Reflections on The Path – Part 13

– a little more about death and transcendence
– changing teaching or changing forms of expression
-Silo addresses this question

There is so much more that could be said about these first few lines of the Path which are so rich in ideas central to Silo’s teaching. But we have perhaps already fulfilled our responsibility, having irritated our good sense as rational people by raising strange notions of immortality and the possibility of creating something that can go beyond death.

I would only add one more point about all that before moving on. It seems to me that Silo de-emphasized that explanation of how internal unity creates something capable of surviving the disintegration of the body (whether this is understood as a psychological allegory, or a spiritual truth). And this was necessary precisely because these approaches encounter a powerful tendency for people to misunderstand, or misinterpret them in ways that can increase, rather than decrease internal contradiction.

These sort of changes in emphasis or expression are something we can see that Silo employed on various occasions. That is, he modified how he presented his teaching to better suit the understanding of changing times and circumstances. For example, in the introductory note to his Collected Works, it explains how and why he more than once rewrote the books The Inner Look and The Internal Landscape

“… Between the initial publication of The Inner Look and its revision sixteen years elapsed, during which time the book circulated in many languages of both East and West, giving rise to personal communication and correspondence between the author and readers from many latitudes. That exchange surely contributed to the author’s revisions of several chapters as he observed how the different cultural substrata in which the work was circulating gave rise to many differences in interpretation of the texts. Certain words in particular presented serious difficulties in translation, and readers would frequently misunderstand the sense in which they were used. 

Much the same took place with The Internal Landscape, although in that case seven years elapsed between the original publication and the author’s revisions to the text…” 

Similar refinements that simplify, add precision, or give greater conceptual clarity can be traced through other changes of nomenclature, explanation, and exposition. For example, in reference to the centres, to the psychological and transcendental ego, to the levels of consciousness, and so with many other cases over the long span of his teaching. Regarding the last example (levels) I initially had in mind something pointed out to me by Adolfo Carpio. As he noted, Silo stopped using (previously) key terms like consciousness-of-self to denote an ultra-vigilic level in favour of phrases like being in one’s centre. This is an important change which, it seems to me, gives more direct, and less problematic, access to simultaneous registers of neither being self-absorbed (i.e. self-enclosed) or alienated and lost in the objects. But one could easily find other examples, such as the modification of the names given to the states of inspired consciousness (itself another example): where the lowest of these states changed its name from ecstasy to rapture, and what had been called rapture was in turn renamed ecstasy. Recognition remained as the name of that highest of these three states.  

When I asked Silo about this switch between the names of these two states of inspired consciousness (long hallowed by many decades of usage) he said he preferred rapture for the state with stronger involvement of the motor centre for etymological reasons, i.e. the Latin raptus to seize, or carry off, hence abduct.

Besides these specific examples and the very interesting explanation of general principles he gave in his introduction to Humanize the Earth which I quoted above, we can also point to a very large-scale revision he first proposed in 1969 (as far as I know). In that talk he expounded on the need to reform the rich and suggestive traditional language and concepts that had been used to express his teaching up until then. He emphasized how current cultural and psycho-social pressures demanded, that despite the profundity and beauty of that language, it be given a complete reworking. If I interpret the unfolding of events correctly, he undertook this enormous task over the next 5 or 6 years and presented it in the 1975 studies in Corfu. These month-long studies are remembered in the first volume of his Psychology Notes.

I think it would be an error to conclude that the meaning of his teaching itself changed over all that time but most certainly the forms of work and of expression were repeatedly transformed and sometimes quite rapidly.

In the documentary Silo: Sage of the Andes (some of the same material appears in The Second Transmission from Punta de Vacas, The Experience, here and here, Silo himself addressed this theme in response to my question about these changes. 

In that dialogue, I asked him: In all these years you have expressed your message in various forms…

Silo: Through different things, sure.

Danny: …and there are people who say you’re always changing your mind about things… but we, or I, don’t get that impression. How do you explain this? 

Silo:  But, do you have the sensation that it’s always about the same thing? 

Danny:  The same, yes, right from the beginning. 

Silo: It’s as though we talked about translations of the same thing, different translations, different languages, with the same meaning. These various expressions occur because people look at things from different angles, and they ask questions from different angles.  And people that ask from a certain angle get an answer corresponding to that angle, different from someone else’s. And this can lead to a lot of confusion, where some interpret things one way, and others a different way. 

Our minds are so closed that we always believe there is only one valid interpretation. But it turns out that interpretations are diverse because people’s points of view are diverse. This is also true of language. It seems that they are different things, but actually in the end they’re the same story. They’re different translations of that message, they’re different translations. You have seen and you have the experience that we are always speaking about the same thing, always speaking of the same thing. Yes, that’s how it is.