The Sophian Vision of

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In the Kabbalah, there are three common terms for God that rek.'■:• directly to the Sophian vision of God. These terms are: Am, Am SoJ and Ain SoJ Or. Ain literally means "no-thingness," Ain Sof means the "infinite," and Ain Sof Or means the "infinite light." These three terms are behind all Sophian dialogues about God and Godhead, which is to say the divine within creation and the divine transcendent of el ation. Because Ain or No-thingness is within all three of these terms, we must look into this term to gain insight into the Sophian view.

The term "Ain" indicates that the true nature of God is completely beyond the comprehension of mental, vital-emotionai, and physi:.! being—specifically, that God is neither "something" nor "nothing" and therefore is properly called no-thingness. One way to gain some undti-standing of this is to look into the nature of one's own consciousness and to seek the source from which one's own thoughts arise. In a meditative state, if one follows one's thoughts back to their sourcc, one discovers that no source can actually be found for one's thoughts. Basica'I>, one finds nothing as the source of thoughts. Yet, from this apparent nothing, something arises. Therefore, one cannot call the source of thought nothing; yet one also cannot call it something, because no source can be found' Thus, one can only call it no-thingness, an emptiness or void from which all thoughts arise, in which all thoughts occurs, and into which all thoughts dissolve. In relationship to creature and creation, God is the same. God is the no-thingness from which creatic.. arises, in which creation exists, and to which creation returns—hence Ain is the nature of God and the Godhead.

This method of contemplating Ain is interesting, for it points to an essential truth at the heart of Christian Gnosticism; The nature of one's own consciousness is the same as the nature of God and Godhead and, therefore, to know God, one must seek to know oneself. After all, how can anyone claim to have acquired knowledge of God or enlightenment whom does not know her or himself? This also reveals how the Sophians can have both theistic and nontheistic dialogues in the same tradition,- for though speaking about God, we are also speaking about the nature of mind. Ultimately, the Sophian teachings say that one must look and see for oneself whether there is God or no God, or exactly what God is in one's own experience. Whether one chooses to speak of God as a supreme being or of God as an enlightened nature basically makes little difference. In either case, one seeks a conscious unification with ' God." Among Sophians, God and all such terms are only metaphors that point to the truth and light which must be known and defined through each individual's own experience.

Taking the contemplation of Ain as the source of one's own thoughts a bit further, one can then gain insight into the term "Ain Sof" and the term "Ain Sof Or.' Potentially, one's mind can generate an endless stream of thoughts, hence an "infinite" number of thoughts. In observing, we can look and see how Ain Sof emerges from Ain—the infinite potential of all being-consciousness-force, which appears as creation. The very fact that one can notice the Ain-Naturc of*one's consciousness, and the quality of Ain Sof manifesting as the endless stream of thoughts appearing in one's mind, reflects the truth of Ain Sof Or—the infinite light, which is reflected as the principle of awareness in our experience. Thus, these three terms for God in the Kabbalah arc directly reflected within one's own consciousness, the nature of which is pure radi.nt awareness (Ain Sof Or). In the experience of supernal or Messianic c ...idousness, this pure radiant awareness is realized as both the nature of God and Godhead, and the nature of one's own consciousness. Abiding in this presence of awareness, one experiences a conscious unification with God and Godhead. This is the truth to which

Lord Yeshua and St. Mary Magdalene point, the attainment of which constitutes Christhood—the state of the son or daughter of God.

This is the presence and power that is indicated by the divine name Yahweh, which as mentioned previously means "that which was, is and forever shall be." Likewise, as*previously mentioned, the name Yeshua means "Yahweh delivers," hence "Knowledge of the truth will set you free." In the process of self-realization, this truth and light may be experienced as completely impersonal, but by the very nature of consciousness, it may also be experienced as personal, which is to say appearing through divine images in consciousness.

We may glean an insight into this in terms of our own sense of selfhood. We do experience a distinct sense of self,- yet if we turn inward and go looking for this self, we find that no self appears. Then, again, when we stop looking and turn outward, the a/pearance of the self seems to return. Thus, we experience self and no self, and, in a similar way, in an altered state of consciousness we can experience God and No God, or God appearing as personal or as completely impersonal. In the Sophian view, both perceptions are considered equally valid and represent the relative truth in an individual's experience. However. ultimately speaking, the experience of God or No God is viewed as a partial truth. In the peak of the enlightenment experience, which is a state of pure radiant awareness and inherently nondual, it is said that one experiences the truth of God and the truth of No God as one and the same truth—hence the essential meaning of Ain in the Christian Kabbalah.

As one can see, this discussion is extremely subtle and sublime, aid words are very cumbersome and awkward. At best, we can only point towards what is actually meant by "God" in the Sophian teachings. Ultimately, the teachings direct us into prayer, meditation, and the spiritual life to discover the truth and light inwardly. Yet, as difficult to grasp as this vision of God might be, it must be considered before going into further conversation about the "personhood of Cod" as it appears in the Sophian teachings. Only with this more subtle ana sublime contemplation in mind can we glimpse the real meaning of the ideas and images of God as they appear in the tradition.

Basically, Sophian teachings constantly remind us that whatever concepts of the ultimate truth we may have, they arc not the ultimate tntth itself. They are only reflections of the Spirit and truth and are, at best, only partial truths. Likewise, Sophian elders and tau encourage us to stn:ggle to discover the truth and light in our own expei lence and to be willing to endure confusion in the process of seeking mte gnosis. In fact, the teachings propose that self-realization is not the absence of confusion. Rather, it is a very rapid flickering in consciousness between confusion and clarity, akin to a rlorescent light bulb, which is going on and off so fast that there is an appearance of constant light. According to the masters of the tradicion, the divine illumination expeiienced in Christ conse ousness is much the same.

With this in mind, we can now consider some of the persr.niiica-•..ons of God that occur in Sophian Gnosticism, remaining aware that they may be considered from either a theistic or nontheistic perspective, according to one's own experience and view. For, on the most fundamental level. Gnostic teachings are all about an experience in consciousness, principles of consciousness that play out ir. the self-re-alization process, and our experience of what we term "reality'' and "life"

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