Written by Gary L. Stewart
If we were to consolidate the essence of mystical philosophy into one specific point which all students of mysticism could use as a foundation for gaining understanding, what would it be? Could it possibly be the steps required to develop psychically? Or a systematic overview of the thought process? Or... ad infinitum?
That is precisely the point when we say "ad infinitum". Can we truly say that there is, indeed, one essential foundation from which all students must begin? If we did, there would always be someone who would disagree, primarily because each individual has a unique perspective based upon his own experiences and what is important to one is irrelevant to the other. We in the Confraternity of the Rose Cross and the OMCE, cannot precisely say that we teach but, rather that we assist one to learn for himself. We are quite cognizant of the fact that all learning must necessarily come from within each individual student and therefore, cannot be ascertained by the student from without. Any school of thought or philosophy, any definition or terms, must be individually interpreted by the student and applied to life in his own unique way. Only then can true learning take place.
Regardless of what is understood by the student or how he or she interprets a thought, there do exist certain subjects that the student must consider. The Orders often delve into subjects that can be relegated to the category of "mystical speculation", but regardless of whether they are mere speculations or not, at some point in time, the student must arrive at an interpretation of them so as to continue to acquire a more complete understanding. Essentially, the "true" understanding must supersede the intellectual. That is, it must be developed from the innate qualities within one's being. It may be "sparked" from without, but it must be understood from within.
One such subject that each student eventually tries to come to terms with is infinity. Simply defined, infinity is that which is without beginning or end. That, in itself, is easy enough to comprehend, but how many of us have asked ourselves, "But, where did it all start?" At the same time, many of us are looking for the absolute truth or the final realization. Before we can answer such questions, we need to come to some realization as to the nature of that which is infinite.
There are several ways to approach the subject, the most common being from a linear perspective. That is from a perspective that is really intellectual in nature. As an example of this, everyone who has studied mathematics is aware that between two points on a line segment there exists an "infinite" number of additional points. We can conceive of a situation where such an existence is possible because we can visualize that between two points, there can always exist a middle point between the two. To illustrate this contention, if we refer to the paradoxes of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno, we will find one or two paradoxes that may give us a very good explanation of an extremely profound concept.
First, Zeno illustrated a race in which one of the participants is given a head start. He then asks the question, "Who would win the race?" Zeno concludes, essentially, that neither participant could logically win because for the second person to catch up with the other, he would first have to travel half the distance. But, before he could travel half the distance, he would also have to travel half that distance, a situation which conceivably necessitates an infinite process where neither participant could noticeably move, let alone win a race. This notion, Zeno concludes, is absurd because in actuality people win and lose races.
In another of Zeno's paradoxes, he cites an example of a person shooting an arrow in the air. He points out that at any given moment in time, the arrow cannot possibly move. Again he concludes, this notion is absurd.
The implication that Zeno is making in the above illustrations is that our notions of what we perceive to be the nature of that which is infinite, and that which constitutes time and space, are actually much more than what is normally intellectually perceived. And, indeed, there is certainly the implication that what constitutes our reality is only a limited expression of an understanding of what really exists that is limited by our perspective of how we observe the world.
Since the time of Zeno, the history of science and philosophy had been essentially limited to the linear perspective of infinity. It wasn't until the evolution of mathematics allowed for such great minds, as exemplified by Albert Einstein, to evolve a different perspective of reality, that the ontological concerns of mysticism really began to be understood. Naturally, the theory of relativity brought a different perspective to how humanity viewed our world.
As an example, within the past 10 years (now 20 years), a revolutionary new theory called "Super-Gravity" challenges our concept of linear infinity. Very simply, this theory calls for a unification of the laws of gravity in which seemingly two distinctive laws are unified into one. The implication here is that there exists a unifying factor in the universe that, mystically, can be described as an all-pervading Oneness. However, this "new" theory also calls for the subdivision of subatomic particles, such as neutrons, photons, muons, gluon, so-ons and so-ons... which is essentially a return to the "linear" manner of thinking.
The point of the matter is that we recognize the existence of something that is understood to be "beyond" our comprehension, yet we attempt to describe it by utilizing our accepted standards of definition. As a result, we often run into many paradoxes and contradictions that are really unnecessary.
Mystical philosophy, on the other hand, allows for a "new" interpretations of the "old" scientific and philosophical contentions in that we try not to limit our methods of thinking. Instead, we incorporate a change of attitude and perspective into our belief system. In other words, we examine all possible angles to any given problem and incorporate such human attributes as intuition and insight into our system of study.
If we apply the methodology or logic that results from mysticism, we can view and understand the subject of infinity in a different light. Instead of considering it from a linear or quantitative expression, let us view it from a qualitative angle in which the quantitative interpretation if that which is infinite merely becomes a "part" of the greater whole. In other words, the all-pervading essence referred to in mystical writings is not described or defined as being infinite in nature, but is thought to be the source of that which is infinite.
In the attempt to make this difficult concept easier to understand, if we look at time from the perspective of past, present and future, we have a quantitative expression. Mystical philosophy states that there is really no past or future, but, rather that everything occurs in the present, existing in the "now". If we go one step beyond that and say that there is no present either, we immediately ascribe to existence a qualitative state of being that transcends the common notion of infinity, time and space. Such attributes then become a part of the whole rather than a description of the whole.
We can multiply infinity by two and arrive at the answer of infinity. However, if we divide any given number in infinity by itself, our answer will be one. Or, if we divide infinity by two, what do we have? Perhaps a subtle indication or an unbounded, unlimited quality that cannot be defined by the term "infinity".
Copyright © 1989 by Gary L. Stewart