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CHAPTER VII

THE FIRST FORM OF CONTEMPLATION

Concentration, recollection, a profound self-criticism, the stilling of
his busy surface-intellect, his restless emotions of enmity and desire,
the voluntary achievement of an attitude of disinterested love--by
these strange paths the practical man has now been led, in order that
he may know by communion something of the greater Life in which he is
immersed and which he has so long and so successfully ignored. He has
managed in his own small way something equivalent to those drastic
purifications, those searching readjustments, which are undertaken by
the heroic seekers for Reality; the arts whereby they defeat the
tyranny of "the I, the Me, the Mine" and achieve the freedom of a wider
life. Now, perhaps, he may share to some extent in that illumination,
that extended and intensified perception of things, which they declare
to be the heritage of the liberated consciousness.


This illumination shall be gradual. The attainment of it depends not so
much upon a philosophy accepted, or a new gift of vision suddenly
received, as upon an uninterrupted changing and widening of character;
a progressive growth towards the Real, an ever more profound
harmonisation of the self's life with the greater and inclusive rhythms
of existence. It shall therefore develop in width and depth as the
sphere of that self's intuitive love extends. As your own practical
sympathy with and understanding of other lives, your realisation of
them, may be narrowed and stiffened to include no more than the family
group, or spread over your fellow-workers, your class, your city,
party, country, or religion--even perhaps the whole race--till you feel
yourself utterly part of it, moving with it, suffering with it, and
partake of its whole conscious life; so here. Self-mergence is a
gradual process, dependent on a progressive unlimiting of personality.
The apprehension of Reality which rewards it is gradual too. In
essence, it is one continuous out-flowing movement towards that
boundless heavenly consciousness where the "flaming ramparts" which
shut you from true communion with all other selves and things is done
away; an unbroken process of expansion and simplification, which is
nothing more or less than the growth of the spirit of love, the full
flowering of the patriotic sense. By this perpetually-renewed casting
down of the hard barriers of individuality, these willing submissions
to the compelling rhythm of a larger existence than that of the
solitary individual or even of the human group--by this perpetual
widening, deepening, and unselfing of your attentiveness--you are to
enlarge your boundaries and become the citizen of a greater, more
joyous, more poignant world, the partaker of a more abundant life. The
limits of this enlargement have not yet been discovered. The greatest
contemplatives, returning from their highest ascents, can only tell us
of a world that is "unwalled."

But this growth into higher realities, this blossoming of your
contemplative consciousness--though it be, like all else we know in
life, an unbroken process of movement and change--must be broken up and
reduced to the series of concrete forms which we call "order" if our
inelastic minds are to grasp it. So, we will consider it as the
successive achievement of those three levels or manifestations of
Reality, which we have agreed to call the Natural World of Becoming,
the Metaphysical World of Being, and--last and highest--that Divine
Reality within which these opposites are found as one. Though these
three worlds of experience are so plaited together, that intimations
from the deeper layers of being constantly reach you through the
natural scene, it is in this order of realisation that you may best
think of them, and of your own gradual upgrowth to the full stature of
humanity. To elude nature, to refuse her friendship, and attempt to
leap the river of life in the hope of finding God on the other side, is
the common error of a perverted mysticality. It is as fatal in result
as the opposite error of deliberately arrested development, which,
being attuned to the wonderful rhythms of natural life, is content with
this increase of sensibility; and, becoming a "nature-mystic," asks no
more.

So you are to begin with that first form of contemplation which the old
mystics sometimes called the "discovery of God in His creatures." Not
with some ecstatic adventure in supersensuous regions, but with the
loving and patient exploration of the world that lies at your gates;
the "ebb and flow and ever-during power" of which your own existence
forms a part. You are to push back the self's barriers bit by bit, till
at last all duration is included in the widening circles of its
intuitive love: till you find in every manifestation of life--even
those which you have petulantly classified as cruel or obscene--the
ardent self-expression of that Immanent Being whose spark burns deep in
your own soul.

The Indian mystics speak perpetually of the visible universe as the
Lila or Sport of God: the Infinite deliberately expressing Himself in
finite form, the musical manifestation of His creative joy. All
gracious and all courteous souls, they think, will gladly join His
play; considering rather the wonder and achievement of the whole--its
vivid movement, its strange and terrible evocations of beauty from
torment, nobility from conflict and death, its mingled splendour of
sacrifice and triumph--than their personal conquests, disappointments,
and fatigues. In the first form of contemplation you are to realise the
movement of this game, in which you have played so long a languid and
involuntary part, and find your own place in it. It is flowing,
growing, changing, making perpetual unexpected patterns within the
evolving melody of the Divine Thought. In all things it is incomplete,
unstable; and so are you. Your fellow-men, enduring on the battlefield,
living and breeding in the slum, adventurous and studious, sensuous and
pure--more, your great comrades, the hills, the trees, the rivers, the
darting birds, the scuttering insects, the little soft populations of
the grass--all these are playing with you. They move one to another in
delicate responsive measures, now violent, now gentle, now in conflict,
now in peace; yet ever weaving the pattern of a ritual dance, and
obedient to the music of that invisible Choragus whom Boehme and
Plotinus knew. What is that great wind which blows without, in
continuous and ineffable harmonies? Part of you, practical man. There
is but one music in the world: and to it you contribute perpetually,
whether you will or no, your one little ditty of no tone.


"Mad with joy, life and death dance to the rhythm of this music:

The hills and the sea and the earth dance:

The world of man dances in laughter and tears."

It seems a pity to remain in ignorance of this, to keep as it were a
plate-glass window between yourself and your fellow-dancers--all those
other thoughts of God, perpetually becoming, changing and growing
beside you--and commit yourself to the unsocial attitude of the "cat
that walks by itself."

Begin therefore at once. Gather yourself up, as the exercises of
recollection have taught you to do. Then--with attention no longer
frittered amongst the petty accidents and interests of your personal
life, but poised, tense, ready for the work you shall demand of
it--stretch out by a distinct act of loving will towards one of the
myriad manifestations of life that surround you: and which, in an
ordinary way, you hardly notice unless you happen to need them. Pour
yourself out towards it, do not draw its image towards you.
Deliberate--more, impassioned--attentiveness, an attentiveness which
soon transcends all consciousness of yourself, as separate from and
attending to the thing seen; this is the condition of success. As to
the object of contemplation, it matters little. From Alp to insect,
anything will do, provided that your attitude be right: for all things
in this world towards which you are stretching out are linked together,
and one truly apprehended will be the gateway to the rest.

Look with the eye of contemplation on the most dissipated tabby of the
streets, and you shall discern the celestial quality of life set like
an aureole about his tattered ears, and hear in his strident mew an
echo of


"The deep enthusiastic joy,

The rapture of the hallelujah sent

From all that breathes and is."

The sooty tree up which he scrambles to escape your earnest gaze is
holy too. It contains for you the whole divine cycle of the seasons;
upon the plane of quiet, its inward pulse is clearly to be heard. But
you must look at these things as you would look into the eyes of a
friend: ardently, selflessly, without considering his reputation, his
practical uses, his anatomical peculiarities, or the vices which might
emerge were he subjected to psycho-analysis.

Such a simple exercise, if entered upon with singleness of heart, will
soon repay you. By this quiet yet tense act of communion, this loving
gaze, you will presently discover a relationship--far more intimate
than anything you imagined--between yourself and the surrounding
"objects of sense"; and in those objects of sense a profound
significance, a personal quality, and actual power of response, which
you might in cooler moments think absurd. Making good your
correspondences with these fellow-travellers, you will learn to say
with Whitman:


"You air that serves me with breath to speak!

You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!

You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!

You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadside!

I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to
me."

A subtle interpenetration of your spirit with the spirit of those
"unseen existences," now so deeply and thrillingly felt by you, will
take place. Old barriers will vanish: and you will become aware that
St. Francis was accurate as well as charming when he spoke of Brother
Wind and Sister Water; and that Stevenson was obviously right when he
said, that since:


"The world is so full of a number of things,

I'm sure we ought all to be happy as kings."

Those glad and vivid "things" will speak to you. They will offer you
news at least as definite and credible as that which the paper-boy is
hawking in the street: direct messages from that Beauty which the
artist reports at best at second hand. Because of your new
sensitiveness, anthems will be heard of you from every gutter; poems of
intolerable loveliness will bud for you on every weed. Best and
greatest, your fellowmen will shine for you with new significance and
light. Humility and awe will be evoked in you by the beautiful and
patient figures of the poor, their long dumb heroisms, their willing
acceptance of the burden of life. All the various members of the human
group, the little children and the aged, those who stand for energy,
those dedicated to skill, to thought, to plainest service, or to
prayer, will have for you fresh vivid significance, be felt as part of
your own wider being. All adventurous endeavours, all splendour of pain
and all beauty of play--more, that grey unceasing effort of existence
which makes up the groundwork of the social web, and the ineffective
hopes, enthusiasms, and loves which transfuse it--all these will be
seen and felt by you at last as full of glory, full of meaning; for you
will see them with innocent, attentive, disinterested eyes, feel them
as infinitely significant and adorable parts of the Transcendent Whole
in which you also are immersed.

This discovery of your fraternal link with all living things, this
down-sinking of your arrogant personality into the great generous
stream of life, marks an important stage in your apprehension of that
Science of Love which contemplation is to teach. You are not to confuse
it with pretty fancies about nature, such as all imaginative persons
enjoy; still less, with a self-conscious and deliberate
humanitarianism. It is a veritable condition of awareness; a direct
perception, not an opinion or an idea. For those who attain it, the
span of the senses is extended. These live in a world which is lit with
an intenser light; has, as George Fox insisted, "another smell than
before." They hear all about them the delicate music of growth, and see
the "new colour" of which the mystics speak.

Further, you will observe that this act, and the attitude which is
proper to it, differs in a very important way even from that special
attentiveness which characterised the stage of meditation, and which
seems at first sight to resemble it in many respects. Then, it was an
idea or image from amongst the common stock--one of those conceptual
labels with which the human paste-brush has decorated the surface of
the universe--which you were encouraged to hold before your mind. Now,
turning away from the label, you shall surrender yourself to the direct
message poured out towards you by the thing. Then, you considered: now,
you are to absorb. This experience will be, in the very highest sense,
the experience of sensation without thought: the essential sensation,
the "savouring" to which some of the mystics invite us, of which our
fragmentary bodily senses offer us a transient sacrament. So here at
last, in this intimate communion, this "simple seeing," this total
surrender of you to the impress of things, you are using to the full
the sacred powers of sense: and so using them, because you are
concentrating upon them, accepting their reports in simplicity. You
have, in this contemplative outlook, carried the peculiar methods of
artistic apprehension to their highest stage: with the result that the
sense-world has become for you, as Erigena said that all creatures
were, "a theophany, or appearance of God." Not, you observe, a symbol,
but a showing: a very different thing. You have begun now the Plotinian
ascent from multiplicity to unity, and therefore begin to perceive in
the Many the clear and actual presence of the One: the changeless and
absolute Life, manifesting itself in all the myriad nascent, crescent,
cadent lives. Poets, gazing thus at the "flower in the crannied wall"
or the "green thing that stands in the way," have been led deep into
the heart of its life; there to discern the secret of the universe.

All the greater poems of Wordsworth and Walt Whitman represent an
attempt to translate direct contemplative experience of this kind into
words and rhythms which might convey its secret to other men: all
Blake's philosophy is but a desperate effort to persuade us to exchange
the false world of "Nature" on which we usually look--and which is not
really Nature at all--for this, the true world, to which he gave the
confusing name of "Imagination." For these, the contemplation of the
World of Becoming assumes the intense form which we call genius: even
to read their poems is to feel the beating of a heart, the upleap of a
joy, greater than anything that we have known. Yet your own little
efforts towards the attainment of this level of consciousness will at
least give to you, together with a more vivid universe, a wholly new
comprehension of their works; and that of other poets and artists who
have drunk from the chalice of the Spirit of Life. These works are now
observed by you to be the only artistic creations to which the name of
Realism is appropriate; and it is by the standard of reality that you
shall now criticise them, recognising in utterances which you once
dismissed as rhetoric the desperate efforts of the clear-sighted
towards the exact description of things veritably seen in that
simplified state of consciousness which Blake called "imagination
uncorrupt." It was from those purified and heightened levels of
perception to which the first form of contemplation inducts the soul,
that Julian of Norwich, gazing upon "a little thing, the quantity of an
hazel nut," found in it the epitome of all that was made; for therein
she perceived the royal character of life. So small and helpless in its
mightiest forms, so august even in its meanest, that life in its
wholeness was then realised by her as the direct outbirth of, and the
meek dependant upon, the Energy of Divine Love. She felt at once the
fugitive character of its apparent existence, the perdurable Reality
within which it was held. "I marvelled," she said, "how it might last,
for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall, for
that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the being by the love of
God." To this same apprehension of Reality, this linking up of each
finite expression with its Origin, this search for the inner
significance of every fragment of life, one of the greatest and most
balanced contemplatives of the nineteenth century, Florence
Nightingale, reached out when she exclaimed in an hour of
self-examination, "I must strive to see only God in my friends, and God
in my cats."

Yet it is not the self-tormenting strife of introspective and
self-conscious aspiration, but rather an unrelaxed, diligent intention,
a steady acquiescence, a simple and loyal surrender to the great
currents of life, a holding on to results achieved in your best
moments, that shall do it for you: a surrender not limp but deliberate,
a trustful self-donation, a "living faith." "A pleasing stirring of
love," says The Cloud of Unknowing, not a desperate anxious struggle
for more light. True contemplation can only thrive when defended from
two opposite exaggerations: quietism on the one hand, and spiritual
fuss upon the other. Neither from passivity nor from anxiety has it
anything to gain. Though the way may be long, the material of your mind
intractable, to the eager lover of Reality ultimate success is assured.
The strong tide of Transcendent Life will inevitably invade, clarify,
uplift the consciousness which is open to receive it; a movement from
without--subtle yet actual--answering each willed movement from within.
"Your opening and His entering," says Eckhart, "are but one moment."
When, therefore, you put aside your preconceived ideas, your
self-centred scale of values, and let intuition have its way with you,
you open up by this act new levels of the world. Such an opening-up is
the most practical of all activities; for then and then only will your
diurnal existence, and the natural scene in which that existence is
set, begin to give up to you its richness and meaning. Its paradoxes
and inequalities will be disclosed as true constituents of its beauty,
an inconceivable splendour will be shaken out from its dingiest folds.
Then, and only then, escaping the single vision of the selfish, you
will begin to guess all that your senses were meant to be.


"I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be
complete,

The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains
jagged and broken."
__________________________________________________________________


Here. and in the next two chapters we look at contemplation, the immediate path to a mystical perspective.  Underhill asks us to focus our "detached adoration," our childlike wonder on, successively, the word of Becoming, the world of Being, and the Divine Reality* where "these opposites are found as one."

The world of Becoming is the world of nature; but the world of nature as it is rather than as i picture it in my mind.  I have tried to approach like a natural science class, but that is probably wrong.  I want to try to feel nature, not name it or analyze it.

I just recently remembered that when i had my experience of "onenes" i had been standing ankle-deep in mud looking at a "water skipper."  I think that this innocent and porposeless looking is what triggered the experience.

Anyway, this chapter is where i would happily have stopped just ten years ago when i began this journal.  I wanted no more than a restoration of this childlike wonder and the feeling of my true place in the natural world.  I may not feel that way after the next two chapters.  But will it be my ego that propels me or simply my willingness to grow spiritually"**


* Underhill later calls this realm the Final Fact.  I call it the realm of Essence,

** Or my ego could inhibit me.  I have taken a great deal of pride in being a person who thought for himself and was not subject to giving in to pressures to conform.


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