I know…you might be wondering: hey, where’s Section B of Part I? You promised something on Portilla! I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, enjoy this short reflection on Luis Villoro. Oh, and Happy New Year!
Silence. I keep with this theme because I think that there must be an end to justifications, to explanations, to working ourselves over with reasons and arguments. Or, there should be an end. In the clamor of daily life, thought, there doesn’t seem to be an end. The Buddhist imperative to remain in the moment, in the feeling, in the thought, in the body and vanquish desire so as to reach a state of peace and silence conforms to the Franciscan-ascetic call for resignation and surrender to the Will of God regardless of the wants and desires of our ego; but doing these things is harder than it seems. Nevertheless, there appears to be a roadmap to, at least, approaching these calls for silence in the works of the greatest of our philosophers, who, it seems, suddenly and in spite of themselves, come to the end of the space of reasons and stand face to face with the Mystery, with the unknown, the unsayable—the unexplainable. They call it a mystical experience, a conversion experience, etc., and are affected by this in one of two ways: they either wish to honor it with quiet and silence or bow to its transformative promise by carrying out a transformation in their own persons.
In his La mezquita azul, Luis Villoro recounts his own mystical experience while inside Turkey’s Blue Mosque. Villoro’s mystical experience is not unlike Portilla’s (Section B of Part I), who suddenly feels a deep unwavering peace within him, but it is more perceptual than Portilla’s. What I mean is that he “sees” connection, coherence, and totality all about him; he sees meaning and purpose; he recognizes, in what he sees, in what he hears, and in what he feels, that he is just a part of, an aspect of a greater whole. He writes: “I know that I am one of many, small, insignificant in the sea of humanity, [a humanity that] has elevated itself to the sacred throughout time” (Vislumbres de lo otro, 51). For Villoro, the mystical experience is an opportunity for humility, for resignation of ego, of self-importance. Villoro recognizes this and struggles against the demands of his own vocation (which is our vocation).
“But my vanity is still with me. I look at myself and register my words. I realize that I am thinking about what I will write, perhaps, about this moment. Then I pray: “Allow my pride to vanish, allow for the destruction of my immense vanity, that my egoism may finally be erased.” And only then do I feel, only then do I see the truth. Everything becomes forever transparent, everything is pure, held in suspense, serene and peaceful, everything is safe. The I is lost; it is small, trivial, forgotten. How wonderful that it may be this way! That everything is part of everything, that everything is one! How forever splendid the light of the universe” (Ibid., 51)
Villoro’s own struggle while within the experience itself shows that not even the presence of the unfathomable can deprive us of our habits. But that’s not the lesson we should get from Villoro’s account; the lesson is that the path to silence, the way to overcome the noise of vanity, is not within. Prayer is a call, an address to the Mystery itself, and, in his, Villoro calls for the destruction of his egoism and his vanity so as to “see the truth.” It turns out that the truth is transparent, pure, serene, peaceful, and safe—it is not the end of arguments, of justifications, of reasons, of dialectics—things that really never have an end; it is not the source or the product of power or agreement: the truth is there where the I is lost.