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The Unmanifest Absolute

The Unmanifest Absolute
Definition: The term "Unmanifest Absolute" is here used to define the essential, primary aspect of the Absolute Reality. "Unmanifest" because this cannot be explained in terms of any manifest reality, neither mundane nor transcendent.
"The Absolute is the unknowable, undefinable, unfathomable, immutable, timeless, spaceless, indivisible, formless Omnipresent Divine Reality" [ref. external link Theory of Creation]
Because no positivities can define it, the Unmanifest Absolute is described time and again in negative theology.

Examples: See Formless, Emptiness, Mystery in the World Religions for many examples. This is the original or first principle in the Perennial Philosophy and all mystic teachings. (see Mahayana Buddhism (Tathata, Sunyata, etc), Advaita Vedanta (Nirguna (qualityless) Brahman), Valentinian and Sethian Gnosticism (Forefather), "Pseudo"-Dionysius and Meister Eckhart (Godhead), "Infinite/Spirit" in the Great Chain of Being diagram of Huston Smith etc

The Absolute Reality

Before, after, and always, there is only the Absolute Reality, the Uncreated Source, the Supreme Reality.  It forms the basis of the mystical experience.  It can be described positively, as in the Vedantin Sacchidananda - Infinite Being, Infinite Consciousness, Infinite Bliss - or negatively, as in the Buddhist Shunyata and the Upanishadic and Dionysian "negative theology"

Strictly speaking, the Absolute Reality is not a "level" of reality at all; for to interpret it as such would be to relativise It, whereas It is beyond all relativity and relationships; the essential Reality behind all the other realities.  It is eternal, infinite, ever-perfect, ever-blissful, and totally unitary.  It is the Brahman, Atman, Buddha-nature, Tao, the Absolute, Godhead of various philosophies and theologies.

The "Beyond Beyond" Absolute

A distinction is sometimes made in mystical literature between the Supreme ineffable Absolute, which is beyond even the creative process, and the Absolute which is the First Principle and origin of everything else.  The Neoplatonist Iamblichus speaks of the One or Absolute which the First Principle, the Source of everything else, and the One which is beyond even that.  Jacob Boehme[1] distinguishes between the tranquil groundless God, which is even without being, and God as will and love.  Sri Aurobindo refers to the Absolute Consciousness as Sachchidananda (Infinite Being-Consciousness-Bliss), but that this "manifest" Sachchidananda is inferior, so to speak, to the ineffable Absolute Supreme or unmanifest Sachchidananda[2].  And Meher Baba distinguishes between the "Beyond-Beyond" state of God, the Paratpara-Parabrahman-Paramatman of Vedanta and the Wara-ul-Wara of Sufism, and the "Beyond" state of God, the Parabrahman-Paramatman of Vedanta and Allah of Sufism [3].

The Unmanifest Unmanifest Absolute Reality is indefinable.  It can only be described in terms of paradoxes.  It is the Godhead beyond even the Godhead, the Unmanifest Unmanifest, the Transcendent Transcendence, Groundless Groundlessness, the Source of the Source, the Origin of the Origin, which "cannot be explained, cannot be understood, cannot be experienced" [4] . It is the "Mystery of Mysteries" of Ismaili esotericism [5], the supreme Principle, ineffable and inaccessable, beyond Being, without Name or Attribute;  the Depth of the Godhead, which the Gnostic Valentinus calls the "Abyss" and "Silence".  Jacob Boehme calls it the "Groundlessness" that is not even being, and the Sufi Jili refers to it as "the Dark Mist", or "blindness", the absolute inwardness and occultation.[6]


[1] Jacob Boehme, in Jacob Boehme, Life and Doctrines, ed by Franz Hartmann, p.63 (Steiner Books, 1977)

[2] Sri Aurobindo, Link to Amazon com The Life Divine, p.520; The Hour of God, p.84]

[3] Bhau Kalchuri, The Everything and the Nothing, pp. 27, 29

[4] Meher Baba, The Nothing and the Everything p.26

[5] Henry Corbin, "The Dramatic Element Common to the Gnostic Cosmogonies of the Religions of the Book", Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol 14, no 3 & 4, (Summer-Autumn 1980) p.213.

[6] R. A. Nicholson, Link to Amazon com Studies in Islamic Mysticism, pp.94-5

[7] Bannerjea, Link to Amazon com The Philosophy of Gorakhnath, p.39

[8] Jaideva Singh (transl), Link to Amazon com Shiva Sutra: The Yoga of Supreme Identity, p.14-5 (Motilal Barnasidass, Delhi, 1979)]

[9] Jaideva Singh (transl), Link to Amazon com Shiva Sutra: The Yoga of Supreme Identity, p.13 (Motilal Barnasidass, Delhi, 1979)

see also...

The Absolute and Relative Realities

Formless, Emptiness, Mystery - Professor Andrew Wilson - readings from world religions

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pages uploaded revised 12 October 1998 and 23 February 1999, this page 19 July 2004, relocated 9 April 2008