Working with a Living Text

A Wisdom way of knowing invites us to a very different orientation to all of life. This is particularly true regarding the way we might approach a written document or text. 

 In our modern understanding of reality, a written text has a set meaning based on the author’s intention and/or based on its use and understanding within a particular tradition. With a spiritual text, especially, it is usually the academic theologians and the professional clergy who are the authorities and guardians of a scriptural text’s meaning. And this meaning is regarded as set and objective. Within this modern Western framework of understanding, most of us end up feeling insecure and uncertain in the face of spiritual texts. They seem inscrutable to us, and we are glad to hand over the authority of their understanding to the “professional experts.”

 A Wisdom way of knowing, however, sees the world and all of life differently. Many of us have learned–indeed, we have experienced—that “energy flows where attention goes.” What we focus on can become alive and energized. There is a power in seeing, in noticing, in witnessing. Liveliness and meaning are breathed into all nature of things when we are truly present to them—even seemingly inanimate things.

 With the mind grounded in the heart and with a deepened sense of presence that results, many of us have come to appreciate that the world is alive in ways that we had not previously acknowledged. Indeed, we are coming to more deeply apprehend that consciousness is not restricted to the brains of human beings. The universe is dynamically animated.

 Relatedly, many of us have also come to appreciate that howwe look at someone or something makes a difference. How we see a situation influences how it will unfold and turn out. Our previous understanding of an outer reality that is objective and set has been replaced by a more dynamic understanding that the perceiving of something has the power to influence and modify it.

 With this brief explanation as a vestibule, Wisdom seekers have found new ways to approach scriptural texts, poetry, and other writings. Rather than lying flat and one-dimensionally on a page and often indecipherable, these texts can actually be regarded as alive and waiting to be encountered. And rather than having one set and objective meaning, they desire to gift us with a meaning that may be specific to our unique conversation with them. Put another way, these texts seek relationships with hearts that are open and willing. And like any other relationship, they will gift their inner secrets to those who are receptive, open, and humbly respectful. 

 The texts are best encountered, then, not by researching and reading about them in commentaries or trying somehow to forcibly extract meaning from them; but by encountering them openly and respectfully in mutual dialogue. So, rather than a set and objective meaning that is to be extracted from the text, the text’s deepest meaning will be gifted in the honest dialogue with a respectful conversant. We, then, have something to give as well as to receive from the text.

 What will you give to the text before you? This is a good question with which to initiate your conversation…