I often find it easier to think about time in terms of space, in terms of the way we can abstract and spatialize time for a number of broadly mathematical operations. I think that’s pretty common, because we are better suited to conceiving of space than we are to conceiving of time. We can use our better grasp of space to ‘sneak up’ on time.
One of the reasons I have enjoyed evacuating the sefirot is that it so clearly allows me to see the common roots of Kabbalism and Sufism in a broadly Middle Eastern magico-mystical thinking that likely sinks its roots into prehistory (regionally and, if Gordon’s right, globally; speaking of dragons, yeah, we’re probably going to have a discussion about serpents in the near future, but that requires a detour through personal practice that I’m not quite sure how to get at for this format).
TL;DR Version? Be mindful of your words, be they written, spoken, or thought. Do not abandon your words, but do not inscribe your understanding too tightly within the domain they circumscribe. Realize the generative capacity of words but root that capacity within the rich soil of creation. Or, you know, don’t and enjoy the flurry of clever little parasites that will buzz through your life and flash through the lives of all those near you. Life is life, after all.
An observation Alexandra made in a recent post struck a chord with me, in no small part because I have been thinking about a similar issue from a different direction. I’ve been thinking, again, about Simone Weil’s observation in the 1940s that we seem to be missing a lot of the context for the Bible. She suggests (and I generally agree) that something happened between the initial revelations that motivated it and its codification that left Christians with a much poorer sense of the Bible’s mystical dimensions.
When I talk about getting to know a spirit, I am usually talking about a lengthy ritual process through which the spirit becomes manifest, divination performed upon it, and a personal connection established. The personal connection part of the process is absolutely essential but difficult to describe. Even after a lengthy ritual manifestation and divination, the nature of the spirit is often opaque. It is only after weeks and months of living with it that the spirit’s place in my broader spiritual court becomes manifest.
A long time ago now, I was discussing an article by Toshihiko Izutsu with a group of friends. I can’t recall the specific article at this remove (it was one found in Creation and the Timeless Order of Things), but it was one of his discussions of mystical experiences in Sufi literature. Over the course of the article, he made the comparison between descriptions of musical experience and descriptions of mystical experiences, highlighting how they are both resistant to direct description.
“Like it or not, we are slaves of the hour and its colors and forms, subjects of the sky and of the earth. Even the part of us that burrows deepest into itself, disdaining its surroundings, does not burrow along the same paths when it rains as when the sky is clear.”—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
I’ve seen this piece from the Business Insider frustrating folks, reporting that terms for the color blue weren’t widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world. Most of that frustrations seems misplaced. We’re missing an opportunity because, while this is a puff piece, what it describes fits into a discussion that has been going on for nearly half a century within cognitive anthropology. It’s easy enough to hear the results of these studies as generally pejorative, but that’s not what I see. This sort of thing allows us to appreciate past cultures more deeply as it makes clear their differences from us, not their inferiority.
Categories are dangerous things. The separation of one kind of thing from another at the conceptual level leads us toward deeper knowledge and deeper ignorance simultaneously. Once we separate one kind from another at the level of concept, we prepare the way for forms of action that treat them as separate in actuality.