Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Mystic Path: Voices and Visions

This is an interesting stage to consider as it is a stage where some might think the mystic has in fact gone mad. Evelyn Underhill suggests that visions and voices are to the mystic what pictures, poems and musical compositions are to the great painter, poet or musician, and that they are messengers which speak to all the senses, not only sight and hearing.

It seems to me that dreams are a form of vision, and the voice that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love heard telling her to "Go back to bed, Liz" was real to Elizabeth.  But of course, this doesn't mean that anyone that dreams or feels guided is a mystic.  It is just interesting to note that voices and visions are not as unusual as one would imagine.

Eileen Caddy, one of the founders of the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, in the book Weavers of Wisdom: Women Mystics of the Twentieth Century by Anne Bancroft says this about voices:

"You know if you start hearing voices and you're having a difficult time, you begin to wonder if you're going to end up in a mental hospital.  I thought I was having a breakdown, quiet honestly.  But that's the way it started, over thirty years ago, and I've been living by that voice ever since.  And that's what my life has been all about.  Listening, and not only listening but following it through."

"Listen, listen, listen," the voice said to her.  "To become a good listener you have to listen often.  You have to spend time in absolute stillness and learn to be."

So what did my SoulCollage® card representing this stage of the mystic path say to me?

I am the one who exists between earth and spirit.
I am the one who is all around you and always available when you need guidance.
I am the one who can show you your magic if you just look up and look within.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Mystic Path: Illumination

Illumination is the third stage of the path of the mystic. According to Evelyn Underhill to "see God in nature" and be conscious of the "otherness" of natural things is the most common form of illumination. Beauty inspires illumination and the state of illumination results in the expression of love and rapture, such as one finds in mystical poetry.

Poets such as William Blake, John Keats, Rumi, Hafiz and in my opinion, Mary Oliver share with us the discoveries they make when they feel close to the Divine. The artistic form is the best way to communicate the goodness, truth and beauty that the mystic is opened to in the state of illumination.

The following poems/extracts illustrate this for me.

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
John Keats

"To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."
William Blake 

The beauty of the heart
is the lasting beauty:
its lips give to drink
of the water of life.
Truly it is the water,
that which pours,
and the one who drinks.
All three become one when 
your talisman is shattered.
That oneness you can't know
by reasoning.

"I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world."
Mary Oliver

And as I let my SoulCollage® card speak to me, it says:

I am the one who receives illumination into my very core.
I am the one who basks in the light shining down on me.
I am the one who feeds on the beauty of the world around me.
I am the one who is infused with the pure joy of existence.

What poems remind you of your connectedness to All Life, a connectedness that makes you feel fully alive?

The Mystic Path: Purification

The second stage of the path of the mystic is Purification.  For some mystics, such as Clare of Assisi, this meant giving up all worldly possessions and living in poverty.  Richard of St. Victor said that it was self-simplification.  Evelyn Underwood calls it "the drastic turning of the self from the unreal to the real life ... an orientation of the mind to Truth."

I like the idea of simplification as it is something that I can relate to.  It reminds me of the Zen saying:
My house has burned down.
Now I can see the moon more clearly.
It is so easy to be distracted by the things we acquire that demand our time and attention.

This is my SoulCollage® card representing the stage of purification. 
Who are you?  I ask the card.
It responds:
I am the one who is purified by the power of water.
I am the one who is intent on focusing on the light of the Divine.
I am the one knows that for new beginnings to arise I need to let go of that which no longer serves me.
I am the one who sees the beauty in the process of offering myself for purification.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Mystic Path: Awakening

Going through my notes from Jean Houston's workshop on Women Mystics, and reviewing the journey of a mystic, I thought it would be a great idea to create SoulCollage® cards to represent the stages of the mystical path.  As I am a visual person I find image really grounds information I am learning in a meaningful way.  But my SoulCollage® cards were, as usual, ahead of me, and I found that many of the cards I was inspired to make shortly before I left for the workshop already spoke of the stages of the mystic path (which according to Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism are Awakening, Purification, Illumination, Voices and Visions, Contemplation, Ecstasy and Rapture, Dark Night of the Soul and Unitive Vision).

This card speaks to me of Awakening, which is the stage in which the mystic begins to have absolute knowing of his connection to the Divine.

"It was like entering into another world, a new state of existence.  Natural objects were glorified.  My spiritual vision was so clarified that I saw beauty in every material object in the universe." (Underhill, page 132)

This card says to me:
I am the one who is open to the beauty of everything around me.
I am the one who is ready to be cracked open.
I am the one who is held safely in the ancient hands of Divine Love.
I am the one who has wings to make the journey.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Journey to Mystical Creativity

I have returned from a week at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY attending a Wisdom University intensive on "Women Mystics and the Journey to Mystical Creativity" taught by Jean Houston and Peggy Rubin.

We were immersed in the history and work of well-known mystics who included Emily Dickinson, Florence Nightingale, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Mirabai, Lalla, Hildegard of Bingen.

We talked about the stages of the mystical path as discerned by Evelyn Underhill in her book, Mysticism.  These stages are Awakening, Purification, Illumination, Voices and Visions, Contemplation and Introversion, Ecstasy and Rapture, Dark Night of the Soul and Unitive Vision..  We explored these all in poetry, dance, a zen water ceremony and connecting with the senses.  Rich, deep experience.

Wisdom University recorded a part of each day of experience which allows me to share some of my experience of the week with you.  I hope you enjoy listening to Jean, Peggy and others talk about the journey to mystical creativity.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

For the Love of Books

A visit to my favorite thrift store book department in Chapel Hill yesterday had me thinking about Shakespeare and Company, situate on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame in Paris.  My daughter Amy and I visited this bookstore (which opened in 1951) on our recent trip to Paris, and it was easily one of our top five favorite things to do in Paris.  Many famous writers spent time writing in the many nooks you find upstairs at Shakespeare and Company or sleeping among the piles of books.  The entire top floor is almost a museum made up of a number of different rooms - none of the books there are for sale, and often book signings are in the small room overlooking the Seine.  In fact you will see the room if you watch the movie Before Sunset which is set in and around Shakespeare and Company.

If  you love books, a visit to Shakespeare and Company is a must on any trip to Paris.  It made me less concerned about the books piling up on the floor of the library corner in my studio now that I have run out of shelf space. And made me less guilty about coming home with around forty new books yesterday (new as in used but new to me).  Books feel like friends.  There is something about the energy of books that comforts me. Most of my books are non-fiction and I refer back to them from time to time for inspiration and information.

I especially love old books and I suspect this comes from the many happy days spent in the library in my grandmother's home when I was young, and the summers I worked in my father's law office. My favorite place was the law library surrounded by old books with leather covers. There is something about the smell and feel of books that just feels good.  And I know I need to enjoy them now, because perhaps in the not too distant future all books will be downloaded and we won't be able to feel and touch and  absorb the individual character of each that speaks to me more than merely the words contained in the book.