Friday, January 24, 2014

Song of the Soul

Song of the Soul 
by Kahlil Gibran

In the depth of my soul there is 
A wordless song - a song that lives 
In the seed of my heart. 
It refuses to melt with ink on 
Parchment; it engulfs my affection 
In a transparent cloak and flows, 
But not upon my lips. 

How can I sigh it? I fear it may 
Mingle with earthly ether; 
To whom shall I sing it? It dwells 
In the house of my soul, in fear of 
Harsh ears. 

When I look into my inner eyes 
I see the shadow of its shadow; 
When I touch my fingertips 
I feel its vibrations. 

The deeds of my hands heed its 
Presence as a lake must reflect 
The glittering stars; my tears 
Reveal it, as bright drops of dew 
Reveal the secret of a withering rose. 

It is a song composed by contemplation, 
And published by silence, 
And shunned by clamor, 
And folded by truth, 
And repeated by dreams, 
And understood by love, 
And hidden by awakening, 
And sung by the soul. 

It is the song of love; 
What Cain or Esau could sing it? 

It is more fragrant than jasmine; 
What voice could enslave it? 

It is heartbound, as a virgin's secret; 
What string could quiver it? 

Who dares unite the roar of the sea 
And the singing of the nightingale? 
Who dares compare the shrieking tempest 
To the sigh of an infant? 
Who dares speak aloud the words 
Intended for the heart to speak? 
What human dares sing in voice 
The song of God?  

A veiled beauty by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sea Children


On the shore
the children of the sea
are playing,
Gathering shells, strands
of marine plants,

At the waves' edge
the children kneel,
Writing the secret name
of God in the sand
in the language of

Children playing on the beach 
by Bernardus Johannes Blommers - (1845-1914) 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Wind among the Reeds

The fruits which we cannot possess are often those which grow in our minds to become sweeter still. Syrinx is a nymph of the woodlands whose passion is the hunt: a passion which claims her heart more than the romance of love. But those same Arcadian woods are also the haunt of the great god Pan, and it is inevitable that, sooner or later, the god will catch sight of the nymph. And this is the day for that sighting. One look is enough. Pan is smitten. Fiercely independent, and with her heart already claimed by her woodland passion, Syrinx rejects the god’s advances. Understandable, perhaps, for even a god can be ugly, and this god is only too aware that his shaggy, horned appearance does not play to his advantage in matters of the heart.

Syrinx takes flight. Pan gives chase. But in her panic (a word we derive from the god who even now pursues her) the nymph runs into a natural barrier – the banks of the deep-flowing river Ladon. With the goat-legged god hard at her heels, the nymph cries desperately to the river god to save her. The lord of the reedy river obliges – but it is a mixed blessing. Be careful what you wish for, we might urge the desperate nymph. For as the shaggy arms of Pan reach forward to embrace her, in that same moment Syrinx is transformed into a reed, indistinguishable from the many which line the river’s banks.

A reed that is indistinguishable to our mortal eyes, perhaps – but not indistinguishable to the ardent god, who now clutches the reed in his arms. In his lovelorn desperation the god breathes out an inexpressible sigh – a sigh so deep, so full of longing for what now cannot be, that it releases a melody in the reed, a melody so tender that it fills the Arcadian air around him, so sweet that it is carried across the river on the wind. Oh, poor lonesome god! What must you do now to fill your aching heart?

But Pan is inventive. From the reed that was the nymph he fashions a flute: a flute which we call the pan pipes after its creator, but which the god understandably names a syrinx. There Pan sits in the sunlit glades of Arcadia, playing heartfelt melodies on the form which his love has taken. And if you venture into those groves of braided light, you might, if you listen very carefully, catch a hint of this music of the heart, and know that it is possible for a love which is lost to be regained in another form. 

Acrylic Painting by David Bergen © all rights reserved

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Whom does the Grail Serve?

Whom does the Grail serve? In the legend of the Holy Grail this searching question is asked of each questing knight, who must provide the answer before proceeding further on the quest. It is intimated that successfully answering this question will unlock many doors of knowledge, will rid the waste land of the blight from which it suffers, and will cure the mysterious king known as the Fisher King, who lies ailing in his bed from a grievous wound which refuses to heal. Curing the king, the legend suggests, also will magically cure the land as well.

So whom does the Grail serve? We know the question, but what is the answer? With a flourish of mysticism which history itself has provided, Chrétien de Troyes, the 12th-century writer of the original story, died before completing his romance – and before his text supplied the answer to this central question. Through the chance of history we must set out on our own quest if we wish to find the answer.

Chrétien de Troyes’ death ironically ensured that his story would become an open-ended one, and in that change became something which detached itself from his specific time and place to widen into something that could be applied both universally and personally to each individual who encountered it. But to begin to answer the question of the Grail, we need to understand something of what the Grail itself might be. Traditionally it is the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. But this interpretation confines it to a specific Christian context, and variations of the Grail story can be found both in Persian legend, in the story of Kay Chosrou and the Vessel of Yamshid, which “mirrors the universe", and in the Russian legend of Vsevolod, who becomes King of the Grail of the invisible city of Kitesj. 

Speculation in a contemporary fictional bestseller suggests that the Grail (which for all its ambiguity is clearly a vessel of some description) is actually Mary Magdalene, in the sense that she is the ‘vessel’ for an imagined bloodline of Christ descended through her. But this voyage to the wilder shores of speculation is itself based upon an unsubstantiated medieval story that after the events of the crucifixion Mary journeyed from the Holy Land to southern France. And none of these various legends, however interesting in themselves, bring us closer to answering the Grail’s question.

We rightly look upon the great wisdom teachers and guides of humanity – Hermes Trismegistus, Buddha, Zarathustra, Jesus, Pythagoras, Lao Tzu and others – as appearing in different cultures and at different times in history, building bridges from our material world to the more perfect world of the Spirit which lies beyond. If we make ourselves receptive to their example, if we (to use the Biblical phrase) make ourselves “an instrument of their peace”, then we ourselves become a vessel for the Spirit. It is we ourselves who are transformed into the Grail. And in this transformation we find the answer: each of us, as the Grail, serves the highest Good, the more perfect world of the Spirit.

Painting by Greg Spalenka

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Quest

The Grail is beyond being able to be contained by or claimed by any one religion. But the quest for the Grail is never truly over. Maybe the reason for this is not so much that the Grail will never be found, but what the Grail actually is, and what it represents, is different for those who quest after it. Sometimes we find what we are looking for, and sometimes we don't. And sometimes what we find is not that which we originally had sought.
Whatever it is that you seek, my wish for you is that you may find it  - or something very like it - in the year to come. And even if you do not do so, then I hope that your journey is still an inspiring one.

Blessings and Joy to all for 2014.

Painting by Arthur Rackham