A reader named Guido posted the following comment on the Christian Mysticism page of this blog:

Does it not occur to us that all “mysticism” is not the same? I came back today from hearing a conference on Christian/catholic mysticism. It spoke of the dark night of the soul and its place in the path of union with God. However, in making her points, the speaker used Buddist quotes. Does this not seem problematic given that the aims of Christianity and Buddhism are not the same. In the former the idea is a union with God understood as intimately connected with His creation and yet distinct from it. He is the creator. In the latter, God is that ultimate reality of consciousness behind the illusionary material world. God is not really a being per se in the Eastern non-Christian traditions. He is not a creator because all of what we see created is a part of the divine whole. Having read through this site, I get the impression that several feel that somehow it is all the same. Why do we persist in that way? Is it not disrespectful to both traditions to insist they are saying the same thing when they are not?

Thanks for this comment, Guido. I agree with your assessment that Christian mysticism celebrates relationship and communion with God “understood as intimately connected with His creation and yet distinct from it.” Likewise, many other types of spirituality seek not so much communion with a creator but union or identity with the monistic “One” — as Plotinus put it, “the flight of the alone to the Alone.” In fact, I would say the single most significant factor differentiating Christian from non-Christian mysticism is this question of whether mysticism is seen as culminating in Divine-human communion or in some sort of boundary-erasing union with the One/All/Brahmin/deity (however you wish to name the Absolute).

However… just because we can easily chart the distinctions between Christian mysticism and, say, Buddhist mysticism, is not to suggest that Christians can never learn from Buddhist wisdom, or apply Buddhist teaching to Christian practice (or vice versa). First of all, I think a measure of humility is in order here: ultimately, whatever we say about mystical experience remains, at best, attempts to put the Mystery into words, which means therefore that there is always an element of paradox, ambiguity, darkness, unknowing, and mystery in and beneath our discourse about mystical experience. Given this, we do well to remember that, no matter how eloquent our ability may be to put into words our understanding of Christian mysticism and how it differs from all the other mysticisms of the world, we might also bear in mind that all of our words ultimately fail to convey the full splendor of the mystery. Which means, quite frankly, that the “difference” between different wisdom traditions or different understandings of mysticism may ultimately be more a matter of our own linguistic and conceptual limitations than of any real ontological divide. Put another way: I think it is wise to understand the differences between wisdom traditions, and I believe it is also wise not to dwell on those differences overly much. After all, if we make it our business to emphasize what divides us, we then remain a divided people. I for one cannot believe that this is really what the Holy Spirit ultimately wants.

My second reason for accepting the use of non-Christian wisdom in exploring Christian mysticism is rather pragmatic. Frankly, true mysticism is such a rare phenomenon that I believe it is important to draw wisdom from every possible source of contemplative or mystical insight. Just because the ends of Christianity and Buddhism may differ does not mean that we cannot find much in the way of common ground. If our ultimately loyalty is to truth rather than to dogma, we must be prepared to recognize truth wherever it occurs, even if it is beyond the doctrinal bounds of our own faith tradition. To me, Christians who rely on Buddhist wisdom are not adulterating Christianity so much as they are ennobling it, by drawing on the riches of wisdom available to us from the east.

Certainly my views may be controversial, and so I will shut up now and, perhaps, some folks will see fit to comment here and perhaps take this conversation further. But let me summarize: yes, indeed, there are real differences, at least on the level of theory, between Christian and Buddhist mysticism, but I see no reason why Christians should therefore avoid Buddhist wisdom. If Buddhist teaching can shed light on our own journey into deeper communion with God, then I say “Bring on the Buddhist wisdom!”

Happy St. Hildegard's Day!
Five Things Christian Contemplatives can learn from Buddhists
Five Approaches to InterSpirituality
In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Burl Hall

    In my own unpublished work, “Sophia’s Web: Reclaiming our Wholeness in a Divided World” (for a published, less well written edition, go to I researched the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and the Goddess scholars alongside the systems and holographic thinkers in physics as well as those in deep ecology. I ultimatley identified amongst all these different ways of looking at Reality a holographic relationship that again points to another one of my comments to an article on this website. That saying is “E Pluribus Unim.” In the many is one. Buddhism, Christianity, Pagan are all different statements of the same reality and are ultimately born of the same Mother, while seeded or initiated by the same Father. (Mother and Father at this level are vverbs or processes moreso than noun.)

    This brings me to the next point of discussion. We tend to see everything as noun. Woman, man, Nature, etc. But I would say that in our nakedness, we are more verb than noun….more process than product. Indeed, looking at Christ from the evolutionary mystic perspective, then Christ, the Son of Man, is the potential that can unfold from within each one of us. Christ according the Underhill is the evolutionary pottential of humankind meaning He is our potential. In Osho’s (a Zen Buddhist/Taoist), the Virgin in this alchemic process is the mind empty of thought i.e., the ego while Eve is full of thought, as represented by the serpent, the development of self-consciousness, etc.

    My ultimate point is that what is appearing to us as divided is united. Being a permaculture gardener, I see this in operaation in Nature. Nature in Her diversity is unified. A healthy ecosystem is based on a diversity of plants, animals, etc. Hence, in Permaculture gardening, one mirrors that diversity of creatures and plants in relationship to each other in order to create a healthy garden. Permaculture mirrors God-A-Culture. Or Nature – Culture. Speaking of which, Nature has been given a raw deal over the ages. Yet, Nature has two meanings that I would say are not two: (1) birds, bees, and coconut trees and (2) essence. The surface level Nature is the first whereas the second level speaks to the essence of God. Why is Nature in either case Female. Well, look at your body. What is it? Is it not a woman’s egg that took form upon union with a sperm. Now, read Genesis 1:2 and 3. The Waters of Genesis 1:2 are written using a feminine term, Tehom (which also reflects Marie as the Sea) over which the Spirit or Ruach (Shakti in Hindu) moved over. God the SAYS, “Let there be Light” which then creaates division. This division the begins the created world. IN other words, the system of creation that happens everytime a baby is conceived is mirrored in cosmic conception.

    One of our biggest mistakes, however, is to see this creation in time. Genesis happens not in any time past or future. It happens now. This is where the Virgin Birth of Christ from the body of Marie and the story of Genesis merge as one. The Ruach or Spirit moving over the face of the Waters in Genesis is the same Ruach or Spirit moving over Marie in the New Testament. Hence, John identifies this Christ as the Word incarnate….or even as the incarnate Sophia of God. But, is this true of us more so than any historical event?

    As Meister Eckhart put it, “If that birth does not pertain to me, then what avails it.” the emptiness of Tehom/Marie is the Zen-buddhist mind….which is the founadaation for each one of us eternally here and now.

  • noel a light bearer

    when will your work be unpublished
    i have just emailed my gardening friend, a seed saver and earth healer
    i am a permaculturist
    not creating boundaries chickens and cats and foxes and dogs and flies and all crawling things and sometimes badger and hedgehog and crow and bullfinch
    oh in produce i create little to sustainn myself
    but i gotta say everybody likes it here except humans well some humans

    tell you what burl the inner life is perfectly reflected in the outer carriage and demeanor
    of that there is no doubt
    you can intellectualise all you can and philosophise til next year and it will not matter until you enter the transfiguration of christ, the satori of buddha
    after that you will be a martha not a mary
    all your actions will be free and full of energy
    with no preference pure yoga
    if you can let me see your writings i am most interested

  • noel a light bearer

    i have just googled some of your writings
    ah man that is where i live how come we have not bumped into each other
    sophias web is not such a lonely spot anymore
    love to hear from you

  • noel a light bearer

    i wrote in your previous blog entry that this present blog seemed a suitable comment
    the confines of church and rome ant all that sort of stuff has no place in christian living anymore
    we have to see that very deeply
    we have to change for christ sake
    and as beautiful as past mysticism is or was it has left us with a catholic religion based on class and culture on clergy and super clergy on blinding faults and failings
    and now lay ordination, diaconate,married clergy,only to slow down the collapse
    we need a new christianity, we need to go right back again to the acts of the apostles and really WAIT for the holy spirit really become christ ……………is that to be born anew

  • Burl Hall

    Noel: A Light Bearer. Thanks for your comments and your looking at my work. If you want, let me know and I’ll send you a copy of Sophia’s Web to your email via attachment. Then you can get more of the personal experience and visions behind my writings. Interesting you mention Mary the Virgin and Martha. I actually identify with all the characters in the Bible…and other sacred writings. Indeed, you should hear me go after my relation to the characters in teh Wizard of Oz. (Baum was a Christian Theosophist). Sounds like you do Permaculture plus. I love it. Thanks, Burl

  • Amy

    Thanks, Carl, for this reply. I think you summed it up best in the phrase: If our ultimately loyalty is to truth rather than to dogma, we must be prepared to recognize truth wherever it occurs, even if it is beyond the doctrinal bounds of our own faith tradition. To me, Christians who rely on Buddhist wisdom are not adulterating Christianity so much as they are ennobling it, by drawing on the riches of wisdom available to us from the east.

    I agree with you whole heartedly, and believe our lack of awareness of the mystics in our midsts comes from a guarded idea of what faith is. It is not loyalty to dogma, as you so magnificently stated. It is loyalty to truth. What a great phrase! What a way to live! Yes!

  • Tina

    I agree with you whole heartedly that we can learn from other traditions. How do we know God didn’t give us other traditions to allow us to learn reciprocity?

  • The Pollinatrix

    This post is very well put.

    What it inspires in my thinking on this subject is that the ultimate aim of any mysticism is to go BEYOND belief, to experience and commune with Ultimate Reality. Will this then be any different for a Christian than it is for a Buddhist?

  • noel a light bearer

    hey burl that would be great.
    already talked about it with friends “permaculturists in lingerie”

  • Infinite Warrior

    Well-stated, all around.

    Burl, I would also be interested in reading what you consider the finished version of your book as I find your writing elsewhere (especially regarding “knitting” and labels) resonates with me as well. (Sophia’s Web is referred to as Indra’s Net in the East.)

    The “irruption of time”, as Gebser put it, into our “fixed mental reality” is only now really beginning to take off in the West, primarily via the work of Tolle and Almaas, et al. I see from a bit of your writing that you are familiar with Bohm and wonder if you’ve read Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin, to which I was introduced only last year. (Until that time, I was beginning to despair that Dickinson’s “Eternity” ever would break into the Western mindset.)

    I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was so troubling about contemporary Integral Theory until I read a blog post on the subject illustrating that the element of time is misconstrued and misapplied therein. Since, all the “theorizing” it engages in has held little interest for me as integral consciousness is no more a theory in my mind than integral awareness. Streams of the emergent Integral appear to be bubbling up everywhere.

    I also appreciate your comments on the alchemical aspect of the story of Adam and Eve as I’ve spent a good bit of time these past few years highlighting the existence of the scantly mentioned Tree of Life in that story which is, of course, multiform, ever-blossoming and as nutritiously fruitful as it ever has been. In contrast, the spotlight in the Christian church has long been squarely on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is also a bit misleading. (Tell people not to think about something and what are they most likely to think about?) At the same time, it’s a little disheartening that Western thinkers such as John Ralston Saul — who are obviously intent on raising consciousness of rationalism’s proper place in our repertoire of mere tools and, so, more power to them — have themselves misconstrued the “forbidden” tree in the story as the “tree of knowledge” (period). There is a reason the “forbidden” tree is termed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in that story and I believe it is precisely to draw attention to the nearly intractable development of self-consciousness you’ve mentioned.

    It’s rather wonderful that we all appear to be “returning to the Root of the Root” of ourselves to quote the illustrious Rumi.

    God is not really a being per se in the Eastern non-Christian traditions.

    This seems to be one of a few stubborn barriers to dialogue between Eastern and Western wisdom traditions, but I can’t quite fathom why. God is normally described in the sacred texts of the monotheistic religions either as simply Being (“I AM”) or the uncaused Awareness that is the ground of All Being (of Light), which I believe is more accurate. In much of Eastern philosophy, Qi is the vital, synergistic energy believed to create everything else. If the paucity of theological treatments of the Holy Spirit is any indication, the Holy Spirit is the most “mysterious” aspect of the Trinity. Perhaps the closest ideological parallel to the Holy Spirit in the Eastern traditions is “Qi”.

  • Soma

    I agree with learning from all traditions. A mind that thinks it is full with no room for knowledge only hurts itself with ignorance.

  • TLH

    Indeed, it occurs to me that *too much* certainty in one’s faith path only leads to dangerous fundamentalism.

  • Roshi Paul Genki Kahn

    As an ordained Buddhist priest and lineage holding Zen Teacher, I wanted to express my appreciation for this caring question and eloquent response. Zen is very precise and demands an experiential penetration of spiritual mysteriy, which we sometimes call “not-knowing,” which is described as “most intimate.” We spend 30 years or more refining spiritual experience, testing and living it, and casting away our understandings over and over. Finding the “ground of being,” the absolute or merger, Oneness, is just the entry for Zen into the mystery.

    Mastery in Buddhism is the ability to be one with the multiple and infinite perspectives offered by creation. We find in merger not homogenized milk or an aboslute resting place, but presence in all forms – Oneness, each thing, all things, fields of conflict and cooperation and coexistence. To limit this wonder to any one aspect is to denigrate God, or whatever we might call it. In merger we can stand in relation, awe and the worship of sensitive presence, and we can join the field of energy itself, forgetting the self and being enlightened by all things.

    So it is not complete to say that for Buddhists: “God is that ultimate reality of consciousness behind the illusionary material world. God is not really a being per se in the Eastern non-Christian traditions. He is not a creator because all of what we see created is a part of the divine whole.”

    Buddhism presents a much more complex view of what is, how it unfolds and closes and how sameness and differences interrelate in a devine totality. Thank you.

  • Chris

    A Trappist abbot gave me a copy of Joko Beck’s (zen teacher) book, Nothing Special, as an example that does well explaining the spiritual life in psychological terms. Zen Mountain Monastery uses Underhill’s Mysticism as part of the required reading for all of the monks as an example of the stages in the spiritual life. Why would we discount what we find as true in another tradition?

  • Al Jordan

    I seek truth wherever it leads me. I accept truth wherever I find it. I have benefited richly from the wisdom found in Buddhist tradition and other wisdom streams. Edward Kabir Helminski’s book, Living Presence, A Sufi Way to Mindfulness and the venerable Bede Griffith’s Return to Center have been especially helpful in shaping my interiority. I wonder sometimes, though, if we don’t over-intellectualize about all this even as we seek to move beyond words and concepts. Reminds of Thomas Merton’s prayer, “Teach me to go to the country beyond words and beyond names.”

  • Guido

    Hello all,

    I see my last writing generated a lot of discussion.

    I have some thoughts as well.

    My point was not that we cannot learn from other traditions. My point is what we are learning there and where it is leading us. It seems to me that in most of the above reponses, we are again taking Buddism and readapting it to a Christian perspective.

    At the point that we begin to speak of God as some type of conscious intelligence that feels and wills and interacts as a personal being, at that point we are reflecting a Christian bias. Incidentally, it is a Muslim and Jewish one as well. At least as far as the major world religions go.

    It has been suggested that what only appears to be a difference really is not because mystery of God is beyond us.

    In Eastern Christianity there is the understanding that God is so big, we cannot say conclusively what God is, we can only say what He is not. One of the corollaries of that is that God cannot be anything other than God. Therefore, while much of God is mysterious, there is the illumination that God IS a being that thinks, feels and wills. It is into the depths of God’s personhood that we are called into relationship with yet as a distinct creation. It is for this reason, that St. Gregory of Palamas sought to make the distinction between the essence of God and the energies of God. Philosophically, we relate to God through His energies but experience this relationally as God’s personhood, which is beautiful…

    But to the Buddist, Chrisitans are under the illusion that God is a being that we love. If that suits us, they say, well than so be it. It makes no difference to them because at some point they figure Christians will finally get it that God is not personal but that we are all little sparks of the divine that will coalesce into one, depending on where we are in our Karma.

    But to one who acknowledges a level of personhood to God as a being, than anything that says other wise does not resonnate.

    It has been suggested that God, the personal being who creates and wills, created Buddhism for Buddhists. Which means that as a personal being, God created a religion that denies the existence of God as a being. Rather, it encourages its adherents to ultimately become God as part of the collecive unconsciousness.

    My point is that oil and water do not mix. If we opt for one or the other, then we have our reasons. But we will at some point have to come to terms that these do not mix.

    I gather from the responses I have read, that most if not all adhere to a belif that God is a conscious being. If we are to truly become Buddist, we will have to surrender that.

    That is my point.

    For example, while East and West both teach us about detachment from things that cause suffering, the reason why is critically important. In the East detachment is orientated from a freedom of things that cause pain and lead us beyond the illusions of time and space to literally one day reclaim what is believed to the divine in all of us.

    In the west, Chrisitianity in particular, detachment is also taught as a cause of suffering but it is because we have become attached to the wrong things-things other than God. What we need is attachment to is His love, love from a being that thinks, feels and wills. The goal is to relate in union with this being, yet DISTINCT from this being.

    We come to understand that God is love because God knows our darkness, the things we do not like to look at or accept, and yet wants to embrace us. At the same time, He does not dismiss the darkness. It must be accounted for. Again, at this point speaking specifically of Christianity, the idea is that we cannot make up for our misdeeds because of the darkness within. Only God can take that darkness away through Himself. He does this when we recognize our state before and come to Him on that basis. That is the basis of the cross and the resurrection through Christ. This is the basis of God’s love.

    I realize not all can accept this. But we have to be clear on what we are accepting or rejecting. We cannot hijack Eastern religious thought to serve our own presuppositions. Eastern thought, taken on its own, as it should be if we are to adhere to it, will not allow that.

    Neither will God as a being.

    So, we can learn about other faiths. I certainly did and still add to that knowledge. But we have to honest about what we are learning and where that learning was designed to go, which is not to the same end.


    Guido A. Gonzalez, Jr.

  • Burl Hall

    As I listen to this last post, I think of Meister Eckhart’s words, “all creatures shout God!” Personally, I would include the Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan and Christian in this category containing all categories. As philosopher Ken Wilber puts it, what appears to us as two is not two. It’s like sunlight. Shining through a prism, it is broken down into multiple colors. Yet, it is one light. Perhaps, even evil is something of God for it sparks us to evolve and behold the glory of Love and Wisdom or Eros and Sophia? Just food for thought. Thanks for sparking thought. All of life is an act of lovemaking, of conception. Burl

  • Guido


    I appreciate the prism analogy. As you point out, the light to be appears to be many is really one. That is the case because it is ESSENTIALLY light and has a basic constitution intergral to what makes it light. Taking it into the realm of religions, if all of them were really speaking of the same God, they would in essense be saying the same thing. But they are not. We can either affirm God is a being or we cannot. It is a break point, an impasse. Mind you this is only one aspect in which there is a break point. There are several others.



  • Burl Hall

    Hi Guido:

    Fun conversation, and a very important one in this day and age of conflicts galore. I would say that Reality is a seemless whole. Is there a true distinction between infinity and the finite? Not really, for the infinite would not be infinite if it discluded the finite. Indeed, the infinite is finite in that it has no sense of its self for how can one know anything if there is nothing but you within yourself. So the finite comes to being and in its variety it’s infinite….so the infinite is finite and the finite infinite. This is why when we are born, we all have a M-Other. If M-Other didn’t happen, none of us would be aware nor would she be much aware of us.

    It’s like being a wave on the Ocean. The waves appear as independent motions upon the surface when actually they are the result of an interaction between currents below the surface and atmospheric currents above (of course below the current…i.e., the Spirit moving upon the face of the Waters…there is perfect peace). The “sin” (meaning missing the mark) of the two waves is that they look at each other and begin shooting because they see themselves as distinct. But this is an illusion, or what the Hindus call Maya and us Christians call Sin (meaning missing the mark). The waves are not separate for they are movements of the same current or ground.

    Lord Jesus says, “don’t remove the smote from your brother’s eye unless you remove it from your own.” The two waves are born of one movement. In science, this reflects the holographic notion in both the quantum physics of David Bohm and the neurology of Karl Pribram. Opposites are not so much opposing factions as they are mirror images of one another.

    Hence, the “shock and awe” campaign mirrors terrorism. The Bible reflects this when it says “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” to which I would reword “thy neighbor reflects thyself and IS thyself”. “Judge not or ye shall be judged.” Now, I don’t think of a separate judging God “out there” but a natural consequence of our actions. It is how the Intelligence or Being of the cosmos acts.

    The Hindu Ramakrishna once said that Kali takes the notion of personal God and the impersonal God and smashes them into dust, after which there is only Thou or Brahmin, the Absolute….who is also called The Self. The Self is Nature as Essence. Hence, Yahweh is I AM.

    Extremely important conversation. I think it is imperative for it may become central to whether human beings are going to evolve to live within the Gates of Jerusalem, (Place of Peace) or stay stuck in wars and abusive acts created by dualism.

    Thanks for the response. Burl

  • Guido


    Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be making my point for me. The real essense of things, to use your words, is the self. It is not a personal or impersonal God. Both of those conceptions are illusionary. This has been my point about eastern religious thought all along.

    My contention has been that you can’t hold to this and a God as a being at the same time. It is like saying the hand in front of your face is not there although you see and feel it. It is a contradiction in terms.

    Help me understand. It seems your view of things is that of a monist. You commented how infinity could not be infinity withouth the finite. This sounded like the view that light and dark are two equal forces that cannot exist with out the others or that good cannot exist without evil. In all of these, the opposites are not equal to each other. Infinity does not need the finite to exist. The former is not the equal to the latter. Just as light stands alone and does not need the darkness for its existence. Evil is nothing more than the absence of the good or its perversion done to derive “a good” relative to the person.

    Tell me why you think otherwise? This point seems central to your thinking.



  • Burl Hall


    Never put it in those terms. I went to that on – line encyclopedia and quickly found this in relating to monist:

    While Pantheism means all things are identical to God, panentheism means God is in all things, neither identical to, nor totally separate from all things. Such a concept, some may argue, is more compatible with God as personal while not barring a bridge between God and creation. Historical figures such as Paul Tillich have argued for such a concept within Christian theology, as well as contemporary biblical scholar Marcus Borg.

    Panentheism I guess sounds like me. I can’t say I am an equal to God but can say that God exists in His fullness within me. It’s like a wave or a current on an ocean. Neither is the Ocean, but both are aspects of the Ocean. For me to say my dog Sophie is God is nonsense…..yet, I do not discount that Infinity exists in its fullness within her…which is why I named her Wisdom. I also don’t discount that Sophie speaks God, just as Meister Eckhart says, “all creatures shout God.” But that all creatures shout God does not make that creature God….though God exists in the fullness of its being within the creature and shouts the essence of God in its essence. Again, the wave of the Ocean or the current is not the Ocean nor is the wave or current separate from the Ocean.

    Yet, if I go deep enough within myself then I come to the Infinite…just as any wave that turns around and dives deeply underneath its self will come to the Ocean Depths filled with blissful peace. So yes the wave does not equal the Ocean just as my finger does not equal me. Which brings us to another point. In each cell is the knowledge for making an entire new person. In biological terminology, the technique that could be used to do this is called cloning. So that means that in each cell of our finger is the information for the making of a whole new me. So, in the finite is the infinite contained? Perhaps this is a multidimensional factor…as both the analogies of the finger and of the wave and ocean point towards?

    In me all is but in saying this I cannot say this is true of this ego typing this letter. Yet, if I dive deep enough, I can come to infinity and in that infinity you and I are closer than my nose is to my face for in infinity time and space are not. Hence, God is often referred to as that without a second…or as being timeless. Is this personal or impersonal? I think such a question becomes mute at that point for there is only what is….and what is is what is not. To be nothing is to be no-thing. to be nowhere is to be now-here. Perhaps it has to do with how this finite mind looks at it? Perhaps negation is positive?

    Perhaps opposites are not opposites in terms of warring factions but are opposites as in a mirror image? If this were true, how would our surface world be changed?

    Great conversation. Thanks.


  • Guido


    I understand you believe God exists in His fullness in you, if you dig deep enough, my question is why do you believe this? It seems like its a “given” for you, but based on what? Your belief in it?

    Furthermore, what is this God that is in you? From your previous postings, I gather this God is akin to a life force, like in Star wars. Is this connected to the infinity you make reference to?

    Regarding opposites, I ask myself why this is conceptualized as “warring”. You other posts spoke of dualism in a similiar light. Could you tell me more?



  • Burl Hall

    Why do I believe God exists in the fullness of His being in me? Because I have tasted it. Experience, more than once. Could I be dellusional? Yep. In fact, one of those times was after taking some acid, or LSD. But that was not the first time, the first time was when I was a child. 7 maybe 8? But I also have a logic to this and that is Infinity does not, nor cannot, exist side-by-side with its self. In other words, the Infinite and the Finite cannot exist separate for if they were separate the Infinite woudl not be Infinite.

    Is this belief a given for me? No. What is a given for me is how God works with you and how He works with me are His will and in His will there becomes a seemless unity in which you and I are one…though our surface level minds see distinction….and perhaps even a warring mindset.

    What is this God? Indefinable. Was it Eckhart that said that the God that can be spoken of is not the true God? Hence, any words that I say about God are false…and I would suggest anybody reading my words see my words as false as well as all the words of the prophets and mystics. But the mystical teachings can be used simply as roadmaps, if they feel they appear approriate.

    Again, Eckhart says, “God creates everything with eveything else in mind,” hence my words and your words are created in God with us, the other silent readers in mind, as well as the entire world. (I could get into this from an ecological point of view, but that would make this way too long). Yet, we can point towards that pure, naked experience of God while knowing that anything we say about it isn’t Truth. It’s like trying to teach a person about the taste of sugar when the fact is he or she has to taste sugar to get the richness of its flavor.

    Is God personal or impersonal? God is both and neither. I love God as Mother, Father, Lover, Wife, Husband and Child. As such, God is as personal as you can get. Yet, I see God as Infinity, which in your definition is impersonal. So, according to your definition, that is where I am at. You are welcome to that thought, and I respect it. Yet, in my mind….this is just a lot of intellectualization or thought which is but a wave on the surface of an Ocean that is without beginning or end yet which serves as the beginning and end of all things…including this conversation which has existed in God since before the existence of Time, which is the Eternal Now.

    God in being neither personal or impersonal is both personal and impersonal….which to the reasoning mind is nonsense….but to me is perfect sense. It’s like in meditation you can strip yourself of everything and become nothing and in becoming nothing you can embrace all. Is this personal or impersonal. Again, call it what you will…its when you taste it that it comes alive and gets us out of these dead end intellectualizations.

    Great conversation. Thanks again. Burl

  • Guido


    I have experienced the spiritual as well. Profound things, beautiful things. But experience is not enough. A good experience does not equate necessarily with a good thing or with truth in and of itself. Experience should not be discounted, but it must be held in the light of what can be known outside of itself.

    I notice you keep going back to this language that implies God is a being. This was Eckart’s presuppostion and His comments reflect that. But your speaking as if God is personal being, with comments like “His will…in you and in me” but then say this God does not speak or even has a will, when you say God is impersonal or just really the exalted self or perhaps the life force in all. God is only personal in that it is that something other you connect to but not a seperate being from you or anything else. If you are correct, then there is no such thing as “His will working in you and me” because there is no HIM.

    This is far from an abstract, dead end intellectualization. This is the very essense of things, or what we are opening up ourselves to when we say “God”. What is a dead end is to keep talking about God as a seperate being when you clearly do not believe that. It is the question of what is the source of what you are experiencing. How can that not matter? From my experience, all of the spiritual is not so benign. There is such a thing as evil and I have experience it as well. This is far from an abstraction, it is life and death itself.

    Is this not a consideration for you?



  • Burl Hall

    Is evil an abstraction? No. I see evil upon this planet in our politics, our economics, how we treat Nature, etc. Evil is akin to pollution…it pollutes our view of the absolute and it pollutes our ability to see, smell, touch and taste that absolute with the tongue of our Soul. Pollution is skum upon the surface of the Ocean.

    I think where I’m not making myself clear is that I also evil as a manifestation of dualistic thinking. What I hear you saying is that I have to either say God is personal OR God is impersonal. This is an either-or statement. This is dualistic thinking. Hence, sin means missing the mark and anytime I see in dualistic thinking for me I am missing the mark. It’s sort of like sexuality. Genesis 1:27 states that God created Adam in His image, male and female. In our eyes, you are either you are male or female and this line if it’s even alluded to is seen as a time in the past. First, I don’t see it as a time in the past, nor do I see the book of Genesis. Genesis is this moment and all moments. The minute God says “Let there be Light,” you are reading this. Hence, I can see into a timeless – spaceless reality in which dualities disappear. So, this means all creatures are created in God’s image, male and female. My ability to conceive these concepts is a feminine function and my ability to entice the conception in you is a male. So male and female then are living processes which are reflected in matter as woman and man. But woman and man are not two, they are different aspects of One.

    My point is that the problem, the sin, so to speak, is in our vs and them which comes about through our either or thinking. Either its personal, or its impersonal. The answer is yes in my opinion…and yes even affirms no. So sometimes I will say the answer is yes….and no. At this point, I think its an aspect of conditioning in these Dark Ages that we see this pitted against that…which in its most extreme form leads to war. What I’m not making clear is that we have to move beyond this vs that so that we can see God, personal and impersonal, embracing All.

    Thanks for your comments and your allowing me to express my thoughts. Hopefully I am serving as a catalyst for your thoughts in helping to kindle love and awe-some-ness for your God. We’re in this together.


  • Guido


    Sorry it has taken me so long to respond.

    When I asked the question about evil, I wasn’t thinking so much about the evil acts that people do but about evil spirits. No, I do not mean projections of our inner self but actual spirit entities of a malevolent nature that have an affect on the spiritual world. Why do we assume all spiritual experiences are always benign or under our control or influence?

    But getting back to either/or, you hit the nail right on the head. I am saying it is an either or proposition. But so are you…

    If you deny dualism, your setting up an either/or scenario, thereby using it to justify its demise. But in so doing you uphold its logic. It is either dualism or monism or pantheism, etc., etc. You can’t say its all together because it self-destructs…in the end you end up in either one side or the other.

    I can appreciate that this kind of thinking has been apart of what has led to armed conflict. I am not affirming that. I can also appreciate the desire to get beyond all this and into God. I’ve been there too. At one time, I thought all the major world religions were all saying basically the thing. But what I discovered is that while they may have similiar moral codes, at the core of these codes the understanding of God is very different, incompatibly different. I realized I could not affirm that the Hindu or Christian or the Muslim and the Buddhist were all worshipping and serving the same God because they had different conceptions of what/who God is/is not. At the root of it all is the question of God as a being or not a being and a part of creation. This is the major break point. The other is how we understand Christ and the nature of humanity.

    But that is another discussion…



  • Burl Hall

    Guido: Thanks again for your reflections. Evil and good spirits I’m not going to debate, for I have felt those essences. Regarding dualism, your absolutely right regarding my creating a dualism in pitting non-duality and duality. I have made that observation in myself and am able to say that duality is a necessary condition for knowledge to occur. Hence for the male to know its self, there has to be the female…for the good the bad. Duality is a necessary condition. Our mistake is in not realizing that in order for knowledge to occur out of infinity, there has to be a duality, a twoness. This is the first act of Genesis when light (the manifest in my opinion) is separated from dark (the unmanifest). As the Stanzas of Dyzan say, “Darkness radiates Light and Light drops one solitary ray into the Mother’s depths, the eternal egg thrills through infinitude.” Or in the anxient Etruscian myth, Nyx, the Uncreated Night (Genesis 1:2) drops the world egg out of which Eros erupts, dividing it into heaven and earth. The process across these accounts for creation are pretty consistent. Not identical, but God being infinitely creative doesn’t make any two things exactly alike….which is why our human practice of cloning is a horrible idea and why standardization (e.g., in farming, schooling,etc) may lead to human extinction. That’s another story. The latter is my answer to your saying Buddhists, Christian, etc are so different. They are different yet one. If you were to go into any part of your body with a high powered microscope and then go into another, you would find a big difference….yet it is one body and in every part of that body is the whole you. This is how I see variety as united. Not that buddhism, Christianity, etc. are identical…..but, ultimately, in their variety they sing the same tune. The same with this discussion. While you are seeing us as pitted against I’m seeing us as mirror images. Thanks again for the discussion. Burl