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Archive for the ‘mysticism’ Category

Glow warm and time-worn amber paints my horizon

While foraging squirrels and song-stirred birds go about appointed chores.

And young boys play in the streets unaware of the gathering life,

Nor of my hope-drenched fears.

All the buzzing hive of rolling life plays on,
While the heartbeat of a silent single star beats inside the emptiness.

Glad-sad veneer of years marches ever onward,

As I await the blue-grey sheet of night to embrace all my dreaming.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Imagine a theological Sherlock Holmes: Seeing details overlooked by most.

There is a spiritual lesson in really seeing more of what is happening around us. Clear sight, the skill of tracking, is deep meditation. It cannot be accomplished unless we quiet all of our inner leaping.

One useful practice is to try to draw what we are seeing. Almost immediately, we discover that we are not really seeing but recalling an image of what we think we are looking at. In the act of really examining our surround, we can catch a glimpse of things as they are. In doing so, we set the stage for breaking through to a new relationship.

Martin Buber referred to I – It vs. I – Thou relationships. I -It is seeing inner facsimiles of objects, whereas I -Thou is inter- subjective and intimate.

We are all artists. The real question is are we rendering what is or what we think we know. Biblical knowing is about seeing from the inside-out rather than outside in.

The good news is that all we need is a pad and pen or pencil and we are off on an adventure of discovery. Looking with intent to really see gets us beyond vague sketches to catching the wisdom of actual detail.

Cultivating an artist’s eye opens us up to first seeing what’s there and then seeing into and beyond mere appearances. It is instructive that artistic realism preceded impressionism and expressionism. A jump straight to impressionism is not an act of deep sight but a crass short-cut, a pretense and an affectation.

Happy sketching!

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Will I make it into heaven? Will St. Peter smile on my admission to paradise? Is there a heaven?

This is all history wrapped in metaphor and has a certain poetic aesthetic. Problem is that for many it is the stuff of immutable belief.

It also is thinking that views human life as operating in an enormous “Skinner Box” with God playing the role of dispenser of the reinforcers ( akin to yummy Purina pellets for hungry souls, administered so long as we behave). Quaint but very much built around an adult – child model of our relationship with the Sacred.

Authentic spiritual practice, on the other hand, expects nothing. We show compassion because we are not separate. We need each other. We worship because we sense the Presence all around us. We invest in spiritual disciplines so as to be more truly who we are beyond illusions, delusions and allusions.

To expect nothing is to simply be children of the Loving-Living God seeking intimacy with the Heart of the Universe: to act in the moment without agenda.

The simple practice before and after action: check in with driving motives. Ask: What am I expecting? As the story of the Dalai Lama goes, on receiving a gift-wrapped box containing nothing: ” Thank you. It’s what I always wanted! ”

Luke 6: 32-36

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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So said St. Francis: a  koan of christendom that invites meditation.

Francis saw fraternity and sorority everywhere.

Creatures ( living and nonliving) are brothers and sisters in the Order of Creation. Adjusting the statement slightly we may pose the challenge this way: ‘Who we are looking for is who is looking.’  Yet, our ordinary conscious experience is of separation, difference and individual expression.

What experience inspires this insight on the part of Francis?

His vision was penetrating and went beneath the surface of form and function, speciation and diversity. The entire Cosmos was personal. In the eyes of wolves, he caught a glimpse of ein sof, the unknowable One. In Sun and Moon, he saw the illumined face of love.

All the exquisite forms and variety formed a choir chanting in unison of the passionate Heart tuning the music of the spheres. Going well beyond expectation and learning, labeling and categorizing, Francis discerned essences.

Doing so requires letting go of  our clinging to unique and divided identity.

It means examining oneself and seeing the degree to which we imprison the mind and soul in ideas about self and other.

We each weave clever and elaborate fictions designed around a history of experiences and language, strokes and slaps delivered by the environment through which we travel. We embody the mandate to separate and judge and build a system of dichotomies – good & bad, beautiful and not, right and left, right and wrong, valuable and not, worthy and unworthy, intelligent and not, ad infinitum.

As Francis knew intuitively, contemporary research is likewise showing how wrong we have been about assumptions of the comparative  intelligence of nonhuman beings.

One case in point is the wisdom of crows: their capacity to use tools and problem solve equal to the capacity of young children. Elsewhere, there was a recent study of the dance of bees and how they compete in their dancing to democratically choose the best next site at which to build a hive. Once decided, after feverish “debate through dance,” they all lift as one body and move together to the new site. All of this is further impetus for our grappling with what Francis saw empirically without the lenses of science as support.

How, then, do we cultivate the sense of the grander truth that lies within appearances and divergences?

It begins by practicing the “via negativa”, systematically dwelling in the tensions forged by our false dichotomies and dissolving them.

The challenge is to annihilate  limiting paradigms by rising up to a third position neutrally suspended above them. Each time we do so, we open our aperture wider and see a bit more clearly what is really there. We lift the veil that our thinking manufactures and throws over the real like a heavy cloak that obscures it.

This is a Western expression of jñāna yoga or “knowledge of the absolute”: discerning the difference between the real and the unreal.

One example: we pose the dichotomy of sentient – non-sentient. We see rocks as non-sentient, trees as sentient yet less so than birds and mammals. We create taxonomies of like and unlike that, while convenient for study, fuel our perception of difference as primary.

Using thought differently, we can confront our convenient divisions and resolve them in a higher sense of unity.

How?

One meditative stream of thought: Dispensing with sentience as the frame altogether, rocks and trees, insects, birds, mammals and human beings are Presence, amalgams of earth, air, fire and water. All were hewn from the same stuff.

I celebrate the variety and I see their unity. We are all sons and daughters of the Sun/Son. We are energy enlivened with purpose, ordained by first cause and evolving along lines laid down before the first micro-second of the universe. We are Light, mineral, Mind, Heart, and a vastness emerges among us.

We can learn much by incorporating this Christic jñāna yoga into our contemplative round.

What/ who we are looking for is already and always is with us.

interior intimo meo et superior summo meo” (“higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”) (St. Augustine, Confessions III, 6, 11)

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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life’s breath, the wind of heaven, cleanses the dusty surface of my soul,

timeless Presence making everything new.

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my loving tether to now and then, to here and infinite,

I reach so wide that time and distance have no measure.

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I hear the pulse of the longing Heart of space,

and tune to the beat that fills my lungs with silence.

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no fear, no self, no desperate need to prove or get,

all is well in the deep, and music to my joyful ears.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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How much light is needed to cut the darkness,

to tear that pitch of mystery, and dark-silent veil?

One warm strand:

Small boats on vast seas lunge forward,

bold with steady purpose on uncertain waves,

Soundless Beckoning:

Ever true, never fading,

For love and joy, the elder mariner keeps watch,

drawing ever nearer

the infinite warmth of the Great Lamp.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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In a few days here in the Northeast, we have transitioned from grey tone days to brilliant sun and a small foretaste of Spring. It is fitting that this occurs in our physical space at the halfway point in Lent: a time of penitent waiting and of making ready for the celebration of the Resurrection.

Throughout all of nature, there is a profound and persistent contrapuntal harmony. With the predominance of dark matter in the known universe, the brilliance of the Suns we can see are framed in darkness to enhance their radiance. Like any fine painting, the frame is terribly important.

In the paintings of the Masters of Flanders, the play of light and shadow is central to the artists’ fascination. So too in our seasonal shifts, we are caught up in the dance of undulations: a perpetual journeying from form to form, mood to mood, dark to light. Crucifixion – Resurrection, grey skies- sky-blues, down, bored and lonely-elated, captivated and engaged with life and others.

This is the eternal rondo of life, the poetry of opposites that defines the essential fabric of the Real. This counterpoint, the stuff of waves, is present around and within. The contrasts and transitions enliven us and invite us to be open and be opened.

We are called to ride the waves with open hearts and abiding trust that the Christos speaks in these transitions. The soul is fed and attuned to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Let us rejoice in waiting for the next great contrast and the call to greater attention and deep appreciation.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What is the relationship between science and religion?

Throughout history, and even now, the tension between them has been too much the characterization. The argument goes that science proffers testable hypotheses and the scientific method uncovers either support for that hypothesis or fails to do so. Religion, on the other hand, is discussed as wholly subjective, defined by untestable beliefs.

In establishing this dichotomy, a false one in my estimation, they are endemically at odds with each other. In today’s scientific and pseudo- scientific ethos, science is often deemed superior and more appropriate for our times. Religion, on the other hand, is portrayed by empiricists as a quaint remnant of pre-scientific explanation. Theists, on the other hand, see science with suspect eyes, arguing that it misses the deeper import of events and what it means to be. Both polar viewpoints are ill informed.

Fundamentalist science and religion are, indeed, at odds with one another. Both suffer the same problem: they proceed from a dogmatic position of what is true, right and knowable. I set aside fundamentalisms of all kinds as too narrowly constructed and thereby intrinsically fragile and lacking in merit. Those who subscribe to them are welcome certainly to their beliefs but it strikes me that such extreme positions render dialogue impossible, and creates a climate of mistrust, sterile bickering, and mutual claims about the inadequacies of the other. For me, such banter is a waste of energy and are, simply, uninteresting.

Instead, I live at the nexus between these two methods of knowing and both have much in common along with complementary differences. They need each other if the goal is agreed upon as a seeking after truth and a deep desire to get inside the ontological mysteries. Science speaks in the language of mathematics. Math is wholly based on certain assumptions and, while an invention of humankind, it is unusually powerful in unraveling the mysteries of the Cosmos. The scientific method then is brought to bear on predictions to apply critical tests. Yet, while we have seen convergent evidence of their existence, no one has ever seen, for example, a quark. In other words, we study the cumulative record. Having done so, new evidence may overturn, and often does, our most established interpretations.

Religion is also a cumulative record. Yes, it is a phenomenological one but this too is data. Seen through the lens of well reasoned theological discourse, it too makes predictions and offers interpretations. For example, in a universe that became conscious of itself, one can rightly posit that intelligence must be fundamental in its essence ( I.e., that it had a first cause). One need not resort to a simplistic Creationism that mangles good science to get there either. With the integrity of both science and theology left fully intact, one can catch inspiring glimpses of the heart of mystery.

To devolve to angry and oppositionally defiant atheism is to ignore experience and the universal sensibility of something greater than we that beckons. Such a retreat to mere science reduces matter, energy and space-time to mere objects of study rather than deep subjects with which to have a relationship. The result is spiritual reductionism and solipsism.

I am a scientist- theologian because as I study the one it informs the other. The reflections of science for me give rise to the meditations of spiritual practice. I delight in the online lectures such as those offered by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in the UK Faraday Institute for Science and Religion that serve to elevate and poke our understanding.

When both scientific and religious discourse act with genuine humility, we can proceed boldly and with the spirit of the child into realms of deep wonder. May our eyes be opened to see the wider landscape that awaits us if only we get beyond the tyranny of methodological chauvinism.

Life is way too short to narrow one’s field of view.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Live anywhere for more than a few years and it sets in. It becomes harder and harder to find new things to do. Habit cycles get established including favorite restaurants, television programs, visits to parks, museums, gardens, theaters, etc. Whatever the pace, many complain of simply being bored. They thirst for newness, fresh stimulation, a change of pace. Life has become less of an adventure and more of a rolling set of ritual actions, investments and activities. What is the answer to this gnawing sense of an inner hollow?

We need not look far. We are made nervous by silence and rush through many things to avoid it. It is the silence itself that holds the clues.

By just sitting, as the Zen practitioners refer to it, by attending to the present moment, we ironically catch sight of our powerful driving addictions. In catching them and pausing, we place distance between those acts of self-medication and our soul.

A daily diet of complete quiet is an ultimate medicine. We recover our own depths. The challenge is finding the quiet places. These are being crowded out in a world that mistakes constant movement for the good life. Slow down to really speed up. This is the paradox of meaning in the 21st century.

May our sanctuaries of stillness restore and revive our spirits and awaken true knowledge of ourselves and things as thy really are.

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The Sun was in full expression for most of Easter Sunday here in the Northeast U.S.: a special treat after so many days of heavy fog and rain. The weather on Holy Saturday was bleak, a day full of shadows. The Sun was out one moment and gone the next, rain came and then lifted and then very dense fog rolled in toward evening. The cadence, the rhythm of all this was so synchronistically well-calibrated to the spiritual import of the transformations of which the Trideum is emblematic. Holy Saturday is a time of expectant waiting and still one of regrets and dark moods.

Sunday was a day of tiny miracles as the Sun shone down and our bed of day lilies and tulips opened up, as if on cue, for the first time this season: a grand opening that moved me to snap a few quick photographs to mark the moment.

At one point in the afternoon, it was downright hot. I opened my front door and just left it open, and sat facing out for just moments of quiet contemplation on the bright Light, emerging colors, fragrances and the promises of long ago planted bulbs fulfilled. The birds were out in force and their choir seemed especially sonorous and full. It was a perfect, if fleeting and fragile moment of synchronized living, and then the need to travel intruded, with all the necessary flurry of things to take along on the journey to make the obligatory visits for the holiday.

Now, at the end of Easter Monday I reflect back on yesterday and find myself drawn to the memory of those precious few moments at the doorway blessed with an ever so brief taste of heaven presented for any and all who took but a moment to put aside all other agenda to bathe in it.

It’s the littlest things that contain so very often the true “magic” and sacrament, the real Presence of the Spirit, embodying the most authentic Call to Discipleship.

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