We continue our reflections on the Powers of the Universe as described by Brian Swimme with elucidating teachings from Jean Houston and quotes from the mystics.
Cataclysm: For the next level of growth, of deepening, something has to wake us up, shake us up. It may take a tornado to blow us all the way to Oz…. because “there is no way to that place” where the greatest gifts await us. “But thither (we) shall come, soon or never” as the old fairy tales say.
We must orchestrate the breakdown for the breakthrough to occur.
The mystics endured cataclysm in different ways: Julian of Norwich was sustained in her near-death experience by the presence of love; Angela of Foligno, who lived in Spoleto, Italy just after the time of Francis of Assisi, learned in the darkness where she lost everything that love would never leave her.
Afterwards did I see him darkly, and this darkness was the greatest blessing that could be imagined and no thought could conceive aught that would equal this. Then was there given unto the soul an assured faith, a firm and certain hope, wherein I felt so sure of God that all fear left me. For by that blessing which came with the darkness I did collect my thoughts and was made so sure of God that I can never again doubt but that I do of a certainty possess him.
Trust in the darkness and loss finally brings us through to the light.
Etty Hillesum, the 20th c. Jewish mystic who died in Auschwitz, wrote:
I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us, that we must help you to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.
Jean Houston says that the call is to “radical reinvention” in order to speciate, to become a deepening spirit of the earth for her new emergence.
Like the seed, the mystic must go down into the darkness of the earth, let go of the success of walking in the midday sun of her own achievements, her own goals and triumphs.
The mystic sinks down to earth, down to the ground of our being, so that there results a letting go, a giving up of all control. The mind stops grinding out thoughts and becomes simple. The most primitive feelings emerge. The practice and the behaviour are meant to bring one into the deepest introversion and to release all attachments to and projections on external objects or persons. With that the inner world becomes enriched and enlivened. There comes a reunion of what is human with the divine. (Here All Dwell Free by Gertrude Mueller Nelson p. 142)
We ask, but it must be for nothing – nothing that belongs to the world of power or ego. We seek passionately, we knock madly. We weep. We pray. We call out. When everything is given up and opened out, we empty ourselves. And God fills in. ( Nelson p.141)
Synergy: mutually enhancing relationships allow us to recreate after cataclysm
Life at the Benedictine Monastery of Helfta was an illustration of this: four mystics lived there in the 12th century, sustaining one another in faith and love and their mystical experiences. The writings of the mystics can offer synergistic energy, the guidance and wisdom we need; now we are more deeply aware of the earth and its living beings, of the universe itself as offering shared energies to us; the bio-mimicry that teaches us how creatures on our planet survive cataclysm; the characters in the Wizard of Oz, representing heart and brain and courage are a splendid example of synergy.
Transmutation: slow but deep change over time releases us from old powers that hold us in check: the personal unconscious (Freud); the collective unconscious (Jung); the whole biological nature (Bateson). The universe is at work within us: we are part of the cosmological unconscious (Swimme); the universe reflecting upon itself through us. (Teilhard de Chardin)
On the mystic journey, our own efforts to be still, to listen, to pray, to seek inner guidance seem small and yet slowly bring a change in our sensibilities, opening us to the Powers of the Universe that are within, awaiting our engagement.
Terese of Lisieux said our efforts are like a child trying laboriously to lift her feet to climb high steps until at last love scoops her up in her arms, carries her to the top…
We know of the slow evolution of species; the ancient tale of the earth gradually being created by bits of soil being placed on the back of a turtle… we recognize transmutation taking place in us when we no longer fit into old patterns, relationships, structures. Then we must seek out others to help us to keep going.
(Next: The Power of Tranformation)