“A snowflake falling on a red-hot stove”
September 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that, psychologically speaking; approaching problems that prevent us from knowing our Self often involves an increase in mental confusion. Personally speaking, the closer I get to understanding an underlying problem, the harder it is to put in words. It often seems I’m confronted with two overlapping interpretations, neither of which I can separate or see clearly.
This “dual interpretation” scenario reminds me of what I read somewhere about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the amygdalae. Basically speaking, in a non-PTSD brain specific signals are sent through one amygdala or the other, but in the PTSD brain signals go through both amygdala. A dream I had of being in theatre where two different movies were being played through two different projectors gives a better representation of the idea. Just imagine trying to make sense of two movies at the same time that are shown on the same movie screen, all the while thinking you’re watching one reel!
There is a parallel “dual interpretation” situation that occurs in physics when approaching absolute zero, the coldest anything in our universe can get. At temperatures inconceivably close to absolute zero, Einstein predicted we’d find a state of matter where particles would lose their individual identities. In the Bose-Einstein condensate, as this state of matter would come to be called, particles no longer exist separately with their own individual identities, but are all each other and are all one.
Compare the conditions in the Bose-Einstein condensate to the writing of Franklin Merrell-Wolff in, “Pathways Though to Space”. In that documentation of his mystical unfolding he wrote that the “I” in him that spoke was the same “I” in every self-conscious creature. In another section he elaborates, writing that the “I that speaks” sometimes becomes “We”, yet remains “I”. That there is a consciousness that harmoniously blends with other consciousness, merging his voice with theirs in a melodious Voice of Others.
Throughout the ages the Mystic has reported on the harmony of unified consciousness that awaits us all. But for those of us that have not yet passed through that Door the approach to unity, the absolute zero of our fundamental identity is filled with confusion. A confusion of which, as Lao Tsu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, we must “blunt the sharpness, untangle the knot, soften the glare.”
To untangle the knot I believe it helps if we understand that the fundamental problems that block our path to self-recognition are natural sources of confusion and dualistic thinking. From the ego’s perspective true nature is seen as a Void, an empty frightening area of the psyche that is paradoxically also one’s true self. On a psychological and emotional level it is a “hot iron ball” in the pit of your stomach; a bundle of energy that your fear if untangled would leave you in a limitless space where your safe, comfortable boundaries no longer exist.
The closer we are to solving our fundamental problems, the closer we are to our true nature. That’s because our true nature is wrapped in those problems, so unraveling them is identical to uncovering the Self. But as with the approach to absolute zero in physics, the closer we get to Self the more our language and understanding of the way of things are has to change both to accommodate the new reality and to properly understand the core problems related to uncovering our true identity.
One core problem lies in a fear that arises when the false self comes face to face with the true Self. One way to understand this fear is to consider that any time an illusion is exposed to the light of reality it is found to be a lie. Similarly, when the false meets the true Self the lie that we’ve been living is exposed. This can leave us with a feeling that some raw nerve has been exposed to the elements, with a tremendous feeling of vulnerability, of being found unworthy, being exposed and that there is danger in revealing self.
Understanding this fear on an intellectual level may be easy, but understanding it in our heart is another matter. That’s because the false self is part of a defense mechanism that protects us from hurt. Hurt that includes the aforementioned fears related to vulnerability, judgment, etc., but in the context of this blog the more significant matter lies in the dissolution of boundaries when nearing Truth.
When infinitely close to Self our everyday language and way of understanding are no longer adequate to the task of dissolving our problems. We become confused at this point not knowing how to describe the chaotic thoughts and feelings we’re encountering. The boundary between the false and true is dissolving leaving us feeling confused and perhaps with a sense of panic.
When the boundary between the false and true self begins to dissolve confusion arises over what is true and what is real. We ask, “Is it true I’ll be judged?” “Am I facing life or extinction?” “Is the danger in revealing myself or in being revealed?” “What do I do?” “What action is best, what not?”
If we try to answer these questions with usual, everyday language we only become more and more confused. So it is at this point everyday language is abandoned in favor of symbols, parables, koans or other expressions that point at reality but do not contain reality.
“What action do I take,” is replaced with “non-action”, “non-thought” and “non-mind”. Whether to reveal or not reveal oneself simply becomes “revelation”. Questions of life and death dissolve, as death has no place to enter. Questions around judgment are answered in the deeper understanding of Christ’s, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And the question of who you truly are makes perfect sense in “the sound of one hand clapping.”
Problems dissolve when they are transcended. Like the people who debated over how to raise a bridge so a truck could be freed, we become mired in difficulty when we stay too focused on one part of a problem. Likewise, problems mount when language becomes our master because language, by its nature, can only see one side of a problem at a time. But when through an act of transcendence language becomes our servant, we see both polarities at once. The truck is freed by the simple act of letting air out of its tires, and we are not left to figure out how to move an entire bridge.
I have gone on at length today because I am struggling to clear my mind of the confusion that plagues it when digging deep: to understand the paradox that when we approach Love, we encounter fear. But in my writing perhaps I’m only palming off shoddy goods, like some little poor shopkeeper.
Hakuin said it better when he wrote,
Cherish the Great Charm of your own nature,
That turns a hot iron ball into finest sweetest manna;.
Heaven, Hell, and the Floating World of Men —
A snowflake falling on a red-hot stove.