Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Given the state of the world in general and our nation in particular, there are many, many of us who are fighting negativity and may be, as I have been myself, worried and depressed. As my mother pointed out, there are three things that usually provide us with stress: money, love, or health problems. The root emotion is fear.
Fear comes for many reasons, and trust may be hard to come by unless one is supported by spiritual faith, and even that may become sorely tested. Last night, a memory of my Teacher, M, came to my rescue. Back in 1944, some sixty-five years ago, he counseled me: When you are feeling down, afraid, and sorry for yourself,
Do something for somebody quick!
It doesn’t seem to matter what you think to do: pick up the phone and call a friend, reach out to do a favor, apologize for something, give a child or anyone a hug—all that matters is that you shift your attention from yourself to concern for another living being. As I write this, I am reminded of Christ’s last words on the cross (and you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate them), “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
This is no Pollyanna goody-goody advice but sound spiritual and psychological counsel. It is our ego that gets depressed. When one reaches out sincerely to touch someone else with kindness, one allows the flow of energy of our center of the Self and Divine Guest to course through us to not only heal us but help others. Thousands of years ago, the wisdom of the Hindu Upanishads offers us this lovely thought:
As the Sun shines upon my heart, so may my heart shine upon others.
The Bible tells us that “the sun shines upon the just and the unjust.” This is a powerful reminder that our physical sun is a star and the mysterious source of all life, warmth, and, consequently, incarnation of Spirit.
And in conclusion we also have
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me a channel of thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love
Where there is injury, Pardon
Where there is doubt, Faith
Where there is despair, Hope
Where there is darkness, Light
Where there is sadness, Joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be comforted as to comfort
to be understood as to understand
to be loved as to love
for it is by giving that we receive;
It is by forgiving that we are forgiven
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal Life.
See what I mean?
Friday, June 12, 2009
The Western Christian world has been dominated by the concept of “Original Sin” based on the second creation story in Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve. However, the first Creation story is that God created the world in seven days and saw that it was good.
Many people do not realize that there has always been a Celtic Christianity, brought to Iona by St. Columba from Ireland, the history of which is too long and complicated to go into here. The characteristics of Celtic Christianity were based on a deep love of nature and an incorporation of spiritual presence in every aspect of human life. To the Celts, we are originally good but can fall from grace.
A terrible confrontation took place at the Synod of Whitby in Northumberland in 664 between the Roman Catholic and the Celtic Churches having to do with discrepancies in calendars and moving on to deeper spiritual matters. I went to Whitby and tried climbing the wall at St. Hilda’s but did not succeed! It was winter and everything was closed. The upshot of the Synod was that the Roman church won the vote and Ireland was changed from its nature loving ways to a strict and basically anti-feminine brand of Christianity.
St. Columba, in the previous century, was a bridge between the pagan Druidic religion because his parents became converts to Christianity but Columba was also raised in the ancient Druidic lore and so knew both. The result was a lovely combination of both and a devout inclusion of Spirit in even such things as lighting a fire or shearing a lamb
Go shorn and come woolly
Bear the Beltane female lamb
Be the lovely Brid thee endowing
And the fair Mary thee sustaining
The fair Mary sustaining thee
All nature was suffused with Spirit and deemed essentially a blessing, with the exception of leftover attacks by some dark forces of fairyland.
J. Philip Newell, a dear friend and previous Director of the Iona Community, has written an outstanding recent book called Christ of the Celts, and I can’t recommend it too highly! He is a scholar and a poet and a beautiful soul. In it, he stresses the notion of Original Good. He defended my book THE DOVE IN THE STONE: On Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace when it was rejected by the previous fundamentalist director! The only rejection I ever suffered! It had been appreciated by George Macleod himself, the founder of the Community. Thanks to Philip, that book and its sequel THE WEB IN THE SEA: Jung, Sophia, and the Geometry of Soul have been sold on Iona at the Abbey bookstore ever since and have had a part in bringing many readers to visit Iona! Both books are conversations with my darling husband as we wandered from site to site on that tiny precious island which I have visited twenty-three times.
Curiously enough, another book of mine entitled How like an Angel Came I Down, which was an edited version of Bronson A. Alcott’s Record of a School: Conversations with Children on the Gospels – a marvelous book lost to the world for 170 years – had the children in his school in Boston, seven to twelve years old (and recorded verbatim), insisting that they were born good! There was much debate among them as to how they had fallen from grace!
Alcott was the father of Louisa May, author of Little Women. He was a Transcendentalist and friend of Emerson, Thoreau, and others in Concord, Massachusetts. He was a wild-eyed idealist where children were concerned and fought the prevailing Puritanical approach in early education that children were “limbs of Satan” to be controlled by the strictest methods. He totally transformed my own way of teaching! His idea of teaching the Gospels comes out in the first lesson: the class will read and then instead of his telling them what it means, the children are to tell him! He replaced the straight backless wooden benches by inventing the backrest holding the desk of the child behind it, brought flowers into class, and did everything to make the children love coming to school. The worst punishment was to be kept out of class, and instead of paddling, a boy was to hit Alcott hard on his hand, which never happened! Elizabeth Peabody, who later brought kindergarten to America, was the young assistant who transcribed the conversations. The children recorded their thoughts in “Commonplace Books” and some can be seen at the Fruitlands Museum to this day. I treasure the outburst of seven-year-old Josiah Quincy who exclaimed, “Oh, Mr Alcott, I never knew I had a mind until I came here!” and the letter an eight-year-old sent him saying,
Dear Sir: I received your letter with great satisfaction; the good advice you gave me I will try to remember and profit by. That inward ray of immortal life which you have so minutely described, I understand to mean conscience, though I do not always obey its influence. The comparisons in your letter, I think were very good – the one that struck me most forcibly and which I have before mentioned in my journal, was the Looking Glass of Circumstance, which I think meets the subject. In this letter you have finally convinced me, that we should not too often commit the dreadful sin of seeking all good without, and not beholding it within our imagination.