Chapter 10: Old Habits Die Hard
I think, too, that you have understood how the discussion of particulars is more lengthy than of universals.
For the more we aspire to higher things, the more our discourse upon things of the intellect is cut short, even as, when we enter that darkness which passes understanding, we shall find not brevity of speech but perfect silence and unknowing.
Herein speech descends from the universal to the particular, and as it descends it is increased in proportion to the multiplicity of things. But now, in truth, it ascends from the particular to the universal, and going up is withdrawn as it rises, and after the whole ascent it becomes inwardly silent, entirely united with the ineffable.
We say, therefore, that the transcendent maker of all things lacks neither being, nor life, nor reason, nor mind, yet he has no body; neither has he form, nor image, nor quality, nor quantity, nor bulk; he is in no place, nor is he seen, nor has he sensible touch; nor does he feel, nor is he felt, nor has he confusion and tumult, nor disturbance of material passions; neither is he without power, succumbing to the contingencies of sensible things; neither is his light in any deficiency, nor change, nor corruption, nor division, nor lack, nor flux, nor is he nor has he any other sensible thing.
An English Lord is playing golf with his wife, Lady Evelyne, who has lost the sight of one eye in an accident. While playing, the Lord hits the good eye of Lady Evelyne with the ball and she goes completely blind.
After a moment’s hesitation, he says, “Sorry, darling.good night, darling!”
A Swiss guide was taking a group of tourists up a mountain. It was a very tricky climb. Before reaching the summit they passed across an enormous abyss, at which point the guide said to the group: “I advise all of you not to look down, avoid vertigo.” There was a pause. “But if by any change some of you slip and fall down, if you remember to look to your right there is a breathtaking panorama!”
Tired and thirsty, a man had lost his way in a desert. After wandering about for a while he met another rider. Glad to see somebody he hailed the rider with a friendly “Hello.”
“Hello,” answered the second.
“I’m English,” said the first.
“I’m English too,” answered the second.
“I’m Oxford,” continued the first proudly.
“I’m Cambridge,” came the answer.
It is very difficult to drop old habits, and that must have been the case with Dionysius. He was trained as a theologian; he speaks the language of a theologian, although now he is no more a theologian, he is a mystic. But the moment he starts expressing himself it is but natural that his whole training, upbringing, will come into his expression. So please forgive him for his expressions. They are not as clear as the statements of the Upanishads, because the Upanishads were sung by mad poets not by theologians. Hence the beauty of the Upanishadic statements.
It is fortunate, very fortunate, that Jesus was never trained by the rabbis; otherwise we would have missed the immense poetry and the grace of the New Testament, particularly of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who are the very last because they shall be the first in my kingdom of God.”