Monday, April 1, 2013
Going from here to here
This is almost invariably when I write my essays. Sometimes, I feel that I am so filled with impressions, ideas, and understanding — all of which flow constantly from sources unknown into me — that I could sit down and write book after book. It's at times like these that I feel some sympathy with Ibn Arabi whom, it is said, wrote over 500 books. The difficulty is that once one has an insight, the entire understanding comes as a whole thing in a single instant, but to expound the Dharma cannot be done in this way; it must be laid out word by word in a long path, and even then, of course, it never maintains the quality of what arrives instantaneously, in terms of real understanding.
This morning, I've been catching up on a number of impressions, which means that I am writing multiple essays at one time. They get posted sequentially; more or less along the timeline. But this belies the more or less comprehensive nature of the process of understanding, which does not take place in time.
That may sound peculiar; but Swedenborg explains that angels in heaven do not experience time; they only experience state. This means that the linear flow of time as we experience it is confusing to them; instead of experiencing sequences of events, they experience higher and lower states. What it means is that they only measure existence relative to their relationship to God. This is, in fact, the only way they measure distance, as well. Swedenborg says that the concepts of time and space as we experience them are confusing to those in the angelic realm.
I can well believe this. His words are reminiscent of many of the things written by Buddhist masters, particularly Dogen. The apparently effervescent nature of reality presented in these doctrines reflect to dissolution of time and space as conventionally understood; and indeed, within understanding and state, they don't exist. How else would it be possible to understand 10,000 things on a single question in a single instant, all of them coexisting in that instant, even though they can and must be laid out along an exhaustive timeline in order to explain them? We don't understand how so much of what is inwardly formed can be packed into a single instant. There are analogies and connections here between this question and the Big Bang.
This question of state is in fact an essential one. If you are interested in it, you might want to examine the question more carefully. Although we appear to experience time and its movement, what actually takes place is state and state alone. The question of time is in fact entirely secondary; and state affects it directly, as I pointed out before. We ought to be preoccupied strictly with our state, and this preoccupation ought to be focused on how much we turn our faces towards God. To the extent that we turn towards ourselves, we cease to exist; to the extent that we turn our faces towards God, we acquire real Being. This is a sensation of life expressed by the organism. It is relative to state, and not to time. We cannot acquire consciousness later, at some future date. We can't work "towards" it, because there is no where to go from here to here. The question is always the state we are in, and that question always exists now, not on a timeline.
Everything about Zen is about state. In fact, everything that Jeanne de Salzmann tried to teach people is about state. It is always, and forever now, about state. Approaching this from a linear point of view is, in equal parts, both mistaken and impossible. Swedenborg had it right; it is just the question of state alone, and this question is both essential and the immediate question.
May your soul be filled with light.