Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To the lighthouse


This is the lighthouse that overlooks the harbour in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It function now is predominantly decorative. Once upon a time the harbour bustled with trade across the expanse of Lake Michigan and the neighbouring Great Lakes. Now the harbour is recreational and if bad weather beckons, the leisure community stays at home. No overbearing economic imperative drives them out across the water.

For six months in 2001-2, this red lighthouse was my daily destination. I walked out from the 'Friends of God' Dominican ashram (sadly no more) on a daily walk through the lakeside park, across a small beach, to the lighthouse, around, and back home. I was on a sabbatical at an experimental contemplative community founded by my friend, Fr Don Goergen OP, experiencing a differently paced life of stillness, silence and quiet fellowship.

Each day on my walk, I would take one or more of the dreams that assailed my night. Something about stopping and stepping out of the usual rounds of work and life, opened one up to an "unconscious" party - seven or eight scenarios a night unfolding before my lidded eyes! It was an exercise in dream 'interpretation'. I would play with scenarios of understanding, gaining illumination, and I found that the next night the dreams would reply. Usually saying, yes, you may have seen it like this but what about? They playfully took you deeper. It was a time of continuous, glimpsing, revelation.

I was reminded of it today because I had one of those dreams that, as a friend once said, push you down into the mattress!

I was at a ruined chapel and at the foot of the Cross lay a statue of St Peter, horizontal, prone, dead. In front of which was a statue of St John the Evangelist, kneeling, fully alive.

I was reminded of a dream of Gay Taylor, a friend of the poet, Kathleen Raine, who meets a 'cardinal' angel amidst a ruined chapel and who saw this as a similar sign to my own dream. The church as institution is in reality finished (all appearance to the contrary) and the church that truly matters is one that lives in 'the heart of men' (which was the message that the angel imparted to Gay Taylor). Or as the distinguished Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, put it, the future church would be one of mystics or it would be not at all.

The turn (to use that post-modern phrase) must be to 'experience' - the sensitive (and hopefully supported) fathoming of one's own inner light, explorations into and from the Spirit.

The backwash against this turn will, I fear, be enormous, as we already experience, and as the great theoretician of the evolution of consciousness, Jean Gebser, suggested, when a new evolutionary form (the inward way) become efficient, the old way becomes 'deficient' (the appeal to externalised authority that once worked but is now degraded into fundamentalism).

Nothing about evolution is destined. An inwardly directed, experienced spirituality may not emerge as the default mode of being (religious) but one can hope that it will, and I can work (on myself) for it and its sharing.

The lighthouse, in retrospect, was a remarkable symbol - of light penetrating darkness allowing safe navigation - a beautiful analogy for dreams bearing meaning out from the darkness of sleep into a renewing daylight in the light of which you found your way.


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