Friday, October 18, 2013

A New Spirituality!

I'm quoting from an email from Michael Eigen Ph.D., author of The Psychoanalytic Mystic. As I was having morning coffee and doing first of the day reading, it so struck me that I wanted to post it word for word. It's a source of inspiration from old masters in depth psychology and spirituality! 

This is the email:

Here is a quote from Emmanuel Levinas. Some of you might find it worthwhile.  I quote it in the chapter Guilt in Emotional Storm, which brings together work of Bion, Levinas and Wittgenstein.
It goes with passages of Bion on insoluble emotional problems. Perhaps akin to Buddha's attention to the problem of suffering. 

"...a new attitude…  the search for a proximity beyond the ideas exchanged, a 
proximity that lasts even after dialogue has become impossible. Beyond 
dialogue, a new maturity and earnestness, a new gravity and a new patience, and, if 
I may express it so, maturity and patience for insoluble problems...
    "Neither violence, nor guile, nor simple diplomacy, nor simple tact, nor 
pure tolerance, nor even simple sympathy, nor even simple friendship -  that 
attitude before insoluble problems, what can it be, and what can it contribute?
    "What can it be? The presence of persons before a problem. Attention and 
vigilance: not to sleep until the end of time, perhaps. The presence of 
persons who, for once, do not fade away into words, get lost in technical questions, 
freeze up into institutions or structures. The presence of persons in the 
full force of their irreplaceable identity, in the full force of their inevitable 
responsibility.  To recognize and name those insoluble substances and keep 
them from exploding in violence, guile, or politics, to keep watch where 
conflicts tend to break out, a new religiosity and solidarity – is loving one’s 
neighbor anything other than this? Not the facile, spontaneous elan,  but the 
difficult working on oneself: to go toward the Other where he is truly other, in 
the radical contradiction of their alterity, that place from which, for an 
insufficiently mature soul, hatred flows naturally or is deduced with infallible 
logic.  One must abstain from the convenience of ‘historical rights,’ ‘rights 
of enrootedness,’ ‘undeniable principles,’ and ‘the inalienable human 
condition.’ One must refuse to be caught up in the tangle of abstractions, whose 
principles are often evident, but whose dialectic, be it ever so rigorous, is 
murderous and criminal.  The presence of persons, proximity between persons: what 
will come of this new spirituality, that proximity without definite projects, 
that sort of vigilance without dialogue that, devoid of all definition, all 
thought, may resemble sleep?  To tell the truth, I don’t know. But before 
smiling at maturity for insoluble problems, a pathetic formula, actually, let us 
think, like one of my young students, of St. Exupery’s little prince, who asks 
the pilot stranded in the desert, who only knows how to draw a boa constricter 
digesting an elephant, to draw a sheep.  And I think what the little prince 
wants is that proverbial lamb who is as gentle as a lamb. But nothing could be 
more difficult. None of the sheep he draws pleases the little prince. They are 
either violent rams with big horns or too old. The little prince disdains the 
gentleness that only comes with extreme age.  So the pilot draws a 
parallelogram, the box in which the sheep is sleeping,  to the little prince’s great 
"I do not know how to draw the solution to insoluble problems  It is still 
sleeping in the bottom of the box; but a box over which persons who have drawn 
close to each other keep watch. I have no idea other than the idea of the idea 
that one should have. The abstract drawing of the parallelogram – cradle of 
our hopes. I have the idea of a possibility in which the impossible may be 

From Levinas, Alterity and Transcendence

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