Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Different Nativity

..........I walked for hours along the slowly winding, dusty road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. As the advancing night became deeper and ever colder, stars began to appear. Eventually, enough starlight was shed for me to discern Bethlehem as a darker smudge against the darkened landscape. I continued on my way until I arrived at a large cave to the rear of an inn. Entering the cave through a wooden gate, I could see that the cave was furnished with stalls and mangers for animals, together with feed and bedding. The ground was covered with fresh straw which muffled the sound of my footsteps. Thus it was that no-one present seemed to have noticed my arrival.
I watched awhile from the shadows cast by a stall. A servant girl hurried past my place of concealment, carrying cloths and a container of hot water. When she finally left, I stepped into the soft light and approached a large manger from which emanated a yellowish-white glow. The manger lay across my path so that I approached it from the side. At the right-hand end stood a donkey and a cow looking down into the manger, whilst a sheep rested its chin on the edge, not quite able to see in. At the left-hand end of the manger stood two figures. They were large, painted statues of a man and a woman, presumably representations of Mary and Joseph, constructed from some chalky-looking material.
As I continued to approach the manger, the glow from inside became ever brighter, as if the light had become aware of my presence. The statues did not move; they just seemed to be larger than before. The animals looked at me, and their eyes seemed to be cold, devoid of any warm emotion. I leant over the side of the manger, and looked into the depths of the light.
The light reached up and held me, and I realised that there was no visible end to, or source of, the light. At the very heart of the light, surrounded by intense whiteness, were two eyes. There was nothing else except those eyes, dark ellipsoids that narrowed to points at their extremities. Held fast, I 'heard' the eyes speak:

"You are Mine!  Mine!"

Terror washed through me. How could I feel so utterly afraid? I was being drawn down into the light, the eyes coming ever closer. The animals moved slowly to block any retreat I might consider. Deeper and deeper I was drawn until, after summoning all my strength and will, I wrenched myself free, pushed the animals aside, and fled from the cave..........
        [Meditation from my private diaries relating to, "The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius."]

I was so dumbfounded by this experience that for a long time I simply would not accept the feelings of sheer terror that had engulfed me. Never had I felt anything so utterly alien as those eyes. As time passed, I began to forget about that experience, the wrongness and apparent artificiality of the scene. The birth of the Christ child was supposed to have been a joyous event, when divine love was poured into the world. Yet instead of love, I felt terror; instead of liberation, I felt entrapment; instead of gentle familiarity and desire, I felt alien-ness and demand, demand for my very being regardless of whether I willed it or not.

Since that time there has been an unending struggle going on deep inside me. Most of the time that struggle has been beyond my conscious awareness, but sometimes something has surfaced, full of fearful doubts, a longing to escape I know not what. It has been as if I were ratting on a friend, the same kind of agony that I had experienced when I finally decided to stop smoking after having indulged in that addiction for some thirty to forty years. The sense of inner devastation was unbelievably intense. Yet here I stand at another crossroads that has been awaiting my arrival for a long time.

The pain arises, not because I have largely ignored Christianity as being of no concern any longer, but because I must make a conscious, positive decision to let it go. The pain arises, not because I am choosing to leave behind me a spiritual safety net, but because my path may take me beyond the outer rim of logic, rationality and reason into the outer darkness of sheer intuition, a natural but largely unexplored part of my Self, a faculty that has become alienated perhaps. This is a part, maybe the major part, of the extreme discomfort I have lately felt about submitting certain written thoughts to Gwynt. It is as if I have done something with my senses and my intellect, but my heart still needs to follow. It is as if I am reliving in a few short weeks an alienation that has been going on for years. And that concentratedness is obliging me to take action, no longer merely to cope with a slowly changing, spiritual environment, but to do something. What that something is, I cannot yet know, not until at the very least I am able to interpret this experience of the nativity more completely. Maybe in letting go of something I need now to find a new home, one for which I sense with nostalgia still lies in the future. I fear that it is going to demand a great deal of faith on my part, and I do not do faith very well. But we shall see what we shall see.



  1. Reading this, suddenly I experienced your vision too. Such is its power Tom.
    Here is my best interpretation in words of that personal experience:

    As much as we might like to believe that the realm of spirit is populated by good, you seem to have found malevolence, and one must take care not to be seduced by appearances while in that realm.

  2. Halle; I think you are correct in your interpretation. The one-sidedness of Western culture has inculcated the belief that, in the end, Good must triumph over Evil, because Evil is something of a caricature. Yet in a universe of apparent dualities, where all forces are twinned with equal and opposite forces, Good must be twinned with Evil, at all levels. The problem for us lies in solving the paradox that lies between them.

  3. An interesting and complex reverie. This seems to be a path from which there is no turning back, as is true of most genuine quests.

    Occasionally, I get intimations that the good vs. evil struggle is one that can be left behind entirely. Not exactly in the manner of Nietsche, but in a more Buddhist fashion, where one becomes aware that it's all just the play of energy, and the decision to view things dualistically is a purely human neurosis.

    But first we have to get to that point, don't we, which is no easy feat. I suppose that's why many traditions believe it takes several lifetimes.

    I don't think it's evil you're perceiving, though, so much as immense power, which can feel like evil because our sensibilities aren't quite used to it.

    Such archetypal material isn't to be feared, but it must be respected, for sure. As the more mystical traditions warn, once started, this journey can't be stopped, and you do need to expect some pain along the way.

  4. The Geezers; I, too, have felt that the good vs evil struggle can be left behind, but with some reservations. In science, we have become accustomed to carrying out experiments as if we are independent of the experiment. That may be true to a first, or even second, approximation. But with matters psycho-spiritual, however, no such independence can be claimed. The human neurosis is part of the 'experiment', and may therefore affect the outcome. It depends from which direction the experiment is approached.

    Your conclusion that it is immense power, not evil, that I am perceiving is interesting. My further conclusion that the power may manifest itself as if it were evil, I find intriguing.

    There is still much in this experience that requires further investigation. As for the pain that will come along the way, I have always accepted that that is part and parcel of the journey. Anyway, the ensuing pain caused by turning my back on this journey, even if that were possible, would be too much to bear.

    Thank you for your insight and wisdom.

  5. I continue to be fascinated by your journey and your quest, though I don't understand it most of the time. Your mind and its wanderings is intriguing. Keep on and keep writing about it, Tom.

  6. Hmm, better make that "are intriguing". Bad mistake for an editor.

  7. i hope this year brings you some answers. i seem to have given up on my seeking, at least for the time being. now i'm just living. perhaps the seeking will come again, but i think i really need a break.

    hope your new year's eve was cozy.

  8. Agnieszka; A break is indeed welcome, even perhaps necessary, from time to time. New Year arrived with more gales and incoming water, but we are now in a state of mopped-up calm. It's not so bad.

  9. Tom, here are some questions I ask myself about a vision such as yours, if that's the right word for a spiritual experience which is lived and seen inwardly rather than externally:
    If I am the creator of this visionary experience, then surely the feelings it evokes in me (such as terror or awe or joy ) are feelings I have put into it, as a film director might do, and it is as if I am trying in this manner to teach myself something.
    Or, if I am not the vision's creator, then Something, some external agent or power is presenting me with this 'message', which I am supposed to decipher or interpret.
    Which of these two versions is true?
    Does it matter whether the source of such a vision is self-generated or 'sent' by some external Source (benevolent or not)?
    If the message is an enlightening one, then perhaps it isn't necessary to know the source.
    But if it gives rise to feelings of fear or anxiety, then the vision, like certain dreams, might be telling me to look into what it is I'm fearful about.

    Sorry if I sound preachy, I'm really just thinking aloud about certain dreams I sometimes have.

  10. Natalie; I will try to give you a reasoned response to your questions.

    First, to whom are we referring when we use the word "I"? Although my consciousness may start the inner journey, the unplanned parts come from what we may call the unconscious. That part of us I see as being, if not independent, then certainly autonomous. In which case, "I" (the ego) am not the instigator, like a director. It is the unconscious (or whatever may lie beyond) which is the teacher, and consciousness which is the student.

    I (i.e. the ego or consciousness)am not the vision's creator in its entirety. It's more like an internal conversation. I propose, the 'other' responds. But I do not see that other as in any way 'external'.

    Maybe I do not need to know the source of the help, but is it not natural that one wishes to know and understand that which one loves? Does not the soul (the bride) long to know God (the bridegroom), to use religious language. I suspect that in instances like this the answer to the question, 'what am I fearful about?' will be trivial. What is interesting is only that I experienced fear.

    As for sounding preachy, I didn't notice. (I wasn't expecting this comment from you. Does this mean your computer problems are solved?)

  11. Tom, a conversation I would love to continue in 'real' life with you some time. Too much to type into little boxes!
    No, my computer problem is far from solved but I'm using a laptop at the moment with a poor connection and none of my familiar files and...oh I must stop complaining! There will be a solution, eventually.