Friday, September 22, 2006

The Vessels Of Beauty: Poetry, Parables, & Koans

And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death."

- Gospel of Thomas, Saying 1

Beauty is a strange thing – we all have experienced it in some form (and, indeed, this is part of its peculiarity, in that beauty can be so strong and present for people in so vastly different things), and we have all, for the most part, found it very difficult, if near impossible, to express. Like Love and Gnosis, this utterly transcendent concept (and reality) of Beauty (which is also so utterly immanent, since it pervades our very existence) can only truly be experienced, but it can be expressed trans-personally through a medium or vessel that speaks to the heart, not the head – a medium like poetry, or a parable or koan.

Hegel, like many philosophers, considered Beauty to be a spiritual thing, the expression of the spiritual in our world (“Beauty is merely the spiritual making itself known sensuously”). Given this, it’s interesting to note that, in the Qabalah, both Christ and the Higher Self are attributed to the Sephirah called Tiphareth, which is translated to English as “Beauty”. This solar sphere is, in the human, usually equated with the Heart (or, in the Eastern Chakras, as a kind of blend of both the Heart and Solar Plexus chakras), which is the true Vessel of Beauty. Christ, and equally with Buddha and other such figures, spoke in a way that granted this “understanding of the heart”, as I term it, which is intrinsically woven into the very substance, form, and essence of poetry, parables, and koans.

Rev. Troy Pierce, of the Ecclesia Gnostica, wrote the following:

“In the Gnostic view liturgy is poetry, not theology. The same is true for scripture generally, including the scriptural passages that are read during the Eucharist service. The words are not statements of belief—they are not there as an end, but as a means. No belief is required to participate, and unexamined beliefs are actively discouraged in our tradition.”

So, what is the purpose of writing in what many might consider such a strange fashion? Why “veil” truth in language and metaphor (I quote veil here, as I really consider such language and metaphor as the revealer, not the veiler)? Why not just say it as it is, plain and simple, in easy-to-understand prose? Why does it have to be written this way? It’s simple - because it cannot be summed up. It is not an equation. It is not deductible, explainable, processible, or understandable to the mind. It is only understandable to the heart, because it is this truth, this beauty, this gnosis that transcends rationality, transcends the limits of the other kind of knowledge (i.e. science – and the world of “facts”, a word to which I will eternally roll my eyes), which is a rational and expressible kind of knowledge. So, these transcendent mediums are not there, as Rev. Troy mentioned in the above quote, as an end – they are not intended to “sum up” what they are describing, but they are intended as a means, as a way to that “end”, as a conduit of that truth, beauty, and gnosis.

So, when we read works that are written like this, and works that speak to our Heart, we are breaking through the sphere of rationality (and illusion), penetrating into something deeper, something more meaningful, something more real and true. We are accessing our personal Tiphareth, communing with our Higher Selves (who reside in Beauty), and experiencing that transcendent truth to which Christ (and others like him) has always been alluding to, a truth which is immanently beautiful.


zeph said...

And yet, you have 'factually' discussed this subject here in a way that can be understood - and appreciated by the heart, as well.

Yes, there are many many good reasons for expressing truths (what is truth for you and which may or may not be true for me but which is good to share and discuss in either case) poetically or in some other artistic way, but it is not the only way one can come to an understanding of the heart, no?

Super clear in your meaning and intent with this article, DW. Well written, thought-provoking... I give it two thumbs up! (Just watched Ebert and Roper last night....)

Dean Wilson said...

Actually, I'm talking about truths that CANNOT be expressed. "Facts" won't access that truth. I can't just say "This is this" and you're going to know it, because it isn't intellectual knowledge. However, the medium of poetry (and others like it) would, in a sense, BYPASS the mind, and therefore would access that indescribable knowledge that the poetry itself does not express (it is the door, not what is on the other side, as such).