It was, and still is I imagine, traditional practice in monastic orders for monks (and nuns presumably in their convents) to listen to a passage from scripture whilst enjoying the partaking of a meal in their refectory. This period of listening would be followed by a silent meditation on the passage, and thereafter a period of quiet contemplation. A relatively recent addition to this meditational scheme, used in the field of psychology, has been the practice of pathworking and its more strictly organised practice of guided imagery. What is so valuable about pathworking, and in particular that form of pathworking that erupts spontaneously into the mind?
It seems to me that primarily the value lies in the conversation, albeit somewhat one-sided, that takes place between consciousness and the unconscious, that source of power and wisdom that desires to communicate. Put into religious terms, it is about talking with God. Now why would that not seem to be important? Clearly, one does not need to be a religious in order to take part in this conversational exercise. It is available to all. Taking part in this inner conversation also allows one to gain both instruction and understanding. Recently, Fr. Richard Rohr drew reference to something that C.G.Jung said, namely that people who just look outside are dreaming, but people who look inside are "awakening." Well I want to be very wide awake.
Recently, I wished to meditate on the question of petitionary prayer. Now it has to be said that asking favours of the Divine is not something in which I tend to indulge. Alright, so I've had the occasional rant against the heavens, but God-bothering really isn't my thing. For me that would pander to the idea of an anthropomorphic God which would give me an decidedly uncomfortable itch. Furthermore, my inner Self knows better than my outer self or ego, just what my needs (rather than material wishes) really are. In fact it is probably true to say that I cannot know what my psycho-spiritual needs are until I am told by that inner purveyor of wisdom.
Let me now turn again to the experience of the image of the Temple recently introduced in, "The Chalice." Some of the imagery that arises is universal, whilst some may be particular to me. After all, the idea is to communicate using the best available images. It seemed to me that the very least I could do was to converse by taking up the offer of the Temple as the chosen language. The actual inner journey, or pathworking, is in bold italic script.
"..........Once again I sat on my throne, wondering about, mulling over, what it was that I needed so that I could move my development forward. What were the Divine methods of advancement as distinct from my own uncertain, probing ways? There came a point when it seemed to be appropriate to descend to the Altar, to kneel holding the Sword by the blade, hilt upwards, and wait. Only later did I realise that this was an act of submission that I had willingly entered into.
On the far side of the Altar, the entrance to the central stairway was glowing a gentle red, and it was to that arched entrance that I made my way. I found myself at the foot of a very long, climbing staircase. As I climbed, the walls closed in on me to form a rough-hewn, reddish-brown corridor. When finally I reached the top of the stairs, I found myself in what appeared to be another, but inner, Temple from which issued a number of exits, each closed behind a door. The floor of this Inner Temple was very dark, and appeared to be almost alive, or at least in a state of continuous movement, and quite insubstantial. It was this insubstantiality that made me hesitate before moving forward.
At the very centre of the Inner Temple, suspended at the height of my head, hung a large representation of the Sun from which the corona had entirely disappeared. It was as if the solar image were being viewed at a wavelength that made the corona invisible, for what I saw was the solar surface beneath the corona. As if in the far distance, I could hear a soft murmuring. Every so often, plumes of solar matter would erupt from the sphere, only to fall back again to the surface. Then one particularly large eruption occurred. The outflung, insubstantial material, seemed deliberately to reach out, wrap itself around me, and pull me inwards towards the Sun. As I came closer to the sphere, the whispering became more insistent, a strange hissing like ions radiating into the cosmos.
Gently I was drawn into the very centre of the Inner Temple, with my head then inside the Sun. I seemed to hear something, although hardly what I could describe as a voice, which said,
Now I immediately recognised that this was a situation in which my natural reaction would have been to argue, debate, and question the method by which I might achieve a state of listening. In that split second, my inner surroundings seemed to be so clear, so simple and therefore so simplistic, that I knew I was in danger of experiencing great loss. So I did not argue, but kept my peace. I became surrounded by a white, misty non-mistiness, an aura of nothingness yet of great complexity. My thinking and all my instincts and intuitive faculties were finally stilled. Yet I knew that there was a beyondness, a state into which I might be accepted, if I were patient. And the strange thing was that I, this most impatient of men, had no problem with that. I could wait for an eternity if need be.........."
Now there is much in this imagery that is significant, full of meaning, because of my earlier studies of the mystical Qabalah. Now is neither the time nor the place even to attempt to offer a precis of that work. What is clear from this pathworking is that contact had been made directly with my Higher Self, freed from the coronal mask of my ego. The Sun has been worshipped for millenia as an image of God, and to echo an observation made by Prof. Jacob Needleman, the question of one's Higher Self and of God, may be the same question.
Many years ago, when my offspring were still young, there would come occasions when I too would say to one of them,
"Listen!" Often I would receive the response,
"But dad, I am listening!" It wasn't true of course. I wasn't really being listened to, nor were they really 'hearing'.
Maybe that is the position in which I now find myself.