Holy Birthings

“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.” *

512px-William_Blake_006 Hecate

Spirit and matter

Is not the beauty of the Christmas spirit a celebration of the birthing of the holy child, the god incarnate? Might this celebration begin anew in every birthing as yet one more infinitesimal experience of the miracle of spirit and matter manifest as one?

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time.” *

William_Blake_-_Sconfitta_-_Frontispiece_to_The_Song_of_Los

Matter and spirit are then the form of manifestation in this earthly dimension. No need to transcend the physical, as if you could outside of death, but more to be present to this eternal now; to experience this unique distinction in style and quality of creation’s possibilities. What we call the physical, necessarily then, is embodied spirit. If, or when we are only spirit, it would not be here in this earthly human form.

The Language of Image

Although the modern, much more recent term, is inner and outer space, before this objectified view, heaven was not an outer space separated from an inner form. Who knew where we were but for a small glimpse above into an unfathomable eternal realm. Even the stark contrast of hot star and cold space that we have now measured was unimaginable from this perfectly temperate earthly home.

Spirit and matter bound together as the marriage of Heaven and Earth might now seem an impossible image to carry us along the human journey, and we might still refuse its simple truth that there’s nothing to transcend, nothing split apart, and that it’s only the images we carry telling us differently. Seemingly opposite, spirit and matter are a lover’s embrace necessary for this earthly realm to make manifest in just the way we are in the here and now. In the vastness of space as we now know it, how could it be more sacred, more miraculous?

Blake_Experience_Introduction

In the West in particular, the historical struggle against the elements has become cemented into an idealization of spirit, opposing it to matter as if the two could be separated in this human form of embodied senses. Perhaps too much disregard and devaluing of matter is primarily what has brought us to the brink of ecological and socio-political disaster.

I know I am not alone in the mourning of the loss of these ancient images that embedded a sense of belonging to creation; the miracle and necessity of it. Image itself, seems to be relegated to that of the fanciful or child’s play. No wonder we are so burdened by a dire sense of reality that compels us so passionately and deeply. Is it perhaps in faint recognition of the loss, the burden of action, desire and responsibility so painful that to claim a sense of belonging stifles the heart into a sense of longing?

“And we are put on this earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.” *

Love

Traditionally, matter has associations to the feminine and the body; matter, from the root mater, or mother, as in mother Earth as compared to father sky. Matter is often “what’s the matter,” a question, perhaps spiritual in nature, that seeks to identify problems within matter. If overly identified with spirit, we are prone to make unfair claims on matter’s part in the mess of life. But is it not to spirit’s desire that we find the urge to hasten, neglect, chastise and blame the flesh, along with the matter of earthbound being? What if these lovers called a truce and could see the impossibility of any absolute separation, but rather see the space between as degrees and qualities of perception? …and then perhaps lived through a caring for their mutual needs in this eternal dance?

To rise from history to mystery is to experience the resurrection of the body here now, as an eternal reality; to experience the parousia, the presence in the present, which is the spirit; to experience the reincarnation of the incarnation, the second coming; which is his coming in us.

Norma O. Brown

If a more feminine receptivity were to take a deeper root in psyche and find a truer relationship to the spirited masculine, a conversation might take place in which a room is then prepared for the marriage, a holy communion, or Jung’s coniunctio. Perhaps we need the second birth, even the perpetual holy birthing, to realize and actualize what the marriage of Heaven and Earth makes possible through this amazing earthly human experience.

*All quotes and art, except where noted, William Blake

The Holy Birthing 2014

This post is an updated version of a post from Christmas 2013:

What is it that is born, again and again – on Christmas day and in each new life, and in each moment of everyday? Perhaps it is symbolic of another ongoing kind of birth – the birth that brings renewal throughout our lifetime as we spiral our way into the mystery that is life.

I ask myself, what is it that is trying to be born now, in me, in you and in the world?

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” Bob Dylan

“The decision of the future falls to the soul, depends upon how the soul understands itself, upon its refusal or acceptance of a new birth.” Henry Corbin

But not only a new birth, not one time, but repeatedly throughout a lifetime and many lifetimes.

 
File:Matthijs Maris The Bride, or Novice taking the Veil, c 1887.jpg“Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity. And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God. All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He. To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.” Tom Cheetham

“Masks of the infinite” because who can look into the face of divinity and live? For instance, how difficult is it to look intently into another’s eyes before looking away, or to ponder the depths of either the beauty or horror of this world, or to receive a full presence of true awe? Have you ever experienced a feeling so intense that it literally took your breath away? How difficult it can be to openly and fully receive something not yet known, seen or wordless without turning away and reaching into the safety of the known to identify it and name it. Ah, we say, that’s just…, or that is…which immediately removes the danger and fear of the unknown. “I know, I know,” we say, but do we?

“For if God is known and witnessed by an other than Himself, it is because there is such an Other. However, for there to be an Other, there must be this opacity, this darkness of a being that stops at itself, at the non-being of its pretensions, its ignorance, or even its devotions. If he claims to be an Other, he cannot look at God, as God can only be looked at by Himself.
God can only look at a world which is his own gaze, that is his own eyes which look at him from this world. This is why a world which wishes itself other (either by agnosticism or by piety) is not a world that God looks at. Literally, it is a world that God does not look at.
… [And] there must be a world that God does not look at so that Nietzsche’s tragic exclamation of the last century: God is dead can resound and spread in it. Uttered from the West and since then echoed in all consciousnesses, this cry is precisely what, for a Sufi, is experienced as the Supreme Test, the Test of the Veil , and, facing up to this Test, Sufism opens the way precisely for one who wishes to pass through it.” Henry Corbin

Nietzsche’s freedom is everyone’s freedom, on the one hand to err, ignore and discount the mysterium tremendum and awe of being alive by always knowing, and on the other to bring into expression new possibilities of the numinous. But, in order to pass through the test of the veil, Corbin says we must find our angel, a divine being that is a face of God. Without the accompaniment of the Angel, we feel abandoned, because we are without a guiding presence which creates a vertical connection, curing us of the blindness of literalism, and giving us the second sight to see, at least imaginally, the Face of God in all of creation.

“The paradox of monotheism is equally the paradox of individualism, for the Angel as a Face of God is linked to the soul of whom it is the Twin in a bond of love that is essential for the being of each. Nietzsche’s cry requires a world that God does not look at, a world without His Face, a world that is, without Angels. But in such a world the reality of the person begins to fade. For if God is dead, then so are we.” Henry Corbin

Not so much through belief, but through the experience of seeking that twin, our guide and angel, do we begin to know ourselves and others as persons, as masks of God.

“On the one hand there is the doubt of the intellect, of the philosopher, who, as Corbin says, demands rational proof for realities to which such proof cannot apply. For rational doubt assumes that human reason can cast its net over everything and extend its reach to capture even God. It is this hubris that drives much of modern culture. We are liberated from it if we can take to heart the words attributed to the nineteenth-century British scientist Lord J. B. S. Haldane: “The universe is not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose.” “ Tom Cheetham
I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now – Amy Grant

Christmas MorningPeace on earth, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Cheetham, Tom (2012-07-03). All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings (p. 220). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Holy Birthing

If Christmas is about a birthday, and the Holy birthday of the Christ child, what is it that is trying to be born in the repeating of this holiday each year? Why do we celebrate birthdays or Christmas? What does the ritual want with us? What is it that is born, again and again – on Christmas and in each new life, or even in each moment of everyday? Perhaps it is symbolic of another ongoing kind of birth – the birth that brings renewal throughout our lifetime as we spiral our way through to another new year.

I ask myself, what is it that is trying to be born now, in me, in you and in the world?

And isn’t is so fitting that Christmas is celebrated between the Solstice, the longest night when the darkness nearly overcomes the light, and the birth of the New Year? Is Christmas then a twilight moment?

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” Bob Dylan

“The decision of the future falls to the soul, depends upon how the soul understands itself, upon its refusal or acceptance of a new birth.” Henry Corbin

I was so struck by Tom Cheetham’s remarks on what is called The Test of the Veil in Sufism and also the coincidence of being at this point in the book on Christmas Eve, that I wanted to share some of his words and quotes by Henry Corbin here with you.

 
File:Matthijs Maris The Bride, or Novice taking the Veil, c 1887.jpg“Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity. And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God. All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He. To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.” Tom Cheetham

He is discussing nihilism and confronting it head on. This speaks to a nagging sense that I have had since childhood which perhaps many of us experience. Why be there anything? Have you ever stared out at the vastness of the night sky, or looked at child’s face, struck by awe for what can’t be known or understood and thought to yourself, where and who are we? Why is there anything at all? And more amazing than the fact of our existence, we know we’re here, or somewhere anyway.

“For if God is known and witnessed by an other than Himself, it is because there is such an Other. However, for there to be an Other, there must be this opacity, this darkness of a being that stops at itself, at the non-being of its pretensions, its ignorance, or even its devotions. If he claims to be an Other, he cannot look at God, as God can only be looked at by Himself.
God can only look at a world which is his own gaze, that is his own eyes which look at him from this world. This is why a world which wishes itself other (either by agnosticism or by piety) is not a world that God looks at. Literally, it is a world that God does not look at.
… [And] there must be a world that God does not look at so that Nietzsche’s tragic exclamation of the last century: God is dead can resound and spread in it. Uttered from the West and since then echoed in all consciousnesses, this cry is precisely what, for a Sufi, is experienced as the Supreme Test, the Test of the Veil , and, facing up to this Test, Sufism opens the way precisely for one who wishes to pass through it.” Henry Corbin

In order to pass through the test of the veil, Corbin says we must look to our angel, a divine being that is a face of God. Without the accompaniment of the Angel, we feel abandoned, because we are without a guiding presence which creates a vertical connection curing us of the blindness of literalism, giving us the second sight to see the Face of God in all of creation.

“The paradox of monotheism is equally the paradox of individualism, for the Angel as a Face of God is linked to the soul of whom it is the Twin in a bond of love that is essential for the being of each. Nietzsche’s cry requires a world that God does not look at, a world without His Face, a world that is, without Angels. But in such a world the reality of the person begins to fade. For if God is dead, then so are we.” Henry Corbin

“On the one hand there is the doubt of the intellect, of the philosopher, who, as Corbin says, demands rational proof for realities to which such proof cannot apply. For rational doubt assumes that human reason can cast its net over everything and extend its reach to capture even God. It is this hubris that drives much of modern culture. We are liberated from it if we can take to heart the words attributed to the nineteenth-century British scientist Lord J. B. S. Haldane: “The universe is not only stranger than we suppose , but stranger than we can suppose.” “ Tom Cheetham

Peace on earth, Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday everyone!

Cheetham, Tom (2012-07-03). All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings (p. 220). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

Merry Christmas


Wishing all my friends and family peace and blessings at Christmas and throughout New Year

As a child, I loved Christmas and everything about it, especially listening to, and singing along with the carols. Even without a clear understanding of who Jesus was, or who God is, or even who Santa is, there was a magic in the mystery of what this special day was about.

Christmas was special; filled with all of the sensual things that appeared only at that time of year, from the carols to the home made cookies, to the beautifully decorated tree, to the serenity of the manger showcasing the sharp contrast of circumstances- poor Mary and Joseph huddling in a dark stable to give birth to the baby Jesus amid the barn animals, yet visited by the three great and wise Kings traveling hundreds of miles from their riches and finery so far away.

Yep, it was to the manger that I was drawn, intrigued by the story I hoped one day to really understand.

But somewhere along the way I lost that wonder, and the story of the manger became just another silly tale whose historical reality seemed just as unlikely as Santa, flying reindeer and the North pole.

Years went by in which I never celebrated Christmas hating everything about it.

Now, it’s different. Although no longer bitter to avoid it, and yet without any of the childhood dreaminess I once had, Christmas is very much a time to reflect and to look both backward at what has passed and look forward to what might be.

This year past has not brought too many changes, but I do feel a bit closer to my family and a few old friends as our paths seem to parallel again.

As I watch my parents aging I realize how frail we all are, how short life is, and how much I love life and how blessed I have been to live the life I have lived. Even though, or perhaps because of, the pain and suffering that once seemed impossible to escape from, is now a memory, I know that pain and suffering made me, and brought me to this place and time in my life. So compassion abounds for others and for just how lost, alone, complicated, crazy, hurting, hurtful, humans can be.

I don’t know how much any of us can do to change the course of the human adventure that we share, but I do believe that we each play our parts and that sometimes without knowing, you may have touched someone and helped them in a way that shapes the direction and focus of their life. That is okay and you don’t necessarily have to know the extent of your influence, but rather, have faith that love is always the best choice and a powerful force that brings light into the darkness that surrounds us all.

Merry Christmas!

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Clare waits for Christmas