Increasingly I find myself keeping my mouth shut about things that I don’t actually know. This is particularly difficult when I think I have a good idea about something. But I’ve been around long enough to get that good ideas are a dime a dozen. I hate to admit it because I have the kind of mind that generates streams of ideas, some of them pretty darn good. Especially after I’ve had caffeine. I fall in love with my ideas.
And to be fair with myself, some of them turn out to have more correspondence with truth than others.
Now I have stepped unwittingly into some very deep philosophical waters. From Kant forward most conventional philosophy persuades us that we can’t know reality in itself. We can only know reality through the subjective personal and cultural lens we all inevitably wear. And I get this. Spiral Dynamics and Integral philosophy are premised on the reality of these filters—emergent orders of consciousness and cultural waves of development—that determine not only what we see, but how we see it and interpret it. All true.
And yet, ultimately I’m with philosopher and esotericist, Rudolph Steiner and his mentor, German philosopher, scientist, poet, and playwright, Goethe. Both of these men challenged Kant’s premise that reality, in itself, is unknowable. They were both were mystics in their own way, and knew humans to be on a continuum with the reality that we perceived out there. There is an inherent unity between humans and the natural world. And we are that aspect of reality which, on behalf of whatever natural phenomenon we focus our attention, is able to know the thing and know it for real. In fact, when we learn the art of seeing and knowing (which itself takes considerable discipline), our ideas about the thing we are perceiving is the thing thinking itself—through us! It’s the thing itself which now has the capacity to know itself through thought—our thought. This is the unitive way of knowing.
Okay so what’s this got to do with the reading from Job and blind Bartimaeus? Job knew G_d in a particular way prior to being stripped of everything he and his contemporaries associated with divine blessing:
42:5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear…
He had inherited, as we all have, other people’s ideas about G_d. And through the cultural lens of traditionalism, everybody knew that G_d rewarded good behaviour and punished bad behaviour. Except that Job called bullshit on the whole arrangement. He trusted his own experience. And when you start trusting your own experience, the priests and religious authorities, and the members of traditional society start freaking out, warning you, admonishing you, shaming you. But the genius of Job was his willingness to challenge the traditional religious mindset.
His capacity to resist the pressure of his society is remarkable. Read the story again. He refused to fold in the face of immense pressure. In doing so he built sufficient tension to allow the evolutionary pressure for transcendence to build. This might be the first religious treatise to directly challenge the very tradition that included it in its canon. It anticipates the emergence of the modernist mindset in fact.
But something else happened as well. Coming around to G_d’s point of view did not mean giving up his new understanding that the divine economy of G_d as rewarder and punisher was wrong. This insight was hard gained wisdom based in his own intuitive interpretation of his experience.
As the text says:
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
This kind of vision is a direct knowing. Again, what he knew was not that he was wrong. He hadn’t been bullied into giving up new wisdom – wisdom which Jesus subsequently validated generations later: “G_d makes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the just and unjust”.
What causes Job to repent was that he saw for himself that this divine intelligence that is living us and living the entire universe is infinitely complex, beyond all our rational attempts to understand its ways. You can experience it, know it, devote yourself to it if you are spiritually inclined, but not with the rational faculty alone.
My few brushes with this Mystery left me speechless. Well, to be perfectly honest, there were two words that I repeated over and over again for a few hours. F*** me! It certainly left me knowing that I did not know much, and that the best response to It/Him/Her was to hold still long enough for this intelligence to make something of me.
Now I realize that at a deeper level we are expressions of this intelligence, but my hunch is that It shows up as infinitely more than and completely Other than us, during the stage when our arrogant ego still reigns. For some, like, me, this stage can last a life time. Who knows, maybe lifetimes?
But this is the true seeing, the spiritual seeing, I believe that the story of Job is telling and what the story of blind Bartimaeus is also about. We all know the cry of Bartimaeus to see again. We’ve all been blinded, especially in the 21st century, by philosophical materialism (reducing all reality to a flatland), rationalism (reducing humans to calculative logicians) and economic fundamentalism (reducing the human soul to little more than an economic unit, setting money up as a god).
“My teacher, let me see again.
The blind man “throws off his cloak” and springs up to meet this healer. What cloak is it that is blinding you? What needs to be thrown off?
42:1 Then Job answered the LORD:
42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
42:3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
42:4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’
42:5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
42:6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
42:10 And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
42:11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.
42:12 The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.
42:13 He also had seven sons and three daughters.
42:14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.
42:15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.
42:16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations.
42:17 And Job died, old and full of days.
10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
10:49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
10:51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”
10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
31:7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
31:8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.
31:9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.