Our Precious Disembodied Fluids (11.29.11)
UF points out that there are actually three primary modes of spiritual experience: vision, inspiration, and intuition; or perception, communication, and identification. "Vision presents and shows us spiritual things, inspiration infuses us with understanding of them, and intuition reveals to us their essence by way of assimilation with our essence." Or, to use a digestive metaphor, first you must recognize what to eat; then chew and swallow it; and finally metabolize and assimilate it, so that the two substances become one.
Alternatively, we could think of these modes as taking place on the planes of feeling, knowledge, and being, each of which has degrees of depth (and can only be artificially separated; think of the three modes as a dynamic trialectic). As I have mentioned before, for the average worshipper, religion can embody "metaphysics without knowledge." In other words, the metaphysics is implicate, but nevertheless true.
This is again why the most simpleminded creationist is nevertheless closer to the truth than the most sophisticated atheist. Such a person "feels" the truth, even if he cannot necessarily express it in way acceptable to the atheist, who is incapable of feeling truth to begin with. It should go without saying that there are saintly people who are not intellectuals, and that they know something the atheist doesn't.
UF notes that spiritual vision -- just like its physical analogue -- expands the horizon of one's being. All of our senses are actually different varieties of touch; for example, with vision, we are touching photons; with hearing, we are touching air vibrations; with olfaction, we are touching molecules floating in the air.
Just as our physical vision expands our subjective horizon -- even to the stars and planets -- so too does spiritual vision give access to realities that are not immediately present.
For example, when we read, say, Genesis or the Gospel of John, each of them helps us to see realities that are vertically "present," but might otherwise go undetected -- just as a person without vision (unless told) would know nothing about stars and planets. Scripture literally helps us "touch" these realities. But so too do other spiritual modes -- really, anything that directly communicates divine truth, love, or beauty. Often, as UF describes, this contact or "touch" will be accompanied by tears, which signify the "flow" between the two domains, the eternal and the temporal:
"The contact between image and likeness is experienced as inner weeping.... [T]he expression 'I am moved to tears' is only a reflection of what happens when image and likeness touch. They then mingle in tears -- and the inner current which results is the life of the human soul." I'm guessing that atheists have never wept upon encountering a transformative truth, but that's not surprising, for the tears again signify depth of experience, and nothing as shallow as atheism could ever produce such an effect. (To say nothing of the sacred guffah ha! experience known only to authentic Raccoons.)
There are tears of sorrow, of joy, of gratitude, of admiration, of compassion, of pride in one's children, of tenderness, of reconciliation, each having to do with the intensity of one's inner life, which "pours out" in the form of tears, either outwardly or "inwardly."
When is the last time you were moved to tears? What was that movement about? For me, it occurred just yesterday, while watching the film Becket. I'm not saying I was sobbing convulsively. In fact, you wouldn't have noticed anything, because it was mostly inward (we Godwins are men of steel). But while watching the ceremony where Becket is elevated to Archbishop, the holiness and sanctity of the occasion caused something to well up inside of me. The point is not so much to walk around crying all the time, but to notice these sometimes subtle movements within the soul, for that is your life.
So there is spiritual vision, or touch, which involves depth of feeling and gives access to a new realm of facts. Then there is spiritual inspiration, or communication, which involves depth of knowledge and understanding. It takes the facts given by vision and converts them to explicate knowledge. This is none other then O-->(n), or "gnosis."
At the same time, there is no depth without unity, and vice versa. Necessarily, as one's knowledge deepens one will begin to apprehend the interior cosmic unity, or the Logos, that makes intellectual unity possible to begin with. Contrast this with the absurd "horizontal unity" of the flatlanders, which is a metaphysical impossibility.
Now, vision has more to do with (↓), while inspiration has more to do with (↑). This is because, like our sensory vision, it is mostly a passive modality. We just open our eyes, and whoomp, there it is.
But inspiration, as UF defines it, requires more effort: not just tears, but sweat. We have spoken of tears. When is the last time you sweated to deepen your vision?
I well remember the first time this happened to me. It was in the spring of 1985, when I first encountered Bion. That awakened something in me and set me off on a wild nous chase, the details of which are unimportant. Mrs. G and I were living in sin in a one bedroom apartment with virtually no furniture, so I was sitting on the floor grappling with Bion, literally perspiring in a kind of intellectual fever that was full of implications which took years to sort out. You could say that it was my intellectual "big bang." (By the way, I am not recommending Bion to anyone, because the point is to find the person who introduces you to yourself; I am not a "Bionian.")
Speaking of Bion, in order to have inspirations, one's mind must be unsaturated: "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." I was apparently a good candidate, for I had essentially learned nothing from kindergarten all the way through my undergraduate work. I had no answers, diseased or otherwise. It's just simple physics that if you want something to pour into you, your vessel should be relatively empty and capacious. Elsewhere UF writes that while nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit requires one.
UF has a good line: "Children know how to ask and dare to ask. Are they presumptuous? No, because each question that they pose is at the same time an avowal of their ignorance." Schuon said something to the effect that there is more light in a good question than most answers. You will note that our scientistic jester is full of bovine questions that harbor no light -- or even capacity for light -- at all.
UF describes inspiration as a "thinking together," and this is indeed what it is. Again, to use the example above, I was not simply "learning" Bion. Rather, we were "thinking together" in such a way that it sounded all sorts of latent themes within me -- and which were me.
So, to summarize for today, "say to yourself that you know nothing, and at the same time say to yourself that you are able to know everything, and -- armed with this healthy humility and this healthy presumption of children -- immerse yourself in the pure and strengthening element of the 'thinking together' of inspiration!"