The Inner Path To Christ 6

Meeting Your Eternal Self

So, what is it like to meet this conviction of eternal existence, and what is the value of it? Why have people sacrificed so much for it?

It is easy to see that while you are convinced that your real identity is your body; while you are convinced that your emotions and thoughts are your only reality, you are incredibly vulnerable to uncertainties, fears, dashed hopes, feelings of failure, the emptiness of success and painful betrayals. These can toss you around like a scrap of paper in a gale. They can be the stress that is at the root of illness. Discovering yourself as anchored beyond change is enormously healing.

Although the I AM is beyond thought, beyond emotion and physical sense impressions, and at first appears to be an empty void – the Cloud of Unknowing [i]as an early Christian mystic described it – it is like a spring from which can emerge healing of body and mind, creativity, intuitive perceptions, and all the gifts of the spirit described in the New Testament. (1 Corinthians 12:06-13).

The following dream and waking experience give an impression of what it is like to meet this essence of human life. The dream is taken from the writings of J. B. Priestley from his book Rain Upon Godshill:

‘Just before I went to America, during the exhausting weeks when I was busy with my Time Plays, I had a dream, and I think it left a greater impression on my mind than any experience I had ever known before, awake or in dreams, and said more to me about this life than any book I have ever read. The setting of the dream was quite simple and owed something to the fact that not long before, my wife had visited the lighthouse here at St Catherine’s to do some bird ringing.

I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon myriads of birds all flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds. But now in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek, and then, in a flash bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless effort?

 As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy. But now the gear was changed again, and the time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; and as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of being. Birds, men and creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so far as this flame of life travelled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought was tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never before felt such deep happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds.’

Priestly tells us that not only did his meeting with Life itself change his whole perspective, but he knew deep happiness. What he describes is what the Christians called Spirit.

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