Jul 032012
 

Some of us know people who despair of knowing God, maybe including ourselves from time to time.  When we are in these psychospiritual spaces, we desperately want to feel God’s presence in our hearts and minds in the way it is so often glowingly described in song, poetry, and prose, yet fear it may never come, or never return if it has come before.  Even despite our passionate faith, God can seem hopelessly remote, detached, and unconcerned.  We may lament that we want to love God, yet wonder how we can love someone or something we do not know.  At these times, it may not be helpful at all to hear that God is the Great Mystery, as we mystics so often like to say.  It is certainly true that one of the greatest tests of believers, mystics or not, is when we don’t convincingly feel, hear, or see God in any way that we can recognize.

It sometimes angers me that God seems so unconcerned with souls going through those dark nights described by St. John of the Cross, and so touchingly illustrated in the private letters of Mother Teresa.  I wonder how God can be so still and silent, so apparently unresponsive, as a soul begs in agony for some small touch of confirmation.  It is like those moments when a beloved sits impassively as the lover pleads, “Do you still love me?  Oh, my love, do you care?!  Did you ever?”  Sometimes we are even too fearful to ask, or rather so hopeless as to stop trying, though our love for the beloved remains.  I am powerfully moved by compassion and sympathy when I think of people suffering like this.  We all know what it is like to feel the absence of our beloved and even slip into the fear that our love is unrequited; it is miserable, and even fatally unbearable for some.  And yet, there are possibilities of awakening in the fact that we can and do suffer so.

Even though I had grown up in a home of strong faith, and even though I had been touched by a couple of powerful spiritual experiences in my youth, there was a time in my life when my spirituality was so riddled with anxiously feeling God’s absence that I embraced a very skeptical and even cynical agnosticism.  And while I have retained much of the “unknowing” of that time, I did ultimately realize that the word “God” addressed something very real to me.  The impetus of this realization was that rich and painful mix of desire, hope, despair, and yearning I felt for God.  It was all recognized as evidence that there was within me a kind of knowing that didn’t depend on the rational empirical approach to knowledge.  Even though I couldn’t intellectually grasp God, I still somehow knew God.   It was, and is, an intuitive knowing in the truest sense.  It is faith, and it is will.   It isn’t merely emotional, and it cannot be reduced to ego defense mechanisms.  This knowing is certainly intertwined with existential concerns, but it is not simply fantasy to cope with fears of aloneness, meaninglessness, and impermanence.  All of my thoughts and feelings about God, all my desires to know God in every possible way, were realized as aspects of my love for God, just as they would be for a human beloved.  I accepted that I was in love with God, and that my love needed no other evidence, excuses, or explanations.

Yet what relief is there in realizing one does indeed love God while that love continues to feel unrequited?  In ways, this can feel even worse!  It can be shocking to find no satisfying response from God in the wake of such a final acquiescence to the fact that one’s love for God is undeniable.   It can be so disappointing that some people give up all hope.  On the other hand, we might ask if there is something God would have us learn through this suffering, or rather what meaning we might find in it.  At the very least it can develop one’s compassion for others suffering in this way.  For some of us it may also build strength and self-reliance, and perhaps even facilitate self-realization and self-actualization.  In these ways, God’s silence may be for us like the apparent coldness of a mother bear ignoring her young, forcing them to leave her and get on with their lives.  It is as if God is saying, “Stop expecting me to make everything safe, comfortable, and meaningful for you.  It’s your life to live, and I’ve given you the freedom to make of it what you will, so go on and live it.”  Or is this God’s way of encouraging us to actively love God in and through relationships with other creatures rather than keeping our attentions turned within the cloisters of our own souls?  Perhaps that is one among many ways we can become more sensitive to God’s presence, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.  It is in that vein that I want to share another avenue of meaning that opened for me.

One day in early autumn of 2006, I was musing on this whole issue, and after the briefest pause of contemplative silence these words of St. Francis struck me anew:  “You are that which you are seeking.”  The following poem came out of that moment:

This Yearning Itself

Today, Mysterious Lord,
for you pours out this pining.
It is a sweet grieving.

As though for a dear father
who has left this world,
or a lost first love,
your memory haunts me.

Reaching out to embrace you
these arms enfold emptiness
and wrap themselves
back upon this burning heart.

Yet here you are
in this very melancholy,
the darkness in waiting,
and the longing light,
this yearning itself.

Our feelings of love for God, even the most painful ones, are evidence of the Holy Spirit stirring in our souls!   With further meditation, it struck me how well that fit with St. John’s assertion that God is love.  I realized I was in love with Love Itself, and that every experience of love was therefore in some way, to some degree, an experience of God, a mystical experience.  So, in November of that same year, I tried to express this awakening with the following prose, which I have at times called my manifesto:

After all these years in the study and practice of philosophy, psychology, and other crystallizations of human knowledge, after thousands of meditations and prayers, and countless dreams in both night and day, I have fallen in love with Love. After so long lightly kissing Her hand with the lip service of sophistication, I find myself reeling head over heels into the grand romance, to be seduced by the sacred Lover that is Love and Light and Life Herself. For long enough now, I have been coy with Love and settled for fascination with Her many adornments – the jewels of science that rest upon Her flawless breast, the silky rainbow of arts that are the garments veiling Her blinding perfection. I long to no longer fear being a fool for Love, and I wish to abandon myself in Her, for She is the essence of all wisdom. All the most precious sentiments and noble passions stirring in our hearts, all the most illuminating ideas within our minds, are these not the echoes of Her holy voice?

The great virtues of body, mind and spirit are nothing more than reflections of Love’s transcendent beauty. No mortal can hope to cultivate or command Her, for She is the Supreme Virtue to whom we can only surrender and serve. No mystic realizes union with the Divine but through Love’s unfathomable grace. St. Paul was right that faith, hope and even miraculous works are nothing without Her. Yet few of us are able to keep the eyes of our souls upon Her at all times, with all people, in all things. In our moments of failing vision, faith and hope are means by which we open ourselves to once again fall into the immediacy of Love’s embrace. To have faith in each other, to trust, to give our fidelity, to have hope for our mutual benefit, to cultivate optimism and confidence that together we can give birth to peace and joy, are these not the caresses of Her fingertips?

Join me and let us be lovers of Love. Let us find Her even in those we might hate for their ignorance and fear of Her. Let us sacrifice our own ignorance and fear that we might see Love’s singular light even in the distorted reflections we call evil. In Love we need not conquer or destroy, but nurse all harm into healing, and nurture all suffering as the pains of rebirth.  Join me and let us be lovers of Love.

The fall of 2006, the surrender as it were, wasn’t the end of my spiritual and existential struggles and suffering.  Sometimes I still feel a profound sense of frustration when I don’t experience Love’s love the way I want it – warm, reassuring, nurturing, tender, affectionate, uplifting, inspiring – but now I am more likely to patiently attend to these times, knowing that they too are moments of communing with the Holy Spirit.  I hope you might know this as well.

Agape

Jan 282012
 

Holy Sophia,
……You who silently moves
………upon the primordial deep,
…………Who communes with the One
……………in every moment of creation,
………………Whom Solomon the Wise
…………………praises as the grace most desired,
……………………O Paraclete and Pentecostal Fire
………………………I open myself to You.

Precious mystical Spirit,
a mere puff of Your hallowed breath
clears away the clouds and dust
from my unsettled mind
so that the dark shining stillness
ever possessing my soul
may better reflect You,
the Unspotted Mirror,
the Peace that Passes Understanding,
the Eternally Virgin Womb
upon Whom the Will casts Itself,
and within Whom the Word
is ever born anew.

Aug 192011
 

Dear friends, I hope you will join me in this prayer from time to time.

O Great Mystery,
O Divine Lover we seek without understanding,
O Love that transcends all sense and reason,
we open our hearts and minds to You now,
here in this moment, as though little chicks
opening their mouths for nourishment
delivered to them by a good mother and father.

We don’t really know how or why You feed us,
but we know that we live and we long for this;
and whether it is fear, faith, hope, or joy that moves us,
here we are crying out for You before all things,
You who is at once the food and the One who feeds.

O Unfathomable Truth,
moved by You we pour out our faith, hope and love
for our brothers and sisters, Your children,
who thirst and hunger for You.
Bless us all by accepting this offering
and delivering it to their hearts and minds
so that we may all feel Your mysterious presence,
so that we may all more fully know You,
our Light and Life, Love Itself,
the very Spirit of our souls,
the essential Mind of our minds,
the central passion that stirs all our desires.

Here our words fail us, O Ineffable One;
there are no images, no sounds we can cling to,
no emotions or sensations that capture You,
and so we simply relax and let them all go,
sitting right here, right now, attuned to the silence
in which all our words arise and depart,
attuned to the stillness in which all our feelings move,
attuned to the darkness in which all our images
flash into and out of being,
attuned to the mysterious realm within us
that gives birth to all, and is the nest and parent of all,
attuned to You.

Let us simply rest in this for a while
without expectation,
simply open and willing to receive
whatever may come as a sign of Your love,
even if it seems to be nothing at all
but this silence, this stillness, this darkness itself,
this seeming emptiness that is nonetheless
the source and the home of all that is.
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

 

Also posted at:  http://chuckdunning.blog.com/2011/11/30/a-prayer-for-spiritual-nourishment/

Jan 302011
 

I, this watching, listening, reflecting point of consciousness, in the depths of meditation experience the will opening awareness to the vast silence in which all thoughts come and go.  Attention traces back along the paths of their manifestation – from words back to images, sounds and feelings.  Through these forms it traces back to pulses of energy filled with potential and emerging from the silence as though born out of nothing.

With continued observation it becomes clear that in the silence, beyond all perception, are mysterious intelligent forces and dynamics composing those emergent pulses. In time it is discerned there are forces and dynamics of different categories, “intelligences” focused on different aims, each leaving a resonance within the pulses it sends.  Through these pulses and the forms into which they unfold, increasing familiarity finds that some of those intelligences are aware of this probing, and some of them desire to communicate and be known.

As intention and openness to communication builds on many sides, the mysterious intelligences respond at times with bursts and floods of energy pulses.  These bursts and floods stimulate imagination to unfold the most dazzling artistic displays in dreams, visions, locutions, and the like, brimming with the excitement and disclosure of newly met lovers. Growing intimacy clarifies the “voices” of various intelligences, each singing at different times in differing degrees of cacophony, harmony, or unison. Patient intention for truth eventually distinguishes within the chorus a certain voice interweaving itself in and through all the others. At first it seems only one among the many, yet it becomes realized as the one to which all others respond, as a choir does to the whispers and motions of its conductor.

With knowledge of the central wisdom and power of the intelligence behind that voice, I resolve to focus attention upon it. I make known my commitment to it and to all the intelligences that might listen, so that those which can still themselves or sing harmonious responses to that voice will do so and thereby assist me in communing with its source.  What follows is an attempt at transcribing some of our communication, freely acknowledging that my abilities to single out that voice, translate it, and understand its meaning are still in development and sometimes in error, or perhaps always so to some degree.

An Allegorical Conversation

Hello. I believe I am welcome to communicate as directly as possible with you, is that correct?

You are more than welcome, much more.

I feel awe in doing so. It is a mixture of excitement, joy, wonder, anticipation, so many feelings, but also fear, I must admit.

Yes, that’s all natural, including your fear. Be still. It passes.

Thank you.  I see that this is my response to the unknown, knowing that I cannot predict or control it. It is my lack of trust in myself to protect and preserve myself.

Yes, that fear and lack of trust stem from your desire to remain much as you are, to not die to the illusion of yourself, and the conflict of that desire with the knowledge of your limitations and the desire to be free from them, to die to the illusion of yourself as you know you must. It is simply part of your present existence that you cannot clearly discern the illusion of you from the essence that you truly are.  You know this.

Yes, I do. I wish it were otherwise.

You do and you don’t wish it were otherwise, which is fine.  In time it becomes otherwise, but outside of time it already is, always was, and always will be.  You know this, and that knowledge is what enables you to be patient with and even enjoy the illusion despite its torments.

Yes, and with that, in this moment, I sense a release from the fear of communicating with you so freely.

That’s right.  You are free to communicate with me as openly, honestly and informally as your most intimate friend, even more so.

Okay, that makes sense.  And, as in an intimate conversation with a dear friend, it naturally calls for devotion.

Yes, and with time the rapport builds.  Though there are phases in which I seem silent and distant to you, even absent, they pass so that you increasingly come to know we are present to each other in all circumstances.

I’m smiling with the thought and feeling of that.

As am I.

Hmm. I’ve wondered if you feel things like I do.

I feel everything, everything you feel, everything every creature feels, has ever felt or ever will feel.

That’s comforting, yet I cannot begin to imagine what that must be like for you.

Once when you were lucid you were asked what would happen if you didn’t imagine anything, and so for a moment you emptied yourself into complete silence and stillness, and then suddenly it was filled with golden light, as if by an explosion.

Yes! I recall it was so alive and full!  It was humming and buzzing and shining with so much energy!

That moment was a glimpse of what it’s like to feel everything all at once.

What do you call it?

Your mind might call it “Life”, “Light”, or “Logos” but your heart is already calling out another name.

Yeah, it’s “Love”, and more than I ever thought love could be.

Yes.

Love is everything. It is the Logos, the Life and the Light. Even the things I don’t always recognize as love must be Love.

Yes.

You are Love.

I am.

I want to know you, so much!

You do know me, and always have known me, and your knowing continues to grow.

Ah, yes, I have known you in so many ways, some of them lesser and some greater.

Yes, but now you know the greatness even in the least of these.

Ha ha ha ha!  Yes!  Yes, you remind me that as a child I learned to see you in the Jesus who spoke such similar words.

“Jesus loves the little children….”  You know the song.

Oh, you bring tears to my eyes!

I love you. You know it is always true.

Yes, yes, my beloved. I’m so grateful. My tears say what words cannot.

I am always with you. I know what is in your heart.

Yes, thank you.  I forget that so easily.  I am so easily distracted and absorbed in the illusions.

It’s okay. You are my child at play in the playground I have given you.  If I had not wanted you to forget yourself in play, I would not have made it so.

But there is not only joyful play here. There is labor and misery and evil here too.  Did you create these?

What I am about to tell you is only one way to comprehend this mystery, yet it is true. I create you and your kind with individuality. Into each of your beings I pour some of my love, my life, will, and creativity, and I seal it with the forgetting of its root, and then send you into the natural world with its laws, which I have ordained.  I do this so that you might be free to participate in creation with me, even to make worlds of your own.

In the forgetting of your root you sense your loss and limitation, yet the heat of my eternal being and the will to become is also there. Thus, believing you are that which is temporary and bound to space and time as you know it, rather than remembering you are that which is eternal and free, you desire to artificially make the temporal into something eternal, the illusory into the real, the relative into the absolute, and therefore cannot help but know the frustration of your desires and the fear of oblivion.

So it is that your ignorance and fear shape your understanding of things, and thus much of your relative reality, into what you call misery and evil.  Yet, I made all of this to be as it is, and though I am not bound to it, I am in it with you, within you and all around you.  I have not only sealed you with the forgetting of your root, but have also endowed you with the potential to break that seal and begin remembering me, and so begin to see love glowing through the veils that are your suffering.

If everything is love, even misery and evil, why should I care what anyone experiences or does?  Why be compassionate and ethical?

There are many ways to answer, and one way is this: Because you can’t really stop yourself.  It is part of who and what you are to want these things for yourself and others, and it would only be compounding the illusions of your life for you to pretend otherwise. This desire is part of what breaks the seal of forgetting your root. It involves recognizing your deepest self in others, for I am in each of you.  It is interwoven with your desire for the truth beyond the duality of evil and good as you know good, in that state where all is known as the Love that has no opposite.

Heaven. It’s about bringing heaven and earth together as much as possible.

Yes.

I believe all of this, but it’s still hard to understand how love can create circumstances that are sure to result in suffering. That seems more like cruelty than love.

From the perspective of separation it must seem to be so, but consider three things: First, I am with you even in that suffering, suffering with you, though in me the suffering is known as love.  Second, I only reveal the truth to you in the ways you are presently able to accept it.  Third, even to one who has awakened to remember and find union with me to the fullest possible extent, the necessity of it all shall remain a mystery, for it is such even to me, who knows it is undeniably true.

Even for you?!  Aren’t you God?!

I am.  Yet “I am” is somewhat like the awakening of consciousness from deep sleep.  It takes little attention for “I am” to know there is a still and silent One that is the transcendent source and substance of all that is possible and all that is impossible.  I am the first-born of That. I am one with That, yet I am not all It was, is or can be.

Ah, in this I hear the answer to why there is something instead of nothing: All we can know of this, all we can communicate, is that it is the mysterious will of the silent One.

Yes.

So you do not have the power to change the essential way of things?

Yes and no.  If I were to change the essential way of things, it would be the will of the One working through me, but the will of the One is for things to be as they are.

I can sense this line of questioning isn’t going to reveal much more to me.

You are free to change the subject.

Thank you. I feel this is a good place to rest, though one more question comes to mind: What if I share this with others? I know some will welcome it, but I know others will not, and I am a little fearful of how it will affect them and how they will respond.

Let go of your fear.  Remember that what they and you really are cannot be harmed, and that my love is always with you, each and all. When you share these words, some might hear it as you do and take comfort, and others might hear it as the babbling of a child and they will smile with grace. Some might hear it as a mockingbird heralding the dawn, as the howling of a dog in the night, the squealing of a hungry pig, or the taunting of a devil.  All hear as they are best able to hear, and they respond accordingly.  Go now and do what you must with love, from love, for love, and you will know me as you have said you want so much to do.

Thank you, Love.  It makes no sense to say goodbye.

Hello!

Jan 212011
 

Mysterious Source, may this analogy be faithful in following the light of love back to You.

It is as though within the infinite fertile blackness of Your womb You condense the quintessence of being into the single brilliant ray that is the light of love, and this ray You direct into and through the principle of becoming.  In this way, all possible possibilities manifest as the interconnected emanations of Your immanence.  So too does each seemingly separate beam not only stream forth uniquely, but also shines as an unerring beacon leading back through the principle of becoming and the ray of love to the quintessence of being, and thus to the primal unity of You.

All creation is a fractalization, myriad reflections mirrored in extension, in and of this process.

So it must also be with the light of consciousness and the principles of religion, science, philosophy, and art – each a prism in the Soul of Humanity receiving the light of Spirit – all pouring forth unique yet interconnected rays that manifest more of Your immanence while also providing the countless paths of love leading back to Your unity in darkness, silence, and mysterious transcendence.