Friday, September 29, 2017

Saint Michael and the Dragon

When the Saint George of legend valiantly sets out to fight the dragon and rescue the fair maiden, the king’s daughter, he not only accomplishes his mission; he also supplies us with a powerful archetype of the bold knight and the damsel in distress. But: ‘as above, so below’ is the dictum at the cornerstone of Western mysticism, and so we might expect to find Saint George’s bravery mirrored by events in the heavens.

Today, September 29, we celebrate the feast of the archangel Saint Michael, whose name means ‘the one who is like God’. The principal task of Michael is to fight against evil, and evil in Western tradition is personified by the dragon. According to John of Patmos, the author of the Book of Revelation, this battle between these two ultimate adversaries took place in the heavens. John gives us a stirring account of the conflict: Michael and the other angels fight against the dragon and its accompanying demons, “and the great dragon, that old snake… was conquered and thrown out of heavens into the deep.”

When we gaze up into the night sky it might seem a peaceful and orderly place. But appearances can be deceptive, for our telescopes reveal to us stars exploding with such violence that the worlds around them must surely be destroyed. The cosmos is itself a battleground, and reflects the epic struggle of the angels taking place on less visible planes. In John’s narrative Michael emerges as the victor of the battle against the powers of darkness. And so the celebration of Saint Michael on this day is a calling to us to acknowledge and recognize those powers which seek to unbalance the cosmic equilibrium, and each in our own way to strive against them, whether they be destructive forces in the world itself, or demons of a more personal nature with which we must do battle inside ourselves.

And so Saint George rides out to join battle with the terrible monster and rescue the fair maiden. The maiden is essential to the story, for she represents all that is pure and good: those qualities that must be guarded and cherished, especially in the face of evil. Saint George battles the dragon on earth as Saint Michael battles the dragon in the heavens. The one reflects the other, and although the outcome of the battle might at times seem uncertain, to fight and to strive for victory is all and everything.

Painting by James Powell

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

At the Still Point of the Turning World

To ‘stand in truth’. What this phrase means will be different for each one of us, for we all have our own personal truth. But beyond this personal truth, we probably feel intuitively that such a place to stand is a place beyond the habitual momentum which pushes us forward, a place which is, in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, at ‘the still point of the turning world’. We feel that this is a place of peace and sanctuary, where it is safe for us to let go of all those chattering voices in us that, perhaps for years, have told us that we are ‘unworthy’, or that we ‘cannot’, or that just give us a feeling that we are ‘not good enough’.

This place where we can ‘stand in truth’ is a place where we can dare to push off from to meet new challenges, even if we feel that our legs tremble with the effort. For this place invests us with the authority of our true Spirit. 
But where is this place to stand? Anywhere where we are, we only need to take one step inside ourselves towards it, and we are there. This is because it is a place where the universe wishes us to be. We only need to show that we are willing to be there, and it will rush to meet us, and allow us to ‘stand in truth.

Painting: The Pilgrim at the Gate by Edward Burne-Jones

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Gentle Guide

As we travel through the landscape of our lives we must be willing “to go” where the Divine Energy takes us. Often, we must be pried out of familiar surroundings, security, comfort zones, and ego identities. The universe will move us: as old skins cannot contain new wine, and we find we are no longer able to live the old life we once found so secure. Once we arrive, temporarily to rest, with introspection we can then look back and say "Ah... now I see the workings of Wisdom in that journey." 
Sophia - Wisdom - always allows us time to get settled into the new skins, the new view, the new unknown. Her Spirit is a gentle guide, quietly leading, prodding, and moving us to a new heightened sense of awareness and a new view of our souls and the internal work that needs to be done.

Ink painting by Gao Xingjian