Marvels: Letters from an Elder, Part 19
Letter # 12, February 9th, 1949
Once you have some inkling of what spiritual maturity is like, you are still left living in the mortal world with all its unknowns and frustrations. Coming to recognise the role of the egoic voice does not necessarily silence it; while you remain in the mortal realm, your ‘self’ chatters almost continually. What you need to find is a way of living in the mortal world while remaining alert to everything which we have been discussing in this correspondence. I hope, then, over the next few letters, to give you a more practical framework from your perspective. You should not, while walking around in a darkened room, have your attention on the garden. Rather, you need to learn new sensitivities so as to be able to navigate where you are.
The modern world teaches a desensitivity to the environment. You learn from an early age the mantra of materialism: that everything you sense is matter, and only matter. That chant quickly penetrates even into your subjective experiences, so that the world you feel and think with inside your head comes to be seen as equally material, nothing more than sets of ongoing chemical reactions. Spiritual realities and meanings are voided by your culture, relegated to the nursery or the asylum.
In fact, the natural world, in particular, reveals the sacramentality of all creation. Matter, energy, light, air, water, everything is infused with the divine presence and offers glimpses of the world behind the shallow material surface of things. This is a spirituality which celebrates the human imagination, the inner world, cultivating creativity through arts and crafts.
I will endeavour to give you specific elements in your existence which can act as markers and guides to deepening your spiritual perceptions and remedying the leeching of your soul which your surrounding culture engenders.
‘Threshold’ is technically defined as a strip of wood or stone forming the bottom of a doorway and crossed in entering a house or room, but more philosophically indicates a point of entry or beginning. Thresholds are the spaces between when we move from one time to another, as in the threshold of dawn to day or dusk to dark. They are also transitions from one space to another, as in times of journey or moving from secular to sacred space. Thresholds stand between one awareness and another, as in times when old beliefs start to fall away and we step forward into new visions.
Early Celtic peoples had a love of edges and boundary places, and possessed a keen sense of the Otherworld as a place just beneath the veil of this one. They regarded the material world as thinner in some places than in others, permitting the spiritual world to shine through into the mortal plane.
In a practical sense, you can develop an awareness of thresholds by simply noticing each time you cross one. This might be a doorway, a motion from one activity to another, or the thresholds of the day, especially at dawn and dusk. Pause, either physically or mentally, and note them. As is said in Jeremiah 6:16, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’
Noting the presence of thresholds produces the corollary effect of noting the presence of spaces, times and mental states or moods. You can develop from this a profound sense of ‘thereness’ and a calm which comes from noting rhythms and transitions as well as silences and stillnesses.
Next, we will take a look at dreams.