Saturday, 12 March 2011
Why did no-one tell me about this in 12 years in Romania? 9 March is the religious holiday of "Mucenici" in memoriam of the 40 martyrs killed in Sevastia. Housewives prepare pretzels in form of number 8, then they make a kind of soup with a lot of sugar, nuts and cinnamon and of course the pretzels. There is also a tradition to drink 40 - but some say 44 - glasses of wine.
An American posted this on Facebook and I imagined Romanians had been playing a joke but no. Sounds more fun than Ash Wednesday.
Actually this is not I know true because Lent is a great joy and dissipation, as Nietzsche said and as everyone over 30 knows, conceals a great deal of melancholy. But how very little I know about Romania.
On this subject I quote a line by Katherine Anne Porter:
On this subject I quote a line by Katherine Anne Porter:
"They had both noticed that a life of dissipation sometimes gave to a face the look of gaunt suffering spirituality that a life of asceticism was supposed to give and quite often did not."
" It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."
" Shared joys make a friend, not shared sufferings."
" You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."
" In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play."
" Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern, like bad wallpaper."
" Shared joys make a friend, not shared sufferings."
" You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."
" In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play."
" Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern, like bad wallpaper."
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Procrastination is the fear of success... Because success is heavy, it carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the "someday I'll" philosophy.
Write books only if you are going to say in them the things you would never dare confide
The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse.
M. Scott Peck
Life is difficult. This is one of the greatest truths because once we truly get it- we transcend it. Once we accept this, then life is no longer difficult. Because once we accept it, the fact that it is difficult no longer matters.
Things can be done. The people in life who get them done are the ones who know that, and the ones who don't are the rest.
Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message
The most terrible thing about materialism, even more terrible than its proneness to violence, is its boredom, from which sex, alcohol, drugs, all devices for putting out the accusing light of reason and suppressing the unrealizable aspirations of love, offer a prospect of deliverance.”
Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.
I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die. For these two discoveries I am beholden to Jesus.
The pursuit of happiness, which American citizens are obliged to undertake, tends to involve them in trying to perpetuate the moods, tastes and aptitudes of youth.
Travel, of course, narrows the mind.
Sexuality is the lyricism of the masses.
All we do our whole, lives long is to go from one pice of holy ground to another.
It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know that they won’t save us any more than love did.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God
The past is attractive because it is drained of fear.
An intense preoccupation with politics is usually a means of putting painful personal conflicts outside ourselves, disowning them.
Alexandre Dumas fils
It is only rarely that one can see in a litle boy the promise of a man, but one can almost always see in a little girl the threat of a woman.
Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual; they fail to realize that the brilliant insight is not by itself achievement. They never have learned that insights become effectiveness only through hard systematic work.
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
A thick and shapeless tree-trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture, and would never submit itself to the chisel of the sculptor, who sees by his genius what he can make of it.
There are very few people who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands and let themselves be formed by his grace.
He who knows others is wise, he who knows himself is enlightened
The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.
The state of someone who has failed to overcome his fantasy self, and find his central unity, is that of someone who still cannot, at the deepest level of his being, take anything seriously except his own ego.
An intellectual is someone who has found something more interesting than sex.
To the man in the street who, I’m sorry to say,
Is a keen observer of life
The word intellectual merely denotes
A man who cheats on his wife.
The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.
A clumsy right hand cannot be trained into a skillful right hand by taking thought, by wishing it were less clumsy, or even by avoiding clumsiness. It can become skillful only by exercise in practical achievements, and the incentive to the achievement must be more deeply felt than the discouragement at the hitherto existent clumsiness.
There is no such thing as talent. There is pressure.
More important than innate disposition, objective experience, and environment is the subjective evaluation of these. Furthermore, this evaluation stands in a certain, often strange, relation to reality.
Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.
The self-bound individual always forgets that his self would be safeguarded better and automatically the more he prepares himself for the welfare of mankind, and that in this respect no limits are set for him.
The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.
You have two birth-places you have the place where you were born and then you have a place of predilection when really you wake up to reality....
Before my love has a chance to crystalise, it turns into a deep, a devouring friendship.
A woman's best love letters are always written to the man she is betraying.
I'm reminded of this line from the movie The Red Shoes: "Life rushes by, time rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on dancing forever." All of that applies to me, except for the red shoes part. Everything seems to be rushing by, and I'm floating above it all, reaching my hand out to life, but not quite grasping it, like waving your hand for a taxi that is clearly occupied.
Woke wide awake at 3.25 and got ready briskly.
IHT read with my coffee
In the street below my flat the taxis waited outside Club A and I told my taxi driver this made me feel old. When you get to our age ...he said. How old? 53. He didn’t think the 6 year gap between our ages significant.
Do I like people moving around visiting foreign countries? My very powerful inner child wants to swagger the nut-strewn roads, crouch in the fo'c'sle while my reactionary false persona disapproves of people gadding round getting ideas. Getting foreign ideas or new ideas is dangerous but actually new ideas would be much better than what they do get which is ideas that are not very new. Mobile telephones are changing the last fastnesses forever. Is Burma still mobile free? Cuba and North Korea are of course. A shopping centre stands on Ferdy’s confiscated land in Burma.
I think Jerusalem might actually be very wonderful with Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims. I hope it is not too touristy and tidy and painted. In the Arab parts I hope to be happy. Especially the West Bank. Wish I could get to Gaza.
People are never so human as when alone and never so human as when waiting in an airport for their transfer. Do I love the human race? When meeting one do I think what jolly fun? It depends. Travel puts one in touch with a large number of very vulgar people whose existence one had not suspected (I am a locksmith’s son) but not in Budapest at 9 am local time.
Wonderfully nice woman at information in Tel Aviv who called my business contact for me. Wonderfully kind woman at the station who put my banknotes into the machine and told me exactly what to do.
I see that I always carefully suppressed certain anti-Semitic prejudices: that Jews are tough; selfish; pushy; ungenerous. And these hidden prejudices are not true at all. And how odd to be surrounded by Jews everywhere. What a bizarre idea. And speaking a dead language Hebrew. And brought here from so many different countries. Poland, Syria ....
A very sweet couple on the train early twenties. The boy a waiter with an open face knows that everyone in the world hates Israelis. Is it exactly like this? Are they the new South Africans? Guess so and I am out of touch. The world is constantly persecuting (so said Arthur Balfour who is responsible for Israel’s existence and he was very right.) Because Israel is the antithesis of multiracial idea – the idea that a state should be an ethnicity is very unfashionable. The girl a very pretty blonde teaches English grammar and did 2 years military service which she enjoyed – in trousers not miniskirt. The boy did three. He had blue-violet eyes and was kind rather girlish. Her family was from Austria his came from Poland in 1960.
How new the buildings are - a bit like new buildings in Turkey.
The taxi driver sixties wise his 8th grandchild born three weeks ago left Poland in 1957 when Gomulka let the Jews go without any of their possessions. The only other Jewish boy read the Jewish Chronicle before breakfast, the Polish boys had nothing in their heads. The boy they called the professor is now a professor in Canada. A pang – this should have been my destiny.
This place is not Europe. A bit like Turkey. A bit like Egypt but richer. Slightly like Greece?
The hostel where I pay $89. Not cheap but the cheapest I found and my room very comfortable with bathroom, nice hard bed.
In the evening some of old Jaffa. The towers of Tel Aviv to the North. A charming place which reminded me of Amasra. The Balkans. Touristy but not insufferably so. A buzz. A sense of being slightly forgotten. Not many tourists on October 1. Later I was told parts of Jaffa are dangerous.
Some very pretty girls. Sense of a party.
Unexciting meal at kosher restaurant cost me 200 shekels = 150 RON with bottle of surprisingly drinkable Carmel wine, much better than Turkish or Syrian stuff. Behind me a man said the only danger you’ll face in Golan is that it might rain. I was pleased that the owner of the restaurant stuck his hand into the salad to stir it into the humus for me. I told him I liked the warmth of Israelis. His reply was sublime; he said it’s the same in every Middle Eastern country.
Flea market. Stretching street after street in a slightly dilatory way. A bit like Caribbeans in Finsbury Park. I like Jaffa. An hour long walk along the front to Hotel Carlton not a good idea as I arrived late and very hot. Len’s contact a Jewish woman lawyer with an opera bag and dressed like a fairy from a Victorian pantomime. Keen to get on. Jews are the quintessential bourgeois – I remember I was surprised to find the middle class were eager to get on and make money when I came to Bucharest. Before that I saw them as my superiors, high-minded. You can take the boy out of a deferential working class family but....
I wanted to enter Jerusalem by train but it was not destined. At the station they asked for my passport and could not find the visa I had asked them to write on a piece of paper. Len whom I called said the woman must be a nutcase but he couldn’t help. Anxiety – where is the piece of paper? Did I put it with my receipts? Where did I put them?
The bus. The baggage holder unguarded and I could easily have stowed my luggage laden with bomb and walked away. Slept till Jerusalem.
The hostel. A real one unlike the last one. Little room with no towel or soap or mirror. A Jew in a white costume with a skull-cap from Ilford. He explained the festival of the tabernacles in a voice that reminded me of Peter Cook in that sketch about waiting for the end of the world. An American receptionist about to be circumcised and convert to conservative Judaism. He reminded me of Chris Harrison. But my instinct told me there was something not ok about him. On the other hand was Chris Harrison OK? And Chris Harrison had no religion and voted Liberal Democrat.
Too many souvenir shops. Too much tack.
Do I feel anything here? Really? Beyond irritation. Irritation at the waiter not bringing me a Turkish coffee spoilt my first view of the Golden Horn just disembarked from the train in Constantinople in 1990.
The insolence of an Italian guide
Appears to have been the reason that he died.
Another place with the same tourist industry. Like some international chain store?
Black-hatted Jews scurrying through narrow streets to be back before the sun goes down and the sabbath begins. Why do grown men and women say shabat instead of sabbath when speaking or writing English?
Dusk gathering at the wailing wall and Jewish in Polish dress dancing, high kicking – men in one section the women on the other side. My feelings towards Jews en masse different from seeing then singly where they seem keen to get on unashamedly a bit pushy subconsciously do I feel they are an (albeit valuable and likeable) oriental intrusion?? Do I think any of this?
After three glasses I announce on Facebook: I suddenly understand. I love Jews because they are Arabs.
Good wine in a tourist cafe. An arcade a bit like and no doubt coeval with Pasajul Victoriei. Wonderful jazz played by an itinerant French clarinettist with a charming smile. The Hotel Imperial, am elderly dowager very down on her luck indeed mixing in very low company. Exactly the kind of hotel I like. . Did it once house shabby Russians like Yakimov? The old town empty after dark but I finally found an Armenian restaurant. Pretty Armenian girl who has been often to Yerevan. Refused entry to Tbilisi and the Israelis could not help her because her passport was Jordanian so she lost $1000.
As well as tourists there were Arabs dining, handsome women, a chic about them and a warmth. So I imagined from my solitary seat at the bar.
Woke at 5.30 and decided not to try to sleep. Waking at 3.20 has thrown out my rhythm.
Now I am here before the tourists and I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I received communion and hope I was in a state of grace. Brendan received communion with me in Antwerp cathedral despite coming into Mass at the end.
But the first moment of true happiness now sitting drinking coffee outside a lock-up house near the church. Because I smell that smell which every medina has. What? Not cumin? Some spice. The men beside me inhale tobacco from hubble bubble pipes. One wears a headgear of the Arafat type. The best time to be here is when there is trouble and violence. Firdaus understands Tony Gray does not.
Michael Grant is so persuasive against the Virgin Birth and when that goes so does Catholicism. The Church is not the infallible guide to faith and morals, no longer supernatural. This made me unhappy in Belgrade reading it. What is remarkable is that I think about these things without emotion or great interest today. Is this an anti-pilgrimage?
I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.
Lord I am self-indulgent and self-absorbed and over intellectual. Have mercy on my soul.
Walk a lot gorge at 12.30 on foul in a nice little very humble place recommended –Lina. Sleep. Then I didn’t go to Bethlehem.
I am full of anger I see, irritation. I am not in touch with my feelings. Think too much. Feel far too little.
A man in the bazaar called me Father. He did not make a sale. He looked my age, probably 23. The age I think I am. I said why do you call me father? Because you look like a father.
Why am I not moved by Jerusalem? By the place where my Saviour was crucified or even by the history architecture and current politics?
Too many tourists? It is not dying from tourism like Venice or the Baltic capitals or Dubrovnik’s old town. People live here, lots of them and sometimes they even fight each other.
If the Virgin Birth did not happen that does not mean the incarnation did not or the resurrection.
My feet ache. What am I doing here?
Tourism makes an adolescent of us all, staring at people, feeling different from them , picking at ones breast for emotions which are not there, – except the relaxing at the beach kind of tourism. I am an adolescent anyhow. Puer not connecting – due to the anima putting a plastic envelope between me and life per von Frank.
The Hotel Imperial looks like it is noisy but single rooms cost $50 the same price as my wretched cabin. Allenby stayed there as an Englishwoman told me. Her black companion spoke with a broad Manchester accent.
Found by accident the hostel in East Jerusalem where I had booked. Then persuaded the old Arab manager at the Imperial to give me a room for 1 night for fifty dollars – no window. Very shabby genteel and pretty seedy – I love it.
The boy broke my wheeler- suitcase. ‘You must be incredibly stupid’ and he said what did you say and I found myself feeling I was in the wrong and a little scared. When will I be assertive? Andrew would have handled it differently. Instead I felt the weight of needing to struggle when I told the manager. And guilt towards the other hostel I walked there and paid them 100 shekels = €18. Was the boy breaking my suitcase divine punishment for my not honouring my bargain. Jon Rinnander would think this is superstitious. Jax would think you must stick to your word. I think: why am I thinking so much at the age of 47???
I took a bus for 4 shekels to the border near Bethlehem and walked across with a nice pair of German art students. The security fence looked very efficient rather like the Berlin Wall and a good idea but later I read that it does not follow the ceasefire line and cuts off some Palestinian farms, A sweet taxi driver took us to the town for 5 each – I love male Arab faces in their 50s and over. and we sat and chatted at his friend’s souvenir shop ad they decided they didn’t want to split the fare with me to go to Jericho which I would rather have liked.
The famous church of the manger. Crusader mostly but bits Byzantine including a 5th century mosaic. Shared by several churches. A wonderful reredos. The crypt with the star where the manger was where Our Lord was buried. Reaching my hand inside to touch the star felt somehow sexual.
Various other chapels whose meaning I did not understand. My fault I had no guide.
I cannot hide from myself that I do not believe that Our Lord was born in Bethlehem. Doubts about the Virgin Birth. The church does not move me from the religious or aesthetic points of view though as an historical monument it is something.
The rest of the town. Nothing of interest except a West Bank town populous poor and likeable once Christian now 80% Muslim.
I shared a taxi with two nice Eritreans the younger very pretty with a queenly rear (Meredith’s phrase) a la Zeinab Badawi. The other had been married to a politician who had been in prison for 13 years. She said she hated to think about what the British and Italians did but we are in the Holy land let’s forget. She found Israelis trying. You know what they are like. She was illegal for many years finally became a citizen. Her pretty cousin got a job in Macey’s in San Francisco without by her account much trouble.
I love Israelis but am becoming pro-Arab - boring though the whole thing is - not at all amused by the sign at the Royal David Hotel recording how sorry the Jewish terrorists were for the 97 people they blew up - including our soldiers. Which Austrian said in 1849 we shall astonish the world by our ingratitude? He should have been Israeli.
I walked out of a Spanish Mass this morning during the sermon thinking to find one in English and I ended up not finding one at all. And in the Holy Land! I love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at night full of shadows exactly the kind of thing Spaniards love and American Protestants flinch from. I found a subterranean tomb in the near darkness. A Spaniard explained it might be the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea. I thought involuntarily of Gormenghast but Gormenghast is about something dusty and half-dead not something alive.
IHT read with my coffee
ASTONISHINGLY, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” the groundbreaking BBC comedy series, is 40 years old this year, almost as ancient as the Beatles. As Terry Jones, one of the six-member troupe who created and acted in the show, said recently: “Time just seems to get quicker. You look in the mirror in the morning and you think, ‘I’m already shaving again!’ ”
The principals are all in late middle age now, jowly and graying, and have in some ways become the very sorts of people they used to poke fun at.
Fresh clashes at Jerusalem shrine
Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police in Jerusalem after police closed a compound with sites sacred to Jews and Muslims, citing security concerns.
The protesters threw stones and bottles at the police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Several Palestinians are reported to have been detained, including a former minister, Hatem Abdulqader.
Monday 5 October 2009
The difficulties of biblical scholarship. Yesterday at the chapel the story of Our Lady dropping a drop of milk on the ground that turned to stone is clearly a fable but the whole nativity story, her perpetual virginity, the location Bethlehem all seem fabulous, folkloric. Not like the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. But without the virgin birth the church is not infallible and one is not a Catholic for the virgin birth is a dogma. And how does the incarnation look if Our Lord is not born of a virgin by the intervention of the Holy Spirit? Lord I believe (do I?) help Thou my unbelief.
The ceremony of the blessing of the priests in front of the Wailing Wall – wonderful joyous occasion and wonderful singing of prayers the place full of children full of happy people. How right de Maistre was to love the Jews for their conservatism. I love them too for the same reason, the ultra religious especially. But unlike devout Catholics they are said to be astute at making money and do not esteem celibacy.
I found the Via Dolorosa which was invented fro mediaeval pilgrims and does not reflect the real path Our Lord walked with the cross yet His feet did walk this small town. Though the Romans razed it a generation later ( a strong argument methinks for believing He is God).
Turkish coffee the Israeli paper in English baklava this is happiness sitting in the Muslim quarter. The best quarter because people buy things here for everyday use. Why does this make me so happy? Something to do with not taking part observing enjoying a drug enjoying a sensual experience too early to notice the lack of structure in my day.
A happy day. Happy in the Muslim quarter.
The Armenian Cathedral of S James. Both SS James – the apostle and the mysterious brother of the Lord - the head of a Jewish Christian church that disappeared?
Gloomy, ancient, a sung Mass in an unknown tongue. The truth is closer here than in an English language Catholic Mass. The Armenian church makes me feel the Catholic Church has robbed her children of the beautiful Latin Mass and sense of mystery and majesty and immense antiquity. For something from Harold Wilson’s plastic world. And thereby made faith very much harder.
Finally Gethsemane glimpsed from afar but as darkness fell. A Russian couple living in Chicago explain things. I say all Russians seem nowadays to live in the States. No, only Jews. My husband is Jewish by descent but does not practice. She points out a gate where the messiah is expected to enter Jerusalem which the Muslims therefore bricked up. But he has already come she says.
I have moved once more to the hostel in East Jerusalem opposite the Damascus Gate – a tiny box without window but with shower (no hot water it seems) for $35. Real life untidy dirty lovely. Very happy to be here but I wonder if parts of London are exactly like this and suspect that they are. Nice Arab who runs the place reminds me of Murgur.
Ultraorthodox boys dancing in the street frenetically to the sound of a – what kind of musician? I am not observant. Whirling crazily forever endless energy. A small crowd looking on. Before the fountain near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Walking home after dinner musicians playing what I imagined was Russian Jewish music from the shopping centre by the Jaffa Gate. If I knew the real Israel of shopping centres I would not love it. But a great crowd. Lovely girls everywhere. My Polish friend: “the Jewish men are idiots. They do what their wives tell them. but Jewish women know everything. The greatest woman who ever lived was a Jewish woman.”
Christianity represents an absolute and this is deeply repugnant to relativism and the scientific method. But I do see the argument that St John's Gospel reads very differently from the other three. And where does this leave the resurrection and the incarnation. Can this
new scientific Jesus save us? By the way Jesus was not ecumenical at
all even if we discount John. Not ecumenical to the Sadducees and
Pharisees. No suggestion he wanted women priests or homosexual
marriage or thought slavery wrong or the Roman empire. (How tired I
must have been typing this.)
Am jealous of the pretty Eritrean girl yesterday and her cousin who
Mary Veal's view - you just have to believe me it all which seemed
silly when she said at the time I was corresponding with Rinnander
then later seemed wise now seems to make no sense again. James told me
to settle on what I believer and then act it don’t try to be a
theologian. This too is unsatisfactory.
Maybe his suspicion that I am a dilettante is right. My politics are
the politics of an antiquary not an historian. I am deeply upset the
Jordanians s destroyed the ancient ramshackle Jewish quarter in
Jerusalem rather than the deaths and ruined lives. The disgusting
nature of politics and war as shown in Israel in Turkey Greece
Czechoslovakia Poland Bosnia etc etc etc
Enjoying Jerusalem. Back in the inauthentic bar beside the Imperial
Hotel where I like the food - canned jazz, almost empty.
The Mount of Olives. Gethsemane. What did I feel here? Not enough. Very little. The coach parties of couples in their 50s.
Everywhere here is for someone with a photographer’s eye. And a decent camera unlike me. Ultra religious caught against small stone houses outside the old city. Muslims in headgear. Greek priests. Friars.
Back. Should have made my plans earlier, was lucky to get my shuttle, was told off at the airport for not being there 3 hours ahead, moved up queues by clued up and very nice Israeli officials.
But what do we actually say to God in our solitude? In fact we say nothing to him until we have heard in hard attention what he has to tell us.
It is necessary, especially in the early part of a person's spiritual life, to set aside certain periods each day when the soul can commune without distraction with God. When we know him as an unfailing presence deep within us as well as the source of all creation immeasurably above us, we shall always be with him in clear consciousness and our work will be his work also. The object of special times of silence is to celebrate and strengthen the bond that links the conscious mind with God. In my experience the most effective time of willed silent communion with God is in the early morning shortly after arising from one's sleep. It is then that the mind is most alert, refreshed and free from disturbing emotions and anxious thoughts. Furthermore, if the mind is opened to the blessing of God in the silence of peace and acceptance early in the day, it will retain something of that blessing as it descends to the atmosphere of the market-place and is sullied by the psychic emanations of the many distraught, unhappy people whom one meets in a day's work. Prayer should be practised during periods set aside later in the day and in the evening also.
In the same way when I am silent before God in contemplation, which is the deepest, most formless most intense mode of meditation, I can begin to converse spontaneously with him and listen to what he is telling me. We know that silence in the secret place where we are alone to ourselves, where, in the depths of the soul, a communion with God is eternally celebrated. When we are still to the clamour of the world outside and the mind within, when no further noise or images impinge themselves upon us, when distractions cease to hammer on the door of consciousness, a silence descends on us that is a true balm to the soul: it is no negative void but rather the impulse of a positive wave of love that pervades the whole personality and lifts it spiritually to a new revelation of meaning and purpose.
When we give ourselves fully to the moment in hand, God is with us also and our trust in his providence is the height of wisdom: In him alone can we attain peace and do the work for which we were called.
It can be summarized therefore that the life in abundance is the life in God, in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28). This life is essentially one of constant acknowledgement of the divine providence by prayer, thanksgiving and an identification of oneself with all aspects of the present scene. To see the world eternally anew requires a self-giving to every creature one meets, a blessing upon all who impinge on one as one moves through the varied pageant of life, moment by moment. Even more essential is to be able to pour out oneself in concern on all who require one's attention, never forgetting to thank the Creator that the world is as it is. This is no hollow complacency appropriate for those whose lives are prosperous and whose future seems assured, at least in terms of worldly attainments. It is an intuitive acknowledgement of the essential goodness of life and the justice of each situation as it arises, that even when, on the surface, the event appears disastrous, it is invested with superhuman possibilities that will show themselves to us provided we have the courage to persist and the faith to wait. As St Paul says: "For I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the splendour, as yet unrevealed, which is in store for us" (Rom. 8.18). The basis of this hope is not wishful thinking. It is a deep mystical vision of the world of reality that underlies the insubstantial astral mist in which we live in everyday consciousness. This mist is a psychic emanation of desire that arises from the unsatisfied ego, and its components are boredom, fear, jealousy and resentment. These are assuaged by the constant distractions that the world needs for entertaining itself and diverting its attention from the one thing that is necessary for health - the spirit of truth. Only when the distractions have been finally torn away in the pain of loss can the reality of God be clearly known. Then there is silence, and all who can hear will listen to the message of truth. The truth alone sets us free, because it tells us of the day when all will be well as we progress beyond the limitation of worldly selfishness and enter into the knowledge of eternity. This is attained by living perfectly in the moment, and offering ourselves freely as a living sacrifice for all that presents itself to us at that moment.
To trust God means praying without ceasing, remembering him not only during the times set-aside for prayer but also when one is in the heat of life's struggle for survival. To remember God in our work means to do everything to his power and glory, and to see him as the nameless Christ who shows his face in the stranger whom we meet in the street and at the place of work
We gradually learn that the physical senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste have their inner subtle counterparts that emanate from the true self. Though our outer humanity may be in decay, yet day by day we are renewed inwardly (2 Cor. 4.16). It seems that in the loss of physical attributes that follows illness and the process of ageing, those of us who are spiritually attuned are given proof of deeper, more enduring spiritual gifts.
To be humble before the mystery of a fellow human being is the beginning of a genuine relationship with that person. To give of oneself in respectful silence to a person is to begin the work of counselling and healing, for in the tranquillity of self-giving, the Holy Spirit commences His work and a strengthening bond is effected between the one who serves and the one who is served. But that inner silence from which all good things are fed to those in need of help can dwell only in the person who has attained self-knowledge. When one can face and accept the areas of conflicting light and darkness within one's own psyche, only then can the Spirit of God use one in His healing work.
One cannot listen attentively to another person until one is at peace within oneself. A dialogue with oneself effectively excludes meaningful conversation with anyone else. If one is ill at ease in one's own depths, one will be in poor communication with all outside one. Only when one is deeply centred in the core of one's own being, which is called the soul or spiritual self, can one be available to hear the complaint of another person, and to flow out in silent attention to his needs. It is at this juncture that the Holy Spirit enters the conversation and sheds His healing grace upon the participants who are engaged in exploration of the depths of inner reality. Through His mediation there can be an exchange of psychic elements that is not only the heart of a true relationship between people but also the means of healing a broken personality.
Until one can enter into rapt silence and surrender one's awareness in trusting love to the unknown ground of existence, one cannot effect a real communication with the Deity. But how can one carry out that sublime practice of contemplation in the heat of everyday encounter when silence is barely attainable and seen to be remote from one's consciousness? The secret is to practise the presence of God in all situations and on all occasions. If one is constantly aware of God's providence so that one is dedicating all one's thoughts, words and actions to Him, one is in effect contemplating Him. In a situation that requires urgent counsel one can call upon the divine presence at once and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Words that are startling in their power then flow from one's lips, shaking one's preconceived ideas even as one kneels in the depth of self-effacement that is the prerequisite of a divine encounter. These are the words of truth appropriate to the situation in hand. If they are heard and inwardly digested, they can effect a revolution of spiritual renewal, and cause one to see the present dark way ahead in a completely different context.
Of one thing I have no doubt: until we can love ourselves there is no possibility of our loving anyone else, even a person as close to us in physical relationship as a parent, spouse or child. Only when we love ourselves with the intensity of charity that will accept all aspects of ourselves as infinitely treasurable, even when they are palpably immature if not frankly perverse, can we be still and flow out in charity to all around us. Love, as Jesus reminds us, if it is real should be bestowed on enemy as well as friend, just as our prayers of intercession if they are to be effective in changing people according to the will of God, must include those who treat us spitefully and whose attitude to us is disfigured with destructive jealousy.
By an act of personal will I can regulate my outer activities so as to deceive not only other people but also myself as to my true nature. I may certainly become more efficient and materially successful, but I am further away from my centre than ever.
If, on the other hand, I acknowledge the darkness that is mine and lift it up to God in prayer, He will, through His healing grace, effect an inner transformation of my psyche, so that I will be driven by love and compassion for others and not by motives of self-improvement. The paradox about self-awareness is that once we have achieved it we should let it go. It is far removed from the self consciousness of the selfish man grasping for material or spiritual gifts to boost the self that he really hates, or that of the neurotic person enslaved by the imagined contempt of others for the self that he despises. It is the way towards self-acceptance and a gratitude to God that we are as fully ourselves as He has made us, defects included no less than gifts and talents. This is what is meant by self-love, a love that we are instructed to afford our neighbours equally as ourselves. Once we can accept ourselves as we are and can love our life as we find it, we can move progressively from self-concern to concern for others, until the moment of supreme sacrifice comes when we are able to give up ourselves entirely for the highest we know - love of the brethren and of God.
In my experience the most useful dreams have been those that related to a present circumstance or a past memory and showed that my unconscious reaction to these was at variance with my conscious attitude.
All knowledge is potentially beneficial provided it is not the end of the quest. In the spiritual path a detailed understanding of the body, mind, and soul, as far as this is possible, is most important. It is a basic truth that dietary excesses and alcoholic intemperance damage the body and weaken the mind. A person on the spiritual path learns almost intuitively to cut down on his food intake and to take as little alcohol (and the various psychotropic drugs that are so widely prescribed for sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression) as possible. The vegetarian way becomes ever more attractive - though the aspirant will never embarrass his host by indulging his personal whims regarding food - and smoking loses its emotional urgency.
The danger of any gift of the Spirit is that it inflates the personality of the recipient without integrating it.
I personally believe that all gifts come from the Holy Spirit, and are therefore charismatic, but that they often infuse highly fallible men who then colour the gift with their own personality. It follows therefore that until the personality is becoming integrated around the centre of the soul where God is known, any gifts that may be made manifest in that person will tend to exalt him above his fellows.
There is no one infallible seat of authority below the heavenly throne, but in order of priority I would place the inner light of man (the spark of God placed deep within the soul) and the wisdom of the human race. This wisdom is compounded of three elements: a scriptural authority, an ecclesiastical tradition, and the fruits of reason that have accrued from the intellectual, artistic, and scientific achievements of past generations of men. In the end we have to obey the dictates of our own conscience, for God is eternally making all things new (Revelation 21:5). Every life is a milestone in the progress of the whole human race on the path to self-mastery and consecration of itself to God's service. We cannot turn back or find refuge in old formulae. This would be a real betrayal of the work of the Holy Spirit, Who, contrary to the belief of some Christians, did not end His work after the apostolic period, but is as active in the lives of men today as He was in those far-distant times. And His activity is primarily that of leading us into all truth. Whatever is of durable value in the scriptures, the tradition of the Church, or the later achievements of mankind has been directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. He has no favourites, but works indiscriminately amongst all those who are prepared to give up their lives to the service of the highest they can conceive; this may be scientific truth, aesthetic beauty, or self-transcending love. In this true aristocracy, the caste-mark is self-dedication to the highest that can be known through the reason. Where truth, beauty, and goodness coincide, there God will be recognised by the intellect. But He is never known intellectually. Unitive knowledge is supernatural; God gives Himself to those that know their need of Him (the poor in spirit), and the proof of this grace is the changed person who has received it.
This means that the person who gives of himself fully to life will reach a point where his personal intellectual endeavours will be overshadowed by something external to him. This is the cloud of unknowing. It will take him up into itself, and he will see that which is hidden from mortal sight, and comprehend that which lies beyond rational understanding. Then he will know the truth, the truth that sets him free (John 8:32). It is noteworthy that Jesus was recognised by the common people around Him to speak with a note of authority that was denied the doctors of the law (Mark 1:22). Their authority was scriptural and traditional - in itself unexceptionable - but it was not confirmed in their hearts. One begins to know and to speak with that inner authority when one's personality is cleansed in the refining fire of God's love, which comes, as I have already stated, to those who are giving themselves unstintingly to the world around them.
But how does the authentic inner voice of God differ from the merely subjective sensation of certitude to which we are all heir? This certitude may vary from a "hunch" about some future event - which may or may not be confirmed - to the expression of some deep inner prejudice of which we are scarcely aware. The most important difference between inner authority and subjectivity is that true authority does not boost, or inflate, one's personality. On the contrary, the person endued with true authority not only recognises his own unimportance in the scheme of things but is indeed oblivious of himself in his devotion to the Most High. Nor is he personally affronted by opposition or derision. On the other hand, subjectivity tends to exalt the person, making him feel rather special and, like the Pharisee in the famous parable, decidedly unlike other men (Luke 18:11).
Subjectivity is personal, and proceeds by the assertiveness of the personal self. It is loud, assertive, and anxious for power over others. It seeks to justify itself. The authority from on high transcends personality, for it proceeds from the spirit of the soul. It is quiet, peaceful, and makes no attempt either to coerce others or to exalt itself. This is because it arises from God, Who is the source of all power. Far from imposing itself on others, it remains calm and at rest. It is, in fact, actively sought by those who understand reality. It does not lead the searcher into material prosperity, but it does show him the way to the abundant life.
Spiritual revelation never claims supremacy over the conscious mind. It is, by its very nature, supreme and the reason bows in reverence before it. It does not give us personal instruction or information, nor is it concerned about our individual well-being, material success, or prosperity, nor does it direct us into the most rewarding path. But it does infuse the whole personality with warmth, it integrates the personality around the "centre" of the soul (or the spirit), and it allows the person himself to decide his future in a mature, responsible way. It guides us by making us complete people; it does not dictate to us, and then leave us as incomplete and inadequate as before. In fact, the authority from the light of God transcends both the categories of subjectivity and objectivity. It is transpersonal, and its action is directed towards the fulfilment of true humanity in all mankind. It comes quite unobtrusively to many people at various times and in diverse ways as a sudden widening of spiritual vision, so that what was previously obscure in the scriptures, or confusing in the past course of their own lives, now takes on a new light and is illuminated with meaning.
A sense of humour is an important quality of the mystic whatever his religious belief. It is seen in the intuitive solution of nonsensical riddles (koans) in the Zen Buddhist tradition, in the quaint and beautiful legends of the Hasidic rabbis of the eighteenth century, in the lives of St. Francis and St. Teresa, and in not a few of the retorts of Jesus - often taken with such straight faces by those who read the Gospel dutifully but unimaginatively.
Where there is an ebullient sense of humour, the Holy Spirit cannot be far away.
It is a well recognised discipline of the spiritual life that a period should be spent each night in recollection of what we have done, and how we have comported ourselves during the day. This period of recollection brings us back to the way we have revealed ourself to others (and ourself) during the stress of relationships, and as such gives us a useful self-portrait of how we stand at the moment. This discipline should not be regarded as one of morbid introspection or a painstaking analysis of possible motives for every action we have performed. God alone can judge the heart; we have to consider the action itself and what it shows us about ourselves. The practice of awareness in everyday life is one way of developing a conscious response to the details of our surroundings instead of moving around in the witless state of a sleepwalker which too often characterises unawakened man.
The paradox of the situation is this: while the rational mind at its peak of understanding cannot comprehend God, the quiet mind can be receptive to the grace of God Who approaches it in the form of personality. In other words, when we are silent and at peace in ourselves, God can come to us and make Himself known to us as a person among persons.
To contemplate the things that confront us minute by minute in the day's work means being aware of them, giving our attention to them and flowing out in recognition to them. It means being grateful that they are themselves however humble may be their form and function. And this gratitude should embrace three aspects: the One by whom all things are created, the creature itself, and the inner gift of being able to respond with a healthy body and an alert mind to the many wonderful things one meets day by day in an on-going life. Jesus tells us quite starkly that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven; we must accept the Kingdom of God like a child (Mark 10.15). The little child is not conspicuous for its spirituality in terms of such qualities of excellence as charity, wisdom, selflessness or devotion to God: all these have to be learnt and acquired in the school of life. Nevertheless, the child does have the one thing that is needed for salvation, an open mind uncluttered with dogmatism, arrogance and cynicism. Being innocent of subversive thoughts, the child's mind is immediately receptive to the wonders of the present moment. Everything around it still possesses an aura of exquisite uniqueness to the little child; it is seen as a new creation. If we, of adult stature, are to move towards the heavenly Kingdom, we must learn to relinquish our customary attitude of bored indifference to the things around us. Our senses have to be cleansed of the heavy weariness that comes from a long, heedless association with the articles of common life that we have for so long taken for granted and used without reverence. Even an object of great beauty soon cloys if we experience it simply as an article to be used, something apart from us that can be dismissed at will. Only when we enter into its excellence so that it takes its place in the greater vision of reality does it become a testimony to the everlasting providence of God.
The important fact that emerged from this encounter and the subsequent course of my life was that there was nothing essentially wrong with me mentally or emotionally. I was certainly an unusual type of person - and who, in his own way, is completely devoid of unusual characteristics? But there was nothing intrinsically abnormal about me. The psychological difficulties were the result of involuntary attempts at suppressing my true nature and conforming slavishly to the standards of the world. My case was comparable with that of a person with exceptionally fine vision who tries to view his surroundings with spectacles designed for one that is very short-sighted, and who even pretends to the world that the result is pleasant. Once I came to myself I could at last begin to relax. What I had to do was to return to the inner completeness of my early childhood, but with the wisdom and compassion that had accrued from my experience in the world.
What I had been given through the grace of God had now to be transmitted to others. Both the inner revelations and the outer suffering I had endured were to be fertilised in service to those on the path of self-realisation
Two spiritual gifts showed themselves almost as soon as I came to myself, as the beautiful Parable of the Prodigal Son puts it. The first was an ability to reach a state of formless contemplation at will. I was concentrating on everyday questions, like "How are you?" or "What is the time?" repeated over and over again without an answer. Suddenly I became aware of the silence, a mere second that elapsed between the conclusion of the question and its repetition. That silence was more eloquent than the words which encompassed it, for in the silence I was aware of the eternal life lifting up the world and giving it meaning. As soon as I became aware of the reality of that momentary silence, I could attain it at will and remain in it indefinitely. Of course, I now realise that what, on the face of it, sounds a childishly simple exercise may need the work of a lifetime. I myself needed all the previous understanding I had to attain it, and its attainment was God-given as well as self-achieved.
In this silence my psychic powers, latent for the last sixteen years, were once again activated. I became aware of other people's inner needs and dispositions, and I could sense with remarkable accuracy the presence of evil in an environment. At one time I might have discounted such extrasensory - or perhaps I should rather say higher sensory - information, but my disillusionment with the narrow limits of knowledge set by conventional scientific philosophy made me less sceptical and more willing to accept these hidden sources of knowledge. On the other hand, my critical intelligence and scientific training prevented me falling into the morass of credulity that so often bedevils amateur enthusiasts of psychical research. On more than one occasion, when my mind was quiet and untroubled, I was aware of mental communication with friends who had died and were now living in the greater life beyond the grave. Sometimes the messages were emotional and loving, but therefore less evidential.
The second gift, which was directly related to the first, was that of spontaneous spiritual utterance of such a calibre that I was soon able to deliver completely unprepared addresses and lectures, lasting up to an hour on some occasions. When I reached the silence and lifted up my soul to God in prayer, His Holy Spirit descended on me, and I started to speak with an authority and eloquence far outside my usual range. And yet I was in complete control; my state of consciousness was raised, and I had lost all self-concern or self-consciousness. It was as if the Holy Spirit was speaking through me, and using the great storehouse of wisdom and experience that my educated, sensitive mind had accumulated during the painful process of its growth. In other words, the addresses were of a completely different order from the boring, platitudinous utterances that Spiritualist mediums in the dissociated state of trance so often deliver. At first I used to prepare notes beforehand, but when the time for speaking arrived, I found that the written word interfered with the spontaneous communication that passed between me and the audience. It required great faith to dispense with all such preparations and depend entirely upon God for inspiration, but once this had been attained, I never doubted the source of inspiration and relied on it absolutely. My particular qualifications for this gift appeared to be a well-educated mind with much experience of the inner life and a selfless concern for those who were listening. This selflessness was the result of the harrowing period in the wilderness that I had undergone. All concern for self-inflation ceased after the private self had been destroyed in the refining fire of suffering. If I had ever used the gift to impress myself on others, it would soon have left me, and my address would have descended to the level of a personal display designed to win applause.
In the beginning of the spiritual ascent it is all too easy to become otherworldly and to lose concern for humanity. Two baneful results accrue from this: a general impotence in asserting oneself in the world, so that one is bullied and overridden, and a reciprocal feeling of contempt for those who behave insensitively to one. At the same time there is a deep, incoherent awareness of black evil around one, an evil that shows itself as an anonymous external power seeking to destroy the vision of completeness vouchsafed one, and leading one into a negative state of selfish living that culminates in a loss of identity within a dark shapeless mass of lifeless debris that was once living men.
I must have been a strange child! Silence I loved more than anything else. In it I was in perpetual communion with my surroundings and with a world far greater than my physical surroundings. Each object, each flower, the sky and the atmosphere were bathed in a supersensual radiance. Each created thing pulsated with a life that was far more intimate than the coarse, movable life of worldly activity. In the darkness of night there was an even brighter light, the light of tumultuous silence in which the story of creation was celebrated in everlasting glory. Each object, no matter how little, was supreme, for God had made it and it reflected, in its own humility, the divine imprint. Each human face was pulsating with hidden meaning. That there was so much dull incomprehension of the very vision of life eternal was overwhelming in its sadness for me. In the depths of receptive silence no secret remains hidden. One's own inner life becomes open and transparent.
But the world does not know of this mystical reality that sustains the life of flux in which we all have to graduate to a measure of full personality. People lose sight of the embracing love that bears up all creation in its everlasting arms when they are immersed in surface living from day to day.
This evil was not related especially to my home, which was a place of beauty and warmth, but to the whole created universe which had been corrupted and desecrated by the selfish actions of its creatures, especially the angelic hierarchy and men, since the time of willed disobedience to the law of life, which is love for all things and for God who created them. No one who lives in full awareness, and has not blinded himself to reality by the abuse of intellectual ratiocination, can fail to feel the full power of psychic darkness, which has been personified, in various religious traditions as the devil. And some of this darkness has been assimilated by personalities, even our own, when they have been in a negative, destructive frame of mind. The end of evil is the complete destruction of the person, yet that word should mean the unique identity of every creature and especially of man, in whom personality is developed to its supreme degree, at least in the experience of the world we inhabit. This destruction is both an incorporation into nothingness and an annihilation of all uniqueness. It is the final result of living in isolation oblivious of the full body of mankind, and is an ever-present menace lurking for any whose life is selfish and centred in ignorance.
One learns in the course of life that evil has no primary, or substantive existence, but is the psychic residue left after a selfish, unredeemed action. What it is important to realise is that evil can never simply be averted. It must be confronted in the power of love and redeemed by love. I know now, as I glimpsed then as a child, that He who came to me could alone redeem evil, for He was love.
What was painfully lacking in my life was human contact with my peers. This lack was accentuated by a paralysing shyness and social ineptitude. It is clear to me now that I was not properly earthed as a child; the spirit, as it were, had not fully incarnated. I could roam with facility in realms of mental speculation, but I doubted the efficacy of my own bodily actions.
The true mystic is born and not made. He is not really of this world at all, so, if his life is to be successful, he has to learn to come down to earth and mix fully with all sorts and conditions of men. His task is the reverse of that of the much more common earth-bound man, who, if he is to succeed fully, has to move beyond personal acquisitiveness to universal sympathy.
Joy comes from within; it is assuredly present in the world, but it does not come to us merely from agreeable outer circumstances. Rather it is the radiant joy from within ourselves, the knowledge of God immanent in our own being, that sheds radiance on the world, raising it from the corruption of mortality to the splendour of eternity. Joy came to me whenever I could centre my attention, in childlike wonder, on any phenomenon or object. As I have said, I knew, early in my life, the joy of identification with nature in her many forms: the countryside with its changing pattern of beauty; from spring blossoms to the yellow summer grassland, the flowers of the field, the autumn tints of brown and red, and the sharp cleansing winter barrenness when all was desolate and yet full of that true beauty that comes of a shriven landscape. In nature there is not merely the outer form, but also an inner realm that palpitates with psychic and spiritual life. To him who can observe there is nothing empty save the emptiness of a vapid, selfish human being intent only on himself and his needs.
Already I had experienced an ecstatic state when I contemplated the excellence and completeness of geometry. Even simple forms, like the triangle and the circle, had enclosed within them immutable laws of nature. I saw God in the very excellence of the form, and in the point of intersection of concurrent lines within the form.
The end of suffering courageously borne is growth of the person into something of the nature of Christ, Who until then was merely a seed deeply planted in the soul and was awaiting germination to become the tree of life.
Antichrist is not a demonic figure typified in our own century by the person of a fascist or communist dictator or one of his henchmen....Antichrist reveals himself much more subtly and plausibly than this. He appears as an outwardly enlightened man of apparent good nature and well-disposed to his fellows, who takes charge of the world and usurps the place of God. He organises the world into the form of an advanced welfare state and makes everyone happy provided they bow down and worship him. All who co-operate with him live pleasant, uneventful lives, have plenty of possessions, and strive for the maintenance of their present status. Their inner eye is no longer lifted up to the Figure on the cross, who is the way, the truth and the life in God. Therefore they are not themselves transformed. They remain comfortable, complacent people, selfish and blind to the greater world, living like intelligent animals. They do not respond to the existential problems of life until they disappear, like the followers of Korah, swallowed up by the earth that splits and opens to receive their mortal bodies (Numbers 16:31). This is the way of Antichrist, that great deceiver, who promises us all the kingdoms of the world in their glory if we will only fall down and do him homage (Matthew 4:9).
WE SUFFER WHEN our personalities are in malalignment with the will of God, Whose law is union in love with Himself and all His creatures. Suffering began when God granted man free will, so that man could see himself apart from God as well as one with Him. What we call the Fall was man's descent from idyllic union with God into the world of manifold forms where separation was the order of creation. The more I consider the parable of Adam, Eve, and the serpent, who symbolises the dark subterranean forces of self-assertiveness in the human psyche, the more I realise how necessary the Fall was for man to recognise and realise the divinity that God had implanted in Him. Only if the supreme gift of free will had been withheld would man have stayed immutably fixed to his creator. But the love of God is such that He willed his creatures to become full of their own being, so that they could respond to His love as friends and not as puppets. It is in this context that Jesus' farewell discourses to His disciples have particularly moving poignancy: "You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I call you servants no longer; a servant does not know what his Master is about. I have called you friends, because I have disclosed to you everything that I heard from my Father" (John 15:15). It is hardly too great a simplification to place the whole burden of man's path to abundant life on the development of his will in harmony with the will of God.
Every experience in relationships with others is a little suffering. For in exposing ourselves to the scrutiny of the unfeeling glance of another person, we are shriven of some clinging conceit.
It is the strange nature of man that, in his prosperity and success, he tends to become self-centred and aloof from the feelings of his fellows, but once he has been brought low, he is able to identify himself with them. And in this state of silent identification, God Himself can at last gain entry into what is in reality His own domain, but which He has given unreservedly to self-willed man. Of all the ways of attaining mystical experience, it is the one of identification through suffering that is the most exalted, because it tells of love in a fashion that no other mode of approach to the divine can. It is man's duty and his joy to suffer in the image of Christ until all that is corrupt, astray, and lost can be reclaimed, redeemed, and sanctified.
Life spent in the world is a continuous and arduous process of self-giving to the world. The world is assuredly our material for experimentation and self-expression, but it too has demands to make on us. We have to raise it from the corruption of mortality to the eternal life known to the children of God. We redeem the world by giving up ourselves to it, in following the way of Christ Who gave up His mortal life for the redemption of mankind. Thus the life of service is also the life of God made flesh. "Among you, whoever wants to be first must be the willing slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give up his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).
How often have I met people who have never really made the grade! They are notorious among their own colleagues for their unpleasant personalities as well as their very modest professional ability, but they see nothing of this at all. Their lives are a dreary dirge of resentment and hatred of others whom they believe have betrayed them and robbed them of the success that was their due. They cast a malign psychic influence in their environment, and make everyone else unhappy also. It is from this morass of human inadequacy that political and racial hatred stems and bizarre religious cults and fanaticisms arise. These people have never known what true service means, and have regarded life as merely a means to their self-satisfaction and self-aggrandisement. The interesting thing is that not a few of them are ardent religionists, punctilious in outer orthodoxy (as were Jesus' opponents also). Bad religion (which is found in all the higher religions of the world) can be an impenetrable smoke-screen to conceal God and His searing truth from the sight of the believer.
We cannot know the reality of life while we continue to act as spoilt children for whom the world exists merely to amuse us.
In the seventeenth century a humble French soldier, Nicholas Herman, entered a community of Carmelites in Paris in middle life, where he was called Brother Lawrence. This lowly man combined in his person the qualities of Mary and Martha. Even in the kitchen he was full of recollectedness and heavenly-mindedness. "The time of business" said he "does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament"
The basis of the way of service is that every task is done to the greater glory of God. This applies not only to human relationships, but also in our everyday work with inanimate objects and abstract ideas. The immaculate cleaning of a house, the considerate service that a shop assistant gives to the customer, the care we take of our clothes and possessions (which are in a very real way an extension of our own physical body), are all prayers of praise to God for His marvellous creation and thanksgiving that we are considered worthy enough to be custodians of the creatures of this world.
He who fears death also fears life. He who loves life and all the creatures of life has already passed from death to the life of eternity.
When we live sacramentally, we are less concerned about what the future has in store for us, and our actions are not directed primarily towards results. Instead we do the work for its own sake and to its own glory (and the glory of God), and do not become trapped in vain imaginings or dashed hopes. We can begin to see the strength of St. Paul's dictum, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). While we naturally hope for success, we are more inclined to leave the means of success and its fruit to God, and make fewer demands ourselves.
It follows from this that every relationship is sacred. This applies especially to the most intimate of all relationships, the sexual one. It is a sacrament, and is defiled to the detriment of all participating in it. It is worth remembering that in the properly consummated sexual act, an act in which both parties have lost themselves in love for each other, each experiences a new reality, one that transcends the narrow isolation of personal gratification. Such an experience is the glimpse of mystical union destined for Everyman - by which I mean the person who does not aspire to great spiritual understanding but lives in a useful mundane way - by God's grace. I believe that this is the primary purpose of sexual union; the other two, growth into a full person and the procreation of the race, are secondary to it. It follows from this that sexual intercourse is a holy action, and should not be contemplated except in a spirit of awe and gratitude. How far man has fallen from this understanding is a measure of his distance from the divine nature implanted in him. I should add at the same time, that those exceptional people called to the state of celibacy in the cause of a greater love for all mankind, may also experience mystical union in their unceasing self-giving to others.
The wise person delays marriage until he has attained sufficient intellectual and emotional balance to judge clearly how he wishes to order his life. The practice of self-control, which is the last fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.z2), should govern all physical explorations of sex until there is a deep love for the other person.
Well attested is the psychological observation that when the will and the imagination come into conflict, it is the imagination that triumphs. When the imagination is filled with God's presence, worldly desires cease to impinge on it, and the will can act unimpeded. When sexual intercourse is recognized as a sacrament of God's love for all his creatures, it will have ascended from its customary place as a physical activity of pleasure and emotional release to the way of growth of the human to full emotional maturity and spiritual knowledge.
There is also a significant difference between aloneness and loneliness. The lonely person is depressed, unhappy and yearning for company. Yet there is something inside himself that seems to separate him from other people. It is, if it could be properly analysed, an inner feeling of inferiority, of unworthiness that robs him of composure and fellowship. One can be lonely even in the centre of a crowd of revellers or in a club of people sharing a common interest. This indicates that the root of loneliness lies far deeper than intellectual incompatibility. In the end we begin to realize that there is One who alone can satisfy the soul - God. Our hearts, as St Augustine reminds us, are restless until they are filled with his rest. Until we know the living God we will know neither ourselves nor our fellows.