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.
All quotation is, in a sense, quoting one’s self. You tell me your religion, and you tell me who you are. The selection of book or leader is in the eye of the beholder, or it is the rock upon which we find ourselves after the latest storm. Our eye omits the inconsistencies and our ears are deaf to subtler tones beyond our kin. So we define ourselves precisely.
We can completely throw off the training wheels of book quotations, but we will read ourselves elsewhere anyway, and quote that. When the thoughts are ours at last, then our text may not be so peppered with quotation marks, unless out of respect or modesty—yet the communal obligation remains. We could try to quote pure Space but to do so we will borrow some words. Is it exaggeration to say that anything short of the absolute is quotation? We try to shrink the footnotes toward the number one. But the thoughts in space and in print are dense as stars, and we will be hard pressed to avoid quotation. It would be ideal to quote ourselves in spirit, but the best thoughts floating there are fully communal. We may fail to number our references explicitly, yet the communal ghost of our pasts, the legions who have occupied us down the ages, these still circulate freely in us.
Citing ones’ own thought is no guarantee of improvement over book quotes. A careless demonstration from book or brain is equally flat. A source without light is a source without light, weather concocted from pieces of stuff presumably “original” to one’s own cranium or drawn from ink laid down by other humans. And a prejudice housed in book or brain, and passed along has the same lack of merit.
We have a whole beach full of quotations. In the morning light I can’t see the minute bits mirroring the sun, a shinning path. When we leave Earth behind, these grains will be a memory, and we will trade them for stars. Meanwhile, we may submit thesis and antithesis about the relative dullness or luminosity of this or that point. It is good exercise for future astronauts.
Teachings are not the truth, but a catalyst to aid in approach to the truth. There are limitations to be found in every verbal formulation and in those who give them. Good teachings have merit as general guidelines and as stimulus to thinking and reflection. Also, even in a great teaching, the specifics and their application to any time and space involve much ambiguity and vagueness. So, in this sense, we are always on our own, in other words a good teaching or teacher stimulates independent thought.