MYSTICISM: The River Of Life

The River Of Life

Evelyn Underhill writes that the mystic sees the world as sacramental.

I like that image.

A mystic experiences the world around him as a complete expression of the divine.

In my book, there are three active forms of mystics.  (And one passive.)  The active forms are (1) the head, who experiences visions and other sensual Godly phenomenon; (2) the heart, who feels their way through their relationship with God; and (3) the hand, those people who, without articulation, know the right thing to do, the right time to do it, and has the courage to get up and do it.

The metaphor I’ve been taught about a head’s relationship to life is that in the river, the head swims.  Uses his arms and legs, and makes his way down the current.

Evelyn explains that a mystic’s relationship with the world around him takes the form of enhanced mental lucidity that comes from an abnormal sharpening of the senses.  This results in a perception of a reality that had never before been suspected.

The mystic, then, penetrates the divinity hidden within nature; he enjoys all creatures in God and God in all creatures.

The heart experiences the river of life by floating on his back, and trusting the water to bring him whole and hearty back home.

A mystic’s communion with the material world can be described as God-intoxication.

Founder of the Quaker religion, George Fox, wrote that the mystic finds in material existence a hidden unity in the Eternal Being.

A sacrament.

A communion.

A reaching and touching.  A sacred connection.

God and man.  Perceived through the things that we can sense.  Finding a harmony between the mystic and life in all its forms.

Evelyn  defines beauty as reality seen with eyes of love.  And as we love God, we see his creation with the eyes of love.  We see his beauty.

The hand stands in the river of life and lets the flow come around him.  He learns about God and life by standing still and listening.  Watching.  Feeling.  Knowing.

Words from Evelyn:

The mystical way (with nature) is considered as an organic process of transcendence.

The awakened awareness of life is the self’s growth towards free and conscious participation in the Absolute Life.

The mystic denies the narrow and artificial world of self and finds in exchange the secrets of that mighty universe which he shares with nature and with God.

The mystic pierces the veil of imperfection and beholds creation with the creator’s eye.

And finally,

Enlightenment is a symptom of growth, and growth is a living process which knows no rest.

(Quotes are from Mysticism, Chapter IV, The Illumination of the Self, Section 2., The Illuminated Vision of the World.)

And now for a poem.

The River of Life

(Thomas Campbell)

The more we live, more brief appear
Our life’s succeeding stages:
A day to childhood seems a year,
And years like passing ages.

The gladsome current of our youth,
Ere passion yet disorders,
Steals lingering like a river smooth
Along its grassy borders.

But as the care-worn cheeks grow wan,
And sorrow’s shafts fly thicker,
Ye Stars, that measure life to man,
Why seem your courses quicker?

When joys have lost their bloom and breath
And life itself is vapid,
Why, as we reach the Falls of Death,
Feel we its tide more rapid?

It may be strange — yet who would change
Time’s course to slower speeding,
When one by one our friends have gone
And left our bosoms bleeding?

Heaven gives our years of fading strength
Indemnifying fleetness;
And those of youth, a seeming length,
Proportion’d to their sweetness.

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