The Thinker's Gamble
"God cannot be thought but God can well be loved."
– "The Cloud of Unknowing"
There is a similar phenomenon for many people on the spiritual path. Like the gambler, many spiritual sojourners feel as though they are perpetually living on the precipice of living the spiritual life. They, too, have some sense of being on the verge... near completion, fulfillment - of some sort. So they keep searching... for that one last bit of esoteric knowledge that will finally deliver the goods. Then life will be as they imagine - as it should be! They, too, say over and over again, "Let it ride, baby! Let it ride!"
The people to whom I refer are those - and there are many - who tend to "think the path." That is, they are those who believe, consciously or not, that they can think their way along the spiritual journey. The truth is, however, that the spiritual journey is not a thing that can be thought, as the opening citation to this post, from The Cloud of Unknowing, advises us. That is, spiritual experience is not a mental experience, nor, for that matter, is it an emotional experience (though paradoxically, the heart is the path, on which more in a future post). Rather, it is an experience that is had when the mind, emotions, and the body are at rest; when, through spiritual practice, the input from these three centers has faded into the background of one’s awareness. In such a state, which entails such notions as devotion, surrender, and grace (more on the role these notions play in spiritual practice, also in a future post), one is prepared to receive spiritual experience.
None of this is to say that the mind does not have a place in the spiritual life. It certainly does. For instance, the mind is needed to acquire information about the path. At the same time, spiritual experience is dependent upon the ability to relinquish the mind, to resist the temptation to confuse information about the path with the path itself.
In sum, to receive spiritual experience is to have direct experience of spiritual reality. Such direct experience is not only not dependent upon the mind, it has the prerequisite of "no mind." Returning to our opening metaphor, direct experience requires that one stop rolling the dice! Then, and only then, will the game be over. Then and only then will one know that one knows that one knows what it is that one seeks to know - which truly cannot be "known!" Sit (don't think) with that for a while.
Give up that bad gambling habit, friends, and sit, instead. You've already hit "black 17"! You just don't know it yet.
Comments are closed.