Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Process of Integrating Truth

The process of spiritual learning requires something more than the standard method by which we are taught to learn.  The Sufis have said that in spiritual training, first "you must learn how to learn".

This is because we are used to processing knowledge by simply attempting to absorb knowledge as abstract fact. For most forms of learning, this is adequate: we can memorize facts, learn formulas for things from mathematics to kitchen recipes, intellectually analyze stories and songs and art.

But for spiritual learning it is not enough to simply 'know' something in that intellectual sense. We have to integrate spiritual knowledge as Truth, and this can only be done when we unite to that knowledge in our own consciousness.

If you simply study a spiritual system, like the I Ching, through intellectual analysis, this learning will continue to remain superficial, second-hand.  But the power of symbols is that they do not operate solely on the level of intellect, but also on the level of consciousness. Any given set of spiritual symbols, like those of the I Ching, can certainly be studied and comprehended through the level of the intellect; but to actually use them in cultivation practice (and not just theoretical study), the symbol itself must be integrated into the individual's consciousness. Unity between object and subject must be achieved, through the vehicle of Symbol.

The standard process of study separates subject from object; in fact, standard academia tends to venerate the quality of 'objectivity' in some forms of study, of keeping a certain amount of clinical distance from the topic of study.

But in spiritual learning, this is the process:

1. The object (of study) exists outside of the subject (the self).

2. On being examined experientially, the object has an effect on the subject.

3. The Symbol (that is, the concept/image/essence) of the object, is made present IN the subject's consciousness.

To "Learn", therefore, the student must repeat steps 1-3 over and over again.  This is an understanding by immersion, rather than deduction. Every time the process is repeated the integration has an effect on the student, as the symbol becomes more true in the consciousness of the student, and thus it not only becomes more understood, but also changes the student in the process.

Rather than separate subject and object, you must bring them together to attain understanding.

The ability to integrate symbol also depends on your level of attainment. As you proceed in meditation practice, in spiritual discipline, the development of Virtue, and also grow in knowledge and maturity through life experiences, you change as an Individual, and this allows you to change the extent to which you integrate symbol and the levels to which you can integrate (comprehend and be changed by) symbols. This is why spiritual teachings (including 'sacred' texts like the I Ching, as well as many others) can be read over and over again across different points in one's life, and seem very different from one reading to another, particularly if in the intervening period between one reading and the next you have grown through cultivation.

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