Monthly Archives: June 2014

The quiet garden and Evelyn Underhill

I’m leading a quiet garden tomorrow which seems ironic given that I’m often trying to get in touch with anger but hopefully if the weather stays it should be good. I’ve done one of these for the last two years and always used Thomas Merton but this time I’m going to use some of the writing of Evelyn Underhill. She was born in 1875 and died in 1941 – Anglican though with strong leanings towards the Roman Catholic church and she really is a very interesting person. Whilst some of her writing on the spiritual life and letters that include some on spiritual direction may initially seem old-fashioned they contain profound spiritual insights.

Evelyn Underhill thought that mysticism offers a philosophy of the world’s true meaning and that ‘the mystical life is not just a way of life some people fancy, but is truly the destiny … the crown and summit of all evolutionary processes’
She wrote that contemplative prayer is:
‘The sort of prayer that aims at God in and for Himself and not for any of His gifts whatever, and more and more profoundly rests in Him alone: what St Paul, that vivid realist meant by being rooted and grounded.’
She continues ‘When I read those words, I always think of a forest tree. First of the bright and changeful tuft that shows itself to the world, and produces the immense spread of boughs and branches, the succession and abundance of leaves and fruits. Then of the vast and unseen system of roots, perhaps greater than the branches in strength and extent, with their tenacious attachments, their fan-like system of delicate filaments and their power of secretly absorbing food. On that profound and secret life the whole growth and stability of the tree depend. It is rooted and grounded in a hidden world.’

See the Evelyn Underhill organisation to read about he  life and work

Spiritual eclecticism

Last night I was at a wonderful concert at the Bath Pavilion. It was an evening with Deva Premal and Mitten with Manose. I last saw them about four or five years ago at Wells Cathedral and they play Sanskrit mantras often based on the Upanishads and spiritual songs promoting love, peace and harmony….everyone joins in. The most famous is the Gayatri mantra … you’ll find it below

Towards the end of the evening we were about 900 people singing ‘Alleluia’ and praising the magnificence of the created world.

Have a listen to this … it grows on you! The energy that was there was very strong …several chants were taken from their new Mantras for Life  and each one we chanted 108 times – apparently to reach all parts of the mind, body, spirit.

For me there’s no difficulty in integrating this into my Christian faith. I like the statement of the Jungian analyst Robert Johnson who said about one epiphany that he had walking down the street where he realised that either everything was the body and blood of Christ or nothing is and he knew which was the truth.

Somehow it’s all so much more than we can understand, believe or imagine. Our minds are limited…. and when I see so many people involved in spiritual searching both last night and this morning at Bath Abbey which was almost full … it confirms this yearning and spiritual hunger – denied and ridiculed in much contemporary media but alive and contributing to worship in all its different ways and in so many different places. I think it’s about being open and spiritually eclectic as there is much to inspire.

Anger has a bad press/owning projections

There’s been a series of dreadful news items – terrible violence against women, wars, economic and political refugees living in such poor conditions and the never ending environmental damage and degradation.

Is it just me or are things getting markedly worse? Perhaps it’s a fantasy but surely the world is crazier and less stable than it was… The last century was unbelievably violent with rates of genocide, warfare and cruelty beyond imagining but this current century is becoming almost as bad. And yet, and yet as is well known we are all capable of these actions, for murderous rage is part of the human condition. The very least we can do is to acknowledge these aspects of oneself and own and so use them constructively rather than destructively. I’ve learnt recently that being angry and understanding why I am angry can give the biggest energy buzz with which I can take more positive and dynamic action. In that sense it is no bad thing… Anger has a bad press which is usually because we read and hear of the destructive outcome of uncontrollable rage and anger. Anger can be fuelled or funnelled through projection where we scapegoat or single out someone or a group to carry the negative that we disown… and all that contributes or leads to violence.

The analytical psychologist Carl Jung said that the best thing each of us can do in our lifetimes is to own our projections by which he meant understanding our feelings and that includes all the horrible negative stuff rather than project them onto others. It’s the task of a lifetime and despite the best intentions extremely difficult. Nothing new here but worth pondering ….