"Geniuses, according to physicist David Bohm, are able to think differently because they can tolerate ambivalence between two incompatible subjects. Another physicist, Niels Bohr, argued that if you hold opposites together in your mind, you will suspend your normal thinking process and allow an intelligence beyond rational thought to create a new form. Example: Bohr's ability to imagine light as both a particle and a wave led to his conception of the principle of complementarity."
"The Art of Genius"
Here along the Front Range of Colorado, I love being able to travel between completely different climates and ecosystems just by changing elevation. Last week, I went from vibrant greenery at 5,000 feet on the Great Plains, up to blooming Cactus and Pasqueflowers surrounded by leafless shrubs at 8,500 feet, up to snowy peaks at 12,000 feet on Trail Ridge Road. Being able to hold all of these different environments in creative tension - and to receive the special gifts of each - is one of the great benefits of living here.
In the realm of mystical spirituality, one of the most important signs of a true state of divine union is a pervasive sense of paradox; that is, the ability to hold opposite qualities in tension. For example, the true contemplative realizes that nonduality is NOT the final merging of the "ten thousand things" into the One, but is instead the ability to inhabit the liminal space where we can watch in amazement as The Many do indeed melt into the unity of the One - the "Great Beyond" - AND THEN emerge suddenly and spontaneously in pristine individuality out of that One.
Similarly, mysticism involves the realization that we inhabit the space between God-as-Self and God-as-Other, watching spellbound as each shapeshifts continually into the other.
In addition, a spirituality carries the mark of genius when it values BOTH Logos and Sophianic Wisdom; that is, for example, the ability to distinguish between the unique concerns of different personality types, genders, races, cultures and religions, and then to see how there also exists an ultimate underlying Unity that makes them all facets of a single Whole. True spirituality also holds the tension between detaching from our passions (like lust and anger) and simultaneously drawing out the sacredness that lies hidden within them.
The most profound mysticism also can distinguish between sacred masculine and feminine traits, and yet see how each is actually an aspect of the other. The same holds true with the shapeshifting of words and silence into each other, the feeling of our own suffering and our simultaneous ability to release it into the suffering of the Divine Whole, the mutual mirroring of both Nature and humanity, the necessity of dwelling in between the best aspects of both conservatism and progressivism, and an ability both to embrace the good of a religious tradition AND simultaneously to go beyond that tradition into something much more Vast. This is, as Carl Jung once wrote, an ability to be "crucified between the opposites until the reconciling third comes to birth."
Are we ready to hold the tension rather than settling into the usual black-and-white thinking so characteristic of ordinary, mundane, herd- mentality humanity?
Photos: The Snowy Never Summer Range from Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; Fresh Cottonwood leaves on the Plains, just west of Loveland, CO; Pasqueflowers and Ball Cactus at Vedauwoo, WY. May 12 and 13, 2016.
For Spiritual Direction or Workshops, please visit: http://www.resourcesforspiritualgrowth.com/
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.