Finding our way: Martin Israel 2


Set design (1887) for a revival of the opera Oberon by Weber

Growing up it was very hard for Martin Israel to assert himself out in the world; he was inept at games and physical tasks leaving him a target for bullying at school. ‘I attribute my failures to physical incompetence caused by the abuse I had suffered at the hands of my father’. Feeling contempt for the insensitive, Martin retreated to academic work seeing himself as a strange child loving silence and all creation. ‘Each object, each flower, the sky and the atmosphere were bathed in a supersensual radiance … God had made it, and it reflected, in its own humility, the divine imprint’. This mystical reality stayed with him and influenced his later spiritual writings.

At the age of sixteen, Martin had a powerful experience while listening to the overture to Weber’s opera ‘Oberon’: ‘The music became blurred … the bedroom was bathed in a light of iridescent radiance.’ Initially afraid, Martin submitted to the experience and he was filled with a sense of deep peace.

I was borne aloft by a power that surpassed my understanding … it was the full measure of love, for with it were all things, and in it life found consummation … I was in the realm of eternal life … the ever-living present.

He divined during this mystical experience spiritual truths, including the ascending spiral of life, death, and rebirth as the destiny of all living things, and as part of their progress towards completion. Each he saw as part of the whole and in union with all creation – there was no loss of identity although private experience was transcended, and he felt that he had really experienced the identity of a whole person. The vision ended when God told Martin to return to the world of form, and to put into practice the teaching that he had been given. This revelation of the love of God for all creatures, he said remained the most important event in his life, writing over thirty years later that the memory of it was crystal clear.

He later studied medicine, but was plagued by terrible social inhibitions. Moving to England his psychological problems continued, but when having speech therapy for an inability to project his voice the therapist recognised Martin’s underlying deeper psychological disturbance, and encouraged by her he began to get in touch with his anger towards his parents, attending classes and reading about Freud and Jung and their theories on the unconscious and the inner world. His guide here was Mary Macauley:

I realised I was in the presence of a person I really knew, and could at last start being myself … I began to unburden myself of the knowledge that lay deep within me … for the first time in my life I had a real conversation about the profound issues of existence … and at last I began to move freely amongst people with whom I could converse with ease.

Martin saw that both the inner revelations and the outer suffering he had experienced could be ‘fertilised in service to those on the path of self-realisation … liberating others from the shackles of meaninglessness and fear.’ He developed two spiritual gifts: the first the ability to empty his mind in contemplative prayer, during which he could intuit other people’s needs and dispositions including at times the presence of evil. The second was an ability to give spontaneous inspirational addresses which further developed some years later into writing: ‘It was as if the Holy Spirit was speaking through me, and using the great store-house of wisdom and experience that my educated, sensitive mind had accumulated during the painful process of its growth.’ And he began a vocation of healing and ministry.