Follow by Email

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Limits of Thought

The Limits of Thought

Thought is a infinitely powerful gift, and I am deeply grateful to receive this gift. At the same time, I have come to understand that thought is limited in power. There are many things that cannot be explained or understood with thought alone.

How can thought be both infinite and limited at the same time? Let me explain using some simple math concepts. Let's imagine a line between two points. For simplicity, we'll label these two points 0 and 500. How many points exist between these two? The answer is - an infinite number of points. We have all of the whole numbers - 1, 2, 3, and so on up to 499. And we have all of the fractional and decimal numbers, square roots, and so on, that make up an infinite number of possibilities.

The set of numbers between 0 and 500 is infinite. And yet, 600 lies outside this infinite set of numbers. So, the set is limited. There are many numbers that lie outside the limits of this infinite set.

Thought is like this set of numbers. Using the gift of thought, we can discern and dissect to an infinite degree those ideas and concepts that lie within range of consciousness that thought encompasses. At the same time, there is a vast understanding that lies beyond the limits of thought. Thought cannot reach into this vast domain, nor can we use thoughts to describe or explain it.

Language is a tool of the gift of thought, and subject to the same limitations as thought.  We can describe most things in the physical world using language, without difficulty or problems.  For example, when I say "car keys", it is easy for you to understand what I mean, and the consequences of misunderstanding are small.  All we need is to speak the same language with some shared cultural understanding, and the meaning of "car keys" is clear enough.

However, when we use words like "faith", "grace", "love", or "God", we get into difficulty.  These words have many varied meanings both within and outside culture and language.  More importantly, these words, and others with spiritual context, point to a consciousness beyond the limits of thought.  Such words, as Eckhart Tolle says, are like signposts, each pointing to a meaning beyond the limits of the word itself.

I find it helpful to remember that the gift of thought, powerful though it is, can not be used to explain spirituality or consciousness.  It is only through the gift of awareness, which includes and expands beyond thought, that we can come to know the true nature of reality, which is divine.  Thoughts and words are useful tools.  But, all thoughts and words - even the ones I use to write this - are limited, and can not express or encompass the boundless divine source.

This is not to say that we should abandon thinking.  We are given the gift of thought for its usefulness.  Yet, in much the same way that we should not try to use a hammer to wash the windows, so we ought not to use thought beyond its usefulness.  Through daily practice, we can center ourselves within the gift of awareness, and be aware of both the power and the limits of thought.  And, through awareness beyond the limits of thought, we can come to know the limitless joy of the presence of the divine.

Here is an affirmation I use each day.

Thought is a gift of divine love and I am grateful and honored to receive it.
I commit this day,
to strengthen and nurture this gift I've been given, and
to guide my thinking with awareness.
I allow all thought to come from a divine source.  And,
I offer all thought to divine service.