Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No words

Roof tiles, Grand Mosque
Xi'an, China

We live in a text based world.

You're reading a text now; think about how much of what we've learned over the course of our life comes out of texts. An enormous amount; the odds are that we first encountered spiritual ideas through texts, most likely the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Koran, or perhaps something more esoteric.

 Yet there's a conceit afoot in much spiritual work that somehow, it can all be done without words. And, indeed, there are places without words, and wordless experiences. Yet can we throw the words away?

Think of a world with no books or written words. There used to be such a world for mankind; a world where, while there were means of communication (almost certainly, a spoken language) nothing had ever been written down yet. Nonetheless, life and culture were fully passed from one generation to another. Nothing whatsoever came out of books; there was a fluidity to understanding, which had to be derived from the immediate, from what was around one.

That world is forever gone. Now we gather around our books, read them together; and our spiritual practice itself seems to begin in the texts, not in the real world. Did you ever get that feeling as you gathered around in a group, to fold your hands in front of you and solemnly refer to some sacred book? It's a peculiar inversion; we read books about how things are, or how they ought to be, and then we try to apply them to the real world. We select certain books and decide that they are "better" than other books, read them preferentially.  The worst of us kill other people because they don't read the books we read, or think the books we read ought to be interpreted differently.

All of this from a few sheets of paper with ink on them.

 We can't get rid of words, it seems; they dog us. And imagine, if you will, a world not with no books, but with no words at all. What would that world be? Words, after all, arise from the conceptual mind: The mind that “takes things together,” assembles things. A mind, in other words, that forms relationships.

If we wish to escape from the conceptual mind, we would have to escape from relationship itself. And the relationship is, indubitably, what everything consists of; time itself consists of relationships. Its properties are, as Beelzebub explains, fundamental and inescapable, being of the same order as divine Love. There is, hence, no actual escape from the conceptual mind possible; at least, not in the way that we conceive of it... if you sense a whiff of paradox, contradiction, and irony here, you should. It is an unanswerable question; the pregnant moment of what comes next—which no one knows. In any event, the idea of a world with no words at all suggests an empty world, in other words, a world that is no longer a world.

Perhaps the interesting thing about this act of questioning the world, from an inner and an outer point of view, is this moment of what comes next—the texts don't tell us that. The words don't tell us that. We stand on the cusp of the unknown. It's a place where books are relatively worthless. Yet we are not awake to it; and we lean on our concepts, our texts, our books, as though they contained the future in them, as though they could somehow tell us what comes next... what comes next in the intersection of Time and Love.

And perhaps that unanswerable mystery is the question we human beings will forever ask ourselves.

So we assemble our world; we assemble it with words, yet they are inventions.

It might be possible to assemble our world more exclusively from impressions, which have a three-centered quality; impressions of the body, physical impressions, feeling impressions, and these mental impressions, which themselves can also be formed without the use of words. Here, we might find a new meaning of the idea of things that are taken together, assembled: a conceptual framework for the world that is built out of the function of our parts, in relationship, hence congruent with the way that the world itself is formed; and not one that relies exclusively on a single part, as so much of what we conceive of with our mind does.

In The Reality of Being, de Salzmann says:

I need my thinking—but not just thoughts, words and images that capture the pure energy of the thinking and make it passive. I need my feeling—but not a feeling taken by images to which it is passably attached. And I need my body, free of any tension that holds back the energy. I see that I need the help of my functions, which otherwise will become an insurmountable obstacle. Without their help, I cannot open to the presence of myself.

 This begins in the real world. Not in books.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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