At sea

From time to time we are blown hither and thither by inexplicable rages, fantasies, loves, lusts, animosities – so that we seem like a ship without bearings, adrift on a stormy sea. Much depends on our early upbringing and it may be that some form of analysis or therapy is necessary if we are to be able to understand and control our emotions. And, without fail, the simple practice of silent meditation will provide a way forward.



Hisham Matar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, writes of,

‘the longing that I sometimes feel for prayer. It is like a space that is unattended, gathering dust inside me.’

He then describes a visit to the National Gallery and standing in front of the portrait of A Young Man at Prayer by Hans Memling:

‘The boy was making space, and in so doing he had inadvertently arrived at the farther reaches of himself … one who has arrived at the boundary of himself and, with cautious hope, is now looking in.’


Visiting the dying

I have been recalling how, when my friend Anne Powell, aged 95, was dying in the cottage hospital in Kington, Herefordshire, I used to go daily to sit with her for two hours. She lay there, eyes closed. I would say nothing but simply hold her hand and sit in total silence. At the end, getting up, I would make the sign of the cross on her forehead, and always at this moment she would open her amazing blue eyes, smile, then close them again.

I mention this as all too often visitors to the dying don’t know how to behave. Some talk in very loud voices as though the person they are visiting is stone deaf – driving everyone else in the ward mad! Or they talk endlessly about themselves. All we need do is to sit quietly and be. If our friend wants to speak, we listen and respond as needed; otherwise we just hold them in the Silence.


The Kabbalah

The practice of meditation goes back many centuries and is found not only in Buddhism. It is interesting that the Kabbalah, the ancient mystical tradition of Judaism, recognising the conflict between the opposites in each of us, recommends the practice of meditation as a way of integrating them. 


Letting God in

Once we have overcome our difficulties with the word ‘God’ and learned to let God into our lives, the result can be dramatic. We may be faced with illness, a failure, a setback; but if we wait patiently and allow God to work within us like yeast in a loaf of bread, then the problem is resolved in its own way. We have but to let God in.  


Greek Gods

When I fall asleep I often imagine myself in the arms of Morpheus, the god of sleep; and then I am joined by Orpheus, the god of dreams. In this sense the Greek gods are personifications of aspects of one’s psyche. Here it is important to remember the role of the god Hermes, who stands at the crossroads and is the messenger of the Gods. When we make the sign of the cross, therefore, we are invoking Hermes to bring us such a message.   



Whenever I sit to meditate I make the sign of the cross, not in the name of the Trinity, but as a symbol of the integration of the opposites within myself. At the end of the meditation I make the sign of the cross: on my forehead that my thoughts may be true; on my lips that my words may be true; on my heart that the flame within may burn steadily; and finally on the area of my sexuality.  This last is important and is so often left out of the spiritual journey, yet it is a very powerful energy and needs harnessing.  Even when, with advanced years, there is no sexual activity or desire, nonetheless it remains psychologically an essential part of one’s being.


A personal note

When I applied to be ordained as a non-stipendiary priest, I wrote on my form that, as far as I could see anything, I saw my ministry as being a bridge that would unite opposites: it would be less a matter of doing than of simply being. It was my task to be what I had always been – a catalyst.

People pass through a threshold into new territory; it is both a departure and an arrival. A threshold is not necessarily a door, rather it is a frontier which calls for decision and commitment. Do I cross or not?  Each of us is a pilgrim and like all true pilgrims we are here to help each other on the journey. 


A knowledge beyond knowledge

At intervals the great Teachers descend in our midst as though they have come from on high, as though there were a region above and beyond our known universe. Not the physical heaven as imagined but rather a region of the super-conscious, for, if there is a sub-conscious then we must be able to envisage a super-conscious.

Here on this planet the Masters, the Enlightened Ones, speak to us of the Transcendent. Carl Jung once remarked to my analyst, Dr Franz Elkisch: ‘Each one of us is capable of being a transistor, each of us can tune in to the ‘other’ or ‘more’ dimension of reality, through meditation or prayer – the label doesn’t matter – through a heightened awareness of reality.’