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.
A book of Yoga states “Death conquers death.” The meaning is paradoxical. There are two types of death: death as release from a limiting form, and death as imprisonment in form. Unilluminated incarnation is a dim and relatively lifeless existence; hence it is the temporary “death” of spirit. But death as freedom from a set form is entrance into greater life and a true action of spirit.
The benevolence of timely death is wide in scope. So, we hold to a certain pattern of thought or emotional identification, then find it no longer serves. We catch a glimpse of the next turn of the spiral. The old patterns fall away as our mind and heart ascends to the next strata of understanding. This is the freedom of death, the action of a powerful and benevolent principle. Hence, “Death conquers death.”
Looking out upon the world, it may sometimes seem that a beautiful change is not possible. The weight of the world and its chaos seems overwhelming. And it is the same when, at certain stage, we confront the burden of our own chaos. Some find the weight so great they become seriously ill or even end their own life in a vain attempt at escape. So also in the large world where it sometimes seems whole nations are obsessed with a path of chaos and death. The pain and chaos of group and the personal worlds mirror each other.
But there is a moment of realization, the moment when we wake to inner power and divinity. In this revelatory light, all things look different, and all things look possible. There is then no barrier too high and no way too difficult. We come to know then, with certainty, that the ultimate triumph of the good is inevitable. No matter the history or the long chain of dark days. It becomes clear that no circumstance and no limits can ultimately withstand the transformative energy of spirit. No cycle of chaos will remain unbroken. The power of divinity spirals up irresistibly and may not be denied. No human construction can long withstand it. There will be a new world in the future, and it will be good beyond dreaming.
“Love, from its awful throne of patient power
In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour
Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,
And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs,
And folds over the world its healing wings.”
— Percy Bysshe Shelley
Intuition can manifest in relation to persons. For instance, the eyes, the quality of the voice, and the way a person moves, express their inner nature. Intuition penetrates to the combined meaning of these expressions. As R. W. Emerson said, ”Wise men read very sharply all of your private history in your look and gait and behavior.”
We can also see ourselves by intuition. Spiritual intuition progressively reveals our own nature as well as the ambient one. This is logically correct because intuition is unification and embraces both the center and the periphery of everything.
There is no phenomena where intuition would fail to function, because intuition derives from the unified field of meaning that underlies all things. In this sense, intuition is unlimited. Yet in practice, intuition does function unevenly in us according to our temperament and affinities, and its precipitation in a given field is dependent on a period of mental or meditative focus in that field. For instance, if we are not born a scientist or do not deliberately develop ourselves along that line, we would not expect to be the vehicle for revelation of the mysteries of nature in the scientific sense.
Do the senses distort reality? It is more than that. In a way, we live in double maya, and we could say our senses distort unreality rather than reality. On the surface of it, our senses put us in touch with maya—the external world. On to this maya, we project additional interpretative illusion. So, for instance, it might be said that we do not see things as they are—even physical things—but we project another layer of unreality upon them from our habit self. So we have unreality compounded by the dullness of our own perceptual habits-limitations.
There is book on the philosophy of drawing and painting titled, How to Draw what you See. The gist of this book is that people generally do not draw or paint well because they do not see what is in front of their eyes. Instead, they see a kind of stick-figure creation in their own minds and draw that. From this point of view, the ability to actually see more clearly what is right before our eyes would be a step toward the real—a kind of yoga of maya. I think though, that in truth, this yoga of maya moves toward real art, that is, it would shade over into subtler yogas because spirit and matter are an essential unity.
Someone says, ”Ancient wisdom states in different ways that we live in a world of maya, that our senses distort reality.” Yet we know spirit and matter are a unity, so we could also say the opposite that: “Ancient wisdom states in different ways that we live in a world of reality, and that our hyper-dimensional senses progressively reveal this reality.” This is a way of saying that the senses have multidimensional levels. It is only seeing or hearing or sensing in the most superficial way that is maya mirroring maya. To really see is to move inward or upward in graded steps, in other words, to be initiated into new revelations of what is present in consciousness and in the universe. We learn to see what has always been before our eyes, and also through that to deeper realms beyond.
“What was any art but a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself.”
— Willa Cather
In the atmosphere there are fire flowers of luminous things. Billions of these flowers hover in the to-be-done regions, waiting for a body. The trick is taking on the ones that truly belong to us, and refraining from appropriating those that do not. There are many wonderful things hovering in the air that are not our work and for which we may not be suited. Many of these are of stunning beauty and have a Siren quality, hence the excitement and the danger, for contact with them tends to inspire action. We must find each days work within a universe of infinite possibilities.
Semantics is the study of meaning in language, thought, and communication. Our thoughts are embodied in language and images. We give our thoughts bodies; we create these bodies in the act of forming words and pictures. We incarnate in our thoughts and words and become identified with them. This identification is apt to create an illusion in that we feel we have hold of reality whereas in fact, we often only have hold of the words, some mental pictures and associated intellectual constructions.
The soul of words is the meaning, the experience that our words point to, or should point to. It is this living experience, the consciousness behind the forms that ensouls words. By this understanding of the nature of our verbal and conceptual incarnations we arrive at the possibility of Transpersonal Semantics. The word “transpersonal” points to that which is beyond the personal. “Semantics” refers to the meaning of words.
Let us define Transpersonal Semantics as spiritual-perspective-semantics. It is a way of thinking about body and soul with special reference to the way we humans use language in thinking and communication. So, a certain approach to semantics becomes an art of spiritual interpretation–a way of thinking and talking about spiritual and material problems and their solutions. In this sense, a key to better thinking is found by constant awareness of the difference between form and essence, between word and reality, between thought and the silent reality behind thought.
There is cosmic Truth; kin to the energy that patterns all the suns in Space. It is transcendent Spirit, pure Light beyond thought and word.
There is Monadic truth, the sun-like core of Self, mystically one with spatial suns.
There is intuitional truth, pure Beautiful light, and more of truth than fits most any brain.
There is truth of soul, a fire above the mind, and great, but well below the fires of the great hierarchy of suns.
There is the relative truth that developed mind takes and forms to words. It embraces the practical and the communicative. It is thought-truth in which we may see, from time to time, mirrored sparkles of things cosmic and mysterious.
There are truths on the many strata of the emotional plane, an array of sensing and sensitivities in graded steps from most beautiful downward toward the darkly glamorous and exclusive pseudo truths of the fanatics.
But what is our relation to truth? We are light obstructions becoming clear light transmitters. All the common of intellect, of emotion and body, and all ordinary noise that we do and say—all this competes with the pure pressures from above, with the transcendental. So, in our sleepy misalignment we block our creative gifts, and our fears, greater than our loving desire to give, hold us in prison.
Yet then there comes the upward turned eye, the pure feeling, the creatively tensed thought—these instruments of divinity manifest. And as the eye mirrors suns in the far depths of space, so a certain turn of mind and heart mirrors the mystic, the most Transcendent. Then we render ourselves most clearly, drawing ever closer to the energy that patterns suns, ever closer to transcendent Spirit, to pure Light beyond thought and word.
Are words better able to convey mundane experiences than subtle or spiritual ones? No, because the virtues and limits of words are the same in each case. It’s experience in common that makes all communication via words possible, because the meaning of everything (from the most spiritual to the most material) is not in the words but in the consciousness of the listener or reader.
“The eyesight has another eyesight and the hearing another hearing and the voice another voice.”
—Henry David Thoreau
Let us consider the world of the “esoteric” or “spiritual science”—these suggests a wide diversity of things such as psychic phenomena, the supernatural, mysticism, meditation, tarot card reading, kabalistic obscurity, crystal balls, reincarnation, astral bodies, auras and chakaras, Eastern thought, metaphysics, and the occult. For some, the language may also call to mind witches and wizards, seances, a yogi in a mountain cave, magical charms, mysterious rites, and perhaps even some UFOs thrown in. And for some, the esoteric terms even associate with cults, satanic worship, or some TV show on the latest strange, weird, or bizarre phenomena. We might say that, the human scene, being what it is, people inevitably acquire a superficial picture; a caricature of whatever realities esoteric language is intended to point to. And among many people, a term like “esoteric” or “occult” conjures emotions most strange, while in this maze of language and concepts–usually but vaguely and poorly defined–wander the metaphysically oriented people of the world.
All this is not to belittle the truth underlying the language, but rather to help us realize more clearly the difficulties of discerning that truth. It helps to realize that excellent things are rare, and that for every true teacher, there are a thousand pretentious gurus. For every true psychic, there are a thousand pseudopsychics. For every prophetic visionary, thousands of false prophets walk the earth. And for every truly enlightened individual, there are thousands spiritual charlatans. And the matter is further complicated by the fact that we rarely have just obviously “false” communications but a cryptic blend of the true, and half-true, of false, and a partly false. There are a thousands of shades of partly true offered us from every direction.
And everywhere we find systems, gimmicks, offerings of pretty packages, of effortless cures and quick enlightenments, and even metaphysical versions of get-rich-quick schemes. And for every purely wrought axiom of wisdom, there are a thousand clichés and inferior versions.
It may also help us to realize that, at one extreme, everything becomes counterfeited and debased. Everything has false and glamorous versions. Everything has illusory and shadowy counterparts. So, on the surface, everywhere is scattered fool’s gold.
At the other extreme, in deeper spaces, is the clear gold light of wisdom. But between the extremes is a world of grays where things gradually shade toward the light. This is the world where our discrimination and insight are constantly tested. This is the world where we must learn to think and see ever more clearly. We live along a twilight path of human understanding, a world mixed of dark and light. Yet, along the way, we may more optimistically recall that shadows suggest the light that cast them.
Take heart then that the Powers that be thought so well of us as to lay upon our path such difficult circumstances. Our own powers are equal to the challenge, if not today, then surely tomorrow, and we have an infinity of tomorrows.
Let us bring out of the dense fabric of human thought some clear ideas, set them upon a pedestal, elevated, striking, luminous—suitable objects for reflection. The light of them is beautiful and, in one way, simple, yielding to us by interior radiance that vision of clarity we so deeply need for the difficult journey.
The past is finite but the future is infinite. The past is useful up to a point. Yet seeking our identity in the past, the past becomes a heavy drag upon consciousness and killer of freedom. The past corresponds to a limitation, to set forms that have come and gone. Yet people define themselves mainly by the past, so binding themselves to the fixed boundaries and the circumscribed habits of personality and group.
The inner self is prophetic, so it is possible to find identity in the light of the future. There is nothing of value in the past that will not be better-born in the future. The value of what was, the soul of it, is always in motion and not long tethered to any time and form. So, when the time is right, let the flowers and melodies of yesterday fade, all their beauty was borrowed from the timeless–the source of their wonder is now and ahead upon the path of ascent.
Everything is gateway and symbol. See these dots: . . . They’re an “ellipsis,” a form of punctuation indicating an omission. The word “ellipsis” is from Latin and means, “to fall short.” When we speak, write, or think, we always fall short and the ellipsis reminds us of it. Therefore, add an implicit ellipsis to each thought and expression.
The ellipsis is the most important form of punctuation. It should be burned into our memory like bright dots of fire. These little dots are not dots at all: they are points of light opening into the larger cosmos. The ellipsis has a powerful gateway attribute. It’s one of the most useful symbols in an open-minded person’s equipment. It reminds us that there’s always more to everything than is said or expressed. This means that no book, group, idea, teacher, philosophy, religion or science, ever tells us all we need to know about anything. There is always more beyond what is given.
Also useful for our understanding is the word “etcetera,” from the Latin, “the rest.” It is an antidote to our human tendency of period-and-stop thinking. The word should remind us of the bad habit we sometimes have of picking up a piece of the truth and saying with it. This is simple and obvious yet rarely understood and applied.