Move beyond concepts
Concepts point, but are never entirely accurate; they miss uniqueness, concreteness. The concept is universal. For example, if I say that a human is an animal, that would be correct from a scientific viewpoint. But humans are more than animals. The know a real human person I’ve got to see for myself, to experience for myself, to intuit for myself. The individual cannot be conceptualized. A person is beyond the thinking mind. The concept always misses or omits something important, something that is only found in reality, which is concrete uniqueness.
If you don’t look at things through your concepts, you’ll never be bored. Every single thing is unique. Every robin is unlike every other robin despite the similarities. It’s nice to have similarities, so we can abstract, so that we can have a
concept. It’s a great help, from the point of view of communication, education, science. But it’s also very misleading and a hindrance to seeing this concrete individual. If all you experience is your concept, you’re not experiencing reality, because reality is concrete. The concept is a help, to lead you to reality, but when you get there, you’ve got to experience it directly.
A second quality of a concept is that it is static where reality is in flux. There is the word “river,” but the water is constantly flowing. You’ve got one word for your “body,” but the cells in your body are constantly being renewed. If there is a hurricane blowing outside and I want the you to get an idea of what a hurricane is like, and I trap some wind in a jar, it isn’t a hurricane anymore, is it? It’s been captured. Or if I want you to get the feel of what the flow of a river is like and I bring it to you in a bucket. The moment I put it into a bucket it has stopped flowing. The moment you put things into a concept, they stop flowing; they become static, dead. A frozen wave is not a wave. A wave is essentially movement, action; when you freeze it, it is not a wave. Concepts are always frozen. Reality flows. Reality is whole, but words and concepts fragment reality. That is why it is so difficult to translate from one language to another, because each language cuts reality up differently. Every language has untranslatable words and expressions, because we’re cutting reality up and adding something or subtracting something and usage keeps changing. Reality is a whole and we cut it up to make concepts and we use words to indicate different parts.
Ideas actually fragment the vision, intuition, or experience of reality as a whole. Words cannot give you reality. They only point, they only indicate. You use them as pointers to get to reality. But once you get there, your concepts are useless. The final barrier to God is the word “God,” the concept of God. “The ass that you use to travel to a house is not the means by which you enter the house. You use the concept to get there; then you dismount, you go beyond it.” You don’t need to be a mystic to understand that reality is something that cannot be captured by words or concepts. To know reality you have to know beyond knowing.
There is no word for reality. Because as soon as I put a word to it, we’re back into concepts again. And if I cannot express this reality that is visible to my senses, how does one express what cannot be seen by the eye or heard by the ear? How does one find a word for the reality of God? Are you beginning to understand that God is mystery, is unintelligible to the human mind?
God is and has always been absolute mystery. I do not understand what God is; no one can. We have intimations, inklings; we make inadequate attempts to put mystery into words. But there is no word for it, no sentence for it. Gos is unexplainable mystery. One does not know, one cannot say. One says, “Ah, ah...”
Words are pointers, they’re not descriptions. People fall into idolatry because they think that where God is concerned, the word is the thing. The word is not the thing. These are the more dangerous idol worshippers. They use a very subtle substance, the mind, to produce their God.
Awareness means to watch, to observe what is going on within you and around you. Trees, grass, flowers, animals, rock, all of reality is moving. Observe it, watch it, it is essential to observe not just himself or herself, but to watch all of reality. Are you imprisoned by your concepts? Do you want to break out of your prison?Then look; observe; spend hours observing. Watching what? Anything. The faces of people, the shapes of trees, a bird in flight, a pile of stones, watch the grass grow. Get in touch with things, look at them. Hopefully you will then break out of these rigid patterns we have all developed, out of what our thoughts and our words have imposed on us. Hopefully we will see the thing that we choose to call reality, whatever is beyond words and concepts. This is a spiritual exercise for breaking out of your cage, out of the imprisonment of the concepts and words.
How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child. This doesn’t mean you should drop your concepts totally; they’re very precious. Though we begin without them, concepts have a very positive function. Thanks to them we develop our intelligence. We’re invited, not to become children, but to become like children. We do have to fall from a stage of innocence and be thrown out of paradise; we do have to develop an “I” and a “me” through these concepts. But then we need to return to paradise. We need to be redeemed again. We need to put off the old man, the old nature, the
conditioned self, and return to the state of the child but without being a child. When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.