Into the Deep - Part 2
I don't know that I can claim the term unfolding, but I resonate with so much of this. I too am wary of the dramatic conversion experience, and the ways we want to pin all our fears and hopes and dreams onto that one moment of revelation. But I have found myself constantly experiencing smaller moments of metanoia that reveal, in that unfolding pattern, the Christ at the heart of creation and my own being. I still struggle to talk about it, and to cleanse it of all the encrustations of my upbringing.
Grateful as always for your reflections here. The past few years of my life have been an unexpected experience of something "quiet and obvious and unfolding" and I can feel hesitant to put it into words. In a lovely synchronicity, when I did first try to put it into words, in a message to a friend, I saw almost those exact same words reflected back at me in the introduction to a book my friend then recommended to me: We Must Become Mystics, by Mark Vernon.
I grew up without much Christianity besides the default school-assembly kind - and even that was in the Welsh language - and learning how little I knew about Christianity, and how wrong I was in some of my assumptions, has been humbling. My 15-year sojourn through paganism and druidry has been a huge part of what led me to this moment and continues to inspire me even as I draw nourishment from the structure and depth offered by the Christian traditions I have found myself exploring.
But perhaps one of the greatest gifts of this unfolding, for me, is that it has lifted the burden of needing to feel significant in any way, and offered me the gift of fully inhabiting the smallness of my self, which I finally feel able - even eager - to accept. In this small corner of the world, which is neither fully one place or another, I have work that is mine to do, and I find I can do it gladly.
I'm fascinated by these new stirrings of Wild Christians. I too grew up in (American) evangelical church, and eventually it was my husband standing up there in front preaching. Now we are lost wanderers without a church home but our faith even stronger. This is all so very close to our hearts; I hope your feeling of embarrassment passes. We know many people who are feeling a great hunger to see the threads you trace connect again. I'm sure we aren't the "cool" people to be associated with -- but we are authentic.
I wonder if it is easier to get down with Christianity if one is not inhabiting a female body?
I am coming to the end of McGilchrist's 'The Matter with Things' - the grand finale and climax of which is 'the sense of the sacred' - and I had noticed several references to Charles Foster along the way (including a very positive soundbite on the back cover) - how marvellous that he has been involved with Dark Mountain! I believe it to be very true that there are a lot of hidden friends moving in parallel in the dark - perhaps when the dawn rises and we realise just how 'not-alone' we are, then will come the revolution! ;) And you were influenced by the Radical Orthodox, fascinating. I look forward to more of this.
This "speaks to me" now.
I find myself longing, lately, for more comfort in silence and not knowing, to discover it as a place of deep rest and ease. I've always had some comfort in these, but not so much that I could , eyes shut in the night, enter the darkness and silence with the comfort and ease which is deep rest. I know in my bones, now, that ... and this is where I must slip in the X which marks the lacuna, for I cannot know what it might be. Not yet.
Thanks for this writing, Dougald: most subtle. Brian Bates's Way of Wyrd popped into my mind while thinking about your thoughts; read it way back in mid-80's. I do envy your encounter with the parliament of covids. I hear that the Animals are Talking (Sonia Shah writes in the NYT) but What do they Mean?
I digress: last night I listened in to the first session of Tom Cheetham's lecture series "Queerer Than We Can Suppose - Lectures on Love and Psychocosmology". 20 years ago I heard him lecture at Temenos when he was over in the UK to launch his new book "The World Turned Inside Out: Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism". Way back in '76 Golgonooza had published Corbin's "Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and the Imaginal" in affordable paperback which I remember reading, so I was kind of prepped for the Temenos lecture in 2003. After hearing Cheetham talk, I subsequently read enthusiastically The World Turned Inside Out but then, halfway, abruptly stopped as my markings show. (As prep for the current lectures I'm re-reading it, and again, I can hardly put it down.)
This is not an easy book for it takes us into a world metaphysically constructed in a way quite different from that of Machine Modernity. However, I now realise that Cheetham's ( then) interpretation of Corbin's philosophical quest was framed by his reading of James Hillman and that this eclipsed his perception of the formative influence of Russian religious philosophy on Corbin in 1930's Paris. Lacking this key context -the influence of Russian religious thought - I couldn't link Cheetham's book into any personally significant narrative.
Forgive me if this is off-page, but Russian theosophy was really essential to me in the 70's, especially as represented by Berdyaev. The discovery that Corbin's navigation into esoteric Islam grew out of his interest in Russian sophiological thought happened when I recently stumbled upon a brilliant dissertation paper by Hadi Fakhoury published by McGill Uni in 2013.
So, tonight is lecture 2 of Queerer Than We Can Suppose with Tom, titled A New Chart of the Imaginal. It's based on a late article by Corbin in which he sets out to clarify further his meaning of the Imaginal. I think we're going to end up in a very weird place; I will try and hang on in there. The online background for the above is Tom Cheetham's substack "As Variously As Possible" at https://tomcheetham.substack.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=substack_profile and Hadi Fakhoury's "Henry Corbin and Russian Religious Thought" on https://www.amiscorbin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Fakhoury.pdf
This gave me chills in places, and I sense something (s) emerging from the swamps and vales of our deeper selves in these associations. The manner in which conventional religion has split the human soul from it's sources in nature has always struck me as a fundamental catastrophe. Conventional attempts to heal the divide through notions of Christian "stewardship" seem to merely confirm the conceit. Rejecting the mystery all together leaves us where? It can't be ignored because it is felt. And I love that you were alerted to it by the human craft you saw in old buildings, "the dialogue between body, mind and matter, the weave of applied intelligence, that making once required." There's a portal in that work that's hard to describe but has profoundly affected me as a tradesperson. I find myself thinking of an opening to a poem I've never been able to finish. 'We will find the words in our footprints as we walk them/following the creeks of their meanings down the dark mountain..."
Thanks Dougald. I’m sure the next hold will present itself. For some reason I’m looking forward to a post on how you became unstuck. And I’m thinking of all the Dougalds and Dougies, the dark strangers coming down the dark mountain. The liminal, peripheral spaces, the pearl found by the scavenger. I’m excited for you.
From a journal of writings I kept more than a decade ago now and that I am now plundering for ideas ... "Gravity gets us all, sooner or later. This may not be the most original observation, but at this age these words increasingly resonate with me. I am not the centre of the world, but I am the centre of my world, however irrelevant that might be in the greater scheme of things. Somewhere inside, I can’t relinquish the thought, the belief, that our little lives, confounded as they are by a million contradictions and confusions, nevertheless, add up. The whole is, in some mysterious way, greater than the sum of the parts. Given the suffering of so many in this world, such a belief might seem like a solipsistic fantasy. But for countless millions, it is what sustains them through their daily lives. We, over-educated Westerners, should temper our cynicism in the face of such overwhelming odds. To do so, we are not required to surrender our hard-won powers of reason. Instead, like Stalker, in Tarkovsky’s film of that name, we need to cultivate a deeper faith – in life, in the mystery of creation that we find ourselves immersed in. Let us attune our senses to find joy in the sounds, colours, sensations, now, in this moment. Feel the pull of planetary energies and forces, below our feet in the surging ocean of molten rock, above our head in the infinity of star-spangled space. Resist the dull-minded, horizontal thinking of the everyday world. “The purpose of art is the lifelong construction of a state of wonder.” Glenn Gould. Without such a faith in life, what would there be to stop me leaping off Waterloo Bridge at the next hightide." I still accord with this. Faith in life, not the church, not the distractions of religious protocols and their policing of our bodily and transcendental lives.
You had me at Jackdaw, even if your taste in pocket cards does run toward Joker.
Pretence aside, surprise and an honor at the red card. The companionship of black feathers and a roof between the ruins is the last currency here. Bottoms up to that bottle into the neck of the same.