Marvels: Letters from an Elder, Part 20
Letter # 12, February 9th, 1949 continued
Ancient wisdom viewed dreams as respected signs from God, rather than the ‘merely subjective’ impressions of the mind which modernism would have you believe. Dreams appear in significant roles in scripture, with guidance and direction often arriving through them, most notably with Joseph of the Hebrew Bible, Jacob’s dream of a staircase from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending, Daniel’s dream of the four beasts, and Joseph the father of Jesus’ four separate dreams.
St. Patrick had a dream in which he was visited by an angel who encouraged him to flee captivity and who helped arrange a miraculous escape. Later, he dreamed that he heard the Irish people calling out to him to return to the land of his enslavement and help establish Christianity there.
Most often, dreams appear as random collections of images and events with no apparent logical significance, but as we learned earlier, logic is not everything. Repeated patterns, recurring events and often consistent moods in dreams can speak to us in a non-egoic voice: what you are looking for is a more holistic meaning, a symbolism or significance which is not trying to communicate a specific message to you as much as it is attempting to show you something about the overall colour or tempo of your mortal life.
Keep a journal and pen by your bed at night and then record even fragments upon upon waking. Look not for ‘hidden messages’ but for repeated motifs: is the same location recurring? Do the same people crop up in your dreams? Are you doing similar things? What do those places, people and actions tell you about the pattern of your current life?
Wandering is a powerful practice in establishing a spiritual life. The unique Christian term for this wandering is peregrinatio pro Christo, or the call to wander for the love of Christ. This is not pilgrimage, which involves a focussed journey to visit a holy site — Peregrinatio pro Christo is a phrase without a precise English definition, best captured by the idea of wandering saints setting forth without destination, often (in Celtic Britain, for example) getting into a small boat with no oars or rudder, called a coracle, and setting off wherever the will of God would take them, trusting themselves to the currents of the river or sea, surrendering themselves completely to the wind and ocean and letting themselves be carried to what they called a place of their resurrection, a place where they would live and work, die and be buried, and where their remains would await their resurrection on the Last Day.
In your daily life, it is probably not practicable to simply abandon everything in this way. But at the end of every day you should set aside time to notice any signs of the divine presence. Have you felt any impulses to go somewhere? Have you been invited to surrender yourself to some kind of current? Have you accepted the invitation or turned away? In what ways did you resist or ignore the holy impulses?
4. Blessing each moment
One of the practices that aids in magnifying one’s loving attention to daily life is blessings, which in this case are prayers celebrating the ordinary tasks of the day. Blessing is acknowledging the gifts and graces already present in your life and offering gratitude to God for them. Even mundane activities of the day are opportunities to witness grace at work.
Even after a short period of practising blessings in this way, one can begin to see the everyday things of one’s life as openings into the spiritual depths of the world. A cup of tea, a bird singing, a knock on the door, a nourishing meal can all act to bring one closer to God. To strengthen this further, consider writing a blessing of gratitude for each of the ordinary things that have sustained you during the day.
What is occurring here? If one accepts that the material world is only one plane of existence, then the repeated acknowledgement of another dimension connected to even the most mundane of activities or events or objects acts to make that plane ‘thinner’. In effect, repeated blessings create the ‘thin places’ known to the ancient Celtic Christians. Matter loses its thickness; the light of the truth begins to shine through.
All things become windows onto God.