Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage
Update, September 2003
Theme: And there was a new voice
To think and to let learn is the greatest teaching.
I've been thinking about metaphor.
What does it mean to tell? To think?
In Martin Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking (translated by J. Glenn Gray, c.1968), he writes:
For Holderlin uses the Greek word “Mnemosyne” as the name of a Titaness. According to the myth, she is the daughter of Heaven and Earth. Myth means the telling word. For the Greeks, to tell is to lay bare and make appear – both the appearance and that which has its essence in the appearance, its epiphany. “Mythos” is what has its essence in its telling – what is apparent in the unconcealedness of its appeal. The “mythos” is that appeal of foremost and radical concern to all human beings which makes man think of what appears, what is in being. (Heidegger, p.10)
Thinking, for Heidegger, is our response to the call that issues from the nature of things, from Being itself.
Memory is the gathering of thought. Thought of what? Thought of what holds us, in that we give it thought precisely because It matters what must be thought about. Thought has the gift of thinking back, a gift given because we incline toward it. Only when we are so inclined toward what in itself is to be thought about, only then are we capable of thinking.
In order to be capable of thinking, we need to learn it first. What is learning? Man learns when he disposes everything he does so that it answers to whatever essentials are addressed to him at any given moment. We learn to think by giving our mind to what is there to think about.(Heidegger, pp.3-4)
“Most thought-provoking,” to Heidegger, “is that we are still not thinking...”
How do we think of What-Is-Called-God?
"Christ is What Is...Being...Created." That's what was said last night in the circle. It was said, perhaps, without the ellipses or the capitalization. (Still, authorship, like parenting, only brings the issue into our midst; what occurs following initial arrival is open, and beyond our control.)
We are reading Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ by Andrew Harvey at Thursday Evening Conversation. Harvey is passionate and his words take long turns in dance hall length sentences.
The central benefit of Zen,
in the context of ordinary
ups and downs of life,
is not in preventing the minus
and promoting the plus,
but in directing people
to the fundamental reality
that is not under the sway of ups and downs.
- Muso Kokushi (1275-1351)
This fundamental reality is what some call God. For some there is no call to name or to assent. And for others, there is a gathering of thought that longs to remember something very basic and original, but mostly forgotten and ignored.
From a Trinitarian metaphor, if Christ is being created, (or Being Created), then the Supreme Being (often called 'Father'or 'Father/Mother') is Being Itself, and the third aspect of the Trinity (or that which transcends notions of 'one' and 'two') is Suffusing Truth Breathing Through Each and Every Being.
Let's say: Being Itself, Creating, Inspiriting.
Or: Being Source, Being Born, and Being Breathing Through.
Heidegger says we have forgotten Being.
"Logic is a very elegant tool," he [Gregory Bateson] said, "and we've got a lot of mileage out of it for two thousand years or so. The trouble is, you know, when you apply it to crabs and porpoises, and butterflies and habit formation" -- his voice trailed off, and he added after a pause, looking out over the ocean -- "you know, to all those pretty things" -- and now, looking straight at me [Capra] -- "logic won't quite do ... because that whole fabric of living things is not put together by logic. You see when you get circular trains of causation, as you always do in the living world, the use of logic will make you walk into paradoxes." ...
He stopped again, and at that moment I suddenly had an insight, making a connection to something I had been interested in for a long time. I got very excited and said with a provocative smile: "Heraclitus knew that! ... And so did Lao Tzu."
"Yes, indeed; and so do the trees over there. Logic won't do for them."
"So what do they use instead?"
"Yes, metaphor. That's how the whole fabric of mental interconnections holds together. Metaphor is right at the bottom of being alive."
(From Fritjof Capra, Uncommon Wisdom: Conversations with remarkable people (1988) Bantam, New York [page 76-77])
I’ve been trying to remember a quote heard once about metaphor and attributed, I think, to Allie Light, the Filmmaker and Director of Dialogues with Madwomen. Something to do with everything being itself and more than itself, and that we'd better learn about metaphors, or go mad.
"The logic of the emotional mind is associative; it takes elements that symbolize a reality, or trigger a memory of it, to be the same as that reality. That is why similes, metaphors and images speak directly to the emotional mind. ... If the emotional mind follows this logic and it's rules, with one element standing for another, things need not necessarily be defined by their objective identity: what matters is how they are perceived; things are as they seem. ... Indeed, in emotional life, identities can be like a hologram in the sense that a single part evokes a whole. "
(From Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (1996) Bloomsbury, London [p. 294])
Two years ago men flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon building. Last year and this year men sent bombers and military combat troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to kill and maim thousands named by them ‘enemy’ and ‘terrorist.’ So many young people broken and buried by violence and destruction. It is hard to think of these actions. They lack a clear call, or, the call they send forth has not been heard nor reflected upon with awareness and responsibility.
Reaction, yes: thought, no.
Ideology, yes: responsive action, no.
What is most thought provoking about the current bellicose state of the world is that we, the great majority of us, are not yet thinking.
"Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.
The daimon motivates. It protects. It invents and persists with stubborn fidelity. It resists compromising reasonableness and often forces deviance and oddity upon its keeper, especially when neglected or opposed. It offers comfort and can pull you into its shell, but it cannot abide innocence. It can make the body ill. It is out of step with time, finding all sorts of faults, gaps, and knots in the flow of life - and it prefers them. It has affinities with myth, since it is itself a mythical being and thinks in mythical patterns.
It has much to do with feelings of uniqueness, of grandeur and with the restlessness of the heart, its impatience, its dissatisfaction, its yearning. It needs its share of beauty. It wants to be seen, witnessed, accorded recognition, particularly by the person who is its caretaker. Metaphoric images are its first unlearned language, which provides the poetic basis of mind, making possible communication between all people and all things by means of metaphors. " (From James Hillman, The Soul's Code (1996) Random House [pages 39-40])
We need new teachers. We need teachers who will let us learn from the call that sounds from each event, person, and thing. We need to dismiss those who claim to know better than us, who decide for us, and who pursue their own fixed ideas with our resources,
The trees are not being heard. Soldiers and citizens of this and other countries are dying in hostile encounters. The metaphors of war, terrorism, payback, and self-preservation at any price no longer speak to us. They no longer speak to those in the world listening for the sounds of sanity and sensibility to reveal themselves through thinking men and women.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin thought about complexity and consciousness.
Teilhard felt that the spark of divine life he experienced in the Egyptian desert was a force present throughout the evolutionary process, guiding and shaping it every bit as much as the material forces described by physical science. Teilhard would later codify this force into two distinct, fundamental types of energy - "radial" and "tangential." Radial energy was the energy of Newtonian physics. This energy obeyed mechanistic laws, such as cause and effect, and could be quantified. Teilhard called radial energy the energy of "without." Tangential energy, on the other hand, was the energy of "within," in other words, the divine spark.
Teilhard described three types of tangential energy. In inanimate objects, he called it "pre-life." In beings that are not self-reflective, he called it "life." And in humans, he called it "consciousness." As Teilhard began to observe the world described by science, he noticed that in certain things, such as rocks, the radial energy was dominant, while the tangential energy was barely visible. Rocks, therefore, are best described by the laws that rule radial energy - physics. But in animals, in which tangential energy, or life, is present, the laws of physics are only a partial explanation. Teilhard concluded that where radial energy was dominant, the evolutionary process would be characterized by the traditional scientific laws of necessity and chance. But in those organisms in which the tangential energy was significant, the forces of life and consciousness would lead the laws of chance and natural selection.
Teilhard then moved this insight forward. As the balance of tangential energy in any given entity grew larger, he noticed that it developed naturally in the direction of consciousness. An increase in consciousness was accompanied by an increase in the overall complexity of the organism. Teilhard called this the "law of complexity consciousness," which stated that increasing complexity is accompanied by increased consciousness.
Teilhard wrote, "The living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh and bone." He argued that the primary vehicle for increasing complexity consciousness among living organisms was the nervous system. The informational wiring of a being, he argued - whether of neurons or electronics - gives birth to consciousness. As the diversification of nervous connections increases, evolution is led toward greater consciousness.
As Abraham points out, Teilhard's complexity-consciousness law is the same as what we now think of as the neural net. "We now know from neural-net technology that when there are more connections between points in a system, and there is greater strength between these connections, there will be sudden leaps in intelligence, where intelligence is defined as success rate in performing a task." If one accepts this power of connections, then the planetary neural-network of the Internet is fertile soil for the emergence of a global intelligence.
Teilhard went on to argue that there have been three major phases in the evolutionary process. The first significant phase started when life was born from the development of the biosphere. The second began at the end of the Tertiary period, when humans emerged along with self-reflective thinking. And once thinking humans began communicating around the world, along came the third phase. This was Teilhard's "thinking layer" of the biosphere, called the noosphere (from the Greek noo, for mind). Though small and scattered at first, the noosphere has continued to grow over time, particularly during the age of electronics. Teilhard described the noosphere on Earth as a crystallization: "A glow rippled outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever-widening circles, he wrote, "till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence."
His picture of the noosphere as a thinking membrane covering the planet was almost biological - it was a globe clothing itself with a brain. Teilhard wrote that the noosphere "results from the combined action of two curvatures - the roundness of the earth and the cosmic convergence of the mind." (from "A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain," by Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg, Wired Magazine Jun 1995, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.06/teilhard.html?topic=&topic_set=)
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
- Mary Oliver
So much depends on felt thought, that which embraces or at least recognizes the movement toward what is whole.
Perhaps it comes time to abandon the teachings of those whose minds have shriveled to the size of “I” and “mine” and “me.”
Perhaps it is now our job to let learning happen of itself.
To now remember being. To now enter creation. To now breathe in and out the inspiration of truth suffusing each and every being, everything that is.
I will think about this now new trinity of simplicity/complexity, silence/sound, and service/transparency.
There is no end to love. We need only learn to let it be -- to begin, be heard, and then be seen.
We need to learn to think.
To let learning create.