Thursday, 28 July 2011

The empty path

Someone once said to me that Unitarianism is an empty path. They meant it as a criticism, but I thought it sounded rather positive and Taoist. "The way that can be named is not the true Way" (usually written as "The tao that can be named is not the true Tao", but Tao just means "way").

In "Mind your language", Danny Crosby reflects on the view expressed by a character in The Simpsons that Unitarianism is like an empty bowl.  The point about an empty bowl is that you can fill it with whatever you like; it is clean and receptive, and it gives form to whatever fills it.

The point about an empty path is that it is not cluttered up with extraneous symbols, meaningless rituals, and pointless prohibitions.

I like the idea of the empty path, because it reminds me of apophatic theology and the via negativa described by Matthew Fox.

4 comments:

Emily said...

Eek! So, I just looked you up via the comments on Wondertwisted's recent post about her issue with UUism as it is today. I love your christology poem and was wondering if you'll be publishing it or if I can, as lay leader of a UU congregation in Texas, read it during a service. If not, that's perfectly fine! Then I read this most recent post of yours and saw you mentioned Matthew Fox. It's interesting, and I "eek"ed because I just started reading a book of his, I'm a fan of Eckhart, have written poetry on the "negative way" and the "positive way" and what each offer during some people's journeys, etc. What synchronicity!

Yewtree said...

Dear Emily, I'd be honoured if you read my poem in your service (I'm sure you'll credit it to me, Yvonne Aburrow).

I first learnt about Matthew Fox from Wiccan authors Janet and Stewart Farrar, and have been interested in him ever since.

Synchronicity indeed.

Thanks for dropping by after reading my comment at

the green man said...

I agree with you that the image of an empty bowl can be profoundly positive and I thank Laotsu for showing me that. I wrote a sonnet called "singing bowl" which attempts to evoke the same insight, and which, from reading around this blog, I am guessing you might like. Let me know if you'd like to see it
Malcolm Guite

Yewtree said...

Hi Malcolm, thanks for dropping in - I'd love to see your singing bowl sonnet.