Friday, 15 October 2021

A Way of Uncovering

           A meditation which seems to be a rather impromptu affair, one which appears to ..... intrude ..... into one's normal meditating routine is sufficient reason to treat it as having greater importance than some others, if such a gradation can truly be made. I always feel that such a meditation, chosen by some inner 'presence' rather than my 'external I', has about it a gravity ..... an experiential gravity ..... that needs to be taken note of, a lesson that needs to be learned. 

          Perhaps this meditation is a response to "The Crypt" which I published earlier. If one's soul lies in the crypt of one's being, assuming a living soul actually exists, then a journey of descent may be the first action that is required to approach and, possibly, experience that soul. The first steps of this journey are so very important. This journey of descent is what I would call ..... 'A Way of Uncovering' ..... an eradication of psychological denial or encrustations of the ego. And not only does it lead to a psychospiritual development that is hugely beneficial to the Self, but it also indicates that there are practical steps which can be taken to that end. The actual transformation may not be in the hands of the ego, it certainly is not, but the move towards preparedness almost certainly is. At a deeper level, as Prof. Needleman has said, 

          "Nor can we be active in the way we are accustomed to be. It's the same question that arises out of St. Paul: we are helpless and weak; there is nothing we can do. Yet there is something we must do. Just what, exactly, is within our power?"

          I wonder whether St. Augustine and Pelagius didn't both miss the point.

Friday, 8 October 2021

I Was Not - Revisited

           The problem with trying, usually unsuccessfully, to explain matters of the spirit is that all I have is 'words'. I must echo those of C.G.Jung here,

          "My speech is imperfect.  Not because I want to shine with words, but out of the impossibility of finding those words, I speak in images. With nothing else can I express the words from the depths." 

          Nevertheless, with that thought in mind and my reluctant move away from speaking in imagery, I will attempt to develop further the ideas that have arisen from my previous post, "I Was Not" and comments made on that post.

          I cannot relate my experience to Buddhist experience because, frankly, I do not have the experience or knowledge of Buddhist --- and in particular, Zen Buddhist --- thought and teaching. I must add that neither do I feel any urge to study eastern religions. That is too much like ..... following 'others'. Again, I turn to C.G.Jung ["The Red Book"],

..........It is no teaching and no instruction that I give you. On what basis should I presume to teach you? I give you news of the way of this man, but not of your own way. My path is not your path, therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.......... and,

..........Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself? So live yourselves..........

          In attempting to describe the state in which I found myself, I described the state as being one of ..... emptiness. This word tends to describe the outcome of a process of emptying, or voiding. Yet the emptiness that I felt was more a sense of ..... being concentrated within some void, having sloughed off my externals. In other words I was emptied of everything relating to my ..... external ego and its illusions. Perhaps another way of describing this state would be like ..... being the yoke of an egg, bathed or irradiated in a bright light, having been ..... released perhaps, from my surrounding albumen and shell. 

          What is important here, or so I think, is not the external, visible experience. What is vital is the inner movement, the invisible forces at work. I don't see it as an example or aspect of 'spiritual growth' [shudder!]. Rather, I see the experience as one typical of an ordinary person, in which some 'things' are coming together, a natural process of becoming is being carried out. The experience was somewhat awesome, I admit, but it would be a mistake to focus on the pointing finger whilst ignoring that to which the finger points --- toward a spiritual process of marrying --- perhaps? That goal or target, has a wonderful sense about it of being totally, uncaringly lost.

          I was more than a little surprised at my reaction at the time, "Oh my God! Oh my, dear God!", particularly as I can make no claim to be a Christian, or even to being religious come to that. Yet I take heart from a comment made by the lovely Professor Jacob Needleman who once wrote:-

          "To think about God is to the human soul what breathing is to the human body.  I say to think about God, not necessarily to believe in God - that may or may not come later.  I say: to think about God."

          Finally, I will close with an excerpt from a post from 24th. August, 2013 --- "What Am I?"

          "..........I become aware of my awareness, yet am nevertheless subject to random thoughts and a slight feeling of frustration.  Now and then I feel  physical discomfort.  In some way all those sensings are connected to my state of awareness, a massless, formless awareness.  There comes a moment when it seems as if all I need to do is to stop concentrating or focusing on anything.  In an odd way that leaves me in a kind of limbo where I am 'concentrated' almost by default on a nothingness.  I give up 'trying', at least for a series of momentary-nesses.  The links with the material world are still there in potential, but much weakened.  It isn't until the stillness moves that I realise how deeply I have travelled.........."

Monday, 4 October 2021

I Was Not

 I am in two minds about posting this, but before I chicken out:

          From time to time I ask myself the question, "Do I wish to continue to post my writings?" My answer usually is in the affirmative, because I sense a need to talk, and to hear a response to my written musings. But my affirmative response is always alloyed with doubt. 

          Today, I experienced something new in my spiritual search, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I felt something more intensely than I have felt before. It was initiated when I was studying some words which said, "It is not demanded of us that we always be in a state of the heart which grants us vision and self-mastery. It is only demanded of us that we know the state we are in. But this is difficult......"

          I paused in my reading and asked myself the question, "What state are you in?" It was as if I became stationary on an invisible ladder of time and state. Below me was an infinity of responses to that question; what I knew; what I doubted; of what had I been in denial about; what progress had I made; and so on, and so on. Higher on the ladder I saw a single response, that I do not yet know the answer to the question about my state.

          In that moment the question dissolved. I could not ask, because I did not know what or how. I saw so clearly that I knew nothing; that I was nothing; that I was lost. It was only the ego that enjoys or suffers the illusion of knowing that it is.  I can only say that I was not! My response to that realisation was unequivocal, and one about which I --- as a non-Christian --- felt no doubts; no shame. It was simply, Oh my God! Oh my, dear God!

          In that moment I felt completely and utterly empty. And that emptiness felt so utterly right, as it was always meant to be. I also realised that, with occasional enhancement by spontaneous intrusions of phrases and sentences from I-don't-know-where, my writing is largely about the mechanics of my search. They rely on memory, not direct experience. Those experiences I can barely, if at all, describe to myself. But for reasons that I do not understand, it seems to be necessary that I write it all down. What others make of it all, I don't know.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

The Way of the Heart

           In an earlier previous post, "The Crypt", I used the image of an inner church and its crypt to indicate something of the location of one's spirit and soul, a location far removed from that of the ego. Only later did I realise that the imagery which did not arise was a church built in the Gothic style, a form of architecture which has great appeal for me. Rather it was one built in a rural-parish, Norman style with a crenelated tower for defence. And I wondered why that latter image came to mind.

          The soaring Gothic arches atop walls punctured with panels of fragile glass have an appeal that calls to an instinct for purity in me, of reaching ever upwards ..... but towards what? To what does it strive? In contrast to that the rural church is far more 'earthly', even to the point of being humble. And I believe it is that sense of the ..... humble ..... that appeals to the feelings [and I stress feelings] of the ..... heart, rather than the thoughts and emotions of the ego.

          It is my belief that my inner ..... "conversations" ..... fulfil a number of functions, as does any conversation. In this particular case, it is indicating a way forward, a way of contemplation rather than meditation. Or more exactly, since most of my work deals with imagery and symbolism, a development from kataphatic to apophatic contemplation is being suggested, as I understand those terms.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Three Abbey Churches

        Before continuing to write about those matters on which I have been focusing up until now, I will take a few moments to consider an incident which occurred on our recent holiday, and try to fit that in with other, and related, experiences in the past.

          We were  taking our habitual September break and for the second time this year were visiting Donville-les-Bains, which adjoins Granville on the S.W. coast of la Manche, [the Cherbourg Peninsula]. All the country around there is rather salt-marshy, unspoiled and fairly unpopulated. There isn't too much farming, but does have a fair proportion of market gardening: quite lonely, and lovely.

          So it was on one sunny morning much like any other really, except that we did briefly commemorate an event which happened eighty-four years ago to the day when a squawking foetus was gifted to the world. Within a few days that particular individual was given the name which I have carried ever since. Anyway, it was on that day that we visited the Abbaye de Lessay. From the outside the building was not over-elaborate, neat and simple, but on the inside I found it stunning. Sadly, the abbey has had a terrible history of violence dating from the time of King Edward III of England in the 100 year's war, his French opponents, and the forces of the king of Navarre [Charles the Bad], who between them massacred thousands. Then after the wars of religion and the French revolution, the government took over, and that was a pillaging and quarrying disaster. Eventually the Benedictines rebuilt and renovated the abbey. Then of course, came all the damage of allied bombing in WWII, culminating in the Nazis planting of fifty landmines and a couple of bombs in the abbey. The damage after they exploded was so bad it was almost decided to pull the rest of the abbey down. That is a very brief outline of the abbey's travails. Fortunately, the abbey was rebuilt in twelve years and is now run by a group of nuns.

          Switching back a few years, I well remember visiting Chartres cathedral in 2009, the first of the three churches that has influenced my inner search. After that visit I walked out of the cathedral feeling profoundly changed in some way. What happened was nothing to do with Christianity, at least as far as I believe it has been practised for centuries. It was almost a glimpse into ..... something else, some sense of ..... otherness that existed beyond my normal consciousness.

          More recently, I visited Boquen Abbey. I have written about that visit in previous blog posts - [e.g. L'Abbaye de Boquen, 27.4.2013]. In that experience the question was asked, "Still scratching at the surface of Christianity?" It was a question that demanded a response, but a response that I had no idea how to give. How could I respond when I didn't really understand the question? Nevertheless, that question has never been far from my thoughts. Certainly, and considering my earlier involvement with the Christian religion and the Church, the Christianity about which something deep within me was asking the question was of a quite different order. And now to return to the third church, the Abbaye de Lessay.

          My subjective memory of the Norman-Romanesque building is one in which the stone has been completely cleaned to a pale greyness, giving the quite simple building a look of rare purity. There is a marked lack of icon paintings and aggressive, in-your-face, crucifixion symbolism. Frankly, I find representations of the crucifixion revolting. I recall thinking that the abbey was, and this is the crucial point of this visit, like ..... contemplative prayer given form. 

          Gradually, and perhaps tentatively, I feel I am reaching out towards, or pursuing, something of which I cannot be certain; something that holds experiential answers to the Chartres experience, and also to the Boquen question.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

The Crypt

           The idea of the body being the temple of the spirit is not a new one. Yet I doubt its accuracy because the body often referred to is the physical body. When religious writers of the past spoke in this vein, including biblical writers of course, they were referring to something more than just the physical form. The 'flesh' or external form to which they referred was the physical senses, and included the thoughts, emotions and perceptions or personality characteristics. Indeed, St. John of the Cross specifically refers to such traits listing pride, spiritual avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth as the senses. One could add to the list. Of course there are also positive personality traits to consider. In other words the body to which they refer are all those senses which come into play when we interact with the world/universe around us, that 'body' which is also known as the ego. 

          But there is another Self, some other and spiritual state of mind perhaps, which lies far below/beyond  the ego and the realm of thought and emotion. That Self is ..... if I may express it this way ..... like a sun hidden in the crypt of an inner  church, that lowest/deepest part of a person. About that sun, it can be said that it represents that to which the epithets, 'higher' and 'superconscious' may be applied. One might even suppose, if one is inclined in that direction, to include the word ..... 'divine'. It seems to be of, or allied to, the Spirit [Holy or otherwise] of what a religious would call God. Yet as I have said, it is hidden ..... deeply ..... perhaps in the very foundation of one's being, in, to use a Meister Eckhart expression, the Ground of the Soul*.

          Finally, I would pose the questions, "Are the spirit and the soul linked? Does one generate the potentiality of the other? Why are they hidden in this place of safekeeping?"

*    Meister Eckhart describes the Ground of the Soul as, 'a central silence, into which no creature may enter, nor any image. Nor has the soul there either activity or understanding, Therefore she is not aware of any image either of herself or any creature.' 

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The Gates of Darkness - Alternative Format

           It is a theme in Gnostic writings that the 'soul' is trapped in the physical body, and the aim of life is to find release from that trap. The state of the soul is thus bound up with that of the spirit and the body. This is clearly a cause of sadness for the soul, but there is a way out by the path of repentance. What is repentance?

          Technically, repentance is a change of mind, not a turning away from what the Church calls sin. The Greek word translated "repentance" is metanoia, and the meaning is simply "a change of mind." Part of the way back through the Gates of Darkness that locks the soul in its imagined prison is, therefore, through a change in preconceived ideas.

[And now for a week's vacation.]