I’m attracted to simplicity. My mind is complex, like most minds are. So in spite of this, or because of this, a great big “Yes!” resonates in my psyche when I come across seriously simple summations of spirituality. (Guess I should make that a “Yes-s-s-s!”)
“God is love.” Pretty good. But that’s too simple for me. And overly Hallmark cardish. I prefer Meister Eckhart’s way of putting it. A wonderful blend of simplicity and profundity.
The eye with which I see God is exactly the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowledge, and one love.
Like Toby Johnson, I frequently begin and end my meditation with an attempt at grokking this appealing, yet elusive, two sentence mystic theology. I like how Eckhart unifies the seeker and what is sought, the seer and what is seen.
Also, knowledge and love, which are too often regarded as spiritual contraries rather than precisely the same phenomenon. How is it possible to truly love something or someone you don’t really know? And how is it possible to really know something or someone without uniting as completely as possible with it/them—the essence of love?
One is the simplest number. And the simplest spirituality. Religions adore “two,” “three,” or more. The Trinity always has seemed way too complex for me. Even the common metaphor of drop (soul), wave (spirit), and ocean (God) all being the same thing seems to excessively divide the ultimate unity that both science and mysticism point to.
“The eye with which I see God is exactly the same eye with which God sees me.” The same-sounding “eye” and “I” in this English sentence makes it a marvelous koan. Here I am, looking out at the world and inward at myself.
How astounding, this Eckhartian hypothesis that what is doing the looking is precisely what I’m looking for. And, how baffling. Yet that’s the nature of utter simplicity: formless, featureless, ungraspable, unrecognizable.
One and nothing sum to the same total. With one, there is nothing other. With nothing, there is only that one.
The mystic Greek philosopher Plotinus advises, “One must not make it [the One] two even for the sake of forming an idea of it.” Oops. I’ve been doing just that. But I figure that it is much better to think about the One than about the Many, even though my thinking is divisive.
There are ideas that turn you toward simplicity. There also are ideas that turn you toward complexity. By and large, you can tell the difference between spirituality and religion in just this fashion: how simple is the message being preached?
Religions shun the use of Occam’s Razor. They don’t want there to be simply one, for then what place would there be for priests, prophets, gurus, masters, and other mediators if no distance separates God’s eye and our eye?
I consider that true sages like Plotinus point us toward the truth within ourselves, while false teachers point us toward the truth that they say lies within them. Here are a couple of favorite Plotinus quotations from my book:
If you have become this, and seen it, and become pure and alone with yourself, with nothing now preventing you from becoming one in this way, and have nothing extraneous mixed within your self…if you see that this is what you have become, then you have become vision.
Be confident in yourself: you have already ascended here and now, and no longer need someone to show you the way. Open your eyes and see.
This is the real goal for the soul: to touch and to behold this light itself, by means of itself. She does not wish to see it by means of some other light; what she wants to see is that light by means of which she is able to see. What she must behold is precisely that by which she was illuminated.
...How, then, could this come about? Eliminate everything [that is not light]!
I agree, spirituality should be simple. Do you ever wonder if Plotinus ever found the truth of spirituality?
Posted by: Roger | July 12, 2006 at 12:15 PM
I don't see this as baffling, this to me is the clearest, sanest apprehension of reality in words: one power, one being, one life.
The surprising part for me is always the illusion of separation, which is fun once you realize you don't have to believe it.
I don't trust my senses, my memory, my experience, to tell me the truth about anything. I don't put my faith into one discrete part of experience or expression. And since I can't pay attention to everything at once, yet life goes on without me or you, I expect that the whole, (the one) is really the over-riding intelligence.
My faith or lack is not tied to the material: it is all. I guess it could be foolish to associate love and knowledge, but destruction and devolution are available to me as well. At any given time, it feels better emotionally and physically to assume I am loved than to assume I am hated: I sleep better, and I think everyone does.
Which seems to equate faith with the basic needs. Robert Bly says: "A man and a woman are one. A man and a woman and a blackbird are one."
Say that outloud and you'll hear the blackbird fly.
Posted by: Edward | July 15, 2006 at 07:38 AM