I’m tackling a big subject today: one which is grounded in an insight which presented itself after a long period of silence and, as is so often the way, while I was doing something else entirely. It intrigues me how the intuitive seeds germinate in the darkness of the unconscious, growing, in obscurity, until they are ready to emerge and shock us into conscious awareness,
My morning ramble took me through the mangroves, along the boardwalk, and into a mysterious primeval world. People have often said to me that they find their sense of self-transcendence, of the sacred, in Nature, and this is something I can readily understand. Immersed in the natural world, away from phones and cars and the rush of the everyday, we become more attuned to our place in the scheme of things.
It was a perfect morning – sunny and warm, the chuckling of birds and the odd splash of a fish breaching the water, the only sounds to break the silence. After a pleasurable hour spent photographing the mangroves and simply basking in the beauty of the day, I made my way back to the car.
I headed for home, speeding along the narrow, winding road that hugs the hillside, slowing at each bend lest I meet cyclists toiling uphill, lycra-legs pumping as they train for some far-flung mountain race. And it was as I peered ahead, concentrating on the road, that a flash of insight passed across my mind. So brief that I almost stopped the car so that I could concentrate enough to recapture it, it flared for a moment and was gone; but it left its imprint behind, like the after-image of sunlight against eyelids.
Arriving home, I made a cup of tea and sat, thinking. I recalled a video I saw many years ago: Anthony de Mello, exhorting us to “wake up!” I understood his meaning then, I am living that meaning now. Not all the time, not consistently, but the awakening, the awareness, is there, and it sets its own agenda, taking us where we never expected to go. Today, the jolt of awareness was an experience of disorientation, rapidly succeeded by integration. How could I frame the insight in mere language?
Even now, as I write my blog, I find it difficult to convey what I saw. That moment on the road had been filled with light, but compressed within were many shifting images. Religious practices of many faiths, elaborate devotions of all kinds, endless study of texts and commentaries, a panoply of richly ornamented devices, the goal of which is sanctification. Each contained value, each was a signpost on the way. I know this, because my own journey has contained many such practices; they are a consolation, an encouragement, a discipline.
Then there is Silence. I have been here before. I have recognised this place, this truth. This time it was different. Like the resolution of a koan, it was the heart’s knowing, the synthesis of paradox.
More than twenty years ago I had a dream of the spiritual journey. It culminated in a scene in which I drove at speed along a tree-clad mountain road, leaving behind all that I had known, understanding that I was finally free. Today that dream manifested in both inner and outer worlds.
All devices fall away. Doctrines and dogma, faith and belief; these must eventually run their course. Not for everyone – each of us has a road to follow and, for some, these are essential and life-giving artefacts. But for others, for me, there comes a time when they dissolve in a blaze of light and we are left in the silence: not empty, but filled with the ineffable.
And that is why I cannot find the words.