November 19, 2018

Faith and the Soul – Torah Portion Be-Shalach

“And children of Israel had faith  . . .” Exodus 14:31

The soul can be torn, and beneath that tear there is a new self emerging. Sometimes we are working so hard to make ourselves better, or to better a situation with others. Our struggle is truly good and even a holy one. We sometimes reach an impasse, and we realize that our abilities, our thoughts, our intelligence, our will, are not enough. Often there is a moment of despair. Our will runs up against the reality of the self and the world.

Sometimes something rather miraculous happens. A sense of grace (Hebrew, “chen”) emerges, a sense that one’s soul will be fine. I have seen this many moments in life, and oftentimes in moments around death. A dying person, previously wracked with resentment, pain, and fear and anger, suddenly beatifically smiles and says, “it is all about love it, isn’t it?”

I think about this when I think about the word “faith.”  When I am asked now and again to speak about faith by someone who does not know my teachings, I realize a few moments in that I am not playing to type. I am supposed to say something along the lines of “belief in that which is beyond the empirical senses.”  That discussion usually flows into the “how do we know?” and I, representing religion, God, superstition (as the case may be) am supposed to rise to challenge of proving the non empirical. I know how to play those lines. I don’t find them especially interesting.

When you consider that language and meaning take shape in deep, unseen layers of consciousness, we see that what we call ideas (words that don’t refer to the physical world) are life surface eruptions of architectonic movement. Did you ever search for the right word? And discover it? Or discover a word and realize that it named something that your soul knows, but you did not have a word for it? Words can order the world of the soul as it approaches the conscious mind. They are like street signs coming up from out of a city blanketed by fog (to use a wonderful image of James Hillman). Ideas name experiences in the soul.

So when I think of faith, I think that I have found words that can articulate oh so poorly a luminous experience of the soul. I feel as if I am trying to play Mozart by clacking pans and spoons together. And the strangest thing is: in the midst of my clacking of pans and spoons, another person hears also hears Mozart. And they clack theirs pans and spoons and I hear the music of spheres.

Events happen in the deepest regions of the soul, and they strive to be known in and to shape consciousness. We have no choice but to reify them into the clacking of language. Bad things can happen. Non-musical clackers say that our clacking is nonsense. Literalist clackers try to congeal experiences of the soul to dogma, the latter only being the purported solution to yesterday’s problem. The knowledge of the soul swirls in, through and above time, consciousness and being. Soul knowledge resists being forced into nice little conceptual or theological boxes.

A dying woman came to a sense of grace and faith in my presence and said, “It’s all about love, isn’t it?” I had counseled her. I saw that years of resentment and keeping score just fell away like scales over her eyes.

In those words, she communicated something vastly more than an observation about life. She allowed me in where her soul had torn open a blockage, and new self was born just as she was dying.

When I think about faith, I think about this.