Norman D. Livergood
This essay is an effort to activate, create, and re-discover a new language of spiritual inspiration which makes hitherto unrecognized realities existent, evident, patent, apparent, and understood.
This new language is composed not only of words but also of new forms of interpersonal interchange and interaction, symbols, images, 1 sounds, and processes, all of which have the potential to convey deep meaning.
We'll first examine the characteristics and functions of ordinary language and end by explicating the qualities and powers of the new spiritual language being introduced in this essay.
The Characteristics and Functions of Ordinary Language
Language sets the limits as to what humans can experience, understand and accomplish. If a language lacks specific concepts or if the people no longer understand those concepts, then their meaning and power cease to be available to them.
As a fish is unaware that it lives in water, we now live in a "reality" contrived by the words, concepts, and theories of thinkers such as Plato, Newton, and Adam Smith. The "reality" we've accepted from these men is unconsciously a part of our awareness. "Idea," "matter," and "property" are much more than intellectual frameworks, they tell us what reality is.
We now see and hear and touch a "reality" concocted from past thinkers' ideas--those which we've chosen to adopt. What we experience is limited to what their concepts allow us to see, consider possible, think, and do. Our present Platonian-Newtonian-Smithian "reality" now seems so complete and unquestionable that few people have the ability to capture the sense of a different reality.
Persons fail to use specific concepts because they:
All we know is learned through the language we use. Our perceptions are formed and controlled by language. Through our use of a common language, we create a cultural store of meanings about the world and ourselves.
- Never learn the concept
- Have forgotten the concept
- Have no interest in the concept
- Misunderstand the concept
- Accept a false definition of the concept
Through the use of language, we communicate meanings to other persons. The initiator of the communication must have some meaning in mind when she begins the communication. Her choice of sign or symbol must correctly convey her meaning. The message must not be completely blocked by "static:" inadvertent or deliberate corruption of the message. The recipient of the message must possess sufficient intelligence and grasp of the language to understand the meaning conveyed.
Through communication we impart or share the meaning and understanding of concepts. If concepts are understood and accepted, they become a new part of the person to whom the concept was imparted.
Many concepts, however, are blocked deliberately or inadvertently.
The Qualities and Powers of the New Spiritual Language
Part of what occurs in this new language is the rediscovery and restoration of words and meanings which have been lost through disuse, ignorance, or rejection. In the contemporary world, many humans no longer have a grasp of essential concepts--because they're never been taught them, have forgotten them, no longer have any interest in them, misunderstand them, or have accepted a false definition of the concepts. To illustrate, we'll examine four such concept-words: truth, inspiration, intuition, and communion.
At present, truth is being misdefined as "whatever lies can be communicated without the recipient reacting so as to cause harm to the initiator." When truth is misdefined in this way, then the genuine meaning of truth (correspondence with reality) becomes unknown to many people. Gullible people begin to believe whatever they're told, losing the ability to think for themselves and participate in an informed manner in their government. We must then return to such Perennialist savants as Proclus to learn once again that "truth is co-existent with Higher Beings in the same manner as light with the sun."
Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness . . .
At present, most humans have lost the real meaning of "inspiration." They've been conditioned to believe that it's merely a mild form of positive affect or effect, as in the phrase: "That music is certainly inspiring."
Inspiration is actually a spiritual faculty which has been forsaken through ignorance and neglect. An act of inspiration occurs when a person allows a new entity (person, force, concept, meaning, sensation, image) to flow through her mind or being from a higher source. A new idea, for example, does not come merely from a rearranging of concepts or words, but arises from a deeper organ of apprehension within.
- a divine influence or action on a person held to qualify him to receive and communicate a higher divulgence
- the quality or state of being inspired
- an inspiration agent or influence
- to breathe or blow into or upon
- to infuse (as life) by breathing [archaic]
- to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural illumination
- to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on
- to communicate to an agent supernaturally
- to bring about
In this sense, inspiration constitutes a new language as in the new definition of "language" above: "a system, methodology, or procedure for making hitherto unrecognized realities (persons, forces, objects, processes, events, meanings) existent, evident, patent, apparent, and understood."
Inspiration creates awareness of new realities which were either unnoticed or non-existent. For example, inspiration can create the awareness of the essential meaning of truth in a world where truth has been misdefined as "whatever lies you can get away with."
"Thoughts came flying like snowflakes or grains of corn invisibly from above, and it was as though divine power took hold of me and inspired me, so that I did not know where I was, who was with me, who I was, or what I was saying or writing; for just then the flow of ideas was given me, a delightful clearness, keen insight, and lucid mastery of material, as if the inner eye were able to see everything with the greatest distinctness."
Philo Judaeus of Alexandria
Inspiration can lead to awareness of the reality of oneness of all things 2 where that reality was not present in a person's awareness prior to the experience of inspiration.
Ordinary language contains hints of the deeper meaning of inspiration in such words as "conceive." When we express a new concept, we speak of its "conception." This implies that there is an implanting of a "seed" from an external source into our mind which then is "born" after a gestation period. Conceptual thought cannot turn back on this process and fully grasp what inspiration is, since it is the entrance of another dimension into the terrestrial domain. Note that we use the word "entrance" to mean arrival but which also contains the meanings of "to put into a trance; to carry away with delight, wonder, or rapture."
The new language of spiritual inspiration is in part created as we experience episodes of illumination, but it also is constituted by the re-discovery of the forgotten meanings of ordinary words, as in the case of "conception" and "entrance" above.
- Immediate apprehension or cognition
- The power or faculty of attaining to direct
knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference
We have largely lost any genuine understanding of "intuition." We fritter it away with such inane phrases as "She has woman's intuition." Even the ordinary dictionary meanings of this term, however, point to an extra-ordinary faculty capable of "immediate apprehension" and "direct knowledge." Intuition, then, is an organ or faculty which allows us to apprehend reality directly, without the intervention of rational cogitation.
The ordinary meaning of "communion" has degenerated to depicting a common religious ceremony or the rather casual joining with people or other entities, as in "I was communing with nature."
As we saw in an earlier essay, spiritual inspiration involves communion with kindred souls, not only psychically as spiritual beings but also through their inspired artistic creations: writings, art, and shared acts of kindness.
- An act or instance of sharing and commemorating
- Intimate fellowship (community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience) or rapport (relation marked by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity)
Other Expressions of the New Language of Inspiration
"How, in the contemporary period, can we evoke the imagery that communicates the most profound and most richly developed sense of experiencing life? These images must point past themselves to that ultimate truth which must be told: that life does not have any one absolutely fixed meaning. These images must point past all meanings given, beyond all definitions and relationships, to that really ineffable mystery that is just the existence, the being of ourselves and of our world."
"If we give that mystery an exact meaning we diminish the experience of its real depth. But when a poet carries the mind into a context of meanings and then pitches it past those, one knows that marvelous rapture that comes from going past all categories of definition. Here we sense the function of metaphor that allows us to make a journey we could not otherwise make, past all categories of definition."
Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That:
Transforming Religious Metaphors
"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
"We speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things in spiritual language."
I Corinthians 2:13
"It is something like learning another language so you can listen intelligibly. Each time you desire to travel beyond your present country you must say to yourself. Am I thinking and listening in the right language? Otherwise communication is hopeless."
Across the Unknown
"I believe that art is a spiritual language you can use to communicate with people; no matter what language they speak."
"When angels and spirits turn themselves to man they do not know otherwise than that the man's language is their own and that they have no other language; and for the reason that they are there in the man's language, and not in their own, which they have forgotten. But as soon as they turn themselves away from the man they are in their own angelic and spiritual language, and know nothing about the man's language. I have had a like experience when in company with angels and in a state like theirs. I then talked with them in their language and knew nothing of my own, having forgotten it; but as soon as I ceased to be present with them I was in my own language.
Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen
"It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair's breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance. . . To perceive freshly, with fresh senses is to be inspired."
Henry David Thoreau
Perennialist Koans: 3
- An aphorism which, when received by a prepared person--one who has developed the correct attitudes and values--produces an epiphany (in Zen Buddhism, termed Satori)
- Example: a Perennialist koan which produces an epiphany of spacelessness and eternity in the prepared mind
"Place itself has no place
How could there be place
for the creator of place
heaven for the maker of heaven."
Hakim Sanai, The Walled Garden of Truth
"The spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"For language, as Richard Trench pointed out long ago, is often 'wiser, not merely than the vulgar, but even than the wisest of those who speak it. Sometimes it locks up truths which were once well known, but have been forgotten. In other cases it holds the germs of truth which, though they were never plainly discerned, the genius of its framers caught a glimpse of it in a happy moment of divination."
Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret. For this darkness, though of deepest obscurity, is yet radiantly clear; and, though beyond touch and sight, it more than fills our unseeing minds with splendours of transcendent beauty."
Dionysius the Areopagite
Making Hitherto Unrecognized Realities Evident
The new spiritual language we are rediscovering and developing has the power to make hitherto unrecognized realities evident to us. On one level, this can be experienced when we see a copy of Bierstadt's painting titled Dogwood.
In this image of a beautiful woodland scene,we see a small stream in the foreground, streaked with red, reflecting the forest leaves. A deer stands near two giant trees, looking across the stream. A brilliant dogwood in full blossom stands on the bank of the stream.
It's easy to look at this image for some time and fail to see the second deer across the stream, gazing at the first deer in the foreground. Only if someone points out the second deer does it become evident, does it become real for that person.
I have a copy of Bierstadt's "Dogwood" on the wall of our cozy room where I meditate on it as inclination and opportunity allow. (It's right next to my wife's copy of Matisse's "Goldfish," a rather sedate painting as you can see).
As I sit contemplating "Dogwood" I can't actually see the second deer--across the stream. But I know it's there nonetheless. Just as I know that one of the numinous titles for Matisse's "Goldfish" is "Moving Life" to contrast it to "Still Life" and know that one of the numinous titles for "Dogwood" is "Still Expectancy."
The "language" we're re-discovering is not limited to words, concepts, or thoughts; it "speaks" in many tongues to make us aware of unknown dimensions within this terrestrial world. A poignant expression of this new language occurs in the movie American Beauty.
"When you see something like that [a dead person], it's like God is looking right at you, just for a second. And if you're careful you can look right back."
"And what do you see?"
"It was one of those days, where it's a minute away from snowing. And there's this electricity in the air. You can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes!
"That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things. And this incredibly benevolent Force wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid. Ever!"
"Video's a poor excuse, I know. but it helps me remember. I need to remember."
"When Love Speaks"
Inspiration--from whatever source--constitutes a new language which makes hitherto unrecognized realities apparent. Inspiration creates awareness of realities which were either unnoticed or non-realized. 4
This new language of inspiration
"gives to every power a double power,
above their functions and their offices;
it adds a precious seeing to the eye,"
as Shakespeare says.
It's difficult for us to fully comprehend that this new language creates an entirely new world. Not just new concepts or feelings, but a new reality.
But love, first learned in a lady's eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain;
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.
It adds a precious seeing to the eye; . . .
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
Love's Labours Lost
As Walter Lippmann makes clear in A Preface to Morals:
"The understanding creates a new environment. The more subtle and discriminating, the more informed and sympathetic the understanding is, the more complex and yet ordered do the things about us become . . . A world which is ordinarily unseen has become visible through the understanding."
We can best learn to "speak" this new spiritual language through engaging in dialectical interchange, so persons desiring to be literate in this new tongue will need to study these essays:
- Plato's Mystical Science of Dialectic
- What and How Plato's Dialogues Teach
- Dialectic As Transformative Interchange
In learning to speak and hear with this esoteric language, it's useful to envision the unquestionable reality of those departed souls most precious to us in an eternal "conversation"--with one another and with us.
"With this experience--feeling oneself in the astral body--there will be a meeting in the spiritual world, the meeting with the other self, the second self. . . Whatever we have brought with us in the way of thought content unfolds a spirit conversation in cosmic language with a living thought-being of that realm. . . We experience this other self . . . in such a way that we feel almost as though . . . we confront what we might call our past, brought into the spirit world in the form of memory and transformed into something spiritual by being brought there. And this past of ours begins a conversation in the region where living thought-beings converse."
Dan Merkur, Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of
Mystical Visions and Unions
As with most originally dynamic concepts within Jesus' teachings, the one dealing with this reality has been distorted into a mere dogma called "the communion of the saints." But even within the ecclesiastical expressions of this concept, for example in the Westminster Confession, there remain hints of esoteric truths.
Saints--living and passed souls--are said to be united to Jesus by his Spirit and have fellowship with him. And "being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as to conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man."
In the same manner, we can learn to "commune" with exalted souls such as Plato or Shakespeare--and with living spirits on the same preeminent plane. How inspiring to realize--and contemplate--what super-natural works these advanced souls are carrying on in the spiritual domain.
"The 'invisible world' is at all times, at various places, interpenetrating ordinary reality. Things which we take to be inexplicable are in fact due to this intervention. People do not recognize the participation of this "world" in our own, because they believe that they know the real cause of events. They do not.
"It is only when you can hold in your mind the possibility of another dimension sometimes impinging upon the ordinary experiences that this dimension can become available to you."
Idries Shah, The Sufis
1As with my other essays of this type, I encourage readers to use the images as meditation points as they contemplate what is being said.
2 "The illusion from which we are seeking to extricate ourselves is not that constituted by the realm of space and time, but that which comes from failing to know that realm from the standpoint of a higher vision. We are at length restored to consciousness by awakening in a real universe, the universe created by the One Mind as opposed to that perversion of it which has been created by our egocentric selves. We then see the visible world as the expression of the immanental life of God, the Divine in manifestation. In relating ourselves to it we live in that Presence subjectively in the depths of our mystical being. And in the properly integrated personality the two processes have become one." Lawrence Hyde, The Nameless Faith, (1950)
3 "These stories and sayings contain patterns, like blueprints, for various inner exercises in attention, mental posture, and higher perception, summarized in extremely brief vignettes enabling the individual to hold entire universes of thought in mind all at once, without running through doctrinal discourses or disrupting ordinary consciousness of everyday affairs." Thomas Cleary, 1994, Instant Zen - Waking Up in the Present
"In Zen, practitioners use kung-an as subjects for meditation until their mind comes to awakening. There is a big difference between a kung-an and a math problem - the solution of the math problem is included in the problem itself, while the response to the kung-an lies in the life of the practitioner. The kung-an is a useful instrument in the work of awakening, just as a pick is a useful instrument in working on the ground. What is accomplished from working on the ground depends on the person doing the work and not just on the pick. The kung-an is not an enigma to resolve; this is why we cannot say that it is a theme or subject of meditation." Thich Nhat Hanh, 1995, Zen Keys
4 Realize: make real or concrete; give reality to; be fully aware or cognizant of