Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dear Child

Dear Child

Even before you
Could behold the light of Earth
Your mother and you were one
Invisible and inseparable
Enfolded in the Infinite

She awaited the tender weavings
Of the threads of life
Till once in the light of day
Your soul awakened, and one became two

Time, like a spider, weaves
Its web of silver pathways
Upon which we are borne along
Alone, and yet together

The light of love
Weaves inner threads
That bind us on the journey
Becoming, one by one
In the Infinite, once more...


For Marthe

our newly born granddaughter
in gratitude

Art by Iris Sullivan

Friday, July 27, 2012

"The Piece of Heaven Outside My Window"

I have hesitated a long time before deciding to write about the woman who has been an inspiration to me for over three decades: a woman who found God by looking deep into herself. This statement could so easily sound like an evangelical calling, but such an association could not be further from the essence of the person to whom I am referring. For whatever she might have discovered, it was not religion in the context that most of us would recognise it. For her, religion merely meant one's own personal relationship with God, and seeing that God in everyone. The woman was Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman who, in the heart of the Holocaust, manifested a world of beauty and reverence. 

'Become who you are', was the lesson received by Etty Hillesum from her spiritual teacher, the palmist Julius Spier. And during the extreme conditions of the Second World War, that is what she strived to do. She remained true to herself, and through her example she has become a guiding light for many to this day. Her diary and letters bear witness to her spiritual awakening. She gradually learned to recognise a certainty in herself, a specific something that could never be taken away from her, a something that in a way made her invulnerable. In that part of her soul she recognised God.

The writing of her diary had a meditative effect upon her spirit. She ventured ever deeper into herself, eventually to discover God in the depths of her soul: "..and here is perhaps the most perfect expression of my life's feeling: I rest in myself. And that 'myself', that deepest and richest part of me in which I rest, I call 'God'."

On the day that Julius Spier died, on the very day that the Gestapo would come to take him away, Etty wrote: "You have allowed me to speak the name of God. You have been the intermediary between God and myself, and now you, my teacher, are gone, and with you my direct path to God. It is good that this happens, that is what I feel."

Etty believed that many people do not handle suffering in the way in which they perhaps need to. "People draw back from feeling suffering, and therefore become further entangled in fear and self-pity: suffering is not beneath human dignity. One can suffer either with or without dignity. What I mean is: most Westerners don't understand the art of suffering, and in its place put a thousand fears. This is no longer living, what most people do: fear, resignation, bitterness, hate, despair. My God, it is all so easily understood. But when this life is taken from them, then not so much is taken away from them? One accepts death as a part of life, including the worst form of death. And do we not live a whole life each day, and does it really make a difference if we live one day shorter or longer? I am with the hungry, with the mistreated, with the dying, every day, but I am also with the jasmin and with the piece of heaven outside my window. There is a place for everything in life. For a belief in God and for a terrible destruction."


The further the diary progresses, the more Etty's life is coloured by the resolution to place herself in the service of others. During the course of the diary she prepares herself more and more to go to the Westerbork concentration camp when her summons arrives, rather than choosing to go into hiding. In the first instance she did not seek to evade what she considered to be her fate and the collective fate of her people;  secondly she wanted to go with the others to be a support for them. The last words in her diary underscore this: "One would wish to be a bandage on many wounds." 

Etty Hillesum wrote her diary during a time of a great explosion of hatred and aggression, and in just such a time, as her only weapon, she chose love: "All catastrophes emanate from ourselves. In our inner selves we must free ourselves from everything, from every immutable possibility. From every cliché, from every tie that binds, we must have the courage to let everything go, every norm and every foothold. We must dare to make the great spring into the cosmos, dare to risk, and then, then, is life so endlessly rich and overflowing, even in its deepest suffering."

Survivors from the Westerbork camp confirm that for many in those dark days Etty was both a support and a mental shield, a shining example through the light of her personality.

On 7 September 1943 Etty Hillesum, together with her entire family, was set upon a train to Poland. A Red Cross notice reported that she had died on 30 November of that same year in Auschwitz, age 29.

You are welcome to read my second post about Etty Hillesum's life and insights here:
God will Nevertheless be Safe with Us

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Undivided Selves: Message from the Magdalene

Today is the saints day of Mary Magdalene. But which Mary Magdalene? Surely not the redeemed woman of ill repute, who is the version popularised and perpetuated by the church. Beyond this orthodox version is another, and it is this Mary - the Mary of our secret and spiritual selves, the wise Mary - whom I honour today.

This fresco shows Adam seeking his true source. Separated from this source in himself after the Fall, he will have to work hard to recover what has been lost. But there is hope! His garment of watery blue wavelets reminds him of the nature of the source, and the source itself, flowing forth from the feminine forms, is close beside him. Fresco from a monastery in Cantauque, Provence

In his article: "The woman in Gnosticism' , Gilles Quispel writes: "In the Nirvana of the original paradise the division of the human condition is transcended. The original human, Adam, was man and woman united in one before Eve was taken out of his side. When the sleep of unconsciousness overcame him - the actual Fall - the unity was lost, and the battle of the sexes became a fact. He, the Son of God, was himself an androgyne, both man and woman. Man must follow his example and also create from both man and woman a unity within himself." (G. Quispel, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica).

The relationship of Mary Magdalene towards Jesus was often described in Gnosticism as a relationship of spiritual love. In the preserved text of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mary says: "He has printed his seal within me. I have become what I originally was. I was born. I was in conflict. But I am become as one."

When Mary says that through her birth she was 'in conflict', she means that her entry into the material world precipitated tension and struggle in conflict with her spiritual longing.
Gnosis recognises the idea that nothing is individual. Everything is in division. But individuals are in the true sense of the word 'in-dividual': undivided. They are restored in their completeness and are no longer in conflict.
Jesus guided Mary in these mysteries whereby she once more became one. Which is to say: fully reunited with her spiritual being.

So our own contemporary use of the term 'individual', and its even being described as the cult of the individual, with all its emphasis on individuality and the personal ego, is actually a far cry from the word's original intended meaning: that of the undivided self. The Magdalene's words point us back to the true meaning, to the 'mother city', and away from the Roman stance of Peter, with its emphasis on the unyielding masculine rocks of the mountains.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Walking Toward the Mystery

I am walking toward the mystery
And I am walking slowly
I am in no hurry anymore
For I see both the known
And the unknown
My judgment is sound
And my aims are true

I feel my feet
When I am walking the silent watch
But if you need to cross a river
And it seems too hard to do
Then call on me
And I'll gather my strength
We’ll find a way

Let me tell you something
For I see doubt in your eyes
...believe me, my dear child
That now I am old,
I finally see that
Mine is the dark night
And also the moon

And when glimmering pathways
Appear on the river
My boat just follows
Life is that simple

Now I am walking toward the mystery
And I am walking slowly.

Painting by Richard T. Scott

Friday, July 13, 2012

She Wanders the Shore

She wanders the shore
Listening to the waves’ rise and fall
And the sounds of stories
That wash onto this beach
Where she stands

From far lands they have
Ridden the waves
To be with her

Gratefully she stoops
To gather them
Where they lie
Among the shells
And the foams' whiteness
Soon her baskets will be full

She wanders the shore
Listening to the murmurs
And the secret whispers:
All the tales of the world
That drift in with the tide
From the great and giving ocean of stories.

Photo Princess Angeline (Duwamish) in 1896 by Edward S. Curtis