What if words are to meaning as talking is to listening and cognition is to spirituality?
The concept of communication is most closely associated with language and speaking. However, there are other and arguably more important aspects of communication which involve attention and listening. These aspects of communication are the basis of what could be called a spiritual level of awareness. This is a voiceless awareness or awareness beyond words (talking and thinking) that helps us connect to the power of life / God through “the presence that you feel when you are able to silence your mind.”
This relationship between communication and awareness parallels the relationship between words and meaning. Most of language processing happens unconsciously. We often communicate using words with little to no conscious awareness of their meaning. Yet it is through conscious awareness, not words, that we actively experience a sense of meaning. This is true even when we are using words to talk about topics like love or God that can have deeply personal meanings.
Through the present moment, you have access to the power of life itself, that which has traditionally been called “God.” As soon as you turn away from it, God ceases to be a reality in your life, and all you are left with is the mental concept [word for] of God, which some people believe in and others deny. Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life.
— Eckhart Tolle
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose | Eckhart Tolle
In an interview with Oprah, Eckhart Tolle discussed these themes in terms of the difference between thinking and presence (awareness). Thinking is essentially a form of mental or internalized communication with oneself. As described by Tolle, belief in the power of life / God that is only informed by thinking is unconscious or “dream-like” compared to the kind of belief that emerges from being consciously aware of the power of life / God in the present moment. These are fundamental issues with any use of language, which is essentially a system of communication based on the unconscious assumption of or belief in the shared meaning of words. Nonetheless, this description helps us begin to differentiate between conceptual and spiritual levels of awareness.
It’s stepping from belief … going to the deeper level where belief becomes an actual realization or a knowing. And that can start with a simple thing like … when you take your attention into the present moment, which implies of course a certain alertness arises which is different from thinking. Thinking compared to [presence] is almost like a kind of dream-like state. So a certain alertness arises. You become more conscious of what’s around you, but also … of an underlying sense of presence that is both within and without … We could call that a divine presence.
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Eckhart Tolle’s Definition of God | SuperSoulTV