Divine Spark: Le point vierge 1

Matthew chapter 5

Verse 8: blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God

The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart or as is understood in yoga practice in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one person by the soul in another person and is made by placing the hands together at the site of the heart chakra, closing the eyes and bowing the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head and bringing the hands down to the heart. Why is this gesture used? The reason in yoga is given as increasing the flow of Divine love and by bowing the head and closing the eyes the mind is helped to surrender to the Divine in the heart.

Thomas Merton understood the significance of the idea of the Divine love within when he wrote about ‘le point vierge.’ The phrase ‘le point vierge’ – literally translated ‘the virgin point’ occurs in a well-known account by Thomas Merton of his epiphany that took place outside the confines of his monastery at the Abbey of Gethsemani and at the busy interchange of two streets Fourth and Walnut in the business district of Louisville in Kentucky.

The account of his experience that was published initially in his journal and then in an expanded form in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander describes Merton’s deep sense of interconnectedness with all the people there and with the world.

It was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes… Again, that expression, le point vierge (I cannot translate it) comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal… This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, a sour dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.

Here Merton is describing the very heart of the self and also the heart of faith. He took the phrase from the work of Louis Massignon a Catholic scholar of Islam where ‘le point vierge’ has roots in the mystical psychology of Islam as explained in the thought of al-Hallaj a Sufi mystic and dervish wanderer who died in 922 CE who described his experiences of God in this way: ‘‘I saw my Lord with the Eye of my heart, And I said: Truly there is no doubt that it is You. It is You that I see in everything; and I do not see You through anything (but You).’ He also said that ‘our hearts are a virgin that God’s truth alone opens’. Here ‘the virgin’ is the innermost secret heart of the person’ Carl Jung might call it the deep unconscious. But it is here in the very depths of our being, our heart of hearts where the person knows God.