. . This need neither devalue nor preclude the notion of a personal God. It seems to me that there are two dimensions of experience in which God can become very real, alive, and active in a personal way. The first is through images that are acknowledged to be incomplete, expedient tools. . . . It is as if God says at such times, "Here is a way of seeing Me for now. It is a part of the way in which I AM." The second dimension in which God becomes personal without being fully known does not involve images and is therefor more difficult to discuss. I have said before that contemplative traditions hold up the possibility of "knowing without knowing," of realizing, loving, appreciating, and experiencing deep aspects of the Mystery of God without in any way "solving" that Mystery.

Gerald May - Will and Spirit



And so, when the mind admits that god is too great for our knowledge, love replies: "I know him".


Thomas Merton - Ascent to Truth


We come to God by love not by navigation.

Augustine -From Together in Solitude (Steere)


God can only be known by "being", to know God it is necessary to "resemble" him, that is to conform the "microcosm" to the divine "metacosm" and consequently to the "macrocosm" also.

John B. Cobb - Beyond Dialogue


God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by a process of subtracting.

 Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.

Meister Eckhart


I am using the word God to point to the ultimate, unnamable reality that is the source and essence of all things. God, Lord, etc. unfortunately have behind them images of a human (male) potentate. the ancient Jews called this reality YHWH, which probably means "that which causes everything to exist," and which is marvelously unpronounceable. Lao-tzu uses female imagery, but he clearly states that all words are just crude pointers.


There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao

Stephen Mitchell - The Gospel According to Jesus


In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is.

He may or may not mercifully realize that after all, this is a great gain, because "God is not a what," not a "thing".

That is precisely one of the essential characteristics of contemplative experience.

It sees that there is no "what" that can be called God.

There is "no such thing" as God because God is neither a "what" nor a "thing" but a pure who.

He is the Thou before whom our inmost "I" springs into awareness.

He is the I AM before whom with our own most personal and inalienable voice we echo "I am".


Thomas Merton - New Seeds of Contemplation


God is a being beyond being and a nothingness beyond being. This is why St. Augustine says that the most beautiful thing a person can say about God consists in that person's being silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. So be silent and don't flap your gums about God, for to the extent that you flap your gums about God you lie and you commit sin. If you want to be without sin and perfect, then do not flap your gums about God. Nor should you want to know anything about God, for God is above knowledge.

So if you do not want to be a beast, know nothing but God who is inexpressible in words. And if you ask: "How can I keep myself from doing this? Then I advise you to let your own "being you" sink and flow away into God's "Being God". Then your you and Gods, "his", will become so completely one "my" that you will eternally know with whom his changeless existence and his namelessness nothingness.

You should love God with no regard to his being lovable, that is, not because he is lovable. For God is really not lovable, since He is above all love and lovableness. How then should one love God? You should love God mindlessly, that is, so that your soul is without mind and free from all mental activities, for as long as your soul is operating like a mind, so long does it have images and representations.

You should love Him as He is, a not-God, not-mind, not-person, not-image. Even more, as He is a pure, clear one, separate from all twoness. And we should sink eternally from something to nothing into this one. May God help us to do this. Amen.

I make this further, more difficult statement: People who wish to remain in the nakedness of this nature must have avoided all that is personal so that they can wish well to a person beyond the sea whom they have never seen with their own eyes just as much as one who is near them, who is a trusted friend. So long as you wish better things for one near you that a person you have never seen, you are not all right and you have not peeped even for a moment into that one fold foundation of God's nature. Second, you must be pure in heart, for that heart alone is pure that has put an end to all worldly things. Third you must be free of nothingness.

If someone thinks of obtaining more spirituality, devotion, sweet rapture, and special grace of God, than in the fire of the hearth or in the stable, you are behaving no differently than if you took God, wrapped a coat around His head, and shoved Him under a bench. For who ever seeks God in a definite mode misses God, who is hidden in that mode. Whoever seeks God without a mode, however, grasps Him as He is in Himself.


Meister Eckhart


St John of the Cross suggests three signs which can help the soul to decide that it is ready to drop discursive meditation and the effort to reach God by concepts.

The first sign is the inability any longer to engage in fruitful meditation. Meditation which becomes hard and wearisome.

The second sign is a lack of interest in particular ways of representing God. Particular representatives of God in the mind or the imagination, in a statue or a picture, no longer inspire devotion in the soul.

This is a critical moment in a person's spiritual life. It means "the soul has come face to face with the distinction between God in Himself and God as He is contained in our concepts of Him", and the first is immeasurably more attractive than the second. There is a growing distaste for representations of God "which are powerless to do justice to His infinite reality."

The third sign is a positive attraction for solitary contemplative prayer. In the words of St. John: The third and surest sign is that the soul takes pleasures in being alone and waits with loving attentiveness upon God, without any particular meditation, in inner peace and quietness and rest.

St. John of the Cross



He meant to refer to the intensity of inner life that, in the right hands, can make even an apparently trivial subject matter of absorbing significance.

William Barrett