The words in my header speak of Sophia’s Mirror as reflecting all creation, as being the source of all things. My weblog is about the discoveries which can be made when we look into this mirror, and the encounters through art, writing and poetry which allow us to glimpse the oneness behind the many forms reflected there. What I believe in and practice is not a process which ends, but a process which transforms. And it is my heartfelt wish that you, my readers, will continue to be a part of that transforming process with me. Thank you for stopping by.
To approach Sophia is to approach that vital spark of the divine within ourselves, for Sophia is the essential spirit which infuses all things.
The Church of Love
The church of love has no secret, has neither mystery nor initiation except for the deep knowledge of the power of love, as the world must change, if we as persons wish it so; but only if firstly we change ourselves.
The valley spirit never dies Call it the mystery, the woman. The mystery, the Door of the Woman, is the root of earth and heaven.
But this one thing becomes more clear to me: that you can't help us, but we need to help you and by doing that we also help ourselves. And this is the only thing that we can save now and also the only thing that matters: a piece of you in ourselves, God. Etty Hillesum
The Paradoxes of Love
The storming of love is what is sweetest within her, Her deepest abyss is her most beautiful form,
The Radiance of God
Woman is the radiance of God, she is not your beloved. She is the Creator - you could say that she is not created. Rumi (Masnavi, I:2437)
The Eyesight of the Soul
To serve love in new seasons would be new indeed – that noble art few will embrace: few feel they should find out what true love can impart.
“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” ~ Rumi
I will sing of well-founded Gaia, Mother of All, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the sea, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store. - Homeric Hymn, 7th Century B.C. Image: Greg Spalenka
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When we are face to face with truth, the point of view of Krishna, Buddha, Christ, or any other Prophet, is the same. When we look at life from the top of the mountain, there is no limitation; there is the same immensity.
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Leaning into the Afternoons by Pablo Neruda
Mastery of the Sages Mooji Satsang
l' Esprit du Bleu
Only Breath by Rumi
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Advent, we say, is the season of waiting. We might more truly say that Advent is the season of desire - and desire unfulfilled, at that. Waiting is a form of emptiness, but it’s an emptiness that implies expectation: we wait for someone or something, do we not? And we desire the arrival of what we await. In our hectic world we constantly face a barrage of distractions, from the chattering voices of social media with which we constantly keep in touch via our ubiquitous smartphones, from the pressures of commercialism which urge us to buy, buy, buy, at the very time of the year when we should be retreating into ourselves in silent contemplation and reflection. For this also is an aspect of advent: it is – or should be – a time of quiet reflection. If only we can manage to be silent in ourselves, to still all those chattering voices which distract us, then we allow the true spirit of advent to reveal itself. That sense of expectant wonder is always present. Advent is in every moment. And that moment is universal. “Peace, be still.” were the words we are told Jesus spoke to calm the storm on that far Sea of Galilee. If we allow those words to echo in our hearts, whether we are Christian or not, and whether we celebrate the Christian day of Advent or not, we allow the true spirit of a universal advent to emerge, and we find ourselves filled with a renewing spirit of anticipation, wonder and silent joy.
Recently I visited Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon coast: a large peninsula which juts out into the Pacific. Standing at the entrance to the Cape I had a view of the ocean to either side, both to the north and to the south. On the north side lies a spectecular steep-sided bay which almost, but not quite, cuts the end of the Cape into an island. Being in such a place made me feel that I was standing at the edge of the world, and what lay beyond was all unknown and still to be discovered. Now let's imagine that this landscape is a landscape made of time - which in some real sense, it is. Let's say that the coast lying to the south is the past, and the coast to the north is the future, and where I was standing on the peninsula is the present moment. This is the familiar landscape of time in which we all stand, with the past flowing through the present moment towards the unknown future. But there is another 'time' beyond this: the 'time' of the great ocean itself. To the ocean this 'past-present-future' time is meaningless. The ocean is eternal. In that magical place that I had stood, the world around me seemed to offer me a lesson: a reminder of the eternal - and oh, how easy it is to think of the ocean in such a way! The unhurried waves role onto the wide beach, and the waves are themselves just the surface signs of the currents and undertows which flow unseen beneath. And even though the depths of that ocean remained hidden to me, the moving waves hinted at what might be happening below its surface: migrating whales on their long journey down to the southern feeding grounds (Earlier in the week I saw them spouting offshore!) and other creatures of that watery world that live out their lives in the silence of those blue depths. Now overhead a bright harvest moon is shining, big and pale gold, the colour of ripe grain - just the way a harvest moon should look! The seasons turn, the waves which I hear from my window as I type this roll in to the wide sandy beach, as they have done for a thousand years and more, and these reflections on my visit to the Cape can be harvested. Unseen below the surface, the great whales slowly onward under the moon. In my imagination I can hear their songs echoing from the depths like the great voice of the ocean itself, and I feel that, simply because I am thinking about them, a small part of me is journeying with them through that deep blue eternity.
Almost exactly one hundred years ago the photographer Edward S. Curtis recorded with his camera an elderly Chinook woman gathering clams on the Pacific shore. The woman, we believe, was the daughter of the great Seattle, and was known as Princess Angelina. Now a century later, just a little farther south of where that photograph was taken, I stand on that same shore gazing out over that same ocean. That photograph which Curtis made has inspired and informed so much of my life and my own writing and poetry. It is the archetypal image of a lone woman standing on the shore. Even a short while ago and half a world away I could not have imagined that I would be standing here, but a dear friend has made it possible, and the wished-for unthinkable has happened. The pathways of our life’s journeyings, whether they are those which happen on a map or which take place inside ourselves, are in the end always unpredictable. We know this so well through experience. We make our plans and the gods smile at our naivety and send us off in another direction entirely. At times that other direction is something other than we would have wished for, and yet on other occasions – as has happened to me now – it can bring rewards the more remarkable exactly because they were unexpected. How many other footprints have been left on this same Pacific shore where I now stand? Princess Angelina’s certainly, but also those of Sacagawea, the courageous young Shoshone woman who was the invaluable guide on the William Clark and Merriweather Lewis expeditions of exploration. It was the wish of Sacagawea to see the ocean, and – just once – she did. And what of the many 19th-century settlers who with their wagons followed the Oregon Trail west? Finally to have reached this same shore where I now stand must have seemed like a blessing indeed after facing and persevering with the many dangers and hardships of their long journey. But to those settlers the ocean also clearly defined the limits of that journey: unlike the frontiers of the land it was a frontier that was absolute. Thus far, said the Oregon shore, and no farther. The distant waves which even now I hear from my window as I write this have rolled in from another east: from Japan, from China, from Indonesia. The ocean as well has its journeys, and the patterns of its travelling currents are more predictable than the patterns of human travels. And what of my own footprints which I leave here on this shore? They will have been washed away by those journeying waves even before today’s sun has set, and certainly long before I myself travel back home to the Netherlands. And yet I have peace and take strength from knowing that, even though our timing might be different, they at last have joined those of Princess Angelina and Sacagawea. What the waves erase so easily finds a more enduring place in the memory, and it is there that my fragile footprints in the Oregon sand will remain.
In my ears: the unceasing voice of the wind. I wonder where the figure has vanished to. Perhaps if I could just make it to the crest of this dune I might yet catch another glimpse of her. With the wind at my back, and the blown grains of surface sand stinging my ankles, I struggle up the shadowed face of the great crescent of sand. With the light of the fast-sinking sun flooding my face I emerge from the dune’s shadow, and in two more paces I am standing full in the orange light on the sweeping crest of the dune. I scan the view in front of me for signs of life, and notice a dark outcrop of rock emerging like an island from the sand sea. And there in the shadow of the rock I notice a movement, as if she is deliberately revealing her presence to me – which perhaps she is. Perhaps she seeks this encounter as much as I myself do, for is that not her nature: to confront the other? A few more minutes and I am climbing over the dark rock to reach the place where I spotted her. At first I do not see her, even though she is very close. Then two orange eyes open and stare at me from the shadows. Oh, such eyes! All the mysteries of the world are contained in those twin pools of amber. Her long mane of hair blows around her shoulders like a cloak, and her body, though human-enough, seems somehow other-than-human in a way in which I cannot explain to myself. What does one say to a sphinx? Is it protocol to wait until spoken to when encountering such a fabulous creature of legend? Such encounters are too infrequent to really know the correct form of things. I feel awkward and unsure, and if I am truthful, also rather nervous. I notice the sphinx’s dark nails grown to the length of talons. “May I ask you a question?” I hear a voice say. The voice is my own, desperate, apparently, to break the prolonged silence. The eyes of the sphinx fix onto and hold my own. She does not speak. “I would like to ask you” I continue, “if my life has a meaning.” Still the sphinx remains silent, scrutinizing me intently. Such silence can bring anxiety, so I continue: “I mean, sometimes I feel that it does, but at other times I feel just as equally that it’s all random, and it doesn’t matter what I do or plan because things happen anyway, but then it all more-or-less turns out in the end and I’m left wondering that even if I’d planned it all, would it have been any different? I suppose what I’d really like to ask you is: is there such a thing as free will, or is it all beyond our control? Although, now I think about it, I guess we must have free will, because it was my own free will that drove me to search for you so that I could ask you the answer to such a big, big question.” Behind me, the pale moon is on the rise. The sphinx stares at me, and I seem to notice a faint smile. That ghost of a smile is still there as the sphinx curls up in the velvet shadows and silently falls asleep.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. A true free spirit, the wood nymph Daphne is never happier than when she is roaming the forests. The dappled sunlight of the forest glades are more than home to her: they are her preferred company, and she vows that she would sooner keep herself chaste than exchange the familiar company of the surrounding trees for a partner in life. All might have continued to go well for Daphne, were it not for the fateful day when the glorious god Apollo happens to catch sight of her as she dances in a sunlit glade. At once smitten by her beauty and charm, the god approaches Daphne and attempts to seduce her. Now, Apollo is used to having his way, whether with mortal or with nymph. But for the first time ever he finds his advances rejected. In a moment’s distraction Daphne seizes her chance to flee the god’s amorous advances and runs away as fast as she can, hoping that her familiarity with the forest trails might offer her an advantage in her flight. But Daphne’s knowledge of the secret paths through her beloved forest is proving no advantage when matched against a god’s bruised ego. Wounded pride mixed with ardour for the fleeing nymph only fuels the pace of Apollo’s pursuit. At the last moment of her flight, when the god is so close behind her that she can feel his hot breath on her back, Daphne calls out in panic to her father, the river god Peneios. The great river stirs angrily, and white-topped waves slap its banks in a frenzy of fury as Peneios sees the plight which his daughter is in. Unable to leave his watery domain, the river god makes a last-resort move to save his daughter. Just as Apollo reaches out to seize the nymph, his all-too-eager hands grasp, not soft and yielding female flesh, but bark and branches and dark green leaves. Peneios with his powers has changed his daughter into a laurel tree: one more tree among all of its fellows in the wood nymph’s beloved forest. A handful of laurel leaves are Apollo’s only gain. How to save face? How to restore a god’s bruised ego? By declaring a defeat to be a victory and founding a tradition. Apollo decrees that from that moment on, a crown of laurel leaves will become the worthy symbol of a victor. And the god promptly begins the tradition by weaving for himself a crown from the leaves that just moments before had been the living flesh of the beautiful nymph. How often has it happened that reality has been turned on its head, and those who have been bettered have, through one means or another, insisted that they have in fact triumphed? Saving face in such a way is familiar enough to us from our own current news events. But in the story of Daphne and Apollo we can perceive a deeper meaning. Sometimes circumstances force us to change, and to change dramatically, and we become something other than that which we were before. It might not always be a change which we have wished for ourselves, but it has been a change made necessary for our survival, in whatever form that might take. But Daphne’s fate also gives us reason to hope. The nymph’s essential nature was that of her own beloved forest, and her essence did not change. Instead it became absorbed into what she truly loved the most. Even in dramatic change, even undergoing apparent complete metamorphosis, our true essence survives in some form, and endures beyond even the great change at life’s end.
What is it to pray? If we say the word ‘God’ to ten people in a room, then it is quite likely that in those ten different heads there will be ten different ideas of what ‘God’ actually is, and what God means to them. Perhaps prayer is like this as well. We have a general idea of what a prayer is. We think of an attitude of praying, and of reciting, either aloud or silently, either in company as part of a congregation, or in solitude, a formularized verse or passage of text. Or perhaps our prayer is in the form of a petition: we are asking for something of a higher Self beyond ourselves.
What that ‘something’ is might cover a spectrum of interests and hopes. On a rather material level, we might pray for victory in a conflict, or even success in some sporting event. On a more personal level, we might ask for help, or for strength and courage in a situation which we feel overwhelms us. We might ask to keep a dear one safe in a situation of peril, or for guidance in navigating our way through trying circumstances which bewilder us, and which leave us unsure which way to turn.
As well as the above examples there might be many more situations in which we pray, the form which our prayers take, and what we are praying for. But one thing which all these sorts of prayers have in common, whether spoken aloud or voiced silently within ourselves, is that they are all, in some form, prayers with words. We use our own familiar language in which to pray. But is this the only way to pray?
Prayer is prayer, and perhaps prayer can be reduced to intention only. Perhaps, if our intention is there, then we do not even need words to pray. In this sense, perhaps intention is the purest form of prayer: a silent connection with the Divine that not only is without words, but which goes beyond words, beyond the limitations of language to become a pure expression of the spirit. The Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore described trees as the expression of an endless striving of earth towards heaven. In this mystic striving of the forms of nature we may glimpse this wordless prayer, this intention of all things to connect with that mysterious Other, encountered in a place beyond words, beyond human language.
The other evening I watched a large flock of starlings wheel and turn in the soft light of dusk. What mysterious figures were they tracing out in the twilit sky? I could only stand in silence and wonder at the myriad pairs of wings turning in perfect harmony, describing their unknown language in the paths of their flight. I could not interpret their lace-like traceries, but in those many wings I felt that I had glimpsed a wordless prayer made visible.