Saturday, May 26, 2018
Pathways of the Prophetic- Contemplative Meditation
"For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot." (1 Nephi 11:1)
In the ancient School of the Prophets prophetic disciplines and meditation were established on the basis of balancing wisdom (Chokmah) and understanding (Binah). Unlike our western definition of wisdom where wisdom is often defined as the correct application of knowledge, the Israelite definition of wisdom is the idea of pure knowledge, data, sudden strokes of pure knowledge, or even intuitive knowledge. Their definition of understanding (Binah) is related to discernment, the organization, and classification of said knowledge or intelligence. Where wisdom is considered the feminine attribute, understanding is considered the male or masculine attribute. This principle was stated in ancient Israel as follows:
"Understand with Wisdom, be Wise with Understanding" (Sefer Yetzirah)
Or as was attributed to the teachings of Enoch
""The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of Understanding"
It is in these principles that lay the secret between balancing the spiritual with the physical. Just as a spirit (wisdom) without a body (understanding) cannot function in this physical world so too is a physical body (understanding) lifeless without the spirit (wisdom). Obtaining wisdom from God or pure intelligence/information is one of the disciplines of the ancient prophetic training, but no less important is the taking of that knowledge and organizing it with understanding so that it may be functionally relevant in this physical world.
The ancient disciplines were designed to allow the conscious mind to descend into the world of the spirit and draw from this eternal well like a bucket. One of these disciplines involved the idea of contemplative meditation or what we would call pondering. Contemplative mediation requires one to penetrate the veil between the physical and the spiritual from intentional thought in the conscious mind. The solemn though backed by true intention/desire (kavanah) is the first step on the path. One thinks, ponders, or examines a thing with intense conscious thought. In Israel this concept is called hitbonenut or absolute contemplation.
Before diving into the depths of the spiritual one must prepare the conscious mind for the journey. If the conscious mind has given no thought or contemplation on the matter then there are no prophetic discplines or techniques that will be effective to enable one to approach and draw from the Spirit of God.
Lest we think this principle was isolated to the ancient School of the Prophets, we find this same principle given to Oliver Cowdery when he attempted the process of translation and failed:
"Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom (Chokmah) in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
Behold, you have not understood (Binah); you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind (contemplative meditation); then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now." (D&C 9:6-10)
When conscious thought is focused as in contemplative meditation it becomes a means of opening to the divine. Through analytical thought the conscious mind is greatly empowered. Like light, thought can be diffused as in the case of a lamp that spreads light around in general but is not in any particular sense focused. It can also be highly focused and concentrated like a laser beam.
As the Prophet Nephi engaged in contemplative meditation (pondering) on a specific subject his conscious mind became keenly focused on the vision that his father related. His desire or intention (kavanah) to receive to bestow was the fuel for his contemplative meditation that focused his conscious mind. In doing so he opened a door to spiritual revelation. It is in this state that a person can perceive or understand (the eyes of understanding) information about the thing being contemplated or pondered upon. This information is not necessarily visible to the physical eyes or obtainable by any other method. In doing the person comes to the realization that the dimension of thought is more than just the conjuring of mental pictures and related facts but can be a pathway to receive Wisdom (Chokmah) by which true understanding (Binah) can operate. This discipline is not done in a willy nilly fashion but must be done with passion (true desire and intention) as this is the fuel that allows for the true bonding (devekut) with God.
So then the question comes, "How does one cultivate this passion or desire?"
(To Be Continued)