Saturday, August 1, 2009

Touched by the Uncreated

It has been recommended that I write some explanation regarding the two streams of creative recollections now emerging. My fondness for jumping from subject to subject in conversation is showing up as an appetite for equal unpredictability in time, place, and character notes. It's all wonderful fun for me, and, I suspect, just one more Divine ruse for keeping the reader's nose to substance rather than style, but if I can inject a little order and simplification, that's all right too.
I think it is fair to say that of all genres of writing, stories about the spiritual life depend the least on plot. The spiritual writer has to be concerned much more with the sheer facts of spiritual happenings in themselves, without too much concern for their external wrappings, simply because the interior events, in their substance, have little to do with the external, least of all in terms of causation. The external, at best, is no more than an occasion or a setting, and very often its effect on the mystic will be the precise opposite of what a citizen of the world is looking for.
The editorial input is timely. As I said a post or two previous, the winding down of the music research had led me back to my old contentment in the dark night, the normal day to day landscape for the contemplative's puttering about. So, naturally, I have been browsing John of the Cross' text of the same name, and then finding particular relevance in the very last chapter. I'm going to quote and footnote at least some of it, by way of casting a little light on the reason for the two streams of recollection.
The principle intent in this scheme to bringing us to the principle incident of the spiritual life, that is, the experience and recognition of actually being given contact with God Himself, rather than a mere manifestation of created grace. The latter is, of course, wonderfully useful on a daily basis, and necessary to salvation, but it is also most certainly not the same thing as the intellectual "seeing" and spiritual "feeling" of a brush with the Uncreated.
As I was saying recently to a rather wonderful new acquaintance, a Capuchin priest from the Congo, from the Ubaka tribe, the only line of the Our Father that puzzled me as we stood up every school day morning and recited with our home room teacher was "Thy kingdom come, the will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The rest of it made obvious sense, even though I was still not empty of sin, by any means, but just how did Heaven take over the earth?
Grade Twelve, of course, was an interesting year from the spiritual point of view, full of all sorts of special thumps from the Great Beyond, and this puzzle was only part of it, stirring the pot, as it were, in an educational system excellent to a certain degree, but woefully lacking in providing the theology that teenagers have a potential for. The intellectual curses of the Reformation, the babble of the Renaissance, still laid their perverse and disturbing hands on the hearts of the young.
It is true that the Lord's prayer and the Bible readings were much better then than the nothing they have now in the public schools, but they are still not fully efficient without formal theological instruction. Otherwise, how could a youthful mystic, particularly nailed by the extraordinary actions of Almighty God at the age of three, and specially pursued by the Hound of Heaven thereafter, require a full six years at a so-called world class university before he took up the writings of the mystics - specifically John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel - and only then because his wife gave it to him for a wedding present?
How indeed. Did false humility have something to do with it? Lack of a learned example? After all, for all our bold claims to originality and independent thinking we do inevitably only follow one sort of model or another, growing in wisdom - if indeed that fortunate - precisely in the proportion that we learn to bow humbly and gratefully before the classics, especially the classics in, and connected intimately with, the Scriptures, and rare it is that we have the fortune, when young, to find mentors who have taken that journey to its fullest lengths. And even when we are so fortunate we still have to make their wisdom our own, and in that come the trials that few will take the road through, as much as they might like the blessings that come at the finish.
So, because of the disproportions in my inner and outer sources of education, the tales of youth must be told in different modes. Obviously a man is one thing when God has special ways of hammering him into shape that he has no names for, and a different rational animal when he starts to collect some names, and then something else again rather angelic when he somewhat finishes that course of realization.
Thus, all the tales now coming forth under the heading: The Last of the Almost Natural Summers have to do with a youthful mystic happily cranked up several notches above the older moods of teen-hood by honest study of whatever genius took his fancy, yet still unaware of the proper language and texts for what was happening to him beyond the levels of the social sciences and philosophy; and the stuff after that has to do with the arrival of Catholic doctrine and practice, God bless them.
All this, of course, is speaking only of Toby Skinner's younger days, when the faults he had to look to were primarily his own. It has occurred to me that when we get to some later years, and the very senior levels of the spiritual mansions, the faults of others will make for some not unsensational Lives and Times of our present society.
Just to think of one field of cultural endeavour, let us consider publishing. But not quite yet. I have just in the past five or six days come to grips with the delightful rowing machine, a Concept 2 production we have had in our beautifully refurbished attic almost three years, and I shall be swanking out on that for a bit, if only because I am incredibly mystified as to why it has taken so long to get around to finally taking on to what is so clearly the ideal workout situation for a contemplative.

1 comment:

cabbage ears said...

To be young is to be blessed whether one is aware of the fact or not. To be "older" and strive for the succour and blessings of the divine is indeed glory. Irene