discrimination

Cultivate Attention and Discernment (6)

Illustration of Ibn al-’Arabi | Image source: www.en.qantara.de/

“He who knows himself knows his Lord;
… indeed, He is his very identity and reality.

— Shaykh Ibn al-’Arabi


Reading time: 25-30 mins

The Qur’an

Orthodox Islam has a bad rap these days, and not without good reason. However, just as Christianity has wisdom and truth underneath all the centuries of re-writes and distortions, so too the Qur’an which buried the strains of Islamic mysticism infusing its origins before corruption set in. The Sufi tradtion and the Islamic mysticism it stands for is very different to the Islamism and Jihadism of the kind we have witnessed in the modern age. Here too, the importance of discernment is clear.

Like the Bible that constantly warns of temptations and lies that could “deceive the very elect” the Qur’an is equally explicit in its warnings regarding dark forces of the demonic or Jinn overseen by the Shaytān or “Whisperer,” both of whom seek to imperial travellers on the “straight path” with “insinuating thoughts” or waswasa. The strengthening of spiritual perception is necessary in order to discern the true from the false and shun the crooked path. Indeed, we have seen that intelligence as much as faith is crucial to seeing the unseen and the signs of higher states of consciousness which might lead us to embody the presence of a Universal Intelligence or God/Allah. As the Hermetic maxim reminds us – “as above, so below”. And like the Bible, one has to sift for the gold in the Qur’an in order to see the reflected light.

Dr. Kabir Helminski‘s translations from his 2005 book The Book of Revelations: A Sourcebook of Themes from the Holy Qur’an provide an excellent summary of the qualities needed to begin seeing the unseen and its relationship to self-development and spiritual practice. The teachings encourage us to reflect and perceive the conscious creative power of all that flows through Nature and the universe. By paying attention to: “…the change of the winds, and the clouds that run their appointed courses between sky and earth: these are messages indeed for people who use their intelligence.” [1]

So, rather than having our head in the clouds and seeking signs and portents of a superstitious nature, we are learning to observe life’s hidden symbols and patterns of meaning. We may then learn to recognise the patterns of creative and entropic influences which can be understood as extrapolations of truth as it applies in Nature and man. Regarding these “signs” embedded in converging and radiating “arrows of time,” we have the following injunction to remain aware that intelligent design is at work, not only in the evolution of organic life but from the influence of other dimensions of existence that interpenetrate our own. We only have to take note of this design in order to see how carefully the Earth and cosmos is a school for learning:

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Cultivate Attention and Discernment (5)

La Clairvoyance (1936) (“Perspicacity”) By René Magritte 1936.

“Sound judgement, with discernment is the best of seers.”

— Euripides


Reading time: 15-17 mins

So far, we’ve looked at healing the past so that we have a firm foundation upon which to build, such as choosing constructive, positive emotions. To be able to take the first steps, we must have enough self-respect and at least some measure of self-control to take responsibility for our own development. That means choosing this as a central aim parallel or including, a process of objectives, without self-deception or short-cuts. We must simplify our daily routines and scale back our ambitions so that undue complexity doesn’t enter in prematurely. Economising our energy permits progress to that end. If we never have enough mental, emotional and physical energy available then our aim will remain in the realm of fantasy – the very source of the drain itself. Non-identification, positive detachment and proper attention help us simplify and return to what is essential. To be aware of the mammalian brain and its addictive habits we can choose to cultivate attention. When we know what to look for, we can begin to recognise the emotional, intellectual and physical patterns which keep our creative potential trapped. We might then be able to discern the true nature of ourselves and our relationship to others.

So, what is “discernment” exactly? From the Latin words ‘dis’ (apart) and ‘cernere’ (to separate), it’s a skill that we develop in order to comprehend what is vague or obscure. This applies to a person, situation or an abstract idea. It is the art of seeing which includes the realm of the five senses and by extension, the possibility of accessing different modes of perception using the marriage of intuition and reason. And we do this by shunning self-orientated, subjective impressions and by striving to obtain an objective view of life as possible.

If we can comprehend something and reach clarity then we can exercise sound judgement and the further ability to discriminate between what is true or false. Discrimination – the noticing of any part, quality, impression, detail or difference in comparison to another object, person or situation – is the essential partner to discernment. Without constant discrimination between what is negative and positive, good or evil, gaining useful insights from a holistic view cannot be attained.

Careful discrimination weighs up and compares, discernment permits initial recognition of impressions received. We are then able to exercise judgement and reach a conclusion of the overall picture, coordinated by the will of attention. As Scottish theologian Sinclair B. Ferguson states: “True discernment means not only distinguishing [discriminating] the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.” And this means learning that the “devil” is often in the details because lies to ourselves and lies in the outer world are frequently sandwiched between the sweet and seemingly well-intentioned. Or, as British Baptist Preacher Charles Spurgeon once cautioned: “Discernment is not a matter of telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” Which is why ancient philosophical traditions emphasize the subtleties inherent in developing such skills.

“Almost right” is still wrong. And that can be a big deal when your life depends on it.

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Cultivate Attention and Discernment (4)

“Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy”

— Vaclav Havel


Reading time: 25 mins

Creative Vs Entropic influences *

To get the engine of discernment running we need to be aware of how certain influences lead to cultural hypnosis and consensus trance, keeping us stressed, dependent and spiritually asleep. To bypass those toxic effects which we have taken on as normal, we must seek to build a sacred space within so that we are ready and receptive to attract the more subtle influences which positively stimulate the mind toward soul growth. Of course, they are less obvious and more difficult to isolate, which is why it is most challenging to attain spiritual development in our current round of society – everything is set up so that we remain numb and compliant or angry, fearful and volatile.

All of which is good for the system, not so good for the seeker.

Searching out Creative Influences (CI) in this context, is about cognitive and psycho-spiritual adaptation to society and culture without becoming subsumed in its pathology. When we can, we minimise an otherwise probable path to psychological entropy. [1] Gathering and applying these creative influences becomes an art and science since it is concerned with how to live in harmony according to the 31 principles.

The embodiment of psycho-spiritual creativity denotes character which endures. And character is formed by differentiating the qualities of thoughts, feelings and actions. Searching and getting to know these qualities is much like panning for gold in the mud – we recognise, understand and extract the properties which heal and integrate. These are processes which are made up of objectives, which, in turn, comprises our primary aim founded on energy dispersed or knowledge shared. The union or synthesis of “little ‘I’s or ego states begin to come under the influence of the soul which begins to grow from the various stimuli. It leads us to experience lessons which might eventually lead to an authentic level of Being.

Lies and self-deception cause a reversal or mirror image of these creative processes twisting back to the opposite path. The trajectory may appear to be the same in every way, the only difference being that the adaptive unconscious remains tied to the same narrative with no real changes occurring deep within whereby all changes are merely cosmetic. When we start to perceive the specific context and relationship in which creativity, entropy and the three forces interpenetrate we begin to differentiate which energy is operational and determine whether or not we are assimilating creative or entropic influences (EI) thus Being, or Non-Being, the latter resulting in a slow attrition of the soul.

With its inception in thermodynamics and information theory, “entropy” refers to the amount of uncertainty and disorder in a system. Everything in the universe tends towards entropy. All living creatures interact with there environment and self-organise and adapt to reduce the prospect of external entropy overloading our open feedback system and changing it to a closed system. Sentient life consists of a diverse range of open systems which extract energy/information from their environment to maintain a stable state, which, although far from equilibrium, continually keep the balance of entropy displacement into the outside world so that it never overwhelms the inner state – operational to abstract, disorder to order. This spring-cleaning and stabilising of energy is called “negentropy”, the process which prevents psychic entropy overload.

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