Published in New View Magazine (January 2010 issue)
To reach someone through the heart is other than reaching them through words.
Besides words, allusions and arguments
The heart knows a hundred thousand ways to speak.
Joseph Campbell, in his comprehensive exploration of mythopoeia, observed that, for the ground of human existence, humanity has “chosen, not the facts in which the world abounds, but the myths of an immemorial imagination.” Indeed, the mythologies of the world, often thought to be divinely inspired, are many-layered, rich, symbolic road maps of and for humanity which speak in and to the heart.
The heart realm encompasses imagination--fertile ground for knowing and understanding, but in different ways at different times in humanity’s evolution. Two stories, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament suggest a shift or transformation of human consciousness.
The Old Testament story of theTower of Babel tells of the descendents of Nimrod in the land of Shinar who sought to build a tower to reach the heavens. God, responds, “Now, nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” He confounds their common language into many languages, so they can no longer communicate to complete the tower, and they are to be scattered over the earth. In essence, they were planning a "raid" on the Holy, an invasion of heaven to display their power and to keep and expand their prominence and reputation. Their efforts were thwarted.
Their motivations were not out of humility, goodness, faith, spiritual practice or moral development—all thought of in most religious traditions as acceptable and necessary ways to approach, know and/or experience the divine.
A counter part to the Tower of Babel can be found in the New Testament—in which, perhaps the chosen people are now those whose hearts are open to “other than words.”
After Christ had risen, He appears to His gathered disciples, telling them to await their baptism, not from water, but from the Holy Spirit. From this “baptism,” they would apparently receive the understanding of and ability to carry His teachings over the whole earth. On Pentecost (meaning “fiftieth”, or approximately seven weeks after Harvest/Passover), the disciples are again gathered when the Holy Spirit descends, usually portrayed as a white dove hovering over the circle of disciples, and a small flame flickering over the head of each. They begin to speak in tongues as, again, the common language is confounded, but miraculously, they and others from other lands each hear the tongues (or understand) in their own language. Not only that, but, for the first time, those who had followed and loved Christ now also understood who He was and the significance of His teachings. In an instant, they were enlightened.
The disciples, with patience and devotion, had been unknowingly building an “inner tower” (or temple) to reach the heavens. Simple fisherman, lovingly motivated, they struggled to learn, to understand what Christ conveyed, not as the letter of the law, but its Spirit. In the end, they harvested the fruits of His parable teachings—seeds cast that had taken root in imagination and were felt in the heart.
One could say that in freedom, they were blessed with understanding beyond words. They held themselves open to what Martin Buber describes as, "…the unconditional mystery which we encounter in every sphere of our life and which cannot be comprised in any formula.”