Man up to now has lived in a very schizophrenic way. The reason why he has become divided is not very difficult to understand. For centuries he has been told that the world consists not of one world but of two worlds: the world of matter and the world of the spirit. This is absolute nonsense.
The world consists only of one truth. Of course, that truth has two aspects to it, but those aspects are indivisible. The outer aspect appears as matter and the inner as spirit. It is like a center and its circumference. This division has penetrated human mind in a thousand and one ways. It has become the separation between the body and the soul. It has become the separation between the lower and the higher. It has become the separation between the sin and the virtue. It has become the separation between the East and the West.
Man stands today so fragmented, so divided, that it is almost a miracle how we are managing to keep ourselves together. The whole energy is exhausted in just keeping ourselves together, because we are constantly falling apart.
The greatest need of the day it to get beyond this schizophrenia, to get beyond all divisions, to reach to the ‘one” which is neither this nor that, which is neither East nor West, which is neither man nor woman. That “one” has been called by the mystics God, truth, moksha, nirvana, the absolute, Dhamma, Logos, Tao – different names but pointing to the same one reality. It was possible up to now somehow to go on living in a schizophrenic way, but now it is no longer possible.
We have come to a point where the decision has to be made. If we want to exist we have to create a synthesis, or rather a transcendence, of all dualities. If we don’t want to exist then there is no problem. If we want to commit a global suicide, then of course all problems are solved – but I don’t think anybody wants or desires a global suicide.
Man has achieved much in spite of all kinds of madness. Man has reached many peaks: religious, aesthetic, poetic, musical. And all this has happened in spite of all kinds of madness that we go on supporting, nourishing, because the vested interests don’t want you to be united and one; the vested interests want you to remain divided.
When Rudyard Kipling said, “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” he was giving expression to all the vested interests. They want the world to remain divided, they want man to remain divided – into many religions, philosophies, political ideologies, in every possible way they would like you not to become one. Why? – Because the man who is integrated and one is impossible to enslave. He cannot be exploited by the priests or by the politicians. In fact, he becomes absolutely free from all possibilities of exploitation and oppression. He becomes an individual, he becomes rebellious, he becomes intelligent. He becomes so sharp and clear that he can see through all superstitions, howsoever old and ancient. He can see the stupidity in which humanity has lived – and not only lived in but glorified. He can see the foolishness of nationalities, the utter nonsense of so many religions in the world.
There are three hundred religions’ in the world and at least three thousand sub-sects. He can see clearly that to divide matter from spirit is to create a division in the very being of man – because the body, matter, is nothing but spirit manifest, and the spirit is nothing but matter, body, unmanifest.
God and the world are not two things. God is not the creator and the world is not the created; God and the world are one. It is a process of creativity. You can divide creativity in two parts, the creator and the created, but in fact that division is arbitrary. It is ONE flow of creativity God is not the creator, let me remind you again and again and the world is not the created. This whole existence is a river-like creative energy.
My sannyasins have to understand this oneness in as many ways as possible so that no nook and corner of your being remains divided. The West is very proud of its materialism, science, technology. That pride hinders it from getting into a deep communion with the East, but that pride is nothing compared to the Eastern ego.
The Eastern ego is far more subtle and far more dangerous, far more poisonous. The Eastern ego pretends, projects, brags about its spirituality. Of course, the people who think they are spiritual can condemn the people who are materialists more easily than vice versa, because even the materialist feels somehow that matter is a lower reality. He may not even consciously believe in any higher reality, but the conditioning is so old – it has penetrated into the blood, into the bones, into the very marrow – that a man can become consciously a materialist but deep down he remains part of the whole heritage of humanity. Hence the Western ego is not much of a danger, but the Eastern ego is very dangerous – for the simple reason that it is more subtle, more hidden, not on the surface, more unconscious.
The East goes on proclaiming itself as the source of all spirituality, the source of all mysticism – which is patent nonsense. It depends only on ignorance. If you ask any Eastern so-called mahatma, you will be surprised that he knows nothing about other spiritual Masters who have existed in other parts of the world. He has not heard about Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, Ko Hsuan. He has not heard about Lin Chi, Basho, Bokuju. He has not heard anything about Pythagoras, Heraclitus or Dionysius.
We are going to discuss Dionysius in this series. Dionysius is one of the greatest Buddhas ever.
And whenever the Eastern scholar by any chance, if at all, comes across a person like Dionysius, he starts thinking that he must have borrowed from the East. That seems to be a tacit assumption: that the East has some monopoly over spiritualism. Nobody has any monopoly. East or West cannot make any difference in man s spiritual growth. Jesus could become a Buddha in Jerusalem, Lao Tzu could become a Buddha in China, Dionysius could become a Buddha in Athens. There is no need to borrow from anybody.
Yes, in scientific experimentation we have discovered very recently a strange phenomenon: that whenever one scientist discovers something, almost simultaneously many people all around the earth discover the same thing in different ways. Albert Einstein is reported to have said, ”If I had not discovered the Theory of Relativity, then within two years somebody else was bound to discover it.”
Why does it happen that some scientist working somewhere far away in Soviet Russia discovers something almost simultaneously with some other scientist who is working in England or in America or in India or in Japan – not knowing anything of the other, not even being aware of the existence of the other, not knowing that somebody else is also working on the same problem?
Now it is becoming more and clearer that with all the great discoveries, although the initial effort is made by the conscious mind, the ultimate result always comes through the unconscious. And the deepest layer of the unconscious mind is collective. I am different from you as a person, you are different from me AS persons – as far as conscious mind is concerned. If you go a little deeper, we are not so different in the unconscious mind. If you go a little deeper still, we come even closer in the collective unconscious.
And the mystics say there is even a little more than the collective unconscious; they call it the universal unconscious, or God. That is the very center. At that center we all meet and we all are one. All the great insights come from that center. It is only a question of who is looking in that direction – he will get the insight first. Otherwise the insight starts happening to many people; they may not be looking at it and therefore they will miss it.
Alan Watts, writing on this small treatise of tremendous beauty, the Theologia Mystica of St. Dionysius, says that one is tempted, greatly tempted, to think that Dionysius must have visited the East; if not, then some Eastern mystic must have traveled to Athens.
In those days, when Dionysius lived, many Western travelers had started coming to India. With the coming of Alexander the Great many barriers were broken, many bridges were made. And it was not one sided: Eastern mystics also started traveling towards the West. Even Jaina monks, who live totally naked, for whom the Western climate is bound to be far more harmful than Poona is for you, they went to Alexandria, to Athens, to the farthest corners of the known world. The Jainas are referred to in ancient Athenian treatises as “gymnosophists.” Sophist means one who is searching for the truth and gymno comes from Jainu. “Gymnosophist” is the name for the Jaina mystics who had penetrated Athens. And there was great business going on between India and Greece. And, of course, with the businessmen, the traders coming and going, there was a great exchange of thoughts.
Alan Watts thinks either Dionysius visited India… because the way he speaks is so Eastern, the insight that he reveals is so Eastern. Even his words remind one of the Upanishads and nothing else. So Watts thinks either he visited the East or somebody from the East or many influences from the East somehow became available to him. But I am not tempted that way at all.
My own experience and understanding is this: that great truths erupt in many places in almost similar ways. Lao Tzu never came to India and nobody from India ever visited Lao Tzu. China and India were divided by the great Himalayan mountains; there was no business going on between India and China, no communication of any kind. Still, what Lao Tzu says is so similar to the Upanishads, is so synonymous with the teachings of Buddha, that there is a great temptation to believe that there must have been some communication – either Buddha has borrowed from Lao Tzu or Lao Tzu has borrowed from Buddha.
But I say to you, nobody has borrowed from anybody else, they have all drunk from the same source. And when you taste the ocean, whether you taste it on an Indian shore or on the Chinese shore, it makes no difference; it always tastes the same, the same salty taste. So is truth: it has the same taste, the same flavor, the same fragrance. Maybe in expressing it there is a possibility of a few differences of language, but that does not matter much. Sometimes even those differences are not there.
Dionysius is a Christian, and one of the real Christians. It seems Friedrich Nietzsche was not aware of Dionysius and his Mystica; otherwise he would not have said that the first and the last Christian died on the cross two thousand years ago. In fact, there have been a few more Christs in the tradition of Christ. Dionysius is one of the most beautiful of them all. Then there is Meister Eckhart, St. Francis, Jacob Boehme and a few more – not many of course, because Christianity became such an organized religion that it became impossible for mystics to exist, or even if they existed they went underground. They had to; there was no other way.
It is just like today in Russia you cannot be a mystic without hiding yourself. Because to be a mystic in Russia means you are insane, you have to be hospitalized, you have to be given insulin shocks or electric shocks.
It is fortunate that Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Mahavira were not born in today’s Soviet Russia. Jesus would not have been crucified in Soviet Russia, that is true, but he would have gone through far more sophisticated tortures. Crucifixion is a very primitive phenomenon, and not so dangerous either; it kills you, that’s all. Electric shocks will not kill you, but they will destroy all your splendor, all your glory, all your intelligence. They will force you to vegetate. Your life will become as lifeless as possible. You will continue to exist but it will be a mere existence, mere survival. Your dignity will be gone.
Jesus died a dignified man. He died with tremendous joy, he died fulfilled. But if he is born in Russia today he will have to die a very undignified death, or if he lives he will have to live a very undignified life.
In Russia now, a really religious person has to go underground. There are my sannyasins who have to go underground. They are working underground – in basements they meet in the darkness of the night. What an ugly world we have created, where you cannot meditate openly when you cannot discuss about truth, about love openly To meditate as if you are committing some crime does not show that humanity has progressed; in many ways it has regressed.
Christianity did the same for two thousand years in the West. Communism is an offshoot of Christianity. Whatsoever communists are doing now they have learned from the Christian popes. Christianity destroyed all possibilities of mysticism.
There were only two ways to avoid being persecuted. One was to go underground or escape to some desert, to some mountains. And the second possibility was to exist as a formal Christian on the surface, use the Christian language, and go on doing your inner work privately. That’s what Dionysius did.
You will be surprised to know: he was the first Bishop of Athens. He must have been a man of rare intelligence. To remain a Bishop of Athens and yet to penetrate the deepest mysteries of life like Buddha, Lao Tzu, Zarathustra, he must have been a man of rare intelligence. He managed a facade. He deceived the Christian organization.
His treatise was not published while he was alive. He must have managed it in such a way that it was published only when he was dead. If the treatise had been published while he was alive he would have been expelled from the Church, persecuted, tortured. And a man of understanding, a man who is not suicidal in some way, would not like to be persecuted unnecessarily. If it becomes a necessity he accepts the challenge. But he is not looking for it; he is not in some way hankering to be a martyr. He is not suicidal, he is not violent towards himself.
Dionysius is a rare man: living with stupid Christianity and its rigid organization, being a bishop and still being able to reach to the ultimate peaks of consciousness is something worthy of praise.
Before we enter into these beautiful sutras of Dionysius, a few things have to be understood.
One: these sutras were written as letters to one of his disciples, Timothy. All that is really great, all that is really of the ultimate, of the transcendental, can only be communicated to disciples. It has to be addressed to those who love you, to those who have a deep attunement with your heart. It cannot be addressed to the mass, to the crowd, to the indifferent, to the antagonistic. Great truths are communed only when there is love. It is possible only between a Master and a disciple that a truth can be transferred.
The disciple means one who is open to receive. The disciple means one who trusts so totally that there is no question of arguing, because these profound mysteries cannot be argued about. Either you know or you don’t know – you cannot argue. There are no proofs for them, except your trust in the Master. Of course, if you trust the Master, the Master can take you to the window from where you can see the vast sky with all its splendor… millions of stars. But you will have to trust him at least this much: to allow him to hold your hand, to allow him to take you to the window. If you start arguing about the window and its existence and there is no way to convince you.
There are no proofs for God; there have never been there will never be. Those who have known have known; only because of deep intimacy, because of a love affair with the Master. It is not a question of convincing somebody, it is not conversion to a certain ideology; it is simply a mad love affair. You come across a man like Dionysius and the very presence of the man is enough: the very presence becomes a proof that there are many more things in life than you have ever dreamt of. The presence of the man penetrates your very heart. The presence of the man transpires something in you, triggers something in you of which you were never aware before. You start hearing a song, you start seeing a beauty, you start feeling a new mood of elation, ecstasy – for no visible reason. Then it becomes possible to surrender your ego to such a person.
When you surrender your ego to the Master, the Master is only an excuse. You are really surrendering to God, not to the Master. In fact you are simply surrendering. It is not of any importance to whom: the question is not to whom; the question is that you are surrendering the ego. The moment the ego is surrendered there is a possibility of communion.
These are letters from Dionysius to his most beloved disciple, Timothy.
The second thing to remember is: Christianity, in becoming the religion about Jesus, missed something of tremendous importance. Because it tried to become the religion about Jesus it could not become the religion of Jesus. And a religion about Jesus is not a religion of Jesus. In fact, the religion about Jesus is against the religion of Jesus, because when a religion becomes about a person you lose contact with his inner reality; you become concerned with his outer expressions.
Christianity became too much concerned about following Jesus as an example. Now, that is getting into a wrong direction. Nobody can follow Jesus as an example, his life cannot be an example to anybody else, because a certain life exists in a certain context. To be exactly like Jesus you will need the whole situation, the whole context in which Jesus existed. Where can you find the same context again? Life goes on changing; it is never the same even for two consecutive moments. You cannot be Jesus of Nazareth, impossible; there is no Nazareth anymore. You cannot be Jesus because that Jewish mind which crucified Jesus exists no more.
Amongst my sannyasins there are thousands of Jews. Jesus could not have believed his eyes if he had seen this! He was a Jew – he was born a Jew, he spoke the language of the Jews, he believed in all the fundamentals of the Judaic religion – still he could not find many followers. I am not a Jew – I don’t speak the language of the Jews, I don’t believe in the Judaic fundamentals – still I have been able to find thousands of Jews. The context has changed; it is a totally different world. Twenty centuries have passed.
Also, whenever you start trying to follow a certain person as an example you become imitative, you become false, you lose authenticity, you are no more yourself. And to make the point very emphatic, Christianity has insisted for two thousand years on a very absurd thing. The absurdity is that on the one hand Christianity says, “Follow Jesus, imitate Jesus! Let Jesus be your example!” and on the other hand the same Christianity goes on telling you that “Jesus is God, God’s only begotten Son, and you cannot be related to God in the same way.” Can you see the absurdity? On the one hand you say, “Follow Jesus, be like Jesus!” and on the other hand you make it absolutely impossible for yourself to be like Jesus, because Jesus has a special relationship with God and you cannot have that relationship; that is not possible.
Hence Christianity has created an impossible religion on the earth, telling people such nonsense. Such an absurd approach is bound to create guilt. People try to follow Jesus, but they cannot be Jesus-like; hence guilt arises, they feel guilty. No other religion has created so much guilt on the earth as Christianity. Christianity has proved the greatest calamity for the simple reason that religion is not supposed to create guilt. If religion creates guilt then it makes you depressed, then it makes you frustrated with yourself, then it creates a subtle suicidal instinct in you.
A true religion elates you, enhances, enriches your being, makes your life more festive, creates more possibilities for you to celebrate and rejoice. And Jesus goes on saying to his disciples, “Rejoice! Rejoice! I say unto you rejoice!” And what has Christianity done? It has done just the opposite. Dionysius was aware of this fact.
The third thing: the experience of truth is like music – yes, more like music than like anything else, because you cannot describe music to anybody else. You can say it was beautiful, but that is an evaluation, your judgment. You are not describing music, you are describing your mood that happened through the music. There is no way to describe the beauty of music.
The same is true about religious experience. That’s why authentic religion is always mystic. By “mystic” I mean something that can be felt, experienced, but can never be described. Even though you know it, you are incapable of making it known to others; you are almost dumb. The more you know, the more dumb you are. When you have known it absolutely you become almost an absolutely ignorant man.
Dionysius has a special word for it; he calls it agnosia. You must have heard the word “agnostic”; Bertrand Russell used the word for himself. The atheist says there is no God, but he says it as if he knows – that “as if” is always there – as if he has explored the whole reality and has come to know that there is no God. In declaring there is no God he is declaring his knowledge. He is a gnostic: he knows.Gnosis means knowledge. The theist says there is a God – as if he knows, as if he has attained, arrived. He is also a gnostic; he has gnosis, knowledge.
An agnostic means one who says, “I don’t know, neither this way nor that. I don’t know whether God is or God is not. I am utterly ignorant. ” Hence Bertrand Russell says, “I am agnostic.” He must have discovered the word in Dionysius:Agnosia. But Dionysius’ use of the word is far more potential, far more pregnant than Bertrand Russell’s; Bertrand Russell’s cannot be more than a logical statement. He is a logician, a mathematician; he has never meditated, he has never gone within himself. He says he is an agnostic, but he has never tried to go beyond it, as if agnosticism is the ultimate and there is nothing more to do about it.
My feeling is that he is not a true agnostic. The atheist says, “I know there is no God,” the theist says, ”I know that there is a God,” and the Bertrand Russellian agnosticism says, “I know there is no way of knowing” – but that knowledge, that tacit knowledge is there.
Dionysius says that one can know God only when one comes to the moment when one knows nothing: the state of not-knowing is the opening of the door. By agnosia he means exactly the same as the Upanishads mean. One of the most famous Upanishads, the Kenopanishad, says:
“It is conceived by him who conceives it not.
Who conceives it, knows it not.
It is not understood by those who understand it.
It is understood by those who understand it not.”
Or it reminds one of the Zen Master Yung-chia. In his Song of Enlightenment he says:
“You cannot grasp it;
you cannot get rid of it.
In not being able to get it, you get it.
When you are silent, it speaks;
when you speak, it is silent.”
Or it reminds one of the great Socratic statement: “I know only one thing, that I know nothing.”
Agnosia means the state of not-knowing. That’s what samadhi is, that’s what meditation is all about: the state of not-knowing.
Meditation creates that state, agnosia. When meditation has helped you to burn all your knowledge, to unburden you of mountainous loads of conditioning when it has left you utterly silent, like a small child full of wonder and awe, that state is called in India samadhi. Samandhi means all is solved: there is no longer any question and there is no longer any answer; one is utterly silent. There is no longer any belief and no longer any doubt. Dionysius calls it agnosia. It is through agnosia that one comes to know.
This is the ultimate paradox of mysticism: that by not-knowing one comes to know it and by knowing one misses it. Not-knowing is far higher than all knowledge. The universities give you knowledge, but when you enter into the Buddhafield of a Master you are entering into an anti-university. In the university you learn more and more knowledge, information; you accumulate. In the anti-university of a Master you unlearn more and more… a moment comes when you know nothing.
It is a very strange moment, hence it has been described by Dionysius with tremendous beauty: he calls it “translucent darkness.” Many mystics have called it different names, but Dionysius seems to surpass them all. Translucent darkness… darkness which is pure light. He also calls it Docta Ignorantia, the doctrine of ignorance. He also calls it “knowing ignorance.” You can compare it with the knowledge of the knowledgeable people. The knowledgeable people are called by Dionysius people who have “ignorant knowledge.” So he divides people in two categories: those who belong to the world of ignorant knowledge – they know much, knowing nothing – and the second category, the people who belong to the world of knowing ignorance – they know nothing, hence they know all.
From Theologia Mystica, Chapter One
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