The Naked Mystic by James RQ Clark.
He can function as a priest no longer. Perhaps the burden of a priestly vocation is too heavy. Or perhaps he’s lost faith in the Church’s ability to lead people to God. He doesn’t know. After resigning his position, he leaves his parish and heads for the relative solitude of a rural town in south-west England. His only close companion is his dog, and it’s through the dog that he meets an enigmatic character who will challenge his Christian persona and his belief structures in a catastrophic and, ultimately life-giving, way.
This is an autobiographical account of one man’s mystical journey through The Dark Night of the Soul. On this journey that will teach him the true meaning of spiritual poverty, he is stripped of his religious persona and plunged deep into the abyss of a purifying process that seems to him to be a place from which there is no escape. But in his guide’s ruthless hands, he discovers a new way of relating to his faith and the scriptures that define it; a level of freedom and contentment for which he has been longing. And he realizes that God has been staring him in the face all along.
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Today, this place is re-
woven on a loom with
a hundred thousand,
silent, spoken threads.
The Rule is read.
The river waves and
sings to passing rocks,
while patient, well-trod
paths, groan underfoot.
The Mass is said.
Ancient trees whisper
antiphons, that drizzle
the unfurling ferns with
charms and Glory Bees.
The monk is dead.
This is where the Ever
Ancient Ever New will
come to live, wrapped in
old habits that die hard.
The robes are shed.
Here the mystics hide in holy huddles.
They can hear the lilies laugh at them,
and considering them, all they can see
is the just-as-naked Christ beyond.
The oxen have escaped their ditches,
they sleep and play like sun-warmed cats.
Take the woollen habit off, it’s only made
of words and they, by now, are all as straw.
Here the smiling dogs preside at table,
their vestments left for nesting crows.
It’s they that bless the Children’s bread and
lick the sadness from their solemn faces.
Here the swine are made of pearls and
camels trample down the slender gates,
brooding vipers soothe the sick with oil and
doves, in squadrons, do the locusts' gentle work.
Here the monkeys steal the rosaries and
spark a final funeral pyre with mantras and
the well-thumbed pages torn from Testaments.
An earnest mystic’s service of remembrance.
I’ve been reading Mircea Eliade’s SHAMANISM: ARCHAIC TECHNIQUES OF ECSTASY (1951) and I came across this little gem of a story near the beginning of Chapter 3.
It put a smile on my face.
Certain legends explain the present decadence of shamans by the pride of the “first shaman,” who is believed to have entered into competition with God.
According to the Buryat version, the “first shaman,” Khara-Gyrgan, having declared that his power was boundless, God put him to the test. God took a girl’s soul and shut it up in a bottle. To make sure that it would not escape, God put his finger into the neck of the bottle. The shaman flew through the sky, sitting on his drum, discovered the girl’s soul and, to set it free, changed into a spider and stung God in the face. God instantly pulled out his finger and the girl’s soul escaped.
Furious, God curtailed Khara-Gyrgan’s power, and after that the magical abilities of shamans markedly diminished.
Somehow I find myself, again,
washed up on this sun-warmed
shore, surrounded by the dead.
We’ve been driven to this place by
smashing mirror after dusty mirror
and the wind-punched waves of love.
And here there’s no-one left but You.
All, including me, are long gone and
their whereabouts remain unknown.
I’ve always been lost, he said.
Ever since I was a child who
was old enough to remember.
Oh? I asked. And how do you
Think that happened?
The way it always does, he said.
I kept on hearing a name and
ended up believing it was mine.
And after that? I asked. Did you
find what you were looking for?
No, he answered. All I could ever
find was the longing and the seeking.
They were the only things I found.
And now? I asked. Surely, now?
After all this time? Something?
Nothing! He clapped. Nothing!
Ha! There’s nothing here at all
except the seeing and the loving.
So, I wrote a letter
to my former Self.
I said: I always knew
you’d ruin this for me.
He replied and asked:
Who the hell are you?
The most beautiful thief
has turned out my pockets
and plundered my house.
Everything I thought I had
is gone and I don’t know
what my name is anymore.
All that’s left these days is
the heartbeat of the Alleluias
ringing in my reverent ears.
My arsehole is beginning
to cause me some grief
(arseholes can do that).
He’s found his voice and
he’s biting back with an
increasingly entitled air.
And the eye cannot
say unto the hand,
I have no need of thee.
He quotes St Paul at me
(arseholes can do that),
reminding me that there's
a special kind of honour in
the more uncomely places;
those special, hidden parts.
Nor again the
head to the feet,
I have no need of thee.
He will tell me, when we
are shopping, that, after all
these years of unseen, loyal
service, he deserves the best:
luxury; fragranced; three-ply;
And whether one member suffer,
all the members suffer with it;
or one member be honoured,
all the members rejoice with it.
I don’t believe him.
Something to aspire to. It’s good to have role model.
The lizard can be grasped in the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.Proverbs 30:28