Reading and Hearing the Word
There are very few engineering constructions that rely solely on one physical property or law. The truly great and inspired constructions are symphonies where each law and property plays its tune in relationship to others that either mutually support or constructively oppose. Synergy is the name given to the effect of different entities interacting that causes the behavior of the collection to be greater than the bare sum of the individual effects.
The same is true for spiritual things. Nothing that God does or recommends for our edification is to be practiced in isolation. Combining them produces effects that are greater than the sum of the individual disciplines. I have pointed out how combining prayer with meditation partially facilitates the Symbiotic Conversation between Host and Symbiote. Here, we throw in a third factor: the Scriptures. We read in the Scriptures the promises it makes that we can pray and claim to obtain what we need. After reading the scriptures or hearing it preached we meditate on them to gain new insights. Symbiosis itself was discovered by reading about it in the scriptures and devotional works, praying about the relevant passages, and receiving the insights while meditating on what was read. When our prayers are not answered because God requires us to become more mature Christians, believe a scripture or new doctrine, or drop or modify how we practice or belive an existing one, meditation, a sermon, or a Bible passage can be used by the Holy Spirit within us to highlight the specific area needing attention.
We will discuss the specifics of how the Spirit uses the reading and hearing of Scripture to communicate with the Host in Stage 2. However, there is an aspect of reading or hearing the Scriptures (and any devotional works based on them) that has a meta-symbiotic effect. To appreciate this, consider the fact that although the Holy Spirit and the cooperating Inner Man work together to select thoughts, the generation process itself is performed within the limits and parameters that the heart sets, and is limited by the capabilities of the heart itself. I discussed here the effect that gossip has to hijack the thought selection process. Recall it is done by the gossip talking to the recipient in ways and means that initiate the defense mechanisms built into the heart/mind. Essentially, gossip leverages the inner structure of the way the heart is designed for survival to exploit it for evil in the same way that a virus exploits the genetic machinery of the cell it infects.
Well, two can play that game! For starters, preaching the Word works by fixing the lessons of the scriptures into the mind in the same way that gossip fixes its payload into the mind. A good sermon lives with us and benefits us long after the service has closed. If, during the week the thought of a previous sermon or bible lesson comes to mind, it would be prudent to select it: it would not have been brought to mind unless the Holy Spirit, forseeing some situation coming or seeing a present one unfolding, kicked that memory into the bitstream to start a Symbiotic Conversation calculated to "head things off at the pass". The same goes for a bible scripture or a good devotional work: once the process of symbiosis is understood, then such memories coming to mind are not coincidence! The Holy Spirit is relying on your knowledge that He affects the bitstream by those thoughts so you are aware that He is communicating with you.
The Holy Scriptures, and good derivative devotional works well grounded on them, have an extra advantage as already being the words of the Holy Spirit. Memorizing them helps the Inner Man recognize that the thoughts thrown into the bitstream by the Holy Spirit are indeed from Him because they utilize words He has already uttered to others.
I had promised at the beginning of this essay that some of the Spiritual Disciplines serve as a sort of manual override of the thought process. Hearing and reading the word of God is one of these manual overrides. To effectively use this manual override, you first must understand how it works: the heart automatically gives precedence to sense-based thoughts (the qualia) over the heart generated inner thoughts that represent temptation. The reason for this order of precedence leverages the same mechanism hijacked by gossip: survival for a creature that relies on intelligence, reflection, and thought is a dicey proposition if the hungry lion that is approaching is not noticed if one's inner thoughts and reasoning are overriding the senses telling us it is there. Our modern society does not make us safer. Rather, our society is more modern because it is safer, since long and involved trains of thought necessary to arrive at scientific knowledge and construct complex devices are not interrupted by lions or Vikings. Coleridge, the English Poet whose commentary on the human mind was crucial to my realization that the heart was a thought generator, never finished one of his most magnificent poems because he was interrupted by a visitor. At my workplace, a key tool to ensuring that an engineering product is compete and of high quality is a sign that (essentially) says DO NOT DISTURB.
Thus, if you are caught in a mental selection loop of unrighteous thoughts, the best way to break it, and simultaneously signal a desire to the Holy Spirit to intervene, is to either read the bible, recite it out loud, or listen to a voice/video recording of it. An extremely good devotional work or sermon has a good chance of working as well. The key is to use one's senses of vision or hearing to override the internal thought loop by forcing the heart to deal with the sensory input.
Each of the sensory paths have a bonus that is unique to them. Hearing is essentially unblockable, and there is a lot of subconscious processing involved: the ability of music to bypass mental pre-conceptions and blocks is a power capable of great good and great evil, which we will address in Stage 2. In the meantime, putting on vocal Christian music with understandable vocals, or a vocal reading of the Bible should do wonders. To me, Alexander Scourby remains the undisputed master of the Spoken Scripture, but Darth Vader does a respectable bang-up job as runner-up.
The fact that over 70% of the information we get is visual sometimes blinds us to the enormous amount of pre-processing that vision goes through before we get the "images" our Inner Man "sees". Recall that some of the non-sensory thoughts we think is a running mental commentary on what we are seeing that we "hear" with a mental voice. The heart tends to process and generate that inner mental commentary without reflection: not surprising since "reflection" (considering the thoughts we are thinking) is the exclusive job of the Inner Man. An indicator of how much mental capacity is allocated between different mental functions is manifested in the Stroop effect. I invite you to follow the link and take the test before continuing this essay.
How does the Stroop effect work? The qualia of color is processed first, but the sensory data is then passed next through the part of the heart that has been trained to recognize letters and whole words, which then translates them into the inner voice, co-opting the inner mental commentary. It is the Inner Man who is setting the requirement that the colors of the words, not the words themselves, be spoken, and who tries, vailantly but uselessly, to get the heart back on track. Reading the Bible or a good devotional work leverages the Stroop effect to force the heart to start generating a scripturally sound inner mental commentary, usurping the bad one you are trying to replace.
Knowing how to apply a specific wrestling move against an opponent is to learn the move at the level of the beginner. The expert wrestler recognizes when their opponent is about to use it against them. The Master knows how to turn it around or escape it when their opponent tries to use it. This is also true of mastery over the thought life: Zero tolerance is not just recognizing when the enemy tries to usurp the thought cycle, but follows through with applying an appropriate counter-measure. Zero tolerance means being aware of the thought environment you are in, treating sources of potential usurpation as cautiously as dangerous gas leaks, and acting appropriately. Some environments can probably be withstood for short periods of time if you and your Symbiote are aware of the dangers and the two of you have a specific mission that can be completed in the time available. And some environments will be so toxic that prudence dictates you never go in if you can help it, and exit as quickly as possible if you find yourself in it.
Here are some examples. A reluctance to read your bible or do your daily devotional (absent some pressing emergency) is a sure clue of the enemy of your soul seeting things up for a take-over of the thought cycle: reading your bible, despite your feelings, blocks the initial move, initiates a virtuous thought cycle, and signals the Holy Spirit of your desire to start cooperating to short-circuit the take-over. If you feel too blue or depressed or condemned or sinful to go to church (as opposed to being physically sick), then going to Bible school to read the bible, or to church to hear the spoken word, is exactly what The Doctor orders!
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