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This steady effort towards the simplifying of your tangled character,
its gradual emancipation from the fetters of the unreal, is not to
dispense you from that other special training of the attention which
the diligent practice of meditation and recollection effects. Your
pursuit of the one must never involve neglect of the other; for these
are the two sides--one moral, the other mental--of that unique process
of self-conquest which Ruysbroeck calls "the gathering of the forces of
the soul into the unity of the spirit": the welding together of all
your powers, the focussing of them upon one point. Hence they should
never, either in theory or practice, be separated. Only the act of
recollection, the constantly renewed retreat to the quiet centre of the
spirit, gives that assurance of a Reality, a calmer and more valid life
attainable by us, which supports the stress and pain of
self-simplification and permits us to hope on, even in the teeth of the
world's cruelty, indifference, degeneracy; whilst diligent
character-building alone, with its perpetual untiring efforts at
self-adjustment, its bracing, purging discipline, checks the human
tendency to relapse into and react to the obvious, and makes possible
the further development of the contemplative power.

So it is through and by these two great changes in your attitude
towards things--first, the change of attention, which enables you to
perceive a truer universe; next, the deliberate rearrangement of your
ideas, energies, and desires in harmony with that which you have
seen--that a progressive uniformity of life and experience is secured
to you, and you are defended against the dangers of an indolent and
useless mysticality. Only the real, say the mystics, can know Reality,
for "we behold that which we are," the universe which we see is
conditioned by the character of the mind that sees it: and this
realness--since that which you seek is no mere glimpse of Eternal Life,
but complete possession of it--must apply to every aspect of your
being, the rich totality of character, all the "forces of the soul,"
not to some thin and isolated "spiritual sense" alone. This is why
recollection and self-simplification--perception of, and adaptation to,
the Spiritual World in which we dwell--are the essential preparations
for the mystical life, and neither can exist in a wholesome and
well-balanced form without the other. By them the mind, the will, the
heart, which so long had dissipated their energies over a thousand
scattered notions, wants, and loves, are gradually detached from their
old exclusive preoccupation with the ephemeral interests of the self,
or of the group to which the self belongs.

You, if you practise them, will find after a time--perhaps a long
time--that the hard work which they involve has indeed brought about a
profound and definite change in you. A new suppleness has taken the
place of that rigidity which you have been accustomed to mistake for
strength of character: an easier attitude towards the accidents of
life. Your whole scale of values has undergone a silent transformation,
since you have ceased to fight for your own hand and regard the
nearest-at-hand world as the only one that counts. You have become, as
the mystics would say, "free from inordinate attachments," the "heat of
having" does not scorch you any more; and because of this you possess
great inward liberty, a sense of spaciousness and peace. Released from
the obsessions which so long had governed them, will, heart, and mind
are now all bent to the purposes of your deepest being: "gathered in
the unity of the spirit," they have fused to become an agent with which
it can act.

What form, then, shall this action take? It shall take a practical
form, shall express itself in terms of movement: the pressing outwards
of the whole personality, the eager and trustful stretching of it
towards the fresh universe which awaits you. As all scattered thinking
was cut off in recollection, as all vagrant and unworthy desires have
been killed by the exercises of detachment; so now all scattered
willing, all hesitations between the indrawing and outflowing instincts
of the soul, shall be checked and resolved. You are to push with all
your power: not to absorb ideas, but to pour forth will and love. With
this "conative act," as the psychologists would call it, the true
contemplative life begins. Contemplation, you see, has no very close
connection with dreaminess and idle musing: it is more like the intense
effort of vision, the passionate and self-forgetful act of communion,
presupposed in all creative art. It is, says one old English mystic, "a
blind intent stretching . . . a privy love pressed" in the direction of
Ultimate Beauty, athwart all the checks, hindrances, and contradictions
of the restless world: a "loving stretching out" towards Reality, says
the great Ruysbroeck, than whom none has gone further on this path.
Tension, ardour, are of its essence: it demands the perpetual exercise
of industry and courage.

We observe in such definitions as these a strange neglect of that glory
of man, the Pure Intellect, with which the spiritual prig enjoys to
believe that he can climb up to the Empyrean itself. It almost seems as
though the mystics shared Keats' view of the supremacy of feeling over
thought; and reached out towards some new and higher range of
sensation, rather than towards new and more accurate ideas. They are
ever eager to assure us that man's most sublime thoughts of the
Transcendent are but a little better than his worst: that loving
intuition is the only certain guide. "By love may He be gotten and
holden, but by thought never."

Yet here you are not to fall into the clumsy error of supposing that
the things which are beyond the grasp of reason are necessarily
unreasonable things. Immediate feeling, so far as it is true, does not
oppose but transcends and completes the highest results of thought. It
contains within itself the sum of all the processes through which
thought would pass in the act of attaining the same goal: supposing
thought to have reached--as it has not--the high pitch at which it was
capable of thinking its way all along this road.

In the preliminary act of gathering yourself together, and in those
unremitting explorations through which you came to "a knowing and a
feeling of yourself as you are," thought assuredly had its place. There
the powers of analysis, criticism, and deduction found work that they
could do. But now it is the love and will--the feeling, the intent, the
passionate desire--of the self, which shall govern your activities and
make possible your success. Few would care to brave the horrors of a
courtship conducted upon strictly intellectual lines: and contemplation
is an act of love, the wooing, not the critical study, of Divine
Reality. It is an eager outpouring of ourselves towards a Somewhat
Other for which we feel a passion of desire; a seeking, touching, and
tasting, not a considering and analysing, of the beautiful and true
wherever found. It is, as it were, a responsive act of the organism to
those Supernal Powers without, which touch and stir it. Deep humility
as towards those Powers, a willing surrender to their control, is the
first condition of success. The mystics speak much of these elusive
contacts; felt more and more in the soul, as it becomes increasingly
sensitive to the subtle movements of its spiritual environment.

"Sense, feeling, taste, complacency, and sight,

These are the true and real joys,

The living, flowing, inward, melting, bright

And heavenly pleasures; all the rest are toys;

All which are founded in Desire

As light in flame and heat in fire."

But this new method of correspondence with the universe is not to be
identified with "mere feeling" in its lowest and least orderly forms.
Contemplation does not mean abject surrender to every "mystical"
impression that comes in. It is no sentimental aestheticism or
emotional piety to which you are being invited: nor shall the
transcending of reason ever be achieved by way of spiritual silliness.
All the powers of the self, raised to their in tensest form, shall be
used in it; though used perhaps in a new way. These, the three great
faculties of love, thought, and will--with which you have been
accustomed to make great show on the periphery of consciousness--you
have, as it were, drawn inwards during the course of your inward
retreat: and by your education in detachment have cured them of their
tendency to fritter their powers amongst a multiplicity of objects.
Now, at the very heart of personality, you are alone with them; you
hold with you in that "Interior Castle," and undistracted for the
moment by the demands of practical existence, the three great tools
wherewith the soul deals with life.

As regards the life you have hitherto looked upon as "normal,"
love--understood in its widest sense, as desire, emotional
inclination--has throughout directed your activities. You did things,
sought things, learned things, even suffered things, because at bottom
you wanted to. Will has done the work to which love spurred it: thought
has assimilated the results of their activities and made for them
pictures, analyses, "explanations" of the world with which they had to
deal. But now your purified love discerns and desires, your will is set
towards, something which thought cannot really assimilate--still less
explain. "Contemplation," says Ruysbroeck, "is a knowing that is in no
wise . . . therein all the workings of the reason fail." That reason
has been trained to deal with the stuff of temporal existence. It will
only make mincemeat of your experience of Eternity if you give it a
chance; trimming, transforming, rationalising that ineffable vision,
trying to force it into a symbolic system with which the intellect can
cope. This is why the great contemplatives utter again and again their
solemn warning against the deceptiveness of thought when it ventures to
deal with the spiritual intuitions of man; crying with the author of
The Cloud of Unknowing, "Look that nothing live in thy working mind but
a naked intent stretching"--the voluntary tension of your ever-growing,
ever-moving personality pushing out towards the Real. "Love, and do
what you like," said the wise Augustine: so little does mere surface
activity count, against the deep motive that begets it.

The dynamic power of love and will, the fact that the heart's
desire--if it be intense and industrious--is a better earnest of
possible fulfilment than the most elegant theories of the spiritual
world; this is the perpetual theme of all the Christian mystics. By
such love, they think, the worlds themselves were made. By an eager
outstretching towards Reality, they tell us, we tend to move towards
Reality, to enter into its rhythm: by a humble and unquestioning
surrender to it we permit its entrance into our souls. This twofold
act, in which we find the double character of all true love--which both
gives and takes, yields and demands--is assured, if we be patient and
single-hearted, of ultimate success. At last our ignorance shall be
done away; and we shall "apprehend" the real and the eternal, as we
apprehend the sunshine when the sky is free from cloud. Therefore
"Smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing
love"--and suddenly it shall part, and disclose the blue.

"Smite," "press," "push," "strive"--these are strong words: yet they
are constantly upon the lips of the contemplatives when describing the
earlier stages of their art. Clearly, the abolition of discursive
thought is not to absolve you from the obligations of industry. You are
to "energise enthusiastically" upon new planes, where you shall see
more intensely, hear more intensely, touch and taste more intensely
than ever before: for the modes of communion which these senses make
possible to you are now to operate as parts of the one single state of
perfect intuition, of loving knowledge by union, to which you are
growing up. And gradually you come to see that, if this be so, it is
the ardent will that shall be the prime agent of your undertaking: a
will which has now become the active expression of your deepest and
purest desires. About this the recollected and simplified self is to
gather itself as a centre; and thence to look out--steadily,
deliberately--with eyes of love towards the world.

To "look with the eyes of love" seems a vague and sentimental
recommendation: yet the whole art of spiritual communion is summed in
it, and exact and important results flow from this exercise. The
attitude which it involves is an attitude of complete humility and of
receptiveness; without criticism, without clever analysis of the thing
seen. When you look thus, you surrender your I-hood; see things at last
as the artist does, for their sake, not for your own. The fundamental
unity that is in you reaches out to the unity that is in them: and you
achieve the "Simple Vision" of the poet and the mystic--that synthetic
and undistorted apprehension of things which is the antithesis of the
single vision of practical men. The doors of perception are cleansed,
and everything appears as it is. The disfiguring results of hate,
rivalry, prejudice, vanish away. Into that silent place to which
recollection has brought you, new music, new colour, new light, are
poured from the outward world. The conscious love which achieves this
vision may, indeed must, fluctuate--"As long as thou livest thou art
subject to mutability; yea, though thou wilt not!" But the will which
that love has enkindled can hold attention in the right direction. It
can refuse to relapse to unreal and egotistic correspondences; and
`continue, even in darkness, and in the suffering which such darkness
brings to the awakened spirit, its appointed task, cutting a way into
new levels of Reality.

Therefore this transitional stage in the development of the
contemplative powers--in one sense the completion of their elementary
schooling, in another the beginning of their true activities--is
concerned with the toughening and further training of that will which
self-simplification has detached from its old concentration upon the
unreal wants and interests of the self. Merged with your intuitive
love, this is to become the true agent of your encounter with Reality;
for that Simple Eye of Intention, which is so supremely your own, and
in the last resort the maker of your universe and controller of your
destiny, is nothing else but a synthesis of such energetic will and
such uncorrupt desire, turned and held in the direction of the Best.

"Detached adoration" was introduced in the previous chapter (p. 42)  as "the only attitude in which true communication with the universe is possible."  I could not have comprehended this idea without the help of 12 Step programs and a recent National Geographic article on 'the science of good and evil."

Detachment is or should be a function of the mind, while love is a function of the emotions (i.e. heart).  We are asked to treat our dangerous relatives and friends with "loving detachment."  We do not stop caring about them yet we try to maintain a proper distance from them and their problems.  The idea of detached adoration seems similar, except that here the "proper" distance is, ideally, none. Psychopaths (and autists??) have brains whose emotional pathways are unable to function as connections to other human beings.  That is why they are inclined more to violence, selfishness, and crime.  They try to rely on the mind to do the heart's work.

So this chapter tries to help us unite "love and will" through meditation and other disciplines.  Relapse into the obvious (the unreal) is very easy.  Underhill's guides for us in this wonderful chapter are variety of western mystics, topped off by John of Ruusbroec (Jon Van Ruysbroeck), a 14th century Dutch cleric of whom i knew nothing (a curcumstance that i hope to soon correct)


Dec. 25th, 2017 05:43 am (UTC)
Re: mind and emotion
Studies (separately) are coming out on harassment and rape and also on altruism. Altruists seem to have big hearts and clear neural emotional pathways. Harassers. etc. are a ;ott;e "solipsistic" as one researcher put it. And power makes people more badly behaved than otherwise. Cognitive factors don't seem to matter a lot.

Edited at 2017-12-25 05:46 am (UTC)



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