Everything stands for something greater than itself. Go pick out a tree in your backyard and describe it to me. Your definition will be incomplete. THere will always be something more to the tree than the definition embraces. Ultimately, it stands for something more than itself.
Same with human "be"ings. To be, is to stand for.

There is a “super” reality that we all know exists but that for which language is inadequate. From our homes, in front of our computers, it is easy to discount this awareness. To view the ineffable, the mystery, with callousness or indifference. But (again, as Heschel has said), who can stand underneath the night sky or at the lip of the Grand Canyon and remain indifferent. What is the purpose of awe, wonder, radical amazement? To be aware that all is infused with a mystery that we can never understand is, I think, one of the fundamental purposes of religion.

Whether it is Judaism, Christianity, Islam, gnositcism, wiccan…, or even monotheism in general, each is a framework desgined to provide us with the ability to comprehend the mystery that is beyond our ability to apprehend.


And if we decide there’s beauty in chaos, no necessary force ordering it, and no way to understand if there is some deeper meaning attached to every object, let alone what that may be? Can we still be friends? :wink:


I agree. The purpose of religion (the framework of sacred stories that we tell each other and ourselves to describe this) is to tell us how to be human (how to treat and deal with each other) and how to stand in relationship with that which is beyond our complete understanding.


I disagree. Maybe this applies for the God of Islam or the G-d of Judaism but certainly not for the God Jesus Christ.

How can a fundamental purpose of religion be never to understand? This is like saying that the fundamental purpose of a father and mother is to forever keep their child in a mystery about themselves and the world around it. Am I wrong to assume that loving parents would do anything what is in their power to teach and instruct their child the best they can? What is the purpose of leaving somebody in not fully knowing? How much more God, who loved us so much that He even died for us, would want to enlighten us just about everything so that we can fully share our wonder and amazement?


Greetings and peace be with you Valke

Everything stands for something greater than itself.

I wonder if god can stand for anything greater than himself?

In the spirit of searching



Yes. But let’s leave beauty out of it and stick to the sublime.


I’m not sure you can separate the two so easily. Every time I experience something that could be called transcendent or sublime, the entire world seems more beautiful.

I question also the appropriacy of the term ‘mystery’. I don’t see existence as a riddle waiting to be solved – or laughing as we try and try to solve it, only to maybe give us the answer after we die. People are so concerned with understanding life, the universe, and everything – but really, what’s to understand? They’re forgetting to experience it!

Meaning is one of those things that’s nice, but not necessary, and not to be taken for granted. There is joy in knowing that one doesn’t have to know just as there may perhaps be in full knowledge – not, you understand, to praise ignorance, but to praise living without feeling the need to analyze it relentlessly.


Yes, beyond our ability to totally comprehend. But not beyond our ability to try to comprehend, and to comprehend albeit in an incomplete manner.

There is such a thing as objective reality. God has made the universe, and us, such that we can learn the objective truth about it in many ways, and since the universe is God’s creation, it actually tells us something about God. And God did infuse us with the desire to seek Truth and Good (in other words, to search for and comprehend Him in some degree).

So religion is not primarily to make us aware that we can never understand this ultimate reality (Truth). The purpose of religion, in conjunction with science, math, biology, etc. is to understand it and conform to it, to the limits of our intellect, which is in fact the intellect’s purpose.


I think I love you!


by mystery or ineffable, I mean the aspect of reality that will always remain unknown – not because we haven’t disocerved it or will in 1,000 years or more understand it, but because it is beyond or ability to comprehend. It is not a thing that is solveable. Socreates once tried to answer the question: “What is temperance?” In the end, he admits that it cannot be defined. “I have been utterly defeated, and have failed to disocver what that is to which the imposer of names gave this name of temperance.”

Similarly (and even moreso), we cannot adequately define what we mean by God or “holy” . What holy refers to is something that lies beyond the capabilities or reach of words. As Bacon said, “the best part of beauty is that which a picture cannot express.”


But is this ineffable quality even properly perceptible? I do not know if such a thing exists, and I cannot see any instance where a ‘mystery’ has universally been agreed to exist.

You posit that religions exist as a tool by which some understanding of this quality can be achieved. Fair enough, but they can’t all be right. Is it better to reach a false understanding than to admit you don’t know? Better to be wrong than to confess that the question itself is far outside your scope?

Socreates once tried to answer the question: “What is temperance?” In the end, he admits that it cannot be defined. “I have been utterly defeated, and have failed to disocver what that is to which the imposer of names gave this name of temperance.”

There is a difference between ‘inexpressible’ and ‘unknowable’. It’s pointless to try to explain what a concept such as temperance or love or holiness is – yet we all (may) figure it out for ourselves at some point.


That’s not true.

tree stands for all that is a* tree*.


Some people believe that there’s no super-natural basis to them, so it would be humans telling us how to be humans.


Sounds like the way men understand women. Just kidding!!!


Sounds very Platonic.


I get a lot of that.


Any response to my objection about words not containing their full meaning?

If words didn’t encompass whole values then we’d come up with a word that did.

So that eveything more than a tree, we might say ‘enviornment’ or some such thing.

I find your OP very odd.


I’m not sure why. Isaiah tells us that all the world is filled with God’s glory. Going back to our example of the tree, God’s spirit or glory, the element of transcedence – that which transcends our ability to put into words – would also be in the tree. It is an element of reality that is beyond our ability to know.


But then if you have a concept of ‘tree’ meaning ‘that plant that is also filled with the glory of God’ then it covers what you mean.

For you the term ‘tree’ must cover that additional information, if you believe that’s what posesses a tree.

You’d only be right insofar as my definition of ‘tree’ might involve a different totality, but even then ‘tree’ would be for me total for all that a tree is.


you can state in any defintion the words “total for all that a tree is” but that doesn’t mean the definition is adequate or that it explains what the “total tree” is.

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