Personifications of the Ineffable – Joseph Campbell and David Grimm

This Sunday morning, at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca (corner of Buffalo and Aurora streets), the 10:30 AM sermon to be delivered by David Grimm is entitled “Personifications of the Ineffable”.

michaelangelo personification of divinityIt just so happens that the very same morning, at 9:00 AM in the Arch Room of the First Unitarian Society, the Adult Religious Education session, a part of an ongoing series of discussions on mythology, will start with a section of The Power of Myth in which Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers talk about the very same subject – personification of the ineffable.

I have no idea what David Grimm will be saying about the personification of the ineffable, but let’s take a look at part of what Joseph Campbell has to say on the subject. In the comparable section of the book version of The Power of Myth, there’s a passage which isn’t included in the video version. This passage reads:

“Time and space form the sensibilities that bound our experiences. Our senses are enclosed in the field of time and space, and our minds are enclosed in a frame of the categories of thought. But the ultimate thing (which is no thing) that we are trying to get in touch with is not so enclosed. We enclose it as we try to think of it.

The transcendent transcends all of these categories of thinking. Being and nonbeing – those are categories. The word ‘God’ properly refers to what transcends all thinking but the word ‘God’ itself is something thought about.

Now you can personify God in many, many ways. Is there one god? Are there many gods? Those are merely categories of thought. What you are talking and trying to think about transcends all that.

One problem with Yahweh, as they used to say in the old Christian Gnostic texts, is that he forgot he was a metaphor. He thought he was a fact. And when he said, ‘I am God,’ a voice was heard to say, ‘You are mistaken, Samael.’ ‘Samael’ means ‘blind god’: blind to the infinite Light of which he is a local historical manifestation. this is known as the blasphemy of Jehovah – that he thought he was God.”

That’s one opinion, one interpretation.

What do you think about it?


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