The Knowledge of Good and Evil
This chapter is about thinking based on spiritual principles and infinite words. Such thinking involves reaching beyond where we may have gone before, keeping our conclusions in line with spiritual principles, and being receptive to the infinite meanings of words.
The greater the content and scale of good we try to grasp in an idea, the farther we reach from what we have already conceived, the more abstract and ethereal our starting point is bound to be. As we reach out farther on the scale from concrete to abstract, words capture more of the essence of the ideas that represent them, because they are less constrained by limited pictures.
Ethereal ideas can have enormous value. Relative to its size, a steam turbine can produce much more power than a water wheel. The more ethereal a given medium, the more more useful energy can be produced through its exhaustion. However, compared to a pound of ice, it is more difficult to contain a pound of water, and harder still to hold a pound of steam. While the medium of energy transfer becomes more ethereal and consequently more potent, the technology for its use becomes more demanding. In the same way, it takes successively more persistence and ingenuity of mind to harness ideas as they become more abstract. In our attempts to conceive the infinite idea, we are not unlike those looking for the universal solvent. When we find it, where will we put it?
Because of the containment issue, we are initially more comfortable thinking about ideas we can picture than thinking about ideas that may be to some extent unimaginable. To conceive of an idea, we must start with its identity, origin, and essence. Then, we must provide a place where the idea can take shape and form, a place where we can experience its conception. The type and scale of the mind determines the type and scale of the thoughts it can contain. One can begin thinking about spiritual or infinite ideas by postulating a mind in which spiritual or infinite ideas are native. One can define a relationship with such a mind and then reflect upon that mind as one's own. This method can awaken whatever relation to a spiritual or infinite mind may be accessible to us.
If we want to increase the shapes and forms and feelings of goodness we encounter in daily life, we may find ourselves looking more into their essence and content. We will be happy to find that improved form and structure gradually appear as we assimilate more of spiritual essence and content. Being a spiritually minded thinker naturally results in our understanding the real essence of things. Being an infinitely minded thinker means having knowledge of the wholeness of ideas and of their relationship to us as identity. The most powerful thought seeds come from infinite spiritual identity and essence. As we glimpse the heart of pure identity and essence, new form and structure begin to dawn.
Reading about these ideas and thinking about them can be very useful mental exercise. It would be of real value to spend time meditating and thinking about topics introduced in the next chapter. I remember one time when I spent one hour just thinking about the word Spirit and all the things that it could possibly mean. I used a few different adjectives to help define my ultimate of Spirit, to modify it, elaborate on it, and to help me discern new meanings. I thought about Spirit as a name for deity, apart from any limitations of my senses, benevolent in its effects, powerful and unopposed, and boundless in its extent. It was challenging to concentrate on that idea and to keep thinking about it without having my mind wander for too long to the pictures on the wall or to the lovely day outside. Afterward, I could not have told you of any particularly striking ideas that I had, other than remembering a few of the faintest wisps of insight and having a page of jotted notes. And I remember the day after that, too. The whole world looked different to me. It was as if the world I saw around me had been infused with spiritual light. For days afterward, I had a palpable awareness of the presence and supremacy of spiritual goodness.
Reflecting on any spiritual or infinite idea of goodness energizes the principle of self-multiplication. When we affectionately ponder spiritual thoughts, they multiply themselves. They get bigger to our sight. Wisps of spiritual ideas gather like an invisible vapor collecting in thought. These pure ideas can accumulate in the rarefied reaches of mentality for only so long before they begin to appear to us as spiritual perceptions, like water vapor gathering into clouds. As the process continues, like clouds turning to rain, our spiritual perceptions condense into concrete ideas and beliefs that begin to lend their shape to our sense of reality. Then the spiritual substance we had collected and come to treasure in what appeared as a purely internal and subjective arena, our innermost thoughts, is reflected back to us as what we see around us. It becomes as though our internal sense of spiritual goodness has turned inside out, and our outside world appears infused with, if not constituted of, the spiritual goodness we had cultivated within. This works, but it sometimes requires a lot of patience.
The idea of glimpsing invisible spiritually mental stuff may seem remote. You can come to experience such an idea, however, through the cultivation and exercise of spiritual sense. Spiritual sense is your awareness of the goodness and reality of the spiritual dimension. There are ways that you can occasionally see transcendent spiritual substance, in rare momentary glimpses, appearing to be more visibly tangible and concrete than the physical objects you now see around you.
Our entry into the contemplation of spiritual essences here will begin by using words to open our thoughts to spiritual ideas. We will try to think slowly about these words and let them magnify themselves and reveal more of themselves to our thinking.
Another useful technique is to form relationships between groups of words to see what new meanings or consequences can be implied by the relationships. In expanding our sense of goodness, we might begin with words we might define as being purely good, like love or truth or life. In the world of spiritual principles, every good idea is related to every other through common identity. Because infinity is one, it can always be said that truth is love or that life is truth or that love is life. This is a good way to get started in thinking disciplined by spiritual principles: to form a new relationship, imagine what meanings might be suggested by the relationship, and then put those new meanings into words, perhaps jotting them in a notebook.
When you are meditating in the realm of pure spiritual goodness, it does not take long for your thoughts to grow in a direction different from the way your world looks. That is one of the beauties of transcendent thinking. When holding thoughts at the level of absolute spiritual principles, the contrast with your worldly sense of things will soon challenge you to stop thinking independently and to go back to the level of merely observing your beliefs about the world. If you persist in reflecting on spiritual principles, your thinking will eventually lead you to challenge and re-think some of your beliefs.
As if thinking based on spiritual principles is not enough, this may sometimes involve having to think upstream. Starting to think along spiritual lines might at first seem to be moving hard against a current. Whether this current is individual or collective, or whether it is inertial or aggressive, it can still feel like a pull in opposite directions. It takes no more daily practice and dedication to master this than it takes to achieve similar measures of success in athletics or music.
In contemplating pure infinite goodness, we could meditate endlessly on the words without conceiving ideas unless we have soil to go with our thought seeds. At early levels of practice, in energizing obedience to law, we try not to do things wrong. Trying not to do things wrong gives us good soil in which to benefit from doing things right. In the same way, making room for new beliefs requires clearing out the opposites of faith and trust and love, and it involves correcting instances where those may have been misplaced. Clearing away beliefs of opposition and false reliances makes mental room to serve as fertile soil in which to grow better beliefs. Withdrawing our volition from unprincipled thought makes room for spiritually principled thinking to seed consciousness. In each case, it is not just good seed but good soil that needs to be present. Vanquishing discordant or limiting beliefs and thinking from right principles can provide soil and seed so our spiritual meditations can germinate into spiritual ideas of wholeness.
Copyright 1994, Jim Chapman
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