Say that I visit a psychotherapist. I have some choices. I can visit a Jungian or a Freudian or a Lacanian or a specialist in CBT or EMDR or Gendlin’s Focusing.
In each case, the therapist will use a specialized language and practice to help me sort through whatever problem I am trying to solve. Ideally, she deploys a language modality (Jungian, Freudian, Lacanian et cetera) with which she has optimal utility.
And I will do my part and she will do hers and healing will take place and – appropriately enough – I will credit [insert therapeutic modality] for the helpful shift. Thank you B.F. Skinner! Et cetera.
This dynamic reflects the fact that when it comes to being whole/holy/healthy/happy different languages work for different people. For some of us it’s psychotherapy in the Lacanian mode. For some it’s Christianity in the ACIM mode. For some it’s entheogens in a Native American mode.
In general, it is a fact that as we pursue healing – especially spiritual or psychological healing – the mode we select reflects a specialized language. It doesn’t work for everybody. Indeed, that’s part of its attraction: it is uniquely and especially suited to our particular unique experience.
I don’t think this is inherently a problem, so long as we don’t conflate “what works for me” with “what works for all people in all places at all times.” By all means speak your truth about A Course in Miracles or zazen or EFT. Just don’t use your truth to blot out another’s equally valid experience of truth.1
If this makes sense, I want to introduce another idea.
When I visit the psychotherapist, regardless of what mode she practices, she sets her fee and I satisfy it using the same mathematical language. If a Freudian therapist and a Jungian therapist both charge $120 an hour, then both will accept 6 20-dollar bills as payment.
Mathematical language is more broadly applicable than, say, the language of A Course in Miracles. Or Jung. Or Karl Marx or the Buddha.
Why does this matter?
Because it implies that there are levels of order – and languages depicting those levels – that are more inclusive – and thus more loving2 – than what we are presently using.
Math is a good example. So is biology.
To most people, ACIM is a bizarre word salad. Yet for some of us – certainly I am one – it was bread-and-water at a moment when my spiritual hunger verged on starvation. I was dying in that desert! And the Lord came in the form of a dense and strange blue book and delivered me.
For a couple of years I was very confused by how hard it was to make salvation clear – even to folks who professed to be students of the course. I knew the path I’d followed into the desert, knew what I’d done in the desert, knew to the last grain of sand the path I’d followed out, and . . .
Maybe six people cared and five them were just humoring me out of kindness.
Then I realized that there are as many ACIMs as there are students of ACIM and the confusion went away.
It is interesting in our living to look for the broadest common language to which we have access and to see where and how it links us to other people. I tend to feel closest to fellow ACIM students, especially those who share the excessive, quasi-Vedantic language with which I understand it.
But basic math – I mean literally addition and subtraction, some division and multiplication – unite me with everybody. Folks I know, folks I’ll never know, folks who share my political views, folks who hate my political views. Folks for whom ACIM is the bee’s knees and folks for whom it’s a steaming pile of horse shit. And the network of that unity circles the globe in short order.
Seriously: spend a dollar and the universe literally quivers.
I am not suggesting we become mathematicians or reinvigorate Pythagorean cults. Rather, I am suggesting a way of looking at our living that naturally expands it to allow for more love. There are languages that are so broadly functional and accessible that they transcend race, religion, gender, politics et cetera. We don’t even know we use them.
What does this suggest or imply about our devotion to the narrow semantics we tend to adore? And
What can we do to become more skillful with these broader, simpler forms of communicating? Can we find one – or more – that are simpler even than 1 + 1 = 2?
1. I am suggesting there are many ways to a truth, somewhat the way I suggest there are many ways to Boston (the utility of which are necessarily contextually-dependent). I am not making any assertions in this post as to what Truth is; I think for the type of observer you and I are, the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” is structurally foreclosed to us. Thus, pursuing it is a distraction. The appearance of many ways are the whole game, which is actually more than sufficient to establish and nurture a shared happiness, helpfulness and inner peace.
2. I am using “loving” here in the Maturanan sense of denoting a radical equality of all observers. Buddhists aren’t better than Christians, spiders aren’t better than flies, and moonlight isn’t better than a Brooklyn 99 episode.