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Friday, 20 February 2009

Expressions of the Divine

Four hundred years ago, Thomas Traherne wrote:
"You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself flowereth in your veins; till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars; and perceive yourself tp be the sole heir of the world; and more than so because men are in it who are, every one, sole heirs as well as you....Every morning you awake in Heaven: see yourself in your Father's palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels."
It's quite strange that a man who wrote so metaphysically - and also wrote of many life times of experience - became an Anglican minister. Perhaps that was the only way for a spiritually-orientated person of that era to express himself.
His writings (virtually unrecognised in his life time) speak so clearly of the kind of wisdom that is becoming better known today. Far removed from the idea of humanity being the 'massa damnata' of Augustine's internal hell, or the worms in the dust who need daily to beat our breasts as sinners before some kind of unrelenting tyrannical God, he recognised the intrinsic worth of each person as an expression of the Divine.
This is something that endlessly intrigues me. It seems so bizarre that for four decades I believed in a beautiful God of love - one whom I sensed amid nature and amid the random and beautiful acts of kindness that we find by chance in others and in ourselves; one who lavishes abundance throughout Nature, who moves in cycles of seasons and tides - and yet I could stand before an altar each week, abasing myself as a sinner. What kind of parent/creator would want such a thing of a child? What kind of distorted Deity/idol have we been reduced to worshipping in that kind of religion - or worse, in the kind of religion that says, "Be a martyr and die for me!" or even worse, "Be a hero and kill my other children for me!!" Utterly anthropomorphic nonsense! If there is a God - and to my mind, everything in Nature and humanity assures me that there is, and more than that, suggests that God is utter beauty and love - can't we only begin to touch the hem of the garment of such great beauty by seeing that we are the offshoots/offspring/expressions of something so beautiful and touch on that same power of Love in ourselves? And to reverence all creation, all humanity and all the animals and plant and mineral kingdoms as expressions of that One Life?
Indeed, Thomas Traherne wrote so beautifully! Surely, everyone we ever meet is an expression of the Divine.

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