Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Touch the World Gently

The original root of the word intelligence is from the Latin intelligere, to understand. So when we speak of intelligence, already, we speak not just of a collection of facts, but the ability to understand.

Intelligence is one of the properties of God. Yet this isn't the kind of intelligence we have, or intelligence as we understand it. Intelligence already implies not only the intellectual, the collection and analysis of facts; it includes a feeling quality, a quality of love, and it includes the ability to have an action, which is a physical quality.

 I recall that Pema Chodron has a strong interest in the quality of what is referred to, in Buddhism, as loving kindness.  It is exactly this quality that informs true intelligence. Intelligence is informed; it is an inwardly formed property, a sensitive organic property arising from the relationship of the organism to its surroundings. It can't come from outside; there is no intelligence without consciousness. So already, as we live,  we become responsible for intelligence, simply because there could be no intelligence without the existence of the vehicle which manifests it.

Ibn Al Arabi says, Therefore, or because the world is like the body and the Perfect Man is like the spirit, the world is made up of these two, although it is larger than man in form; but this statement is only true on condition of the Perfect man's existence within it, or the world, for if he did not exist within it, it would be like a discarded body without a spirit. (Naqsh al-fusûs.)

So we are vehicles that carry intelligence, and already, at once, we are responsible first for this alone, this responsibility to God, this responsibility to act on His behalf through the acquisition of understanding. A man therefore becomes responsible for every thought, feeling, and physical action that arises in him, and it is this precise fact, his action in agency on behalf of God, that confers such an enormous responsibility on human beings. From the moment of our first breath until the day that we die, each one of us is accountable as a direct manifestation of divinity. We may not feel like that; we think that intelligence has something to do with involvement with the coarse substance of the outer world first, which then encounters our inner world and demands a response. But in fact, it is the finer substance of the inner world that contains the value, the root, and the motive force for original action.

We're always trying to fix the outer world, the disaster of human affairs. We don't understand that it is an exact reflection of our inner state. If we lack understanding and a sense of responsibility, if we lack the inner quality that is a primal force in the expression of the outer world and our relationship to it, then the outer world will lack everything that we desire in it—and indeed, generally speaking, it does.

 Intelligence has a wish to know and be known. This, too, is one of the properties of God; a wish to know. Al Arabi states, The most Beautiful Divine Names... are beyond reckoning... and demand in themselves the existence of the world in order that it become a mirror for their concealed lights and the locus of manifestation of their hidden secrets, in respect to which God said, "I was a hidden treasure, and I wanted to be known, so I created the world. (Ibid.)

 Intelligence as we generally understand it, disconnected from responsibility—or, rather, strongly connected to an outer responsibility first, which is an inversion of intelligence—is a violent force, a sword that thrusts into life.  If intelligence is rightly ordered, it is a force of loving kindness first and foremost; a gentle and loving probe, a quality that touches what is, without violating it. With the right inner order, we are able to sense this quality; it is a taste of the divine, because it belongs to God and God alone. If we ever taste it, we know immediately that this taste is something we could never create in or by ourselves. It's a Grace; never does man touch the world so gently as God, in His wisdom.

 And this is our task, in the pursuit of intimacy, in the pursuit of a higher quality that emanates from an inner center of gravity; to touch the world not with force, but gently; to allow the world to be what it is, and come into relationship with it.

The strangest thing to me in this question is that the properties of God do belong to man, they belong most exactly to man; only in no sense in quite the way in which we think they do.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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