Spiritual Reality, Patterned Nonsense, and Coherent Absurdities
The wait actually turned out to be a good thing, because at the last minute I panicked and realized that the entire Chapter Four wasn't good enough and had to be rewritten. A couple months after I had submitted the final manuscript, I contacted the publisher and asked if it was still possible to make any "little" changes. They said that normally it would be impossible, but that they weren't scheduled to print the galleys for a couple weeks, so I had until then to make any revisions.
You know what they say: "nothing doth concentrate the mind like the galleys," or something like that. So I disassembled the whole thing, having no idea whether I would be able to put it back together in two weeks time. I felt like an emergency room doctor who had made a giant incision right down the middle of the book, with body parts strewn all over the floor of the liberatoreum where I do my writing. That was probably the most focussed two weeks in my life. I was definitely given some kind of transpersonal assistance, whether you want to call it my own unconscious or something higher than that.
The point is that I've had a lot of new ideas since then. In addition, some of the less developed "ideas for ideas" in the book are no longer raw but fully half-baked. Moreover, in order to "make ends meet" in the cosmos--as you know, the book is circular, spanning the entire 13.7 billion year expanse of the cosmos from the primordial nothing to the transcendent Nothing beyond name and form--I had to treat some subjects in a somewhat cursory manner, and regard them as cognitive "flyover country," so to speak.
Also, I would like to address errors in the book, or at least subjects about which I have gained a deeper understanding in the interim. It's not so much that they are necessarily wrong, but when you're talking about spirituality, something can be true on one level but false on a higher level, so it gets confusing. It's like Newtonian physics: it's true on the macro level, but no longer apples at the subatomic level. That sort of thing pervades discussions of religion, which is one of the reasons it can be so misunderstood by both fundamentalists and by intellectuals: both attempt to apply a sort of linear logic that is inappropriate to the spiritual dimension.
Being that the book is literally circular, I originally had the idea of publishing it in spiral form like a rolodex, since it has no beginning and no end, plus I or the reader could simply insert new knowledge and new insights into the appropriate place as they became available. So that's what I'm going to do here from time to time. Think of it not as a rolodex, but a cosmic holodex.
Now, with that prelude in mind, we have recently been touching on the relationship between language and the higher spiritual dimensions of consciousness. One reader seems to believe that no such higher dimensions exist, and that they are a mere trick of language: "If you think that enlightenment is to be revealed through clever wordplay... constructed haphazardly of contradictory statements, you're descending down a path where logic will not guide you, and your conclusions will likewise be unsound... [O]ne wonders whether you haven't permanently crippled your reasoning powers searching for mysterious perpedinculars" (he is referring to what I call the vertical, or the spectrum of consciousness).
However, another reader, Liquidlifehacker, is on the right track when he cites the biblical passage, "In the beginning was the word," noting that this "makes me understand how important the word is, not just that in the Bible but all words because words have power and I know there is power in HIS word. So if we take that one step further, What is a name but a language unit by which a person or thing is known?"
Yes. As I have mentioned before, the world is not made of protons, neutrons, quarks or atoms. Rather, it is made of language. Of course there are radically different languages applying to different domains of the cosmos, but they are all languages nonetheless. For example, the twenty-six mathematical constants that govern the character of the big bang are a language. All math is a language, including quantum physics. DNA is a language. Music is a language. Psychoanalysis is a language that has been developed in the last 100 years to describe the atemporal unconscious, which has a non-linear logic all its own. Poetry and prose are two rather different ways to use language, the former mostly applying to the vertical, the latter to the horizontal.
Human beings acquired language because language is what is. It is not something that we "add" to the cosmos simply because we are sophisticated apes with particularly complex brains. Language is not invented but discovered. Likewise, Spirit is not invented but encountered, partly through the proper use of language.
Now beginning on page 189 of my book, in the section entitled "Unknowing and How to Communicate It: The Hazards of Talking Pure Nonsense," I discussed some of the problems involved in the use of language to talk about what ultimately transcends linear language--the spiritual dimension. Later, on page 204, I briefly discussed one of the obstacles contemporary intellectuals have with religion, in that it generally asks us to believe things that appear frankly implausible, even impossible.
However, I noted that some degree of "belief in the unbelievable" may be a necessary component in deconditioning ourselves to the narrow and restricted consensus reality of our particular culture. I wrote that "Many modern sophisticates shun religion because their misuse of reason informs them that God cannot possibly exist, when the very point of a serious spiritual practice is to discover for oneself whether or not God exists, not through means [read: languages] designed to know other realities, but by utilizing the proper, time-honored methods."
Since writing that section several years ago I have developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between language and spirit, and why religious language is so strange and sometimes incomprehensible to modern ears. Rather than get into a partial discussion of it in this post, I'll elaborate some of my ideas on this over the weekend.
Let me just leave you with this preview: religions are ways of encountering the vertical, of gaining access to it, and of talking about it. If you take religious language and attempt to apply horizontal categories to it, much of it will frankly make no sense, any more than you could take one of Shakespeare's sonnets and reduce it to a statement about the horizontal. For example, "Shall I compare thee to a summer day," might mean, "I think you have a temperature. You are 102 degrees and very sweaty. You better lie down and take an aspirin."
Likewise, a purely rational assessment of religious language will get you nowhere. Scripture is patterned trans-rationality (not irrationality), religion a coherent absurdity, as Joyce called it. Tomorrow and Sunday I will attempt to explain why it must be that way.
People often catch hold of something written by me and give it an interpretation quite other than or far beyond its true meaning and deduce from it a suddenly extreme and logical conclusion which is quite contrary to our knowledge and experience. It is quite natural, I suppose.... it is so much easier to come to vehement logical conclusions than to look at the Truth which is many-sided and whole. --Sri Aurobindo