Sunday, January 08, 2006

Spirituality in theory and practice

In a brief meditation this morning, I found again that the poetic imagination brings theory and practice together into the communicative action of language. This is poiesis (mis)understood:
Too many people have their spiritual lives crippled by their naive acceptance of a typical modern presupposition: that theoretical learning and practical learning are independent and mutually exclusive experiences. For the spiritually handicapped, learning degenerates into two distinctly separate types of knowledge:
  • 1) merely theoretical knowledge gained from movies, books, lectures, and one's own personal experience of cognitive or (a)gnostic reality, and
  • 2) merely practical knowledge gained from applying theoretical knowledge to particular embodied events.

For the spiritually handicapped, learning about a vision quest by physically going into the wilderness is a practical experience, whereas learning about a vision quest by hearing someone speak about the vision quest is merely theoretical. However, for the shaman, alchemist, or magician, practice is always the practice of theory, and theory is always the theory of practice, the two are mutually constitutive. Language speaks/thinks being, and being is always already being spoken.Of course, for the spiritually crippled, theory and practice may not appear as mutually exclusive opposites; they may appear as part of one mystically homogenized unity, oneness, sameness, or identity, to the exclusive of all difference and plurality. In either case, what characterizes this spiritual ineptitude is the lack of transformation in the person. You can say everything is one, you can say it is all different; and if you are spiritually crippled, you use whatever you experience to reinforce your sense of safety, to reinforce your sense of ego, your sense that "everything is alright and everything is going to be alright."

To be spiritually adept, rather inept, implies that you never use experience to reinforce the safety of your habits, rather you let experience transform your habits by cutting through them to let the mysterious light of nature shine through. The adept artifex reads the book of nature (liber naturae) and lets the light of nature (lumen naturae) shine through this reading onto the essential Being of all beings.A good way to measure spiritual ineptitude vs. spiritual transformation is by exploring the way people identify or do not identify with the myriad entities and levels of reality. Most people identify with their own bodies enough to go to the bathroom instead of pissing on themselves, but most people don't identify with much else than their own body or consciousness. When spiritual transformation occurs, people identify more with other being past, present, and future. Very rarely are there fully enlightened beings who hate learning about history and hate planning for the distant future. For instance, the Buddha was very much concerned with the ancient traditions he inherited, and he was equally concerned with how the dharma was going to be transmitted throughout millenia to come.

Another instance, Sri Aurobindo's spiritual awakening was evident in his efforts to make social, economic, and political plans for a future spiritual community. Another instance, upon learning about the sitting meditation that became known as 'zazen,' Dogen worked to build monasteries and write rules to help guide future zen monastic communities. Or if you think Gandhi or Ram Dass are good examples of spiritual awakening, you can see it in their tireless efforts to bring political and social peace to people of divergent spiritual backgrounds. Consider the axiom of Mahayana Buddhism, that one's own liberation is not as important as the liberation of all beings. Hermeneut (hermeneut) wrote,@ 2005-12-23 13:09:00

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