Wednesday, 24 December 2014

I Walk in Darkness

          My inner world, a realm which I cannot entirely divorce from my outer consciousness, has taken on a strange aspect of late. It began when I realised that the Winter Solstice had taken on a meaning quite unlike anything that I had attributed to it in the past. This meaning was reinforced by dreams of loss and longing, the loss of a dear, canine companion earlier this year. In my mind I walk across a darkened landscape of death. Here lies buried all my thoughts, my knowing, my questions, my thinking. It is as if nothing that once was has any existence any longer.
          Alongside this experience has been a growing desire to return to that place I visited at the beginning of 2014:-

..........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."]

          It was my wish to experience those moments again, but this time without any intention of running away. This time I wish to remain there, and maybe to understand fully what it means to be lived by that "ineffable unknown-ness." As I continue my walk across my inner, darkened landscape I am suddenly confronted by a manger made of stone. From its awesome depths, and from alien eyes that have lost none of their ferocity, shines a fearsome light. And I look down into those eyes, lost in a sense of awe and wonder.
          It is said that pride precedes a fall. In a similar manner I believe it to be true that sometimes our sense of 'knowing-ness' is deliberately built up to prepare us for the experience of falling into 'non-knowing-ness'. All that we say, write and do may all be perfectly correct, because we cannot experience truth against a backdrop of falsehood. In a sense, that makes the awareness of 'non-knowing-ness' all the more profound.
          When I stared down into that abyss of light I saw, momentarily, a gulf in meaning between the name of that first century teacher who travelled throughout Palestine, and that appellation so often tagged onto him, "the Christ." Here I experienced no 'gentle Jesus meek and mild' so beloved of popular Christianity, but a force that seemed barely to be contained, or even containable, within the living organism.

          I walk in the Darkness, and I see a great Light. And I do not understand It. Yet accept It I must.


  1. A momentous experience. I hope you are able to return as you wish, dear Tom. Here darkness has fallen and I've only just lit the candles.

    1. An unexpected pleasure to see you here, dear RW. It has been, as you say, a momentous experience, and one which I think is the start of an ever-deepening experience. It has been a Christmas Eve with more than the usual touch of magic. And the darkness, also, has offered its own particular gift.

      Have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope your injury continues to heal well.

  2. Every time I see a baby and the baby sees me --any baby-- I feel I'm looking into the whole of the universe from which we all emerge.

    1. Hullo Geo; There is sometimes something deeply profound and knowing in the eyes of a baby, as if it knows something I have long forgotten.

      May I take this opportunity of thanking you for your regular comments here, and of wishing you and Norma a truly wonderful Christmas.

    2. For your continued participation in the company of good minds that one hopes for in retirement, I extend my thanks in return.

  3. Hi Tom
    Being in a church choir we have the liberty to choose the hymns for each mass in support of the liturgy.
    What I often find is the words sung have more resonance to me than that to which they are written to support.
    And so to add to your last sentence, " I walk in the Darkness, and I see a great Light. And I do not understand It. Yet accept It I must." , can I merge your words to a frequently sung hymn, which jumped out of my mind after reading your thoughtful post …………maybe there is some relevance, or does to strike a chord ? Here It is :
    Though I walk in the Darkness, to see a great Light.
    Not to understand it, to accept it I must.
    For we are sons of the morning; we are daughters of day.
    The One who has loved us has brightened our way.
    The Lord of all kindness has called us to be
    a light for all people to set their hearts free.

    Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep!
    A new day is dawning for all those who weep.
    The people in darkness have seen a great light.
    The Lord of our longing has conquered the night
    God is light; in God there is no darkness.
    Let us walk in the light. God's children one and all.
    O comfort my people make gentle your words,
    proclaim to my city the day of her birth.
    best wishes

    1. Hi Lindsay; It would be quite impossible for me to describe what has been going on inside me over these latter few days. There is a kind of magic in the air this Solstice/Christmas. I must say that when I read the opening lines to this hymn - one I have never come across before - I sensed a tingle that often comes with a recognition of something deeper at work. One could simply dismiss an experience on the basis of the similarities between what has been written here, and the allusions to St. John 1:5 and Isaiah 9:2, and 60:2. To do that would be to ignore the fact that we need to be alert and ready for when those additional inputs arrive.

      You have always been a regular here, and I thank you for that. May you and your family have a great Christmas.

  4. i wish you a return to the light, dear tom. and a joyous season to you both!

    1. Hullo Agnieszka; My previous reply appears to have become lost in the ether. Either that or I am guilty of finger trouble. I will say again that I thank you for your wish, and of course the best for the season to you also.

  5. Hi Tom
    May I reciprocate to you and yours. Should it be of interest the author is Dr. Robert Hurd who is a professor of philosophy but left academia in 1993 to become a full time composer of liturgical music. We sing a lot of his work. Here is the closing words to another hymn written only this year ………..As a mother gathers her young beneath her care, gather me into your arms. Though I walk in darkness, through the needle’s eye of death, you will never leave my side.
    Best wishes

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  7. It's a hard road you travel, Tom. You have my deepest respect.

    1. Thank you dear Susan. You have been much in my thoughts of late.

  8. Thanks for this, Tom. Ellie gave me a quote from St Thomas' Gospel, so I went to it and felt moved to give you this one:

    Jesus said, “Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man."

    That's saying no. 7.No. 1 is this:

    And he said, “Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.”

    1. Hullo Vincent; Thank you for these quotes, which are reckoned to be amongst the most difficult of the logia to understand. As you have not also passed on what might be Ellie's understandings, I fear I must rouse myself from intellectual slumber and do the pondering myself......but not tonight! I'll get back to you on this.

    2. Hullo Again; What I am about to offer is not a definitive explanation of these two logia, but some thoughts as to what direction might be useful.

      My starting point is the assumption that Jesus of Nazareth was well versed in the esoteric teachings of his people, embodied in the Kabbalah. Therefore, both the Lion and Death will have held particular significance for him and for at least some of those who might have been listening.

      On the Tree of Life, there are two possible Paths to which the Lion (or Strength) might refer. (There is some debate about this.) One is Path 19, the other Path 22. The Hebrew letter for Path 19 is Teth, meaning snake of serpent power, aka the source of illusion which when overcome becomes the instrument of salvation. The Hebrew letter for Path 22 is Lamed, which meaning Justice is also intimately related to the strength of the Life-Force within us. Both these Paths connect to, or are a part of, the Higher Self. Of these two options I tend to favour this latter interpretation because the astrological sign for Path 22 is Libra, and the essence of the Tree of Life is about achieving balance.

      To achieve this balance requires, or so it seems to me, the absorption into a higher form of what have been described as the brute or bestial emotions, the transfiguration if you wish of the emotions into genuine love, the very centre of the Jesus teachings. The opposite movement, the identification of the self with emotionalism and its many manifestations runs counter to the teaching of love. Now this is where the first logia is significant.

      The Path along which this action of transfiguration takes place is Path 24, the Path of Death. The Hebrew letter for this Path is Nun, which means Fish (the symbol of the Christ) or when used as a verb, to grow.

      In conclusion, I would say that in these two logia, Jesus may be saying that we need to raise our emotional, egoistic base through a process of transfiguration towards our Higher Self, partaking of the ongoing process of dying to the ego and growing into the life of the higher self. When we do so, when we are reborn into a higher life, we leave the death of the ego behind us.

      As I said earlier, this is probably far from a complete, definitive explanation of these logia, but it is the best that I can come up with at present.

  9. I just wrote a comment and it seems to have vanished! I'll try and repeat what I said but apologies if it comes up twice later.

    Tom, such a complex esoteric explanation seems to me to contradict Jesus' admonition that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (enlightenment, presumably) we must be as little children. It seems to me that the path to the Light would be the simplest, most direct one.
    My most sincere and warmest wishes for the New Year to you and Lucy.

    1. Hi Natalie; I agree that the explanation I offer above does appear to be complex. In part that is because I am sounding out ideas as much to myself as to my readers. I think it is also true that the Gospel of St. Thomas is a far from easy text to understand. If on the other hand we look at the New Testament, it says quite clearly - although I suspect the saying has been manipulated by the Church - "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." I can offer no simpler explanation of the St. Thomas Gospel logia.

      And our warmest best wishes to you also, from Lucy and me.

  10. Hi Tom
    A well-researched and plausible explanation.
    The early spread of Christianity reflected a much greater diversity than we can imagine today, reliant as it was on an evolving “oral tradition” to supplement selected readings from the synoptics.
    In this regard, I find that the Coptic gospel of St Thomas was thought to have been written in Syria, with the distinct possibly it representing an evolving oral tradition of that culture, except as you no doubt have seen, most of it cross references to the synoptics, except for sayings like 7 etc .

    What was finally agreed as to be those ''sayings " of Jesus may have been only recorded in the first century( some debate over this ) and possibly may had even influenced Tatian’s Diatessaron in 160–175 AD, until it was withdrawn by the Bishop of Cyrrhus (d. 457/58) from public use in the church. The biblical history , like any other history , was written by the victors, in the battle over what Jesus really said.
    Best wishes

    1. Thank you Lindsay. Interpretation of works written at or about that period in history should carry many warning notices. It was a time of great intellectual and psycho-spiritual change, and the further we are from those times the more care we need to take. My observations indicate that the modern general population are becoming more and more out of touch with the religion that has formed the basis for our western society. Most, I would suggest, are completely ignorant of the beautiful depths of esoteric matter relating to other cultures. Indeed I wonder just how much is known about the esoteric side of Christianity. On top of all that we have to acknowledge, as you so rightly pointed out, that biblical history was written by the victors.