Labels and Paradox

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Labels and Paradox

One way of avoiding the labelling trap is through the use of paradox. Paradox is a level or stage that is obtained in the Transcendent Inner Spiritual Path because the spiritual adept reaches a point where boundaries are transcended – bounded objects become inadequate when it comes to Spirit. In fact any attempt to encompass Spirit by forms or the boundaries of concepts, labels and even language itself is seen as being inadequate to the task. At this level, the adept transcends descriptions such as ‘Charismatic’ ‘Catholic’ or ‘Calvinistic’.

Thus the adept looks at the material universe and declares that it is ‘Real and not real’. Or they may say: ‘I know all things, I know nothing’. Along with Christian Dominican Meister Eckhart they may say ‘In order to know God I must get rid of God’. To those who have not attained this level on the Inner Spiritual path, such statements often seem nonsensical, but of course that is the point – the Transcendent Essence of the Divine cannot be encompassed by rational conception. These statements are equivalents to Zen Koans such as: ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’

The pairing together of seemingly mutually exclusive categories or labels, or using non-rational (as opposed to irrational) statements is one way of experientially transcending the limitations of bounded categories. By contemplating or meditating on such statements, the active rational, analytical, conceptual mind is frustrated and with practice, surrendered. There is no rational answer to the Zen Koan – the answer to the question cannot be found by logical, systematic analysis. A different mode of perception is required.

However, there seems to be little if any encouragement to this kind of spiritual practice within Christianity. It is certainly there within Christian Mysticism. If you want to explore it then you can explore the writings of one of the greatest mystics, Jan van Ruysbroeck, HERE. But Biblical Christianity favours ‘God’s mighty acts in history’ – with regard to its main tenets, it favours a more literal and objective interpretation – the literal life, death and physical resurrection of Jesus for example.


About Robert Laynton

Robert Laynton has a B.Sc.(Hons.) degree in psychology and was a member of the British Psychological Society, becoming a member of their Transpersonal Psychology Division and a contributor to their Journal, 'The Transpersonal Review'. He also gained a Post Graduate Certificate and Diploma in counselling. He suffers from Bipolar Affective Disorder. He likes photography, walking, listening to jazz, reading American Crime Fiction from the 40's, 50's and 60's and enjoys watching older films, especially film noir. He lives in England.
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