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.
If we’re free from attachment to any particular school of thought—assuming we are not empty headed—it probably means our concepts and predisposition are drawn from a variety of sources, perhaps without much conscious thought, or more rarely by a thoughtful eclectic approach.
But most persons are more formal in their identifications. They take upon themselves fixed ideas and orientations inherited from some collective, from some social matrix or group, or from reading. Individual affinity plays a role, and the karma of our group connections. We all have these connections, these mental and emotional locations and identifications, some obvious and some subtler.
Whether obvious or not, it helps to see that a school of thought is a temporary dwelling and not a fortress. In fact we might think of our school of thought more like a bridge than a house. We don’t stop, settle down, and build a house on a bridge.
Each school of thought has its value and its limits. When we mentally “incarnate” in a particular school, the trick is to realize that we are “not that.” The distance, the “divine detachment” between our “I” and the school, maximizes the value and minimizes the limits. The real value of identifications is in the motion and motivations they support. Each identification gives a certain spin, and if we’re fortunate, ascendancy to our thinking.
It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel, so a thoughtful person should not be afraid of mentally incarnating in a particular school of thought—a primary teaching or a secondary one can both be valuable because needs are highly individual. But the key of freedom is in our awareness of the limitations of any identification we may take up and in the realization that schools of thought, the forms of things, never say all that can and should be said about anything. There should never be a sense of finality in a teaching because there is always more beyond the current horizon.
At any moment in time, we are always worlds more than we imagine ourselves to be. There is the self we know at the moment, and there is infinitely greater life of the future. The lesser is like a point and the greater like space. In the greater is hidden an infinity of unimagined possibilities. “Time,” relates to our limits, but timelessness, the infinite, leads us beyond all imagined limits. The individual is like a flower hidden in a seed, where the current external appearance, the tiny point of potentiality, offers little clue to what will unfold. What we are–the fullness of our hidden powers and potentials–only become clear in the revelation of the future, in that prophetic space where we sense the beauty of the infinite. In this we discover worlds undreamed of. The galvanizing surprise is transformative, and in this we perpetually discover our limits are not what we thought.
Art by metalyman
To be without love is to be without spirit. Heartlessness and selfishness conspire with a materialism that measures human life by time and limitation. But love is resonant with the sense of the timeless spiritual—it is the extrasensory eye that views the hidden life and special being of life beyond time.
Naturally, the realization of timeless love has profound effects on how we experience and relate to others. The famous researcher in extra-sensory perception, Dr. J. B. Rhine, wrote:
“Our treatment of people obviously depends on what we think they are. The more we think of our fellowmen as deterministic physical systems, robots, machines, brains–the more heartlessly and selfishly we can allow ourselves to deal with them… On the other hand, the more we appreciate their mental life as unique… more original and creative than mere space-time mass relations of matter, the more we are interested in them as individuals and the more we tend to respect them and consider their viewpoints and feelings.”
At first glance, it may seem that love is uncertain and ephemeral, and that relations born from it do not last. But it is not love that is ephemeral, but the form of it under particular limitations of karma. True love exists in consciousness; is essentially spiritual and above circumstance. It is a faculty of the soul, and in fact the very nature of the deep self. Its binding power, its ability to harmoniously unite persons in a given instance may fail. But love as soul power remains, even where the limitations of persons thwart it. Behind the uncertainty of persons, behind the complex weaving of karma, the certain of love as the power of consciousness, shines continually.
The soul is immortal and its future is without limit. That is why real love brings with it a true intuition of the infinite. People pledge their love forever. Lovers, songwriters, and poets of each generation repeat similar lyrics. “I will love you till the end of time,” they say, “My love will never die.” The experience of love is instinctively linked to the feeling of “forever,” to a sense of moving beyond time. People speak of “immortal love.” The reason is clear–the consciousness of love gives the true sense of being without limits. If we look at the experience of love, we discover a most amazing thing–lovers pledge their love forever because a sense of “forever” is revealed by love. It is the nature of the soul. The writer Nathaniel Hawthorn put this clearly:
“We are but shadows: we are not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream–till the heart be touched. That touch creates us–then we begin to be–thereby we are inheritors of eternity.”
Art by Cornelia Knopp
Some measure of evil, or not Life, is born with incarnation, with the taking of form, with leaving the “father’s home,” with separation from divinity. Illusion, the virtual synonym, comes into being with this separation. And so it is said that everything external is maya, being other than the pure light of source. This formulation has a certain value, but by it alone we cannot find our place between the candle and the star because all manifestations are relative.
A flower is not as remote from divinity as the cruelty of fanatics. Yet both are manifestations other than or apart from absolute Life or divinity. We may say the flower and the cruel man are illusions, and so they are, but they are not equal. So we find that the most abstract concept of good and evil, yielding as it does a simple binary, corresponds poorly to daily life and required decisions. We must, standing somewhere between the candle and the star, bring righteous to decisions.
In love and wisdom there is movement toward life and light. This orientation is the antithesis of evil and the basis of right choice.