To Speak the Unutterable

The “Tao” is too great to be described by the name “Tao”.
If it could be named so simply, it would not be the eternal Tao. (Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu)

A man from the ancient orient tries to explain the inscrutable. He tells us that there is something so great and incomprehensible that it is ineffable; it cannot be described or named. Once we ascribe a name to it, like “Tao,” then we must be speaking about something else because this “thing” is too great to be named, or its name is unutterable.

This situation precludes any further conversation about the matter, unfortunately. For this reason, we accept a convention of calling the unutterable the “Tao” simply so the thing can be explored and discussed. However, any realistic and intelligent exploration and discussion of this matter requires that we avoid confusing the Tao with the “Tao.”

…THE ALL (which is the Substantial Reality underlying all the outward manifestations and appearances which we know under the terms of “The Material Universe”; the ”Phenomena of Life”; “Matter”; ”Energy”; and, in short, all that is apparent to our material senses) is SPIRIT, which in itself is UNKNOWABLE and UNDEFINABLE, but which may be considered and thought of as AN UNIVERSAL, INFINITE, LIVING MIND. (The Kybalion, Chapter 2. P. 9)

A more contemporary work, The Kybalion, also attempts to explore and discuss the unknowable and undefinable. A notable characteristic that identifies it as “more contemporary” is the language employed is more technical in character. As scientific investigation produced technical achievement, technical language and affectations have been readily adopted, even in domains one might not expect. Of course, the purpose of language is for effective communication. If this is the language people understand, then it is what will be utilized. This may present a problem, though.

Science is engaged in the dissection and study of the material universe. Technology exploits scientific knowledge to produce physical marvels that people want because it makes their physical existence better, or entertains them. As science and technology are firmly rooted in the material universe, their tools do not function well (if at all) outside of the material universe. It stands to reason that their technical language may not only be inappropriate in studies beyond the material universe, but might also provide an impediment. In fact, the United States of America provides an example of this.

There is a continuing controversy between American Christianity and secular America concerning Creationism and the Theory of Evolution. At least some factions within American Christianity seem to have difficulty distinguishing the subtle from the gross; the spiritual from the material. An inability to distinguish the spiritual realm from the material realm and to understand how one acts upon the other is a more likely cause for a communal “crisis in faith” than any alleged attack from outside sources. A recently employed tactic in “defending the faith” was to couch Creationism in pseudo-scientific technical jargon and call it Intelligent Design. This ploy deceived nobody, except perhaps Christians themselves. Adopting technical language may indeed present an impediment since this ploy suggests spiritual stagnation rather than growth.

Science has been a historical nemesis of the Christian faith, so it seems ironic to adopt a pseudo-scientific stance at this late date. Science has consistently challenged Christian beliefs and appears to have endured, but this observation must be tempered by the apparent lack of spiritual understanding in the general Christian community through time. Historically, Christianity has been challenged by other spiritual beliefs as well.

He is the invisible Spirit, of whom it is not right to think of him as a god, or something similar. For he is more than a god, since there is nothing above him, for no one lords it over him. For he does not exist in something inferior to him, since everything exists in him. For it is he who establishes himself. He is eternal, since he does not need anything. For he is total perfection. He did not lack anything, that he might be completed by it; rather he is always completely perfect in light. He is illimitable, since there is no one prior to him to set limits to him. He is unsearchable, since there exists no one prior to him to examine him. He is immeasurable, since there was no one prior to him to measure him. He is invisible, since no one saw him. He is eternal, since he exists eternally. He is ineffable, since no one was able to comprehend him to speak about him. He is unnameable, since there is no one prior to him to give him a name. (The Apocryphon of John, The Nag Hammadi Library)

The early Gnostics were a Christian sect that was declared heretical and hunted by Catholics and the Roman Army. A number of their hidden sacred writings were discovered in the mid-twentieth century at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Among these scriptures were some previously unknown Gospels and the Apocryphon of John quoted above (among much more.) The notable aspect in the above quotation is an apparently common theme of an unnameable and ineffable “Spirit.” It is even more interesting to note that the writings of Lao Tzu (top) are about 2,500 years old, pre-dating Christ and these scriptures.

The First Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, twelve years after the Edict of Milan ended the persecution of Christians. Constantine’s interests appear very simple: there was controversy within the Christian religion and he wanted matters settled. He appeared to have no preference in how matters were settled; his interest was purely political. The clergy were happy to oblige, establishing a long running relationship between politics and religion well into the Age of Enlightenment.

The Intelligent Design ploy and the role of religion in American politics reveals forces that wish to corrupt the American “separation of church and state” in order to re-establish a religion of political power. This is a second recurring theme that demonstrates faith in the social power structures of a material realm, rather than faith in the ineffable and unnameable of the spiritual realm. While many American Christians allegedly believe they are under attack from atheists, humanists, homosexuals, minority religions, and various other bogey men, I submit evidence to the contrary.

The dark heart has no real experiential knowledge of the subtle and unutterable, so it seeks power in the realm of the gross. The darkness of the heart is known, so it is left to its own devices. The dark heart is not assailed from without, but rather decays from within. This is as unutterable in the congregations as is the unutterable name of the holy One. It is for this reason that it was said that nobody can see the Kingdom of Heaven unless they are born of the Spirit, because Spirit is Light.


Of Fire and Water

Let me tell you of a vision both spectacular and bizarre. The interaction of the elements often provide a spectacle due to their majesty. The vision I witnessed on the evening of 2 July 2012 seems bizarre because I was not in a trance or dream state, though. In fact, I took pictures of this vision.

July 2nd was a hot day here in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, but I suspect it was more comfortable than in the mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. Two million people were still without power after being ravaged by severe storms there, and the temperatures may have been as much as ten degrees hotter than here. A lack of rain for several days here was my greater concern.

The Sun was making its way to the western horizon when I heard the first rumblings of thunder. I welcomed the herald of the promised rains. There had been talk of scattered showers for days, but we had not seen any. As one who has been known to enjoy the majesty of a good thunderstorm, I made my self comfortable on the porch on the eastern side of our home. For this reason, I had no direct view of the western horizon.

A strong and steady rain broke upon the ground. It washed down the air, so the accompanying breeze was cool and refreshing. The clouds were not dark enough for the lightning to be pronounced, but there were a few good rumbles of thunder. I knew this was not going to be a long storm. Sure enough, the clouds soon opened up in the west and flooded the area immediately to the south of my home with sunlight. This created a rainbow because the rain continued to come down steadily. The end of the rainbow seemed to be just on the other side of my neighbors property.

I do understand how water in the air creates a rainbow by refracting light. I also know that the more time between lightning and (resulting) thunder indicates the lightening is farther away from you. This does not change the appearance of what I saw next: a horizontal bolt of lightning came out of the west and stretched to touch the rainbow. The bolt did not extend beyond the rainbow, and it seemed to diminish the rainbow. I wish I was fast enough to have snapped a picture of the lightning.

I listened for the thunder that confirmed the lightning must have been very far beyond where the rainbow appeared to be. This does not change the appearance of the horizontal lightning looking like it reached out to touch the rainbow, or the appearance of the rainbow being diminished by the bolt. Despite having knowledge of the physical realities of such natural phenomenon and knowing the lightning did not actually touch the rainbow, the rainbow actually looked like it was struggling to endure: it worked to re-establish itself. Then the event repeated itself!

A second horizontal bolt of lightning reached out of the west and appeared to touch the rainbow again. The time between lightning and thunder indicated the lightning was far beyond where the rainbow appeared to be, even though the diminishing rain was also making the rainbow appear to be farther away. This time the lightning appeared to eliminate a chunk from the middle of the rainbow, though. I should also mention a white streaking in the clouds to the east like fingers reaching out towards the rainbow.

I spent some time bemoaning my old camera and its slow shutter. I would have loved getting a shot of either (preferably both) lightning bolts. I eventually admitted to myself that, even with a better camera, I probably would not have gotten the shots. I do not know how long I pondered my frustration before I looked up and noticed that the rainbow was enduring, and it gained strength as the sunlight returned.

I was trained in the public school system of the United States during the 1960s and early 70s. I was particularly fond of science and understand the fundamental mechanics of of the physical phenomenon I was observing. I am certain that the timing of events that made it appear that lightning was attacking the rainbow would be dismissed simply as coincidence. However, I am Spirit within a physical body and have some understanding of how the arcane interacts with the mundane, so coincidence seems more like a convenience for those who choose to deny Spirit.

What I saw on the evening of July 2nd was something that would have seemed quite normal in an altered state of conscience, trance, or dream state. This vision seems more spectacular (and bizarre) because such was not the case. I also was not drinking or engaged in any manner of substance abuse. I was simply engaged in the sensual appreciation of a change in the weather. Despite my standard public schooling, it seems easy and natural to understand how such phenomenon might have been viewed by people a few short centuries (or more) ago. The problem is that I am not sure of how this should be interpreted.

It may be that I am still in a state of awe from this personal experience. It may also be that this vision is not meant for just me, so putting this out in public for possible interpretations seems reasonable. For this reason, I should also remind everyone that the Moon rose full later that evening. I do sense hope in this vision, which may be how my garden also viewed the rain. I will appreciate any possible interpretations of this vision that anyone has to offer. Blessed be!