Here are some inspirational thoughts for August. They are taken from seven people who are poets, contemplatives and a Jungian analyst. Each has given me much nourishment and a focus for reflection and thought.
First of all the Sufi poet Rumi who urges us to awaken and break free into the truth:
Why when God’s world is so big,
did you fall asleep in a prison
of all places?
The Jesuit Gerard Hughes who reminds us of our littleness in the light of Christ:
I looked at the candle in the darkness and recognised the darkness in all the bewilderment, numbness, frustration, helplessness and anxiety I had experienced…
The light came into the darkness and I felt the joy of it, an inner certainty in all my uncertainty, a hope when everything seemed hopeless, an assurance that all manner of things will be well and that Christ is greater than all my stupidity and sinfulness. I knew then that I was caught up in something far greater than my mind can ever grasp.
One of my favourites is the poet and contemplative Raissa Maritain who was the wife of the theologian Jacques Maritain and who understood that both poetry and contemplation gives us a direct line to God. Thomas Merton translated some of her poems from the French:
My God I am here before thee
I crumble into nothing before thee
I adore thy greatness
My need is immense
Have pity on me
In her Rule of Life Raissa wrote,
‘Accept all as coming from God
Do all for God
Offer all to God’.
Evelyn Underhill who wrote on mysticism and then under the spiritual director Baron Von Hugel became increasingly awakened and aware. Her letters and retreat notes are wonderful:
The light comes, when it does come, rather suddenly and strangely I think. It is just like falling in love; a thing that never happens to those who are always trying to do it.
You may also take it for granted, of course, that so long as you want peace and illumination for your own sake you will not get them. Self-surrender an entire willingness to live in the dark, in pain, anything – this is the real secret. I think no one really finds the Great Companion till their love is of that kind that they long only to give and not to get.
Robert Johnson, a Jungian analyst, had a period in his life when he stayed and worked in a Benedictine monastery running a therapy practice and retreat centre. He describes an experience when walking through a street he heard a demand in his head,
‘Now make up your mind: either everything in the world is the body and blood of Christ, or nothing is. Make up your mind’. He remembers that this was such a shock that he can still recall the external scene vividly. For him it was a terrible, and at the same time wonderful moment. As he says he knew the answer immediately, but he didn’t know what to do with it. If he said that nothing was he would die immediately from a lack of meaning in his life, ‘it was clear that Christ must be everything. But how could I live with that truth? It seemed too big to take in. I have been struggling since with the implication of that vision’.
Bede Griffiths the monk who embraced the life of an Indian holy man and so fused within him the experiences of both Hinduism and Christianity to reach a place of non-duality:
I had been striving to come to terms with it, to allot it a certain place in my life but it had shown me that it would accept no compromise. I had wanted to keep my own will and to direct my own life; but now I had been forced to surrender. I had placed my life in the hands of a power which was infinitely beyond me and I knew from this time that the sole purpose of my life must be to leave myself in those hands and to allow my soul to be governed by that will.
Finally Jean Sulivan the religious and author of Morning Light:
So Jesus’ word touches you like a hand on your shoulder, a threat as well as a friendship, a fraternal and dangerous invitation that leads from the known world and the deciphered text and makes you cross over to a land that is both here and elsewhere, whose image you carry deep within you.