Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Flashes of Clarity

A view through fogged and droplet-covered glass. Nothing can be clearly made out.
It is inescapably true that we see, as the quote goes, “through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) or, in more modern translations, “in a mirror, dimly” – assuming glass to be in the old sense, as in “looking glass”, though there is debate as to which sense was meant by the author of the epistle. This is clearly true, from the evidence of modern neuroscience, of our perception of the mundane, everyday world. We see the reflection of the world that our senses and our complex neural circuitry manage to produce, and it fills in the blanks with reasonable assumptions all over the place. It finds patterns anywhere it can, so we see dogs and sofas in clouds. We miss far more of the world around us than we see.
This is much more true of the transmundane, whatever its nature might be. Our senses are conditioned from birth to provide us with a useful, if not accurate, impression of the mundane world around us. It is vital for our survival, never mind our ability to lead any sort of productive life. There is no such pressure driving our perception of the transmundane, and so we are not so well suited to it, neither by evolutionary pressure nor the shaping of our environment during our own lives.
So it is that our deeper, spiritual insight is not simply through a glass, darkly, but through windows that are fogged, cracked, and layered one upon another. All the careful peering and long observation we can bring to bear avails us little, and all we can see is that there is something, perhaps something moving, and perhaps see when it is moving.
But sometimes it is given to us that this barrier be taken away, at least in part, and we might see great things, deep and beyond our comprehension. Why this happens, I cannot say, though I could describe my own sense of it. In that brief moment of clarity we may see something relatively limited, focussed, direct – something relatively comprehensible. Or we might see something spectacular, broad, general and fundamental, and feel our capacities stretched by the attempt to grasp it.
And then the clarity is gone, and we take from it what we can. Even for the simplest things, we cannot truly grasp what it is that we perceive in those moment, and we carry away our lesson as it were a child's drawing. For those most fortunate in their opportunities, and most gifted in their capacities, it may go beyond stick figures and crayons, and be the beginning of real representative art. For the truly gifted, it might be a Picasso, or a Van Gogh, a beautiful representation that shows us some deep truth and beauty, but is still a long way from communicating the sight itself.
So what is seen truly is shared as best it can, and changes with the telling, and the passing down the generations. Differences grow from being shown different aspects of Truth, but also from different perceptions of what is shown, and different styles of representation. Each of us must do what we can to see, to hope and dread those flashes of clarity, and remember that the representation is not the thing represented.
Written June 2018
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