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Would you like to experience this silence that was presented in the last post? Well, you have to do three things, which I’m going to recommend in the next three posts.
The first is understanding.
Understanding that God isn’t anything like the idea that you have of God. You know in the country I come from, India we’ve got plenty of roses, but let’s suppose that I had never smelt a rose in my life and I say it to you what is the smell the fragrance of a rose, could you describe that? Go on describe it.
You see? If you cannot describe a simple thing like the fragrance of the rose how could anybody describe the experience of God? Whatever words he uses, they’re quite inadequate, God is totally beyond that.
So now, you have it. That’s what is wrong with the words, there is this great mystic who wrote The Cloud of Unknowing. A great Christian book and he says do you want to know God. There’s only one way of knowing Him, you know Him through none knowing. You have to get out of your mind and your thinking, then you may grasp Him with the heart and Saint Thomas Aquinas that great Christian theologian says, “about God only this can be said with certainty that we do not know what He is”.
You know that is what the church tells us, in the very solemn language in the second Lateran council, she says, “any image that we have of God is more unlike Him than like Him”. Now I know what some of you going to say to me, you’re going to say if that is true? What about scripture? Well, Scripture doesn’t give us a picture of God, doesn’t give us a description of God, it gives us direction because no words can give us the picture of God.
Bombay, and then I come to this signpost that says “Bombay” and then I say well what do you know here it is Bombay, and I look at it, and go back, and people say to me did you get to Bombay? I say yes, I got to Bombay. What is it like? You know it’s like a, well, it’s like a board sees painted yellow and there are words on it, the one looks like “b” one looks. Did you see that? I miss the point because that signpost isn’t Bombay. In fact, it isn’t like Bombay at all, it isn’t a picture of Bombay. It’s a pointer that is what scripture is. A pointer.
In the east, we have a saying “when the wise man points to the moon all that the fool sees is the finger”. Imagine that I am pointing to the moon and I say “moon” and you come running up and say oh is this the moon? And you are looking at the finger. This is the danger and the tragedy of words, words are beautiful. Father, what a lovely word to indicate God. But the church herself teaches us, that is a mystery. God is a mystery and if you take the word “Father” to literally, you will get into trouble, because people will be asking you. What kind of a father is this? That He allows so much suffering, see? A mystery, unknowable, unintelligible beyond the mind.
One more way of showing you the same thing but I think you’ll find it profitable. Imagine that there is a man, born blind and he says to me what is this color green that everybody’s talking about? How would you describe that to him impossible, and then he says listen to the questions he says is it hot or is it cold? Is it long or is it short? Is it rough or is it smooth? It is none of these things, because the poor man is asking the questions from his limited experience. But let’s suppose I were to try I’d say you know that color green I’ll tell you what it’s like it’s like soft music, and one day the man recovers his sight and I say to him well did you see the color green? He says no you know why? Because he’s looking for soft music. He got stuck to that idea of green being soft music, so when he was looking at green the color green he failed to recognize it.
That’s another story we have in the east, of this little fish in the ocean somebody tells the fish what a mighty thing the ocean is, great, marvelous and so this little fish is swimming everywhere in search of the ocean. In the ocean and all he finds as water, see? He failed to recognize he got stuck to that word ocean. Now can it be that that is happening to us, can it be that God is staring us in the face but because we are clinging to some ideas we fail to recognize him? That would be a tragedy wouldn’t it?