Category Archives: words

Bags, Boxes, and People

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We think, in part, by using many labels, a necessary and useful process when done with care. These labels are rather like bags or boxes into which we neatly put our experiences, our reactions, our environment, and our fellow humans. But often our labeled-boxes mislead us because the specific people in time and space (what they actually do, value, and represent) may not correspond well to the label. So the generalizations arrayed in our minds, under associated labels, can mislead. Ironically, our mental boxes can box-us-in psychologically. When our quick firm categories lack thoughtfulness, they act as blinders. Then, it’s as if the boxes are not just in our minds but around our heads!

Image by Mendhak (modified)

Lifeless Gray Worlds

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Without energy and realization all the play with words and concepts is gray and colorless. Gray people can also talk of light and dark, of dualism and non-dualism, of Christ or Buddha, or cosmic consciousness. But in the gray world, it’s all the same, all illusions dressed in fancy words, no light, no life, no color, no realization.

Words Darkly Illuminated

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Words are useful and support community of understanding when those who use them are “on the same page,” as the cliché has it. Some language works against this through ambiguity or vagueness, which no doubt mirrors the corresponding weakness in human consciousness. Each person is free to spin words and concepts in a certain way, often without regard to the language of another or the confusion engendered. We can mitigate this Tower of Babble effect by paying close attention to the thinking and communicating process as mediated by words. One aspect of this pertains to the degeneration of terms and concepts.

Perhaps one of the most difficult word-meaning problems occurs in cases where the same word can mean opposite things. This sometimes occurs where unfriendly forces hijack a word with a benevolent tradition. For instance, a dictionary shows that the word “mystic” has suffered some debasement, having spilled over in its usage with the word “occult,” a term with some unsavory magical associations. So, a given word may point to it’s opposite where popular thought arrives at a strange mix of dark and light, of spiritual and anti-spiritual connotations.

Multiple-choice Meditative Semantics

Faith is

  • a. an emotional tendency to lean on nothing, believing it to be something.
  • b. verification by the heart
  • c. wishful thinking used to cover a multitude of sins
  • d. knowledge that is half in shadow and half in light
  • e. the passion of fools and persecutors
  • f. the bird that sings while the dawn is still dark
  • g. all of the above
  • h. none of the above
  • i. all of the above and none of the above

Loss of face is

  • a. social dishonor
  • b. a misnomer for loss of mask
  • c. gain of heart

When I speak of love, I’m usually referring to:

  • a. Dependency
  • b Idolization
  • c. Sentimentality
  • d. Friendship
  • e. Wisdom of the soul
  • f. Physical attraction
  • g. The worship of the divine through human
  • h The desire to love
  • i. The desire to be loved
  • j. Finding the right object of love
  • k. A relationship to a specific person
  • l. Selfless giving
  • m. Over protectiveness
  • n Consciousness of God
  • o Economics
  • p. Other

Most spiritual guidance is

  • a. from one’s own mind
  • b. personal delusions from one’s own mind
  • c. subconscious wish-life
  • d. aspirations from previous lives
  • e. communication from ordinary discarnate people
  • f. unconscious telepathic eavesdropping
  • g. misappropriation of thoughts floating in space
  • h. from one’s own soul
  • i. from a great spiritual teacher
  • j. tricky combinations of a few the above

Forgiveness is a sign of imperfect tolerance. True/false

Most meditation is selfish and is so not meditation at all. True/false

All people who have only two eyes and two years are blind and deaf. True/false

All true/false and multiple-choice questions are misleading oversimplifications. True/False

A Partial History of Attempts to Construct Interstellar Transport Using Small Pieces of Recycled Paper

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The teacher spoke. No one had a tape recorder handy or seemed to know shorthand. He used our words instead of his, adapting a little of what he saw we could grasp. Of the part we heard, we recalled a portion. In time, we came to understand, vaguely, a part of what our memory seemed to say. Of that portion, we wrote and spoke a little, and strangers with their own political agendas moved part of that to other languages. We heard, or thought we did—had we been women, we would have heard differently. No one in the chain thought much about the anomalies of retro-cognition, or vicissitudes of linguistic obscuration.

In the sky, sunlight in the air; on Earth, fragments on the ground…

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Fidelity in Transmission

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Everything transcendental is above the limits of external language. In direct realization we no longer need translation by linking words to meanings via external personal experiences. Yet fidelity of “reception” and “transmission” are still issues. We may catch a meaning directly, but there will still be limitations surrounding its embodiment on the personality level, that is in the form it takes in the mind, emotion, or physical world. Yet, in the depths of consciousness we can still sense the truth directly. And if the realization is revisited directly, it becomes apparent that the body we give it is inadequate. Words and images never fully embody the realities of spiritual life.

New Life, New Love, New Words

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There is a special power that comes from learning new words and from learning new meanings for familiar words. The eminent psychologist, Dr. Roberto Assagioli, wrote, “Words possess the power of stimulating and arousing activity associated with them. They evoke and make operative the meanings and idea-forces that they signify.” But I would add, they only do so when we tap into one of the deeper levels of meaning behind them.

Everything has a multitude of levels or dimensions, and our vocabulary is no exception; it evolves as we do. So we find new words for new experiences that come to us, and we find new dimensions that give deeper meaning to the words we now use. Words like “self” and “love” have many meanings, and the meanings we give them depend on our developing experience.

We can take any word our intuition underscores as important, and use it meditatively. It’s good exercise to proceed as if we don’t really know the meanings of important words we use. On some level this is always true. For instance, we might take the new word “spirit” into our vocabulary and see it in a completely new way, as if for the first time. Likewise, the new word “love” will have for us a spectrum of meanings not yet divined. We can always seek behind our words, going one dimension deeper into meaning. And when we have done that, then stay open for the next layer of meaning, and the next….

“But customs make one customary. Therefore, I urge you to look at the sky as if for the first time.”

Leaves of M’s Garden II, 191

The Deep Significance of Definitions as Arrows

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Often people imagine that a definition relates words to the world. But actually, a definition only relates words to other words—it is we who must, based on our experience, relate the words to the world. Definition is the substitution of words for other words, but it is experience that lets us to link words to the world. This is why experiences in common are the basis of communication, and why expanded consciousness is so vital to harmony and understanding.

A definition is only helpful when the words used link to our personal knowledge and experience. If we have an experience that relates to a word, then that word becomes like an arrow pointing to the experience. Where we have only the word, and lack a corresponding experience, that word remains like an arrow pointing to a question mark. We can, of course, also have in our minds a word-arrow that points to the wrong part of the world. What makes it “wrong?” It’s wrong because we are alone in our definition, so the mistaken word-arrow is useless and misleading as a means of communicating with others.

The practical value of reflecting on this is that it helps us understand something of what happens when we try and fail to communicate. And it also helps us think more clearly, because in so far as we use words when thinking, we can better understand what it is we are doing.

 

“A SONG of the rolling earth, and of words according,
Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines? Those curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the ground and sea, They are in the air, they are in you.”

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

 

Some illumination exists in understanding when we have got hold of the words, but not that which the words point to. Our psychological condition in this respect is not always as clear and obvious as one might at first think. If it were, mutual understanding would be a far more widespread than it currently is.

The key is to be free of imprisonment in our own vocabularies.  

“Each man wrappeth his thought within his own egotism and calleth the brat a new name.”

The Case of Patience Worth, Prince, Walter Franklin

The Death or Resurrection of Words

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We think and invest in symbols. The investment serves for a time. But a symbol set can only embody so much light and fire. Then, as we notice its inadequacies, the symbol begins to die. Having served us for a time, the language runs its course and we find ourselves ready to move on. Discarding thoughts and their corresponding symbols, we pass to new thought and subtler use of the mind. Some hold their symbol set closely, as if to squeeze every bit of life from it. For others, a set of symbols or words quickly becomes oppressive and must be changed more frequently. When to keep and when to discard and move on, is individual.

Otherwise considered, there are at least two ways to deal with vague, ambiguous, or troublesome words. One is to drop them in favor of more precise and fitting language. The other is to redeem them, resurrect them, dust them off, polish them until they shine and are again serviceable. While most any word can be redeemed, the question often is, in a given case, is it worth the effort? Redemption is sometimes more work and less effective than the adoption of a new verbal body for our thoughts.

The Essence and Body of Thought

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According to temperament, thoughts manifest in images or in words or sounds. We become aware of thoughts as they manifest, but there is a subtle moment just prior to manifestation, just prior to words and images—in this moment thought is without a body. Visualize the expression of thought-images and thought-sounds as from a circle of light with a brighter point of light at the center. In the process of embodiment, thought-light radiates downward or outward from the center to the periphery. If we draw close enough to this center we arrive at a quiet space where we can apprehend thought before it is incarnate, before it has a body.

External Knowledge and Intuition

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Familiar forms and familiar words

In the psychic, as in the physical, we may see, hear, or sense something and then think about it. The thing that distinguishes the phenomenal or personality-level experience is that it can generally be more or less adequately thought about and expressed in terms of forms. That is, a personality experience can be adequately described in terms of shape, color, or sound. To put it another way, since it takes place in the realm of forms, common word forms provide the natural means of communicating or recording it. We hear a voice and it might say, ”Circle of flowers,” and we may ask what does that mean? Or we see a shape that resembles a circle of flowers or colors and we ask, ”What does that mean?” The key is, when we ask such a question we’re speaking about something phenomenal, something closer to the personality or manifest realms.

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Unified field

In the paragraphs above, I’ve divided life into spiritual and personality levels, but let’s unify them because that is more realistic. So, if we are evolving, our experience of life is moving toward unity. This means that in any seeing or hearing there can be a spiritual component. Everywhere, the spiritual transparency is laid over the personal one, because the worlds and our experience of them overlap in a unified way.

So, in every experience, physical-psychic-spiritual, we’re presented with a unified field. The physical and psychic (emotional-intellectual) components of any experience may be rightly questioned. We can examine these and assess them with the mind. But if there is a spiritual component, that is, if our experience has a soul, then that is the self-validating part. The body of our experience, the form it takes in our sense or psyche (shape, color, words), these are the external or relative part, the part that intellect can address. The spiritual part is transcendent to the intellect, and the mind cannot judge that which is beyond it.

“At that instant he saw, in one blaze of light, an image of unutterable conviction, the reason why the artist works and lives and has his being—the reward he seeks—the only reward he really cares about, without which there is nothing. It is to snare the spirits of mankind in nets of magic, to make his life prevail through his creation, to wreak the vision of his life, the rude and painful substance of his own experience, into the congruence of blazing and enchanted images that are themselves the core of life, the essential pattern whence all other things proceed, the kernel of eternity.”

Time and the Rive, Thomas Wolfe

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Interpersonal Resonance

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It’s rare to resonate to the actual meaning in the mind and heart of another. Ego usually prefers a more personal interpretation. We hear words, automatically assigning them meaning based on personal knowledge. This is natural and inevitable, but our sin is that we forget about our ego and the limits of our knowledge. The interpretative process becomes thoughtless and self-centered, and we relate to another’s words in a way that misses the meaning. We jump to the conclusion that we know what’s being said. It’s a natural action of ego. It’s tricky, because words of themselves are just dead forms and illusions. We ourselves give them life, or fail to give it. Having words in our ears doesn’t mean we have the meaning in the mind and heart of the speaker. All this might seem obvious, yet this very day have we not all fallen short of the glory of communion.

The glory of meaning is in people, not in words. Meaning is an arc of light in the space between words.

“All music is what awakes from you
When you are reminded by the instruments.”

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

And in reading, thinking, and listening, all meaning is what wakes from us when we are reminded by the words.