JULIAN MEETING – 4th March 2019
I am conscious of an inner mystery that goes beyond me: the transcendent reality to which I give the name God; and with the fact that I can transcend myself. I know that I may be formed from the dust of the earth and that my body will one day return to it, yet I am dust capable of a transcendent creativity, capable of transcending myself, in the give-and-take of love. And, not least, I am surrounded by the witness of those in every age who have used the words and sounds and images that spring from the creative imagination. This too is mystery. Certain combinations of words, the way paint is placed on a canvas or notes on a score, have the power to move me because they speak of something beyond; they transcend time and space and, in some inexplicable way, heart speaks to heart.
Most people know something of this transcendence. It seems to be part of the gut-feeling of being human to experience a sense of yearning, even of loss, a restless, seeking spirit which can feel like a kind of homesickness. There are times when we ache for that which will fulfil and complete us; a longing, it may be, for the lost state of innocence, the Eden of our childhood, or for a future when all questions are answered and we are home at last. This sense of a lost freedom ‘hammers at the far threshold of the human psyche. We are creatures at once vexed and consoled by the summons of a freedom just out of reach.’ Certainly in the presence of beauty we may have a sense both of delight and longing. At its simplest it is a feeling that there is a ‘something more’ that transcends the everyday world of sights and sounds and surface chatter.
It would seem that not only am I capable of being open to mystery, but the mystery appears to have given us some tiny element of its own essential nature so that we can speak both of our need to search and a sense of being met. It would seem – and the evidence is overwhelming – that many, perhaps most, people have experiences of the transcendent, numinous experiences which may or may not be recognised by those concerned as authentically religious. Some are quite commonplace, others more striking. Sometimes these moments are so unexpected and revealing that people remember them all their lives: moments which usually take the form of a brief heightened perception of reality.
Two common features of such experiences are that time seems to be temporarily suspended and that you are in harmony with the whole creation. The two commonest triggers for such times of heightened perception are nature and music. Almost all those experiencing these moments admitted they were life-affirming and good. Like Julian of Norwich, the medieval anchoress who had a series of mystical ‘visions’ of Christ which resulted in her deep conviction that, despite much that was painful and destructive in her life, in the end ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’, many who write of their experiences use similar words to describe something that is positive and strengthening.
What such beguiling experiences suggest is a kind of momentary lifting of the veil between a seen and unseen world, sudden moments of illumination which are gratuitous and unsought for, when things seem transfigured. But they are glimpses of a destination that we shall never know fully until we reach it.
The next Meeting is on 1st April 2019 at 7.30pm at the Rectory.