Grand purposes abroad – and within

When I was writing my first book on meditation, Inner Journey: Outer Journey, I originally wanted to call it ‘To The Within-God’. I had learned through the practice of meditation, that whatever we mean by God, he / she / it is not to be found ‘out there’. This is what Nietzsche meant when, in 1882, he famously pronounced God dead, and it is what the great mystic and preacher, Meister Eckhart realised centuries earlier when he wrote that ‘God is no thing’. As Jesus said, ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.’

Perhaps, instead of the word ‘God’ we might use Mother Julian of Norwich’s phrase, ‘the ground of our being’ or, following Eastern tradition, the Tao. Ultimately it is not words or names that matter but experience. St Thomas Aquinas was busily engaged on the last and greatest of his many works, the Summa Theologica, when one day at Mass he received such a revelation that he ceased writing. He refused to reveal the content of his vision, saying only that ‘in the light of what I have seen everything I have written is like straw.’ Three months later he died.

In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials the Professor says to Lara, ‘The stars are alive, child. Did you know that? Everything out there is alive, and there are grand purposes abroad. The universe is full of intentions, you know. Everything happens for a purpose.’ Perhaps all we can acknowledge with certainty is that we are part of something vast and mysterious, and that the best way to explore it is to go within.

One thought on “Grand purposes abroad – and within”

  1. Yes. And from Paul Tillich, from this side of the ocean, that the first thing to be said about God, is that we can say nothing about God. But there is much to say. I stand on a planet that is spinning 1000km/hr, flying around the sun at 10,000km/hr, part of the solar system circling the centre of the galaxy, all parts together, and the galaxy itself, hurtling through space at a million km/hr, even now as I sit here quietly and write, and for all the incredible speeding universe, we know the minute the sun appears over the horizon, perfectly each day. We may be drawn to call the sun, god, or that which made the sun, god, but really, as in that lovely image of Aquinas, what can I say, but lift my hands above, stretch them out, throw back my head, and in truth say nothing. No word. In that realization, be who I am.Who am I? I know most of the cells of my body are not my own, as the scientists now tell me. Most of me is bacteria, and the cells of others around me. And so I am but who I am, listening to my breath, in the vault of the dark universe, the sound of a breath. I am. Breathing. In and out. Wonder. And a resonant peace. And so I shall die, one final breath, and know that I can not know. And there is love in the silence. And there is love. Love of what I do not know.

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