July 13, 1990
I guess I am going to have to honor my age and not try to do things that I have always felt were me, like seminars. Many years ago I had to give up mountain climbing and since then one thing after another, now it appears I may even have to give up participating in seminars since I cannot hear what is said. But deafness carries its encouraging message too. It says to learn to hear the other voices. I’ve listened to the voices for decades at seminars, now I must learn to listen to the voices from other worlds, from nature, the plants, the stones, the clouds, and the hills. Yes, even of the stars, which I have studied all my life but never really listened to.
September 8, 1992
I am beginning to feel that the most dramatic years of the 20th century are yet to come. Even the weather seems to be , like everyone else, about to go in for some big change, but not quite sure which way to go. Maybe what it is all about is the old Chinese curse has caught up with us: “May you live in interesting times.”
April 2, 1994
It is one of life’s most perplexing paradoxes that liberation and loss come packaged together. Why is the euphoria of liberation offset with the sadness of loss. I guess it is because of our attachments, which as Siddhartha repeatedly proclaimed, cause us our suffering. But upon reflection the mix of sadness and joy lies in our indecision on which way to face, to the past or to the future. I would like to feel we are not released for falling, but for a greater height which we could never reach tied to our baggage. This is how I explain the Book of Job. The age old rabbinical question: “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” If you want to assume their theology, then the answer is because it is the only way God has of removing the barriers to their further spiritual realization.
With all of the talk of a new age and a new world it has not happened. Yet we all feel at some level that we are living in a world that is dying but pregnant with a world trying to be born. It is a difficult time. One can find no satisfaction in getting to sit at the captain’s table on the Titanic. Nor is there any sense in preparing for disaster. When the change comes it will be totally different from anything that we would or could prepare for. But there will be an Ark. It is proper to study what should be put on that ark. And I feel that what goes on board should not be just the wisdom of the past, but some of those visions we still imagine. Humans can endure many things so long as there is hope. But we are sometimes in the state of no hope. Here I recall William of Orange who called on his countrymen to persist even though there was no hope (in liberating Holland from Spain). So ultimately our strength is not hope, but persistence. Persistence in remaining faithful to what we believe in, no matter what. Persistence has a way of triumphing over all odds.
On another level, but on the same theme, the myths tell us that Dionysus is always escaping from the forms that Apollo is making for him. The human spirit is always breaking out of the prisons that the intellect has built for it. And this is at root what is happening today. The crisis is that our sciences, our religions, our institutions, have become prisons. The human spirit knows there is something much better that is attainable. Dionysus will inevitably succeed.
August 27, 1994
Out here there is not only the dry, dead center, depressed economy, but there is also an inner bleakness that seems to be endemic in many people. People generally seem disappointed in their lives. Not only the unsuccessful ones but even the more successful ones. What they have pursued and either did or didn’t obtain seems to have given them little satisfaction , much less happiness. Most people seem to be waiting. The pessimists for some disaster — geophysical, financial, criminal; the optimist for some salvation — a jackpot from the lottery, a UFO to appear, or perhaps even the Messiah. The whole world seems on hold.
Others are not waiting. They seem to feel this is the time for preparation. The stagnation is viewed as an opportunity for the Bridegroom’s coming. My personal view is that there may not be enough time to get ready. We should get more radical and push through the walls, knowing they are really only in our own minds. What is called for is both courage and patience, two virtues that do not seem to go together. But they do. Courage to explore both new alternatives and alternatives lost from the past; and patience with no specific expectations on results. I am trying to do this, but it is not easy. I keep having to wake myself up, keep from falling back into the waiting mode.
But some results are beginning to take shape. I became interested in early Christianity, the kind that existed before Constantine’s endorsement politicized the Church and launched the long sequence of power struggles. One place where vestiges of the early Christianity remained was in the Celtic Christianity of Ireland, Scotland, Northumbria, and Wales. In July I went on a pilgrimage to the historic sights associated with this brand of Christianity.
First to Iona, a small island off the west coast of Scotland, where St. Columba first brought Christianity from Ireland in c.635. Then to Lindisfarne, an island on the North Sea where St. Aiden brought Christianity from Iona. And on to Whitby where the synod was held in 664 deciding against Celtic Christianity and for Roman Christianity. One thing I learned, not generally associated in the minds of the religions, was an interesting geological fact: The Holy Islands and other holy places were all at locations of igneous and basaltic rocks–places where the rock had come from the depths of the earth. And most startling, while the ages of the rocks in most of northern Britain and Scotland were a few hundred million years old the age of the rocks on Iona and the nearby Isle of Women, was 2.8 billion years old, half the age of the earth. These islands are part of a tectonic wedge that belonged neither to Europe nor the Atlantic plate. The sensitive perspicaciousness of the Celtic Saints sensed something sacred about the earth amidst these ancient rocks. It struck me that we have lost something most important from our religion through our preoccupation with which dogma will be orthodox and which heresy, and which bishop will have precedence.
What is a sacred space? It is a place that either the Earth itself has prepared, or a place where we, in emulations of the earth, seek to replicate its sacred forms. Hence the Zen Garden, and every garden tended mindful of the motherhood of the Earth.
I feel in this time of preparation, that the best we can do is to create sacred spaces, make sacred utensils and artifacts, (true art is always sacred) and observe sacred times with sacred activities.
Another discovery from the pilgrimage: the meditative practices and worldview of the Celtic Church either had their origins in Buddhism coming from Alexandria in the first century, or were independently derived. Anyway the similarity is remarkable.
I have become a Buddhist, taking refuge in a Vajrayana sangha. This does not mean I am no longer a Christian, it means for the first time I am really becoming a Christian. What I am going to do and be when I grow up I don’t know yet. But I have found that many pieces of the cosmic jigsaw puzzle seem to be coming together. The picture so far is far from complete though.