whole: day 22

Though I have never caught the word

Of God from any calling bird,

I hear all that the ancients heard.

Though I have seen no deity

Enter or leave a twilit tree,

I see all that the seers see.

A common stone can still reveal

Something not stone, not seen, yet real.

What may a common stone conceal?

Nothing is far that once was near.

Nothing is hid that once was clear.

Nothing was God that is not here.

Here is the bird, the tree, the stone.

Here in the sun I sit alone

Between the known and the unknown.

‘Nothing is Far’

Robert Francis

What are the practices I use to see God?  What do I think I am seeing when I ‘see God’?  Where can I go to see God?  

For Robert Francis (above), revelation comes through a stone.  On day 19 I talked about the two books of scripture in which the Celts believed God was revealed.  In yesterday’s post I quoted Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s reflections on ‘the sacred night’, which is where he saw God.  Coleridge speaks of how there is an intimate connection between his ‘outward beholding’ of what he sees in the night, and the ‘inward adoration’ engendered in his soul by what he has seen.  

Throughout this series, it is precisely this connection I am exploring.  Seeingdarkly is the way ‘to preserve the Soul steady and collected’, in Coleridge’s words. Yet I want to add that because the God-who-is-with-me-in-my-present is the same God-who-is-at-home-within-me, Coleridge’s ‘inward adoration’ also leads to ‘inward beholding’: yet another aspect of seeingdarkly.  And, as I have been struggling to communicate, such an intimate beholding must have a direct result on my actions in the world.  In other words, seeingdarkly must result in my ‘outward adoration’, which is praise and gratitude, compassion and care for others, or it is not true seeing.

This inward/outward symbiotic feeding link directly channels my photography, my poetry, my painting and printing.  In fact, this is a Mobius strip of creativity and spirituality, where what seems to be the outside face becomes the inside face of the loop and vice versa.  I wear a silver bangle shaped as a Mobius loop to remind me of the non-binary nature of these connections:

outward beholding

inward adoration

inward beholding

outward adoration

I think again of yesterday’s post and the revelations which ‘luminous darkness’ might bring.  When was the last time I deliberately switched all the lights off and contemplated the ‘dark’?  Do I consider night to be sacred?  When was the last time I lifted my eyes to see the depth of stars?  I love how the songwriter Kate Rusby sings of ‘befriending the stars’ in her song ’Underneath the Stars’ (lyrics below).

How to befriend something so vast, so mysterious, so beyond the limits of my imagination or concenception, so beyond time as I understand it, so beyond my definitions of light and dark, matter and substance?  How to befriend something I am powerless to affect or control?  This too, is knowingdarkly. Befriending begins with beholding: the act of seeingdarkly, where seeing is inward and outward at the same time.

Eventually, it may be possible to tell someone about what I see.  It might be possible to make visible the I AM whom I encounter in the dark.  It might be possible to tell the testament of the times I met with dark: my times of ‘being withness’, times where my puny ‘I’ is subsumed, and my ‘eye’ is liberated.

Sometimes such an encounter may result in a revelatory change of behaviour, and a subsequent change of artistic expression and voice.  The American photographer Edward Weston wrote:

“I am no longer trying to ‘express myself’, to impose my own personality on nature, but without prejudice, without falsification to become identified with nature, to see or ‘know’ things as they are, their very essence..”. [original emphases]

My own visual art work is ‘expressive’.  When I am being inattentive or tunnel-visioned and ‘navel-gazing’ the work can only be expressive of my ‘self’.  But on the rare occasions I know I am co-creating with Spirit, I know that something ‘Other’ is being expressed through me.  ‘I’ cannot make the whole of God visible, but seeingdarkly and knowingdarkly, are the practices where the concerns, obsessions, addictions of my ’I’ are forgotten, subsumed into the act of making God visible to others.  

If others join me, between us we make God whole; between us we make God wholly ‘visible’.  And each of us is ‘wholed’, healed, in the process.

Listen to how the many voices of Voce 8 transform Kate Rusby’s solo song, ‘Underneath the Stars‘. 

… we need communities whose primary role is to create environments in which gifts, talents, and vocations are evoked, welcomed, authenticated and supported to reshape our world.  We need communities that can make it easier for people to become who they were born to be.

***

We need this desperately, because it is only through each of us living out our vocations together that we make God visible.  And it is only through making God visible that we complete the world, even, some may say, we complete God.  For as Panikkar tells us, “The Absolute is only absolutely incarnated in the Relative.”  What greater incentive could there be to come together in supportive communal life?

from New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Living, Rory McEntee, Adam Bucko (2015)

Underneath the stars I’ll meet you

Underneath the stars I’ll greet you

There beneath the stars I’ll leave you

Before you go of your own free will

Go gently

Underneath the stars you met me

Underneath the stars you left me

I wonder if the stars regret me

They come and go of their own free will

Go gently

Here beneath the stars I’m mending

I’m here beneath the stars not ending

Why on earth am I pretending?

I’m here again, the stars befriending

They come and go of their own free will

Go gently

Go gently

Underneath the stars you met me

And here beneath the stars you left me

I wonder if the stars regret me

I’m sure they’d like me if they only met me

They come and go of their own free will

Go gently

Go gently

Songwriters: Kate Rusby

Underneath the Stars lyrics © Sentric Music Publishing Ltd

identifiable seeing. essential knowing (triptych). (iPhone images).

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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