Monday, October 19, 2015

A simplicity of understanding, part I—Straightforward

 Shelf fungus on fallen tree (felled by hurricane Sandy)
 Tallman State Park, Piermont, New York
 photograph by the author

 In the last post, I came back to this question of sensation which so often haunts my diaries. The active nature of sensation is a mystery; and one can see how little is known about it by how rarely it is mentioned in esoteric literature, even though it ought to be a foundational stone, a cornerstone, in the experience of Being, since everything builds from it. The lack of discussion of this question reveals how head-centered, how abstract, psychological, and intellectual much contemplation can be. One must contemplate wordlessly with more than just the wordless parts of the mind; we also need to discover a wordless contemplation within the body and a wordless contemplation within feeling.

 It's surprising to me how little human beings appear to pay attention to these questions. There is no life in us without Being; and yet being itself, even without the organic understanding of it, is hardly discussed within life. No one seems interested in it. Humanity has, by and large, been completely consumed with an outward sense of being, like a fungus that grows on the bark of a tree without any sense at all of the heartwood at its center. The fungus is complex and elaborate, but it is superficial: a completely derivative entity that uses the tree for support, but does nothing real to contribute to the tree or its growth. Our personalities are something like this; yet unless we engage them, we believe in them as whole things, rather than understanding them as fractions of our inner life.

I come to a direct and intelligible physical sensation of myself, within the organic sense of being, the moment I wake up, before anything else happens. I prefer to dwell there for a few moments, reminding myself of how I am alive, and how I have this experience of being within sensation, before I get out of bed and begin to deal with the events of the day. It is a grounding experience that connects the current of my being to the earth of my life.

This roof of my life is the rich soil of experience that I have taken in. It has an extraordinary depth and range that is worth savoring; there is an entire universe of experience inside me that needs to be re-assembled and reconnected so that it forms a whole relationship. Yet that whole relationship cannot rely on complexity of understanding (see the last post) in order to understand itself: it needs to rely on simplicity of understanding.

 This word simple comes from Latin roots that originally meant lowly and common, or pure. It also used to mean without duplicity. Indeed, we still sometimes use these meanings today; so when I speak of a simplicity of understanding, I mean something that is common — basic, at the ground floor of being; something that is pure; something that is not duplicitous, in other words, straightforward, and not attempting to deceive.

This question of deception is deeply integrated into complexity; complexity, of itself, comes deceiving, because it obscures straightforward understandings.

More on that in the next post.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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