An Experimental Contribution - Anne Marie Lee - 25 Aug 01 : LUSENET : Experience into Words : One Thread

An Experimental Contribution!!

May I try to put into words a recurring experience which is one of the many reasons compelling me to stay on the spiritual journey. It?s about a certain kind of 'knowing'. A 'knowing' that is deeper or outside ordinary knowledge. I have thought about it a lot and it is not really the same as what is known as 'sixth sense'. I will tell my most recent experience.

Earlier this week I gave four craft classes to young people at a Summer School I was visiting. There was one particularly difficult girl in the class. She was disruptive, her language was vulgar, when she produced some work it was excellent but she wasn't content with it and destroyed it. I was angry with her, she was as irritating as a stone in my shoe but I didn't let her see that. I was sorely tempted to arrange for her to attend one of the other classes.

This is where the 'knowing' comes in. She was drawing me, she was touching something deep inside me. At this point in the experience there is no conscious communication between me and the Trinitarian God. All appears to be happening on a human level yet that cannot be so.

This child was only thirteen years old. I had thought she was older, mainly because of her inappropriate language. She had a poor self image and was quite happy to tell me that her nick-name in school was ?slut?. There was a loneliness and an insecurity about her. Her little face was hard, street wise and she was wary, expecting me to correct her for her use of bad language and said so. I explained to her that it wasn't my place to correct her but that the language she used was her own choice and did give a bad impression of her to others. I felt considerable pain in my own heart at the plight of this child.

She continued to attend my class and in the short few days I knew her we had conversations in which I tried to build her self esteem. Telling her how beautiful she was inside, and out. How precious she was in God?s eyes because He created her and he only makes the best. She made a little box and decorated it. I asked her to put our conversations into the box and keep it so that when she was feeling bad about herself she could open the box and remember. I was getting through to her and I knew it. Another person who, unknown to me, had been observing commented on the child's positive response to the attention I gave her.

Here was a child who annoyed me, disrupted my work with the others in the class. There was nothing humanly attractive about her for me. Yet, there was this 'knowing'. This something over and above, which causes me to make a choice. I can choose to ignore or to respond and take the attendant risks. I believe this ?knowing? is more than a human emotion or sense. When I flow with it and act on it there is a deep sense of peace in me which is undisturbed by the deep pain I often feel in these situations. I suppose I could describe it as my theology of life. 'True, I am living, here and now, this mortal life; but my real life is the faith I have in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'. Gal 2:19b-20. Reflecting on this experience I know Jesus used me in some small way to show His love to this child. Meister Eckhart also talks about this 'knowing' but unfortunately I can't find the passage I'm looking for in his works.

'Where you truly go out from your will and your knowledge, God with His knowledge surely and willingly goes in and shines there clearly. Where God will thus know Himself, there your knowledge cannot subsist and is of no avail'. Meister Eckhart, Sermons and Treatises, Vol 1 P40, M.O.C.Walshe. I think the 'knowing' I have is God?s knowledge and that is why I don?t understand it. I had no knowledge of this child, nor any idea what her needs might be. God knew and in so far as I was willing to give myself over to Him and take the risks necessary He did the work. It sounds terribly holy but in fact for me these events are quite ordinary. As I said, while they are happening there is no thought of God, no prayer, nothing overtly spiritual. Afterwards I do reflect and in prayer I do offer myself up to His will albeit in fear and trembling in case He asks too much.

Does anyone else have this kind of experience or is my theology upside down? AM

-- Anonymous, August 26, 2001


Response to An Experimental Contribution

A Reflection on the Experimental Contribution:

For many years the question, "what if Mary had said 'No'?" has been with me. Was there really no question of such a response because she was the Immaculate Conception? She had been Divinely prepared.

Did Mary always know exactly who Jesus was? I'd rather think not.

Mary's 'Yes' was the ultimate response. Here was total openness to the Will of God. Total trust in the darkness of her unknowing in the human sense. But, she had something of God's knowledge, she had that knowing I spoke about earlier.

In his book First Glance at Adrienne Von Speyr, Hans Urs Von Balthasar says 'Mary's consent is the archetype of Christian fruitfulness. Only with man's yes can God begin something of Christian, supernatural meaning. Only in this yes can the Son of God become man: at that time in Mary, and now, anew in each one who attempts to join her consent. ('Attempt' is a favourite word of Adrienne's. A Christian can do no more than 'attempt'.) If this idea is taken seriously, then the truly contemplative life - as an attempt to remain entirely open for the Word of God - is not only as fruitful as the active life, but is for all Christians, contemplative as well as active, the indispensable basis of all Christian action in the world. The concept of fruitfulness is central; it expresses much greater depth than the concept of 'apostolate' or, certainly, of 'success'. success is sought for and attained in finite undertakings; but only the infinity of the consent which, as response to God neither anticipates anything nor knows anything in advance, is fruitful? pp53/4.

I attempt to join in Mary's consent. This happens through action and contemplation, sometimes in reverse. There is always the 'knowing' and sometimes there are glimpses of understanding. There is always risk and the need for blind trust. Fruitfulness is present in the underlying peace and contentment even when the events are difficult. I have no doubt that there is much more fruitfulness of which I am unaware. All of this is a different quality to my purely humanitarian responses to issues.


-- Anonymous, September 19, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution


I need to express with immense gratitude and humility the presence of God in my life. How, through the bad times and the good, through suffering and joy, God has always been there, and has allowed me to glimpse His presence often enough to comfort me and keep me searching.

To write my own theology I need to define the word: "The word Theology is compounded from the Greek Oeos and loyos" (this is the best I can do on my keyboard) "meaning discourse, or the knowledge caused by discourse, about God. There are two knowledge's or theologies about God. First, there is the knowledge that He has of Himself. This knowledge is communicated in part to men, only by faith in divine revelation and is caused only by grace" (Sacred Theology) "Secondly, there is the knowledge or theology about God that men derive from their natural knowledge of things...... " (Natural Theology). "Should the truths that God reveals about Himself be unknowable to unaided human reason e.g. the Trinity, the Incarnation. The word theology is used without qualification. Should the truths about God be knowable by human reason even though those truths be also revealed by God, theology is qualified by the word natural. Natural theology demonstrates God's existence and elucidates some of His attributes." (The beauty of the rose for example) This is quoted from The New Catholic Encyclopaedia. Vol. 14. P61.

My Position

I have faith in God. By this I mean that I believe in God and what God has revealed of Himself to me by grace through sacred theology and through natural theology. I'm not inclined to separate the two kinds of theology in my life. My experience is that God speaks to me, reaches out to me most of the time through nature, people, situations and in prayer and reflection. But, I would miss Him had I not the gift of grace and faith to recognise Him. I do often miss Him because of my busy-ness or neglect.

A Faith History:

Maybe I should continue where I left off in my self introduction at the meeting on 19th Sept. and try to share a little of my faith history, before beginning to write my theology!

In the beginning, for me, God was an easily angered judge. God was male, was distant and was constantly watching out for me to make mistakes or do wrong. I was afraid of God and had a fearful respect for His representatives, the clergy. The word eschatology wasn't in my vocabulary then but we were constantly faced with discussion of death, and the end of the world. I grew up in the fifties and sixties under the threat of communism and nuclear war. It was important to keep on the right side of God and the clergy in order to be saved.

Growing up in a Catholic family there was no question of not practising my religion. I went to Mass on Sundays and holy days and with my three brothers was a member of the children's sodality. My brothers were altar servers. There was no meat on Fridays, the family rosary was said every evening in May and November, -with the average amount of skittin' and laughin' until you got a clip in the ear. One was expected to 'give up something' for lent and we were sent to confession once a month. God was watching. My parents passed on to me the faith as they knew it.

I loved the atmosphere in the Church, at Mass or Benediction, especially in winter when it was dark outside. The smell of incense and the Latin hymns were comforting and transported me to another plane. There was no warm relationship with God. I asked Him for things, I told Him I was sorry for my 'sins'. Many a time I was overflowing with anger and I raged at Him. I didn't think He heard me, He was up in Heaven, he was remote. They told me He loved me and that I should love Him but His judgement, His anger, His watchfulness crowded out any possible spark of love. It was a relationship of obedience mostly out of fear.

Once I was caught between the wrath of God and the wrath of my mother and I decided, with my heart pounding in my chest, that I'd risk God's wrath since he might have forgotten the incident by the time I'd get to meet him face to face. I was about ten years old then. I wonder if He still remembers?

I was educated at a convent school from the age of nine. The sisters were good, kind women and I loved school. One absorbed the information one was given without question. At school we were surrounded by symbols of Catholicism, even the overseas boarder who were not Catholic had to go to Mass and other religious services regularly with us. We were brainwashed really. There was one liberal minded sister, probably influenced by what was coming out of the Second Vatican Council at the time. She got us thinking about such questions as abortion, contraception, social justice etc. We were in our final year at school by now and we knew that the other sisters weren't too pleased with her openness with us. But, she taught us well.

On leaving school I came by a circuitous route to a career in nursing. It is a career that I'm very happy in and very suited to. The training was hard and unsympathetic to our feelings or physical strengths. The sisters who trained us were unhappy women and took their unhappiness and frustrations out on us and on each other. It was a terrible shock for me to experience religious behaving like this. The corners were knocked off me. My shyness began to disappear as I had to stand up for myself and sometimes for my colleagues too. I began to see life in the raw. It was a tough and maturing three years. My faith remained intact but grossly impoverished. My spirit was nourished to some extent by classical music at this time. In my first year of training I began to do something which I only understood years later as ' centring', it could also be called meditating. Every morning or evening when I got up -depending on whether I was working nights or days- I would do what had to be done and then before going out I'd sit in an armchair and just 'sit' for ten or fifteen minutes. It was something I just did. I didn't think about why or how, I just did it. On days that I missed doing it I felt unsettled, out of sorts all day. I now believe that this was God's time with me. I didn't know it then.

From the age of about fifteen I was drawn to do what was then known as apostolic work. and have been doing it in various forms ever since. I started off by joining a group of, to me. elderly ladies, making vestments for the missions. The group met in the school once a week. This was followed by my joining a group of fellow students visiting the girls in a Magdalene Home, once a week.. At various times I was a member of the Legion of Mary, the St. Vincent de Paul. I worked with deaf people, accompanied the sick to Lourdes, was involved with sales of work in the Mansion House for different charities and so on.

There was no connection between the voluntary/statuary work that I did and my, I'll call it religious life because I don't think I had a spiritual life. God was still distant, still on the fringe. There was a good feeling about Church on Sunday and I wouldn't dream of skipping it, not so much for love of God as from fear of hell. There was no sense of God's presence in my everyday life and work. then.

There were five of us at the hospital who met for the first time on the first day. We stayed together for the three years of training and like all young people we sat into the small hours many a night talking, solving the problems of the world. We got up to quite a bit of mischief too and when I think now of the accidents we could have had or caused I cringe. The other four were interested in meeting young men and the best way to do that was to join a club for tennis or badminton and go to dances. I didn't join my friends in these pursuits very often. Maybe I wasn't ready, I'd certainly had enough of boys growing up. I was sensitive to the feelings of young men and was quite unhappy about the casual and often disrespectful way my friends treated their men friends. The deeper level of communication that one could have with others working together on charitable projects was much more appealing to me.

At the age of twenty one I had qualified as a general nurse and went to Scotland to study midwifery. Here my faith was severely challenged. It was 1970. The abortion bill had been passed in England in 1968 and was very much a topic of conversation. Abortions were being carried out in the hospital and we were expected to assist. I took a stand against it. The principle tutor wiped the floor with me. She expressed her hatred because I was Irish, I was Catholic and I stood my ground with her - much to my own surprise..

Growing up with the belief that only baptised Catholics would get to see the face of God we busied ourselves Baptising the little foetus' that had been aborted. Catholics weren't allowed to attend services in other Christian churches without permission then.. I went every Sunday to the Presbyterian service and then to Mass with an Anglican colleague with whom I formed a good friendship. She knew far more about her religion than I did about mine. My friendship with her exploded the many negative myths I had taken on board about Protestants and how they lived. My trust in the clergy was exploded by the lack of interest the Catholic Chaplain to the hospital showed in our difficulties with the problem of having to assist with abortions. He was more concerned with my attendance at the Presbyterian church. For some support I joined an anti-abortion discussion group set up by the Presbyterian Chaplain to the hospital.

So you see, my secure belief system was crumbling like dry sand under my feet. I was lost. I needed a belief system and now I couldn't trust the one I had. I was in a state of shock.. I packed my bags and came home half way through the course. All of my Irish colleagues stayed but I was never tempted to judge them. The regimen was tough and the stance I took had to have been by the grace of God, I hadn't sufficient personal strength to do it alone.

So after all this I pushed religion aside, except for Mass. I kept going on Sundays because there was still some comfort there. Meantime I concentrated on living life and helping others, an activity which gave me lots of personal satisfaction. A place became available for me in a Maternity hospital in Dublin and I commenced training again. During all this time there was never any question for me but that God existed. How was I going to find out the truth about Him? The clergy and sisters I knew had given me a lot of inaccurate information about Him, so I wouldn't approach them. There weren't any religious courses for lay people at that time, or if there were I didn't know about them.

For the next five years I worked in a clinic treating drug addicts. In the first year there I heard about an Encounter Group that was happening over a weekend in Dundalk. I decided to go on my own. It was run jointly by Dominicans and Jesuits. I was assigned to a group facilitated by a Jesuit. "The encounter group exists primarily in order to break through the personal barriers people erect so that they can react with one another openly and freely." Carl Rogers Psychologist. For me this was the first step in a wonderful spiritual awakening.

On the Sunday a young priest said Mass, without formal vestments, at a coffee table, using ordinary bread. We, about fifty of us, sat around on the floor. This broke all barriers for me. I had never before experienced anything like it. It was real, I could and did participate. At the sign of peace people got up and hugged each other. I started to weep and wept uncontrollable for a long time. The dam had burst inside me and I wept for me for the first time. I wept, not in anger, or sadness or joy, but for me. I didn't understand it, but it was good. There was no fear. If I was a Buddhist it would be my first Kensho experience. The priest who facilitated the group was worried about me and proposed keeping in contact with me. Because I had been knocked about so much in the previous few years I sat him down and told him I wouldn't put him up on a pedestal. To me he was first a man and secondly a priest. How he lived his life, and not his title is what would impress me I also told him he couldn't mentor me unless it was reciprocal. For the next two years I lived and learned in the shelter of his wing. He had an expression which he used often "Stick around and you'll learn kid!"

Through discussion with him I was able to bring God into everything I did. God was no longer confined to an hour on Sundays. I began to develop a spiritual life. God was coming nearer, becoming warmer, less threatening. I was guided in my reading, introduced to the papers of Vatican 11. I read Gibran, Saint Exupery, Hans Kung and quite a mix of other literature. I joined a charismatic prayer group, but never really fitted in. I was so spiritually hungry I soaked it all up - always remaining critical. I'm pragmatic by nature, not intellectual. I met some wonderful people at that time who inspired me and gave me to believe that whatever it is it can be done.

Between my forth and fifth year working at the drug clinic, I took a sabbatical year and worked on the retreat team with the Jesuits, facilitating encounter groups for young people among other things. This was a wonderful opportunity for me. Apart from the spiritual nourishment I got the Jesuits gave me confidence, a belief in myself. I had grown up, the only daughter, in a household where the male was all important and now I tried to find a place for myself in an institutional Church where the female was second class and of no consequence. The Jesuits showed their belief in me by inviting me to work with them.

To be continued.

Anne Marie Lee.


-- Anonymous, September 23, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution

Annemarie, this is long and I can only focus on one tiny piece, namely: "My experience is that God speaks to me, reaches out to me most of the time through nature, people, situations and in prayer and reflection." My question to you regards the other bit of time which is not covered by the word "most". What is happening there? Is God reaching out to you some other way? Are you reaching out to God? Or is there a stay of communication? This may appear flippant on my part but I do think it is feasible to ask such questions of the one's we relate to, especially God, of whom so many marvelous claims are made it seems impossible that you, or I, or anyone else could experience holes in our communication with God. Ray.

-- Anonymous, September 23, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution

Thanks Ray, I'm delighted with your response, it's a welcome challenge and also a vote of confidence, in a strange way. God communicates with me all the time, in every aspect and activity of my life. Although I don't always pick up the receiver at this end. I was conscious when writing that sentence that someone would once again tell me I was wrong, so I hedged my bets. "You shouldn't talk to God when driving your car because you cannot concentrate on God and the road at the same time." etc. Anne Marie.

-- Anonymous, September 25, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution

Faith History Continued...

In that year I fell in love for the first time. It was a wonderful, mind blowing, walking on air experience. We had two fantastic years of very special friendship but, deep down, we both knew we weren't meant for each other and in order to have the freedom to follow God's call we chose to part by mutual consent. There was searing pain in our parting and that is what God sometimes asks of those who choose to follow His way. When we parted we both knew what Gods plan for him was, I didn't yet know what God's plan was for me. It was at this point that I let go of my wishes and plans for my future and invited God to take over. I wanted to marry and have children, but I determined that whichever way life went I would live it to the full and have no regrets, be happy and make as many other people as possible happy in the process. Once I'd reached that point a great calm descended on me. From that time on there was an underlying contentment which is still with me. God, as shepherd, was leading me.

Having completed my sabbatical year I came back to the Drug Centre and after another year there I went on to train in Public Health Nursing. My first placement was in the North Inner City working with families and the sick in their own homes. Here in the midst of the harshness of life and the poverty, I met and worked closely with people who had great compassion and a wonderful capacity to laugh at themselves and their situation. I met Jesus face to face every day in there. Even as I sit here now reminiscing and writing this, tears of joy and sadness are bubbling up in me as the different people and incidences flash before me. There are so many spiritually nourishing stories to be told.

God doesn't interfere in our lives. I believe. God has given us the gift of free will and He continuously respects that. He does, however, lead us gently forward and we can flow with that if we choose. I say this because I believe He lead David and I to meet and six years later to marry. David is 'God sent' to me. We have been married for twenty one years and have two daughters. A few days after the wedding we moved to England and lived there for five years. Those early years were difficult. Since we were both a little older than the average couple we found the adjustment harder to make. The children were born there. We had no extended family support as our relatives lived at a distance.

In the first couple of years I think I was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience of marriage, children, cultural difference etc. No one had my history. There was no one with whom I could sit down and say "do you remember". I was too distracted and tired to be aware of God. It was too much trouble to get up and dress the children to go to Mass on Sundays. I believe if David hadn't taken over I would have drifted away from practising. God was there for me but I wasn't able to respond.

However, my faith remained strong and it was to be tested. When our children were two and a half and one year old David drove us up to visit my aunt in Birmingham one weekend. I was to stay for a week with the two children while David went back to London to work. When we were there I used to take Kate, the older child to Mass daily. One morning while in the Church she became obviously ill with a high temperature. I took her home and we called the doctor who decided she had meningitis. She was rushed to hospital and I went with her leaving instructions with my aunt to contact David. At the first hospital the doctors were unsure whether it was meningitis or a brain tumour so they transferred us both to a second hospital.. By this time she was unconscious. When David arrived they had taken Kate for a brain scan having told me that if it was a tumour they would take her straight to theatre for surgery. I had signed the necessary papers. A little knowledge is lethal in situations like this. David and I sat on the side of the bed in the room we had been given. Sure she was going to die, we talked to God. Through our pain and tears we thanked Him for the gift she had so far been to us and told Him if He wanted her back now we would freely offer her. It was only by the grace of God that we could have prayed like that at that time. She did have meningitis and she lived and we thank God today for the continuing gift she is to us. That experience brought David and I much closer to God and to one another.

At the end of the five years we moved back to live in Dublin. This wasn't easy for David and for me it was also difficult because I had put down deep roots in London. There was a period of grieving and loss as we settled in. In London we had joined the Focolari Movement. We met there, people with whom we felt free to talk about God in our lives. We continued in the Movement when we came back to Dublin. I learned a lot about Christian living from their spirituality. They talked about 'Jesus in the midst' and 'being the first to love' and we tried to live this. The community supported us in living as a Christian family. We had wonderful family holidays where three or four families would rent accommodation by the sea or in the countryside in Ireland and spend a week or two in the summer. When the children were young we were involved in the local parish and children's liturgy - this was always an uphill struggle.

As the children were growing up they were the primary focus of our attention. We passed on our faith to them as best we could. When they dropped out, both at the age of sixteen, we were not devastated because the Institutional Church as it is at present, has little to offer them, and as females and lay people, there is little space for them to offer anything to it. They have had a good faith base on which to build when the time is right for them. Neither of them are overly materialistic and both have a sense of obligation to give a little back to society.

We were back a few years when I received a phone call to say that a very close friend of ours had taken her own life. I was devastated. The questions I asked myself - why did I not see it coming? Could I have done anything to prevent it? How could I not be aware of her pain? I was at a terrible loss in my grief and guilt. Then I had a dream. I was driving along an open country road in brilliant sunshine. My heart was breaking with sadness. I came to a cross roads and stopped because I didn't know which way to go. Then I heard a voice in my head "She is here, with me, but you can't come any further". That was God telling me my friend was with Him and I knew she was because she had been a wonderfully compassionate Christian person in life. The dream brought with it an acceptance of my friends death as a moving on to the next level, and we are still in contact with each other as members of the communion of saints.

My being a woman is a problem for the Institutional Church and this has caused me deep pain which I carry with me. The lecture I gave to my priest mentor almost thirty years ago came out of that pain. While I may not, initially, have been able to put it into words, I have been aware from the days of that encounter experience, that what was important was not so much the practice of religion as a relationship with God. I have had, and do have, a relationship with God, however impoverished others might consider it to be. That is why I could use my reason when dealing with the practice of religion as prescribed by the Institutional Church and not turn my back on it completely as many of my friends and colleagues did. The 'Church as the people of God 'appeals to me and I suppose that is where I fit in. I hear the stories of women because I work mostly with women and children. I hear their guilt and pain and their fear of a punishing God because no one has shouted to them about the unconditional love of God. I have found ways to share the God I know with them, and the joy of that, for them and me, is just mind boggling, summersaultingly wonderful.

My relationship with God has always been one where I would move forward and if the direction I took was right I would know by the fruits of the Holy spirit - peace contentment and a sense of the rightness about things even if the path, the task or the duty was in itself unpleasant - (a little bit like sewing on a button, I would keep blindly pushing through the material at the back of the button until the needle found the hole to go through). I use the talents I have and when I run out I ask God to take over, and He does.

This is but a summary and if you have read it I thank you for your patience and may God Bless you.

Anne Marie.

-- Anonymous, September 26, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution

Dear Anne Marie,

Thank you for that long sharing of your life and experience with us. As you have long meditated on those events, so too for us there is much to ruminate over and to savour.

I think I just want to underline some aspects of your story that struck me, particularly about a kind of dark knowing:

I was struck by your reflection on your "knowing" in the story about the little girl with a poor notion of herself. You write:

"Yet, there was this 'knowing'. This something over and above, which causes me to make a choice. I can choose to ignore or to respond and take the attendant risks. I believe this ‘knowing' is more than a human emotion or sense. When I flow with it and act on it there is a deep sense of peace in me which is undisturbed by the deep pain I often feel in these situations. I suppose I could describe it as my theology of life."

I think this is very valuable and a source of great strength.

Later you write again in the same vein:

"I think the 'knowing' I have is God's knowledge and that is why I don't understand it. I had no knowledge of this child, nor any idea what her needs might be. God knew and in so far as I was willing to give myself over to Him and take the risks necessary He did the work. It sounds terribly holy but in fact for me these events are quite ordinary. As I said, while they are happening there is no thought of God, no prayer, nothing overtly spiritual. Afterwards I do reflect and in prayer I do offer myself up to His will albeit in fear and trembling in case He asks too much."

I recently read some further reflections on a kind of dark knowing in the book by William Johnson, the Belfast Jesuit who has spend many years teaching in Japan. His book is called, Arise, My Love...: Mysticism For a New Era (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2000, pp. 105–106: The section is entitled: "The Darkness of Buddha" and it is an example of how in Buddhism, they develop rituals to encourage people to enter into a kind of subterranean knowing that leads through darkness into light:

"In 1998, shortly after the winter Olympics, I visited the famous temple of Zenkoji in Nagano with a Jesuit friend. After watching the assembled monks reciting the Sutras, we joined a host of pilgrims to climb down a narrow staircase leading to a long, dark corridor or tunnel that runs beneath the temple. Very slowly we walked single file in the pitch darkness, unable to see anything. It could have been a frightening experience, especially if someone had panicked or gone berserk; but I retained my peace of soul, reciting again and again my mantra, "Come, Holy Spirit! Come, Holy Spirit! Come, Holy Spirit!" I felt instinctively that there was wisdom in this darkness. My companion later told me that he also was at peace: for him each step in the darkness was an act of blind trust. In the silence I heard a woman's voice crying, "Become nothing!" (Mu ni naru). And so we walked slowly for ten or fifteen minutes. We heard the crashing sound of pilgrims' fists banging against the wooden panelling, searching for the key to "the door of heaven" that leads to Paradise. And then we saw flickers of light. Finally we turned a corner, came into broad daylight and found ourselves in front of a magnificent statue of the Buddha."

"My companion and I walked away in silence, speaking not a word. We had been through a religious experience. When we did eventually speak, we asked one another if we had been through a near-death experience, going through the dark tunnel, knocking on the door of heaven and coming to the light. Or, we asked, in passing through that tunnel were we leaving the phenomenal world of samsara and entering into he darkness of the real world, the darkness of the cloud of unknowing, the divine darkness—to meet the light? As I looked at the statue of the Buddha, I realized that Shakyamuni in total silence and stillness had gone through that inner darkness to a glorious enlightenment."

Later again, in writing about Mary, you evoke this "dark knowledge":

"Here was total openness to the Will of God. Total trust in the darkness of her unknowing in the human sense. But, she had something of God's knowledge, she had that knowing I spoke about earlier."

I think your sharing of this with us and your reflections on it are of help to us here.

On this theme, I am reminded of the phrase of Nicholas of Cusa (fifteenth century), "docta ignorantia", "knowing unknowing".

I think that is enough for now.

-- Anonymous, September 30, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution

Coming at this "unknowing knowing" from another angle, here is something from John Moriarty (note: Linn Feic is a deep pool on the Boyne river, the pool in which Fionn caught the salmon of wisdom):

"My house is mirrored in Linn Feic.

In a sense therefore I sleep in Linn Feic, I dream in Linn Feic.

At a sleeping depth of me that I'm not aware of, maybe I am a salmon in Linn Feic, and maybe I swim upstream every night, all the way up into the Otherworld, all the way up into Nectan's Well. At that depth of myself, maybe the shadows of the Otherworld hazel are always upon me. Are always upon all of us, letting wisdom and wonder drop down into us.

Could it be that we are safer in our depths than we are in our heights? Or, could it be that we will only be safe in the heights when we know that we are safe in our depths?

... this time, bringing a six year's solitude in the Loughcrew hills to a sudden end, it was like a stroke, it was like waking up from waking. During an endless instant, all heights and depths had disappeared, leaving only a void, or what seemed like a void.

Twenty-six years later, sitting in my house by Linn Feic, I was able to say, it is in Divine Ground behind all depths and heights that we are safe.

That summer, sitting in my reconstructed hut between the Paps, I was able to say, it is from Divine Ground behind and within them that we become able for our depths and heights."

-- Anonymous, October 02, 2001

Response to An Experimental Contribution

Heraclitus considers the dimension of soul to be depth and the direction of soul travel to be downward. So I wonder if it is truly true to be discussing depth and height in the same spiritual manner. I think what we call "high" is really the joy of a new breakthrough to depth, a deeper joy.

-- Anonymous, October 04, 2001

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