Sunday, March 20, 2011

The act of unknowing


Following on yesterday's discussion of form. I realize that no amount of intellectual analysis of this question, no amount of formulation, can truly address the compelling issues that face us when we actually conduct inner work.

Let me look at myself now–as I am. How am I?

Right now, to come to the question in an immediate, organic, and tangible manner–a manner that grows from sensation and feeling as well as thought–requires me to throw out any assumptions. The inquiry becomes immediate and does not have an answer. It is rooted in, invested in, the unformed experience of Being. I use the term unformed, because Being is forever unformed and always in the process of formation. It grows from the root of this moment into the root of this moment, and this moment is always unique.

It's possible to take this moment and compare it to past moments. This is possible because of our associative parts, and because all moments are in relationship to one another through law. Nonetheless, it may be misleading. Despite the relationship, the moment is indeed unique.

One of the great values of "The Reality of Being" is the emphasis placed on inhabiting this particular question. No matter how many discussions one might engage in on the exact nature of what Jeanne de Salzmann asks us to undertake–and to any astute reader, it is immediately clear that what she calls us to is a mystery to our ordinary state–one thing is certain, and that is that there is a call to a new kind of investment.

This word is specific to the requirement. Investment may mean, among other things, the wearing of clothing. The energy that we embody, the expression of energy that all matter embodies, is an investment–energy wears the "clothing" of matter. It doesn't really matter whether you are an atheist or a religious person–a circus clown or a scientist. This basic understanding is unavoidable and more or less inarguable.

The difference between reductionist views of the universe, of atheistic and scientific premises, and the premise of inner work, is that from the perspective of inner work, this investment is not indifferent--it carries with it a responsibility. That is, there is a call to experience the relationship actively, to understand that our interaction with it ought not be passive. Within the immediate context of this investment, consciousness carries with it both the ability and the responsibility to be present to it, to call it into question, to investigate it.

In other words, I am poised here within this body, engaging in sensation, experiencing thought, and investigating the question of feeling–seeking that subtle and higher force which can bring thought and sensation together in an emotional state that binds them.

This makes a new kind of awareness possible. But it is only through this investment that such a thing can be known. My inner work, in other words, must be tangible. It must be organic. It takes place in an unformed–a perpetually forming–set of conditions. While the conditions are lawful–they conform to the nature of this universe–they are unique and inexpressible onto themselves. One might say that it is exactly this inexpressible quality that we are called on to sense.

Of course we can't use the form we already understand to do that. We begin without that capacity. The capacity is not inherent–it can only appear with participation.

The word investment is a loaded word, because it also carries a transactional value. I have discussed before the importance of trying to discover an understanding that lies beyond the transactional–I get this, I give that–and enters this spontaneously experiential state which we are discussing.

Nonetheless, investment also means to save something–to take value and accrue it, so that it grows. In this particular sense, the sense of growth, the idea of investment in my inner life is equally compelling, because I am feeding something when I invest in myself. I am not feeding the coarse material of my cells, but the finer material of what religions call my soul.

Of course this is controversial. The word soul is bandied about endlessly, used reflexively and mechanically by religious people as though were it were a defaulted and obvious property, and ridiculed by areligious people as an unproven–perhaps even imaginary–entity. But the soul is not so intangible. It already dwells within the actual finer energy that suffuses and penetrates every human being. It can certainly be sensed–it is a tangible force, if one understands the question properly. And it can be squandered or invested in, as one chooses. The outward movement of my attention without any containment is that squandering. The inward movement of my attention, which brings a measure of containment, begins the process of investment.

However, every investor knows that if the money just sits in the bank forever, there is no point to the investment. There are well-known parables about this in the New Testament.

It is the interaction between the investment and the real world that is the whole point of the action. This means that there has to be a balance. I can't just pile up experience, sensation, an investment in my inner life, and sit on it smugly thinking that I have achieved something. I must bring this material into contact with the external world. That is the responsibility of my consciousness, which is supposed to be actively engaged in, and mediating, this process.

A failure to understand this question of investment and value as an interactive process between the finer material of inner experience and the coarser material of outer experience leads, in mankind, to a mistaken valuation in which all value is assigned to an external action. The attempt to build up value in the external world was clearly addressed by Christ when he advised man as to where one should "lay one's treasure up." Our one-sided assignment of value to an external action inevitably leads to destruction, because without the counterweight of inner understanding, value has velocity, but lacks direction--it runs into things and smashes them.

Instead of attempting to inhabit an inner or outer argument of form, or no form, I am offered the opportunity to participate, in the presence of an active question, and the absence of my assumptions. One just doesn't know where that will lead. And perhaps that is, after all, a point of work–

the intentional act of unknowing.
May our prayers be heard.

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