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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Fire Escape Epiphany – CREDO LII

In 1945, during the war, I finally had a space of my own – a flat in a very old building in Greenwich Village on West 13th Street. It had a fireplace and looked out on a cobbled stone courtyard in the back. I had met my teacher M, and I set up a small altar on top of a small bookcase in my bedroom. I could sit on the daybed and meditate. I was twenty-two.
It seems that the teacher/preacher archetype was always in me. In Rome when I was seven, on those Sundays Grandma King was unable to go to church, I would put a shirt of my father’s on backwards, and lead a service. I am told that I would solemnly pronounce “Yeah verily” and one of my sermons advised, “Always share what you don’t want yourself!” I would line up my three stuffed animals at the foot of the bed and teach them in three different languages according to their places of origin, and so forth. My beloved grandfather Basil King had been rector of Christ Church in Cambridge but had died when I was five. He was my first father figure and I thought God had his face. That might have had something to do with it, or maybe it was another life, or the fact that I have the Sun in my Ninth House of teaching and preaching. Who knows? But that has been my lifelong vocation, and if you are reading this, I am sure that most of you have had a similar sense of following some mysterious bent in your life.
But back to a Sunday morning. I was alone, conducting the Communion Service from the Book of Common Prayer, blissfully unconscious that “communion” usually implies other people! Maybe my sincerity pardoned my ignorance, but after the bread and wine, I tidied up and, since it was a lovely spring day, I opened the window and climbed out onto the fire escape that descended to the cobbles below. And then came the epiphany. I glanced up at the sun and realized


Out of nothing came this primal YES! This blew me away. And then I realized that there has to be a YES before a NO sounds, because a NO has to have something to deny. We can deny negatives endlessly but they add up to spiritual tautologies. As my Grandpa King overheard William James point out to a friend on a trolley car, “Nothing is the only resultant of that which is not!” Ahem.
The physical sun is the primal source of Light and Life. No wonder it was worshiped by humanity through the ages. If its light went out, it would take only eight minutes for our earth to be plunged into darkness, cold, and death. It rules the heart in our physical bodies. On another level, it rules Love. It represents the one element – fire – that the more you give away, the more there is. Jung’s ‘Self’ is like the individual wick in each of our candles, but the flame on each, our Divine Guest, is the same flame! For Christians, it is “the Light that lighteth every man,” and that means all human beings, not just Christians – aaaaaaargh! That should be obvious – how long will it take for human beings all over the world to realize this simple fact! Love thy neighbor, he IS thyself! This simple truth should break our hearts as we witness the fundamentalists of so many religions killing each other! When in doubt consult nature, said Paracelsus, the alchemist.
This very morning, I watched a theologian on TV talking of the fascinating importance of the recurring number 7 in both the Old and New Testaments. He failed, however, to mention the octave in music or the colors of the rainbow or the Sumerians’ discovery of the 7 days in a week based on the motion of the moon and the menstrual cycle of women. An omission that would have strengthened his argument!
Speaking of alchemy, the illuminated (sic!) MS called Splendor Solis ends with a picture of the physical sun looking sideways hinting at the “Sun behind the sun” . . .

Needless to say, today is Sunday! Domenica, dimanche, the day of the Lord.


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