Jesus Chrysalis, Bob, Just Tell Me How to Caterpult My Buddhafly! (10.02.11)
I was under the impression that I had devoted a number of posts to this specific topic, but when I went back and looked, I realized that my advice tends to be scattered throughout the One Cosmos bloggereliquaruim. Better to keep the knowledge hidden that way, I suppose--only available to the sincere and determined seeker, safe from those barbarous hands that would greedily pry into God’s secrets and distort them for their own shallow ends.
Indeed, God should only be spoken of in a manner that “protects” and guards against the distortions and simplifications of the spiritually unqualified, while at the same time posing a challenge to the sincerity and intensity of the true seeker’s aspiration. This is not mystagogy. It is actually no different than in psychotherapy. A seasoned therapist will often know the exact nature of the patient’s problem within a session or two. However, it would serve no purpose whatsoever to prematurely blurt this out to the patient, for truth that is given is truth that cannot be discovered, and that makes all the difference.
Not for nothing did Jesus speak in paradoxables. When asked about this by his inner brotherhood of Cosmic Raccoons, he responded, “For you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
Therefore, Jesus is identifying and highlighting a perennial problem with spiritual knowledge: many who hear hear it do not hear it, and many more who understand it do not comprehend it. It is an organic process, in which the seed must be planted in fertile soil, so as to actually transform the person. Again, it is absolutely no different than psychotherapy. Very early in my training I learned various ways to deflect the inevitable question, “Can’t you just tell me what’s wrong? Just give it to me straight, and I’ll work out the rest myself.”
A particular patient comes to mind who had great difficulty getting beyond the idea that there was some unremembered event from his past, and that if he could only remember what it was, he would be magically transformed. Also, being a narcissistic character, he was convinced that he (being a special person) could bypass the usual drawn out process, and that I would simply disclose the secret to him and send him on his way. But his greed for the truth was a symptom of his very problem. I constantly gave him truth in the form of "nourishing" interpretations, but he greedily swallowed them so quickly (without even chewing!), that he had no time to metabolize them, much less feel gratitude for them. And the absence of gratitude was one of his core problems. Do you see the dilemma? How can you “give” someone the “thankfulness” they lack, until they learn it in a real relationship?
Having said that, our civilization is in real danger of losing touch entirely with its wisdom tradition, and as the Kabbalists kabbalize, “it is better to divulge Wisdom than to forget it.”
In response to the reader’s question, I had a few thoughts off the top of my head: “For starters you need to either fall in love (easier with a human form) or be intellectually convicted, depending upon your personality style (bhakti vs. jnani). Only in that way does Spirit become the context, not merely the content, of your life.” Also, “Remember, the greater the struggle, the greater the realization. Everyone is a unique ‘problem of God,’ and the great project of your life is how the Divine is going to get himself out of this jam he got himself into.” I pointed out the unhelpful truism that “the seeking is the beginning of the finding,” and noted the importance of being exposed to the direct testimony of others whom one respects--in other words, community.
Speaking of which, many readers chimed in with their own helpful suggestions. Will recommended not becoming preoccupied with “the concept of ‘God.’ God exists and you don't have to ‘conceive’ Him any more than you have to ‘conceive’ the sunrise to know that it's there. The question is, how do you come to *perceive* God or at least His edges?”
This is exactly what I emphasize in my book, that while you may or may not be able to prove the existence of God to your satisfaction, what you can definitely prove is the existence of a part of yourself that may know or love God. It would be odd if there were no corresponding object for this subject, but you needn’t be troubled by that at the start. It’s like appreciating a painting and wondering if beauty really exists. Who cares? Just enjoy it. Religion provides a beautiful way to live and to think about existence.
Will added the importance of being patient, diligent, and developing the imagination. This is a critical point. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions in the past, there are two forms of imagination, one passive, hypnotic, somnolent, downward pulling, and ultimately destructive, another that is active, creative, and aligned with your highest aspiration. One drags you into the abyss, the other draws you toward the Center and Origin. Religious language (including rituals) is carefully honed imaginative language, a symbol system “designed” to facilitate intellection, or “thinking of higher things.”
BP made an interesting point, noting that in his “relationship with the living God I do not necessarily experience as much ‘pleasure’ as I did before, but don't seem to need it. For me, pleasures were always sought and indulged in as a form of temporary relief from my general dissatisfaction with myself. Now, though not necessarily satisfied with myself, I really ENJOY myself. Or better yet, I would say that I enjoy God's involvement in myself, sometimes to the point of laughing my ass off. As important, I also get to experience God's enjoyment and appreciation of me. Hard to explain until it starts happening, and it's usually pretty subtle, but when it does start happening it is pretty darn cool. Furthermore, as my enjoyments have increased in relation with God, I've started worrying less and less about when/how/where I will get my next fix of ‘pleasure.’”
I have found this to be true. If one were to look at my outward life, one might find it rather mundane and predictable. But this is not at all what it feels like on the inside. I am reminded of a novel I read some 20 years ago. I don't remember anything about it except that it conceptualized reality as a system of concentric circles around a center. But unlike normal geometry, the closer you converge toward the center, the “larger” and more spacious the world of each successive ring. Then, at the center, which should be the “smallest” area, you arrive at the most expansive and unrestricted space. The absolute center is, of course “infinity.” Sri Aurobindo never left his room during the last 30 or so years of his life, but what an expansive existence!
Frithjof Schuon, one of the greatest spiritual masters, wrote a short piece about spiritual practice entitled “Fundamental Keys.” In it, he emphasizes the importance of meditation, concentration, and prayer: “These three words epitomize the spiritual life, while at the same time indicating its principal modes. Meditation, from our standpoint, is an activity of the intelligence in view of understanding universal truths; concentration, for its part, is an activity of the will in view of assimilating these truths or realities existentially, as it were; and prayer in its turn is an activity of the soul directed towards God.”
I will further discuss these three modes of spiritual knowing further in tomorrow’s post.