Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Easterly Wind Blows Where it Will

I've resurrected this old post from around this time last year. Perhaps later today Mrs. G. will telos all about her baptism (which she has now done in a comment), since I wasn't there, and she's still sleeping. Naturally I would have liked to have been there, but someone had to watch the ferret, plus they don't make it convenient for folks like me who are in bed by 9:00. Besides, she wants to renew our vows in the church this summer, and I'll probably show up for that, or at least send my stunt double.

*****

People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him. --Henri Le Saux (Swami Abhishiktananda)

All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Ghost. --St. Ambrose

In Christ the Eternal Tao, Hieromonk Damascene makes the claim that "we today are given much more than those who were born before Christ, for while pre-Christian prophets and sages were united with the Tao after their death, we have the potential of experiencing a foretaste of that eternal union during our earthly life. During his life on earth, Christ gave special means -- physical 'channels' of immaterial, Uncreated Teh -- by which to help effect this union."

Yes, the Christian message is universal, but it seems an unavoidable conclusion that it possesses an exoteric side and an esoteric side -- an outer teaching and an inner teaching, a primarily informational component and a more transformational component. Obviously, this can lead to charges of elitism, but in reality, it seems that the inner teaching is surrounded on all sides by cherubim with flaming swords who only allow those with sincere humility and childlike innocence to pass through: amen for a child's job!

And while no one should devalue the informational, or dogmatic, aspect of Christianity -- any more than one should devalue the foundation and structure of a beautiful house -- I guess I agree with Abhishiktananda, who wrote, "let us not confuse the vessel with the treasure it contains.... as long as man attempts to seize and hold God in his words and concepts, he is embracing a mere idol." Thus, "in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal."

In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables to the multitude, the implication being that he doesn't speak that way to them. "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." Evidently, teaching to the converted is different than preaching to the perverted.

Of course, everything Jesus said was provocative and well worth pondering. But it would appear that the exoteric teaching -- the parables -- are there to instruct those who can discern their meaning. But they are also vague and ambiguous enough to serve as a sort of protective covering over the esoteric side -- like the shell of a seed that surrounds and protects the kernel. In fact, Jesus proceeds directly to a parable involving a seed. When this seed is planted in "good ground," it "indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23).

In Mark 4:33, it says the same thing: "And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.... And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus?

Exoteric teaching works from the outside in. But esoteric teaching works from the inside out. Clearly, this is where the third person of the trinity comes in, the "helper" promised by Jesus. There is no way to reconcile this helpful uncreated energy with anything found on this side of nature. It is intrinsically esoteric. Aligning oneself with it is perhaps the principle aim of the Christian life, without which nothing else is possible, not even faith.

Hieromonk Damascene quotes a number of eminent authorities on this matter, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, who says that when Christ assures us that "The Kindom of Heaven is within you," he is "referring precisely to this seed of the Grace of the Holy Spirit implanted in the human soul."

Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig." Apparently, no one's vehicle crosses the phoenix line unless it is first repossessed and amortized.

But if aligning oneself with the Holy Spirit is the principle aim of the Christian life, "digging" into ourselves is the principle method -- tilling the ground, planting the seed, nurturing it, and, especially, watching over the field. For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition." It is a law of embodied existence that, no matter what, we still fall downward 32 feet per second per second. It seems that the lower self digs itself so much, that it creates its own existential hole and then jumps right in.

Another way of expressing it is to say that there is an inevitable circularity, or "curvature" to our worldly existence. That is, if we make an initial step in the right direction, that is not enough. Without a second step, a third step, a fourth step, etc., a certain inertia will set in that returns us to the place we started.

This inertia is a force that must be constantly countered. In order to alter its inevitable pressure, it must be acted upon by a force external to it. Repeatedly. This is why being "born again" just once will not cut it. Rather, one must pent and repent as necessary.

Hieromonk Damascene calls this "continuous metanoia." In order to achieve it, the ancient Christian ascetics developed the idea of "watchfulness," which involves "a state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety." This kind of "inner attention" has very obvious parallels to raja yoga and Buddhist mindfulness meditation (while by no means being identical to them).

Jesus did not just say "pray." Rather, he said to "watch and pray." It's easy. First watch. Then pray while watching.

Watching what?

Hieromonk Damascene quotes one of the greatest authorities, St. John Climacus. In his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he wrote, "Close the door of your cell to the body, the door of your tongue to speech, and your inner gate to evil spirits. Ascend into a watchtower -- if you know how to -- and observe how and when and whence, and in what numbers and what form, the robbers try to break in and steal your grapes.... Guarding against evil thoughts is one thing, keeping watch over the spirit [nous] is another. The latter... is far more difficult to attain. Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."

Hieromonk Damascene eliberates on this point, writing that watchfulness involves pulling our awareness "back into an objective state of observant mind, thus keeping watch over [the] spirit or 'higher mind'." In essence, it is a reversal of our primordial fall -- our worldward descent into distraction, fragmentation, and dissipation -- or, alternatively, congealing, thickening, and hardening. "Attention" and "distraction" are opposites. In the words of Christ, our eye must again become "single," so that the "whole body will be full of light."

Man is a microcosm, and only by opening up in a man the foundation of his being can the Spirit transform and spiritualize the cosmos to its depths. --Swami Abhishiktananda

Ferret in tree:

21 Comments:

Anonymous Alan said...

One of my favorite posts ever - if only because it touches on the flip side of gnOwing most usually evident to our Western minds.

I look forward to hearing about Mrs. G's experience.

We were fortunate to have about 35 people going through the rites of initiation last night and, yes, it was a late nigh (11:30 after starting at 8).

Happy Easter all!

4/12/2009 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Top o'the morn' Bob, Coon's and all:)

Kitchen duty a'callin', but want to respond to swami Abhishiktananda's qoute: "People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him."

Once upon in 98', for a short spell I had a client turn student who when we first met wept with joy at the occasion.

She was into and all about "Jesus". During one hands-on transmission session (in an altered state of consciousness) she began describing in a 'slow-mo' tone of voice what she was seeing with the "single"/third eye.

Will back up first with an earlier session-experience which she described afterwards with a glowing face. . . Very tall gold-colored two wing door opened wide and she was beckoned to enter by "Him"....There was a pool of water and some happy folks.

She LOVED that vision-experience.

Back now, to what happened the time when she was given another Invitation. Even tho she was 'under', she described it as it was occuring for a goodly minute or longer.

"I don't like this, what's it doing here?" - repeating several times. Now and then shielding her closed eyes from what she described as --just above her mid-body -- "large sphere of golden light".

I tried to tell her what blessing that was. That some monks meditate all their life to receive that vision.

Well, that didn't go over too well even tho she didn't protest because shortly there after she called me, out of the blue, as the saying goes and dumped me - "Because I don't get anything out of it."

"Out of the blue" ("surprise") because just couple of weeks earlier she called me jumping with excitment day after I healed her shoulder pain (for 7$ donation). To tell me all about how grateful she was for the healing . . .

"I just got home with car load of groceries and unloaded the whole thing ... " . Thanking me over, and over again.

On "the wind blows where it may" note this night - it blew into my mind-space Bethoven's 5th crescendo notes . . . The part I like most:)

Theofilia

4/12/2009 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous lurker uncloaking said...

Halleluiah! HE has risen!

The Tomb is empty,
the Grave is conquered,
the World renewed,
the Circle is unbroken!

GOTT SEI DANK
GOTT SEI IMMER, ERWIGE DANK!

4/12/2009 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Happy Easter, Bob, Les & Fl, and all Raccoons who are celebrating the Holyday today.

Did FL happen to find any eggs up that tree?

4/12/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

THE LIGHT REMAINING

In deeps of night,
In hours wan and cold,
We praise the light remaining in our hands
And in the black sky’s scattered sands,
So wise and old –

In winter’s dream,
In wind and driving snow,
We praise the light remaining in the trees,
In the swarm of restless leaves
On the pilgrim road,
In winter’s dream –

(chorus)
Great be the glory of the one Light will always be,
Great be the story of the one light eternally –

In rising storm,
In trials fierce and long,
We praise the light remaining in the stone,
In the misted, milky foam
Of the stars above –
In whipping rain,
In thunder crash and heaving sky,
We praise the light remaining in the heart,
In everything the holy spark
Come from on high,
In whipping rain –

Great be the glory of the one Light will always be,
Great be the story of the one Light eternally –

wm 2009

Happy Easter, all.

4/12/2009 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger leslie said...

Thanks so much for all of the prayers and kind words. And to Bob for making the entire process possible and being so supportive in every way.

Last night was maybe the most wonderful experience of my life. I didn't know what to expect, but prayed to be open to the experience. It's still hard to put it into words, but what stands out the most to me as I am still in the midst of it even now this Easter morning in that it was like getting married. You go through something very sacred and beautiful that you have been anticipating and that you feel is God's will for you. On the outside you look the same and things seem just as they were before, but inside you know that you have been transformed.

I went through baptism, confirmation (I took the confirmation name Mary to honor the Mother (Mirra) and my Mother in Spirit (Shirley Collins) and the Holy Mother,) and then first communion. So there was so much to take in.

It was a very beautiful Mass that lasted 2.5 hours. It starts off totally dark in the church, then the Creation story and others are read in a dramatic way with different readers. Songs and prayers are interspersed all along. Then the Easter fire is lit outside and you can see the light and shadows that are cast inside. And then the Easter candle is lit and brought into the church and as the procession with the candle moves down the aisle toward the altar, all of the congregants light small white candles from the main candle and the church is lit up with the little candle flames.

After more prayers and songs, the lights are turned on and the Mass starts. And then comes the reading of the Gospel, Father Bill's homily, and our baptism and other sacraments. The whole church is sharing this with the two of us. It's still hard for me to put it into words at this point.

I felt that I caught a glimpse of my sister KT who died 6 years ago in the crowd Then saw that it was a woman who looked a bit like her, but I did feel KT's spirit there at that point. One interesting thing was that my three friends who were there with me were named Katie (my Godmother and sponsor for the sacraments,) Kate, and Catherine. KT's given name was Kathryn.

At the beginning of the RCIA program, after I knew that I was supposed to join the Catholic Church, I asked the Mother (Mirra, Sri Aurobindo's spiritual partner) how to reconcile my very serious spiritual practice of their Integral Yoga with the new aspects of being Catholic. I turned to the Mother for everything, big and little, and felt that she guided me constantly.

The Mother gave me a vision within a moment of my asking her for guidance about this in which she was walking me up the aisle to my baptism (like a father would walk the bride to the altar to meet her groom.) This image has been with me ever since and was profoundly helpful when I wouldn't have otherwise known how to make the transition.

I feel like I've been on a very long journey including meeting my Mother in Spirit (when I was 7,) getting together with Bob (25 years ago next month,) KT's death, Tristan's birth, and being baptized.

Happy Easter and thanks again for your prayers for me.

Blessings,
Leslie

4/12/2009 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

How wonderful to at last hear the account of your confirmation, Mrs G. Thank you so much for sharing it.

The happiest Easter to you, Bob, and young Ferret. ;-)

P.S. At Mass this morning (I'm not Catholic but I play one on Easter), the priest spoke for some time about his favorite saint - Mary of Egypt - and the remarkable power of resurrection in her life. I don't believe I've ever been introduced to two Marys in one day...

wv: maxess - Mass of the first degree

4/12/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

How Very Lovely, Mrs G.

Thanks & Happy Easter

4/12/2009 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Congratulations, Mrs. G.!
Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I am in awe!

Happy Easter everyone! :^)

4/12/2009 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

The Easterly Wind Blows Where it Will

Welcome to the Holy Mother Church Leslie.

Given Bob's message to us today about "watchfulness", I'd say it was most appropriate for you to confirmed during the church's "mother of all vigils" , Holy Saturday, the day between - same as our whole time on this earthly planet.

Your sister in Christ,
Tanis

BTW, I don't know why I haven't mentioned this before; perhaps your "K" reference brought it up - I had a sister, 18 months younger than me. Her name was Leslie, I called her "KiKi." (She accidently strangled herself on a venetian blind chord when she was 6 months old.)

4/12/2009 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig." Apparently, no one's vehicle crosses the phoenix line unless it is first repossessed and amortized."

One of my all time favorite Bobtastic pundamentalisms.

4/12/2009 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Thank you for sharing that with us, Leslie - what a beautiful experience!

4/12/2009 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous lame duck said...

Happy Easter Bob and to all of you here.

Welcome home, Leslie. : )

4/12/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

This was one of the more profound posts in a series posted around the same time, thanks for the re-run Bob.
And a splendorous Easter to all.

4/12/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

And I will add my voice:
Thank you, Leslie, for sharing this experience with us. It makes me that much happier to have found Bob, the blog here, and the whole Raccoon Nation, of which I guess you are now official Den Mother.
A most joyous Easter to all.

John M

4/12/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Will!
Thanks for that outstanding poem!
I miss your poems. It's good to see a new one! :^)

4/12/2009 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Thanks, Ben, and Happy Easter!

I've been so addled lately the poems are few and far between, but I managed to grab this one - actually a song lyric - as it flew by.

4/12/2009 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

JWM said-

"It makes me that much happier to have found Bob, the blog here, and the whole Raccoon Nation, of which I guess you are now official Den Mother."

Does that mean we can call Bob "Dad?"

4/12/2009 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gecko said...

Alleluia, and thank you brothers and sisters under the pelt for the giving of your hearts, minds, souls and the unique ways in which you experience those Holy moments that tend to aid us in the keeping of our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of all that is beautiful and true and good. Happy Easter!

4/12/2009 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

We Orthodox will have to wait another week.

But Happy Easter from the East; we'll see you at the tomb; we've got the shadow of the valley of death to go through now.

The Bridegroom Cometh!!!

4/12/2009 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger leslie said...

Will, that was a beautiful poem, but I'm sorry you've been addled, as you put it.

Tanis, I'm just devastated to hear about your baby sister Kiki.

I loved all of the comments and thoughtful emails. I'm honored to be considered a den mother. I feel I've really arrived.

And God bless our Navy SEALs! They are real life superheroes. I can't imagine being a boy growing up and not wanting to be a SEAL or Army Ranger!

Mrs. G

4/12/2009 09:42:00 PM  

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