The Hermeneut

5 Dec

White-haird Dahu, Director of the Hermeneutic Institute for over twenty years, gazed across his rosewood desk at the young man who was the newest apprentice.

“I see from your academic records that you have done a lot of study in the area of contemplation. That has been your main subject of specialization.”

Tall, scraggy Iog blinked his buttermilk eyes.

“That is correct, sir,” he softly admitted. “Mystical exercises have fascinated me since my early childhood. My parents are gone, and they both taught me the personal value of inner thought and mental focusing. That was perhaps the door into exegetics for me. I have read for years in our old meditative literature and have become familiar with the major classics.”

Dahu all at once began to turn dreamily nostalgic. “I once aspired to become a mystic myself, but that quickly faded away. Do not forget about your practical mental exercises and research endeavors, my young man. We must never lose our connections with our professional activities.

“I believe that you should start your work here examining ancient works found in the multivolume “Songs of the Blessed”. There can be found much genuine mysticism in those early compositions. Yes, you will find much of interest in the critical study and translation of such products of antique thinkers and writers.”

Young Iog smiled and nodded his head.

My dreams are going to come true, he told himself.

Trained in the arcane fields of translation and explanation, Iog read through books written in obsolete, no longer spoken or used languages and dialects. It took him time to familiarize himself with so many different lingual systems. He had to contend with complicated, ambiguous idioms and abstruse, unknown concepts. His hunt was for substitutes for these language riddles.

Iog at once fell into statements and assertions difficult to comprehend, full of ideas that were recondite and at first hidden from direct sight. The writers of distant times took too much for granted in their readers even then. Their sentences were very long and convoluted. The thoughts expressed seemed remote from ordinary understanding or easy grasping, even for an individual as philosophical and contemplative as himself. There were many phrases that the new hermeneut had to deduce by conjecture or inference. Time after time, bold construing became necessary in order to make any sense out of what otherwise would be a puzzling enigma to one attempting to read it.

Iog was compelled to parse many opaque works through daring grammatical analysis. He had to create and project form, function, and syntax onto obscure series of words he had never encountered anywhere before. It became necessary for him to hunt for what he could call the “true meaning”, the fundamental significance of what at first glance made little logical sense. He had to develop within his own mind a profoundly deep interpretive skill, an ability to unfold complex mysteries of thought and language.

I have to make clear that which in itself is not so, the student of ancient texts concluded.

His body stiff and his mind nearly exhausted, Iog was engaged in reading a general manual on contemplative method when an unforeseen, unexpected revelation of sorts struck his tired mind.

A single word in the thick, obscure text drew his complete attention to itself with almost magnetic force.

Although it was common to see the word “rarefy” in many meditative writings, here was something that appeared to be its polar opposite, the word “densify”.

Was this an error?

That did not seem a reasonable conclusion to Iog, not at all.

Why would the unknown writer have written the one word if he really meant the other?

“Rarefy” signified to make one’s thought less solidly definite, more separated and dispersed. “Densify” indicated a reversal in the opposite direction, toward concentration and increased complexity of form and structure.

What did this anomaly mean? the young hermeneut asked himself repeatedly all the rest of that day and long into the night.

He read on in the text, hoping to resolve the mysterious difficulty by finding a solution in the final stage of the interpretive process. In his hours of rest away from work, he turned to meditation of the problem that he had stumbled upon.

What had been the general theme of the work containing the misplacement of two words that were opposite concepts? Spiritual union with the Absolute through focused contemplation, he answered.

But instead of a melting and dissolution into the All of the universe, this strange union ended with an unexpected event: an explosion of the soul of the dedicated, determined meditator.

Iog grew excited that night, because he had made an unforeseen discovery through his long hours of private thought.

The path to enlightened revelation led through densifying, not rarefying the content of the spirit. Long, intense contemplation was absolutely necessary.

Here was something new that he had never come across before. The words had not been misplaced or mangled. The thought was expressed the way it was meant to by the mystical author, his identity unknown.

Ultimate, supreme wisdom, according to this new vision, was to arrive suddenly, instantly. It would not be the result of a long, gradual evolution of spiritual thought and intellectual striving.

Thought must be made denser and ever more concentrated, until it bursts forth in a colossal explosion that engulfs all that exists in the universe, all that will ever be, all that can ever partake of being and existence.

What a perspective! realized the hermeneut.

I must describe and explain what I have discovered to the Director.

It took less than a minute for the breathless apprentice to tell the secret of his discovery.

He stared at the impassive face of the other, waiting for a response to what he had just revealed. But the pause continued on until Iog sensed that he was the one who would have to break the uneasy silence that had fallen between the two of them.

“What should I do with what I have come upon, sir?” said the bewildered young man.

Dahu slowly rose from his chair, stepped around the desk, and stopped next to Iog.

The two men exchanged searching looks. Both of them were on the edge of the unforeseeable and the unexpected. Neither knew what would come next.

It was the Director who spoke in an almost inaudible tone.

“There has to be a testing,” he muttered quietly.

“What do you mean?” anxiously asked Iog.

“We must the spirit densifying. Together, both of us simultaneously. Then, we will measure and compare the results in you and in me.”

“Both of us at the same time?” inquired the astounded Iog.

Dahu sent him a warm smile. “I am older, you are younger. We shall observe the changes caused by densifying in two different types of persons.”

“Let us start to do it at once, then,” said the apprentice. “We must see what can be achieved by reversing the traditional course of mystical contemplation, that has always begun with rarefication instead.”

The Director ordered that the large basement of one building be cleared and emptied for an unspecified, unidentified research experiment. Two beds were brought in and placed next to opposite cement walls. Unwatched by anyone else, the pair at the center of the test went down as night fell. The only illumination to be allowed consisted of two small oil lamps.

Iog and Dahu lay down under thick woolen blankets. Each one wished the other a good night. Both had practiced that day on verbal formulas they hoped would result in the opposite of rarefication: the densification of their individual soul.

Solemn silence fell over and grabbed hold of the barely lit basement area.

Neither one could tell if his companion was awake, asleep, or in some self-induced trance of an undetermined character.

Time passed without disturbing either person’s thought.

Unconsciously, the two passed forward out of the night, into the dawn of a new day.

What has happened to us? Iog asked himself.

No sound came to him from any direction, from any source.

He grew troubled and uncertain. Why were there no results yet?

The young man attempted to increase the power of his mind over his soul spirit, to raise the degree of concentration already achieved by him. He greatly multiplied his internal stress.

All at once, his ears caught a noise that resembled a deep sigh.

It had to originate from the Director, he decided. What was he to do? He found himself springing to his feet and hurrying over to the second bed beside the opposite wall.

What am I going to find there? he wondered.

The eyes of Dahu were open, but perfectly blank. His face was turned up and stony. There was no breath coming in or out of the man. The Director had died.
Life had left him for good. There was nothing that could be done now.

Iog went to the door, opened it, and went up the stairs out of the basement.

He now had the task of informing the hermeneutic community of the tragic outcome of their experiment in unusual contemplation.

The funeral and the burial of Director Dahu occurred in two days time. Iog attended neither one, for he was by then in a nearly catatonic state that was diagnosed as bordering on insanity.

Taken by night to a local sanitarium, the unfortunate hermaneut never left it and was never seen in public again.

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