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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. Kelp and sand on a beach in northern Iceland. Poets, such as William Blake, try to help us towards what is beyond the mundane. There are manifestations A statue of the Hindu god Ganesha in the Da Nang museum. Ganesha is one of the friendly faces of the Hindu panoply; incarnate here in stone. 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’. A very large Buddha in Da Lat. The debate within Hindu circles about the perplexing dichotomy of god having and not having form. 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 The bust of Peter Scott at the WWT reserve in southern Scotland. A whole page devoted to the noumenal - about which strictly we can say nothing at all. 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?

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?

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.

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 8th February 2020

Murphy on duty to this site