Mystical Christianity: Christian spirituality: the Bible and apocrypha: alternative interpretations
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
In the following quotes from the thinkers and mystics of the west it should be apparent that, contrary to popular belief, the religious history of the Occident, specifically that of Christianity, is not simply an unfabulous compendium of categorical dogma, but is, in reality, closely aligned with the more abstract and metaphysical vision of the East, and is, through its own symbols and myths, also an attempt to emancipate individuals from fetters and concepts, to lift us from the Fall, and let the Spirit fly free of its cages.
"Thought rises to contemplate its own innerness
until its power of comprehension is annihilated."
Firstly then, in order to understand the basis of much of the West's metaphysics, we must go back to the cosmological beginning, where occurred a very important event- mankind's fall from the Heavens. That is, the historic allegory of 'The Fall', which divided mankind from the heavens, occurred for the eating of a very specific variety of fruit- the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Note, it was not the Fruit of the Tree of the Doing of Good and Evil. Thus the 'Fall' was not, as the morally minded priests and theologians would urge us to believe, an ethical event, but was, and is, instead wholly epistemological; that is, in trying to 'know', or claiming to 'know', we divorce ourselves from the Great Unknowable, and then we suffer all the horrors which this unnecessary separation produces in us.
As such, in his book The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis has Jesus say to a man who is questioning the ways of God: "Don't ask brother: it's a sin. Until a few days ago I too asked. But now I understand. This was the serpent which corrupted the first creatures and made God banish us from Paradise."
The 'fruit' which was eaten is the profane fruition of our separated questionings and understandings, which causes the whole to be divided into fragments, each of which then dwells in the hell of its own separate judging of right and wrong.
Osho states: "This is the meaning behind the biblical story. Adam is turned out of the garden of Eden because he has eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It is a very significant parable. Because of knowledge Adam is turned out of heaven, loses all his blessedness, loses all his innocence, happiness, loses immortality, becomes a mortal, becomes miserable. ...There is no other parable so significant in the whole history of religion. ...Adam's sin is knowledge."
Through the loss of 'innocent looking' we lost unity with the undifferentiated whole, and thus have we come to create a world of opinion, perspective, categorization, and separation. Sin occurs every time that through our separated perspective we think we understand, and through this false understanding and judgment about right and wrong we separate ourselves further and further from the Great Unknowable source of ourselves.
It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that we are not allowed to eat from the Tree of Life.
When we have purged ourselves of this ancestral folly, however, we shall return to the Garden through the gate of our knowledgeless Oneness.
"…the 'tree of life', with its fruit of genuine love,
spring[s] up as the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'
falls into the ground and dies and is known no more."
Eom Ida Mingle
Until then we continue to live with the profane vision, of profane things, caused by profane understanding- all because of this 'fall'.
Adam and Eve 'fell' from the space of 'unseparate watching'; they fell into mental separation from the source; for when we particularize what we see, when we seek to label, measure, understand and modify the gratuity of our miraculous beings- because we judge what is 'Good' and what is 'Evil'- that is when we unwittingly set up a false division between the one Source of ourselves, and ourselves; we create a rift between heaven and earth that is not only unnecessary, it is perilous. Judgment, any judgment, is how we separate ourselves from the One. For judgment implies two- right and wrong- and in that duality we lose our singular union. In short, morality is mortality.
It is our cognitive division of the One into the erroneous duality of right and wrong, which exiles us from the eternal union. To return to the Garden then- to regain our innocence- is to stop eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and begin again to eat from the Tree of Life; which is to say, it is to lose the mind and the way it separates and particularizes, and instead to open up our hearts and feel the One unknowable life living in and as us.
If we would only live softly, resolute in strangeness, accepting that our limited perspectives cannot do justice to the all, our false way of seeing would cease to shudder through us, and in the movement of that purity all our solemn angst would unavoidably turn to awe.
"The true knowledge and the true vision of what we seek
consists precisely in this- in not seeing."
St. Gregory of Nyssa
Knowledge is, in fact, epistemological blasphemy; we insult the majesty of 'God', so to speak, when we claim, with our little minds, to understand what God is all about. And we return to faith by giving ourselves over to the fact that we exist without knowing how or why- this is when we are 'redeemed' back to the one great mystery itself. And this we accomplish by accomplishing nothing except the annihilation of any separating thoughts or ideas from our minds, and therefore returning again to ignorant innocence.
We can now see that the Occident is not filled to the brim with only orthodox, critical, morally righteous church fathers, casting damnation ruthlessly about towards all transgressors, but there exists also a subtle heritage of more advanced, objective mystics. From them we are shown that we return to the vision of heaven through the destruction of our false vision of earth, for these visions are, in the end, of the same thing- the profane is the sacred; we need only learn to close our corrupted sight off completely, and then to see with innocent, heavenly eyes. Which is to say, we must let what we cannot comprehend remain incomprehensible, that is the only way to give mystery its due. We must no longer eat from the Tree of Knowledge, but now we must gorge ourselves upon the Tree of Unknowledge.
After all, "...this surpassing non-understanding, is 'un-understandably' above every affirmation and denial", as claimed by the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing.
This is the way home.
What we need is a return to hallowed, intentional ignorance that will lead us out of the darkness of knowing, into the light of the open window of incomprehension.
Meister Eckhart referred to the value of this 'non-understanding', in his exegesis on the first Beatitude, declaring, "...he is poor who knows nothing. ...Therefore we say that a man ought to be empty of his own knowledge, as he was when he did not exist, and let God achieve what he will..."
When knowledge has been exorcised from our brains, we are better equipped to allow the implausible to be, and we are more open to realize the inexplicable nature of the universe.
"For in contemplation we know by 'unknowing'."
To truly contemplate, is to con-template- it is to have a blank slate, no 'template', no image (graven or otherwise), no pattern, no right or wrong, no rules. And from such unconditional openness we regain our birthright in wonder.
Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of mystery.
As Eom Ida Mingle, in her prophetic tome of mystical Christianity, concludes: "...it is in the surrender of both the good and the evil of mortal sense that consciousness of reality of being is identified. ...[For] it is only when the ego has polarized both good and evil in their negative-positive aspects, each being equally non-attractive, that their forces are reduced in consciousness to their primal emptiness, or no-thing, and are usable toward reproducing the man of God's idealizing; for the man did eat every tree in the garden, including the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil,' and died to being, hence, [he] must cease to eat before he can enter into his godly state of being. ...[For] good and evil are unknown in life eternal. ...[Thus] those who have ceased to eat of 'the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil' are eligible to eat from the 'tree of life'."
This 'surrender of both good and evil' is quite a task however. The difficulty is professed by Cioran who, seeking support from the east, notes: "In the Dhammapada it is suggested that, in order to achieve deliverance, we must be rid of the double yoke of Good and Evil. That Good itself should be one of our fetters we are too spiritually retarded to be able to admit. And so we shall not be delivered."
This is a crucial recognition- that not only must the idea of evil be renounced, but that of good as well, for without one the other cannot exist. To see or seek goodness is to create badness. Thus it is quite a task for ardent optimists and positive thinkers to bridge the gap of good and evil and forge a common one, for to hold onto the hope or idea of the 'good', is to maintain the duality without admitting it, and to still be fallen from the Unknowable, Amoral One.
"Ye vainly labour at the rotten kingdom of Good and Evil.
I say that Heaven is Catholic and
none shall enter with susceptibility of either."
Austin Osman Spare
Let us note here that, as the original intention of the word 'catholicity' (i.e. open, or broad-mindedness) implies, we must continually advance into, and accept, the vast expanse of our unknowable beings, for the absolute, non-dualistic, living 'isness', or 'suchness', or 'beingness' of being becomes apparent only in the absence of all value judgements.
As such, Frank de Lima, a comedian and ex-catholic deacon, confessed, "I'm very much a product of the church, but sometimes I think my real religion is innocence."
And so, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing," wrote Rumi, "there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about."
The western way, then, is not one of dogma, but one of surrender- absolute, epistemological surrender. Indeed, mystery is the true church within which we unavoidably prostrate in worship of being. We are baptized not in water, but in disbelief.
This awe-full benediction is pronounced in one of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, which, concluding this section, runs: "Truly Abba, Joseph has found the way, for he said: I do not know."
(excerpted from THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves, by Jack Haas)