Saturday, June 19, 2010

Illumination: Why is Prolonged Preparation Necessary?

Without much preparation our judgment about things continually changes.  We do not always have the same capacity to grasp the truth.  Our self-interests based on actions of the passions clouds our reasoning.  It is the passions that introduce irrationality into our reasoning.  Only they are irrational.  We make our reason fit our life situation, rationalizing all of our misguided actions. We have a self-made world view, a mental model, through which we interpret the world and its events.  We tend to see created things only in terms of our own needs, as objects for material satisfaction.  We justify irrational behavior as rational and find in things and events logoi that do not belong.  This is so because of the existence of passions in us that modify our vision of the world in a way that deviates from the truth.

First, the deeper spiritual logoi are coved up.  We only see the material utilitarian aspects of things.  For example an apple is not seen has having a purpose of realizing that the creative energies of beauty and sweetness come from God.  We instead see an apple as an object to satisfy our appetite or for some nutritional value.  These material attributes blind us to the greater spiritual meanings.

Second, we try to justify all our actions based on personal motives.  The objective logoi are replaced by subjective logoi.  This subjective logoi are not the true ones but ones given to us through our passions.  It is only the objective ones that aid our spiritual growth, but without preparation they are hidden from us. When were are under the control of our passions the truth is replaced by a personal truth, a subjective truth.  We see all things relative to our personal self-interested observation.  When we embrace this subjective view as truth, we fall into an error called Relativism. We mistakenly embrace as truth that there is no absolute truth, that there are no logoi, because everyone sees the world differently.  Thus, the truth is not recognized.  It remains hidden.

This subjectivity needs to be overcome to know divine truths.  It cannot be done though any theoretical study.  It comes only with the development of dispassion based on humility and meekness, through a long process of purification.  This involves a struggle demanding much effort and faith.  The state of dispassion allows us to avoid the action of the passions to distort our judgment about things and events.  With a quiet liberated mind we can begin to observe divine truths.

Fr Dimitru Staniloae says,
Only reason which is modeled after a virtuous life, in other words after a life which has sacrificed, after prolonged exercise, egotism and the self-importance of personal opinion, can come to truth... Only the subjectivity which means the living of the surpassing of personal subjectivity can approach the truth.
Surpassing personal subjectivity is the basis for contemplation of the truths of God's creation.  This is why in our modern world such great emphasis is placed on the scientific approach.  It removes personal subjectivity.  But this approach is also limited, because it is applied only to the study of material attributes.  But a scientific approach models the objectivity needed to also view the spiritual attributes of things.  Dispassion is the equivalent "scientific method" for knowing divine truths.

This implies the development of a whole way of life, not just some rational understanding. Once purified of the passions, reason is transformed and is assisted by the powers of the soul and the whole person becomes in love with the truth.  Through this love of truth we enter into a relationship with the divine Logos.  We leave behind our opinions and only seek the truth given to us by God.  In this way mind and heart become unified.  

As Fr. Dimitru puts it, 
"The truth can't be known and confessed except with "one mind and one heart."
Next we will look at the steps for our healing and transformation of our reason.

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 206 - 213

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