1/21/2018

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 lilies 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 anemone. 

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 and time. The flower flows from God, from unfathomable depths of uncreated Silence, through the mediation of Mother 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 Mother Shakti. Both are divine. They make love through our 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, "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 as experienced but not named. True understanding transcends the intellect. For those early Christian philosophers, the greatest Mysteries were: Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), the incarnation of God in a human body, and the Mystery of Sin: how humans could, in their free will, so thoroughly ruin such a perfect world.

They wisely taught us not to merely think about these Mysteries, but respond to them with all our heart. But in the Middle Ages, 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 the silence of 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 thoughts, our incessant mental commentary, on the nameless radiance of creation. 

Frightened by the ever-changing fluidity of experience, we try to solidify the world with labels, freezing the Divine Verb into a noun. This is the real Fall: to dwell not in the actual world but in our description of it.

In God's revelation to Moses, Exodus 3, Moses asks for God's name. But the Divine Verb refuses to become a noun. God reveals only the name, I AM. Perhaps this is the lost commandment written on the tablet of the law that Moses shattered: "Thou shalt not name the world, for creation is ceaseless Being."

A stream of Radiance flows toward us from created things, yearning to touch our hearts through the sacramental power of our eyes, ears, tongues, nostrils, fingertips. And a luminous stream also flows from within us, outward to the world through these same gates of perception, yearning to touch the incarnate breasts of matter. (In the Hebrew Bible, one of the names of God is "El Shaddai": God of Breasts.)

The Radiance flowing toward us and the Radiance flowing out of us meet in sensation, for they are one and the same Light. In the beginning, the Light appears to be divided in two, the dualism of subject and object, Shiva and Shakti. But this is only a trick of perception, inviting us to celebrate their wedding.

The divine One pulsates as the play of Two. Shakti dances as matter to delight Shiva, who is pure consciousness. She returns the offering of his own creative fire to him through every created form.

So we wed the light within us to the light outside by the sacrament of sensation - shudder of leaf, glimmer of dragonfly wing, eye of the homeless child. Through our merest wonder at the world, Shiva and Shakti, Yahweh and Shekinah, Christ and Magdalene marry again and again in the bridal chamber of our perception.

To be incarnate in a human body is the highest honor. Angels long to be born on earth and gain liberation by perceiving it.
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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