17 August 2007

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Saturday 18th August 2007

“No one chooses to be a mystic of his own volition. He must undergo some sort of experience which is of sufficient intensity to lead to an expansion of normal consciousness and perception, so that there comes to him a new vision of reality which dominates his life and thought. He must experience some sort of ‘conversion’.
The illumination may be gradual, almost imperceptible, or sudden and violent. If there is a sudden conversion, a swift, overwhelming experience, it is usually preceded by and is the result of a long period of restlessness, uncertainty, and mental stress.”

“Mysticism” by F.C. Happold

Last Sunday afternoon as I was driving home from my favourite walk around Horsenell Gully, I decided to stop in at a grungy looking bookshop that I’ve been driving past for years but had never visited. The homemade sign outside said “Wholistic Bookshop”, which to me had always conjured up images of new-age, but now passé obsessions like crystals, biorhythms, UFOs etc.

Now honestly I like to have my pre-judgements proved wrong, just to remind me that by judging anything I’ve slipped into a small mind mentality, so it was a nice wake up call to discover the wholistic bookshop to be a sweet little haven with quite a variety of old books and literature on some great spiritual traditions.
It’s a tiny place, crammed with books, everything inside feels somehow washed over with sepia tones and it feels dusty even though it isn’t. After a few minutes of browsing to get familiar with the flavour of the book selection and how they were organised, a man, 45ish, appeared from behind a big shelf. He had very long hair and a glowing warm-afternoon kind of smile. As it was 4.30pm, I asked him what time he closed, expecting him to say 5 o’clock. Ever so casually he replied, “Oh whenever the sun goes down”.
There were a few yoga books, though nothing I hadn’t read or would want to read, so I explored the other shelves and found a section with miscellaneous religious/spiritual books, quite a few by Swami this and Swami that, but in between were a few books from both the Hindu and Christian mystical traditions.

I bought two books, one was “Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology” by F. C. Happold and the other was a full text version of The Philokalia.
Once again I find myself excited and breathless when reminded of the mystical.
Why do I keep getting sidetracked?
The mystical power that silently guides the direction of our lives is always so close, working away behind the scenes. But whenever I get caught up my personal stories, I’m not conscious of this delicately obscured process that is guiding me towards the light. At other times I feel it's presence illuminating me from within, an intensely surging but gentle power that effervesces my being, urging me to take notice.
To stumble across this book is a reminder from the universe. A little poke in the ribs.
“Look at me” it says “Refocus your eyes to the invisible realms again and you’ll start seeing what needs to be seen”.

Another excerpt from the book:
"In the study of contemplation we are considering a movement of consciousness towards a higher level, as the result of the emergence and cultivation of powers which in most men and women remain latent. As found in the true contemplative it is an extreme form of the withdrawal of attention from the sensible world and a total dedication of action and mind towards a particular interior object. It is essentially a creative activity, similar to the highest activity of poet, painter, and musician.”

1 comment:

gartenfische said...

This is a lovely post. (One of my favorite subjects!) I love those reminders too, that pull me back, telling me what I should be paying attention to. It's hard to see the forest for the trees; I get so caught up in what's going on with me now (the "personal stories").

I'll be interested to hear how the mysticism book is. And oooh, the Philokalia!–that's a wonderful find. One of my favorite books is The Book of Mysical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives. Some of it comes from the Philokalia, but it draws on other sources, too.