Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nicholas of Cusa - Self Knowledge and Intuition

I received a wonderful book yesterday - Selected Writings of Nicholas of Cusa. Ok, I know you are
going, "Right, Peggy. Sounds exciting," as you roll your eyes. Yeah well, it is!!

I have known Nicholas as the mystical visionary of the docta ignorantia and coincidentia oppositorum for many years. A philosopher - prophet a la Socrates, who answered all questions with another question because he was "smart" enough to know "the more you know, the more you don't know." Nicholas' docta ignorantia (doctrine of learned opposites) and the coincidentia oppositorum (tension of opposites, or unity of opposites; same thing, different perspectives) are major elements in the philosophy of paradoxical reality.

Paradoxical reality is an essential notion of all religious doctrine, parable, koan and, fundamentally, human psychology...i.e. the way we assimilate perception. If you are savvy to this, you can understand it as you read it in texts throughout the ages in all traditions and it easily crosses into science as well. It is common ground.

This is how I perceive things, and many others do as well....and it simply has to do with using intuition; with knowing the difference between that which can be fully defined and that which cannot; facts and meaning. Every "mystic" has an intuitor personality bias (I did an experiment and literature research that confirmed this). But you don't have to believe me, the psychologists have been writing about it for years...mystical intuition is a common search phrase. Of course, I am over simplifying. But it's an important generalization that certainly illuminates why some people insist on creating a reality of either/or and some, who are generally more accepting and calm about differences, prefer to create a world of both/and. Without the intuitive perspective, the perception that there may be different meaning, value, interpretation, truth to the ways each one of us perceives facts and concepts, we live in a reality of differences, we judge, we argue, we criticize, we exclude. Intuitives allow things to take different form, different meaning, different (relative) truth. Intuitives also see differences, but they know that the differences often exist from the point of view (perception) of the beholder, thus, the larger viewpoint is the forest, rather than the trees.

So back to Nicholas. Suffice to say, in my theological reading, I have learned that some of the earliest writers of theology had mystical points of view. That is, they used equally well, their rational intellect and their insight (wisdom intellect). In fact, subjective intelligence (meaning and value) is more primitive than objective, but that is a story for another day. All of us have insight, but many of us do not listen to, or give validity to that "still small voice" or those feelings of well-being or dis-ease. These people are more inclined to "believe" what others tell them, to accept only factual information as valid, and to see differences rather than similarities. They are sensor biased on the Myers Briggs inventory and 77% of the Western population are sensor-biased. Only 23% of us are intuitor-biased. But there is a way we can deepen our intuitor skill. It is silence and self-reflection.

So now you know why meditation or contemplative prayer expands your "consciousness." It allows your thinking mind - the sensor - to be still while giving your intuiting capacity space to be "heard." In fact, if you read about early Christian prayer practice, you will learn that self-reflection is imperative, and is framed as a means of realizing God's presence within us.
I do not know if I have explained this clearly: self-knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it; so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more than humility. And so I repeat that it is a very good thing — excellent, indeed — to begin by entering the room where humility is acquired rather than by flying off to the other rooms. ~Teresa of Avila: First Mansions, Chapter 1

Finally, as I begin my journey with Nicholas and his writings, I offer his words on the importance of self-reflection, knowing who you are and being authentic with yourself. This is the important first step in contemplation.
"…when I rest in the silence of contemplation, you, Lord, answer me within my heart, saying, ”Be yours and I too will be yours.”

The sweetness of every delight, you have placed within me freedom to be my own if I am willing. Hence, unless I am my own, you are not mine, for you would constrain my freedom since you cannot be mine unless I also am mine. Since you have placed this in my freedom, you do not constrain me, but you wait for me to choose to be my own. This depends on me and not on you, O Lord, for you do not limit your maximum goodness but lavish it on all who are able to receive it.” De Visione Dei
~Nicholas of Cusa 1401-1464

My Friends, 
Be Still.
May you hear the words of Nicholas, and allow them to illuminate those of Jesus, expanding your perception of  this world of concept, with the "eye" of your heart, intuitive insight, that brings unity, balance, peace and freedom to the truth you see and live. John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  _/\_Peggy

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