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Theology And Metaphor: Reaching For The Unreachable


Some things are just beyond words. The irony of my article is not lost on me. Here I am, trying to put into words my spiritual experience, and words simply do not suffice.

Words, themselves, are metaphors. When I write "tree," you know what I'm talking about, but the word "tree" is not a tree. In fact, the image that comes to your mind is almost certainly different than the image in mine.

When I write "God," well... You can see where this is going.

We use language to communicate. Words are all we have. Yet when I write about spirituality, I recognize that words are poor metaphors. Something as ethereal as "the eternal now" simply cannot be described. When I write about "non-attachment," I know what I mean... But do you? This is the poverty of language. And I confess, sometimes it leaves me wondering, "why bother?"

And then I am reminded of butterflies. They aren't born with wings. They are born as caterpillars and eventually they spin a cocoon and they morph into butterflies. And if you've ever watched one emerging from it's cocoon, you've noticed what a struggle it is. The struggle is necessary - it forces the newly formed wings to exercise. The struggle causes vital fluids and nutrients into the wings so that the transformed creature can actually become what it was meant to be.

Language is our earthbound home. Eventually we spin that cocoon of introspection and we struggle with language and definitions and descriptions. The struggle is necessary for us to develop our spiritual wings so that they can take us up beyond language. We struggle to break free so that we can fly through the ethereal world of no-words... no-thoughts... no-mind.

Jesus, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Krishna... They all spoke in "riddles." Some got it, most probably didn't. But that's ok. Their words were food for some and cocoon material for others. Those who struggled with their words eventually broke free and soared. Those who turned their words into rules or programs have simply built really large cocoons. There is a sense of security and comfort in these cocoons, but those who rest in them rather than struggle to break free are still earthbound - and not yet what they were meant to be.

So I will write of what I've experienced - grace, non-attachment, peace, God, eternal now, presence, wu wei, no mind - and some will struggle, including me. Some days I may soar beyond the clouds and other days a gust of wind will bring me back down to earth.

But I will use these wings - and words, for that is what I have.

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Comments about this spiritual experience

The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, manwithcake, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

massage33316 (guest)
11 years ago (2009-06-20)
I enjoyed reading your article, very interesting. It's not important that others understand you, only that you are clear in your mind. Others will come to their understanding in their due time. The language that is spiritual will always be clear to the wise and will always appear as a riddle to the ignorant. The riddle encourages us to meditate, which is the means by which we solve the riddle. The language of example is the language of the Gospels, the Gita and the Tao because it invites the soul to the table of meditation. We must turn our eyes inward, into ourselves; that's where revelation takes place - Know thyself, Socrates.
manwithcake (1 stories) (1 posts)
11 years ago (2009-06-16)
Hi Gel,
I appreciate your comments. We grow up with a lifetime of attachment programming and it is difficult to lose. Re-programming ourselves is a life long pursuit and I wish you well on your's.
Gel72 (2 posts)
11 years ago (2009-06-11)
I can totally relate to what you say about the poverty of language in explaining something so ethereal as Spirituality. I have had a number of Spiritual experiences in my life, however I always seemed to forget their potency and their message after a period of time. Recently I experienced the most potent experience I have had to date. I have not yet been able to communicate this to others in a form that they can understand, but I plan to do so through this site. Were it not for struggle, I would be nowhere near to the state of "non-attachment" you mention. I believe I stumbled upon this site for a reason, and plan to make use of it. 😁

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