Sunday, August 31, 2014

To Her Mourning Daughter

To Her Mourning Daughter

My keening daughter, stare not too long
at the darkness of the grave.
Avert your eyes in time
and do not lose yourself in kindred’s tears
your veil too thin, your skin too sear for this
and you, too young in years
to bear such bitter bliss:
you, who have no need to be so brave.

Rather, be a bone as hollow as a birds, and as light,
see in the stars’ sweet drift the one who knew you
and let these currents of a dark and sadder night
flow through you, through you.
Do not assume the tint of faded leaves
do not allow the kindred here to cast you
as the one who ever grieves.

But rather, channel the water
where you wish it to follow.
Carry it with you, willow daughter
give voice to the pain
keen for the silence
be a flowing river
meander full and hollow
be both carrier and giver,
and life will surely flow
into your soul once again.

And only shed your mourning weeds
and casually toss your hair
when you are once more safely in my arms.
My daughter, I fear I abandoned you there
to a life of mourning and dark armbands
but life has other charms
and you have other needs.

Freely rewritten from a fragment of a 16th-century Hindi poem.

Artwork reworked by DutchPuh from an original painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Mystic Marriage

Is all which I now see around me truly the result of my brief presence on Earth? Has all this truly been done in my name? I came among you with a single intent. Not, as you seem to think, to win redemption for all of you for the sin in Eden (how could you imagine such a thing?). There was no Fall in Eden. The Man and the Woman remained unblemished. So how could there be such a thing as universal redemption when there is no such thing as universal sin? No, the only sin is the personal sin of not being true to one’s own self. That is the greatest betrayal, for if we betray ourselves, then we also betray our true Selves.

But you do not need me to redeem you, for I tell you truly that each and every one of you has the spirit to redeem yourself, because each and every one of you is me, and I am each and every one of you. Why have you forgotten this? I will tell you why: you have forgotten this because you have placed me outside of yourselves. In your frenzy to banish bronze idols you have merely replaced them with another idol. And the idol which you have created is a monster, not of bronze, but of ideas. That idol is myself as you have created me. You have so occupied yourselves with building a towering plinth for me to stand on that you have forgotten that if I am standing high above you then we no longer can look each other in the eye.

And this is not the only idol which you have created in my name. You have built another idol to worship: an idol of words. You have transformed something that shone with the light of my being, something bright with radiant change, into something harder than stone. For even stone, which seems unyielding, changes its form over time. You have taken it upon yourselves to decide what is or is not ‘holy’, and yet I say to you now that all which is thought or said or written with a pure heart is holy in my eyes, and whether something is or is not holy to me is not something for you to decide. And yet this is what you have done. I speak with many voices, and yet how many of my voices have lain in the dust of centuries because of the choices which you have claimed to make on my behalf, because of your folly in believing that such choices were yours to make?

Look at my feet, and see how they are shod. Look at the footprints I leave behind in the soil. They are the footprints left by a mortal form who wore only simple woven sandals. And yet many of the footprints left by those who deign to place themselves nearer to me have sunk deep into my earth, weighed down by the finery of their wearers. Their footprints are heavier than my own, and I tell you that their weighty apparel, their jewelled rings and resplendent robes, distances them from me more than the pure of heart who must walk barefoot, for such earthly show is a greater barrier to drawing close to me than the simplest garments worn by those who leave footprints as light as my own. The footprints of the meek and my own are no different. Their footprints have trodden where I also have trodden, and therefore are the same. Lightness is a virtue, and a crown of thorns weighs less than a crown of jewels and gold, both in this world and in the one to come.

But these robes of earthly glory are not all that in my eyes truly weighs down mortal flesh. If the blood of even one individual is shed in my name, I say to you that the death of that one person is a matter of greater weight to me than my own mortal death, which was no death but a mere revealing of my true nature, as it is for you all. And yet the lives of millions have been offered up in my name. Where is the kingdom of heaven for those who have swung the sword, or caused conversion in my name by fear or by force, or torched the pyre beneath the stake? How can it ever be attained when all which I truly am has become so misshapen?

How could it have come to pass that so many innocent young souls so precious to me have been damaged by those who actually make claim to represent me, but who in truth only represent their own darkness? I, who have entrusted to the Woman the most difficult and the most sacred task of all, and who should only be honoured, now find Her damned by you. Do you seriously imagine that I will return in triumph when so much that has been done in my name has served only to create damage and division, and even a loss of life itself? Only a fool would think that I one day shall return. The pure of heart know that I have never left.

But why did I come to you at all, if not to redeem a sin of your own imaginings? If redemption exists in each and every moment (and it does), then my descent to earth, my entry into this world of coarse matter, must have been for another reason. And it was. Such events move on a stage greater than your imaginings. They arc across all of time and space, and from time to time these events emerge into your world, become momently visible to your histories, and you create messiahs and mythologies: stories and writings which are mere faint echoes of far larger truths.

So why did I come? Why, if not to redeem, did I descend into this flesh? I had been waiting. I had been waiting for my beloved Other Self, waiting for her arrival in the world so that I might join her and so on earth complete the sacred union of soul and spirit. I came, not for all, but only for one. You, my beloved one, who in these greater realities take the form of the clear voice of wisdom, my bride Sophia, were that One. You, who are the Ocean holding all life within your sacred womb. You, who trod the soil in the same place and at the same time as my own brief sojourn. You, who witnessed my mystic death and resurrection. You, who took me as husband at Cana in a marriage that was the earthly echo of our union which already had found place in the luminous Beyond. Mary, I came for you.

Stained Glass Jesus and Mary Magdalene - Glastonbury

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dreaming of an Angel

Last night an angel came to my side. At first I was only aware of a brilliant clear light which seemed to fill the space around me, and with the light came calm, and a sense of trust that all would be well. Then it seemed to me as if the light, although still bright, grew softer, and in this velvet softness a form took shape. The form looked at me with eyes of love, and I understood that she wished me to come with her. Whether she truly spoke to me, or whether I felt her thoughts enter my own I cannot say, but I knew that she had been waiting for the moment when I would open my eyes, see her, and follow her. 

So I was dreaming that I had awakened, and despite the feeling of trust I found myself feeling a little uneasy in this strange waking/dreaming state. Still I followed where the angel led me. I half-walked, half-drifted through fields and along pathways where perhaps I had been before, but had since long forgotten: the half-remembered landscapes of dreams. But because of my lingering unease my own movements were not as fluid as those of my companion of light. Perhaps it was this hesitation which the angel felt, for she urged me to awaken more fully, that although I thought that I was fully awake, my hesitant manner betrayed the fact that I still had a further stage to go.

And so I trusted more, let go more, and realised that my hesitation, and the fear which caused it, was groundless. When I dared to truly look around me a new world was revealed: an intense world full of light and colour, and my feet finally felt firm ground. I no longer needed to half-drift in this world. I could leave my footprints firmly in this place, knowing that it was where I now truly belonged. Knowing that it was a part of me, and that I could freely claim my place there, and that the intensity of all which I saw there was how things truly are, always, as long as I felt total trust.

The angel now took my hand in her own and led me even farther. With all fear gone, and with my presence in that place now fully experienced and accepted, my body became feather-light. I no longer needed to leave my footprints there to know that I was a part of this place. Now I seemed to glide through this new land without effort. But there was one more stage to go through, one more awakening for me to experience. And that was my awakening into my own everyday world. When touched by morning light once more, my dream of the angel stayed with me, filling me with a deep sense of peace and solace. No longer was I dreaming for I woke up - awakened.

Guiding Angel - Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, circa 1890

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mary of Egypt: A Heart in the Wilderness

Is there a defining moment in which all and everything changes for us? If so, perhaps the lives which we have led up until that moment, which might seem to us as mere wasted years, can with hindsight come to be seen as having a value in themselves, as being the very experiences which have, unknown to us, been all the while preparing us for that change.

As a young woman in 4th-century Alexandria who had at an early age run away from home, Mary led a very dissolute life, offering herself to anyone who would pay her price – and at times even, apparently, not bothering about payment for the sake of the mere experience. She eventually journeyed to Jerusalem, not on a pilgrimage, but hoping to find more customers among the pilgrims themselves. Wandering the streets, Mary arrived at the great doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In her harlot’s dress she sought to enter the church, but felt her way barred by some inexplicable force which seemed to press against her and hold her back.

The experience was so intense that Mary was forced to confront the life which she had chosen to lead. She opened her heart, begging forgiveness – and in that moment entered the church freely. Her style of dress might have scandalized the congregation, but God sees what is in our hearts, not what we happen to be wearing. The experience was Mary’s turning point: her defining moment.

From that moment Mary would dedicate her life to a devotional simplicity. Turning away from the world, and taking with her only three loaves of bread, she crossed the Jordan to the harsh desert beyond, settling into the life of a wilderness hermit that would last for the rest of her life. 

It was in the last two years of her life that Mary was discovered in her hermitage by the monk Zosimas, who himself had ventured into the wilderness to meditate. He found her completely naked, with long straggling hair, and the startled monk hardly recognized her as anything human. Mary asked Zosimas for his cloak to cover herself, and they sat quietly together while she told him her story. They agreed to meet again the following year, this time on the opposite bank of the Jordan.

Legend tells us that Zosimus duly waited at the appointed time and place, and was astonished to see a transfigured Mary walk across the surface of the waters to his side. A further rendezvous was arranged for the following year at her hermitage, but when Zosimus arrived he found that Mary had died. Zosimus performed the burial with due reverence, and legend again steps in to have his labours assisted by a desert lion that with its great strength pawed the hard desert earth aside that would form her remote grave.

Mary’s legend grew. She became known to history as Mary of Egypt. But history and legend can become woven together. We do not mind these embroiderings, because so often they speak to us of a greater truth: that a wilderness can lie as much within ourselves as in the harsh desert beyond the Jordan. But for the heart which has truly surrendered, which has been touched by a compassion beyond earthly understanding, any wilderness, within or without, can be transformed into a recovered Eden.

Hermit Woman by Wojciech Gerson