“Open Heart, Open Hands” – 11″x14″ pastel on velour paper
I’ve been pondering the differences between believing and knowing. Psycologist Carl Jung was asked whether he believed in God and he answered, “I don’t believe in God, I know.” What he meant was a logical, inescapable conclusion he had reached.
I consider myself a mystic because I would answer this question the same way but for different reasons. I have had two experiences in my life where I was filled with a deep, unshakable, merging and “knowing” of Deity. (I used the words Deity, Universe or Spirit because when I use the word “God” I automatically have an image of the controlling, “old man in the sky” God of my childhood. This is not what I “know.”)
I could tell you a bit about my spiritual experiences, but its limited by language and it won’t manage to convey the “knowing,” and probably, like plenty of other mystics before me, it would just sound crazy. But afterwards, I went seeking through many, many books to find out if others had experiences like this. I could recognize the truth in the words of the ecstatic St. Teresa,
“The soul neither sees, hears, nor understands anything while this state lasts; but this is usually a very short time, and seems to the soul even shorter than it really is. God visits the soul in a way that prevents it doubting when it comes to itself that it has been in God and God in it; and so firmly is it convinced of this truth that, though years may pass before this state reoccurs, the soul can never forget it nor doubt its reality.”
I identify with the mystical Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi’s attempts to convey Deity thru his poetry. I can see excitedly, “Yes! He gets it!” When I read:
“Plunge, plunge into the vast ocean of consciousness/ Let the drop of water that is you/ Become a hundred mighty seas/ But do not think that the drop alone/ Becomes the ocean/ The ocean too becomes the drop.”
One of the best descriptions came from an anonymous clergyman, taken from William B. Starbuck’s manuscript collection:
“I remember the night and almost the very spot on the hill-top, where my soul opened, out, as it were, into the Infinite, and there was a rushing together of the two worlds, the inner and the outer. It was deep calling unto deep – the deep that my own struggle had opened up within, being answered by the unfathomable deep without, reaching beyond the stars. I stood alone with Him who had made me, and all the beauty of the world, and love, and sorrow, and even temptation. I did not seek Him, but felt the perfect unison of my spirit with His. The ordinary sense of things around me faded. For the moment nothing but an ineffable joy and exultation remained. It is impossible fully to describe the experience. It was like the effect of some great orchestra when all the separate notes have metered into one swelling harmony that leaves the listener conscious of nothing save that his soul is being wafted upwards, and almost bursting with its own emotion.”
So I’m left like I was in high school geometry class, where I could see what the answer was and then had to work backwards to understand the proof. Now I’m still learning and exploring to try to understand Deity/Love/Spirit… how to convey this awesome beauty in my art and writing… learning how the energy of Spirit works in the world.
- Patricia Robin Woodruff