Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Heart

Anyone who has probed the inner life to a certain extent, who has sat in silence long enough to experience the stillness of the mind behind its apparent noise, is faced with a mystery. Apart from all the outer attractions of life in the world, there exists at the heart of human consciousness something else, something quite satisfying and beautiful in itself, a beauty without features. The mystery is not so much that these two dimensions exist--an outer world and the mystery of the inner world--but that the human being is suspended between them--as a space in which both meet. It is as if the human being is the meeting point, the threshold between two worlds. Anyone who has explored this inwardness to a certain degree will know that it holds a great beauty and power. In fact, to be unaware of this mystery of inwardness is to be incomplete.

According to the great formulator of Sufi psychology, Al-Ghazalli:

There is nothing closer to you than yourself. If you don't know your self, how will you know others? You might say, "I know myself," but you are mistaken.... The only thing you know about your self is your physical appearance. The only thing you know about your inside (batin, your unconscious) is that when you are hungry you eat, when you are angry, you fight, and when you are consumed by passion, you make love. In this regard you are equal to any animal. You have to seek the reality within yourself.... What are you? Where have you come from and where are you going. What is your role in the world? Why have you been created? Where does your happiness life? If you would like to know yourself, you should know that you are created by two things. One is your body and your outer appearance (zahir) which you can see with your eyes. The other is your inner forces (batin). This is the part you cannot see, but you can know with your insight. The reality of your existence is in your inwardness (batin, unconscious). Everything is a servant of your inward heart.

In Sufism, "knowing" can be arranged in seven stages. These stages offer a comprehensive view of the various faculties of knowledge within which the heart com prises the sixth level of knowing:

1. Hearing about something, knowing what it is called. "Having a child is called 'motherhood.'"
2. Knowing through the perception of the senses. "I have seen a mother and child with my own eyes
3. Knowing "about" something. "This is how it happens and what it is like to be a mother.
4. Knowing through understanding and being able to apply that understanding. "I have a Ph.D. in mothering and my studies show..
5. Knowing through doing or being something. "I am a mother."
6. Knowing through the subconscious faculties of the heart. "It's difficult to put into words everything a mother experiences and feels."
7. Knowing through Spirit alone. This is much more difficult to describe and perhaps it's foolhardy to try, but it may be something like this: "I am not a mother, but in the moment when all separation dissolves, I am you."

The outer world of physical existence is perceived through the physical senses, through a nervous system that has been refined and purified by nature over millions of years. We can only stand in awe of this body's perceptive ability.

On the other hand, the mystery of the inner world is perceived through other even subtler senses. It is these "senses" that allow us to experience qualities like yearning, hope, intimacy, or to perceive significance, beauty, and our participation in the unity.

When our awareness is turned away from the world of the senses, and away from the field of conventional human thoughts and emotions, we may find that we can sense an inner world of spiritual qualities, independent of the outer world.

Our modern languages lack precision when it comes to describing or naming that which can grasp the qualities and essence of this inner world. Perhaps the best word we have for that which can grasp the unseen world of qualities is "heart." And what we understand by the word "heart" is an intelligence other than intellect, a knowing that operates at a subconscious level. The sacred traditions have sometimes delineated this subconscious knowing into various modes of knowing. What are known in some Sufi schools as the latifas (literally, the subtleties, al-lataif) are subtle subconscious faculties that allow us to know spiritual realities beyond what the senses or intellect can offer. This knowing is called subconscious, because what can be admitted into consciousness is necessarily limited and partial.

These latifas are sometimes worked on by carrying the energy of zhikr (remembrance) to precise locations in the chest and head in order to energize and activate these faculties. Once activated, they support and irradiate each other.
The five spiritual senses are connected.
They've grown from one root.
As one grows strong, the others strengthen, too:
each one becomes a cupbearer to the rest.
Seeing with the eye increases speech;
speech increases discernment in the eye.
As sight deepens, it awakens every sense,
so that perception of the spiritual
becomes familiar to them all.
When one sense grows into freedom,
all the other senses change as well.
When one sense perceives the hidden,
the invisible world becomes apparent to the whole.
[Rumi, Mathnawi II, 3236-3241]
According to one model, the heart is understood as the totality of subtle, subconscious faculties; according to another model, it is the subtlest faculty of them all, sharing in all the knowledge of the others. Essentially, however, we can consider the heart a mostly subconscious knowing of spiritual realities or qualities.

No comments:

Post a Comment