Apophatic & Cataphatic


Lots of discussion of leadership and expectations and assumptions afoot of late. I think this ties in on a deep level. Though, I admit, I’m not sure how to articulate it (that may be part of the point…).

Fr. Richard Rohr, “Sadness”

“The mystics call it the apophatic tradition, the tradition that has to accompany the cataphatic tradition. The spiritual life has a way of light and a way of darkness. The cataphatic is the way of light. The apophatic is the way of darkness. Since the Enlightenment period, most Western Christians have not been trained much in the apaphatic tradition. But the tradition of darkness is the greater teacher, the necessary teacher, really the teacher that breaks a person down through and into this realm that our biblical tradition, our Judeo-Christian tradition calls faith. At its depths, our tradition acknowledges the primacy of darkness as the greater teacher, as the greater expander of the soul, as the greater opener-up of the eyes. This seems to be the wisdom that we should be bringing to the West today, but that certainly hasn’t been where most Catholic Christian theology has been for the last 300 years. We’ve wanted answers, we’ve wanted clarity, we want closure, we want solutions which tells me we’ve been far more influenced by the ascendant western civilization than what I will call as a Christian, the decent language of Jesus or Job or the Jewish prophets who are talking much more about this way of tears, this way about going into the shadow, into the pain, into the dark side if you will and that being where we would find wisdom. I think we are at a very difficult position in terms of western spirituality because it often feels, in many established church groups that I talk to, that we’re on a course that needs to be turned around 180 degrees. We will never find wisdom in this search for closure, answers, certitude, fixing and explanation. It simply isn’t the path of wisdom.”


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