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Marvels: Letters from an Elder, Part 22

Letter # 12, February 9th, 1949 continued

8. Solitude

Most difficulties faced on the mortal plane stem from a longing for the kind of communion which is the essence of the spiritual planes.

Again, you might appreciate this better through analogy. If you were to attempt to live in isolation from your fellow beings, neither seeing them, hearing from them or touching them for some time, you would undoubtedly experience symptoms of spiritual deprivation. Being removed from loving human contact, and even from contact with a pleasant natural environment, can produce compulsive and destructive behaviour. Individuals seek remedies for this in substitutes, none of which are truly adequate and some of which are insane. Thus we see alcohol or gambling or other addictions developing in an attempt to assuage the hunger the individual feels for something much deeper and more meaningful. The greater the isolation, the more the deprivation.

The mortal plane is by its nature deprived of intimate spiritual contact, until one develops one’s sensitivities. To deal with this, I would recommend that you seek out places of solitude and silence, retreats where your longing for a more intimate encounter with God has some hope of fulfilment, and where your attention can be cultivated with few distractions. Begin by making a commitment to spending ten minutes each day in silence. Ask others in your house not to disturb you. Then extend this by finding a whole morning or afternoon to go to a nearby natural retreat or monastery and listen deeply to the spiritual stirrings within you.

9. Seasonal cycles

The unfolding of the seasons is an overarching template for those with a spiritual imagination. Significant feast days used to align with the equinoxes and solstices; ‘cross-quarter days’, which are the midway points between them, were also significant and part of the harvest cycle.

The Christian calendar incorporated many of these seasonal rhythms: Christmas falls near the winter solstice, the feast of John the Baptist at the summer solstice, and Easter after the spring equinox. Monastic prayers also respect these sacred rhythms of nature’s rise and fall, birth and death.

You can make use of this in your daily life. Contemplative walks outside should become part of your daily routine. Rather than walking to somewhere specific, put your attention onto the world around you and listen to it speaking to you. Pay particular attention to the seasons —what flowers might be in bloom, whether the trees have their leaves, the height of the sun in the sky, and so forth. See if you can discern the season of your own soul.

10. Theophany in the Landscape

The Celts considered sacred places to be ‘thin’, places where the division between the worlds of heaven and earth were weaker.

Mortals can hear the voice of the divine in the elements and in creatures, so much so that the landscape can become a theophany, or place of divine manifestation. Spending sufficient time in nature is a requirement to be able to experience this personally. Ask God for signs and symbols to guide you on the way, but learn to see them, for it is manifestly true that mortals are surrounded by a living symbology which they simply refuse to see. Consider making a journey to a landscape that feels especially sacred to you.

More will be said on these matters in forthcoming letters.


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