Negative theology is a type of religious and philosophical practice with roots that can be traced through several prominent lineages, including Ancient Greece, early Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This practice shows up in the Vedic tradition, a technique described in the Upanishads as neti neti—meaning “neither this nor that.” This approach is featured as Viveka, in Jnana Yoga, the yoga of direct knowledge, as a path to Self-realization. Viveka means discrimination or to be more specific, atma-anatma-viveka – discrimination between Self and not-Self. It is a way of using the mind to negate and disidentify with all names, forms and perceptions in order to distinguish between the limited and relative world and the eternal, unchanging perfection that is the Absolute Reality. Ultimately, whatever can be conceived by the mind is not Brahman, and the practice of neti neti will eventually point to this.

The subject distinguishes himself from the mind-body, thereby establishing what he essentially is, namely awareness. It is a useful preliminary or intermediary step towards the full feeling understanding that I am everything. The actual practice is simply taking any thought or object that the mind can conceive and discarding it neti neti. That THAT object is not the Supreme Reality. Through this process,the subject realizes “I am not my thoughts; I am aware of my thoughts,”“I am not my feelings; I am aware of my feelings,”“I am not this sensation; I am aware of this sensation.” This does not imply ignoring, killing or bypassing mind body ego. It simply means becoming disidentified with what is appearing, and realise that in which it all is appearing.

Hence, neti neti brings attention to the subtle subject, what we essentially are, and the subsequent inquiry brings attention to the multiplicity and diversity of objects that are manifestations of the subtle subject, more precisely as that which is made out of the awareness, which is also the subtle subject. Hence, we see that all that there is is our experience of infinite awareness. It is only because I am not a thing that I can be everything.

This process of elimination happens naturally in life. When we are born, we are an undifferentiated homogenous mass of experience without distinction between its own body and its mothers body, it cannot discern between the pain in legs or hunger in belly. As we grow up we begin to separate and conceptualise an entity that is distinct from its environment, the “I AMness” arises. This is the origin of ego and a very organic process, it is not at all ignorance or unnatural, it is a healthy individuation that is required to function and interact in the world. This is also the begining of the Neti Neti process as the awareness begins to separate and distinguish itself from its surrounding experience.

Unfortunately, since most of this process is happening uncosciously, it can only take one to the point where awareness has distinguished itself as a separate body-mind, thus limiting awareness to a restricted illusion for the rest of our lives in most cases. This can be further developed consciously though, as we begin to exclude even that which is within the boundary of the body-mind, including thoughts feelings emotions sensations and perceptions.

Our self-understanding informs our view of the world.The reason we think there is an outside world made out of matter is because we believe there is an inside subject made out of limited awareness.The world appears in direct correlation to our understanding of our self.