More Development from Al Mozol
Rossian Spiral/Model of Apophatic Knowing (must be read along with the original diagram – July 23, 2012)
“...a spiral is a figure that retains its shape (i. e. , its proportions) as it grows in one dimension by addition at the open end. You see, there are no truly static spirals.” Gregory Bateson (italics original)
Nature has a way of conveying its wisdom that life comes with arcs and spirals - the protruding bellies of pregnant women; the house and shape of the human brain; the bodies of dolphins or the bark and trunks of trees. Human ingenuity is only beginning to acknowledge the healing power of spirals and arcs applied for example to the circular structure of cyclotron and gantry used in proton therapy. Common wisdom tells us how people abhor being 'boxed-in,' how linear structures are rather more suffocating compared with those that tend to 'encompass' like old cathedrals or caves of solitude, silence and transfiguration.
The basic assumption of the Rossian spiral/model of apophatic knowing is that human being and doing is ordained towards theosis or transfiguration and that there is an incarnational means, context and language that facilitate “knowledge” of the way to this telos of transfiguration. They are incarnational for two reasons: the means, context, and language are available to everyone; and second, because transfiguration can happen though more imperceptibly and incrementally within a person's lifetime. The means and context towards transfiguration and its expression in human language (could be deprived, vapid, narcissistic, self-destructive also) is beholding.
The original diagram [posted Monday, July 23, 2012] shows that 'human knowing' tends to traverse between two 'hemispheres' – the left and the right hemispheres. The two hemispheres could be both metaphorical in one sense, or literal in another in reference to the hemispheres of the human brain. In apophatic knowing, the line dividing the metaphorical and the literal is blurred. The contemplative mind is mediated by the physicality of the human brain. But it is also, in the tradition of Bateson and Bringhurst, “a reflection of large parts and many parts of the natural world outside the thinker”. In-between the two hemispheres is the area of liminality, the area that is most marketed as the 'contemplative experience'. The left hemisphere could mean the hemisphere of differences and distinctions whereas the right hemisphere could mean the hemisphere of the immeasurable density and spaciousness of the divine vision of the goodness of creation, of the human heart. The diagram however shows that the area of liminality is simply the area of waiting, or the intent to wait in silence, or the willingness to be handed over to silence, to be attentive to the silence that is more spacious than the linguistic expressions in the left hemisphere. The present impasse regarding contemplative practice is how liminality is marketed as the contemplative prayer when the deeper truth that the model advances is that contemplative prayer is way beyond human consciousness and more silent than one's intent to wait. Contemplative prayer is floating in the sea of silence where self-consciousness on how to float is suspended. After the float, there is no way talking, analysing, or interpreting what happen during the actual floating. One can only float in the absence of the conscious effort to float. To float is to let go of the initial intention and desire to float. The right hemisphere is the sea of silence, the context of beholding. But this sea of silence is not something external. It is inherent in creation, in every person. The practice of silence then becomes the means of beholding, of entering into the infinite context and space of silence. The gift of beholding is transfigured perception, growth in the 'mind of Christ,' the re-ordering or purification of human desires by the Spirit that Paul alluded to in Galatians 5:22-26.
The image of the spiral above is meant to aid in understanding the Rossian diagram. The green fine dashes represent the content of the left hemisphere. The open end of every dash represents the point of liminality, the doorway to surrender in silence. The space in-between every dash is the continuous space of silence in the practice of beholding. The context of the beholding is the white background of the whole spiral. But the spaces of silence in-between the language of the left hemisphere could become the means also towards outward growth or kenosis in prayer and compassion in fulfillment of the two greatest commandments. The spiral looks like it has a point of beginning. It doesn't have a beginning. The context is the Spirit's playground, the space “more than one can imagine or ask for.” Be-ginning here is original, infinite self-outpouring that pervades every nook and cranny of creation (Keller). Hence, the beginning of the spiral could be anywhere else in the beholding of creation that is the recipient of divine self-outpouring, the divine activity human consciousness, if humble enough, has no sense of its trajectory. The spiral has no Newtonian neatness but is rather projective of some quantum movement of digressions, seemingly Sisiphyian monotony of “sitting in one's cell” over and over, of going back always to where one has started, detours, ennui, confusions, woundedness, of human shortness in beholding – human predicaments that could cyclically give birth to the necessity of beholding because beholding brings hope for a transfigured world in the here-and-now.