Thursday, October 24, 2013

A New Dawn

After about 5 years of "imaginary" activity (i.e. where conscious phenomena largely served as projections of unconscious meaning) I felt the growing inclination to drop many of my daily involvements through a new immersion in spiritual contemplation.

So in holistic mathematical terms, there was firstly the positing of "imaginary" activity leading to the old problem of growing possessive attachment to phenomena. This was then followed by a period of gradual withdrawal and detachment constituting the corresponding negation of such phenomena. However as the deeper roots of such attachment lie deep within the unconscious, there are strong limitations to the degree of possible success with mere active negation.

So as before there was now a return to the more passive stages of spiritual contemplative illumination.

It was around this time in the early 80's that once again I began to experience a strong resonance with the writings of St. John of the Cross.

Though whereas previously in was the "Ascent of Mount Carmel" and "The Dark Night" treatise that chiefly exercised my attention on this occasion it was "The Spiritual Canticle" to which I turned.

Now in many ways the approach of  "The Spiritual Canticle" is very different from the "The Dark Night"

Both are similar to the extent that are constructed in the form of opening poetic verse that is then followed by commentary and the more detailed explanations of the author.

However " The Dark Night" poem though utterly beautiful in its own right is very different in tone and much shorter at 8 stanzas from the substantial commentary that follows (which at best bears only a very tenuous connection with the poetic verse preceding).

In the case of "The Spiritual Canticle" the opening poem is  much longer (running to 40 stanzas). In this case the commentary directly elaborates on each stanza. However the commentary here is much less intellectually structured than with "The Dark Night". It seems obvious to me that St. John wanted to give freer affective expression to archetypal fantasies springing from the unconscious.

However this raises a considerable problem that I have already mentioned in that a certain discontinuity thereby exists with respect to spiritual development as portrayed in both "The Dark Night" and "The Spiritual Canticle".

In other words whereas St. John provides a satisfying intellectual account of the spiritual stages up to and including "The Dark Night", I do not consider that this is true with respect to his treatment of further on-going development.

One of the difficulties here is that he was not accustomed to the modern distinction as between the conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche (though such divisions are indeed implied).

For example St. John would maintain that earliest contemplative life would centre around the life of the senses (followed later by intellect and will). So we have initially the illumination of the senses (both actively and passively) with the corresponding purgation of the senses (again actively and passively).

However it is very necessary in this context to properly distinguish the conscious nature of such activity from its unconscious counterpart.

Thus though the transcendent aspect is indeed vital with respect to the satisfactory cleansing of the (conscious) sense activity, the immanent aspect by contrast is necessary with respect to corresponding cleansing of (unconscious) sense activity (such as with erotic fantasies).

Therefore though the immanent aspect is indeed implied with respect to development succeeding "The Dark Night", St. John never successfully reconciles this with his earlier intellectual account.

In other words a decisive change in direction from transcendent to immanent is required to successfully negotiate "The Dark Night" crisis (which is never made clear by St. John).

However if we accept that much of what I am saying is indeed indirectly implied in his writing, then we can remain in substantial agreement with respect to the new spiritual illumination that now occurs.

It is in stanzas 14 and 15 that this new phase of illumination is depicted in a spiritual manner with the beautiful lines

"My Beloved is the mountains,
And Lonely Wooded valleys,
Strange islands,
And resounding rivers,
The whistling of love-stirring breezes

The tranquil night
 At the time of the rising dawn,
Silent music,
Sounding solitude,
The supper that refreshes and deepens love"

It has to be remembered that the earlier Level 1 (Band 3) which culminates in "The Dark Night" is geared to the successful harmonisation of both the external (impersonal) and internal (personal) aspects of experience.

So when illumination is eventually restored at this new level (level 2) it combines in a very passive peaceful manner, substantial nondual intuitive integration of both of these aspects.

Thus every symbol now directly mediates both twin personal and impersonal aspects.

So we are accustomed to look at the world from a scientific perspective in impersonal terms (with respect to its mere quantitative nature). We then are more accustomed to see the world in more personal qualitative terms from an artistic perspective.  However a considerable split remains in our culture as between both the scientific and artistic worldviews.

So one way at looking at this new stage of illumination is that it automatically combines both scientific and artistic appreciation in the same undivided experience.

Thus the spiritual illumination that unfolds is of a much more refined nature (where it is considerably less influenced by the distractions of everyday phenomenal activities).

Indeed it represents just like the dawn itself (before light properly appears) a dim form of contemplation where universal holistic appreciation of relationships remains very pronounced.

Alternatively it can be closely linked to the pale light of the moon which on a clear peaceful night can convey a wonderful sense of deep intimacy.

Now whereas illumination and purgation are dramatically contrasted at the previous level, this is not the case here. One indeed alternates as between illumination and its withdrawal (which St. John likens to a cold north wind). However to a considerable extent one can now integrate both aspects with equanimity. So one just accepts now as an inevitable part of experience that consolations of any kind are inevitably followed by periods of desolation (so as to prevent the undue attachment to the phenomenal means by which spiritual illumination is mediated).

The attention here in fact switches in a more vertical direction.

Whereas before one attempted to integrate polarities (external and internal) within a given level, the attention now starts to seriously focus on the integration of complementary "higher" and "lower" stages of development.

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