The Third Veil Of God: “All That The Mind Can Conceive, That Is Not God”


In my most recent post I wrote of the Fifth (outermost) and Fourth Veils of  Meister Eckhart’s Five Veils Of God.  Today I want to peak behind the Third Veil.

According to C.F. Kelley’s Meister Eckhart On Divine Knowledge, Eckhart states that the Third Veil Of God is the Veil of Reason, Rationality, and the Will.  It is also the Veil of Time, Distinctions, and Structures.  Not to throw too much terminology out at once, but Eckhart also calls this the Second Level Of Awareness, the first being the raw “thinking power” of the Fourth Veil.

Beings operating at Third Veil’s level of awareness can conjure mental images, possess ideas, and are able to consider abstract concepts.

Though beings are capable of using great reasoning powers at this level, we are still quite limited when it comes to knowledge of the ultimate reality.  Reasoning and rational expression are but limited and imperfect means of understanding the Universe, and error is inevitable.

“No matter how precise one tries to make the expression,” says Kelley, “what is left out is always greater than what is left in.”

Reason can go no higher up the path to God than the multiplicities fed to it by the senses, and the senses are locked into concepts of Time and Space.

“Reason is always receiving something from without that is related to Time and sense experience,” says Eckhart.

The fundamental problem is that the mode of rational thinking is on of analogy, using things we already know to help us comprehend things we don’t.  But analogies drawn from objects in Nature can move us only so close to God since, as Eckhart puts it, “Nature cannot transcend Nature.”  Sure, we can use the physical world around us to understand the physical world, but this knowledge can only take us so far up the spiritual path.

Says Eckhart:  “Reason apprehends God only in so far as He is known to it” […]  “It can never comprehend him in his ocean of unfathomableness.

Reason, as opposed to Intuition or the “higher intelligence” (which we’ll get to when we pull back the Second Veil) is indirect knowledge, coming as it does through the mediation of the sense perceptions.  Rationality can only grasp a thing’s surface “Whatness,” not its underlying “Isness.”

The realm of the Third Veil is thus one still limited by a false perception of separateness and otherness.  But in actuality what our Reason comprehends as separations and multiplicity are merely distinctions in the underlying reality.

The soul that “clings to multiplicity,” says Eckhart, “withdraws from God.”

The apparent multiplicity we see is not exactly false… it’s just not the whole Truth.  Individuality is an illusion, not a delusion.  Our Reason sees, not God, but only those things contingent upon God, things that would have no existence without Him; it is in this sense that what the Reason grasps is both real and not real.  As Aquinas puts it:  “Truth is unconditionally one in the Divine Intellect, but from it many truths flow into the human mind.”

“In truest reality,” states Eckhart, “there is no duality.  What we see behind the Third Veil Of God is “only reflection” from the real light beyond.  “All that the mind can conceive, that is not God.”


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