A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Spiritually Seeking

Bella commented yesterday that words and poetry may help one through times of change, readjustment and grief. I think she's right. I've written before how one particular book helped me through the week following my mother's death. That book was A Year Of Grace: Passages Chosen And Arranged To Express A Mood About God And Man - compiled by Victor Gollancz (yes, that's the Victor Gollancz, the famous publisher) and published by Penguin Books in 1955, the year after I was born. It's a 550 page treasure house of spiritual and philosophical quotations. I turned to it again this morning.
Right at the book's beginning is The Sermon On The Mount from St Matthew's Gospel. Though I haven't read this for ages, it's astonishing how familiar it is. We must hear snatches from it all the time; it's part of our culture, part of the framework of our minds.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
**********
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
**********
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
**********
First cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.
**********
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.
**********
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
**********
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Just a word about my own religious beliefs. When I was young Methodism was forced onto me so much that I turned against it and against all other forms of organized, evangelical religion. But I can't help still being very interested in and often inexplicably moved by different belief systems and manifestations of the religious impulse - whether it be Catholicism on the Spanish Camino or the teachings of the Buddha or the multiform deities of Hinduism or pre-Christian paganism or the mystical individualism of the early Christian saints. I suppose you could call me both an agnostic and a spiritual seeker.

10 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Find comfort wherever you can Robert. I found it after Malcolm's death in the countryside - in the Spring renewal, in the beauty of everything - and also in the reading about it. Love

The Solitary Walker said...

Thank you for these lovely and comforting words, Weaver.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Good words for these dark and sorrowful times, my friend. To mourn is to open your soul to life, to say, “I don’t understand all this…but it really hurts.” Please do allow yourself to mourn—we mourn because we love. Mourning will make way for returning light; it will enable your heart to heal.

The Solitary Walker said...

Wise words, Grizzled. And I thank you for them.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful words in your post - it reminds me of a time in my life where I couldn't understand my love of being a seeker and a spiritual soul and being an atheist, if I have to label myself. It took me a few years to disentangle religion from spiritual, and remove absolutes from what will always be eternally mysterious. How could I love these words but not be religious was a conflict within me...

mourning has its own beauty in its reflections on life and its play with long-lost memories..

Bella

Anonymous said...

Addit:
After reading your post I revisited some poems I related to in grief and find still so beautiful today. I lost my father when I was very young and always loved the poem by Cecil Day-Lewis "The House Where I was Born"

....I know that we left you before my seedling
Memory could root and twine
within you. Perhaps that is why so often I gaze
At your picture, and try to divine
Thorough it the buried treasure, the lost life -
Reclaim what was yours, and mine.

I put up the curtains for them again
And light a fire in their grate:
I bring the young father and mother to lean above me,

Ignorant, loving, complete:
I ask the questions I never could ask them
Until it was too late.....

Bella

The Solitary Walker said...

The sonorous beauty of the King James Bible reminds me of my childhood (all those Sundays in the Methodist chapel!) just as much as The Golden Treasury Of Poetry.

Val said...

I will echo Bella's words because what she says deeply resonates with me:

"Wonderful words in your post - it reminds me of a time in my life where I couldn't understand my love of being a seeker and a spiritual soul and being an atheist, if I have to label myself. It took me a few years to disentangle religion from spiritual, and remove absolutes from what will always be eternally mysterious. How could I love these words but not be religious was a conflict within me..."

The Solitary Walker said...

That is so beautifully put, Bella (and echoed by Val). Thank you both.

"It took me a few years to disentangle religion from spiritual, and remove absolutes from what will always be eternally mysterious".

Yes, the established churches and the panoplies of organized religion have no exclusive right over the spritual, that's for sure. We can find the spiritual in many things and in many people and places if we are open to the encounter.

And thank you also for the poem, Bella.

am said...

Thinking of you during these first days after your father's death. Thank you for the introduction to A YEAR OF GRACE.