“Wow!” “Camat!” That’s all of spirituality in one word, for both words mean the same thing. “Wow!” is English; “Camat!” is Sanskrit. Both point to wonder, the touchstone of spirit.
I learned about camat from Luther Askeland. Recently I’ve been re-reading Luther’s book, “Ways in Mystery.” His thoughts stimulated some of my own: “Mystery is omnipresent” and “Dismantling the golem project.”
So it was a treat to get an email message from Luther on Monday. We’ve corresponded by snail mail a few times, but I didn’t know that this Minnesota philosopher and woodworker had a cyberspace presence.
Probably because of Luther’s classic writing style, and my assumption that he still lives in Welch, Minnesota, I’d always pictured him writing letters by hand under candlelight (probably after bringing the cows in).
Yet wonder of wonders, Luther has not only has email but also a website, where you can see an appropriately mysterious photo of him in his rural element and download a booklength essay: "When the Word-Animal Discovers Signlessness: A Reflection on the Possibility of the Mystical."
Here’s some of what Luther had to say. I’m thankful for being exposed to a new word, “camatkara.” I read on this web site that camatkara means consciousness without obstacles, the consciousness of a subject “who is finessed in the vibration of a marvelous enjoyment.” Sounds good.
Hello Brian. The last few days our paths have crossed, probably both in cyberspace and in mystery. I wanted to check back to your website and read through 5-6 of your recent blogs, and so I discovered of course that you have also been looking at some of my stuff lately.
We certainly seem to be in the same place--edgeless mystery!
When you say that "Wow!" and similar words are the best possible form of spiritual utterance, I'm reminded of a Sanskrit word I've frequently thought about lately: “camatkara.” It's an important term in Kashmir Shaivism, a monistic Shaivism with some basic similarities with the Vedanta.
“Camat” just by itself is an exclamation of surprise, astonishment, or wonder, just like "Wow!". “Kara” has the basic meaning of making or doing. So the basic sense of camatkara could be translated as "saying 'Wow!" or maybe as "the Wow!-word" or even the "Wow! experience."
The word is often translated as meaning astonishment, amazement, etc. And this word is frequently used in Kashmir Shaivism to point to the supreme spiritual experience or realization.
You wrote recently about the oddness of everything. Lately I've been thinking back about my fairly long path (I'm now 63) and trying to discern its main threads. And one of the most important of them is just the strong sense of that oddness.
For it has long seemed to me that the basic thing spiritually "wrong" with us isn't sin, but our extraordinary dullness. Unaware of mystery, we usually act as if all this ("the world," "This") is perfectly normal, "just what you would expect," when in fact it's infinitely abnormal, the "strangest thing," or as you write, full of oddness.
On a lighter note, I feel much more on top of things, having learned how to create a "religion of one." As soon as I sign off, I plan to look at my driver's license and get started. Thanks! and all the best to you in all your endeavors.