Thursday, May 20, 2010

world of whispers

Pay attention to the whispers -- they aren't lying. It's no good pretending to be gooder than good: Listen to the whispers and embrace them for what they are -- your own.

The bookish, historical observations in spiritual endeavor about clashes between orthodoxy and mysticism do not interest me much. There are plenty of examples which I am too lazy to look up and bring to bear here.

But the frictions in the human heart between the contrived and the experiential, the orthodox and the mystic, do interest me. This is a world of whispers and I think they are worth heeding.

What is orthodox has rules and regulations. It is formatted and particular. It may claim a lofty aim and yet forget that aim in its exercise of rules and regs, of format and style. In this world, the church is elevated and God becomes its servant; imposing and authentic texts are revered and enlightenment comes in a distant second.

What is mystical spreads its arms wide and lays claim to what cannot be regulated or limited. It will not sit still for mere piety. It sings and dances and imagines itself to be singing and dancing.

All of this has historical exemplars, which, as I say, don't really interest me as much as the fact that this is the world of the human heart -- mystic longing for an unconstrained limitlessness and then hitting a brick wall ... the devil is in the details; the orthodoxy adhering tightly to its manacled directives in pursuit of ... and then waking up one day to find that what is sought is not clear at all and the staleness of what is called good is enough to choke a horse.

The orthodox heart builds spires and castles and then longs to break free. The mystical heart lays claim to freedom only to find itself hogtied by a lack of skill.

George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Society of Friends or Quakers is quoted in his Wikipedia space as saying,

... he heard an inner voice saying, "Thou seest how young people go together into vanity, and old people into the earth; thou must forsake all, young and old, keep out of all, and be as a stranger unto all."

A stranger unto all. It made me think of The Dhammapada's approximate lines,

If you find no equal or better
In life, go alone.
Loneliness is preferable
To the company of fools.

Perhaps wrongly, this struck me as a theme across experiential persuasions -- the enormous fear (orthodoxy) and yet deep longing (mysticism) to "be as a stranger unto all."

The whispers may not be couched as I have couched them, but I do think they are whispers worth heeding.


  1. In Islam it is believed the whispers one hears in the heart are derived from Iblis, the devil, and so should be ignored or else. Only the the authority of the Quran should be adhered to, not the weak human soul.
    In my opinion the devil is unfairly the most maligned character in religion. I say 'unfairly' because no other character is as human as the devil, but maybe herein lies the reason... He speaks from our hearts, and although he is not always right, at least he is natural.
    The Quran says Iblis is the rejector of faith (Sad [38:74]) like that's a bad thing!
    In my opinion, if the devil is against faith therefore the devil is for reason. Human reason that is. All too human.

  2. Hi Mushinronsha -- I know nothing of the Qur'an and do not wish to cause offense, but I do wonder if it is not incumbent on all of us not so much to reject and defame our devils as to meet them and see them right down to the root.

    Who would the rejector of faith be if not we ourselves? And if we reject the rejector, are we not rejecting ourselves. As the unwise elevate life and defame death ... to reject the devil strikes me as another way of rejecting God. This may be dismissed as mere human reason, but I think that in practice, rejecting anything is like clinging to anything ... a poor and ineffective idea.

    As I say, no offense intended.

  3. You call human reason "mere", but what else do we have but for our reason? Without it what is it to be human?
    For me the devil (including the Buddhist Mara) represents all that is natural, all that makes us human. When we hear whispers in our soul (mind) it is our "naturalness" (for want of a better word) that whispers. It is the devil. Sometimes the devil whispers wrong things that may do us or others harm, sometimes the whispers are beautiful and wholesome. Hopefully, as one lives and experiences, and especially using reason, one learns the difference. And yet whatever the outcome, the whispers are entirely natural.
    Monotheistic religions equate doubt with sin and sin comes from the devil. He whispers to us to doubt. He is the rejector of faith because he loves to question. And he loves reason. To question and reason rather than believe is natural for us. It is the right thing to do. To listen to the devil is human.

    I do not adhere to any religion (I style myself a free thinker) but I admit I am sometimes guilty of thinking as dualistcally as any monotheist, although I prefer to take the other side from God. The way I see it, if God represents the supernatural and if the devil is his opposite (as they say) then the devil must represent all that is natural, and so he represents all that is human.

  4. Two ways to describe God.
    What It is. or
    What It isn't.
    Either way, we die alone.