Thursday, July 21, 2016

Overwhelming Gratitude

I mentioned before in a previous blog entry "My Prayer" how a return for funeral to the seaside town Portstewart, some five years ago was associated with an important mystical experience.

Just recently, I had cause to return again to Portstewart to attend the wedding of one of my northern relatives.

On this occasion, as I strolled down the promenade with my sister, I was filled with an unexpected sadness in the mourning of my two parents (who had always accompanied me as a child to Portstewart on holiday visits).  I was filled with an ardent longing to see them once again and reminisce about former times, which of course was no longer possible.

However as I experienced anew how much they had meant to me, slowly the feeling of grief turned to an overwhelming gratitude for the wonderful gift of life, which I owe to my parents. And in my heart I now said repeatedly "Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for everything, for the uniqueness of this life, the profound mystery of which - due to you both - I have been allowed to ceaselessly fathom."   

I have reflected before on these pages on - how from a mathematical perspective - it is utterly improbable that I - indeed anyone of us - is here. If anything had worked out differently even in recent history e.g. if my parents had not met, or my mother's pregnancy involved a different egg and sperm, some one else might indeed have been born, but it would not have been me! And then when we extend back over the billions of years of our Universe's existence, we may come to realise from this perspective that the uniqueness of each human life - and indeed all that exists in creation - has emerged in the face of truly impossible odds.

However the fact that we are all here in truth exposes this form of rational type thinking as completely inadequate in the face of the mystery of creation.

Recently, I have noticed an important change in my own way of looking at this mystery, which commonly we refer to as "God"

I have mentioned before on many occasions how the Western perspective on God - indeed the Eastern also - is unduly couched in terms of the transcendent aspect of spiritual meaning.

From a transcendent perspective, God i.e. spirit is intimately seen as beyond any phenomenal representation. This then is associated in a belief in an after-life so that ultimate reality - as pure spirit - can only be encountered when we die.

However the transcendent aspect in truth needs to be properly counterbalanced with the corresponding immanent aspect, where ultimate spirit is seen as the essence of all form.

This then leads to a different notion of ultimate reality as a return to a spiritual destiny which is already inherent in our phenomenal existence.

So it is not just that one is striving to realise one's eternal destiny in an afterlife (succeeding physical death). Properly understood, one's true home as eternal life was already present in a before-life - as it were - that preceded one's physical birth.

Now one might immediately query the notion of an eternal life before physical birth, given that we have no clear memory of such a state.

However just as on awakening, one can quickly forget the content of one's reveries (while asleep), to an even greater extent, one can say that this is true of earthly existence, where memory of our true spiritual home is likewise eroded from earliest infant development.

In fact this viewpoint is beautifully expressed in the lines of William Wordsworth from "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality"

"Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
 But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God,
who is our home":

So in rational analytic terms, before and after are directly opposite each other (in an absolute manner).

However in intuitive (holistic) terns, before and after are seen ever more clearly as complementary and ultimately identical with each other.

So as spiritual intuition becomes increasingly refined (which is the appropriate manner for appreciating eternal mystery) before and after increasingly are seen as but relative phenomenal expressions of the eternal present.

So each one of us simply exists in the eternal present. which is  the realisation of our true being. Thus in the language of formal understanding, our true spiritual identity both precedes (as before) and succeeds (as after) our earthly existence.

This notion, I believe is very well expressed in the writings of the great Christian mystic Ruysbroeck, where one's earthly existence already exists in the mind of God as an archetype (or eternal copy) of God. So rather than the scientific mathematical notion of existence as merely random representing impossible odds, each human life - and indeed everything  in creation - is eternally destined for existence by God.

I had been troubled for some time in my life by the notion that what exists is sharply opposed to what does not exist. And I asked myself the question "Why have I the chance to live, when so much possibility for life will not be actualised (in countless non-existent others)?

However I now see this as false way of looking at things. In the end true existence is God. So the possibility for existence (in an actualised phenomenal manner) already represents God.

In fact, I now see it as my true destiny - indeed every one's true destiny - to gradually remove the illusion of earthly existence as having any ultimate reality.

In other words, to see phenomenal reality clearly is to realise its true essential identity (i.e. as God). And in this simple realisation, all phenomenal form gradually melts away in a spiritual embrace that is eternally present.