Saturday, September 29, 2012

XIII Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

[NB Before you read this section, it would be a good idea to look again at the diagram at the beginning of this series. If you click on it, it will enlarge. Phil Chong has reminded me that 'The diagram is here: MONDAY, JULY 23, 2012, Manchester Talk May 31, 2012']


To cite another example: the Cloud of Unknowing centres on the word behold, which occurs thirty-five times. The Cloud-author's concern is that the reader not mistake lesser beholdings for the beholding, and to teach a method by which the seeker may come to attentive receptivity to this beholding.[1] The Cloud-author uses the word experience only once, to emphasize that what he is teaching is rooted in the body. In the text it is situated in a double affirmative that paradoxically reinforces an apophatic double negative. In spite of the Cloud-author's clarity, Walsh's translation in the Classics of Western Spirituality uses the word behold only once, in a pejorative way, while at the same time interpolating the word experience in its modern sense on 108 occasions, thus conveying the exact opposite meaning to what the Cloud-author intends. All of the other modern translations or paraphrases of this text, without exception, are equally problematic.
Again, Grover Zinn interpolates the word experience in the modern sense in his translation from the Latin of Richard of St Victor's Mystical Ark, where in IV:23, for example, in a discussion of the effects of excessus mentis, neither experientia nor experimentum occurs. Zinn translates 'Et quamvis inde aliquid in memoria teneamus,' as 'and although we may retain in memory something from that experience....' even though by definition excessus mentis cannot be an experience. This would better be translated as, 'although we may retain some residual effect in memory'. From this example alone it is not difficult to see that the term 'mystical experience' is nonsensical.
If, God forbid, I were forced to define the words mystic, mystical, and mysticism, mystic would simply be someone who has committed to re-centering their life in the deep mind, no matter what the cost; mystical would refer to beholding, when self-consciousness is effaced, and the effects that irrupt within beholding from the deep mind—which definition would exclude all interpretation, experience and phenomena, such as visions; and mysticism would refer to the effort, process, and effects of living the absolute primacy of re-centering in the deep mind so that one's daily life is informed by continual beholding. To return to my earlier definition: mysticism is living the ordinary through transfigured perception.[2]

[1] The repetition of a single word or a short phrase uses the self-consious mind's only means of attention to subvert itself.
[2] 'Apophatic Prayer as a Theological Model'

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The spammers' target these days is—guess what—blogs.

The problem is that the spam comes in under the tag 'Anonymous' along with legitimate comments.

Every day or two I go into the spam file and try to fish out the legitimate comments. The only problem is that in switching them from spam to not spam, they sometimes get lost in the ether. This happened to one comment today. Whose ever it was, I'm so sorry. Please try again.

So . . . . .  if your comment doesn't appear, please resend it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

XII Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

Gerson, for example, understood annihilation as the suspension of self-consciousness, or excessus mentis as it is referred to in many medieval texts. If there is excessus there can be no mentis, no experience, no interpretation or classification; thus the logical absurdity of the visionary's claim. The suspension of self-consciousness can be known only by its effects, in retrospect, for example, by the realisation that time has passed unawares, or by the unexpected return of the lost word to the tip of the tongue. Experience can refer only to the interpretation of these effects; or, at the most, an oblique perception of the event horizon where self-consciousness disappeared. In terms of the diagram, what a contemplative might name the activity of the Spirit, represented on the right side (deep mind), is not and cannot be experience because it is hidden in the part of the mind that is not directly available to self-consciousness, but that can only be influenced by self-consciousness—hence the importance of intention. The Spirit's activities in the deep mind rather irrupt into the liminal as effects, sometimes life-changing effects, where they are then interpreted by the self-conscious, conceptual mind, as experience.
The misunderstanding by modern scholars of Gerson's famous definition of mystical theology is an example of how texts are adversely affected when a Cartesian methodology is applied to a text that is developed on the assumption of two epistemologies, when there is no theoretical or practical knowledge of the dynamics of the work of silence. For example, one scholar translates it in this way: 'Mystical theology is an experiential [in the modern sense] knowledge of God that comes through the embrace of unitive love'.[1] What here has been translated as experiential should in fact be experimental, which is in any event closer to the Latin (theologia mystica est cognitio experimentalis habita de deo per amoris unitivi complexum (emphasis mine)).
Modern interpreters have a tendency to seize upon and isolate the first half of the definition—when it is in fact the second and consequent phase of the process Gerson is describing. His definition has three parts. First there is the engagement with divine love, which is apophatic; then there is experimental knowledge, which is interpretation in retrospect of the traces, the effects, which the apophatic engagement leaves. And finally, entailed in Gerson's definition—as the Cloud-author and others note—is the relinquishing all claims to experience.

[1] Mystics, p. 5.

Friday, September 21, 2012

One More Thing

Penny, no one can 'lead' you to anything. Each person must find his or her own way. We are all wayfarers, and each of us is unique in the context we come from and the manifestation of the Way in each of us. We can do little more than call one another's attention to pitfalls and illusions or delusions and encourage one another in hope.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Comment Worth Foregrounding

Penny Warren wrote: 

I am fascinated by your writing and appreciate all you have to say about silence, but I am disturbed by the angst within your writing. I find myself led into a fiery silence that is almost an end in itself instead of an opening into the beauty of God. And yet I understand from Writing the Icon of the Heart that beholding God, holding in love His being, is what you are wanting to lead us to.

 Expanded response:

Thank you for your good comment, Penny.
It is rather God first loves us and holds us in being; we would not be aware of ‘holding’ in love His being; it is rather that he in his generosity allows us to hold him in being by sharing his nature with us. It is already within us, but that shared nature is at work in us most optimally when we seek to the beholding.
In what you write it sounds as though there is a concept in your mind about what beholding ought to be and what it ought to feel like, that there are parts of us—such as ‘fiery silence’— that are inappropriate.
It is a wrong idea of beholding to think that we are required to eliminate the normal emotional range or, for that matter, any part of our humanity.  Certainly the preponderance of one emotion or another will change with beholding. But we have to remember that there is certainly a role—as we see in the life of Jesus in the gospels—for what you call ‘fiery silence’: think of the money-changers in the temple (which wasn’t so silent). And wasn’t there something about ‘I am come to bring fire to the earth’? Didn’t he weep over Jerusalem and sweat drops of blood? Beholding is not an escape from our humanity or its angst but rather its transfiguration. ‘What is not assumed is not redeemed’, as the ancient writers put it; it is precisely through our wounds that we come to beholding.
 When I see the institutional churches unnecessarily committing suicide, and the ecology falling apart, angst is not inappropriate. The present Manchester paper was given to an audience of mostly clergy (a theological society). As clergy are often impervious, it's necessary to add a little of what a Buddhist retreat master friend of mine calls "vajra anger"—do you know the ceremonial Tibetan knives? With such audiences, there is often need for a polemical edge, but out of compassion, not revenge. Being nicey-nice to such an audience only makes them think you're patting them on the back!

In a ‘fiery silence’ maybe some of the dross gets burnt up and the phoenix rises? Isn’t there an image in Isaiah about the refiner’s fire? Isn’t, perhaps, the ‘fiery silence’ necessary before we can behold the beauty of the Lord? Certainly a lot of clergy and the institutional church make seeking to the beholding opaque, if not impossible.

 I am not suggesting a Savonarola solution; but the accumulated junk, not the beauty, certainly should be thrown on the fire. Richard Holloway sums it up in Leaving Alexandria when he suggests that the church has exchanged poetry for packaging. He says far more in this phrase than perhaps he realized.
 There is a certain anguish that runs through the whole of the Christian tradition Often a writer who beholds will see the potential for the richness of life and the mutual abiding with God failing to be to be realised simply because people don't want to be bothered.

We need to remind ourselves that the beholding we have leads not to curling up in cosy silence with God and forgetting about everyone else in a kind of ‘spiritual’ catatonia [this is Bridget of Sweden's attitude, and Gerson was correct in opposing her canonisation], but demands rather that we return with the 'vision' to the community. Beholding gives us a more solid base from which to exercise a critique, and, in a sense, it is an obligation.
This understanding is in the earliest ritual of the First Temple (see Margaret Barker's work). It is also in Bernard’s sermon 41 on the Canticle, and in the hermit Anthony’s aphorism, that even, or rather, especially, in solitude, and overflowing from solitude, ‘Your life and your death are with your neighbour’ and in many other places—in the Buddhist ox-herding tale, for example.
‘Fiery angst’ is evident in God's exasperation because of the people's refusals: first of all, to behold, which is all God requires, and for which a bloodbath of livestock is a poor, if not negating, substitute; and second, because they miss out on the divine banquet on offer because they long for the onions and garlics and quails...
in other words, they substitute their own very linear, small, and material ideas of the good life for the vast love that God wishes to give them.
 Translating this to our day it would be celebrities, Cartier, Chanel, a rave, a club, or even a Big Mac that people want, desperately inadequate substitutes for the simplicity of God which, if engaged, relegates all of these desires and ideas of ‘fulfillment’ to the dustbin from their sheer irrelevance to the reality.
We need to keep in mind several aspects of beholding.
First, it is not a ‘state’; part of the problem with trying to write about something like the workings of the mind that are holistic and dynamic and outflowing is that words themselves are self-reflexive, linear, and can only make constructs. In fact, the mind works on many levels at once—even the word ‘levels’ is too static. The mind is polyvalent, and its workings polysemous. Beholding is not a vending machine: one does not do not do such and such so that beholding will be burped into one's hand. This is the key message of Philippians 2:5-11: you have to give up attachment to everything in your linear mind so that you can open to beholding.
Second, beholding happens out of our sight. You could never tell if a person is beholding, but you might sense if they were living from a well-spring of beholding, only you might not think anything more than this is a person you want to spend more time with. Beholding is a gift; it is a way of being in the world. We might sense an instance where the effects of beholding are expressed in liminality, which we then interpret as ‘experience’ but beholding is not something we can be aware of directly precisely because it opens on the deep mind. The closest we can come to an ‘experience’ of beholding is to read poetry, but not all poetry. See Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. Poetry acts as a conduit between self-conscious mind and deep mind because it is drawing on and continually referring to deep mind for the resonances expressed in words.
Third, the more one ‘seeks to the beholding’, in Julian’s words, through intention and vigilance, the more beholding becomes the hidden referent, the fountain from which we draw the energy for our daily lives. If we try continually to seek to the beholding—not a ‘state’ or a ‘technique’ but as a way of being in the world, of a deep inner opening and detachment—then gradually we will be re-centred—we cannot re-centre ourselves. It is a gift, something that takes place gradually. Meditation can help, but it is only one small and very minor step in a much larger programme, which is a way of being in the world. And the ways to beholding are as many as there are people.
Perhaps an analogy is that of tsimtsum, the Lurian kabbalistic myth of creation in which God, because he fills every available space, has to contract, as it were, so there can be a space for creation. We might think of beholding as a reciprocal tsimtsum: by intention and the practice of detachment (especially from our own ideas and even more especially our ideas about the so-called spiritual life, and about God), we make a space where God can be present and work in us, out of our sight. This is, perhaps, a form of tikun, which is the repairing of the damage to the shattered light of God and the destructiveness in the world which we have effected by insisting on the very limited and un-sounded (in the sense of poetry above) ideas and perspectives of the linear mind.
This re-centring is cumulative: usually it takes a long time before people realise that they are trying too hard to impose their own ideas on what ‘should’ be ‘happening’ in their ‘spiritual life’ and relax and let God do the work out of sight, while simply being vigilant to the intention [one can begin, if necessary, with wanting to want to intend—see The Fountain and the Furnace] of opening to the deep mind and detachment from their own ideas, an attentive receptivity at the deepest level. This is the reality of faith. As one desert father said, ‘The purpose of our ascesis is to fail.’
There is an ethics entailed in all of this: respect for the other, whether sentient or not, a welcoming space for whatever one encounters; turning from interior noise whenever one becomes aware of it; vulnerability; opening the heart to compassion, generosity, and so forth. But also a willingness to do what is necessary, at whatever risk to oneself, to discern and to appropriately stand up for the downtrodden, expose injustice, and so forth. And some of that risk is the willingness to get it wrong.
These are also effects of beholding. Gradually the person realises that he or she is beheld, not from any ‘experience’ but from the tenor of his or her entire life which has opened, or made space, for God to work out of sight. And at this realisation, she or he will, without trying to hold on or sustain any particular ‘experience', do anything to sustain life in this particular tuning. Outsiders might think of such a person as living an ‘ascetical’ life but it is rather doing whatever is required to keep the interior harmony, to ‘walk in beauty’ as the Athabascan and Navajo people say. Such ‘ascesis’ is not noticed as such by the beholder/beheld; it is part of the ordinary melody of a perfectly ordinary life—ordinary in the Orthodox sense, a life transfigured from hallucination to reality.
We tend to get ourselves all twisted up trying to reproduce what we fantasize is meant by ‘beholding’ or other words such as ‘contemplation’ or even ‘love’. We seem to want, at least in the beginning, something exotic, something other that we are, ranging from ridiculous behaviours to ridiculous clothing, to ridiculous attitudes. Far too many people get stuck here. Perhaps the biggest ‘ascesis’ is to accept what we think (and perhaps secretly despise) is ordinary, but which is anything but if one’s perception has been transfigured by beholding.
To seek to the beholding is so simple: perseverance in simplicity and ordinariness is the difficulty. As St Paul says, beholding is always ‘more than we can ask or imagine’. To have the deep interior attitude/intention of openness, receptive responsiveness, attentive receptivity, is all that is required.

God does the rest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

XI Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

The decline of the work of silence and its beholding has made way for the rise of the mis-use of the word experience. The ancient, patristic, and medieval meaning of the word as experiment (experimentum, experientia) recognises that experience is an interpretation, always provisional, to be submitted and resubmitted to deep mind in the light of scripture, silence and the wisdom of the elders. This notion of experience stands directly in opposition to the subjective, solipsistic and self-authenticating meaning this word began to acquire at the end of the fourteenth century, when Walter Hilton redefined the language of contemplation.[1] A century later, Gerson becomes acutely aware of the dangers of this shift in meaning: he tells us that a visionary told him that in contemplation her mind had been annihilated and created anew. 'How do you know?' he asked. 'I experienced it,' she replied. 'The logical absurdity of this reply,' remarks Bernard McGinn, 'had sufficed him to prove the reprehensible nature of [her] fantasies.'[2]
            But in spite of Gerson's best efforts, the modern, self-autheticating model of experience had not only won the day, it had become materialised. The Council of Constance insisted on exterior observance at the expense of life in God with catastrophic consequences for those monks, and especially nuns, who were genuinely intent on their life in God. For example, Aljit Bake rediscovered the work of silence on her own and introduced it to the Sisters of the Common Life, whose numbers swelled in a very short time from nine members to over a hundred. The sisters' male watchdogs, appalled by the positive changes they saw in the nuns, removed Aljit as Prioress and drove her into exile, where she quickly died. They instituted draconian measures. John van Engen tells us that '[the following resolution was made at the] Windesheim General Chapter [of] 1455: No nun or sister of whatever status should copy books containing philosophical teachings or revelations, either themselves or by way of others, whether compositions of their own (ex sua propria mente) or of other Sisters, and this on pain of imprisonment. If someone hears of or sees such books, he should cast them into the fire; nor should anyone presume to translate such books from Latin into Dutch.'
Little more than half a century later Luther, now trapped in his own self-consciousness, finding no one who could help him, further altered the theology of contemplation. He declared experience, in its solipistic mode, to be the basis for theology; he intellectualised life in God. The irony is that both Luther and his followers, and their opponents in the Counter-Reformation movement are by this time locked together in the smoke and mirrors of the self-conscious mode. We should remember that Descartes was educated by Jesuits; it could be said that his angelism was an inevitable consequence of the loss of the work of silence.
The modern sense of the word experience has now had five centuries to acquire weight and influence; in recent times it has suffered especially from the tainted nuances visited upon it by the paranormal preoccupations of William James and the pathologies of Thomas Merton. The logical absurdity that made such an impression on Gerson is not so obvious to twenty-first century readers.

[1] Walter Hilton, Introduction by John P.H. Clark and Rosemary Dorward, CWS, p. 19.
[2] Bernard McGinn, '"Evil-Sounding, Rash, and Suspect of Heresy": Tensions Between Mysticism and Magisterium in the History of the Church', The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. xc, April 2004, No. 2, pp. 193-212, p. 211; Gerson, Epistle 26, April-June, 1408, Haec tandem dixit et scribi jussit quod spiritus suus comtemplando Deum fuerat annihilatus vera annihilatione, dehinc recreatus. Et dum quaereretur qualiter hoc scire potuerat, respondebat se expertam. Jean Gerson, Oeuvres complètes, Introduction, texte et notes par Mgr [Palémon] Glorieux (Paris, 1960), vol. 2,  p. 98.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

X Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

'Beholding is embodied; it opens on the deep mind where incarnation, transfiguration, and resurrection are rapt into one, where the truth of the self unfolds out of our sight. The body signals beholding by the orans gesture. To behold entails a reciprocal holding in being.  God the creator of all, God who is beyond being, consents to have his creatures hold him in being in time and space, even as God is holding them in time and eternity [...] This notion of exchange is intrinsic to beholding, even extending to and including sin, which is a function of self-consciousness alone, and which is less possible to commit as the centre of the person is shifted from the feedback loop of self-consciousness to self-forgetful immersion in the free upwelling from the deep mind'.[1] It is no accident that Irenaeus sums up this reciprocity when he says, 'The glory of God is the human being fully alive, and the glory of the human being is beholding God." Behold signals shifting perspective, the suspension of the analytic faculty, the holding together or even the conflating of radically different points of view. Beholding differs from mindfulness in that mindfulness is a deliberate practice. Mindfulness can open a person to beholding, but beholding is itself a gift—which is why Julian asks us to 'seek to the beholding'.[2]
The word behold is key to understanding the Christian tradition, especially patristic and medieval texts. Their authors are soaked in the bible, and when they use hinneh, idou or ecce, they mean what the English word behold signifies with all its theological nuances and more. These authors also use behold in the manner of biblical authors to interrupt the narrative so that the mind's repetitive interpretations will be shaken. Behold, a virgin shall conceive: it is in the beholding that conception takes place; the rest of the sentence is for those who do not behold. The major sins against beholding confirm the behold tradition. Until the high Middle Ages, the biblical inheritance prevails: fornication refers to distraction from beholding, while pride means hanging onto one's own ideas, refusing to yield them to the refiner's fire of the deep mind.
In terms of the diagram, behold lives in liminality at the event-horizon. It is, as Buber notes, the opposite of experience; it does not admit interpretation. Beholding opens to the deep mind, which is inclusive, multidimensional and relational, in sharp contrast to the self-conscious mind, which is linear, discriminatory and hierarchical. We have nearly lost the word behold in Christian tradition, and with it the understanding of the work of silence, the importance of the two epistemologies' working together, and the primacy of re-centering in the deep mind.
The misinterpretation of Christian texts through the lens of a Cartesian methodology has led to the dehumanizing of Christian spirituality. Even in the wake of Vatican II, there remains an inisistence on a Manichean, even sado-masochistic attitude towards the body and the person—particularly regarding what is mis-pereceived as the self—as the price of theosis. It has exacerbated the idolatry of experience, and the heedless, witless destruction of the natural world. Every aspect of western Christianity has suffered, from biblical interpretation and translation, through theology of every stripe; to ecclesiology, and most especially the degradation of liturgy, which has been stripped of its primary purpose of opening the gate to the deep mind where the shared nature of divine and human is realised. In the inimitable words of Richard Holloway, Christian institutions have exchanged poetry for packaging. Liturgy has become a smorgasbord of self-reflexive experiences rather than its effacement to beholding.

[1] 'Behold Not the Cloud of Experience', E.A. Jones, ed., The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England VIII, Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 2012.
[2] 'Less Light on Julian....' Vincent Gillespie, in the volume cited in the previous note.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

IX Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

This ken-gnosis is not confined to the mind: Isaac of Nineveh and the Cloud-author among others tell us that the very physiology of the person is changed by the work of silence. It is not insignificant that Isaac emphasises this shift in terms of the human relationship with nature. He says that not only is '...the body and the appearance of the face...changed', but the re-centering causes '...the burning of the heart on behalf of the entire creation, human beings, birds animals—even all that exists...he even extends this [compassion] to the various reptiles....' Such a person '...approaches beasts of prey, and as soon as their gaze alights upon him, their wildness is tamed and they approach him and attach themselves to him as their master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. For they smell from him the scent which wafted from Adam before his transgression...which was taken from us and given back to us anew by Christ... for it is He who has made the smell of the human race sweet.' Modern scholars confined to their dusty rooms might interpret these texts as metaphor, but anyone who has lived a life integrated in the wilderness will testify to their lived truth.
The process of the work of silence can be summed up in the single word behold. Behold is not an archaic word: it was used by Pico Iyer in a New York Times Opinion piece on New Year's Day this year; it was used by CNN in a headline on March 2; both educated and uneducated people use and understand it intuitively and correctly; and, if I may echo the apostle Paul, in my experience, uneducated people understand it far better than the debaters of this age.
An entire book could be written about behold: indeed, one has. It's known as the bible, and not only is behold arguably the most important word in it, understanding behold is essential to biblical interpretation. This word occurs more than 1300 times in Hebrew and Greek in the imperative form alone, and there are many other words and expressions that signify, and should be translated with the word behold.
It is shocking that the NRSV uses behold only twenty-seven times in the Old Testament and not at all in the New Testament. Behold is the first word of covenant in Genesis 1:29. All God ever asks of human beings is to behold. It is because the people refuse to behold that the law is given (Exodus), according to a standard view. But Margaret Barker suggests that the Second Temple reformers establish the law precisely in order to suppress the beholding that characterised the First Temple, a move weirdly parallel to the suppression of the work of silence in the medieval West thousands of years later.
Echoing Genesis 1:29, announcing the new creation, behold is the first word of the last sentence that Jesus speaks to his disciples before he ascends in the gospel of Matthew: 'behold, I am with you until the end of time.' His enduring presence is in the beholding itself, the en-Christing movement of kenosis described in Phil. 2:5-11: 'Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus'. Jesus was a person; Christ is a process of theosis, of mutual indwelling, that Jesus embodies, teaches and restores to us.
Behold is the word of incarnation. One might even say that incarnation expresses the optimal relationship of the mind's two epistemologies.  In the bible, behold is specifically linked to the kingdom of heaven, for example in Luke 17:21, '...Behold, the kingdom of heaven is within you'. Behold exposes the essential relationship of the Old Testament to the New; it shows us that the New Testament cannot exist without the Old.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

VIII Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

Nicholas of Cusa appears to be the last church official to understand and teach the work of silence. With his passing, Christianity in the West inevitably became increasingly centred in the unreal world of self-consciousness. This loss of understanding and practical knowledge of the work of silence—the way to escape the the imprisoning self-conscious mind—was a major factor in Luther's crisis of conscience.
However, even in the face of the church's official policy of suppression, knowledge of the work of silence was not entirely lost: it was kept alive, by individuals such as the nuns at the end of the 15th century who made and circulated clandestine copies of Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls. It continued and continues to be kept alive by humanists, dissidents, poets, hymn-writers and anyone who observes his or her own mind.
It's important to observe in passing that the autonomy of the work of silence suggests that tracing chains of supposed influence can be deceiving: writers such as Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius, Pseudo-Denys, Richard of St Victor, Bonventure, Eckhart and the Cloud-author could have written their texts in isolation, though of course the language and form of their texts would have been different. In Petrarch, Gerson and Nicholas of Cusa, to name but three authors, the shift in understanding of the work of silence is clearly marked: in Petrarch by his ascent of Mt Ventoux; in Gerson by the change in his language and emphasis towards the end of his life; and in Cusa by his shipboard insight on his way home from Asia Minor, which caused him to write the Docta Ignorantia.
To summarise: self-knowledge, then, is not merely a moral inventory but an engagement with and understanding of the spiralling process of continual exchange by which the two epistemologies work together to effect a quite literally trans-figurative conversion in the human person; that is to say, the self-conscious mind yields what it calls experience to the deep mind, and the deep mind clarifies, enlarges and returns to the self-conscious mind a new perspective on its experience: it changes the way we figure things out. When Evagrius says Who prays is a theologian and who is a theologian prays, he is making an empirical statement, for in his day, it was understood that doctrine emerges from interpretation of the mind's work with silence. We might call this optimal working of the mind ken-gnosis