Friday 27 June 2014

The Mystery and the Heart

What lies behind the appearances of this world and our ordinary perception of it is a mystery. We may be given some insights into that mystery from the external sources of religion and art, and the more personal ones of intuition and what we call spiritual experience but, in itself, it remains a mystery, and will do so until after death. That is true, I believe, even in the cases of those rare beings who have undergone the process called enlightenment. They may have severed the knot that binds an incarnate soul to self-identification, but, because they are still in a brain and body, they lack full and complete revelation. That will only come when the soul is set free from its earthly casings. For most of us it won't come even then, not in its entirety anyway, but the point I am trying to make is that there is no absolute knowledge in this world, and that is because of its currently very imperfect state which makes it impossible for spirit to manifest in anything like its proper purity. Speaking figuratively, the denseness of matter nowadays blocks its proper assimilation by spirit. Form, using that word in the sense of a Platonic archetype, can only manifest in a very rudimentary way. There are grounds for thinking that this will not always be the case (maybe what evolution means in spiritual terms is the refinement of matter so that eventually it may perfectly express form), but it has certainly been so for as long as we know, and will undoubtedly be so for the foreseeable future. Here we see through a glass darkly, indeed, and that goes for all of us, even if some see a lot better than others.

All of us who have some small sense of the spiritual try to describe our fleeting perceptions as best we can. But when we do this we need to be aware that words limit as much as they express, and that too close an identification with the literal meaning of the words we use can block off deeper understanding. The fundamentalist is one who prefers the security of the word (or the idea) to the more elusive freedom of the reality behind that word (or idea). Furthermore, any person aspiring to spirituality must know that we often approach the centre from very different points on the circumference which is why Christianity can speak, correctly, of the personal nature of the divine and Buddhism can speak, also correctly from its point of view, of emptiness and no self. I happen to believe that these Buddhist doctrines are largely provisional in that they relate to the cleansing of impurity and illusion, the negation of the false self and identification with form, but stop there rather than going on to see what remains when the false self has gone (which is fullness, completion and a transformed, indeed you might say a risen, self), but that is not the point. They reveal truths which Christianity, with its focus on the manifestation of God in a person, either lacks or does not emphasise, just as Christianity brings out truths neglected by Buddhism. Reality is too big to be encompassed by any one description of it, or, for that matter, by multiple descriptions of it.  It is a mystery, and is so because it is inexhaustible.

Of course, not all descriptions and depictions of the spiritual world are equally valid or of similar depth. That is something we occasionally lose sight of in these days when quantity appears to have the upper hand over quality and horizontal equalities are given more respect than hierarchical differences. Some penetrate more deeply into the mystery than others, some much more deeply and with a power that captures something of its real nature. But none can do more than hint at the mystery which remains beyond expression, inviolable and ever sacred. In truth, all we can do before it is prostrate ourselves.

The mystery is being but it is more than just being as normally understood.  After all, everyone has being and it is a common fallacy to say that, because of this simple fact, we are all already enlightened and only have to realise it. That idea may be attractive but it is not correct. For this realisation is not just a matter of intellectual insight or true seeing or meditative stillness or living in the now or stripping away illusion, though these are sometimes regarded as all it takes for the truth to stand clear and be known. To be sure, these are ways to detach oneself from the dominance of the thinking mind but, on their own, they are not entries into true spiritual being. Being can only be fully known in the heart or, to distinguish this from the physical organ with which it has nothing to do, the Heart. The Heart is to the mind as the sun is to the moon, and it is only when consciousness is fully anchored in the Heart that enlightenment takes place and the disciple enters into the mystery. Most of what passes for enlightenment these days is the enlightenment of the moon and, as such, lacks true light except that which is derived at various removes from the source. Only the person who is centred in the Heart is one with the source and only he can radiate the light as from himself, hence the golden aureole of the saints. Only he knows the mystery and he knows it because he has entered into it. And he has been able to enter into it not for the negative reason that he has disassociated himself from the mind but for the positive one that he has realised his true nature as the Heart.

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