Truth

15. “sense attractions”

The downward spiral to one’s ruin consists of the following process: Brooding on (or merely thinking about) worldly attractions develops attachments to them. From attachments to sense objects come selfish desires. Thwarted desires cause anger to erupt. From anger arises delusion. This causes confusion of the mind and makes one forget the lessons of experience. Forgotten lessons of experience cloud the reason, which results in loss of discrimination (between Truth and non-Truth, Real and not-Real). Finally, losing the faculty of discrimination makes one veer from life’s only purpose, achieving union with the Divinity within. Then, unfortunately, one’s life itself is wasted. But when you can move about in a world that surrounds you with sense attractions, and yet be free of either attachment or aversion to them, tranquility comes and sits in your heart – and you are absorbed in the peace and wisdom of the Self within. Serenity, Arjuna, is the point at which all sorrow ends!

– Bhagavad Gita: ‘The Path of Knowledge’

If one sits motionless but with one’s mind ever thinking of sense attractions, that too is engaging in action. If you think that merely being motionless is being actionless, you are being a hypocrite and deluding yourself.

– Bhagavad Gita: ‘The Path of Action’

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16. “the divine dark”

In setting out the via negationis (or ‘negative’) approach to God, ‘De Theologia Mystica’ treatise of the 5th century mystic and theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite describes the ineffability of God as “the Divine Dark”:

The Divine Dark is nought else but that inaccessible light wherein the Lord is said to dwell. Although it is invisible because of its dazzling splendours and unsearchable because of the abundance of its supernatural brightness, nevertheless, whosoever deserves to see and know God rests therein; and, by the very fact that he neither sees nor knows, is truly in that which surpasses all truth and all knowledge.”

– The Pseudo-Dionysius: ‘De Mystica Theologia’

Referencing the Sufi poem ‘The Colloquy of the Birds’, Evelyn Underhill’s 1912 ‘Mysticism’ (’A study of the nature and development of man’s spiritual consciousness’) says that the sixth of the ‘Seven Valleys’ along the road to the hidden Palace of the King is known as the Valley of Amazement in which “the pilgrim’s receptive power appears to be taken from him and he is plunged in darkness and bewilderment. This is the state which Dionysius the Arcopagite, and after him many mediaeval mystics, called the Divine Dark, and described as the truest and closest of all our apprehensions of the Godhead. It is the Cloud of Unknowing: “dark from excessive bright.”

“’That meek darkness be thy mirror.’ What is this darkness? It is the ‘night of the intellect into which we are plunged when we attain to a state of consciousness which is above thought; enter on a plane of spiritual experience with which the intellect cannot deal. This is the ‘Divine Darkness’ – the Cloud of Unknowing, or of Ignorance, ‘dark with excess of light’ – preached by Dionysius the Areopagite, and eagerly accepted by his English interpreter. ‘When I say darkness, I mean a lacking of knowing . . . and for this reason it is not called a cloud of the air, but a cloud of unknowing that is betwixt thee and thy God.’ It is ‘a dark mist,’ he says again, ‘which seemeth to be between thee and the light thou aspirest to.’ This dimness and lostness of mind is a paradoxical proof of attainment. Reason is in the dark, because love has entered ‘the mysterious radiance of the Divine Dark, the inaccessible light wherein the Lord is said to dwell, and to which thought with all its struggles cannot attain.’

– Anonymous: ‘Cloud of Unknowing’

Reinhardt associates the phrase ‘the divine dark’ with Meister “Eckhardt” [sic] on several occasions, including the unpublished and undated texts ‘[Oneness]’ and ‘Black’ as well as in his ‘Black as Symbol and Concept’ contribution to the 1967 telephone seminar, subsequently published by artscanada. The phrase ‘the divine dark’ is more correctly associated with the Blessed Jan Van Ruysbroeck, as in:

When love has carried us above all things, into the Divine Dark, we receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, enfolding us and penetrating us. What is this Light, if it be not a contemplation of the Infinite, and an intuition of Eternity?

– Blessed Jan Van Ruysbroeck: ‘The Spiritual Espousals’, c1340

It is possible that Reinhardt’s error in confusing Eckhart and Ruysbroeck was due to a book review published in ‘The Tablet’ in 1963, which said:

The mysticism of the New Testament with St. Paul’s “through a glass darkly” and the teaching of the mystical body takes us to Dionysius the Areopagite and the Confessions of St. Augustine with significant quotes from the famous Book X, the real basis and ground of European mystical thought. Two themes are traced of the divine dark or unknowing, and spiritual marriage. Dr. Happold has chosen his anthology with knowledge of the principal texts so that we have Eckhardt [sic] on time and Ruysbroeck on the mystic way.

– The Tablet: ‘Books of the Week’, p. 11, 06 July 1963

54. “the plane of theory”

Hence, the Will by itself is manifestation of the Essence and other existents have been created through its means. We don’t however intend to give here the proof of this sublime matter. The devotee who understands this matter on the plane of theory and metaphysical proof, knows that his own being, as well as his worship, knowledge, will, heart, the actions of his heart, and his inward and outward being all of them are present before His Sanctity or, rather, they are presence itself. Should the pen of his intellect inscribe this truth on the tablet of his heart and should the heart attain conviction in this certain, axiomatic premise by the means of theoretical and practical exercises, he will obtain attention of the heart to the revelations on the plane of faith.

– Imam al-Nawawi: ‘Forty Hadith, An Exposition – Twenty-Seventh Hadith: Prayer And Concentration, Attention To The Worshipped One’

My internal contradictions were resolving themselves out, but still only on the plane of theory, not of practice: not for lack of good-will, but  because I was still completely fettered by my sins and my attachments.

– Thomas Merton: ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’, 1948

57. “Far-ranging mockery Wealth of possibility whose individual possibilities tend to cancel one another out”

“…open-ended, provisional, characterized by suspended judgments, disbelief in hierarchies, mistrust of solutions, denouements and completions, by self-consciousness issuing in tremendous earnestness but also in far-ranging mockery, by emphasis on the flesh to the anachronization of the spirit, by a wealth of possibility whose individual possibilities tend to cancel one another out, by unfreedom felt as freedom and the reverse, by cults of youth, sex, change, noise and chemically induced ‘truth.’ It is also a reality harboring a radical mistrust of language, writing, fiction, the imagination.”

– Richard Gilman: Review of Donald Barthelme’s ‘Snow White’, New Republic Vol. 156 Issue 22, 3 June 1967

 

63. “Deprived of their tyranny”

If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

– John Stuart Mill: ‘On Liberty’ (‘Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion’), 1859