Naming the Unnameable: Book Review

I am excited to share my review of Naming the Unnameable:  89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God….Including the Unnameable God by Matthew Fox.

Matthew Fox is an internationally acclaimed spiritual theologian, Episcopal priest, and activist who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years. He holds a doctorate, summa cum laude, in the History and Theology of Spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has devoted 45 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality, which is rooted in ancient Judeo-Christian teaching, inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions; welcoming of the arts and artists; wisdom centered, prophetic, and committed to eco-justice, social justice and gender justice.

Learn more about Matthew Fox at MatthewFox.org.

Fox begins this book with the following:

“How we conceive of God will have enormous impact on how we behave toward each other, how we justify our actions, what we believe is possible, and what we find sacred and are therefore willing to sacrifice to protect….We need a new understanding of God. We need a God that can connect us spiritually to the real universe and guide our now globally conscious species toward a long-term and honorable civilization.”

Let me share the 13 names I found most helpful and attractive.

(Please note that I received this book for free to review from the Speakeasy blogging book review network and this post may contain affiliate links.)

God Is Existence, Being and Isness

“Rabbi Heschel concurs when he says Creation “is not an act that happened once upon a time, once and for ever. The act of bringing the world into existence is a continuous process. God called the world into being, and that call goes on….Every instant is an act of creation.”

God is not done! God is on the move! God is forever creating. I find this very exciting! I want to be part of God’s action and creation in this world.

God Is Energy

“Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “We know the Holy Spirit as energy and not as notions and words” and he calls the Holy Spirit “the energy of God in us, the true door.”

“God is the unstoppable energy of all beings, a boundless source that cannot be slowed down or ultimately overcome.”

This is one reason why I practice centering prayer everyday. Deep within me is an energy that waits to be let loose and put to good use in this world. My silent sit connects me to this energy. My silent sit feeds me and nourishes my soul. My silent sit helps me best identify how to channel this energy within me.

God Is Consciousness

“Deepak Chopra says: “God is pure consciousness, the source of all thoughts, feelings, and sensations.”

During centering prayer I like to think that my little consciousness sits with the Larger Consciousness. We merge and become one. My outer actions are a reflection of my inner actions.

God Is Co-Creator, And the Power Of Creation

“A Co-Creator creates with and alongside us and with and alongside all the other beings that unfold in the universe from mitochondria to galaxies and supernovas and black holes.”

“When we are employing our intelligence and our creativity we are co-creating. Thomas Merton called this the work of the Holy Spirit.”

I seem to receive inner nudges during my silent sits.  These nudges tell me the actions I should take today and in the future. I know they are from God if I am at peace with them and they will not harm me and others. Fear is never a reason not to take action. God often will push me out of my comfort zone.

God Is Compassion

“Thomas Aquinas says that “compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth.”

“Meister Eckhart declares that “we can call God love, we can call God knowledge, but the best name for God is compassion.”

“Compassion is our response to interdependence, to our interconnectivity, to our shared humanity, to our shared being-ness with other beings.”

“Jesus let this secret out of the bag in Luke 6:36: “Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”

What is compassion? The dictionary defines it as, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Here are a few synonyms: sympathy, empathy, care, concern, warmth, love, kindness. We certainly see these type of actions by Jesus in the Gospels.  I know that I am work in progress. I need to also be more compassionate each and everyday!

God Is A Source Without A Source

“Eckhart talks of our dying as a “return to our source,” a return to the Godhead where unity is total.”

This comforts me. When I die I will return to my source. I like to think that centering prayer is practice for dying. I enter the spaces between my thoughts. If this is what death is like, I have nothing to fear!

God Is Mother

“the fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich developed the Motherhood of God in a profound way. She writes: “God feels great delight to be our Mother….The deep Wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother. In her we are all enclosed….”

A mother is one who loves and nurtures her child. Through the years I watched my wife love and  nurture our children. It is comforting to know that we have a God who also loves and nurtures us like a mother.

God Is Father, Abba

“A father protects and directs, offers pathways and teaches the ways of the world to his offspring.”

God is my mentor. I come to God in the silence of my centering prayer practice. I arise from each sit filled with God’s wisdom and direction. God seems to show me a path that I should travel on for a while. I come back to my sits each day to make certain I am heading on the right path.

God Is The Beyond

“We taste these “Beyond” experiences in love and truth and art and they serve to dissolve our individuality and connect us to a “greater whole.”

“To speak of the “Beyond” is to speak of something that is not yet reached, something that beckons us, reaches out to us.”

God is in the silent pause when I look in awe at a beautiful scene. God is in the sounds of my favorite song. God is in the excitement I feel when the whole family enjoys conversation at the Thanksgiving Day table.

God Is “Emamanuel,” God-With-Us

“To say that God is “God-With-Us” is to deconstruct the hierarchical notion that God is above us looking down on us and judging us.”

I sit with God during my silent prayer practice. I get up from my silent sit and walk with God during the day. God is never apart from me. It is only me that sometimes forgets this.

God Is The True Rest

“Julian of Norwich calls God “the True Rest” who wants to be known and who finds pleasure in being “our true resting place.”

When I am weary, worried, anxious or angry I sit in the silence of my centering prayer practice. I always seem to arise from my sits calm, relaxed and often energized. God is a safe refuge where I can go to rest.

God Is The Annihilation Of Thought

“Says Thich Nhat Hanh: “It is impossible to use our concepts and words to describe God….It’s very wise not to say anything about God. To me the best theologian is the one who never speaks about God.”

“Meister Eckhart is in full agreement when he says: “The most beautiful thing which a person can say about God would be for that person to remain silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. So, be silent and quit flapping your gums about God.”

I best learn about God when I shut up and be silent.

God Is Silence

“Meister Eckhart says: “Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence” and he urges us to enter into deep silence to find God.”

“Stillness leads to an encounter with the Divine. Often the encounter is far beyond words.”

If I want to have a relationship with God, I need to sometimes be silent. I cannot always be the one who talks. I must learn how to speak God’s language: silence.

I encourage you to check out this wonderful book. What names for God resonate with you? What new ways of thinking about God has this book stirred?

Go Further:

Books by Matthew Fox

The Lotus & The Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity

A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times

Christian Mystics: 376 Readings and Meditations

With 24 books in print, including the bestseller Original Blessing and Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, perhaps no one is more qualified than Matthew Fox to offer a curriculum about using the power of prayer to change our world. Now this passionate speaker and writer presents Radical Prayer, his audio opus about prayer, the utterance of our hearts. This compelling six-session course covers what prayer is and why it works, recovering the sacred masculine and feminine, exploring the dark night of the soul, deep ecumenism lessons from history’s great mystics in every tradition, and more. Enrich your life with this soulful course on the power of prayer.

 

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Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.

Silence and the Spiritual Journey by Contemplative Outreach: The purpose of our historical lifetime is to provide us with space for the upward journey of evolution into vertical time and our assimilation of the eternal values that Christ brought into the world. This journey consists of everything from great touches of God (consolations) to the Dark Nights.

Lectio Divina Heart to Heart – Listening and Living with God by Contemplative Outreach: The ancient practice of praying the Scriptures is being rediscovered and renewed in our time. Known as Lectio Divina (Divine Reading), it is one of the great treasures of the Christian tradition of prayer.

For over 2000 years men and women have set out for the hills, fields and mountains to become Monks – searching for happiness, freedom, peace, joy, balance, fulfillment, confidence, stability, passion and God.

2 thoughts on “Naming the Unnameable: Book Review

  1. Meister Eckhart often spoke about the isness of God, as have some other mystics and writers on mysticism. I intentionally omitted it in my ebook on comparative mysticism because that term might seem nebulous to most general readers and to many scholars.

    The divine isness may be too affirmative for apophatic mysticism and too negative for cataphatic descriptions. I have, however, often referred to the divine essence as what ‘is’ or that which ‘is’ in italics.

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