Why certain doubts may arise in this work
The necessity of quelling one’s own curiosity and reason
Distinguishing the various degrees between the active
And Contemplative life.
Now you are asking me: “What is the nature of these thoughts that press me onward in this Contemplative work. Are they Good or Evil? If they are indeed evil, then why do they arouse so much devotion within my spirit? There are times that they even bring me great comfort amidst the misery of this life. With good reason I believe that these thoughts continue to bring good fortune as well. So, if it is indeed true that they are not evil but only good, then why would you still insist that I place them beneath the cloud of forgetting?”
Your questions are very good and I will try my best to address them. Firstly, when you ask me what is the nature of these thoughts that remain most persistent, apparently bringing you good fortune? They are sharp persuasions that are created in your natural intellect and bracketed with reason. Secondly, you ask whether they are good or evil, I will say that in themselves they are mostly good because they originate out of your own natural intelligence; this is a reflection of Divine input because IT will not contradict Itself even within the human construct. However, be aware that you are inclined to use them for both good and evil. It is good when they are illumined with Unborn Light, in this sense I’m not surprised that they bring you times of good fortune. But beware that they can as easily become evil when they are swollen with pride, rabid mental curiosity, and when the ego becomes enamored of itself out of exclusive study and appliance of spiritual principles. This is the stuff of haughtiness in the minds of conceited scholars wherein they can become masters of deceit and vanity and falsehood. This is a warning that is also meant for everyone, especially those engaged in material affairs in the desire-realm of Kamadhatu.
Next, you inquire why you should place such thoughts beneath the cloud of forgetting when they are of good benefit. In order to best address this it needs to be made known that there are two walks of life: the active and the Contemplative. The active life is the lower while the Contemplative is the higher. Within the active life there are two degrees, a lower and a higher, and within the Contemplative life there are also two degrees, a lower and a higher. Both of them are inseparably complementary even though they remain distinct in themselves. Why? Because the highest part of the active life is the same as the lower part of the contemplative. This being the case one is not wholly active unless some aspect of the Contemplative is present, likewise for those who participate in the Contemplative—some aspect of the active remains. The active part begins and ends in samsara, but is not the case with the Contemplative. Within scripture, Mary has chosen the best part that can never be taken away. The active life is always filled with much anxiety and tension, while the Contemplative Life rests in the Unborn alone.
The lower-part of the active life consists in corporal works of mercy. The higher part of the active life and the lower part of the contemplative consists in observing times of meditation—the time when one begins to focus on the things of the spirit that can assist one in attaining good merits. While the higher part of Contemplation is exclusively concerned in partaking in the spiritual darkness of the cloud of unknowing, becoming immersed in the Unborn Alone.
Again, the lower-part is directed outwardly, mostly with an extrovert posture beneath oneself thereby being concerned with the things below. The higher-part (lower stage of contemplation) is more interiorly directed, wherein you begin to discern spiritual reality. But in the direct higher-part of Contemplation, all of your concern and effort is directed exclusively between you and the Unborn. This is all about transcending yourself and now depending on higher spiritual agencies to point towards what you cannot do with those lower energies’—direct Union with the Absolute Lordship.
Furthermore, one begins to discern that it is impossible for the adept to approach the higher part of the active life unless he learns to abandon the lower part. Similarly, it’s impossible to approach the higher part of Contemplation unless one weans oneself away from the lower. It would also be wrong for an adept who is engaged in meditation, indeed a direct hindrance, for him to be turning his attention to his good and charitable works regardless of how meaningful and worthwhile they were. Likewise, it would be detrimental for one who is engaged in the darkness of the cloud of unknowing to be thinking about how wonderful and compassionate the works of the Blessed One are—since they would prove to be a direct distraction from one’s attentiveness to the Unborn ITself. Forget and erase from your mind how much comfort these images can be. They have absolutely no place in this imageless work.
So let-go of these very clever and persuasive thoughts. Place all of them beneath that cloud of forgetting—no matter how beneficial and holy they appear in your mindset. Recollect that forever how long your spirit inhabits this mortal carcass, your thought patterns are useless in decoding the nature of the Unborn Absolute. Thinking in any way less will surely lead you into grave error.
But beware that they can as easily become evil: one must keep careful watch of what originates in the intellect, no matter how pure the thoughts may appear to be, because underneath they can be hiding some ulterior motive—yea, such is the habit of pride and its swollen ego. This oftentimes occurs in those who feign to possess some great and heretofore unknown knowledge. Their bogus imprints always leaves nasty marks and thus unmasks their true ignorance of such matters.
Active vs. Contemplative: in spiritual circles the active life is always considered to be lower than the majestic workings that offers itself in the Contemplative lifestyle. But the author also takes great pains here to relay how they both intersect each other. There are elements of the higher in the lower, such as when the corporal work of charity begins to cultivate great merit and compassion. And then there are elements of the lower in the higher, when the stages of deep meditation begin to give birth to higher states of awareness. Traditionally the corporal works of mercy are as follows:
To feed the hungry.
To give water to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.
To bury the dead.
Mary has chosen the best part: again, a scriptural reference (Luke 10:38-42) concerning Mary and Martha. Mary has chosen the Contemplative and hence best part; Martha is always busy about mundane affairs and hence has chosen the lower part.
it would be detrimental for one who is engaged in the darkness of the cloud of unknowing to be thinking about how wonderful and compassionate the works of the Blessed One are: here we see where the author’s true allegiance lies—with the higher Contemplative element. All of this business of higher vs. lower was a custom of the time (and remains so to this very day) since many people were actively involved in ministry in some form or other. It’s usually only after coming into contact with the needs of others that the Spirit of Compassion is understood in a broader sense encompassing prayer, community, and service. It is afterwards when the Great Contemplative Calling presents Itself when one is drawn to the Absolute Source of that compassion.