The blog was silent for a number of days, as I had nothing to say. But now I am on a 9 day vacation, in the solitude of my house; and there is now space for thinking beyond work and daily life. In that is disclosed the purpose of the monastery or the hermitage. Monks and Hermits are those with the holy leisure, time to ponder something more than survival in the world.
The past 24 hours, I have been attempting to make sense out of the first 6 pages of Plotinus\’ first Ennead. Plotinus was a philosopher existing around 250 ACE. It occurs to me that 250 ACE was formative for the human mentality. In a sense, the discontinuity of Christ formed and discontinuity in mental evolution. Many of our theories of God and Spirit and Soul were born at this time.
I as a 20th century American have struggled with many of these ideas. I live in an age where access to information is easier than 50 years ago when I was born. This in and of itself explains who I am and my insistence that I satisfy the yearnings of my soul.
Sitting here in Texas, in a cold rain with hot coffee and table lamp, books and journals, I ponder Plotinus. What am I? I feel like St Therese: a little bird which cannot reach the sun.
I answer in my own words. Words not given by Plotinus or A Course in Miracles. Words based in my life and all of its 54 years of experience. The yearning has been with me for a long time. It was a girl on a play ground by herself shooting baskets. A girl walking. A girl riding a bicycle. A girl swimming laps. A girl lieutenant on the traffic squad.
The yearning has been with me forever. And so now I say the I am yearning embodied. I am a yearning principle which lives. All my athletics are yearning. All prayer, all getting out of bed day after day. I accept this state of being. If it me as separate from God that yearns? Or is it Soul that yearns and I am a function of the Soul\’s yearning? Why would Soul yearn? Still, either way, I am yearning itself.
As yearning, I can also call myself love. Yearning is love. If I achieve stillness, I swing the scale of yearning to silent love, Being Itself. And then I am completely coherent. The problem of yearning is solved.
Surly I will have more reflections.
This idea comes from the introduction, \”Talking Back\” Brakke\’s translation of Evagrius.
The goal of the Evagrian monk is not simply to avoid evil deeds, remarkably he seeks not to experience the first movements (initial thought impressions) that incite to sin at all…a \”monastic intellect\” is someone who is free even from the thoughts…The ultimate goal is to eliminate the thoughts themselves and to pray and contemplate God purely….A persistent representation of a corporeal object can \’imprint\’ the intellect, distorting the intellect in a way that prevents the clarity of vision required for knowledge of God and pure prayer.\”… Persistent bad thoughts causing impassioned representations to persist in the intellect damage the intellect, preventing the monk from becoming the \’monastic intellect\’ …Talking Back applies also to the more advanced stage of the monastic gnostic, in which the monk contemplates the material world and rational beings on his path to knowledge of God. … practices of biblical refutation and short prayers to God help to clear his intellect of evil thoughts and distorting representations and thus prepare him for the vision of the Trinity\’s light…\”
So really, I do want to know God. But I need something simple in my head that can be playing all the time or grasped habitually and quickly. If yes, proceed to \’monastic intellect.\’ I can.
Today I drove to work in relative calm. The radio off and a hokey prayer: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The monastery was invented to take the place of the desert; where people were more urban and living in the desert no longer feasible. But from my monastic experience, I\’d say that it is not really much more of a desert than the life I have chosen as a \’monk in the world.\’
This morning, I also read in A Course in Miracles about my choice: \”It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident. No accident nor chance is possible within the universe as God created it, outside of which is nothing. Suffer, and you decided sin was your goal. Be happy, and you gave the power of decision to Him Who must decide for God for you.\” (21.II)
I choose to the the Holy Spirit decide for me. I don\’t decide I want to find sin. I don\’t decide what I see is sin. I merely talk back.
3 days since my left foot became free of the boot worn for 5 weeks. Today, I can almost walk normally and the incision area is not tremendously painful. Wow!
Why do monks recite the Psalms? Because of the Lord. The Lord Himself is in the words of the scripture.
It started with Anthony of the Desert, whose life was written by Athanasius, whose book was read by Evagrius and others. Cassian read Evagrius. Benedict read Cassian.
From the book \”Talking Back\” by Brakke: \”Reciting the Psalms becomes a means of both therapeutic recognition of the soul\’s condition and ethical formation of the soul after the pattern of Christ…that the melody that is applied to the Psalms alters the condition of the body may indicate knowledge of the Epistle\’s teaching (Athanasius\’ letter to Marsellinus) that the melody effect\’s the soul which can then bring harmony to the body\’s members.\”
This matters to me because I am a spiritual seeker. I want the Lord to be in my consciousness.
Today I said, \”Spirit, I need you now.\” and then I thought:
The light in my soul burns quietly.
I need not fret.
It is the Lord.
I keep forgetting happiness. I do better remembering I am a worm and no man (Benedict). The urge to sign up for a race returns. The episode of my foot surgery is over. Silence returns but I can\’t let it be. I have been riding the ex-bike with the boot for about 3 weeks. Today I rode it without the boot. Shortly there after, my left lower leg started quivering.
My doctor released me today. He said my healing is 5 months ahead of where most people are at 6 weeks after surgery. So, no boot. Go ahead and walk. Work on stretching and strengthening.
I am wearing shoes with a pair of insoles I haven\’t been able to wear in 2 years. So I guess my foot is 2 years younger. Decades more of running.
Now, I need to scramble around the house and match up shoes. Everything has been so mixed around over the past 2 months.
No, I have not yet clicked submit on a race. But I am itching for it. I\’ll wait until after Friday and my first talk with the rehab guy.
Here I am leaving the surgery center today; holding the boot in my arms.
I started reading a book which is a translation of a book written by Evagrius of Pontus (345 ce). It is called \”Talking Back\” by David Brakke.
In the introduction, there is an explanation of a monastic practice of making a notebook of responses:
Foucault: \”an important too that cultivated persons of antiquity used for the shaping of the self\”… \”…the self formative function of this kind of writing: the compilation of the notebook was itself an exercise in identifying and gathering the best of what one had read or heard; the writer then sought to unify in his own identity and rational action the inevitably disparate elements that he had collected from others\”
Athanasius: \”…the monk should write down the deeds and movements of the soul as if they were to be read by other monks, in this way the monks will form themselves\”
The notebook is in form and function a collection of reminders, notes to self that cultivated persons might compile in the effort to improve himself in virtue.
So, I have been a spiritual seeker for nearly 35 years, starting at the young age of 22 when I went to Israel. I note that I am a product of various traditions: Alcoholics Anonymous, Christianity, Benedictine monasticism, A Course in Miracles. I have studied many of the books by Paul Brunton. Talk about notebooks! Brunton was prolific.
I\’ve been interested in somehow integrating these various spiritual outlooks into one theology but it is an overwhelming idea. For example, Benedict had 12 steps of humility. Guigo II had 12 meditations in his Ladder of Monks. AA has 12 steps.
If I was just going after alcoholism, I might suggest the following chapters of a notebook of responses:
- On the desire to drink
- On going to meetings
- On sponsorship
- On service
- On inventories
- On prayer and meditation
- On the realm of the spirit
As a working person, I doubt I\’d have the patience to compile my responses. Especially since I continue to find additional responses. *sigh* That fact of my daily education is in itself a response.