Sunday, March 31, 2013


Birth, life, death and resurrection. These are the eternal themes which are reflected in the great myths. A hero is born miraculously – perhaps from the union of a god with a mortal woman. That hero lives his life, performs his heroic deeds, dies a noble and dramatic death, after which he is resurrected as an immortal constellation among the stars.

In nature as well these epic themes are played out in the cycle of the seasons, as we – and our remote ancestors who were crucially attuned to these things – witness each year with the awakening of new life in the spring after its seasonal death in the cold soil of winter. Even in those desert places which have no temperate seasons, the dried husks of seeds can lie dormant in the hard sun-baked ground, sometimes for years, before an infrequent downpour awakens them to sudden life, and the desert blooms like a garden.

The act of resurrection is like a truth that is encoded into the matrix of life, and we respond to that truth when we encounter it in stories. For the Christian Gnostics, the events of the Biblical resurrection were not so much intended to be read as simple history, but as events which mirrored these great truths, which provided a kind of teaching aid to remind them of these profound lessons of life. And these lessons carried a deeper meaning than mere rebirth. Resurrection involves redemption: redemption of the inner self, a shedding of those things which might hinder the process of true spiritual resurrection. These could be a breaking through the ego which tricks us into thinking that our mortal selves are the only reality, or even just the letting-go of those ideas that prevent us from seeing such things in a clearer light.

The letting-go of all these things, of all preconceptions of what make our ‘reality’, is the path of resurrection. But to tread that path involves a process of inner ‘dying’ – not physical dying, but the death of those things which might be holding us back from reaching our true fulfilment as beings intimately connected with, and part of, the greater Mystery.
It is no coincidence that the Christian Easter takes place at the time of the year that originally was reserved for the celebration of this process in pre-Christian times, for Christianity layered itself on top of these old festivals, just as churches were often built upon the demolished foundations of pagan temples and other pre-Christian sacred sites. This as well gives an added potency to the Christian story, and the events of the Christian Easter, which unfold upon the greater stage of mythic drama which lies beyond the stage of historical narrative. Easter is the time of resurrection, and a person who takes part in that resurrection during his life, has conquered death.

This is the crown of the Christian Initiation Mystery. He who resurrects in a gnostic sense, has it in his power to work through joy, and to take part in the divine plan of creation. It is a grand perspective, and one which we can let ourselves be inspired by – and not only at Easter!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Carpenters

The Carpenters

Ours is a work of wood.
It’s what we do, you see:
shaping, planing,
one piece to the other,
length by length
and beam by heavy beam,
cut from the cedar tree.
Adze, plane, auger and saw
chest for a dowry, lintel for a door.

There’s two of us
here in this workshop
scuffing through shavings,
with orders stacking up
and another just come round:
three more beams needed -
only the cross-beams, of course.
The long uprights
wedged, thrust deep into the ground
stand waiting up there on the hill
and we wonder:
this time, who’ll ride the thunder?

Maybe three rebels,
their shouts of sedition unheeded
or they could be three robbers,
bound for heaven or hell - 
or neither of these, who’s to tell?
As if confirmation was needed.

They say some prophet on a donkey
who was greeted like a king
rode by a week ago or more.
But prophet or king,
he’ll wear our wood on his back
and that’s for sure -
bent with the weight of earthly folly
and there’s no lack
of that  - not yesterday
or any time before.

So we’ll shape this tree for a king
and we’ll shape it good
and he’ll carry it up that shadowed hill
and he’ll feel the rub of our wood
and he’ll know its tender mercies
and they’ll be both his and ours
but he’ll feel the weight of our wood no more
as it carries him to the stars. 

Painting: artist untraced

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rachel, a Woman Disciple

Rachel, a Woman Disciple
on Jesus, the Vision and the Man

I often wonder whether Jesus was a man of flesh and blood like ourselves, or a thought without a body, in the mind, or an idea that visits the vision of man.
Often it seems to me that he was but a dream dreamed by countless men and women at the same time in a sleep deeper than sleep and a dawn more serene than all dawns.

And it seems that in relating the dream, the one to the other, we began to deem it a reality that had indeed come to pass; and in giving it body of our fancy and a voice of our longing we made it a substance of our own substance.

But in truth he was not a dream. We knew him for three years and beheld him with open eyes in the high tide of noon. We touched his hands, and followed him from one place to another. We heard his discourses and witnessed his deeds. Think you that we were a thought seeking after more thought, or a dream in the region of dreams?

Great events always seem alien to our daily lives, though their nature may be rooted in our nature. But though they appear sudden in their coming and sudden in their passing, their true span is for years and for generations.

Jesus of Nazareth was himself the Great Event. That man whose father and mother and brothers we know, was himself a miracle wrought in Judea. Yea, all his own miracles, if placed at his feet, would not rise to the height of his ankles. And all the rivers of all the years shall not carry away our remembrance of him.

He was a mountain burning in the night, yet he was a soft glow beyond the hills. He was a tempest in the sky, yet he was a murmur in the mist of daybreak. He was a torrent pouring from the heights to the plains to destroy all things in his path. And he was like the laughter of children.

Every year I had waited for spring to visit this valley. I had waited for the lilies and the cyclamen, and then every year my soul had been saddened within me; for ever I longed to rejoice with the spring, yet I could not.

But when Jesus came to my seasons he was indeed a spring, and in him was the promise of all the years to come. He filled my heart with joy; and like the violets I grew, a shy thing, in the light of his coming. And now the changing seasons of worlds not yet ours shall not erase his loveliness from this, our world.

Nay, Jesus was not a phantom, nor a conception of the poets. He was man like yourself and myself. But only to sight and touch and hearing; in all other ways he was unlike us.

He was a man of joy; and it was upon the path of joy that he met the sorrows of all men. And it was from the high roofs of his sorrows that he beheld the joy of all men.

He saw visions that we did not see, and heard voices that we did not hear; and he spoke as if to invisible multitudes, and ofttimes he spoke through us to races yet unborn.

And Jesus was often alone. He was among us yet not one with us. He was upon earth, yet he was of the sky. And only in our aloneness may we visit the land of his aloneness.

He loved us with tender love. His heart was a winepress. You and I could approach with a cup and drink therefrom.

One thing I used to understand in Jesus: he would make merry with his listeners; he would tell jests and use plays upon words, and laugh with all the fullness of his heart, even when there were distances in his eyes and sadness in his voice. But I understand now.

I often think of the earth as a woman heavy with her first child. When Jesus was born, he was the first child. And when he died, he was the first man to die.

For did it not appear to you that the earth was stilled on that dark Friday, and the heavens were at war with the heavens? And felt you not when his face disappeared from our sight as if we were naught but memories in the mist?

Kahlil Gibran - from Jesus, the Son of Man, 1928

Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, March 12, 2013



Oh, if only you knew how your face changes
when in the midst of our silent, pure uniting glance,
you lose yourself, turn inwards and move away from 
me !
Like a landscape, that just before was so clear
you become clouded, shutting me out.
Then I wait. I wait silently, often for a long time.
And were I someone such as you
then the pain of a love scorned would kill me.
But now…
now I have infinite patience from the Blessed.
So now, unperturbed, I wait for you,
whenever you might come.
And I take this soft reproach,
not as a reproach, but as absolution.


O wüßtest du, wie sehr dein Antlitz sich
Verändert, wenn du mitten in dem Blick,
Dem stillen reinen, der dich mir vereint,
Dich innerlich verlierst und von mir kehrst!
Wie eine Landschaft, die noch eben hell,
Bewölkt es sich und schließt mich von dir aus.
Dann warte ich. Dann warte schweigend ich
Oft lange. Und wär ich ein Mensch wie du,
Mich tötete verschmähter Liebe Pein.
So aber gab unendliche Geduld
Der Vater mir und unerschütterlich
Erwarte ich dich, wann du immer kommst.
Und diesen sanften Vorwurf selber nimm
Als Vorwurf nicht, als keusche Botschaft nur.

Christian Morgenstern

(1871 - 1914)

Painting: Odilon Redon

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Women Truly Wish For

In the place where legend and history intertwine with each other, and the deeds of heroes are more than stories, the bold knight Gawain rides out from the court of King Arthur. Our gallant hero has determined to find an answer to the question which once had been asked of his monarch, and to which the king himself had no answer. Namely: what is it that women truly wish for the most?

Through the deepest woods and wilds our knight rides, until one day in a shadowed glade he encounters a grotesque form standing bent but resolute in the middle of the way. Such a walking rag pile could only be a witch, and indeed so it proves, as the hideous hag looks up and meets the imperious gaze of the knight. He commands her to stand aside and let him pass. Well, of course he does. He is, after all, an important knight on an important quest, and has no time to waste on this hag who seems less of a woman than a demon. But the knight is riding through legend, where all reality is enhanced, and nothing is what it seems. 

In cracked tones the hag announces that she knows the answer to his unspoken question. That, naturally enough, gets our hero’s attention. He demands of her that she demonstrate to him that she indeed knows the question which is in his thoughts, otherwise how can he believe her?

‘I shall do more than that, Sir Knight,’ croaks the hag, ‘I can help you with the answer! But to hear my words, you will need first to dismount and grant me a sweet kiss..’. So driven by curiosity, or by loyalty to his liege, or by remembering that in the legend through which he is riding a kiss can have unexpected consequences, our hero dismounts and (presumably with his eyes closed during the moment) puckers up and meets those leathery lips with his own. Legend remains true to form, and on the instant of those oh-so dissimilar lips touching each other, the hag is transfigured into a beautiful maiden. 

‘And now that your valour has descried my true appearance,’ says the fair Ragnall (for that indeed is the lady’s name) ‘it only remains for you to ask for my hand in marriage, and then the answer which so eluded your king will be given to you. Namely: what is it that women truly wish for the most?’ 

So after some inner turmoil, or perhaps after wrestling with a very un-legendary fear of commitment, our brave knight duly and dutifully pops the question to the fair Ragnall. Ah, but then comes the following question…

‘So what will you now, my dear betrothed?’, asks the lady, ‘that by the day’s clear light I remain as beautiful as you see me now, and that in the grey night’s shadows I take my hag form? Or perhaps you would prefer things to be reversed, and you would have my hag by the harsh light of day, and know me only in the moon’s dim light as you now see me?’ Ah, poor Gawain… what to choose? Once more our hero is plunged into inner turmoil. And perhaps for that very reason he searches ever deeper into his own being for the answer. And the answer comes.

‘Dearest,’ Gawain at last proclaims, ‘you should decide for yourself what you wish, for surely your true form is whatever form you yourself choose to take.’ Ah, our hero has found the perfect answer at last! Marriage duly and dutifully follows… and with the riddle resolved legend prevails, and the shimmering beauty of the fair Ragnall shines forth both by day and by night. 

For what women truly wish for is in the end no different from what men also truly want, which is no less than to be wholly accepted for who they are – whatever that might be, and in whichever way our life’s circumstances might change us.

Painting: La Belle Dame sans Merci by Mark Fishman

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Turning Field of Stars

Deep in myself,
too deep for me to reach
is the earth
I am that earth.
The heavens wait for my arrival
I am those heavens
which stretch down to receive me.
I am a pilgrim
travelling this wheel of stars
seeking a new heaven
and a new earth
I am those stars
that watched and saw
how the old heaven and the old earth
had passed away.
And so among the turning field of stars
I tread the underworld above
to free myself from these cycles
of dialectic powers:
these eons with their traps,
temptations of thought 
before I'll find that light
which leads me through the refining fire
to my transfiguration
and the resurrecting of the inner God.

Painting by Briton Riviere