To all of you who read my scratchings and scribblings, may I wish you a happy, loving Christmas. And may all your needs for 2022 be met in abundance.
Au 'voir, et Bonnes fêtes
This pathworking began as a struggle. I did not seem to have enough to make it meaningful; and everything was so shallow, with only very obvious observations. Then suddenly:-
"..........I am in an underground, stone room, a castle dungeon maybe, though it is spotlessly clean and well lit. I am hammering furiously on the flagstoned floor with my wooden staff, trying to get somewhere. Suddenly, the floor explodes downwards and I am in a dimly lit cosmos.
A galaxy "snaps" into place before me, shining with such a brilliant, white light that I can barely look at it. Although it is very close to me, I can just about hold the complete galaxy within my cone of vision, as it stretches out to right and left like a pair of stylised wings. Within the globe of stars comprising the centre of the galaxy is a bearded, brilliant face that gives the galaxy its shining power. Now there are other, smaller, less distinct faces. If they are trying to communicate with me, I am unable to hear them.
The flagstoned floor has "snapped" back into place and I am returned to, unceremoniously dumped in, the dungeon. It is over.........."
Although I didn't realise it at the time, there are some very important lessons to be learned from this experience. At that time I was feeling frustrated --- yes, angry --- that I was getting nowhere with this pathworking. I had descended into my deep self, my beyond-consciousness, which appeared to contain no undealt-with baggage. How the ego can fool one! Yet there was little enlightenment in that "dimly lit cosmos."
The words that came to mind, "furiously"; "explodes"; "snaps"; and "snapped", appropriately describe my attitude toward my work on that day. There was also the intimation of great power; and anger is a very powerful emotion. Although anger may provide the necessary energy with which to accomplish the goals of the ego, whether for good or ill, it is useless and inappropriate in the realm of the spirit. All that one is faced with is ..... oneself, one's ego.
So often in the past I have, regretfully, come face to face with the many expressions of my own anger and frustration. [Even when I used to sport a beard!] There is no doubt that when in that state, one is unable to ..... "hear" that which one needs to hear. The presence of anger is all-encompassing. Most importantly, when one is strongly identified with the ego, under the spells of the "thinking" and "feeling" functions, and the perceptions that have their origins in those functions, one loses ..... "self-awareness."
The interesting thing about that experience is that over time, as I have returned to that experience, I have become increasingly aware of a sense of amusement emanating from my inner teacher. This particular pathworking, certainly not the one I had originally sought, has had a salutary effect on my life. A long time ago, the question was asked of me, "Cannot anger also be part of the spectrum of love?" Somehow, I doubt it.
"..........It is as if there are two spaces, the lower is dark and is Death, whilst the upper is light and Life. They both exist in a state of eternity, outside time, rather than in a state of everlastingness. The Word, coming to believe, act as ..... dimmer switches, moving one's experience, one's being, from the lower state to the upper. Before a spiritual awakening occurs, one is in a state of Death, of unawareness. When the switch occurs, everything comes to Life: ..... and none of this relates to the life and death of the material body.........."
Whenever this kind of switching takes place, there is always a sense of ..... Presence ..... sometimes even a sense of Angelic Presence, associated with the event. I recall the first time that I can remember sensing this manifestation of "presence." I had been undergoing an intense study into my inability to carry out a task which my intellect said was within my capabilities, if I just kept trying. This study, voluntarily entered into, [and 'worked at' very diligently], was immediately followed by an ..... awareness, which just seemed to dawn on me like a mist drifting away, as if I were ..... "seeing" something for the first time. That experience made me aware that, under the powerful influence of my ego, I had been in a state of psychological denial, that my goal was beyond my capability to achieve. In the aftermath of that experience, and with no effort involved, I gained a dawning awareness that there was another way of ..... being, that something more powerful than my ego could break through my obsessional behaviour. Thus it was that I came to experience my first encounter with a "Dark Night," the dark night of the intellect.
The sense of Presence was ..... vague but unmistakable. It was as if the "image" of that presence were symbolic of an awareness of the Self that I had never before encountered. It was an experience that was the total opposite of that state of ..... unawareness, experienced when under the control of the ego, when in that lower space which is ..... dark, and is Death.
It is strange that after all these years that I have followed my Path, or Way, without question, that I could have gone in a regressive direction. But I had to choose to follow the Path that I now willingly travel. As I indicated above, it felt as if an enlightening dimmer switch had allowed me to "see" and know that sense of "Presence."
As the Word said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whosoever believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "..........and none of this relates to the life and death of the material body.........."
The Missal reading for 11th. Oct. 2021 was taken from Luke 11:29-32.
They - the Scribes and the Pharisees - wanted Jesus to work a sign for them, a miracle, in such a way that they could become aware if He was the one sent by God, ..... as they had imagined. They wanted Jesus to submit himself to their criteria. They wanted to fit Him into the framework of their own idea of the Messiah. There was no openness for a possible conversion in them. [My thanks to the Carmelite Lectio Divina website for this interpretation.]
It seems to me that the same principle needs to be applied to the interpretation of the symbols and images that arise during pathworkings [rather similar to, if not the same as, kataphatic contemplative prayer] and meditations. The 'visual language' of the unconscious mind must be interpreted ..... on its own terms, rather than those assumed to be correct as a result of one's thinking function, arrived at through rational argument and logic. In my experience, although I have no doubt that the psycho-spiritual world operates according to its own set of universal laws, understanding the world of symbolism and imagery is much like how one approaches one's appreciation of art. To impose one's own ..... 'intellectual' rules is to run the risk of misinterpreting and missing the point of an artwork. Similarly, the unconscious mind can only be understood by opening one's mind and, if necessary, changing one's way of thinking about matters arising from that realm of unconsciousness. And of course, there is the added advantage that by avoiding ..... attachment to one's thoughts, one also avoids the need to travel that part of the "dark night of the intellect."
A very large part of our spiritual and psychological development requires us to change the way we think, get rid of preconceived ideas, engage with the process of metanoia. Or as the Bible calls it, repentance. [As a by-product of that practice, we might just get to save our planet as well!!]
"..........I float in deep space; everywhere is the colour violet. My archangelic guide is turned away from me. In the far distance is a group of fiery crystals being shepherded towards their destination, but I may not follow them. We, my guide and I, move rapidly upward and outward until halted by an invisible membrane surrounding a sphere which defines my spiritual location. Far beyond, shine more stars and galaxies in a realm that I cannot reach.
Nearby, is a huge Tree. I reach out and find that I have entered its leafy crown. How can I breach the membrane that defies all my efforts to break through? In some way the uppermost branches have passed through the invisible barrier, but I will not be able, will not be allowed, to force my way through. Now I see that the way through is by a gentle, non-invasive path. I must become at one with the Tree in order to grow through the membrane with the branches.
My guide and I slip inside the Tree. We climb a double helix stairway until we reach the barrier. There my guide stops and points the way. I can and do move on, into the next sphere; spheres within spheres. Another guide greets me, and we travel on together.........."
It is a mistake to think that spiritual growth can be achieved by effort, as if such growth is an Olympic activity. The real effort, and that is undoubtedly necessary, lies in becoming prepared which may also require increased self-awareness. The passage from one experiential sphere to another appears to be an act of, what one may call ..... grace. One moves "upward and onward" as if by invitation, when the time is right. It is all a process of inner, spiritual evolution and one which always takes me somewhat by surprise.
Alongside the move toward preparedness grows acceptance of what is. And part of that acceptance is a recognition of powerlessness. In one sense, it is the acceptance of death to one sphere, to one way of being, so that one is born into a larger way of living. I find that all previous experiences of ..... being-ness always appear to be so ..... limited.
* [Footnote: "Into the Enchanted Forest - 3" delayed, probably indefinitely.]
I will reproduce the essential cores of the three pathworkings from Part 1 of this post:-
"..........I am in a forest, approaching a glade. Before me, hanging in space, is a large eggshell with its top section as yet not yet formed. From deep inside comes a bright, blinding light as if from a white sun which had first appeared as a candle flame. Its radiance lights all the trees around us, grouped as if in adoration, in some form of worship. Yet the worship was more apparent than real, perhaps like a loving acknowledgement.........."
"..........I am moving in a forest, approaching a large, incomplete eggshell that seems to symbolise the focus of all my interacting processes with the world/universe around me. Inside the Egg is planet Earth, bathed in warm light. It is this light that streams into space.........."
"..........The great eggshell is here, before me. Through the brilliant light emitted from the unformed top, I see the contents of the translucent shell. It is a golden-yellow yolk encased in albumen. From the yolk worms an indistinct umbilicus which connects the two parts of the shell's contents.........."
I have found in all my work that the emergent imagery always speaks about my psycho-spiritual being. That work never appears to speak of the 'out there' world, the physical forms. Thus although one could conclude that the eggshell could represent the Van Allen belts protection the earth and all its lifeforms, or the physical skeleton protecting the brain, I think that to conclude thus would be to miss the point.
To enter this forest is to enter into a mystery, a ..... divine mystery. One needs to approach that mystery with loving acknowledgement, with ..... respect, rather than an egoistic experience of 'worship'. Here, on the threshold of a great mystery, one stands as if at a point of balance, a point of expectant hesitation, before entering the unfolding world of the spirit. This is the home of the perfect soul, symbolised by the white star, a body to which I alluded in a previous post, "The Crypt."
In the second quote, in which I refer to the planet Earth inside the eggshell, Earth symbolically represents how one interacts with the surrounding world/universe. It is about the use of physical senses, thoughts, emotions and perceptions and their effects on the deeper spiritual being; in short how the ego possibly affects the soul.
Very similar in colour and form to our local star, the yolk located within its protective casing and fed from its 'food source', represents [to me at least] the ..... potential of something yet to develop. From the foregoing imagery, I cannot conclude that the soul comes into being, fully-fledged, when the physical foetus is born. Just as a foetus requires a physical, mothering environment in which to grow and develop before birth, so does the soul require a corresponding spiritual, mothering environment.
"..........I am in a forest, approaching a glade. Before me, hanging in space, is a large, human-sized eggshell with its top section as yet not yet formed. From deep inside comes a bright, blinding light as if from a white sun which had first appeared as a candle flame. Its radiance lights all the trees around us, grouped as if in adoration, in some form of worship. Yet the worship was more apparent than real, perhaps like a loving acknowledgement.........."
The atmosphere feels as if an image had been superimposed ..... a memory of a past experience. It feels reminiscent of , "A Different Nativity" which I wrote about in January 2014. It is the feeling of "divine birthing" that predominates. Then the scene blurs and changes:-
"..........I am moving in a forest, approaching a very large, incomplete eggshell that seems to symbolise the focus of all my interacting processes with the world/universe around me. Inside the Egg is planet Earth bathed in warm light. It is this light that streams into space.........."
I pondered on this imagery, on and off, for months, never quite understanding what I was being told. Then after a period of meditating on the "soul":-
"..........The great eggshell is here, before me. Through the brilliant light emitted from the unformed top, I see the contents of the translucent shell. It is a golden-yellow yolk encased in albumen. From the yolk worms an indistinct umbilicus which connects the two parts of the shell's contents.........."
The setting, a shady forest, has been described in a number of ways. In particular the symbol of the forest represents a place, essentially feminine, that is free from control and intellectual "cultivation." It thus represents the Earth in the role of the Great Mother. Further, to enter the Dark or Enchanted Forest is like entering the perilous unknown, the spiritual realm, which one must ..... penetrate, in order to find meaning.
There is no doubt in my mind that the months, and years even, that I have spent musing over this imagery have finally brought me to the point where I can only conclude that it is the "soul" about which I am being instructed. Not only that, but a study of this subject could arguably be the most important enterprise in my spiritual life. I will develop some of my thoughts in Part 2 of this post.
If "The Spectrum of Love" projects its message upward from the Deeps, onto the three principles referred to in my two earlier posts, and from thence up into normal consciousness, is there an even deeper level that feeds into the spectrum of love? I believe there is. Reaching into those hidden depths .....
"..........Mass and form slip away into the silence ..... Planes of black perceptiveness ..... A new sense of Presence, protective, guarding, feminine ..... alien but humanoid, yet radiating divinity.........".
There does appear to be a level or ..... World which is, seemingly, fundamental to everything; a World which creates all that is to come, but which itself is the outflowing of an Abyss. Maybe the inner Temple is the spiritual form which this World must take in order to be ..... recognised, or perceived by consciousness. Spontaneous or outflowing birth, the interaction of a deep World on one less deep appears to be the order of the evolving spiritual universe.
"..........Understanding is beginning to dissolve into unknowingness ..... Acceptance and descent is the chalice that must be willingly drained ..... There can be no other way, but through experience ..... Everywhere, filled with no-thing-ness .........."
"..........And the Spirit moved upon the Deeps.........."
If, as I believe is the case, the practice of celibacy, chastity and obedience [referred to in my previous post] can be seen as a projection of a deeper, non-material world onto the material world, what is the experience that in its turn projects upwards from a yet even deeper world? Whatever that experience is, it appears to entail some sense, at least, of worship and sacrifice. But what or whom is to be worshipped; what is to be sacrificed and to whom?
Worship, as experienced by the ego, is usually a somewhat lopsided love affair, one which involves highly charged, emotional interactions between two, unequal participants. I believe that emotion must be circumvented; that we must rid ourselves of experiencing emotions in order to reach that deeper ..... feeling. And I suspect that principle applies here in the case of worship. Unless emotion is dispensed with, all the overtones of subservience and, yes ..... idolatry, enter the equation. It is not worship, as normally understood that is required, whether on a person-to-person basis, or on a person-to-God basis, but respect. It is respect, not worship, that can be said to lie on the ..... spectrum of love. And it is love, not worship, that lies at the heart of a healthy relationship. This applies as much to a person-to-God relationship as to a person-to-another relationship.
As with any experience enjoyed by the ego, it is its own self which takes centre stage. Yet life is not about me, not about my ego. I am just the place in which the unfolding drama of life's ..... evolution ..... spiritual evolution, is being played out. It is at this deeper level that forces or energies operate which give rise to the healthy and appropriate experiences of celibacy, chastity and obedience.
And sacrifice? Or should that not be understood as ..... willing acceptance? What does the subatomic particle sacrifice in order to become part of an atom, a molecule, or even something greater? What does a particle of pigment sacrifice in order to become part of a painting masterpiece? One might say it loses a degree of freedom, a quality that allows it to remain as nothing usefully developed, a grand - if not grandiose even - fish in a miniscule pond; the age-old story of the ego.
At a deep level within one's Self, one can experience the truly ..... indescribable. It feels that it is about ..... love and respect. It is not about a single event, which in any case exists only in time. It is, rather, about a ..... continuum, an ongoing process of becoming; a necessary process of spiritual evolution, and more. If I, this ..... inner temple of the spirit, am the altar on which this sacrifice is made, the sacrifice of a higher and divine love, then all I can do is ..... accept it. There is nothing else to actually ..... do.
In future posts, script italicised in bold will indicate an extract from my private pathworking/contemplation diaries.
"..........I waited to see what would emerge. Then I saw that I had entered a church, and before me lay an open, darkened crypt accessed by a ramp leading eastwards. I walked down the ramp and found myself in a large space which appeared to extend limitlessly outwards into the darkness.
Immediately before me stood an altar of unidentifiable material. On the altar stood a transparent bowl, so clear that it seemed to represent form without substance. In the bowl was a similarly clear liquid which I lit from hand fire.
Behind the altar appeared a column of light, its colour a rich golden-yellow; and it seemed to be alive. The darkness around me deepened, and with a slight sense of disorientation, I rose upwards above the altar and felt my hands reach out in front of me. In response I sensed a corresponding gesture from the glowing column, until our hands were clasped together. I believe I have been welcomed. Then I observed that I was dressed in the black habit of a monk, the symbol of celibacy, chastity and obedience.........."
"The spiritual element [of a human being] carries on an active dialogue with the personal element of our selfhood through the use of symbols. The spiritual element is not a silent partner in the business of life, but demands active participation in the growth and transformation of the individual. Unlike the mind-emotion complex, the pneumatic component does not express itself in words or in ordinary feelings [emotions; my parenthesis]. Dreams, visions, altered states of consciousness and what Jung called synchronistic experiences are the most important avenues for these symbolic communications". [Eleanor Bertine's work, "Jung's Contribution to our Time".]
As with any conversing pair, conversations can be many and varied. Here I will concentrate on just one such conversation, one which spoke about a need, a .....commitment even ..... to the principles of celibacy, chastity and obedience in the spiritual life. But how may one interpret these principles? I can give only brief observations here because the principles run deep, and have far-reaching consequences.
On chastity, one would say that it is about ..... temperance ..... the habit of avoiding all extremes of behaviour. Clearly, the avoidance of total celibacy would be included here. I find it difficult to exclude any form of fundamentalism, religious or otherwise, from this principle.
On obedience, and this need not flout the much-idolised principle of so-called ..... free will ..... an expression which I feel is sometimes much misunderstood. One enters into spiritual obedience, and I stress 'spiritual', not political or social obedience ..... freely ..... accepting that one's higher Self, or soul, knows better, and is wiser, than the ego. The ego primarily serves the interests of itself, not of something higher.
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.
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.........."
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
"..........It is night, and I am standing in a misty, moonlit churchyard. There is an ambience of detached sadness with which I empathise. There is a need to grieve, yet it is not I who feels this need. No, it is not I but some presence which rests in the mystery which is me, for I am the churchyard and all that it contains. There are no gates here, though there are deep holes where once, long ago, massive posts which held those discarded gates were placed........."
The cemetery lies within the environs of a church; it is not a municipal burial place. I --- this mysterious me-entity --- am, therefore, the location of a resting, hidden, secreted, buried spirit. Further, a churchyard is not a place where dying took place but where the dead await. Death had already taken place; death to a higher/other realm in order to be born in a lower. I am both a place of the dead and the living.
It has been said that the spirit is trapped in the physical body. Maybe that was how it once was, when one takes one's first steps on the path to spiritual discovery. But I do not believe it is so any longer. The gates of darkness which once trapped the spirit are no longer in place. Something uprooted and destroyed them.
"..........and all the while the the protectress, overhead, guards the charge that lies in her spiritual womb, until such time as it is ready to be reborn, to return to that realm from whence it came.........."
For the three weeks leading up to the writing of my previous post, I was without a computer; it had simply died. It took three weeks to research, buy and have installed, the present model. Elsewhere, I have described that period as one resembling being in a state dementia. I am going to address the memory of that experience again with the intention of deepening my understanding of the sense of loss I felt, and how that apparent loss could shape what is yet to come.
Very largely, I use my computer as a word processor and filing cabinet. Almost all that is stored in the memory banks relates to the studies I have carried out over the years on my internal life. When I discovered that I no longer had access to that store, I felt an intense sense of grief for the loss for my memory. A very large part of what I thought to be me was gone. I don't know whether sufferers of dementia feel that way, and I would not choose to downplay their experiences in any way. I do not suffer from dementia and am, therefore, unable to relate directly to those who do.
When I looked into the emptiness of where my memory had resided, and at the blank screen staring at me from my desk top, I had to admit that I --- some essential awareness of me --- was still alive and functioning. As time passed, that very obvious conclusion took on a new, or perhaps rediscovered, meaning. Not only am I decidedly not my body, my thoughts or my emotions, but neither am I my memories.
Although I could no longer recall the details of what I had written over the years, I was still 'me'. What was also puzzling was that when asked by my installer what the names of some of my files and folders were, I could not answer. The fact is that when I look for the information I need, I do not 'see' the file name as meaning very much in relation to its contents. What I 'see' is a word-shape. And how does one communicate the 'shape' of a word devoid of any intellectual content? It is similar to the experience of viewing a word and knowing it has been spelled incorrectly, without actually knowing at first inspection what is wrong. It is simply a series of almost, but not quite, familiar shapes.
I hope this experience will stay with me, and that I will never again build that same kind of associative, almost egoistic, bond with my computer. For now I am determined to ensure that I update --- at frequent intervals --- my external hard drive. I have to say that it's good to have a working computer again!
As once again I put virtual pen to paper, I wonder why I feel the need to respond to the urge to write. It has now been some nineteen months, or thereabouts, since last I put my thoughts on "paper". So why now? There are still a number of valid reasons why I should stay with my decision to stop writing so, again I ask myself, "Why?" In truth, I cannot fully answer that question, I can only offer a trigger that has fired my urge to write once more. There are a number of personal benefits to be gained from turning back to GWYNT, but the trigger lies in another's post.
On Wednesday, 25 August 2021, my good friend Deanna quoted, in a post entitled "Entering the Arena" [Two Spirits - One Halle], the following comment from the New Morning Sun - Blue Rodeo
"If we walk away, then we walk away never knowing what we could have done."
It has been said that people with my personality type get to the ends of their lives saying, "I should have done more." I do not wish, when that day comes for me, to add the judgement, "I could have done more, but chose not to do so." I have, therefore, chosen to come back and write, at least for a while longer.
Some would say that in order to pursue a 'spiritual' life one needs an external teacher. This has always seemed to be false to me, having too many overtones of guru-ic control and manipulation. And what happens, for example, if one desires an external teacher but no such teacher is available? I can find no worthwhile answer to this question, particularly as there is always an internal teacher who can become available. Or perhaps I should say that an internal teacher will speak to one, if communication is truly requested. This access is one of the most important personal spiritual benefits of which I am aware. Who else can place those words on my lips, or in my finger tips, about which I will later ask, "Where did that wonderful phrase, those uplifting words, come from?"