Wholeness Has No Name

In a sense, names are the way we colonize wholeness: it is the way we try to make permanent the fragmentation that attends our perception. This is a birch tree. This is a lover. This is my dog and that one is someone else’s.

Names – like the metric system, calendars, guitar chords and so forth – are a form of convenience. Mountains do not have names but it is easier to say we will climb Ascutney than not. We don’t have names either, but it is helpful to assume them. How else could we call to each other in a crowd?

The trouble is that we confuse the name with the thing: we assume reality is what we say it is. We think there really is such a thing as an hour or a decade, or Jake the dog, or Emily Dickinson. Really there is just the one thing being itself, which being is not contradicted by multiplicity and variance.

Thus, when A Course in Miracles tells us that the Name of God is our inheritance (W-pI.204.1), “our deliverance from every thought of evil and sin” (W-pI.203.2), and our name, too (W-pI.203.2), it is not really talking about a name but about a kind of wordlessness reflecting an identity that is beyond naming.

Wholeness does not submit to names because it has no parts to name, and no separate self or observer that needs names to manage fragmentation. This fact is altogether beyond our experience as bodies, but very much the essence of what we are in Truth. In bodies, the world readily descends into labels and names and signifiers. But Truth admits neither difference nor the inclination to differ. In that light, identity itself ends. And nothing remains to be named.

Thus, A Course in Miracles is not admitting to a secret name for God, nor suggesting that whatever proper name assigned to the body is thereby assigned to the Absolute as well. Rather, it is inviting us to look altogether beyond names, beyond the apparent sensibility of names, to a Reality in which names do not occur. This may begin as an intellectual exercise, but it is not limited to that. It may begin as a poem but it is not contained by that. It is possible to see beyond the web of language by which thought was colonized to the clear and shimmering radiance that precedes and is not contingent on wordiness.

Thus, our inheritance is emptiness: it is beyond our capacity to imagine or identify but it is real. It is all the reality there is. It is here now and we miss it because we are so busy shoveling language this way and that. We are sewing clothing where nakedness will do. We have to become silent and still, simultaneously passive and alert. We have to give attention to namelessness, we have to slip at last into divine forgetfulness.

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  • Sean Reagan December 18, 2014, 5:52 am

    It was tempting to talk about the Adam and Eve myth here, in particular their habit of naming everything in the garden, which naming obviously facilitated possessiveness and then rules to manage that possessiveness and then – naturally enough – the breaking of those rules and consequences for said breaking. Missing from that narrative, at least in its conventional iterations, is the sense that the names given are not permanent but simply illusions – sometimes they are helpful in limited ways but they should never to be confused with reality or truth. Just as “apple” does not really define or contain or explicate the particular fruit, we cannot really sin. We cannot really violate Truth or disintegrate wholeness. We cannot colonize the garden. Reality remains untainted and unspoiled by either perception or names. We are in it yet, embodied perfection presently giving attention elsewhere. It’s okay. When we are ready, we will come back to ourselves which is to say that we will simply look again at what is – not at its name and not at our desire to name it. Just what is. It is always enough.

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