Most people consider spiritual emptiness something to be avoided. After all, if we’re not filled with the love of Jesus, Buddha-like compassion, the fear of God, or whatever (and there are lots and lots of whatevers) then we’re empty.
Isn’t emptiness a bad thing? When the gas tank is empty, your car stops running. When the cupboard is empty, you’ve got nothing to eat. When the bookshelf is empty, you can’t do any reading.
But what about when your spirit, or mind, is empty? Is there really nothing there, or is there more there when nothing is there than when something is there?
If you liked that last sentence, you’ll love my “Science, Spirit, and the Wisdom of Not-Knowing” essay that I’ve previously plugged on my HinesSight weblog. Of course, writing a quasi-scholarly 24-page footnote filled essay on the subject of not-knowing is a decided oxymoron.
But so is my whole Wu Project, since I’ve been engaged in making something out of nothing by thinking about Wu/Mu. One thought I’ve been having concerns faith.
Who has more faith? Someone who opens himself to a particular anticipated manifestation of divinity, or someone who opens himself unreservedly to however the divine might manifest?
I say, the second person. And in my Not-Knowing piece I provide some quotations from various traditions to back up this assertion (sources are shown in the essay):
For Taoism, “In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired; in the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.”
For Kabbalah, “Ein Sof precedes thought, and it even precedes the Nothingness out of which thought is born.”
For mystical Christianity, “God can be found only by learned ignorance.”
For Zen, “you instantly ‘see’ and understand that things are by virtue of what they are not, and that they owe their being to this not-being which is their ground and origin.”
For Sufism, “what outwardly appears existent is really nonexistent, and what seems to be nonexistent is really Existence. The outwardly paradoxical conclusion is that if man desires existence, he must seek it in his own nonexistence.”
For Buddhism, “if you want to reach the other shore of existence, give up what is before, behind, and in between. Set your mind free, and go beyond birth and death.”
Often you hear religious leaders say, “A tea cup can’t be filled unless it is empty,” to illustrate the importance of being receptive to the inpouring of spiritual teachings. But if the tea cup of our mind is thinking “Where’s the tea? Bring on the tea!” it isn’t truly empty or receptive. It’s got some decided expectations about what is going to fill it.
Back in the days when I was a Radha Soami Satsang Beas speaker, I used to frequently quote Tulsi Sahib’s mystic poetry that begins, in this translation, “Cleanse the chamber of your heart, so that the Beloved may enter. Remove all the foreign impressions, so that He can take His seat there.”
Sounds great. This is a scientific approach to spirituality. Get the instrument of consciousness clear and see what godly impressions it picks up. The problem is, most would-be spiritual scientists have already decided what characteristics the “Beloved” has. Their divine investigation is marred by preconceived ideas that skew the research program.
Here’s another perspective on spiritual emptiness that is closer to my own. Of course, an even truer perspective can be found in what immediately follows the colon at the end of this sentence: