We are actually taught to make images to symbolise or represent almost everything – for remembering, for recognising, to navigate, and so on, and we excel at it. This aptitude to bring to bear rich imaginations and wide vision in our daily lives is one of the things that differentiates us from animals and plants. But actually, this often becomes an abstract route to creating our exclusive way of seeing the world. It literally forces us to identify, to stamp ‘me’ and ‘mine’ on the mind moment, and if we are not mindful we may become attached to such images, mistaking them for reality.
This temptation to ‘identify’ with the images we constantly create is our major test as humans – our conditioning and DNA (countless ancestors who have lived distant to the sacred) leads us to etch a clear line between reality and the imaginary, to make a distinction between the visible and the invisible, and to consign ourselves to experiencing life always from the sidelines via concepts and archives. But many of us have never even heard of this test meaning that we have fully and unconsciously turned our backs on our divine mission. Instead, we favour and over-cherish a ‘synthetic ‘self’ invented by the dictatorial intellectual mind. This is pure ego and arrogance: some would say it is the dark side of human beings, our personal ‘Satan,’ our samsara, our constant resistance to the gravitational field of love and goodness. These resisting consumers surround us in modern life: those who live lives of surrender and desireless-ness are rare.
Science informs us that human beings have physically evolved as much as they are going to; in other words, we are at our peak as a species, but our spiritual evolution is badly retarded. As a result, most of us are not truly happy and neither is the world at large. We are restless, insatiable, destructive and primitive, unable to create harmony in our social groups for the most part, and constantly craving artificial stimulation. In our short-sightedness in life we conceal our terror of death and disappearance, and this endemic fear has caused us to lose the use of so many subtle tools available to the higher mind, the mind of ‘grace’ (Christian) or emptiness (Buddhist) or moksha (Hindu), in order to invest all our energy in the intellect and acquisition. We give over our precious human existence to shopping, possessing and questing for attention, and so we have become major stakeholders in the worlds of materialism and sensual satisfaction. It is logical that we sit back in our high comfortable chairs, flicking switches and frittering away our time viewing visual collections. Logic? Another resistance to what is natural.
We may even make images to represent our own minds: for example, the iceberg with its small tip showing above the water surface and its mass below – symbolising the conscious mind and the unconscious mind respectively: The onion with its tender centre and its layer upon layer of ever-hardening skins is another. Although this may be useful to try to appreciate or recognise the difference between these two contrasted aspects of our mind, it does in fact separate them from one another in an Aristotelian way. By attaching ourselves to such images, we are unwittingly identifying with them and so coaxing our ‘self’ to acquire and possess compulsively. In actuality, there is no self to identify with anything material because we are beings of energy made flesh in order to spiritually evolve.
It is preferable then to avoid making or encouraging these images even though they may seem to ease understanding. Ironically, understanding in its original sense it connected to listening not looking. Rather than craving finite blocks of black and white as captured on screens and pages and bold framed linear scenarios, there is a boundless greyness which floats and fleets in whatever shape is needed to embody the essence of love, an unconditional listening, a flickering of our essence of light.
If we cease to try to pin down our feelings, cementing them into our foreground, crying out for witnesses to come forward and acknowledge us, asserting our view to others, we can realise that the field of awareness is infinite and has no boundaries, no images. Then we can quietly coalesce in the field needing no images or intermediaries at all. By closing the busy outer eyes so addicted to colour, shape and orientation we can close the image albums and lock the archives, walking away to our real home beyond all concepts created by the human mind. Then we can clearly hear the sound of reality moving and merging, the concrete sound of infinity and eternity, of goodness and the divine. True understanding consists of universal unconditional listening during which nothing is pinned down, nothing is owned and everything becomes one. We embody love with our true nature enabled only by breathing air from the universe. Everything else is simply arranged only to stimulate the intellectual mind.
‘We shall know each other by our deeds and being, and by our eyes and no other outward sign save the fraternal embrace.’
The above is a verse from the Cathar Creed (1244), The Church of Love. The spirit of life is played out whilst silently respecting everything on the material plane though not identifying with it, accepting everything, but quietly supporting those who need support. Identifying and possessing destroy and engender greed and ignorance. Using images is in a way an attempt to possess aspects of the visible, to keep them for reference as a source of knowledge. The medieval mystic Cathars had nothing material, not even Bibles which showy Christians had become slaves to. Indeed, all the great adepts dispensed with material supports. Instead, they embodied their spirit of compassion and humility.
I have deliberately positioned myself in my life in a different culture (Japan) in which I cannot easily read or write or even understand the society around me. This is the most precious opportunity to stop making images and concepts. I notice that I am not using my mind in the same way as I did living in the culture my spirit first became flesh in because it is often impossible to make interpretations of my environment. As I wander down crowded streets decked out with loud kanji, katakana and hiragana neon signs so characteristic of Japanese cities whisked aside by bicycles mounted on the pavement and bustling people pushing through crowds, I can often only listen deeply and breathe. It is no use bringing out my image albums and brandishing metaphors and idioms because they are meaningless in a culture which reads the air instead of dissecting and deeply analysing ideas. I cannot imagine what is going on in other minds around me because there is no pattern I can predict, no pictograph I can possibly imagine, no inherited template. I can only embody my love and float around sealing away the intellect and letting visions occupy me and my ancient senses help me to navigate.
Only the field of awareness is. I am the terraced shaking paddy, standing in sluiced rice rows, paddled by ducks and frogs activated by tremors from the inflamed warts of the Earth’s crust below me, burned and bundled and finding its way inevitably into famished stomachs. I have dramatically learned how not to be separate from anyone or anything here in a Land created from the hair and kimono of the million gods. To interfere with this seamlessness for even a second to create an image, to take a shot, would make me gasp for air!