Thinking is a Relationship
I am speaking of the miracle of intersubjectivity, through which human beings are able to escape the boundaries of the skin and participate in the being of another. This first occurs in infancy, and indeed, what occurs there is the foundation of what will take place later, at all stages of thought (which is a kind of relationship) and relationship (which is a kind of thinking).
The recent recognition of "emotional intelligence" obscures the fact that there is no thought without emotion, and vice versa, for to paraphrase Schuon, they are the penumbra of the Divine Light and Warmth, respectively, which can only be artificially separated.
For the first time, Dante's fear begins to spiral out of control, almost as if he is describing a panic attack. He spontaneously calls to for Virgil, who informs him that he was already aware of his internal state, for No faster could I catch your outer image / Than I receive that other from within, so that Your thoughts just now were mingled with my own.
The whole possibility of psychoanalytic therapy is predicated upon that last line: Your thoughts just now were mingled with my own. This is what is called "counter-transference." Beholden as he was to a mechanistic framework, Freud regarded this ubiquitous phenomenon as mere "noise" that the analyst needed to rise above and ignore.
But modern psychoanalysis -- which is rooted in intersubjectivity -- regards counter-transference as vitally important communication about what is really going on, both within and without the patient's psyche. To put it in colloquial terms, we are always "giving off vibrations" in everything we say and do. And these vibrations are often the source -- or expression -- of great dysfunction.
For example, some people constantly give off an aggressive, intimidating, and dominating vibe, while others transmit a weak and submissive one that alternatively says "take care of me" or "kick me." The former is sadistic, the latter masochistic, and you'd be amazed at how frequently the two manage to find one another, for an exciting "spark" is created between them that is often confused with "love."
I was just pondering this the other day, while bathing in some aphorisms of Don Colacho, who is able to reach into the depth of my soul like a handful of others -- almost as if he is "me" at a later stage of the journey. Not surprisingly, he addressed this truth in an aphorism: Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.
In other words, he has no control over the effect of an aphorism, which largely depends upon the listener's ability to contain and kill it. I was thinking about this when imagining what a particularly cynical man of my acquaintance would think of these magnificent aphorisms, which is to say, how he would kill them in order to maintain the deadness of his soul.
In this regard, cynicism masquerades as a kind of humility when it is really a form of omniscience, an absolute faith in oneself to determine what is real and worthy of assent. The cynic bows before no one, and therefore bows before himself.
Which is not just a figure of speech, for again, in an irreducibly intersubjective world (which is actually trinitarian, more on which later), thinking is always a dialogue between two subjects. In the case of the cynic, the dialogue is between infantile omniscience and a kind of contemptible stupidity, gullibility, or trust.
This type of person cannot help encoding his message in contempt, which is the counter-transference we feel when reading, say, Paul Krugman or Richard Dawkins, or listening to Keith Olbermann or Rachel Madow. They think they are communicating ideas when they are really evacuating the unThinkable.
This verges on the featured sin in this valley of Hell, which is to say, hypocrisy. For what is hypocrisy but an absence of harmony between inside and outside, or appearance and reality? Hypocrisy is fine so long as we understand we are hypocrites, and that we will always fall short of the ideal. But the bad kind of hypocrite deals with his own shortcomings by unconsciously projecting them into others, and then attacking them.
Back to the action of the canto. Note that Dante even explicitly compares Virgil's great solicitude to that of a mother for her infant: My leader instantly laid hold of me, / Just as a mother, wakened by a noise / And seeing how the flames are near at hand, / Will snatch her child and run... / Having more care for him than for herself.
Having more care for him than for herself. Here again, this is intersubjectivity in action, the reality of a profoundly intimate connectedness which is prior to separation, especially for the infant -- both the external infant and the mother's internal infant, for the true source of the mother's empathy is a connection to her own internal frightened and distressed infant.
This is no different than any other kind of empathy, except that it is so deep as to be beyond words (infans means "incapable of speech"). It is more in the realm of gesture, facial expression (especially the eyes) and tone of voice (here again, the tone conveys much more than verbal communication; it is "music" to the infant's ears, and perhaps even the ultimate foundation of music appreciation).
Later Virgil takes more of a paternal role, Bearing me tenderly upon his breast, / More as his son than as a fellow traveler. This highlights the difference between maternal and paternal love, in that the latter is more "horizontal." Maternal love is more all-encompassing, like the background context of being itself. It can scarcely be thought about, for it is the ground of thinking.
In Hell, the hypocrites are loaded down with burdensome cloaks that are dazzling gold on the outside but heavy lead on the inside. Here we see brother Deepak paying for all that fool's gold he peddled to the credulous seekers up here.
As with the sadists and masochists, it is amazing how efficient the spiritual free market is in coordinating buyers and sellers of spirit, the omniscient mythofolkers and their contemptible crockseekers. Again, it is an interior relationship that is merely projected outward.
As Upton explains, the gold-plated and lead-poisoned hypocrites are "unlike the true spiritual Guide," because they "depend upon the projections of others in order to maintain their aura of sanctity." Like all illusions and illusionists, Deepak is just the sham total of what his dupes project into him.
This is in contrast to the true teacher -- oh, let's say, Don Colacho -- who knows that Authentic superiority is intolerable for the fool. Its simulacra, on the other hand, fascinate him.
Fascinate, from the Oxford Dictionary: ARCHAIC (esp. of a snake) deprive (a person or animal) of the ability to resist or escape the power of a look or gaze: the serpent fascinates its prey.
The road to hell is paved with good intent.