mystic


Be Vewy Qwiet, I'm Hunting Wabbits

By: Brian Robertson


John sent in a wonderful comment that — for better or worse — triggered something I’d been wanting to write about, even though one has to be extremely careful probing the idea. Did I mention it’s like walking in a minefield? Oh, well, there, I did.

Let’s start with this: the nature of the spiritual journey. Such a thing often does not mean to travel physically from point A to B, but, rather, to sit in one spot (this world) and to sink down into things. It is, in other words, far more a question of depth and not distance. In turn, it is that very depth that we carry through whatever physical or emotional distance our journey of this life takes use, winding as it does from joy to sorrow, from love to broken relationships and back again, and beyond.

Secondly (and these, I hope, will all tie together in a moment), in any endeavor — be it writing, building a guitar, learning about the business world, studying chemistry, discovering how to plant and tend a garden — there are those who come into it as novices and those who have years of insight and experience who then act as mentors or, at the very least, as inspirations, sometimes intended and sometimes accidentally.

This is the way we learn, the way knowledge is structured in this world. You don’t know and then you know a little and then you know more, but you never know it all. No first year freshman student approaches the blackboard (assuming such things are still used) in front of the PhD instructor and proceeds to fill it with physics equations until the instructor weeps out of joy. One has to start somewhere, and start with the right attitude if anything is to come of the efforts. If I may, let me give an example from my own life. My son, for instance, is a great photographer and Photoshop artist, but he took off to New York City specifically to get hired, knowing not a soul, and he did so wanting to learn from the very best. The results? Six months later, he has a job with one of the leading agencies in the world. As he told me what has been happening, I could see that he made that move with two things — confidence (faith in his abilities) and humility (willingness to learn). A lack of either one and he would have been like countless others who never get farther than a day job in a restaurant while dreams run off in their own direction.

Now, having said all that, to bring these things around a bit to what it is to be a Christian or, more specifically, a Christian mystic. Early Church fathers saw the spiritual journey as an ascent, as it were, on what at least one person called the divine ladder. What was involved in that was the image of moving up which was, really, an image of moving deeper both within and without, a movement toward that of God which is in each of us and that of God which is evident in the world at the same time, for the two are exactly the same.

Yet, at the same time, there has been in all this a peculiar sense of “nobody’s better than another” in terms of spirituality, because often nobody wanted to come right out and say: “Yes, I’ve had more experience and may know a bit more than you about terms and ideas, even about how God seems to manifest within this world from my own journey.” Such statements in spirituality can, for some, sound haughty and vulgar. My point in mentioning the position of such a person in the arts or sciences is that it is not anything of the sort, that spirituality is not all that different than any other undertaking or exploration in life. Having said that, however, there is a startling difference. While a person who climbs to the top of being an actor, teacher, business owner, and so on can bask in their own glory and develop an astonishing ego, the more a person experiences and moves his or her life in the direction of God, the more humble and more awestruck and the more “unworthy” they may become.

After all, each one of us knows someone who has just set foot on the “path” (and I can see this in my younger self all too very clearly) who gets a little bit of inspirational reading under the belt, comes up with a few grand theories, and will gladly share them with anyone who’ll stop long enough to listen. In such a state, we may say all the right things, but — and here’s the crux of it — remain untouched at the core.

But such a thing is not always horrible. After all, we are thinking of God as much as we can be aware of God at that time, doing the best that we can do, quite possibly doing exactly what we think is the right thing to do. Some remain at that first level forever in their megachurches as they mouth the creeds and tithe 10% and believe all is well in the world for themselves and may be hell (literally) for other people, but, God willing, one day something that one has said over and over, perhaps a quote, turns live in a strange and telling instant, and it is like a house we have lived in for years where, one day, we step through the floor and discover the basement or we stumble across hidden stairs that rise up into an undiscovered and unending attic.

More practical yet: There is a difference between “knowing” something and “KNOWING” something. The former is, for lack of a better word, often “social” and a kind of buzzword while the second form of knowing becomes “spiritual” and that kind of knowledge begins to change one’s world.

Now, if you are with me this far, we move to the real heart of the matter. John’s comment brought to mind that often we reject the idea of “Literalism” as in treating the Bible as a newspaper thrown into the front yard as opposed to seeing what spiritual truths the stories and sayings can point towards. Yet, and let us be fair and straightforward here, Literalism has its place, as for some it marks a starting point in the journey, the faint whisperings of God in the ear of the soul, the distant stirrings of spiritual insight and beckoning. God does not often come to people full blown and crystal clear so that a person suddenly moves from the district manager of a fast food chain one moment to a spiritual giant the next.

Those of us who move, as many of the earliest Church figures suggested, from Literal to something much richer and revealing in our understanding of the Bible and of Christianity, find the vista opens up in near-dizzy proportion to the point that we realize all we can do in life is to Love, to simply mine a few gems here and there, all the time humbled and filled with a sense of wonder and, yes, a very profound gratitude. At this point, we become what I think it really means to be a person –  to feel a part of something much greater and grander than ourselves, more than  just our own concerns and our own self-centeredness, soo that we become aware that we are a part of something so much larger than what we are that we can never ever explore it all, yet at the same time we are drawn to try. In that sweet paradox, the faint whisperings we have been vaguely aware of become, if not louder and clearer, certainly more driving and seductive, and so off we go.

The point of all this, and I hope in my ramblings I got close to saying it half-way well, is that I think a healthy and wise approach is to be careful to not not imply that Literalism is wrong, but, rather, that it can be and often is an essential first step, a part we can first grasp and, if we do not cling to it blindly, opens doors of perception that reveal how, in humble thought and living, the joyous, intriguing, captivating, loving presence of God is constantly working in and through this world.

Blessings,

Brian Robertson


Comments:

[“…confidence (faith in his abilities) and humility (willingness to learn). A lack of either one and he would have been like countless others who never get farther than a day job in a restaurant while dreams run off in their own direction.”
Well, as one of those “countless others who never get farther than a day job…” and who see their “dreams run off”, I must say, bitterness is always close at hand and always a temptation (one, in fact, frequently yielded to). It’s nice when things work out. It’s certainly easier to be spiritual at those times (notwithstanding that many, with perfectly fine lives, do not ever bother to cultivate spirituality in any form, of course). I don’t mind literalism. Not as a potentiality, anyway. I don’t need rigid belief to guide me, but I would be lying if, in my weary state, I did not wish to see a miracle or two. (Sure, I’d also be frightened out of my wits…and extremely fearful for my sanity). In terms of humbly acknowledging those with greater spiritual “know-how” than myself, it is not easy (even though I do not consider myself spiritually advanced beyond a certain, limited degree). There are too many people wearing sheep’s clothing for that. And, as the blogger says, (I think) what is known can often not be taught. Still, I am up for any bits or pieces of stray, yet valuable wisdom to come my way through this site or any other way that is (one hopes) the real deal.]

 

[Yes well said! Literalism is very important and has it place but there is a lot more to the bible that that. The matter of the heart and spirit go deeper than any man could ever delve.]

 

[the more a person experiences and moves his or her life in the direction of God, the more humble and more awestruck and the more “unworthy” they may become.

This statement is so true in my experience. I have been accused by some of having self esteem issues, in need of therapy. However, while I am sure of what I DO know, I am humbled by how much I don’t know. It has given me an attitude of a learner, for I realize no matter how much I have learned, there is still more road on my journey. I also have, at times, been accused of arrogance for not having enough respect for whoever for whatever. However, I have spent much time practicing and bowing before the throne of the Almighty. And, because of this journey with God, I have a different perspective, that I include myself in.

It is nice to read that others recognize this paradoxal truth.]

 

[It is human nature to compare ourselves to others in hope of elevating ourselves. I call this the “Jerry Springer” effect: looking at another and thinking, “at least I am not as screwed up as them”. What Jesus has given us is a new place to look… up! Christ and the Saint form a legacy we will always struggle to live up too.]

 

[“Let’s start with this: the nature of the spiritual journey. Such a thing often does not mean to travel physically from point A to B, but, rather, to sit in one spot (this world) and to sink down into things. It is, in other words, far more a question of depth and not distance.” – Brian Robertson

Brian – Well said. In writing about “the Journey”, you reminded me of the image of a river. The surface waters are forever turbulent & cyclical, tossed about by wind (thoughts & actions of the day) and subtle undercurrents (emotions of the past)….all while moving from point A to B. Is this not the way of the masses? Does not every epitaph begin with a point A and end at a point B? From this observation of the environment how can I extract a spiritual journey? As Brian said, how do we sit down in one spot and sink down into things?

Answer: the “Will”, the deepest element of control within the self.

At the lowest depth of the river there is always stillness. This stillness is always present and is ever accessible to those who seek it. Therein lies the vertical depth that Brian speaks of. The kingdom comes in the awareness that I must “choose” to seek it……hence it is an act of “self” will. Seek “Ye” First the kingdom of Heaven……..(I placed the emphasis here on “Ye” and “First” to awaken the reader!). This journey we speak of is “you” directed and takes precedence….no one else can do it for you.

Many times during the week I will invoke the thought……”All is Passing”! This for me has become a powerful tool in self awareness….dropping me vertically into the moment at hand……thus giving my “will” an opportunity to evaluate, reassess and re-direct if necessary. The general condition (#1) of man is one where the “mind” is continually ensnared in the turmoil of the days’ events (i.e., the mind is overtly present, mesmerized by its’ sentient inputs). The other detraction from exercising the will (general condition #2) stems from the mind’s incessant need to pre-test scenarios and outcomes or fantasize conclusions (i.e., the mind’s attempt to exercise control over past events and control future outcomes). Problem #2 ….pardon the pun…has a “mind” of it’s own! The unwatched mind will self enguage itself in problem-solving and fantasizing if left unchecked by the will. As much as I disagree with certain beliefs of Christian Science, I believe Mary Baker Eddy was fairly correct in her quote………

“Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously.”

As a mystic, however, I am more detached to the expectation of bodily results…..but more attached to the notion of “standing porter”.

In vertically exercising the will (a timeless glimpse is often availed) a door of opportunity that was always present…..yet…..never opened nor thought of consciously for that matter. Unless directed to do so by the “Will”, this choice or “door” would most likely be overlooked.

Choices directed out of selfless love (i.e., self-will alligned with “Will” capital W) ……..bear witness to Truth. I believe self-will (purged of all impure intents or self-expectations) in its’ ultimacy does bear the fruit in which God intends himself to manifest.

Though I did not discuss the dispensation of “Grace” here …..it cannot be overlooked on the spiritual journey. It should however be met with the utmost in Hope…….

All for now….. John]