Transcending the Verbal to Experience the Infinite
Most people live within their “verbal mind” most of the time. This is the conscious part of the mind where one tends to think symbolically, in terms of words and images. We perceive the world with our senses and interpret these sensory impressions into symbolic forms through the filtering, interpretive mechanism of the human brain. We then construct verbal narratives out of these symbolic forms – narratives consisting of words, images and other symbols – which become ingrained within our verbal consciousness at varying levels.
It must be noted, here, that words and images are, essentially, interchangeable. A study of the history of written languages demonstrates how images, such as cave paintings, evolved into stylized hieroglyphics over time and, in turn, into the written language of words. Thus, the term “verbal mind” essentially equates to the symbolic mind where words, images, icons, hieroglyphs, logos and other symbols reside.
The narratives spawned in our verbal minds then color our perceptions – we perceive reality through the lens of these narratives, already lodged deep within our conscious and subconscious minds. The narratives then proceed to define our concept and perception of reality. From this process arise all the preconceptions, prejudices, subconscious biases and judgmentalism that inflict our everyday experience.
An History of Narrative
The narratives that constitute our verbal consciousness originate from a variety of sources. Some of them are stories that we tell ourselves based on our life experience and our perceptions of the world we live in. Others are fed to us by media vehicles such as news and entertainment. Others are ingrained in us, even at an early age, through the process of education. Still others come to our awareness through the agency of storytellers, literature, and even scientific publications.
Prehistoric cave paintings evolved, over time, into stylized hieroglyphics and the sophisticated language of words
Since prehistoric times, the human animal has used verbal narratives (symbolic narratives composed of words, images and other symbols) to define and describe the known universe. Over time, newer, more sophisticated narratives arose to supplant the narratives of earlier times in status, relevance and importance. Prehistoric myths, campfire tales and cave paintings were, conceivably, the earliest narrative forms, relaying a primitive, simplistic understanding of reality. Over time, such myths were supplanted by prophetic and religious texts, subsequently, by philosophical doctrines and, most recently, by scientific theorems and analyses. Ultimately, these are all examples of narratives that we human beings tell ourselves to explain the universe that we live in to the best of our ability.
Each of these verbal, symbolic narratives have a degree of truth to them, though they may vary in accuracy. Some may be overtly symbolic or allegorical, addressing the domain of the soul or consciousness. This is especially true of religious texts, myths, legends and fables. Others may address the domain of tangible, perceptible experience, to varying degrees of detail and accuracy. This is the domain of scientific journals, literary non-fiction and the news media.
Narrative and Conflict
Ultimately, all narratives, no matter what the source, force an inherently limited concept of reality onto our understanding. This is true because the narrative medium itself is inherently limited – it is an abstraction or simplification of reality – even as the words and symbols that constitute any narrative are inherently limited in nature. No narrative can completely describe the infinite complexity of nature, of reality. Even though newer narratives emerge, over time, to replace earlier narratives in their positions of status, authority and importance, no narrative can truly approach the infinite complexity of reality.
In truth, the one thing that all narratives invariably accomplish, no matter how sophisticated or seemingly authoritative they may be, is that they allow us to define “the other.” In the bargain, narratives feed into duality and dualistic thinking – they perpetuate the concept of “the other” – of an “us versus them” mentality and, invariably, lead to the demonization and persecution of the other and to distrust and hostility towards them. From the standpoint of any narrative, even the most objective or “scientific” text, there remains the concept of “the other” – even if they are simply defined as those who disagree with the propositions of the narrative in question.
Conflicting narratives breed conflict in society
Thus all narratives breed conflict – the very essence of any narrative is that, as it is essentially subjective, even when it may claim objectivity, it lends itself to conflict against those who may, for whatever reason, disagree or be at odds with itself. Conflicting narratives breed conflict in society – which is why we encounter conflict between science and religion, inter-religious conflict, tribal conflict, and even conflict between the adherents of conflicting scientific theories or premises. Much of the conflict in our world, if not all of it, arises out of conflicting narratives espoused by different individuals or groups.
I would suggest that truly to get beyond conflict and conflicting narratives, one has to get beyond narrative itself – one has to get beyond the verbal mind or symbolic consciousness itself. One has to experience pure, non-verbal consciousness – the infinite depths of the conscious field that exists beyond the very limited “word cloud” that is one’s verbal mind and in which most of us reside most of the time. One has to get beyond the limited narratives we tell ourselves – the myths, legends, religious discourses, philosophical doctrines and scientific theorems – and immerse oneself in pure, silent, infinite non-verbal consciousness. Only then, I believe, can one truly rise above the limited narratives – the petty words – that are an unending source of noisy dissension, drama and conflict in our lives.
The pure silence that one experiences in the deepest states of meditation, upon transcending the noisy, incessantly chattering verbal mind, with its never-ending drama and dissension – the infinite silence of the depths of nature and space – these are experiences that are truly beyond words. And it is only through such transcendental experiences, I would suggest, that one can truly gain an appreciation of “unity consciousness” – of the state of immersion in and unification with this infinite, silent field of pure, non-verbal consciousness that pervades all of reality.
William Shatner at a loss for words after traveling to the edge of space
William Shatner, famous for his acting role as Captain James T. Kirk in the television show Star Trek, recently travelled to the edge of space aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft, under the auspices of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Upon returning to earth, Shatner confessed that he had no words to describe his experience of space. In spite of his habitual eloquence, he was at a loss for words as he struggled to convey the inexplicable, transcendental profundity of his experience of space and of looking down upon the earth, the cradle of humanity, from that vantage point. Many astronauts have similarly expressed being awestruck and at a loss for words by this transcendental experience. Perhaps it is the deep stillness of space that evokes such awe and feeling – the absolute silence of being utterly removed from the thoughts and words of billions of human beings on earth as they go about their day-to-day lives! While few of us have the opportunity to travel to space to experience such transcendence, I would suggest that, through meditative practices, each of us could experience something akin to Willam Shatner’s profound experience – and, in the long term, just as transformative and awe-inspiring.
The verbal narratives that we construct, as human beings, to describe and define the world we live in, tend to coalesce into, what I like to call, the “illusion of perception.” This is the illusory “reality” that each of us constructs from out of our limited perceptions and from the narratives that we create from those perceptions and that are fed to us from outside sources.
Transcending – getting beyond words – essentially amounts to seeing through the illusory veil created by our own conscious and subconscious verbal narratives – so as to experience pure, silent consciousness. The “illusion” that we are immersed in for much of our lives resides within the “word cloud” that constitutes our own verbal consciousness and in the words – the narratives – that they are composed of. Beyond these limited word clouds, stretching far into the depths of infinity, is silent, non-verbal consciousness that can only be experienced through deep meditative states, and must be experienced if one is to get beyond one’s subjective illusions and gain any appreciation of ultimate Truth.
The practice of hypnosis is rooted in suggestion. Hypnotic suggestions are, fundamentally, words – words, phrases and ideas implanted at a deeply suggestible level in one’s consciousness, when one is in a profoundly impressionable state. When these words and phrases are implanted deep within the subconscious mind, they act as subconscious commands – the hypnotized subject implicitly believes and accepts them, without question. Words, phrases and ideas implanted into the most deeply suggestible depths of the subconscious mind – typically during childhood or in a deep hypnotic trance, when the brain is in alpha or theta state – invariably construct beliefs and belief systems that, very often, stay with us, shaping our thinking, for the rest of our lives! Because they are so deeply ingrained within our subconscious – though they may be mere suggestions – they serve to define, characterize and control our perception, experience and understanding of reality, invariably without our even being aware of their existence.
One must recognize that most of our lives are defined, controlled and limited by suggestions – words, phrases, images and symbols – that reside deep within the most suggestible levels of the human consciousness. This is not to argue that they have been deliberately implanted there – merely that formative childhood experiences, prevailing cultural norms or exposure to media in a trance-like state of mind (the alpha brainwave state in which most of us watch TV, for example) can implant such hypnotic-seeming suggestions in our minds.
Hypnotic suggestions may be implanted deep within our consciousness
In truth, these suggestions are no more than words (symbols) – but when they become deeply ingrained in one’s consciousness, they can spawn beliefs, narratives and, often, entire belief systems that one accepts at a very fundamental level. This is, very often, how fanatical religions work, how cults of personality and dogma operate and why it is often so difficult to alter the convictions shaped by some experiences. Because these suggestions may be deeply ingrained in one’s consciousness, they can appear to be axiomatic – unquestioned assumptions that can form the basis of entire ideologies or systems of thinking. To question these assumptions, therefore, may result in the collapse of an entire belief system for some people, leading them to fanatical levels of devotion to their beliefs and deep resentment and antagonism towards those who threaten or question these suggestions.
The same principle applies to “limiting beliefs” – in essence, suggestive words, symbols or narratives that get lodged deep within one’s verbal consciousness – of which the subconscious mind is also a part. Such suggestions become ingrained in our thoughts when we are in a deeply suggestible or impressionable state, such as during childhood, traumatic experiences or under hypnosis. In these circumstances, the conscious filter of the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes offline, permitting suggestions, sometimes unwarranted, to enter into the deepest recesses of the word cloud that is the human mind.
From that strategic position, these verbal suggestions proceed to control, direct and limit one’s life at a deep, subconscious level. Only when one recognizes the nature of these limiting beliefs – that they are merely suggestions, not commands or unshakeable principles – can one begin to get past them. The truth is, however, that this is very hard to do – the deeper the suggestion is implanted in one’s verbal conscious and subconscious mind, the stronger is the corresponding limiting belief and the more fundamental it is to the mental constructs and ideologies that shape our lives. As such, questioning these axiomatic assumptions can be deeply traumatizing experiences in themselves!
Shifting the Narrative
One approach to dealing with such narrative limitations placed upon our verbal consciousness is to change the narrative – to create and perpetuate new narratives that redefine one’s role in society, for example, and reshape one’s perception and experience of reality to one’s personal advantage. This process is still limiting and limited, however. One remains trapped inside the “word cloud” that is one’s verbal consciousness – one has simply altered one’s experience of reality by changing the words – shifting the narrative.
In fact, one remains in a vulnerable position – there remains the potential for new narratives to conflict with other pre-existing narratives. One also remains susceptible to outside forces that may intervene to coerce a narrative shift contrary to one’s interests. In essence, one can still be manipulated by words – one is still at the mercy of words and enslaved by narratives, even though one may have recognized the power of words and narratives to shape one’s perceptions and experiences.
A far better approach to dealing with the limitations of words and narratives is to get beyond words altogether. One must realize and recognize that words and symbols, implanted as suggestions and forming narratives at different levels of one’s verbal consciousness, constitute one of the major limiting factors in one’s life. By means of meditative practices, such as yoga, TM (Transcendental Meditation), breathwork, etc., one may seek to transcend the verbal consciousness itself and experience the non-verbal super-conscious – the absolute silence of eternal, infinite pure consciousness – and to immerse oneself in that infinite, primordial unified field of which we are all a part and that permeates and constitutes everything in the universe.
Through such practices, over time, one experiences the dissipation of the word cloud. The limiting beliefs, narratives and suggestions that control our lives at a verbal, symbolic level begin to disperse and dissolve in the infinite field. As a result, we are flooded with the light of pure consciousness and we become open to infinite possibility and to changing the circumstances, experiences and perception of our lives for the better.
We are, thus, truly able to achieve pure, essential Being – beyond all words!