Saturday 25 May 2013

A Walk in the Hills

..........And I must have walked for miles until at last I reached those lofty hills.  Passing over their rim I saw that they enclosed a great forest of deciduous trees, tall and wonderfully healthy. I stopped awhile to rest, the sun warm on my back.  As I gazed down upon the forest I saw a gurgling, busy stream cascading between the trees before rushing headlong into a large pool below me.  There it quietened as if suddenly and self-consciously aware of its majestic surroundings.  I made my way, barefoot, down the hillside until I stood on the warm grass beside the pool.
          The trees seemed to have moved during my descent so that they completely surrounded the pool except for a broad, grassy strip leading back up to the tops of the hills behind me. The murmuring of a gentle breeze, the soft rustling of the forest canopy, filled the valley with joy.
          There descended an utter and reverential silence.  On the far side of the pool a tall, white-haired figure in white raiment appeared.  He walked slowly back and forth apparently deep in thought, or accustomed to long waiting.  Finally, he turned and faced me across the water. Peace, such overwhelming peace, washed through me, dissolving me.  And I had sunk, head bowed, to the ground surrounded by such Presence..........
                                                             (Images from a meditations journal.)

I have never sought that which I might have understood God to be, in the sense of actively seeking that which I knew and understood.  I have sought meaning and understanding, certainly, and continue to do so but never it would seem with a great deal of success.  The knowledge, understanding and wisdom, the sense of ultimate "knowing", for which I seek lies beyond the realms of the intellect and emotions.  Yet I choose not to stop reaching out to make that conscious contact, to satisfy this deep longing I have.

It is my ego that cries out for redemption, not that other realm that lies so much closer to the ultimate source of my life.  It would seem to be a great wrong if I did not use my intellect and emotions, and not forgetting my senses, for it is entirely possible that the ultimate source of life needs those experiences that only my ego can supply.  Maybe for that reason, if for no other I, and that inner sense of presence which lies beyond my ego, are inextricably intertwined.  Yet for all that sense of immanence I always seem to stumble on God as if by accident.  When that happens, the experience-that-is-God is enticingly clear, only to slip out of sight again when hopefully I turn to focus my gaze in that direction.

Professor Jacob Needleman 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."

Sometimes during moments spent in that particular activity, I wander around the doorway to my mind, but no-one appears.  There should be a word, a key to that inner door;  yes, a new word to replace that baggage-laden God-word.  It would need to be a very big word, filled with majestic syllables of such grandeur, a word such that when I begin to say it I do not reach the final syllable until the end of my life.    


  1. Your thought provoking post triggered a kind of thinking in me that usually only comes up when I can't fall asleep. Today I had suchkind of houghts while taking my shower.
    A new gradiose word for God would need to be a short one for me. Not that I ever ask for anything but I say thank you very often and think of the universe. (I wish I could write. Have a feeling that this does not say what I want it to say).
    Thanks for showing up today.

  2. Ellena: I think the moments of which you speak, showering and the quiet hours of the night, are two of those times when our minds are most relaxed and free. That's when the 'thinking' subsides and allows something else to emerge.

    When I say my replacement God-word would need to last a lifetime, it was meant to imply a lifelong experience. The advantage of a very short word - in the same experiential sense - would be that it might carry less baggage, so there would be advantages either way.

    I hope that responds appropriately to what you wanted to say.

  3. " is entirely possible that the ultimate source of life needs those experiences that only my ego can supply. Maybe for that reason, if for no other I, and that inner sense of presence which lies beyond my ego, are inextricably intertwined."


    "...There should be a word, a key to that inner door; yes, a new word to replace that baggage-laden God-word."


    "...Yet I choose not to stop reaching out to make that conscious contact, to satisfy this deep longing I have. "


    All I can do, Tom, is to say yes again to what you have so well expressed here. It echoes strongly within me and there is nothing I can add. Thank you.

  4. Natalie: Sometimes I just don't have the words to respond. Let me assure you, I am smiling from ear to ear.

  5. so very beautifully written, Tom.

    i feel i almost find my key, my word while swimming in cool, clear water, alone. Or diving through ever rolling surf that i'm just barely strong enough to play in...

    thank you for this.

  6. Tom, it seems there is this experience of whatever it is and we are both alone with it and then share it in some distant way with others who want to shout across or touch across or build bridges across all the chasms that lie between. Back in the psychedelic days of the 60s and early 70s people tried to build a culture around this yearning, hoping that a bridge had actually appeared.

    I have followed this promise of light my whole life, I believe and now my work could be (I hope it so) vistas of intimacy along the way.

  7. Zephyr: Christopher: I am so very fortunate in having discovered the very dear people who comment on this blog. I long for the words that say, "Yes! Yes! and Yes again!"

    It seems to me to be something of a tragedy that these inner experiences cannot be adequately expressed in words, or at least in my words. I cannot say any more.......except thank you.

  8. Back from three days at the the Hay Festival where I've been listening to philosophers (lots), atheists, an atheist translator of Cervantes, an economist (who is no doubt atheist), a stem cell scientist (worse than atheist according to George W. Bush), a historian talking about ancient Egypt (whose interests pre-dated Christianity), Brit. Mus. curator celebrating Ice Age Art(same as previous guy). You might say I haven't been going in God's way and thus I have naught for your comfort.

    For two days the sun shone, then violent rain and winds descended on us. Make your own conclusions.

  9. Robbie: Thanks for dropping by. I hope you had a rewarding three days. As for my comfort, don't beat up on yourself: I'm fine. As for the violent rain and winds, well have a care. Don't insurance companies class those as 'acts of God'? You see, you're being observed!

  10. I can't help but think of Entish, that "unhasty" language. Tolkien might have been on to something here.

    This past weekend, a long holiday weekend, I dove into the waters of genealogy. My maternal great-grandfather fought in World War I in the X Army on the Eastern Front. Last Friday, I found scans of that army's newspaper (over 1,000 pages) and worked my way through the first third or so. I was amazed at the reports from the front ... "nothing new," "the situation is unchanged," and "no action to report." What occupied the thoughts of the soldiers during these fallow times, with possible injury and death looming in the future?

  11. A very close friend of mine was a Sufi during the last twenty-five plus years of her life. It was she who first told me about the Muslim concept of the ninety-nine names of God, some of which are hidden from man. The idea seemed to have a rightness about it.

    I'm sure many have understood we need the ego in order for our physical survival, but not necessarily at the levels of desperate grasping we see in our current culture.

    Sometimes I think of myself as a 60w bulb hoping to hook into a million volt source.

  12. Rouchswalwe: Yes, I so agree about Entish. One of the things I love about Treebeard is his unhurried, thoughtful approach to life. Nothing is written in stone; everything can be up for re-examination - even the newest things in Middle Earth. There is a lovely line in which Pippin is talking about Treebeard's eyes, in which he says,

    "One felt as if there was an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present: like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or on the ripples of a very deep lake."

    It sounds as if you have had an engrossing weekend. When I read your example of men waiting for possible death, and read of others at the point of painful death, I know I would not deprive such souls of any comfort, religious or otherwise, if it helped. To do otherwise would be an unforgivable arrogance.

  13. Susan: Agreed. I do love your thinking, the comparison of you as a 60w bulb hoping to hook into a million volt source. I must treat this thought gently and with kindness, and not block it with mere words.

  14. This post and the comments go far beyond that which I usually encounter in the "blogosphere", Tom. Thank you for stirring my long-submerged thought process. (But I still can't find belief. Maybe when I grow older, eh?)

  15. Bruce: I am not too certain that belief, in either direction, is what is needed. Maybe it is simply the act of open-minded engagement that is the point of the journey. For some reason that I cannot yet understand, I find your comment in some way justifies all that I seek to do, to write about. And for that I am grateful beyond words to express.