” WISDOM and Spirit of the universe! Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought! And giv’st to forms and images a breath And everlasting motion! not in vain, By day or star-light, thus from my first dawn Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me The passions that build up our human soul; Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man; But with high objects, with enduring things, With life and nature; purifying thus The elements of feeling and of thought, And sanctifying by such discipline Both pain and fear,–until we recognise A grandeur in the beatings of the heart. “
You may or may not know this beautiful painting by William Blake
…or this older icon…
The both take up a very ancient idea that goes back thousands of years: “he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” is another version (Jacob’s dream, from The Book of Genesis).
My interest in this rekindled when I re-read this:
“the material universe is a ladder by which we may ascend to God”.
St. Bonaventure goes on to describe three ways we can seek God – remarkable in their clarity and accessibility:
“First…we must pass through vestiges which are corporeal and temporal and outside us” (he means “nature”!)
“Next we must enter our mind, ,which is the image of God, an image which is everlasting, and spiritual and within us”
“Finally we must go beyond to what is eternal, most spiritual and beyond us.”
I find that so amazing:
Find God through appreciating the beauty, awesomeness, otherness, power, peacefulness (and more) of nature
Find God through understanding the power of the human mind to think beyond time, to reason, to understand, to empathise (and more)
Find God through what transcends this world: heaven and eternity
I hope you also find this image of the ladder, and St. Bonaventure’s “three ways” inspiring.
Do all three ring true with you, or perhaps one especially?
I wrote this poem, inspired by St. Bonaventure’s ideas: