Divine Reality: A Life Beyond Cognition

 

Reality Beyond Consciousness

… this Rule of Right and Wrong, or Law of Human Nature, or whatever you call it, must somehow or other be a real thing — a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves. And yet it is not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way as our actual behaviour is a fact. It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behaviour, and yet quite definitely real — a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity].

We are familiar with the reality of life and death. They are two aspects of existence that our senses can identify without causing too much confusion across the brain circuitry. By contrast, prior lives and after deaths send skeptical chills up and down erudite spines.

We cannot perceive all the sides of being. We cannot encompass the reality of life-giving energy, of purpose of in existence, or of perfect ideals.

Even while surrounded by polarities and dualities, from digital technology to nuclear energy, we virtually and literally live and die in a one-sided reality. What really matters in our sapient head is the physical universe that can be perceived and exploited.

Do they not ponder about their own selves? God has created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them for a purpose and for an appointed time? Yet many deny they will ever meet with their Lord. [Quran 30:8].

When Is Infinity

Science depends on numbers. Calculations are its lifelines. However, no one asks, “who is zero, where is pi, what is one?” We accept numbers and trust their reality — but not so when we come to God.

Whereas the natural sciences investigate entities that are located in space in time, it is not at all obvious that this also the case of the objects that are studied in mathematics… In addition to that, the methods of investigation of mathematics differ markedly from the methods of investigation in the natural sciences. Whereas the latter acquire general knowledge using inductive methods, mathematical knowledge appears to be acquired in a different way: by deduction from basic principles. [Leon Horsten, Philosophy of Mathematics].

The world of matter and of cognition, of physical things and creatures, is only a part of an intricate and incomprehensible Divine Reality. We use our mind to understand what we can of the physical world, but our intellect is incapable of encompassing the realm of God.

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. [Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. Ch. 2].

Mystical Cognition

We long to transcend this physical world of matter, and connect with the eternal Divine Reality. We can feel the Divine, but not in the same way that our mind understands the physical world. Our inherent awareness of the Divine allows us to experience it through spiritual faculties of our soul.

Both Buddhism and Christianity are alike in making use of ordinary everyday human existence as material for a radical transformation of consciousness. Since ordinary everyday human existence is full of confusion and suffering, then obviously one will make good use of both of these in order to transform one’s awareness and one’s understanding, and to go beyond both to attain “wisdom” in love. [Thomas Merton: I Have Seen What I Was Looking For, p. 220].

The consciousness can extend beyond physical cognition, stretching into the subconscious world of dreams, intuition and intangible realities. Even beyond these conscious and subconscious worlds is the Divine Reality.

We have access to this Ultimate Reality only through Divine permission. Our submission and spiritual devotion are our formal requests.

It is evident that nothing short of this mystic transformation could cause such spirit and behavior, so utterly unlike their previous habits and manners, to be manifest in the world of being. For their agitation was turned into peace, their doubt into certitude, their timidity into courage. Such is the potency of the Divine Elixir, which, swift as the twinkling of an eye, transmutes the souls of men!  [Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán p. 164].

We are endowed with an instinctive awareness of an unseen reality, a spiritual domain not directly evident to our senses. We intuitively perceive a timeless existence, and strive for it by anxiously trying to please God.

Our search for Divine awareness should not be confined by our intellect. Our spirit possesses an irresistible attraction to God, emanating from a love that fills the heart with joyful enthusiasm. It finds no rest in any earthly reality, only in God.

Is then he who was dead [in spirit] and whom We thereupon gave life, and for whom We set up a light whereby he might see his way among men – [is then he] like one [who is lost] in darkness deep, out of which he cannot emerge? [But] thus it is: goodly seem all their own doings to those who deny the truth. [Quran 6:122].

When we embrace this longing for God, we cannot waste time on anything subordinate. We can only focus on the infinite. The temporal becomes inconsequential. What does a lifetime mean in terms of eternity?

We only see the outer covering of reality and it’s only when our inner senses are opened, when our inner life is opened, that we pierce through the unreality. [Sister Pascaline Coff].

 

Metacognitive Development

Seeking to satisfy intellectual cravings, our mind only finds a void. When our mind remains concerned with earthly pleasures that entice our emotions, our spirit remains spiritually miserable, in cognitive bondage. Dissatisfied and unable to find rest, it rushes to seek God’s pardon.

In order to preserve the mind and body in a perfect condition, abstinence from food is not alone sufficient: unless the other virtues of the mind as well are joined to it . . . And so humility must first be learned . . . anger should be controlled . . . vainglory should be despised, the disdainfulness of pride trampled under foot, and the shifting and wandering thoughts of the mind restrained by continual recollection of God. [John Cassian, The Training of a Monk and the Eight Deadly Sins].

Our soul is made for God. Let us nourish it with sublime thoughts worthy of eternity. Let us enthusiastically pursue the incomprehensible, faithfully clinging to our inexpressible love for the Divine.

One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! [John 9:25].

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