We dislike paradox, ambiguity, contradiction. Grey is far less acceptable than black or white. When we debate, argue or contemplate something we want to arrive at clear, certain answers, solutions and plans.
Many times life simply doesn’t work that way. Things are more complicated, complex, and even chaotic. Which of the following examples can you relate to?:
• Self-interest AND the common good.
Many businesses are seeing the interconnectivity between people, planet, and profit … have seen the imperative to act responsibly to ensure the sustainability of society, communities, the environment in their own interests. They are discovering that in the process profits improve.
• Compassion AND Power (soft/hard)
Neuroscientist Keltner’s extensive research exposes our limiting beliefs about power. He shows clearly how compassion and selflessness enable influence – both direct and indirect, and invoke followership. Compassion produces positive power. (2) 2500 years ago Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, taught that “Leaders whose position will endure are those who are the most compassionate. Compassion is a mysterious intellectual force that allows reality to act on the mind in a deeply affecting way; and in turn the mind may act upon reality”.
• Separate AND together (hate/love)
Two turbulent, fiercely independent Mexican artists, Diego Rivera and Frido Kahlo, whose on/off, on/off relationship saw them marrying each other twice, deeply loved each other. They lived in adjoining studio-houses in San Angel, Mexico City. The architect designed a home made up of two separate concrete blocks linked by a narrow bridge that joins the rooftops. A red block represented Diego, a blue one Frida. The bridge that united them was the bond of love.
• Lose AND Win
When we switch away from feeding ego, chasing after position, power, possessions - and learn to be content with less, learn to focus on and give to others, then our self-esteem and happiness is boosted. We give AND receive.
• Myth AND Reality
When someone presents as a literal truth what you believe is a myth, this can be fertile ground for argument. Novelist, philosopher and theologian C. S. Lewis refers to the life of Christ as a myth “which is also a fact”.
From the Michael Card song, God’s Own Fool:
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see
So we follow God's own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable,
And come be a fool as well
The part of our mind that makes sense of and integrates paradox is the synthetic mind that the Bible calls the "nous.” Nous is a Greek work that is usually translated “spiritual mind” in the Bible. It operates like this:
There once was a man who lived at the foot of a great mountain situated in a land of perpetual darkness. It was this man's life's work to gain an idea of the true shape of the mountain, but, as the darkness was perpetual, he could only do so by feeling it out, and he couldn't go over much territory in that way: the formation of his mental picture of the mountain was consequently a very slow process. Often, he forgot some detail that he had felt out and often he misinterpreted some feature because he could only feel it, not see it.
Then, one day, he was feeling his way about the mountain when a storm arose. Rain fell and wind howled, but, most important, there was a huge flash of lightning that illuminated the entire mountain. It only lasted an instant, but that was all the man needed to comprehend the true shape and size of the mountain. He was so transported with joy that he did not even hear the thunder, nor heed the wind, nor mind the drenching rain, for he had seen the mountain in its totality, and from then on, he knew that all that he was able to feel, all that he had already felt, in his explorations by touch would have meaning because of that brief flash and would confirm what the lightning had revealed.
Our proverbial man on the mountain had a flash of nous insight. He had an awakening of sorts. He saw things from a more complete or holistic perspective.
I recently undertook inner healing work with a directee. This man struggled his whole life with the inability to feel loved or safe with God. When we took him back in his memories to the earliest time associated to that feeling of lacking safety, he realized that when he was born he did not even feel safe. His family was tense. His father suffered Asperger’s syndrome, leaving the father empathically impaired. The religious models of the world that arose out of the father’s limitations and foisted upon my directee’s young soul were painfully narrow and over-controlled. I undertook to help my directee see things from a higher perspective.
A source of both scientific data and dramatic story available to our generation like none before is the vast library of reports and research of near death experiences. In such experience, the veil between the transcendent world of spirit and everyday world of life and suffering is lifted. People come back with a wide array of visions, some of which agree with our common Christian notions and some which challenge us to look further and see beyond our more limited imaginings.
My directee read these stories and pondered the research. Gradually his fear subsided. His suffering from earliest childhood no longer seemed to him to be the highest truth. He discerned something greater, and that greater reality transcended all that he had gone through. The lightning of the near death visions exposed a vaster and more beautiful vista than his fearfulness could have imagined, truncated as it was by its shuttered windows and tightly locked doors. He could not immediately put this new understanding all into words, but he now was free to open the doors and windows to let in the fresh air after the rain. Gradually, God’s ongoing radiance broke him out of the hard shell that the father and he created. My directee’s nous was awakened.
The man on the mountain would keep exploring, of course, for one never tires of finding new confirmations of the truth that one knows already. And he would occasionally experience other brief visions in the occasional lightning flash, which would only spur him onward to seeking more confirmation of the truth so revealed. And then, one day, there would be a flash which would not fade back into darkness, and the mountain would be forever before his gaze in all its beauty and majesty.
In Adventures in Soulmaking, I devote a chapter to describing the nous. Then the rest of the book illustrates the action and experiences arising from God through this spiritual part of the mind. We explore stories of Jesus alive in the nous of souls today. Finally, we see how the nous can be kept open to God and lead to greater joy in the journey of faith.
The newly re-edited e-book will be available on Amazon.com for a limited time at the price of $2.99 in the month of February. Be on the lookout for an email alerting you to this special sale.