Autumn crocus, Sparkill, New York
photograph by the author
One hears the word understanding a great deal when discussing spiritual matters; yet exactly what does it mean to understand?
One of the meanings is to comprehend; and if we look at the word comprehend, we discover it comes from the Latin comprehender, to grasp or seize.
Now, let us think about that for a minute.
One grasps with the hands — that is, one uses a tactile, organic, sensation-laden limb and digits to take hold of that thing (whatsoever it may be). To comprehend, in other words, is to employ the organic parts of oneself (in terms of the root, literally, the hand, but it must be understood on the scale of all the cells and organs) to gain a tactile, immediate, and sensational (physically sensed) experience.
When I seek to understand, I seek exactly the same kind of direct contact and intimacy.
This idea of understanding as direct contact and intimacy is different than the intellectual knowing I usually ascribe to the word; yet it is exactly this intimate practice that causes me to understand. It has to come into the body in a new way, not just float around in the mind. So if there is a simplicity of understanding, it lacks complexity, yet it gains intimacy.
I might think of this the way I think of a lover, or an infant held in my arms. There is nothing complicated at all about it — love is love, and it is known from within without error when one encounters the real thing. It does not need to be explained with words, such as, "love is this thing," or, "now I am in love." One knows it before one begins to explain it. In the same way, when one truly understands, one knows understanding to be true — to be part of the Truth, to be divine — before one defines it, verbalizes it, labels it, or puts it in front of others.
So understanding comes as an inmate comprehension that comes before the words that describe it. Do you catch my drift?
Along these lines, let me speak about how I am now. There is an energy that is perfection which can be received in the body; and within that energy, one knows the perfection of God so certainly that one grasps, one comprehends, and one understands without any explanations, plans, or observations.
To know this perfection is so exquisite, so fine, and so intimate, and on such a beautifully rendered scale of detail, that one is left in no doubt about how God is or how God comes into me. This perfection comes before there is anything except Being; and Being comes before the world. So there is perfection; then there is Being; and then there is the world, in that order.
It is a holy Trinity. Being stands as the bridge between God's perfection and the world.
I cannot experience perfection anyway other than perfectly; I can't go out and get it, and I can't keep it. It works according to its own law, because it emanates from divinity, that is, truth, and comes before the laws. It is the law of laws.
Perfection is, in other words, not an external state at all. It is an internal one. In the same way that Gurdjieff asked his pupils to visualize Christ and then bring Christ into themselves, so does the perfection of God enter me, whether I visualize it or not. Remember: this isn't my perfection, and I am not perfect. Rather, I participate in this perfection that comes before my Being and then enters it and penetrates it. I become female in relation to the male of this perfection, because it is what enters me and plants the seed of perfection, which then grows in the body in such a way that every cell knows it.
One ought to ponder and consider this, because the perfection of God is not so very far away from anyone; yet we are rarely open to the experience of it.
Why, I could not tell you; yet I do understand — I grasp, I comprehend, and I do so in this tactile manner, through the physical sensation and the feeling sensation that come when perfection is present.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.