Behold the Lilies

"We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice." ~Hildegard of Bingen, 11th C.
Jesus, the wild poet of the Galilean meadows, pointed to this flower and said, "Behold the lillies of the field!" He wanted his disciples to learn everything they needed to know about God by looking at a flower.

Just so, in his final gathering, Buddha held up a little blossom, twirling it in his fingers but saying nothing. Ananda smiled. He understood the complete Dharma through one little flower. 

William Blake, the poet of perception, wrote: "See a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower!" The Kingdom of God is not a theological abstraction, but the break-through of this trillium, one white three-petaled explosion nestled in oceanic furrows of green.

Do not look at this flower through your concept of it. Look at the flower itself, what James Joyce called "the ineluctable modality of the visible."

The flower has no name. It is no-thing, unrestricted by its outline, a gush of revelation breaking into three dimensions from beyond space-time. The flower flows from  unfathomable depths of uncreated Silence, through the mediation of the world, into your eyes. It is an offering to you. In this sacrament of perception, consciousness awakens consciousness through the mystery of matter.

Now, if you are like me and other "educated" Westerners, you do something remarkable at this point on your forest walk. You flee from revelation into thinking. Turning to your hiking partner, you ask, "What is that flower's name?" The other replies, "It's a trillium." She may even nail it down with Latin: "trillium grandiflorum."

What has just happened? You have settled for a concept, a verbal description of reality, rather than suffering the nameless onslaught of Radiance.

You closed your eyes to the incarnation of the Wordless, the silent offspring of Father Consciousness and Mother Matter. You replaced the living Christ with a ghost of thought. Sometimes names kill. Sometimes we need to un-name things.

The world is a Mystery. According to the Greek fathers of the primitive Church, a Mysterion is a transforming encounter with the divine, beyond names and beyond intellect. Creation ex nihilo, from nothing, is a Mysterion. The incarnation of God in a human body is a Mysterion. The Sin of ignorance, our refusal to acknowledge that we live in God's perpetual miracle, is a Mysterion. These early theologians were mystics who refused to define the mystery, for a Mysterion must be experienced, not conceived.

In the Middle Ages, however, Christianity lost much of its power and grace when scholastic intellectuals attempted to define as dogma what is really only available to the intuition as mystery.

When we define the Mysterion through our intellect, we super-impose an ashen gray world of our own creation upon God's miracle. We impose the parallel world of our thought, our incessant mental commentary, on the nameless radiance of the Mysterion.

Frightened by the every-changing fluidity of experience, we try to solidify the world with names, freezing the verb of God into a noun. Thus we dwell, not in the world, but in our description of the world.

In God's revelation to Moses, Exodus 3, Moses asks for God's name. But the Divine refuses to become a noun. God reveals only the verb, I AM. Perhaps this was the lost commandment which God wrote on the tablet of the law that was shattered: "Thou shalt not conceive a name for the world."

A stream of Radiance flows toward us from the world, yearning to touch our hearts by the sacramental power of eye, ear, tongue, fingertip and nostril. A similar stream of Radiance flows from within us, outward toward the world through these same gateways of sensation, yearning to touch the incarnate. The Radiance that flows toward us and the Radiance that flows out of us meet in sensation, one and the same Light. The Light was divided, by a trick of perception, into subject-object duality, just so that we might awaken this radiant unity.

Divine Light pulsates in the play of subject and object. This is the dance of Shiva and his consort, Shakti. She becomes mother-matter in order to dance with consciousness, to delight Him, to return the offering of his creative fire through every form. Therefor, when we reunite the light within us and the light outside us, through any mere sacrament of the commonplace, perceiving the shudder of a leaf or the glimmer of a dragonfly's wing, we allow God and his Spirit to make love, uniting themselves in us, through our act of human sensation.

This is the bliss which re-unites the shattered world and heals it. Duality appears out of the One, so that duality may dissolve into the One. This is the eternal dance of Shiva and Shakti. And it is nothing esoteric or other-worldly. It is no more than the simple delight of our sensations when we are fully awake.

Let us call this reunion of creation and creator, Radiance. You may call it what you like. But it is a new kind of substance, the substance of Grace. The New Earth will be formed out of this radiant substance. It is neither matter nor spirit, but something sensuously transcendent, divinely sensual. And the quiet moment-by-moment experience of this unity, through a mindful perception of the ordinary, is our true vocation on the earth.

We are created for Self-Delight.
Why then do we create an artificial veil of thought between the world and awareness, an ashen layer of names and concepts? Some of us spend our whole lives building this ghostly gray wall of thought. Are we frightened of drowning in the blessed radiance of sensation? But who is drowning? The very same divine Light out of whom the object of sensation is made...

Blake wrote, "We were put here for a little while to learn to bear the beams of love." Humans can hardly endure such unfiltered beams. We cover our eyes, not with our hands, but with the concepts of our mind.

Then we need some patient old shamanic farmer to point out what is. We need poets to show us that the world is a dew of Spirit, condensed into matter. We need the bard to sing us the ancient Celtic spell: "Morning has broken, like the first morning!" In truth, this world is not even one moment old. We've tried to make it permanent through names, through beliefs. We've tried to impose the stories of the past on this fleeting now. But the past is merely thought, while existence is Presence. We cannot know the Mysterion, we must dance it.

When you look at the flower without naming its thing-ness, you engage in the original meditation. You are like Adam before he named the creatures in the Garden. Adam fell into a world of names, but we can be Eden-dwellers. We need only awaken. And the simplest frog-song or raindrop can awaken us.

Every particle of our being, every photon of this body, is an organ of perception. We can see again. Trillions of eyes sparkle in the heaven of our flesh. Where were you when you discovered that your body is made of stars? Remember...

Look again at this flower. The chaos of its edges dissolves into boundless fractals of your own awareness. The luminosity of this little blossom is not to be taken for granted. Named, it is Trillium rhomboideum grandiflorum. Un-named, it is the portal between heaven and earth.

Now imagine what you might behold when you muster the courage to look into a human face this way: the face of a homeless stranger, a wandering alien from another country, or the face of your enemy...

Can you gaze into those eyes without naming them, without saying, "This is a black child, this is a Muslim child, this child is wealthy, this child is poor?" Courage means that, when we look into the eyes of another, we settle for nothing less than the face of God.

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