Thought, Awareness and the Ability to Comprehend

Spring gesticulated; fell back. So it goes in March: one day you’re jacketless and whistling back at Robins, the next you’re watching gusts of wind blow thin streams of snow beneath the back door. The chickens huddle in beds of straw and the dog looks back at you, as if to say: really? Even in this weather?

Yet walking is prayer for me: and prayer the way I extend toward God as God extends toward me, ever intent on restoring to my divided mind a memory of wholeness, our shared movement of reaching twining strains of an unbroken canticum novum. To say this, even poetically, especially poetically, is not nothing: when we give word to our insight, we effectively translate it to understanding, and thus lay a path in darkness, much like Hansel with his pocket full of white stones. The path is not the destination but it can move us towards the destination. At least it can help.

All this, of course is words – words purporting to describe a process that is ongoing, measurable, observable, susceptible to influence. But in a sense – an important one – nothing is happening. But in another, we are waking up to this nothing, and that waking resembles an event – an activity that is unfolding within time. We cannot escape that sensation. To our bodies, the world will always be real, just as to the machinations of our brains, thought will always seem as if it is just about to “get it.”

But Life is not containable: and it cannot be reduced to anything the body (which includes the brain) can grasp, the way it grasps baking bread, or paddling when in water, or adding three to three and getting six. Until we accept this we are going to proceed in circles. As soon as we render the Infinite in language – God, Truth, Pure Being, Shiva, Source et cetera – we have curtailed what cannot be curtailed. We are gesturing toward God, but the gesture itself is not God, even as it intimates God.

Sri Aurobindo said it was okay to do this so long as one appreciated the way that words appear distinct and sure but are in fact misleading and even violent in their apparent representation of reality.

He said that when we use language responsibly – which is to say, with burgeoning awareness of its limitations – then

[W]e begin also to perceive that the limitations we impose on the Brahman arise from a narrowness of experience in the individual mind which concentrates itself on one aspect of the Unknowable and proceeds forthwith to deny or disparage all the rest. We tend always to translate too rigidly what we can conceive or know of the Absolute into the terms of our own particular relativity (The Life Divine 33).

There is a correlative in A Course in Miracles, which emphasizes that miracles are done through us without our understanding precisely what miracles are (T-16.II.2:4-6). This is not necessarily to denigrate the intellect but rather to move in the direction of understanding the natural limitations of its helpfulness.

You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing (T-18.IV.7:5-6).

It cannot be said enough: we cannot think our way to salvation. But we can reason our way to seeing the futility of thought, the folly of repeating what has not worked, and the concomitant need for an alternative that operates in and through us, even as it is not of us. Thus we open: little by little: making a space for the Infinite that never left. Emily Dickinson is – as always – instructive:

The Absolute – removed
The Relative away –
That I Unto Himself adjust
My slow idolatry (488)

It is not imperative that we learn fast or thoroughly, for even learning can become an idol obscuring our awareness of God. But it is imperative that we question everything: learning and resistance to learning and the language that seems to envelope them both. Attention given – gently, consistently, in a sustainable way – to these things will never not finally reveal the fullness of which we are in truth composed.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • the happy forgive March 14, 2014, 1:44 pm

    …and yet, I think and think and think, trying so hard to understand just one little bit of the madness.

    • Sean Reagan March 14, 2014, 3:07 pm

      Yes, me too. On and on it goes until we are finally ready to say enough, there must be another way. And then the other way opens . . .

      Thank you for reading & being here!

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