Sunyata On Negative Capability

The “rare-born mystic” who, by midlife, went by the name Sunyata states this about his childhood:

Due to my passive receptivity and negative capability (both marvelous tools, but each also having a shadow side that made me seem weak), there was a steady succession of “smaller” ego cruxifixions as I made contact with people during childhood.

Sunyata: The Life and Sayings of a Rare-born Mystic, p. 57.

So, by this account, the emergence of ego-consciousness–from ages 7-14–led pretty speedily to its death. “Die before you die,” says the prophet Muhammed. Not so speedy for many of us spiritual practitioners.

You might have caught his allusion to negative capability. Negative capability, as the editors note, is a reference to John Keats–in particular, to a short bit in a letter about “man [being] capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason” (Ibid, p. 130).

The editors comment:

Keats meant negative capability to signify an ability to be free of an intellect that needs ‘to figure it all out’; he believed that only after giving up the efforting to explain what is not explainable can there be room in the life of the mind for an intuitive awareness.

Ibid, p. 130.

How many of us have tried, out of anxiety and thus too out of a rage for order, to “figure it all out”? Yet this desire, which allows the intellect to come online and then to take over, is born of non-acceptance.

And non-acceptance is a sure sign of ego arising and of suffering. Thus, we may ask, “Who is suffering? Who needs to know this?”

Let us cease all our machinations, all our attempts to figure things out, and relax completely into what is.

“But this is very hard to do,” I’ve regularly heard conversation partners say. No, it’s not. It’s only hard for the apparently separate self. Find out who that is.

Who is suffering? Who needs to know? Who must find this out or figure that out?

Not trying to figure things out, we accept. Accepting, we cease all seeking and all resisting.