Guest post by Genny DuGeay
I am more excited about participating in The Gathering than I have ever been any other event in my life! Yet, when I directed some of my friends to the ZOXON website, and they looked over the Terms and Conditions, some of them were very concerned that they appeared so strict. It is obvious, given the set-up of the actual Gathering area and the Schedule of Events, that most of these guidelines make total sense. More than one person, however, expressed concern about this requirement: “In general, you are expected to be in silence for the entire duration of The Gathering, unless an activity calls for verbal expression.”
“Genny, you are a gregarious person. How in the world do you expect to be able to do that?” I typed a blithe response into the chat room but decided I should provide a fuller explanation so that my family and friends will understand, hopefully better than I can express it in words!
I have been a seeker for many years. Although I do not seek as extensively or frantically as I used to, I still enjoy reading, talking, and thinking about that which we are all seeking, namely, the truth of who we are and the potential we have. When I first heard of The Gathering, I decided within five minutes that, after learning so much and experiencing so many states of being, it was time to participate in a group of people with the same spiritual goals. My imagination was captivated by the thought that, there we would all be, individuals from all over the world coming from different backgrounds and methods of knowledge, each a separate cell in a body intentionally aiming for spiritual oneness. With a facilitator guiding us all together, what will we be able to accomplish? I cannot wait to find out!
Still, the fact is that we all have our unique perspectives toward spiritual oneness, unique teachers, unique experiences. When I was first in college, I read quite a bit about Zen and various Eastern teachers. I also read most of Carlos Castaneda’s writings. I believe that his words have meant the most to me because his teacher Don Juan specifically stated that his role as Carlos’ benefactor was not only to assist him in obtaining as many experiential states as possible, but also to explain those states as thoroughly as possible in order to give Carlos’ rational mind the understanding it needed to keep from, say, going insane from his inexplicable experiences of the potential and the possibilities of human perception.
In his book The Power of Silence, Carlos Castaneda wrote extensively about what I feel is the goal or purpose we are all seeking. He called it silent knowledge. He quotes Don Juan in this abbreviated passage:
“Silent knowledge is something that all of us have. Something that has complete mastery, complete knowledge of everything. But it cannot think, therefore, it cannot speak of what it knows. This silent knowledge, which you cannot describe, is, of course, intent — the spirit, the abstract. Man gave up silent knowledge for the world of reason.” P. 76
Don Juan called that immeasurable, indescribable force that causes us to perceive several different words, but for the audience I shall refer to it simply as Spirit. I tend to think of it as The Divine Spirit That Moves In All Things, myself. It is the vast pool of silent knowledge which average people associate with, say, intuition or psychic abilities. We all have the ability to tap into this vast pool, though most people feel it more as a sudden understanding that they cannot explain.
I asked my father once if he had ever had any psychic experiences. A practical emergency room doctor, he tended to look down upon my spiritual explorations. However, he said that yes, one time he called home to see if my mother had anything she wanted him to pick up on his way. She asked him for a pack of cigarettes. He always stopped at a certain store, just outside their neighbourhood, to buy them for her, but that day he knew that they would not have her brand (this was in the mid 1960’s). And it was so. He could not explain how he knew, and soon the business of his life caused him to forget about even exploring the possibility of an explanation.
Yet, that is why most of us are here. We had one overwhelming experience, or several big experiences, or a myriad of small experiences in which we tapped that ‘pool’ of silent knowledge, the immensities of the universe imbued with Spirit, and we knew something that we could not rationally explain how we knew it. Therefore, we started seeking, exploring perhaps a large number of spiritual paths, trying to find the truth, the essence of our connection to why and how one can tap into the Spirit.
As a result, when I read the Terms and Conditions of The Gathering and came upon that last condition, to remain as silent as possible until asked to verbalize, I was totally thrilled! I had and have no apprehensions about it whatsoever.
I think of human beings as a spectrum. On one end is what I call ego, what Carlos Castaneda would call a rational man. On the other end is Spirit. Most people firmly hover at the egoistic, rational, word-producing and logic-devising powers of the mind. We are raised that way and we are shown by society to value those traits. When we are emotional, however, we start to slide toward the other end of the spectrum. We feel things, and those feelings may confuse us, but they may also give us understanding, for example, in the case of compassion.
When we seek Spirit intentionally, however, we must realize that we have to stop the internal dialogue of the mind so that we can reach for the understanding that surpasses all language. Think of Zen koans, for example. The Zen master produces an illogical story or question the entire intent of which is to keep the student from thinking logically! This is to propel the student to understand that what matters is our link to Spirit.
One of my favourite koans (I hope I recall it correctly) is as follows: A master sets fire to his hut and locks himself in, while telling his students he will only come out when they say the right thing. The students stand around shouting, trying to remember the important things the master has said before, when along comes another student, who asked what was going on. When told, the new student says, “Oh my!” and the master comes out of the hut. The new student said the one thing the others did not. The new student responded from Spirit, not from knowledge. The new student expressed the immensity, the outrageousness, the intensity, the incredulity, the sheer gut feeling of the situation in two wholly spontaneous and meaningless words. The new student bypassed the rational mind and went straight to the Source.
So, to all my doubting friends and family, that is my purpose for going to The Gathering. A week away from the verbose and socially demanding need to speak is just what I need. Why else do hermits and priests and other holy men have retreats or monasteries in which they are forbidden or refuse to speak? They recognize the inanity of the constant chattering of our minds when in pursuit of the abstract, of God, of silent knowledge, of connecting to the Spirit that moves through all things.
I frequently go with my father to the annual international barbershop quartet conventions. There is something special about being in a stadium with twelve thousand absolutely silent people, anticipating the first notes from a quartet! The feeling of expectation, of knowing the pleasure ahead, of feeling that every single person around you feels and anticipates the same way, well, it’s simply an incredible experience. And I KNOW that The Gathering will be that, multiplied many-fold!
Is it that I know this from my connection to Spirit? Am I tapping into silent knowledge already? Is it just the logical deductions I have made from the accumulation of all my previous experiences? Is it because of all the reasons I gave above? I laugh to myself and say, it doesn’t matter. What matters will be the experience itself. What matters is that a huge group of people will all be immersing themselves for a week in Spirit, with just enough words from the facilitators to propel us out of our language-addicted minds and into realms of connection and experience that could produce miraculous things, things which we are all capable of individually. I feel we will be able to use the retreat as the beginning of our new lives, in which we leave The Gathering as inoculants of Spirit to the rest of humanity, to inspire others to reach for the abstract, the inexplicable, the Divine, the immense potential we have as human beings.
Note: Carlos Castaneda’s The Power Of Silence is the eighth book in his series describing his apprenticeship to a Yaqui Indian ‘sorcerer’ named Don Juan Matus. In my opinion, it is best that you read the books in the order they are written simply to understand the referents of the phraseology he uses.