Sans Senses

DISCOURSE THIRTEEN

The silencing of the skandhas leads to the fruitful experience of spiritual things;
Likewise in silencing the spiritual faculties we come to experience the gnosis
Of the Unborn

Continue to work diligently in this nothingness which is nowhere, and abandon the use of all your bodily senses; for I tell you truly that this Noble Contemplative work cannot even begin to be fathomed through skandhic lens.

Your eyes can only envision material things by their appearance: its mass, form, color, and location. Your ears only function through the vibration of various sound waves. Your nose is designed to detect either pleasant or bad odors through olfactory lobes. Your sense of taste detects sourness or sweetness, what is salty and fresh, or what is bitter and unpleasant. And your sense of touch as to whether something is hot or cold, hard or soft, smooth or sharp. But the Unborn knows nothing of these dimensions; anything spiritual has none of these skandhic characteristics. 

Hence, stop attempting to work here with your bodily senses in any way, shape, or manner. For all those who attempt to be a contemplative and assume that they can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel their way through this work either interiorly or exteriorly, are working against the natural order. Nature has designed the use of the senses for sensate matter only, never to be used for the direct and intuitive gnosis of spiritual reality. However one can learn much from their failures in attempting to do so. One comes to intuit and hence know more about the ways of the spirit by what they are not, than by what they are. A good proof of this is when hearing or reading about something that our skandhic mind cannot fully decipher, you can rest assured that this subject matter is of the pure spiritual realm and utterly divorced from the material.

It needs to equally be stated that our spiritual faculties are also limited in relation to the Unborn As It Is In Itself. Even if someone is well versed in the sutras and the knowledge pertaining to spiritual realities, one will never have enough understanding when it comes to the uncreated and deathless Unborn Lord. Yet, there is a negative-understanding which does have an insight into the Absolute Nature of the Deathless One—the way of the via negativa. It was for this specific reason that St. Dionysius had the best insight, the most supernal gnosis of the Unborn which is only known by non-knowing.

Truly anyone who reads the works of St. Dionysius will clearly come to see that everything I’ve been teaching here, from beginning to end, can be verified through the saints own teaching. Yet, I do not wish to quote him any further or any other spiritual master for that matter. There was, and in some quarters still is, a ruling that no one should speak of any spiritual realities unless it is accompanied with references from scripture or scholarly commentaries; yet, this was, and still is a vain intellectual conceit. I will have none of that here since you really don’t have any need for it anyway. Perhaps for a further refinement and spiritual cultivation of what you have experienced in the Unborn, such methods may still be employed at some junction. But in the final analysis, whoever has spiritual ears to hear what I say, yea, let those who are moved to believe, simply believe what they will come to experience in the Unborn. Authentically, there is no other way.

Truly the skandhic apparatus (form, sensation, thought, volition, mortal consciousness) is inadequate to learn the ways of the spirit. But even the application of our spiritual faculties can also fail when we encounter a spiritual reality that cannot be adequately conveyed by mind, reason, or will—and then we can rest assured that it must be the incomprehensible Unborn Mind.

spiritual faculties: faith or conviction or belief (saddhā) energy or persistence or perseverance (viriya) mindfulness or memory (sati) stillness of the mind (samādhi) wisdom or understanding or comprehension (pañña).

St. Dionysius: Dionysius the Areopagite. The first and only explicit reference to Pseudo-Dionysius himself—although the entire work of the Cloud is based on his theology. Here the author gives him his due credit. But it should also be said that both the author of the Cloud and the works of John of the Cross eclipsed the Dionysian foundations.

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