?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

CHAPTER III

THE PREPARATION OF THE MYSTIC


Here the practical man will naturally say: And pray how am I going to
do this? How shall I detach myself from the artificial world to which I
am accustomed? Where is the brake that shall stop the wheel of my
image-making mind?

I answer: You are going to do it by an educative process; a drill, of
which the first stages will, indeed, be hard enough. You have already
acknowledged the need of such mental drill, such deliberate selective
acts, in respect to the smaller matters of life. You willingly spend
time and money over that narrowing and sharpening of attention which
you call a "business training," a "legal education," the "acquirement
of a scientific method." But this new undertaking will involve the
development and the training of a layer of your consciousness which has
lain fallow in the past; the acquirement of a method you have never
used before. It is reasonable, even reassuring, that hard work and
discipline should be needed for this: that it should demand of you, if
not the renunciation of the cloister, at least the virtues of the golf
course.

The education of the mystical sense begins in self-simplification. The
feeling, willing, seeing self is to move from the various and the
analytic to the simple and the synthetic: a sentence which may cause
hard breathing and mopping of the brows on the part of the practical
man. Yet it is to you, practical man, reading these pages as you rush
through the tube to the practical work of rearranging unimportant
fragments of your universe, that this message so needed by your
time--or rather, by your want of time--is addressed. To you,
unconscious analyst, so busy reading the advertisements upon the
carriage wall, that you hardly observe the stages of your unceasing
flight: so anxiously acquisitive of the crumbs that you never lift your
eyes to the loaf. The essence of mystical contemplation is summed in
these two experiences--union with the flux of life, and union with the
Whole in which all lesser realities are resumed--and these experiences
are well within your reach. Though it is likely that the accusation
will annoy you, you are already in fact a potential contemplative: for
this act, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, is proper to all men--is,
indeed, the characteristic human activity.

More, it is probable that you are, or have been, an actual
contemplative too. Has it never happened to you to lose yourself for a
moment in a swift and satisfying experience for which you found no
name? When the world took on a strangeness, and you rushed out to meet
it, in a mood at once exultant and ashamed? Was there not an instant
when you took the lady who now orders your dinner into your arms, and
she suddenly interpreted to you the whole of the universe? a universe
so great, charged with so terrible an intensity, that you have hardly
dared to think of it since. Do you remember that horrid moment at the
concert, when you became wholly unaware of your comfortable
seven-and-sixpenny seat? Those were onsets of involuntary
contemplation; sudden partings of the conceptual veil. Dare you call
them the least significant moments of your life? Did you not then, like
the African saint, "thrill with love and dread," though you were not
provided with a label for that which you adored?

It will not help you to speak of these experiences as "mere emotion."
Mere emotion then inducted you into a world which you recognised as
more valid--in the highest sense, more rational--than that in which you
usually dwell: a world which had a wholeness, a meaning, which exceeded
the sum of its parts. Mere emotion then brought you to your knees, made
you at once proud and humble, showed you your place. It simplified and
unified existence: it stripped off the little accidents and ornaments
which perpetually deflect our vagrant attention, and gathered up the
whole being of you into one state, which felt and knew a Reality that
your intelligence could not comprehend. Such an emotion is the driving
power of spirit, and august and ultimate thing: and this your innermost
inhabitant felt it to be, whilst your eyes were open to the light.

Now that simplifying act, which is the preliminary of all mystical
experience, that gathering of the scattered bits of personality into
the one which is really you--into the "unity of your spirit," as the
mystics say--the great forces of love, beauty, wonder, grief, may do
for you now and again. These lift you perforce from the consideration
of the details to the contemplation of the All: turn you from the tidy
world of image to the ineffable world of fact. But they are fleeting
and ungovernable experiences, descending with dreadful violence on the
soul. Are you willing that your participation in Reality shall depend
wholly on these incalculable visitations: on the sudden wind and rain
that wash your windows, and let in the vision of the landscape at your
gates? You can, if you like, keep those windows clear. You can, if you
choose to turn your attention that way, learn to look out of them.
These are the two great phases in the education of every contemplative:
and they are called in the language of the mystics the purification of
the senses and the purification of the will.

Those who are so fortunate as to experience in one of its many forms
the crisis which is called "conversion" are seized, as it seems to
them, by some power stronger than themselves and turned perforce in the
right direction. They find that this irresistible power has cleansed
the windows of their homely coat of grime; and they look out,
literally, upon a new heaven and new earth. The long quiet work of
adjustment which others must undertake before any certitude rewards
them is for these concentrated into one violent shattering and
rearranging of the self, which can now begin its true career of
correspondence with the Reality it has perceived. To persons of this
type I do not address myself: but rather to the ordinary plodding
scholar of life, who must reach the same goal by a more gradual road.

What is it that smears the windows of the senses? Thought, convention,
self-interest. We throw a mist of thought between ourselves and the
external world: and through this we discern, as in a glass darkly, that
which we have arranged to see. We see it in the way in which our
neighbours see it; sometimes through a pink veil, sometimes through a
grey. Religion, indigestion, priggishness, or discontent may drape the
panes. The prismatic colours of a fashionable school of art may stain
them. Inevitably, too, we see the narrow world our windows show us, not
"in itself," but in relation to our own needs, moods, and preferences;
which exercise a selective control upon those few aspects of the whole
which penetrate to the field of consciousness and dictate the order in
which we arrange them, for the universe of the natural man is strictly
egocentric. We continue to name the living creatures with all the
placid assurance of Adam: and whatsoever we call them, that is the name
thereof. Unless we happen to be artists--and then but rarely--we never
know the "thing seen" in its purity; never, from birth to death, look
at it with disinterested eyes. Our vision and understanding of it are
governed by all that we bring with us, and mix with it, to form an
amalgam with which the mind can deal. To "purify" the senses is to
release them, so far as human beings may, from the tyranny of
egocentric judgments; to make of them the organs of direct perception.
This means that we must crush our deep-seated passion for
classification and correspondences; ignore the instinctive, selfish
question, "What does it mean to me?" learn to dip ourselves in the
universe at our gates, and know it, not from without by comprehension,
but from within by self-mergence.

Richard of St. Victor has said, that the essence of all purification is
self-simplification; the doing away of the unnecessary and unreal, the
tangles and complications of consciousness: and we must remember that
when these masters of the spiritual life speak of purity, they have in
their minds no thin, abstract notion of a rule of conduct stripped of
all colour and compounded chiefly of refusals, such as a more modern,
more arid asceticism set up. Their purity is an affirmative state;
something strong, clean, and crystalline, capable of a wholeness of
adjustment to the wholeness of a God-inhabited world. The pure soul is
like a lens from which all irrelevancies and excrescences, all the
beams and motes of egotism and prejudice, have been removed; so that it
may reflect a clear image of the one Transcendent Fact within which all
others facts are held.


"All which I took from thee I did but take,

Not for thy harms,

But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms."

All the details of existence, all satisfactions of the heart and mind,
are resumed within that Transcendent Fact, as all the colours of the
spectrum are included in white light: and we possess them best by
passing beyond them, by following back the many to the One.

The "Simple Eye" of Contemplation, about which the mystic writers say
so much, is then a synthetic sense; which sees that white light in
which all colour is, without discrete analysis of its properties. The
Simple Ear which discerns the celestial melody, hears that Tone in
which all music is resumed; thus achieving that ecstatic life of
"sensation without thought" which Keats perceived to be the substance
of true happiness.

But you, practical man, have lived all your days amongst the illusions
of multiplicity. Though you are using at every instant your innate
tendency to synthesis and simplification, since this alone creates the
semblance of order in your universe--though what you call seeing and
hearing are themselves great unifying acts--yet your attention to life
has been deliberately adjusted to a world of frittered values and
prismatic refracted lights: full of incompatible interests, of people,
principles, things. Ambitions and affections, tastes and prejudices,
are fighting for your attention. Your poor, worried consciousness flies
to and fro amongst them; it has become a restless and a complicated
thing. At this very moment your thoughts are buzzing like a swarm of
bees. The reduction of this fevered complex to a unity appears to be a
task beyond all human power. Yet the situation is not as hopeless for
you as it seems. All this is only happening upon the periphery of the
mind, where it touches and reacts to the world of appearance. At the
centre there is a stillness which even you are not able to break.
There, the rhythm of your duration is one with the rhythm of the
Universal Life. There, your essential self exists: the permanent being
which persists through and behind the flow and change of your conscious
states. You have been snatched to that centre once or twice. Turn your
consciousness inward to it deliberately. Retreat to that point whence
all the various lines of your activities flow, and to which at last
they must return. Since this alone of all that you call your "selfhood"
is possessed of eternal reality, it is surely a counsel of prudence to
acquaint yourself with its peculiarities and its powers. "Take your
seat within the heart of the thousand-petaled lotus," cries the Eastern
visionary. "Hold thou to thy Centre," says his Christian brother, "and
all things shall be thine." This is a practical recipe, not a pious
exhortation. The thing may sound absurd to you, but you can do it if
you will: standing back, as it were, from the vague and purposeless
reactions in which most men fritter their vital energies. Then you can
survey with a certain calm, a certain detachment, your universe and the
possibilities of life within it: can discern too, if you be at all
inclined to mystical adventure, the stages of the road along which you
must pass on your way towards harmony with the Real.

This universe, these possibilities, are far richer, yet far simpler
than you have supposed. Seen from the true centre of personality,
instead of the usual angle of self-interest, their scattered parts
arrange themselves in order: you begin to perceive those graduated
levels of Reality with which a purified and intensified consciousness
can unite. So, too, the road is more logically planned, falls into more
comprehensible stages, than those who dwell in a world of single vision
are willing to believe.

Now it is a paradox of human life, often observed even by the most
concrete and unimaginative of philosophers, that man seems to be poised
between two contradictory orders of Reality. Two planes of
existence--or, perhaps, two ways of apprehending existence--lie within
the possible span of his consciousness. That great pair of opposites
which metaphysicians call Being and Becoming, Eternity and Time, Unity
and Multiplicity, and others mean, when they speak of the Spiritual and
the Natural Worlds, represents the two extreme forms under which the
universe can be realised by him. The greatest men, those whose
consciousness is extended to full span, can grasp, be aware of, both.
They know themselves to live, both in the discrete, manifested,
ever-changeful parts and appearances, and also in the Whole Fact. They
react fully to both: for them there is no conflict between the
parochial and the patriotic sense. More than this, a deep instinct
sometimes assures them that the inner spring or secret of that Whole
Fact is also the inner spring and secret of their individual lives: and
that here, in this third factor, the disharmonies between the part and
the whole are resolved. As they know themselves to dwell in the world
of time and yet to be capable of transcending it, so the Ultimate
Reality, they think, inhabits yet inconceivably exceeds all that they
know to be--as the soul of the musician controls and exceeds not merely
each note of the flowing melody, but also the whole of that symphony in
which these cadences must play their part. That invulnerable spark of
vivid life, that "inward light" which these men find at their own
centres when they seek for it, is for them an earnest of the Uncreated
Light, the ineffable splendour of God, dwelling at, and energising
within the heart of things: for this spark is at once one with, yet
separate from, the Universal Soul.

So then, man, in the person of his greatest and most living
representatives, feels himself to have implicit correspondences with
three levels of existence; which we may call the Natural, the
Spiritual, and the Divine. The road on which he is to travel therefore,
the mystical education which he is to undertake, shall successively
unite him with these three worlds; stretching his consciousness to the
point at which he finds them first as three, and at last as One. Under
normal circumstances even the first of them, the natural world of
Becoming, is only present to him--unless he be an artist--in a vague
and fragmentary way. He is, of course, aware of the temporal order, a
ceaseless change and movement, birth, growth, and death, of which he is
a part. But the rapture and splendour of that everlasting flux which
India calls the Sport of God hardly reaches his understanding; he is
too busy with his own little movements to feel the full current of the
stream.

But under those abnormal circumstances on which we have touched, a
deeper level of his consciousness comes into focus; he hears the music
of surrounding things. Then he rises, through and with his awareness of
the great life of Nature, to the knowledge that he is part of another
greater life, transcending succession. In this his durational spirit is
immersed. Here all the highest values of existence are stored for him:
and it is because of his existence within this Eternal Reality, his
patriotic relationship to it, that the efforts and experiences of the
time-world have significance for him. It is from the vantage point
gained when he realises his contacts with this higher order, that he
can see with the clear eye of the artist or the mystic the World of
Becoming itself--recognise its proportions--even reach out to some
faint intuition of its ultimate worth. So, if he would be a whole man,
if he would realise all that is implicit in his humanity, he must
actualise his relationship with this supernal plane of Being: and he
shall do it, as we have seen, by simplification, by a deliberate
withdrawal of attention from the bewildering multiplicity of things, a
deliberate humble surrender of his image-making consciousness. He
already possesses, at that gathering point of personality which the old
writers sometimes called the "apex" and sometimes the "ground" of the
soul, a medium of communication with Reality. But this spiritual
principle, this gathering point of his selfhood, is just that aspect of
him which is furthest removed from the active surface consciousness. He
treats it as the busy citizen treats his national monuments. It is
there, it is important, a possession which adds dignity to his
existence; but he never has time to go in. Yet as the purified sense,
cleansed of prejudice and self-interest, can give us fleeting
communications from the actual broken-up world of duration at our
gates: so the purified and educated will can wholly withdraw the self's
attention from its usual concentration on small useful aspects of the
time-world, refuse to react to its perpetually incoming messages,
retreat to the unity of its spirit, and there make itself ready for
messages from another plane. This is the process which the mystics call
Recollection: the first stage in the training of the contemplative
consciousness.

We begin, therefore, to see that the task of union with Reality will
involve certain stages of preparation as well as stages of attainment;
and these stages of preparation--for some disinterested souls easy and
rapid, for others long and full of pain--may be grouped under two
heads. First, the disciplining and simplifying of the attention, which
is the essence of Recollection. Next, the disciplining and simplifying
of the affections and will, the orientation of the heart; which is
sometimes called by the formidable name of Purgation. So the practical
mysticism of the plain man will best be grasped by him as a five-fold
scheme of training and growth: in which the first two stages prepare
the self for union with Reality, and the last three unite it
successively with the World of Becoming, the World of Being, and
finally with that Ultimate Fact which the philosopher calls the
Absolute and the religious mystic calls God.
__________________________________________________________________
In the previous chater Underhil says that the distinguishing traits of a mystic are humility and innocence, both pointing to a simplication of one's life.  Here shr focuses on the reqirements for maintaining this innocence: purification of the senses and purification of the will.

"Cleansing the doors of perception," "polishing the mirror," "waiting for the waters to calm can be almost a full time job until we are able to keep from falling back into the selfish and illusory perceptions of the lives to which we have been accustomed.  This is why a purification of the will is required and the sometimes hard discipline that follows from that requirement.

I see the first two phases of the Eightfold Path and the first three steps of Twelve Step programs echoed in this chapter.  Purification of senses and will are a part of every religious tradition i know of from the Vision Quest of first peoples to the novitiate of monestaries.

Incidently,"synthetic" means a coherent whole from the (seeming) coming together of (seemingly) disparate parts.  It does not, to Underhill, imply anything artificial or unnatural.

She loses my attention in the last three pages before regaining it at the end. I need some examples of how the best people live in both the worlds of eternity and time.  Patriotism, as i see it, is not a consequence of mytical consciouness but of the illusory perceiving to which most of us are mostly accustomed.  It is selfishness expanded to include one's country folk.

"We begin... to see to see that union with Reality will involve ...(2) stages of preparation and (3) stages of attainment.... First, the simplifying and purifing of the attention, which is called Recolellection.  (Second) is the disciplining and simplifying of the affections and will, which .... is called

....Purgation.  .......the three stages of union with Relity are union with the World of Beconing,, (unity) with the World of Being, and, finally, (unity) with the Ultimate Fact...."  These last three stages will be called forms of Contemplation.  p.31

Profile

bobby1933
bobby1933

Latest Month

October 2018
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow