Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Critical Zero Revisited II

Scott Bradley


It happens sometimes that I awaken to 'fullness'. This might be considered a positive development were it not that I have already committed myself to a discussion of existential emptiness, something best discussed while under its influence. Yet this really need not hinder the exercise in as much as this 'fullness' is really no such thing, and its thin veneer is easily rubbed away. Rub. Rub.

In the previous post, I equated the metaphysical emptiness born of mysticism with that emptiness described as existential despair in the post-metaphysical West. Intellectually speaking, this could no doubt be demonstrated as a false equation. Happily free of metaphysical pretensions, however, I can stubble on to make my point.

There is the mystical experience of emptiness which seems to speak to the nature of things, but I would suggest that it remains a subjective experience which speaks to the nature of the human heart. It starts there and it ends there. It is a mistake, I would suggest, to assign statements of objective truth on the basis of subjective experience.

It is a mistake, I would say, in that it assigns 'positive teachings' to what cannot be known. But that is just more intellectualization. The real problem is that in pinning one's essential emptiness to an objective explanation of Reality, one subverts that emptiness. Co-opted emptiness is no emptiness at all. Or rather, it is emptiness denied.

If emptiness, as I am presently maintaining, is fundamental to the human experience, then the path to realizing authentic humanity lies not in the avoidance of subjective emptiness, but in a full exploration of the experience.

'Existential despair' is probably not the best way to term this emptiness; it speaks more to a reactive symptom of emptiness. We find that we exist in such a way as to require firm assurances as to our meaningfulness, yet we find none. 'Despair' is a negative reaction to this reality; our task is to consider other possibilities. 'Hope', though it certainly helps alleviate the despair of most, is not a solution which suggests itself to those unwilling or unable to believe, however. Again, it is but a flight from the emptiness we wish to honestly explore.

It is not my intention here to offer a remedy for this fundamental emptiness, but only to suggest that it is there and to suggest that because it is there, any path to authentic spirituality must pass through it. To do so, one must rub through the many veneers of false-fullness so as to discover the raw experience of emptiness that lies at the heart of our humanity. Having done so, we can despair, cling to hope, or find some other possibly more authentic way.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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