The view from a plane across eastern Turkey, covered in snow, with a distant Mount Ararat.

The Ineffable

...Brahman is formless but is the birthplace of all forms.

Upanishads (c. 700 BCE)

For many Hindus, and no less followers of other religions, there is a strong sense that the ultimate is un-sayable: in any reduction to words ‘it’ is lost. There are manifestations and incarnations about which we are able to speak. However, writers from diverse paths concur in the assertion that ultimately everything whatsoever must be a manifestation of the ‘formless’. From a secular point of view it is fascinating how closely this, and many other similar phraseologies, come to the way we might try (and fail) to talk about Kant's noumenal world. That is the ‘world’ as it is without humans, and therefore without their conceptualizations, and about which there can be no thought, let alone language. And yet that noumenal world must include, or be, everything, must it not? How much difference is there between the noumenal world and Brahman?


A photograph of the ineffable has eluded me, thus far, meantime Mount Ararat, with Little Ararat attached, is standing in. The picture was taken from a plane passing over eastern Turkey in winter; a land of white mountains at that time of year. The above quote is often used, but it is commonly misattributed to the Isha (or Ishavasya) Upanishad; its sense and form clearly belong to these early Upanishads. Radhakrishnan’s translation into English ‘The Principle Upaniṣads’ (HarperCollins, India) runs to near on a thousand pages, including his helpful commentary, however, my searches therein have so far failed to uncover this exact quote - maybe you can help?


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