Being and Non Being 6

As mentioned last week we are now going to examine the art of purification. There is the purification of living bodies in their inward and in their outward parts, of which the former is duly affected by medicine and gymnastic. With this we are familiar especially these days with a plethora of exercise routines and diets to maintain bodily health. Then there are the purifications of the outward body that uses what the Stranger refers to as the purge and the sponge, simply put being the cleansing of the body.

This however is not what interests the Stranger, and we should heed what he says because it is pointless trying to cleanse the body without firstly purifying what he refers to as the soul or the inner organ of the mind comprising the discursive, the reasoning and memory functions of mind, commonly referred to as the heart, all controlled by what we call the Ego. This inner organ of mind is responsible for inter-alia, for the processing of information, deciding whether or not information is true and also contains the emotive side of our being.

Many of you will testify that this inner organ of mind is often confused and sees good as bad and bad as good and where access to memory is sketchy at best. To say nothing of the emotive state that can so easily beguile us and lead us into all sorts of difficulties. For the being to function effectively the discursive part of the mind needs to be still so that reason can work properly and where the heart is able to make the best use of memory. Different traditions and religions explain this set-up in different ways, but they are essentially referring to the same system.

The question is how is the soul cured of vice  and ignorance?

Once again, the Stranger points out that ignorance is of two kinds and would thus need two differing forms of healing. The first is just plain stupidity and this is healed or corrected through instruction. He points to two different forms of instruction, one rough and the other smooth. He says that we can roughly reprove our children or gently advise them. But whereas some appear to have arrived at the conclusion that all ignorance is involuntary, and that no one who thinks himself wise is willing to learn any of those things in which he is conscious of his own cleverness, and that the admonitory sort of instruction gives much trouble and does little good.

So how is this conceit cured? They cross-examine a man’s words, when he thinks that he is saying something and is really saying nothing, and easily convict him of inconsistencies in his opinions; these they then collect by the dialectical process, and placing them side by side, show that they contradict one another about the same things, in relation to the same things, and in the same respect. He, seeing this, is angry with himself, and grows gentle towards others, and thus is entirely delivered from great prejudices and harsh notions. For as the physician considers that the body will receive no benefit from taking food until the internal obstacles have been removed, so the purifier of the soul is conscious that his patient will receive no benefit from the application of knowledge until he is refuted, and from refutation learns modesty; he must be purged of his prejudices first and made to think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.

This might seem a weird way of correcting the ignorance of the soul but would only be appreciated if it were tried and we can begin with ourselves by continually asking if a particular opinion that we have long held to be true is in fact true and question why we believe it is true. We might find that a lot of what we hold to be true is nothing less then opinion. I’ll close with a statement from the Stranger: we must admit that refutation is the greatest and chiefest of purifications, and he who has not been refuted, though he be the Great King himself, is in an awful state of impurity; he is uninstructed and deformed in those things in which he who would be truly blessed ought to be fairest and purest.

 We will continue with this subject next week and in the meantime listen to the sound of your own voice and that of others and continue to question.