As I was thinking about how women are portrayed in The DaVinci Code (see the article, The DaVinci Code: for the honour of women), another issue occurred to me. The male is supposed to be able to experience the divine at the point of orgasm, where he is unable to think; a state that some forms of meditation try to achieve. (So why can’t we reach the divine watching a football game?) But why does emptying one’s mind mean we should experience anything at all? Why should we touch the divine plane and not another: a realm of chaos or emptiness? Why should we not be overwhelmed with nausea or despair and grief at the suffering that we cause and endure? It’s a question answerable only through faith.

Anyway, how do we know that the realm we experience is divine: because it seemed good or felt pleasant – and pleasure is evidence of the divine? The dark realm can, and does, use pleasure for its own benefit. Secondly, if reason is anathema when trying to experience the divine, what do we make of the face that we must think about the experience in order to conclude anything about it? Experience is powerful and undeniable – but we should always and only interpret experience through reason. We can think through experiences and be wrong; that doesn’t mean we’re more likely to be correct if we don’t think!

We can try to explain our experiences to others, a process adherents of pure experiential meditation eschew, believing that the union with the divine cannot be conveyed through words; such as the Daoist tenet that ‘the Dao that can be described is not the true Dao’. But why cannot the divine meet the human through thought and language? Why must the experience of the divine be ineffable? Experience and thought are not antagonists: they can be complementary (and I would argue are meant to be).

The human ability to convey complicated and even abstract ideas through language sets us apart from animals. Despite the evil we may do with that ability it marks us as a creature of a higher order; especially so as humans are – as far as we know – the only creatures that can discuss abstract concepts and wilfully choose to deny their instincts and desires. Surely the divine belongs to a higher order of being than the merely human, so also must rational thought be a characteristic of the divine plane.

Language might be insufficient to convey how an experience felt to a person but why should it be unable to explain something of that experience? Language is the best way we have to convey ideas and even feelings: that’s why we use similes. Music can generate almost ineffable sensations within us, but if we are trying to tell someone about it there is no better way, and maybe no other way, than through words. Language may be insufficient, but it are also the highest means of communication. The only other way for a person to appreciate your experience is for them to experience it themselves. Then again, the only way we know we have had the same experience is if we talk about it.

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