Category Archives: formulations

Stop Words

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In thought and communication we have a tendency to use what may be called “stop words.” For example, we may say, “God is Love,” or “Life is about awakening to truth,” or “Life is initiation into X.” The last word in such sentences is often, as we typically use it, a stop word.

Words and thoughts are intimately intertwined, often becoming for us as if one thing. The sentences, the set formulas we arrive at, often have a kind of finality to them. We make our formula with a neat ending point, a point that may easily stand as headstone marking the death of our free and open thought. We do a mental word-magic that gives us the sense that we understanding something, and perhaps sometimes we do. Yet the vast realities of life are far beyond our simple formulas and we may fail to appreciate the limited experiences of life that have given birth to our thoughts and words.

Today, I overheard someone say, “I know God is Love, but what does that mean?” This simple question is an achievement of considerable magnitude. Often, we fail to question meaning, and so in our busy verbal plentitude, fail to fathom the great distances between words and experiences.

The proselytizer on the street corner asks, “Have you been saved?” “Have you accepted Christ as your savior?” Is it not astounding that people can launch such questions at each other?

In my formula “Words express thoughts,” the last word is or can be another “stop” word. I suggested that we use words to express thoughts, but of course words also express emotion and sense experience, as well as a world of things transcendent to these.

Perhaps the wise use of words is akin to crossing a bridge. We don’t want to stop on the bridge; rather we want to crossover and ever beyond. Our use of words should be as fluid and free as the wind and the ever-widening depth of our experience. The bridge of words is no place for a permanent dwelling. Our life is in the infinite, so let our play with words like “infinite” be a truly free and open way.

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The Body of Teachers and Teachings

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We make much of the bodily aspect and it may even seem to us that the spirit is less real than the physical, so a “real” encounter comes to equal a physical one. Yet, only the spiritual component of each encounter is real. Without spiritual consciousness, a physical encounter is unconvincing and with spiritual consciousness the physical encounter may not be required. The external is, at best, an attractive adornment to a real meeting. Our ability to tie an encounter to a certain incarnate body is incidental. It is the energy component of any meeting that is essential.

And what of the bodies of the books and talks? Everywhere the mediators of great thoughts show both grandeur and flaws—the best are like magnificent stained glass windows, but with occasional cracks, splotches of dust, or missing pieces. One must find enough greatness of spirit to love the grandeur while not remaining blind to the flaws.

I do not see total validity or total authenticity in any book or person. I see that spirit pertains to the essence of things, to the rainbow of spirituality that is the foundation of the universe. But all verbal formulas provide a picture that is “through a glass darkly.” The texts we have, like our personalities, are never entirely satisfactory.

There are limits to be considered in every verbal formulation as well as in those of us who draw on the formulas. The value of a good teachings is it’s merit as general guideline and stimulus to thought and reflection. In the details and specifics, and their application to any time and space, there is often much ambiguity and vagueness. So, in a sense, we are still on our own—otherwise put—the intent of a great teaching is not to turn people into “wind up toys.” Teachings are not the truth, but a catalyst to aid us in our approach to the truth.