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! They neither labor nor toil, yet even King Solomon is all his glory was not arrayed like one of these!" 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 God, from unfathomable depths of uncreated Silence, through the mediation of the earth, into your eyes. The flower is a gift from the river of Grace. In this sacrament of perception, consciousness awakens consciousness through the mystery of matter.

In essence, consciousness is Shiva, matter is Shakti. Both are divine. They make love through our very act of perception. Their orgasm is the world. This is how they discover, again and again throughout eternity, that they are one and the same energy.

So we take a walk in the forest and discover this trillium gleaming in the fern shadows. 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 the world.

Creation is a Mystery. In the primitive Church, a Mysterion was a transforming encounter with the divine that could be experienced, bjut not named by the intellect. Creation ex nihilo, from nothing, is a Mysterion. The incarnation of God in a human body is a Mysterion. The "sin" of our ignorance - our refusal to see that we live in a perpetual miracle, and that our very breath is a gift from the Spirit - is a Mysterion. The earliest theologians were mystics who refused to define the deepest mysteries.

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 in silence, 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 our parallel world of thought, our incessant mental commentary, on the nameless radiance of creation. 

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 Moses shattered: "Thou shalt not name the world, for creation is a ceaseless verb."

A stream of Radiance flows toward us from created things, yearning to touch our hearts by the sacramental power of eye, ear, tongue, nostril, and fingertip. Another luminous stream flows from within us, out into the world through these same gateways of sensation, yearning to touch the incarnate motherhood of matter.

The Radiance that flows toward us and the Radiance that flows out of us meet in sensation; they are one and the same Light. For awhile, the Light was divided, by a trick of perception, into the dualism of subject and object, Shiva and Shakti, just so that we might celebrate their wedding.

The divine One pulsates as Light in the play of Two. Shakti dances as matter to delight Shiva, who is consciousness. Thus she returns the offering of his own creative fire to him through every form. And when we reunite the light within us with the light outside us, through the merest sacrament of  sensation - the shudder of a leaf, the glimmer of a dragonfly's wing, the eyes of a friend - God and his Spirit are wedded, again and again, in the bridal bower of our senses.

To be incarnate in human a body, with eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, is the highest honor in heaven or earth. Angels long to be born on this earth, and gain liberation by perceiving it.

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.

I call this union of creation and creator, "Radiance." Call it what you like, but it is a heightened form of energy, the substance of Grace. A New Earth will be formed out of this radiant substance, neither material nor spiritual, but both: sensuously transcendent and divinely sensual.
The quiet moment-by-moment experience of this Radiance, through a mindful perception of the ordinary, is our true vocation on the earth.
Why then do we create an artificial veil of thought between the world and awareness, the gray opacity of names and concepts? Some of us spend our whole lives building this ghostly wall of thought. Are we frightened of drowning in the blessed radiance of sensation? Who is drowning? The very same divine Light out of whom the object of sensation is made!

Blake wrote, "We were set here for a little while to learn to bear the beams of love." Humans can hardly endure such unfiltered beams. We shield 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 a verb of Presence.

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 this world of names, but we can be unfallen Eden-dwellers again. We need only awaken to the Radiance beyond thought. And the miracle is that any 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 was made of stars?

When you were a child, could you not see better? 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 gaze into a human face this way: not only the face of your lover, but the face of a homeless stranger, a wandering immigrant from another land, or even the face of your enemy...

Can you look into those eyes without naming them, without saying, "This is a foreign child, this is a Muslim child, this child is black or white, this child is wealthy or poor?" Can you gaze beyond nouns? 

What is courage? Courage is love. 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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