Category: Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflection: Warrior, Wise Man, Lover and King

Spiritual Reflection: Warrior, Wise Man, Lover and King

To be complete, men need all four aspects – so argues Richard Rohr in Adam’s Return.  His research into male archetypes and cultural initiation through history and around the world, integrated with his Franciscan Christian vision of life has inspired this post.

Warrior

Not in the sense of committing violence but there are things in life worth fighting for.

If there is no fight in a person, perhaps there is a spiritual vulnerability.

When we have deep commitments and convictions then we fight with all our might, through determined actions, strong words, unstoppable perseverance.

Wise Man

The wise man does not boast of his learning nor is he just about analysis, logic, science or art.

The wise man sees into the heart of other lives, sees into the heart of life itself.

The wise man knows about silence, nature, time, death.

The wise man offers perspective, guidance, insight for each distinctive situation.

The Lover

To have no heart is to be incomplete.

The lover has a soul that feels with both passion and compassion.

The lover also sees beyond sexuality, though sexuality is expressed partly through his love.

The lover also knows that love is for the natural world, love is to nurture children, love is for God.

The King

The king is not driven by ego, lust for power or the need to control.

The king is a person of charisma and strength.

The king brings stability and calm, generosity and order.

This archetype integrates the others: a soul so in command of self that others can be seen as they truly are (and truly could be).

The king offers a benevolent authority – a leadership that clarifies, helps and genuinely guides others for their own long-term good.

Warrior

Wise man

.

Lover

And king

.

These encompass

Everything

.

You need to know

About being a man

.

And so we now

Sing.

.

Spiritual Reflection: The Different Knowings of the Soul Beyond Logic

Spiritual Reflection: The Different Knowings of the Soul Beyond Logic

 I have been liberated in the last few years.  Liberated from the limitations of reducing knowledge to logic.

I think I started on “logic obsession” as a means of seeking to get some control over life.  If life can be reduced to logical structures, then it might seem safer.

But only “seem”.

We know through our senses.

We know through our relationships.

We know through emotions.

We know through instinct, through imagination, through story, through music, through art, through meditation, contemplation…and the list goes on.

21st century culture in the West seems to have a reductionist view of logic – that all of life can be analysed, measured by “science” and pronounced on by “an expert”.

But the meaning of “science” is just “knowledge”.  Science does bring one type of knowledge that can both cure diseases and kill with nuclear bombs.

But if you believe anything about human spirituality, then you also know that “science” offers little in the way of wisdom, or even insight, for the spiritual searcher.

To seek for truth, or for Truth, or for spirit, Spirit, or God, we need more than logic.

We need the heart, the mind, the heart-in-the-mind and the mind-in-the-heart.  We need to listen to story.  Contemplation, meditation, silence can also help both our knowing and our “unknowing”.

There is indeed a “cloud of unknowing” that strangely illuminates our darkness. 

There is a light than informs our lives.

There is an inner wisdom, an unconscious intuition, that we can regularly tap into to help us “know” how to respond, relate and act meaningfully.

These are some of the different “knowings of the soul” beyond logic.

.

Spiritual Reflection: Six Different Kinds of Truth…

I think we all have an intuitive sense of truth.

We know when we are lying, and we know when we are being honest.

But we have become confused about “truth”, I think, because we have narrowed the definition of truth too much to “scientific / mathematical truth”, forgetting that most of the important things about being truthful (relationships, for example) have very little to do with either science or maths!

Bennett Sims, in his book on Servant Leadership (Servanthood) elucidates six different kinds of truth:

  1. Empirical
  2. Relational
  3. Evolutionary
  4. Mythical
  5. Paradoxical
  6. Mystical

[continues after image]

different truths

Empirical truth is the sort of truth we are most used to – it is the truth of fact and figures, measurements, quantities – the realities of the physical, material world.

But we all know that empirical truth cannot deal with relationships.  A parent loves a child, a lie damages a relationship – these truths are no less true than empirical truths.  Relational truth is in many ways more important than empirical truth.  Human beings have known it for much longer.

Evolutionary truth, says Sims, is “a truth that moves”.  Scientific investigation is the best example of this, of course.  Galileo made our concept of truth move, as did Darwin, as did Einstein.  But other insights and truths shift too, don’t they – ideas about ethnicity and about gender, for example.

Then there is mythical truth  – the deep power of the stories that have underpinned human life for thousands of years.  Sims gives the example of the story of Adam and Eve – a story so powerful for the truths it conveys about God, creation and men and women.

Paradoxial truth comes next.  Each person is both an individual and part of a community.  The present moment is both here now and also gone instantly into the past.  Life is full of paradoxical truths, but they are complicated, can be disturbing but also, for better or worse, true!

Sims describes mystical truth as “the deepest level of truth available to human experience”.  It is “a truth that does the grasping” (rather than us grasping a truth for ourselves!).  It “cannot be fully comprehended” but it “common in human experience”.  It “lifts ones spirit above the ordinary”.

I was brought up to believe in empirical truth alone.  But this was an impoverishment of what it means to be human, and I also experienced the emotional convictions of “truth” in non-empirical ways.  I wrote this poem:

These questions came

            to prey upon my soul

.

Disturbed the silent water

            of my mind

.

And in my restlessness

            I had to find

.

An account of things

            to satisfy my soul.

questionsFW

I ended up studying at university English Literature – literature that explores relational truths, paradoxical truths, emotional truths, mythical truths.

At the age of nineteen I was grasped by mystical truth, and now nearly thirty years later, continue to explore “Truth” here in my blog, Flowering Poverello.

And how about you? What do you think about truth or Truth?

Do you relate to any of Bennett Sims’ ideas of six different truths?

Perhaps there are even more?

A Spirituality with God?

A Spirituality with God?

There is a fascination with spirituality today.  Perhaps we value what we intuitively feel we have lost.

But can you develop “spirituality” without God?

I wonder if the answer is both yes and no!

There is a spirituality of compassion, of searching, of mindfulness, meditation and contemplation, that does not appear to need again particular belief in a specific religion, or the supernatural.  People can develop these good qualities and remain atheistic, or agnostic.

For me, however, spirituality fully flowers with God. 

God grounds my identity.

God grounds the universe in love.

God grounds my relationships.

God grounds my purpose in life.

Not everyone who reads my blog will share my beliefs.  But for me, to be spiritual is also to be on a journey to and with God. 

God is spirit, I am spiritual, all people are spiritual – and so we have a kinship with each other, with God, with the universe.  We are connected and completed.  In God we find our truth, our way and our love.

What do you think?  A spirituality without God?  Or spirituality integrated with a devotion to a God of love?

Why Have a Month of Inspirers?

Life is enriched by those we know, and sometimes voices from the past speak even more powerfully than the voices of the living:

“The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living”

T.S.Eliot

A month of inspirers is simply a list of the thirty or so people whose words you can return to again and again for inspiration. 

This blog got its name because of the life and words of St. Francis of Assisi (the “poverello”) which had been inspiring me.

Giotto’s painting of St. Francis of Assisi, the “Poverello”, who inspired the name for my blog!

Recent posts have been about other figures, or movements, that have inspired me.

They are a flexible group, and open to new additions.

I allocate each to a day of the month, so I routinely am reminded of them.  Sometimes I am particularly grabbed, and stay with reading more about one, or contemplating them in greater depth, for a sequence of days.  This sometimes leads to a burst of writing all inspired by them, and also means that others may be skipped for that month.  They won’t mind!  Another month will come round and then perhaps a different figure will prove inspirational.

Create Your Own Month of Inspirers

To create a month of inspirers, you need to start by thinking about which people, authors, artists, scientists, mythological characters etc. etc. inspire you in some depth.  Are they figures you can return to again and again, contemplate more deeply, read more works by them (or re-read, or revisit their lives)?

If you can only think of a few, just allocate one per week.

If you find the number getting more than this, then you can distribute them over a month (this is where I’ve got to at the moment!).

Then you just let the days go past, perhaps set a reminder for each day of the month if you use an calendar on your phone (that’s what I do), and see what happens!

A Month of Inspirers (5) – "In my beginning is my end"

“In my beginning is my end”

T.S.Eliot

Our “end” is our purpose.  If we know the beginning of something – how or why something started (like an argument, or a problem) -we can gain insight into doing something about it.  

Discovering meaning and purpose is also part of the spiritual quest…

beginningoflife AMTG

Human life is a journey away from beginnings as we grow and change through childhood and adolescence to adulthood.

But at some points, maybe we can mark a moment of a really significant new beginning (maybe we have had several moments like this), where life took on a new meaning for us.

The beginning of our realisation of the spiritual dimension to life may be a new beginning. 

There are other times where we have come to a realisation, or an “illumination”, when we begin to understand a little more about why we are here on earth, and what our spiritual way is all about:

 

The beginning of a life

Is not at first cry

.

But when the soul

Begins to know why

.

And moves in faith

That its purpose

..

And mission

Is beyond the present

.

In a future unseen

And a destiny.

 

It was simply reading the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, that collection of stories about Jesus, that inspired both this poem and this meditation.   And Mark has his place in my “month of inspirers” (see recent previous posts on this topic).

Mark’s Gospel does not begin with the baby of Christmas nativities, but with a powerful prophecy, with John the Baptist, and with his baptising of Jesus: a spiritual, defining moment, in which love is revealed.

In another gospel account, Jesus talks about “being born again”. 

Spiritual birth is like a second birth.  And we can continue to grow spiritually throughout our lives.  Our future is unseen; we have a destiny; and when we start to know why, we can also start to move in faith.

 

A month of inspirers (4) – Adam

We seem to be quite unsure about what it means to be human in the 21st century. One of the themes I return to every month is the figure of Adam, including how he has been portrayed in art – every month it seems to throw helpful light on the question of what it means to be human.

Created

21st century culture often values human autonomy, but actually I find that this is not an accurate description of being human. I did not create myself: I was born to my parents, as they were to theirs, and so the chain goes back into history.

Michelangelo’s interpretation of being created tells me this is something incredibly energetic and vital, and that there is a spiritual aspect to being created:

The creative power behind human being is not just a union of male and female, but also a God of love and energy, without whom I would not have life – as Adam, in this painting, just lounges lifelessly, awaiting the life-giving touch of God.

Complex

To be human is to be a complex of body, mind, emotion and spirit.

Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man” is not exactly Adam, but it certain does capture something of the mystical beauty and complexity of humanity:

“Vitruvian Man”, Leonardo Da Vinci

But we are also like Van Eyck’s “Adam” below, though – not perfectly symmetrical, not beautiful in every way. Rather vulnerable, in fact, despite outward shows od strength and power:

Adam, from The Ghent Altarpiece, Van Eyck

In Van Eyck’s wider vision below, Adam and Eve (top left and top right) are just part of a much bigger spiritual picture, with God top centre, and the mystical “Lamb of God” and the fountain of life in the middle at the bottom. Humanity assembles from the four corners of the earth to worship and acknowledge their createdness, their dependence on each other and in God, and their physical, emotional and spiritual complexity.

Some people laugh at the stories of Adam and Eve today.

But I find that they shine a light on the human condition – especially my human condition!

And so Adam remains one of my inspirers…

A Month of Inspirers (3) – Icons

Icons can be understood as portals or doorways to deeper realities.  We are not meant to just like the colours, the shapes, the composition, the thoughts or the stories that come to mind.

By extension, many paintings (and other works of art) also point beyond themselves, and help us on our spiritual way.

This is one particular painting that I find myself returning to again and again for how it takes me beyond my present into a deeper, more eternal world.

A group of people posing for a picture

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“Baptism of Christ” – Piero della Francesca

Time seems to stop (even the river has stopped flowing).  Angels are present (it is easy not to notice the beautiful rainbow wing on the left).  Heaven is open (notice the dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, seeming like just another cloud at first sight over the head of Jesus).  John the Baptist balances almost balletically, as if the body of Christ is too holy to touch.  There is also a tree “planted by streams of water” (see a recent post on Psalm 1), and all this against both a background of worldly conflict (notice the priests, opponents of Christ, in the background), and of everyman’s response (the man undressing and preparing for his own baptism – is he symbolically “putting off” his old self?).

Jesus himself is a wonderful picture of prayer and praying: solid, still, focused, he allows the ritual cleansing, symbolic of a turn to a new life of spirituality.

And where do we find our place?

A Month of Inspirers (2) – Carmelites

“The soul is like a castle”

“The dark night of the soul”

These insights come from two Carmelites: Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.

Both have inspired me with their works, like “The Interior Castle”, or “Ascent to Mount Carmel”.  They write about the mystery of the soul.  They write about the mystery of God.  They write about contemplation, and the mystery of prayer.

The following quotations come from their 1995 Constitutions – Carmelites are a living order to this day:

Prayer is the centre of our lives, and authentic community and ministry spring from this source

in our spirituality we integrate our love for the world and our sense of the transcendent

Many of my poems have been inspired by these two Carmelite mystics, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

In a noisy, busy world, they lead us into a deeper reality – the reality we see in silence, the reality we perceive in contemplation, and the reality of God.

“The soul’s beauty and capabilities are so immeasurably great” – St. Teresa of Avila

Spiritual Reflection: A Month of Inspirers!

Who inspires you? 

If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed recurring themes and people.  In particular, my “inspirers” often feature!

Giotto’s painting of St. Francis of Assisi, the “Poverello”, who inspired the name for my blog!

I have come to draw on these inspiring figures from the past (and some of them from the present) to learn from them, to be challenged and to be inspired.

They are a flexible group, and open to new additions.

I have even allocated each to a day of the month, so I routinely am reminded of them.  Sometimes I am particularly grabbed, and stay with reading more about one, or contemplating them in greater depth, for a sequence of days.  This sometimes leads to a burst of writing all inspired by them, and also means that others may be skipped for that month.  They won’t mind!  Another month will come round and then perhaps a different figure will prove inspirational.

Create Your Own Month of Inspirers

To create a month of inspirers, you need to start by thinking about which people, authors, artists, scientists, mythological characters etc. etc. inspire you in some depth.  Are they figures you can return to again and again, contemplate more deeply, read more works by them (or re-read, or revisit their lives)?

If you can only think of a few, just allocate one per week.

If you find the number getting more than this, then you can distribute them over a month (this is where I’ve got to at the moment!).

Then you just let the days go past, perhaps set a reminder for each day of the month if you use an calendar on your phone (that’s what I do), and see what happens!