Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Malady of the Mind

“It was not the object of the Prophets and our Sages in these utterances to close the gate of investigation entirely, and to prevent the mind from comprehending what is within its reach, as is imagined by simple and idle people, whom it suits better to put forth their ignorance and incapacity as wisdom and perfection, and to regard the distinction and wisdom of others as irreligion and imperfection, thus taking darkness for light and light for darkness. The whole object of the Prophets and the Sages was to declare that a limit is set to human reason where it must halt” (‘Guide of the Perplexed’ 1:32).

Moses Maimonides, 12th century pre-eminent medieval Jewish philosopher, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages wrote the “Guide to the Perplexed”
Why I chose this passage from the book is the rampant recourse to reason and logic of the modern generation of youth and the self propagating mind set of religious scholars. Eckhart Tolle in his dialogue with Duncan Campbell says that there are three levels of materialism that is rampant in the world today. First is the 'material materialism' through which a self authentication of superiority sets in through possessing more gadgets and things. The second is the 'psychological materialism' through which the self or the ego feels secure through knowledge acquisition and intellectual pursuit and finally there is 'spiritual materialism', in this existence all modes of spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga and other sadhanas (practices) are used as tools to advance at the mind and ego level to a position of superiority. The very acts of material and intellectual acquisitions and spiritual practices are not to be condemned but the intent with which the ego positions itself is to be carefully watched.

Maimonides was a leading figure in the promotion of ‘Sephardic Religious Humanism’ which promoted openness, adaptation and tolerance and took root in Arab-Islamic regions. This is a clear model for the current world situation where ethnicity is slowly dissolving in communities and a pluralistic culture is becoming the order of the day.

Another important thing to realize today is 99% of the world consciousness is still locked very much in the 'magical', 'mystical' and 'mental' category (Gebser model) and it is only a miniscule percentage of the population which has a holistic and integral view of our existence. Religious teachers are invariably caught in the lower form of consciousness from which level only a mental exercise can be done and a deep felt experience or intuitive realization is missing.

The branding of alternate paths to spirituality as irrelevant or irreligious comes from a mind that thinks it has an unlimited capacity to discern and sets its limit as the limit beyond which none else can go. Investigation is a logical and sequential process and sacred scriptures were not given for this purpose. Scriptures were meant to evoke a deeper emotion wherein the process, though it might originate in the mind, has to culminate in the heart. The mythic symbolisms and iconic imagery were employed by the prophets and spiritual masters to pry out an understanding that is not possible by the rational mind. The reason for degradation of Vedic teachings is due to the strongly rooted hegemony in ritualistic rigidity and cast iron interpretation of the smritis (puranas, ithihas and other law books). Similarly, alienation within Christianity is its dogma dominated liturgy, a salvation positioning of exclusivity and non inclusive approach to early Christian wisdom. Islam, at a spiritual level, has completely lost its way due to its socio-cultural insensitive interpretation of Koran through the shariat and downright rejection of the Sufi mystical path. The Koran is divinely inspired in the very depth of the heart of the prophet but it has been reduced to a set of laws operating with in the domain of rigid minds. Though scholarly discussions and edicts are put on the linkages between Shariat and Tariqat (spiritual observance), the legal interpretations have predominated people’s lives.

All religious leaders must listen to the words of Maimonides “The whole object of the Prophets and the Sages was to declare that a limit is set to human reason where it must halt”. Listen to the heart, keep your mind open but know its limit and always undertake an inward journey then salvation will be yours.

Love to you all


  1. In this world we invarioubly seem to fit into one of these 'isms'("material materialism, psychological matreialism and spiritual matreialism") and the psychological and specially spiritual people seem to look down or condemn the first one without realising that all of them sailing in the same boat. nice article!

  2. Dear Tib,
    Thanks for this wonderful post. Moses Maimonides had a great mind and wisdom. Many of the Kabbalists thought of his ideas as being in line with their concepts.
    You said that "...99% of the world consciousness is still locked very much in the 'magical', 'mystical' and 'mental' category (Gebser model)." Do you mean "New Age" consciousness that does not usually involve doing any spiritual work to elevate the consciousness beyond the limits of reason to the higher Wisdom or Intuitive Intelligence?
    Thanks, Rebecca

  3. SS, thanks for your appreciation. Yes, we live in a very judgmental world and as Jesus said "How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."...Luke 6:42

  4. Dear Rebecca,
    Thanks for your endorsement and the qualification of 'Maimonides' thought which was way ahead of his time in the 12th century.
    Regarding classification of consciousness as per Jean Gebser, the five classes of 'archaic', 'magical', mystical', 'mental'and 'integral' do not conform to any spiritual path. It is mostly operative at the individual level. The classification was an insight by Gebser after studying a very broad spectrum of people. It was Ken Wilber and Alan Combs who first mapped consciousness on to the spiritual operating plenum of individuals.
    While most spiritual paths evolve from an integral class of individual consciousness, the paths themselves are independent of the class and can be adopted by individuals who operate from a different plane of consciousness. For example Vedic philosophy evolved from a highly integral consciousness but there is room for people who operate from magical, mystical & mental consciousness through devotion and intellectual discernment.
    I hope I have been able to clarify.


  5. Thanks for the clarification Tib. I will have to look into Gebser more. I will have to read his definitions of each of the classifications to understand more fully.

    Thanks for this post about the limits of reason. This is a very big challenge in university life. Many years ago, I went to college to learn what I thought was higher learning and realized the limits of reason. I had been indoctrinated into a narrow and limited way of understanding the world and mankind. Rebecca

  6. Dear Rebecca,

    While higher education is essential in arriving at a format of study in any specific discipline, what goes wrong is the emphasis on a rigid system of achieving it. This is the reason that uncharted creativity and radical innovation are not given a chance except in very few academic institutions. Selfless teaching is an extremely rare event. Tib

  7. 'Guide for the perplexed'-Iam taken up by the reassuring title.How nice to know that human search to unfold the hidden depth of existence,has a long and enriching history! As I try to understand my own ego state ,in the light of the blog,I do feel the limited deep thinking has lead me into some kind of complacency.You aiways tend to look at others with a "Oh!the poor souls" attitude.Well learning true humility seems to be the starting point for any deep spiritual inquiry.