Archive for via negativa

On Slowing to Find the Void

I needed this this week. I have been pushing like mad to complete a few computer projects and, surprise, no artwork was made. I most strenuously object to the serious term “artwork.” When you push, it does seem like work instead of the Divine play it is. So I am emptying out again, slowing down to find and embrace the void so that my creative voice can ring out again. It is but the faintest echo of the voice of the Divine Artist, but it is my succor, my peace & my purpose.

Form in Void
The tree is stripped,
All color, fragrance gone,
Yet already on the bough,
Uncaring spring!
– Ikkyu Sojun (1394 – 1481)

The Vessel

The Vessel 1 (c) Sybil Archibald

Etsy listing here.

On Clay

Clays are extraordinary, layered, crystal structures which have, built into them, what amounts almost to an innate tendency to evolve…Clay has plans.
-Lyall Watson, from An Introduction to Clay Colloid Chemistry

I started as an artist at the age of 6 in clay. The altars I built from clay I dug directly out of the earth are some of the most satisfying pieces of my career. There is an innate connection between God and earth. Clay is a meeting place, a doorway to Heaven.

I have been an avid gardener for years. I began to garden for the fragrance and color of flowers but now I garden for soil. It is easy to miss the Divine is the humble trappings of dirt. There is something about soil that is just afire with the light of God. It is the lowliest of things, we tread on it, ignore it, sweep it away, and yet it sustains us all. The soil pulses with life that we cannot or will not see. There is no more satisfying feeling than seeing what appears to be a barren, wormless plot of land transform into a teaming mecca of life.

Dirt

Working with clay gives me the same satisfaction. Clay itself is very dense, like the material word itself. It takes effort to move it and to see in it the true reflection of the Divine. And yet it is responsive. There is something in clay that wants to grow and transform and which responds to that same impulse within the artist. Clay is a partner in the creative act, not a submissive servant.

In the biblical story of the creation of man, God chooses to blow the breath of life into clay to create Adam. I have discussed this from the perspective of the gilder who must use breath, but the clay’s perspective is just as interesting.

That God chose clay to receive his direct kiss, should illuminate the central importance of Earth. By gardening or working with clay we engage the Earth. And if we empty ourselves and enter fully into the present moment something amazing happens. The artist becomes the physical vessel for Divine creative energy, holding it, that it may be translated into, fused with matter. The particular way in which an artist engages matter allows for greater concentrations of Macrocosmic energy to enter the world.

But that is not all. All matter, to a greater or lesser degree has consciousness of its Source. Clay is like a sponge that actively seeks to draw in Divine fecund energy. It and Earth itself has its own active spirituality and deep connection to God.

Contemporary theologian Thomas Berry argues this persuasively.

There is a spiritual capacity in carbon as there is a carbon component functioning in our highest spiritual experience. If some scientists consider that all this is merely a material process, then what they call matter, I call mind, soul, spirit, or consciousness. Possibly it is a question of terminology, since scientists too on occasion use terms that express awe and mystery. Most often, perhaps, they use the expression that some of the natural forms they encounter seem to be “telling them something”.- Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, Page: 25

He also says:

“Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.”

Medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that

All things love God. All things are united according to friendship to each other and to God.

And mystics such as Teilhard de Chardin and Hildegard of Bingen see it everywhere:

Crimson gleams of Matter, gliding imperceptibly into the
gold of Spirit, ultimately to become transformed into the
incandescence of a universe that is person- and through all of this there blows, animating it and spreading over it a fragrant balm, a zephyr of union- and of the Feminine.

The diaphany of the Divine at the heart of a glowing universe, as I have experienced it through contact with the earth- the divine radiating from depths of blazing matter.
-Teilhard de Chardin

Hildegard of Bingen says:

God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible. The WORD is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. All creation is awakened, called, by the resounding melody, God’s invocation of the WORD. This WORD manifests in every creature. Now this is how the spirit is in the flesh–the WORD is indivisible from God.

So let us not discount the importance of our physicality and out Earth in a reckless attempt to find a higher spirituality. Spirit is not up there, it here in every atom and molecule, every glowing and vibrant speck of dust. Let us be present and embrace the bounty God has offered us by entering into the unceasing flow of Divine Creativity on Earth. By embracing the Earth we embrace the Divine.

Eden illumination (c) Sybil Archibald

Some via negativa poetry

I haven’t posted in a couple days, I have a number of irons in the fire and been doing a lot of art which I will share soon. But I’m thinking of you and thought you might enjoy these via negativa poems:

God is pure no-thing,
concealed in now and here:
The less you reach for him,
the more he will appear
-Angelus Silesius

If in your heart you make
a manger for his birth,
then God will once again
become a child on earth.
-Angelus Silesius

Beloved, show me the way out of this prison.
Make me needless of both worlds.
Pray erase from this mind all
that is not you.
-Abu Saeed Abil Kheir

Thank the flame for its light,
but do not forget the lampholder
standing in the shade with constancy of patience.
-Tagore (Little Birds 64)

Where is the fountain
that throws up these flowers
in a ceaseless outbreak of ecstasy?
-Tagore (Little Birds 70)

The Virgin Mary as Artist’s Exemplar

Post Updated: I’ve bumped up this post from last month because I added photos of the sculpture it inspired at the end.

This poem by Thomas Merton is, perhaps, the most beautiful and moving Mary poem I have ever read:

The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared to a Window
Because my will is simple as a window
And knows no pride of original birth,
It is my life to die, like glass, by light:
Slain in the strong rays of the bridegroom sun.

Because my love is simple as a window
And knows no shame of original dust,
I longed all night, (when I was visible) for dawn my death:
When I would marry day, my Holy Spirit:
And die by transubstantiation into light.

For light, my lover, steals my life in secret.
I vanish into day, and leave no shadow
But the geometry of my cross,
Whose frame and structure are the strength
By which I die, but only to the earth,
And am uplifted to the sky my life.

When I became the substance of my lover,
(Being obedient, sinless glass)
I love all things that need my lover’s life,
And live to give my newborn Morning to your quiet rooms,
-Your rooms, that would be tombs,
Or vaults of night, and death, and terror,
Fill with the clarity of living Heaven,
Shine with the rays of God’s Jerusalem:
O shine, bright Sions!

Because I die by brightness and the Holy Spirit,
The sun rejoices in your jail, my kneeling Christian,
(Where even now you weep and grin
To learn, from my simplicity, the strength of faith).

Therefore do not be troubled at the judgments of the thunder,
Stay still and pray, still stay, my other son,
And do not fear the armies and black ramparts
Of the advancing and retreating rains:
I’ll let no lightning kill your room’s white order.

Although it is the day’s last hour,
Look with no fear:
For the torn storm lets in, at the world’s rim,
Three streaming rays as straight as Jacob’s ladder:

And you shall see the sun, my Son, my Substance,
Come to convince the world of the day’s end, and of the night,
Smile to the lovers of the day in smiles of blood;
For though my love, He’ll be their Brother,
My light – the Lamb of their Apocalypse.
Thomas Merton- 1944

Madonna del Parto (The Pregnant Virgin)I feel this poem physically. It engages my spirit, my mind and my body. I can not put words to the way this moves me.

I am devoted the Virgin Mary on many levels, but today I will talk about Mary as Womb, the physical location of creation. As pure Vessel for God’s Light, she is the ultimate exemplar for the artist. Just as Franciscan monks in the Middle Ages sought to imitate Christ as a spiritual path, so the artist must seek to emulate, in however imperfect a way, the path illuminated by Mother Mary. Merton describes her state:

“It is my life to die, like glass, by light:”

and

“When I became the substance of my lover,
(Being obedient, sinless glass)
I love all things that need my lover’s life,
And live to give my newborn Morning to your quiet rooms, “

The artist must strive to be empty, to be clear of “self”, to become wholly filled with the fecund stream of Divine Creativity. Then this endless wellspring is constantly seeking to pour through the artist so that it may be joined with matter in the act of making art. This is the artist’s sacred duty, channeling Above into below. (I written a lot about this see the “Making Art Category” of this blog for more.)

This poem also tells us that true union and emptiness come without fear. Translated for the artist: true creation, without trying control Creative energy but in partnership with it, provides a release from creation anxiety and fear. It is the process of trying to control that creates fear. The artist must become, as Merton so beautifully describes “like glass”. This is something I am beginning to know again after many years of intense creation anxiety.

Therefore do not be troubled at the judgments of the thunder,
Stay still and pray, still stay, my other son,
And do not fear the armies and black ramparts
Of the advancing and retreating rains:
I’ll let no lightning kill your room’s white order.

I am so grateful for this poem. Any poets out there, keep writing and take heart. Poems can transform lives.

This sculpture was inspired by this post and visa versa. These are photos of it in process. I’ll post more after it has been fired and glazed.
(c) Sybil Archibald The Virgin Mary as Vessel in progress

(c) Sybil Archibald The Virgin Mary as Vessel in progress

Thanks for looking!

The Earthen Vessel

Within this earthen vessel are bowers and groves, and within it is the Creator:
Within this vessel are the seven oceans and the unnumbered stars.
The touchstone and the jewel-appraiser are within;
And within this vessel the Eternal soundeth, and the spring wells up.
Kabir says: “Listen to me, my Friend! My beloved Lord is within.”

-Kabir

Enough said…

Doing Battle with Myself

It has been quite a while since I posted. My life has been in such an uproar and this is the first time I have found enough clarity to share my journey with you.

Here’s the background: I uprooted my whole life, moved thousands of miles, left my community, my garden, and my routine behind.

The reason: I am learning to listen rather than to dictate and control.

My heart episode taught me that it is better to put myself in Divine hands that my own. So I committed myself to following the energetic path laid for me, and not fighting with the world to get my way. I followed where I was being guided even though I didn’t want to go. I’ve heard this called the ‘path of least resistance’ and this is my first time on it. Wow, what was I doing fighting all these years? Everything fell into place so easily that it was impossible not to see the hand of the Divine in it.

This move was the first time I have ever experienced a major life event that went perfectly smoothly. In the past, I would have set a goal and forced it to happen. It would have been complicated and there would have been tremendous stress and difficulty. It was almost shocking, how simple this seemingly complicated move was. We sold our house, most of our junk, packed everything, found a new home, drove for 3 days and for an entire 3 months, everything went like clock work.

Now that I am here in my new home, I have found the simplicity and silence I have been searching for many years, but the silence is defining- a howling roar. It is the complete absence of everything I valued, structure, friends, purpose. It is tremendously painful, but it is what convinces me that the Divine hand is in this. The great mystics teach us that God is to be found in silence. I believe I was sent here to be laid open, to unclog my well and be scraped clean of any resistance to God so that I maybe more fully devoted to making art.

My purpose and the purpose of most artists, is to be a conduit for creative energy from Above to enter into below. Like adding compost to soil, enriching the earth we live in and preparing the ground for beautiful things to grow. In my old life, a thousand things interfered with my work: endless volunteer projects, friends, a massive garden, a Victorian house. Here, there is nothing to interfere except myself. God has exposed me as the source of my own blockages. And yet my well is still clogged. This is part of the pain. There is nowhere to run or hide, finally I can make no excuses. This is between me and my Creator and my Creator requires me to create. Now as I wait for an energetic path to reveal my next move, I do battle with my own darkness, those places, I have willfully declined to let the fecund stream of Divine creativity flow.

I will post some new work soon.

Via Creativa?

More from Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi

Many and disparate waves do not make the sea a multiplicity; no more do the Names make the Named more than One. When the sea breathes they call it mist; when mist piles up they call it clouds. It falls again, they name it rain; it gathers itself and rejoins the sea. And it is now the same sea it ever was.

So Ocean is Ocean
As it was in Eternity,
Contingent beings
But its waves and currents.
Do not let the ripples
And mists of the worlds
Veil you from Him
Who takes form within these veils. (Jandi)

Beginninglessness is the depth unfathomed, Endlessness the shores of this Ocean.

….

Listen, riffraff:
Do you want to be ALL?
Then go,
Go and become NOTHING (p.78)

Amazing via negativa poetry. Until yesterday, the via negativa was my dearest desire. But I have been watching a number of Matthew Fox videos on youtube and he has opened my eyes to a new idea: the via creativa. Fox sees the via creativa as a path to the One through creative acts, which, is the whole topic of this blog! He sees the via positiva (also sometimes called the affirmative way) and the via negativa as building blocks to the via creativa. It’s a fascinating idea and I do feel the beauty in the world and the emptiness both while making art.

I will sit with this and perhaps I may embark upon a new path? Or perhaps this is the path I am already on…

Courage or Hubris: The Verdict is in

It is so unreasonable cold here! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

A month or so ago, I posted about pushing and pushing to get a piece submitted to a juried show. That day everything went wrong. See here. I asked the question then, “was it courage (to succeed in the face of difficulty) or hubris (to force my own will)?”

Well the verdict is in. It was hubris. I didn’t get accepted to the show. This happens, it’s not necessarily a reflection on my work. Different jurors have different tastes and visions for shows. What is a reflection on my work is the terrible quality of the photographs. I looked back at them and they are horrendous. When you jury a show you get so many entries; the first thing you do is throw out the poor quality images. It’s like having a mistake on your resume. Major faux pas!

I was pushing so much, I didn’t even notice the pictures were terrible. I knew they weren’t perfect, but that is a huge understatement. That means I wasn’t present. I wasn’t listening. I left my body for my mind. Abandoned reality for my idea of what I wanted and I forced my will. Essentially I wasted two days which I could have spent connected with my family: one day to make the slides in duress & the next to recover.

Lesson: Pushing is bad, surrender is sweet. Pushing dams up the flow of the Divine, the One, into this world.

Matthew Fox Explains Eckhart and the Artist

With all the excitement of the holidays, I haven’t had much time to make art. I haven’t been sleeping well- a sure sign that I’ve abandoned my body for my head. I’ve been working hard on putting together my “Earth” page, which will hopefully be up by the weekend. It’s taking me so long because it is endlessly fascinating. One theme that seems to run though most of the writers, that people are disconnected from their bodies and one path to true connection with God is through connection to the Earth, creation.

It really is hard to maintain that connection between body and spirit in our culture. I grew up in LA, a soulless city if there ever was one! But LA had the ocean which I visited at least 3 or 4 times a week. I didn’t swim or play volleyball or get tanned; I just sat and stared at the ocean. The beauty of those moments would fill me and allow me to be still. Being still allowed my mind to quiet and my spirit to enter back into my body. Contemporary life is so busy. There is no time for stillness unless that time is made either by being sick or by choice. My illness has many complex spiritual reasons, but I’m sure keeping me still is no small part of it.

It took me a long time to learn to listen to the Divine. But now I understand that if I don’t do it now, the Divine will force me to do it later and it will be harder. So there is really no point in fighting. Yesterday & today I’ve made time to be still so I can reconnect my body and spirit. Oh the resistance! But when I finally was still, I felt myself come back. I felt more present and more centered. I was connected again and I felt the Divine enter into me because I made space. In that moment everything shifted for me. You cannot connect with the Divine without experiencing change. Hildegard of Bingen calls it “greening”. She says that “the word is all verdant greening, all creativity.”

This place of stillness which allows change is the same place I connect with when I create art. I discovered this amazing youtube video about this exact thing. In it, Matthew Fox explains Meister Eckhart’s views on artists:

He said a few things that really struck me:

    1) I copied this while he was speaking:

    Eckhart compares the work of the artist with the Annunciation scene. The spirit that comes over Mary and begets the Christ in Mary. He says this is the same spirit that comes over the artist and begets the Christ. So this is the Cosmic Christ being born in you. And of course it’s Eckhart who says, “What good is it if Mary gave birth to the son of God 1400 years ago and I don’t give birth to the son of God in my own person in my own work,” that’s art. What you give birth to is the Christ, or the Shekinah the wisdom, or the Buddha nature. You are giving birth to it just like Mary.

    He is basically saying by creating we are bringing the Divine more fully into the world. Fox is talking about the Macrocosm/microcosm, as above so below, when he talks about the artist giving birth to Jesus in their soul. The artist’s work is but a pale shadow of the Creator’s work, pale but significant. Just as Jesus shows us the perfection of matter, so the artist seeks to perfect matter, to infuse it with Spirit during the act of creation.

    2) Eckhart believed that sins of omission are greater that sins of pride. If you hide your joy, Eckhart says you are not spiritual…. Wow is that amazing. By hiding our joy, we dam up the fecund river of Divinity. We stop the Divine from entering the world. Artists are experts at hiding their work! Fox talks about art though out this video, but he does mean just painting. He means whatever is your joy, your job, caring for your family, hiking, etc.

    3) Fox feels that the creative nature of the Divine has been ignored in much of Christian theology, that there is too much emphasis on sin and redemption. Because we have forgotten God’s creative nature, we have lost our connection to creation itself. This is, in Fox’s opinion the cause of the destruction of our planet. (Interestingly, Fox doesn’t believe in original sin. He believes in original creativity. I’ll have a post about this interesting concept coming up.)

    4) Fox asks, “How can you know god the creator except by loving creation?” A poignant question.

    5) Jesus was an artist, a story teller.

I love most of what Fox says, but his use of the term “co-creator” makes me a little uncomfortable. As an artist, I don’t feel I am a co-creator with God exactly. Certainly I am there. I show up but I feel my job is to be present but empty so that the Divine can flow through me. The term co-creator gives the impression of control. Certainly it is true that that my work reflects me and each artist’s work bears their own distinct mark. The artist is like a filter through which the Divine stream flows. The more I am present in the act of creation, the more space there is for the Divine to fill. The less I control the creative process, the less I filter out of Divine presence.

I recently came across the artist statement of Canadian Heidi Thompson. She describes it like this:

While painting, I become immersed in the experience of the image changing, dissolving, reappearing, solidifying, then separating again. The emerging images often have characteristics which I had never imagined. I apply transparent layers of colour trying to create illusions of atmosphere – gas, liquid, smoke, dust, steam or changing surfaces of water, corrosion, ice and chemicals. Right before my eyes, the heavy solid nature of paint and paper seem to dissolve into impressions of finer substances. These finer substances then become subtler as they stimulate my sensations and provoke my imagination. The painting inspires thoughts, impressions, memories, and feelings – all finer qualities of the mind. What was once solid matter has now transformed into mind-energy. If painting is indeed such a vehicle, which can transform matter into fine substances and, then, into even subtler mind-substances, then it may be possible for the mind-experiences to transcend into something even finer – a sense of spirituality.

If I have succeeded even a small step toward my artistic goal, my paintings would show these levels of our nature – matter, energy, mind, and help the viewer feel something of his or her own spirit-soul. I know that painting aids the experience of these levels of my being. It allows me to experience how matter, energy, mind and spirit play together, guided by some invisible intelligence. And somehow, all these manifestations of existence seem to emanate from a greater intelligence – perhaps God or the Absolute. Sometimes when one of my paintings resonates a beautiful harmony and energy, I feel that a tiny part of the mystery of who I am is being unveiled and I am filled with great pleasure and love.

Happy New Year from Art of the Spirit

Fountain

The Fountain
How well I know that flowing spring
in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen.
How well I know where she has been
in black of night.

I do not know her origin.
None. Yet in her all things begin
in black of night.

I know that nothing is so fair
and earth and firmament drink there
in black of night.

I know that none can wade inside
to find her bright bottomless tide
in black of night.

Her shining never has a blur;
I know that all light comes from her
in black of night.

I know her streams converge and swell
and nourish people, skies and hell
in black of night.

The stream whose birth is in this source
I know has a gigantic force
in black of night.

The stream from but these two proceeds
yet neither one, I know, precedes
in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen
in living bread that gives us being
in black of night.

She calls on all mankind to start
to drink her water, though in dark,
for black is night.

O living fountain that I crave,
in bread of life I see her flame
in black of night.
-St. John of the Cross

Wow!
I leave you with the beautiful poem describing the fecund stream of Divine Creativity. (And he describes it in feminine terms!)

My wish for you for the New Year: May you be blessed with deep connection to this stream, may your life and work abound with creativity, growth and love.

Thanks for reading this year. See you in 2008!
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I don’t believe in luck, but I’m going with this anyway! 8 is considered an extremely lucky number in China so this is going to be a very lucky year. (Every little bit helps, right?)

Art of the Spirit Site Revisions & New Mystic

Hildegard's Angel by Sybil Archibald A bit of business and then some beauty.
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This week, I added a tag cloud to my sidebar. Over the next few days I’m going to be working on tagging and recategorizing my posts to optimize searching and to hopeful make them more useful. This shouldn’t effect my web readers, but my feed subscribers may get some reposts. Sorry for any inconvenience, but I think it will make the the overall site much stronger!

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I discovered a new mystic this week: Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi, a 13th century Sufi from Persia. His book is called Divine Flashes. I love this name because this how making art occurs for me, as a Divine flash. I’ll have much more once I finish reading. But let me share this, a beautiful quote on the idea that there is nothing but God (I know I need to find more mystics who recognize the feminine aspect of the Divine!):

Pardon me this innovation, revealing such secrets. Remember:

He Himself spoke Truth
He Himself listened.
He Himself showed Himself
He Himself saw.

Junyard said once, “For thirty years now I’ve been conversing with God, yet people seem to think I’m talking to them!” Through the ears of Moses, He heard Himself speak with the flame-tongue of the Bush:

He speaks
He listens
you and I
but a pretext.

The Spiritual Earth

Earth from Moon
The greatest spiritual crisis facing humanity today is rectifying our relationship to the Earth. Sadly, our culture has taught us that physicality and spirituality are incompatible. Thomas Berry, an amazing contemporary theologian, describes our collective state like this:

The earth process has been generally ignored by the religious-spiritual currents of the West. Our alienation goes so deep that it is beyond our conscious mode of awareness. While there are tributes to the earth in the scriptures and in Christian liturgy, there is a tendency to see the earth as a seductive reality, which brought about alienation from God in the agricultural peoples of the Near East. Earth worship was the ultimate idolatry, the cause of the Fall, and thereby the cause of sacrificial redemption by divine personality. Thus, too, the Christian sense of being crucified to the world and living only for the savior. This personal savior orientation has led to an interpersonal devotionalism that quite easily dispenses with earth except as a convenient support for life.

My interest in spirituality and mysticism lies primarily in the via negativa. I’m here to tell you that the via negativa and physicality, the Earth, are compatible. In fact they are integral to one another.

The mystic who embraces the via negativa tells us that God is unknowable, greater than anything our mind can conceive. We must therefor remove our mind from the equation, releasing all our ‘ideas’ of God and surrender our need to control. We must surrender any limits that our small minds might place on the unlimited Divine. We must not even will to will ‘God’s’ will.

Because this path often requires a withdrawal in silence, it is falsely thought of as an escape from the world. It is not an escape from material reality; rather, it is a complete surrender into it. God and material reality, our Earth, are inseparable. Naturalist John Muir, though not a practitioner of the via negativa can still help us begin to understand the fundamental link between Earth and God. John Muir

These blessed mountains are so compactly filled with God’s beauty,
no petty personal hope or experience has room to be . . . . the whole
body seems to feel beauty when exposed to it as it feels the campfire
or sunshine, entering not by the eyes alone, but equally through all
one’s flesh like radiant heat, making a passionate ecstatic pleasure
glow not explainable. One’s body then seems homogeneous
throughout, sound as a crystal.
– John Muir

The Franciscan mystic Bonaventure (13th century) described all of creation as a vestige, a footprint, of God. Plotinus (3rd century CE) tells us that God emanates form, creation, without ceasing. Eckhart (14th century) describes God as self-generating, creating without cease. He believes that there was a sort of womb of God which he calls “the Abyss of God” which “… remains forever unique, uniform, and self-generating.” The practitioner of the via negativa seeks entrance to this womb, but it is with the understanding that they will not stay there in the place of no thing, they cannot. This womb is a place of constant birthing, of constant creation. By returning to this place, the mystic is “decreated” (see Tauler) and created at once. There is nothing that is created that is not the Divine. Sufi mystic Sheikh Nur Al Jerrahi (Lex Hixon) of blessed memory, puts this beautifully:

The heart is the spring at the center of a clearing within the uncharted forest of creation. Here, what is human, irradiated by Divine Love, transforms into what is Divine. There is nothing other than perfect humanity-which is simply the conscious realization that God alone exits. (p.372)

God alone exists, thus Earth, rain, illness, grass, everything is God. Eckhart also confirms this view: “Ego, the word ‘I’ is proper to no one but God alone in his uniqueness.”

TreeIf God alone exists, that means that everything that is is God, Being. Thus we do a deep disservice to ourselves and to God by denying our relationship to the Earth. As Thomas Berry says,” Not to recognize the spirituality of the earth is to indicate a radical lack of spiritual perception in ourselves.” Berry goes on the say that:

We need to understand that the earth acts in all that acts upon the earth. The earth is acting in us whenever we act. In and through the earth spiritual energy is present. This spiritual energy emerges in the total complex of earth functions. Each form of life is integrated with every other life form.

Illumination from the Scivias by Hildegard of Bingen

Our very spiritual nature is dependant on our embrace of the Earth. By denying it, we deny ourselves and the Divine. Hildegard of Bingen tells us that creation is linked to viriditas, a term which Matthew Fox translates roughly as greening power. Hildegard says that “the word is all verdant greening, all creativity.” Hildegard understands that God is fundamentally creative and the material and the Divine are fused because of the act of creation.

There is no creation that does not have a radiance. Be it greenness or seed, blossom or beauty, it could not be creation without it.

As an artist, the act of creation is especially present for me. But it is there in every moment of every life, not just the artist’s, if we allow it. Moon from EarthHumanity has but to step out of the way and let the unceasing creativity of the Divine flow though us. Stepping out of the way means letting go of control. Period. We cannot say ‘I’ll let God direct my life” while still draining and destroying the Earth, because God is the Earth. God is alone, there is nothing which is not God. While we fight for control of our planet, we dam up the joyous flow of Light and Creativity into the world. For us to become “all verdant and greening” we need do nothing but accept what is, our physicality and deep spiritual connection to the Earth. I leave you with the words of biologist Elisabet Sahtouris who has worked to heal the divide between science and religion:

Our human task now is to wake up and recognize ourselves as parts or aspects of God-as-Nature and behave accordingly. All are One, all harm harms each of us, all blessings bless each of us.

[Speaking to a congregation] I urged them to occasionally see themselves as the creative edge of God (a phrase I learned from a dear friend) — as God looking out through their eyes, acting through their hands, walking on their feet, and to observe how that changed things for them…

dirt

Note: Over the next few weeks I will be adding a page to this site entitled Earth, with more views and resources on this line of thinking.

St. John of the Cross & Stomach Flu

I’ve been down with the flu for a couple days. I have a post brewing about the connection between sacred art & the earth. In the meantime, I submit this beautiful via negativa poem for your enjoyment…

I came into the unknown
I came into the unknown
and stayed there unknowing
rising beyond all science.

I did not know the door
but when I found the way,
unknowing where I was,
I learned enormous things,
but what I felt I cannot say,
for I remained unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

It was the perfect realm
of holiness and peace.
In deepest solitude
I found the narrow way:
a secret giving such release
that I was stunned and stammering,
rising beyond all science.

I was so far inside,
so dazed and far away
my senses were released
from feelings of my own.
My mind had found a surer way:
a knowledge of unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

And he who does arrive
collapses as in sleep,
for all he knew before
now seems a lowly thing,
and so his knowledge grows so deep
that he remains unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

The higher he ascends
the darker is the wood;
it is the shadowy cloud
that clarified the night,
and so the one who understood
remains always unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

This knowledge by unknowing
is such a soaring force
that scholars argue long
but never leave the ground.
Their knowledge always fails the source:
to understand unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

This knowledge is supreme
crossing a blazing height;
though formal reason tries
it crumbles in the dark,
but one who would control the night
by knowledge of unknowing
will rise beyond all science.

And if you wish to hear:
the highest science leads
to an ecstatic feeling
of the most holy Being;
and from his mercy comes his deed:
to let us stay unknowing,
rising beyond all science.
-St John of the Cross (trans. Willis Barnstone)

The Song of Bareness

A cantilena formerly ascribed to Johannes Tauler 14th century German Mystic:

I will sing of bareness a new song,
for true purity is without thought.
Thoughts may not be there,
so I have lost the Mine:
I am decreated.
He who is unminded has no cares.
My unevenness no longer causes me to err:
I am as gladly poor as rich.
I want nothing to do with images,
I must stand free of myself:
I am decreated.
He who is unminded has no cares.

Would you know how I escaped the images?
I perceived the right unity in myself.
That is right unity
when neither weal nor woe displaced me:
I am decreated.
He who is unminded has no cares.

Would you know how I escaped the mind?
When I perceived neither this nor that in myself,
save bare divinity unfounded.
then I could not longer keep silent, I had to tell it:
I am decreated.
He who is unminded has no cares.

Since I am thus lost in the abyss
I no longer wish to speak, I am mute.
The Godhead clear has swallowed me into itself.
I am displaced.
Therefore the darkness delighted me greatly.

Since I have thus come through to the origin,
I may no longer age, but grow young.
So all my powers have disappeared
and have died.
He who is unminded has no cares.

Then whosoever has disappeared
and has found a darkness
is so rich without sorrow.
Thus the dear fire
has consumed me,
and I have died.
He is thus unminded has no cares.
-trans. Martin Buber

I love this concept: “I am decreated”. Such a beautiful way of expressing the via negativa. We come into this world with all kinds of expectations and feelings, so many ideas about the way we want things to turn out or what we want to create. “I am decreated”. I surrender myself back into the womb of God to a place before expectations existed so that those expectations cannot define or control the act of creation. This is the place of Pre-Existence, of Nothing which gives birth to everything. “Since I am thus lost in the abyss I no longer wish to speak, I am mute.” I am mute so God can speak. This is sensational.

“He who is unminded has no cares”.

This is poem charts the process the spiritual artist must undergo to truly become a doorway for fecund stream Divine creativity to enter into this physical world. We must be “decreated,” emptied of self so that we may be filled with something much greater than our small selves could ever envision.