Tag Archives: Kabbalah

Silent Retreat, "The Listening Heart," March 9-16, 2016

Learned “by heart” during time alone in my cabin at GilChrist, Three Rivers, Michigan, with the half-formed idea of keeping this with me as a talisman of the “higher emotional center” (Gurdjieff) or “Chesed (Merciful God)-consciousness” (Kabbalah). Rilke’s poem somehow captures the nature of the work required (at least of me) by this intense and challenging venture into “the Listening Heart” :

“I am too alone in the world, yet not alone enough to keep every hour holy. / I am too small in the world, yet not small enough to be simply in your presence, like a thing — just as it is.

I want to know my own will, and to move with it. / I want, in the hushed hours when the nameless draws near, to be among the Wise Ones—or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity. / I want never to be too weak or too old/to bear the heavy, wavering Image of you.

I want to unfurl. / Let no place inside me hold itself closed / for where I am closed, I am false / and I want to be clear in your sight…”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

Teachers

Gurus are relatively easy to find in India. So says Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi. Yet rooted in midwest North America by family and career, I’d despaired of every finding a teacher open to mystic needs. A Buddhist saying says, when you’re ready for your guru, he will come to you. And for all practical purposes that’s how Rob came to me.

For two and a half years I was at a standstill. In my meditation, writing, music, art, retreats and workshops—activities I’d promised myself for years I would undertake full-time as soon as I retired. Now I was. Three decades and a full library devoted to Western Hermeticism provided a satisfactory home base for my world view. Psychology, earned at the spousal side of a clinical psychologist, had given me an owner’s manual for the psyche. What was missing was the gnostic experience: first-hand experiential knowledge of the Ineffable.

Ten years ago I met Chris, an American Tibetan Buddhist and personal guide who offers retreats and counseling to show crazy-busy people how to relax in body, mind and spirit. On that particular morning-long two years ago, after a free association session with her, I walked out into the daylight and found myself gazing into gold- and rose-colored world, a world of a gentle hue yet unearthly intensity. The indescribable blessing, the specific sense of Presence, stayed with me for three days. I went home, researched and painted the Catholic image of the Sacred Heart for a week. Then the world settled back to Dull-and-Normal, as anticipated. But this time I noticed an edge, an antsy impatient longing at the back of my heart that told me something inside had opened. And I had no idea what to do with it. I floundered, experimented, and stayed stuck.

Two years later, a casual word from a friend, an arranged meeting, and there was my new teacher. It was G. I. Gurdjieff, disguised as a chef de cuisine at a local high-end restaurant. With Rob’s instruction (strict), guidance (clear) and new language (at times confounding), I would come to find in “the Work” the third leg of a stool which finally began to lift the everyday mental sluggishness to new states of self awareness and consciousness.

I now have five teachers, Chris, Rob, Gurdjieff, son Derek (who has always been able to talk “soul” with me), and Wyn, now from another dimension.

Seek, and ye shall find—eventually.

In search of the Beloved

An email from the Gurdjieff Foundation today informs me that this is the anniversary of the death of Lord John Pentland, long-revered president of the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York.

Fitting he should leave the planet on Valentine’s Day. For what is arising into new consciousness but another form of falling in love? And who’s to say that it isn’t the ultimate experience of being in love?

Like other equivalent experiences in my life, this one is as painful as it is life-giving. Maybe more so. I am barely a novice at this—the teachings, “the Work”—yet I burn, in the full sense of St. Paul’s usage. Something big is happening to me that only alchemy, Kabbalah, and now perhaps, the Work can help me through.

The Hermit

The image that comes to mind is the Tarot Trump of “The Hermit,” the solitary pilgrim stepping onto the rocky unknown ahead of him. The lantern he carries casts more light for those who may be following behind him than it does for his own next, possibly treacherous, steps.

Traditional Tarot trump placement of The Hermit on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life places The Hermit on the path above Tiphareth (Beauty) heading toward Chesed (Mercy). Personal experience supports Colin Low’s feeling (in his digital book,  “A Depth of Beginning”) that this solitary hike through the spiritual bewilderness of the emotions occurs much sooner than the lofty achievement of Tiphareth—”Christ-consciousness” in Jung’s system. Low’s placement of the stalwart pilgrim well below Tiphareth, on the path between Yesod, the astral or spiritual plane behind apparent material “reality”,  and Netzach, the force-field of love, sex and emotion, strikes me as good a position as any to depict this rocky road.