One and the Same

Yes, I can see your problem. It’s so very easy for us to misunderstand or misconstrue the nature of someone else’s experience, what you call their “subjective reality”, based (as our interpretation must be) on the words they use to describe it.

I’m in the midst of a controversy of my own at the moment, and it’s moving along similar terminological lines. As I said to a correspondent who is aware of this particular clash of perspectives, disputes like this are useful insofar as they give us an opportunity to distinguish the real esotericists from their pretenders. The former, well aware of the Zen maxim that “false words are true when they lead to enlightenment; true words are false when they breed attachment”, are much more likely to cut their interlocutors some slack!

I was talking with another friend just the other day, and he provided yet a further case in point. We were reflecting on the meaning of the Delphic imperative: Gnothi seauton. He recalled visiting a Sufi zawiyah in Morocco some years ago, and being severely criticized by one of the fuqara for having said that knowing oneself means finding oneself. No, the dervish replied: we must lose ourselves—we must be extinguished (fana)!

My friend found himself unable to explain to this man what anyone who has read the Gospels knows: that finding and losing are one and the same!

Leave a Reply