Beyond

The urge to write seems to be a purge, to be taken from time to time to express what it is one believes one has learnt. To be cleansed and purified in mind by the art of manifesting in words the inner workings of one’s soul.

I have come out. Not in the sense of some base sexuality but in a declaration to myself that I believe in something rather than nothing. That I believe in mind or rather, perhaps, the “soul”.

Transcendence, what a word. To witness an existence beyond the normal or physical level. How they laugh, the materialists, how they scorn belief in anything that can not be measured, weighed or dissected by man.

And yet it happens, it is there and to those who have glimpsed such states (even if rarely or from afar) it seems obvious that the world’s ills stem in a large part from our species’ unwillingness or inability to see beyond the dark and brutal struggle for physical survival on a rocky outcrop in the middle of nowhere.

A young organ scholar professed to me his disbelief in the Christian faith and I to him but we both met somewhere on that magical field of transcendence. The western choral tradition is, for some, an avenue to beyond. It provides a glimpse, a view through a mirror darkly, of another world altogether.

Aspiciens a longe we sang, set to the music of Palestrina.

I look from afar:
and lo, I see the power of God coming,
and a cloud covering the whole earth.

It was a dark and cold winter’s night and the ancient church was lit by candles. Family and friends were there, and the Matin Responsory reached them from a few unseen, unaccompanied voices hidden from sight in the South Transept of this lovely building. Would that we sang with the perfection of the Gesualdo Six but perhaps our efforts made our case well enough.

In that place, at that time, nothing else existed. Wrapped in beauty, nothing else mattered. Power and wealth, greed and struggle seemed laughable and the route to paradise so clearly marked.

I do not seek to convert, nor ever will. There is no-thing to which I cling, in any doctrinaire sense. No-thing to which I would direct our unhappy and misguided species.

But with ever increasing clarity I know.

I know what is not.

Much, so much of what we do and think and believe is “not”. And yet what we could become is so very different.

In those quiet moments, in that ethereal place beyond the mundane I know what is. And I know that it is something rather than nothing.

9 Comments

  1. I particularly like the point you make about the utilitarian, use of writing, Anthony. I would say writing and language have done more for human awareness of the seminal existence of consciousness than any other human attributes, limited as they are in usefulness to mysticism.

    However my Quaker and Sufi roots, and the branches thereof, shudder at the nature of the purely human attachment to architecture and song you present.

    I have an aversion to such worship. I found no demand for worship in my mystic experiences. I worry, along with George Fox, whether suchlike may be distractions, addictions, for true seekers?

    Kind regards, Keith.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keith

      Good of you to comment, and if I may say so, happy Christmas to you and your wife!

      I have a complex relationship with “religion” and an unconventional one. I do not believe in the Christian “God” and I honestly do not think I worship or for many years have worshipped him. Or her or it – just to be woke!

      My belief and my increasing conviction is that there is something rather than nothing. That we are not “mere” matter. Matter, it appears, consists of force fields it and the word “force” gets me much closer to where I want to go. Or energy. Or power.

      Idealism and pantheism get me much closer to what I want to express, but as I say in my post above (and to quote the Bible of course) I admit that I look through a mirror darkly.

      I sense “something”, although I do not worship it, since that would suggest that the “something” is external to myself. And I believe it not to be. I believe that we are all part of that “something” and it would be illogical and vain to worship ourselves.

      I sense that there is meaning and not emptiness and chaos. I intuit that mind matters. That perhaps mind and not matter is primary. For me at least sacred music and architecture help me along my path. Help me to see the way, put my mind in such a state that it is receptive to something “other” than the banalities of daily physical existence.

      It is perhaps each to his own. I would not like to criticize the path taken by the Quakers, the Sufis or any others since I believe we all come to a very similar conclusion.

      The path is the important thing. And whatever peaceful means we use to find our way along that path are just fine by me. I may not be a whirling dervish (I would not enjoy the dizziness it would cause me!) but I can see that whirling and meditation as well as choral music are valid methods to help one enter another world, another state. To glimpse, to partake in transcendence. And that, to me at least, is what matters.

      All best wishes
      Anthony

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  2. In the collected works of C.G. Jung, he writes:

    “For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us.” 96:342

    Absent any personal experience with the metaphysical aspects of existence, often invoked by philosophers and mystics, it must seem to those so positioned in life as though there is no reasonable basis for comparison or way to distinguish between the temporal and the transcendent. Much of what has been written in centuries past doesn’t really explain well the metaphysical part of the equation, except to say that it is of a completely different nature altogether than that of physical reality.

    That we cannot express the intangible or ineffable aspects of existence in a way that would satisfy the empiricists amongst us only seems to re-enforce the notion that we must approach our understanding of such aspects from a different direction altogether.

    Your words seem to flow from the very heart of the matter at hand, and you express brilliantly the conundrum faced by us all. Even with the exquisite song performance that evokes the transcendent so well, we are often left speechless when it comes to explaining what it is about the beauty of the music and the dulcet harmonies that gives us a window into the intangible or ineffable nature of existence.

    You are clearly expanding your understanding of what you have experienced personally in such venues as the one in the video, and your sense of there being something rather than nothing is precisely the place more of us need to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your wise comment John. I suspect we would live in a better world if more were to explore this path and recognize the futility of their purely material aims.
      With all best wishes for Christmas
      Anthony

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  3. A happy season to you and yours, too, Anthony.

    My reference to what I call the addiction to worship of our human passions as stumbling blocks on our individual paths stems from my realisation the mind and all its subtle, sometimes seemingly innocent, enticing and ardent off-spiritual ways are anathema to the path of Realisation – veils! That has been my experience.

    I liked John’s thoughtful comments, as ever.

    Kindest regards, Keith.

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  4. gorgeous singing… I have crafted my own very personal spiritual practice and vantage point over time; I certainly would not mind adding this sort of communal devoted use of the vocal cords to it, had I the opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

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