Saturday, February 2, 2019

Embracing Paradox

     "Intimacy with all things" includes apparent paradoxes. Here's a striking example of this from a learned, seasoned explorer of consciousness, Ralph Metzner PhD:

     “I came to a new understanding of the two key mottos that run through much of the alchemical literature of the European Middle Ages. 
     One of these is natura naturans – ‘nature doing everything naturally.’ This is also the fundamental concept in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, as well as in western Hippocratic and indigenous medicinal practice: that the body basically heals itself, and we just need to support that process. We can rely on our primal, unconditioned, instinctual mind to sustain our health and well-being as we go through the life cycle from conception to birth, youth, maturity, old age, and death.
     The other motto, equally pervasive in the alchemical literature, is opus contra naturam – ‘the work against nature.’ This image and motto seemingly contradicts the first one. It avers that in order to really wake up and become conscious we have to practice working with mindful intention against the inertial pull of the unconscious sleeplike habits of everyday life. Gurdjieff and other masters of the so-called Fourth Way, as well as some teachers in the Sufi, Zen, and Taoist lineages, are often identified with this way.
     D.T. Suzuki (1980) wrote: ‘What is awakened in the Zen experience is not a “new” experience but an “old” one, which has been dormant since our loss of innocence … The awakening is really the rediscovery or the excavation of a long-lost treasure … the finding ourselves back in our original abode where we lived even before our birth.’ ”

      Ralph Metzner. “Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone. Encounters with Mystics, Scientists, and Healers.” Park Street Press, 2018.

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