Thank you, everyone, for your extreme patience in waiting for this move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Atascadero, California to take place. It was an arduous journey, but thanks to the glorious help of Judelon and Tim LaSalle, it is done, and settling nears.
This interim moment of the blog provides a space to say something about the act of reading and the necessity in this media-time, this mediated time we are in, of developing soul-reading-awareness.
I’ve noticed that when the blog is published, nearly all the “likes” and comments come in within one, at the most two days and then stop. I suspect this quickness indicates that reading occurs rapidly – a way of skim-reading encouraged by Facebook as well as all digital media. The art of reading is endangered. This week’s entry remembers the depth of reading.
There are several traditions of soul reading, the aim of which is to move away from reading only for information and concepts and instead letting the words become living speaking that impress into the life of the soul.
There is the monastic tradition of Lexio Divina. While this form of reading was confined to sacred texts in the monastic tradition, we can learn much from it. In this tradition, reading constitutes a supreme act of listening. The words of a text cannot be glossed over, read only for their informational content. Language itself consists of two simultaneous forms happening at the same time. La Lingua, and La Parole, is the way the French linguists speak of these two simultaneous forms. La Lingua concerns the grammatical structure of the language and its content. La Parole concerns the living word. In the tradition of Lexio Divina, the attempt in reading is to hear the living word, as if someone were speaking; and, in fact, someone does speak through the writing ….. the author, the tradition, maybe even the spiritual beings of the word. To approach this level of reading, it is helpful to read some of the writing aloud. Feel the texture, the qualities of the words. Slow down your reading. Slow down your reading. Slow down your reading. The soul moves slowly; it loves to move this way, making images of what the words are saying. When you read, try to be in the imagination of being read-to.
Remember what it was like to hear stories when you were a child. Approach any writing as if it were a story. Become interested in the words…not just hearing through the words into the concepts. Read with your whole body, not just with your eyes.
There is the other great tradition of reading that comes from the medieval world, also centered in the spiritual tradition, the reading of Sacred Texts. However, Dante extended this tradition into all writing and reading. Every text can be simultaneously read at four levels: the literal level, the moral level, the allegorical level and the anagogical level.
Without going into these levels in detail, notice that the first level is the literal level. This is the words as they present themselves. You have to start at this level. You have to get what is said. Thus, always read a text through for an initial understanding – but while doing so, the other levels also take their place and are simultaneously speaking.
Example of the four levels:
If a biblical text says: “Israel went out of Egypt”
The literal level — the Jewish people left Egypt
The moral level — This phrase refers to the conversion of a soul from a sinful life.
The allegorical level — The text is an allegory speaking of redemption through Christian conversion.
The anagogical level — Anagogical means “mystical”. The text at this level speaks of the movement of a life from temporal to eternal states of being.
It is not necessary, nor recommended, that you ‘analyze’ the levels of a text. It is important to try to hear the polyphony of language; to hear many things being said in a text, and try to take them all in, though all are not taken in through the literal reading going on. Soul and sprit participate and are the true guides of what literally speaks. The literal level is thus important, but most people get completely stuck, caught at the literal level.
Soul Reading is a particular kind of reading in which, through the literal level one tries to hear, or to live in the listening question: What is being said to the soul and by the soul in this speaking – and, What and how does the soul hear? Unanswerable questions but living experiences, easily felt happening.
In order to read in this way, it is necessary to pause a lot in your reading. In the pauses, let what you just read sink down from the region of the head into the region of the heart. Then, listen within and try to be aware of the response you are hearing from within region of the heart; the response will not be content but heart-feeling. Try, though, to hear, in an inner way, the soul’s repeating of what was read and understood mentally when you read the text.
The soul does not speak English – or any other language; so the soul “hears” images, hears imaginally. If alert, you may re-hear, not in words, but in the many images that come pouring in – probably too fast to get hold of, or too distracting to keeping concentration on the reading. It is unnecessary to hold such images, though some might hold you, and how that happens has importance, for such images will stay and work with and on you. It is only necessary, though, to read with image-awareness as you simultaneously ‘believe’ you understand what is being said in the writing. It is more you are being-under-stood – presences “stand under”, “stand in and for” your reading. Sometimes they are listening – and when they do, we find ourselves deeply moved, changed. After reading, ask yourself – What stays with you now of what you read? Not necessarily an intellectual content… rather, how are you moved, and if you are not, then either the writing was not originating and creating, but was secondary; or, you read only with the intellect.
A third imagination of soul reading comes from the practice of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the philosophy …and the art of interpretation. Interpretation here, however, does not mean saying what you think something means…making an interpretation. The word “hermeneutics” is based in and says that reading concerns the art devised and living in the soul as the gift of Hermes, the the god of boundaries and the crossing of boundaries. He is also the god of communing, of healing, and many other qualities, such as ‘telling’ you where you are – the ‘herm’, a standing stone in the middle of nowhere when one is traveling, marking the crossroads where you are and where you are going…herme..neutics. The word means a “carrying across”. Hermes is the messenger, moving “between” the gods and the mortals and the underworld and the mortals. Soul reading moves into the between, feeling the many regions in the text occupied by the souls –of the past and the dead, and the regions occupied by the spirits, and the regions occupied by the humans. Hear a text in this way, as a kind of message from the spirit/soul worlds, clothed in the language of the human world.
The main work of soul reading is to refrain from restricting our reading and the discussion of our reading to: a) “This is what I got out of the reading.” b) “ This is what the author means.” c) “Lets discuss the reading together”, d) “I agree or disagree”. Refrain from asking questions as questions move the reading to confinement with the intellect only. Reading listens.
Try instead to re-say what the reading says, speaking now from the viewpoint of the soul. If, for example, a text says: “The soul resonates” — what does the soul hear in these words? How can you say what you hear the soul saying in these words? Take a text as a mystery — as something to enter into more and more deeply, not as something to master and take the living blood out of so you can take the informational knowledge and pack it away somewhere. At the same time, respect, respect, respect the literal level of any text. If you do not “get” the literal level, the soul/spirit level of hearing will always, always, always be wrong, off, artistically bad.
Imagine a text as someone, a soul being, or a spirit, speaking to you.
All writing cannot be lived into in these ways. Secondary writing – writing that consists of putting together thoughts that have already been thought – “thoughting” rather than creating-thinking – thinking happening as if for the first time — cannot be heard as soul/spirit speaking. Most writing these days consists of a “talking about” rather than “the within emerging” and taking the reader to where it emerges from – that is, the bulk of what passes as writing seldom opens to the soul/spirit dimensions because these dimensions are not present.
Since most writing is not soul/spirit presence, readers have become used to reading with non-presence, and indeed, are educated to read in this manner. Thus, when writing of some depth and awakening is encountered, it will be read as ‘non-presence’, for we are used to reading in this manner. Such non-presence exemplifies what now comes over digital devices, so here, special caution, special awareness, must be present, for skimming over the top of soul/spirit writing harms not only the reader, the writing too suffers, for soul and spirit intent has been curtailed.