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  • Following are numerous resources for researching meditation and ecstatic experiences in various religious traditions. Note that inclusion does not equate to endorsement.

Hypnotherapy and Dream Analysis

Holistic Philosophy

Yogic and Tantric Meditation

Zodiac Meditations

Blog Role

A Haiku For The Distracted

Shoe fly, go away
Stop buzzing my head ok?
Oh, and thoughts, you too!

(Hmm. I must get some more sleep)

Meditation Room

MeditationroomHave you ever thought Christian churches should have more space for quiet reflection? Here's what one group has tried:

The meditation room or chapel is designed for quiet reflection by individuals and groups, who sit on floor pillows, chairs or the wooden benches that line the walls. At one end of the chapel stands a large, three-dimensional wooden cross with a glass-fronted center that can be lit and which can serve as a tabernacle. A vine and branches are etched on the glass to remind us, says Bess Chakrarvarty, who designed the room, that "we only bear fruit in relation to Christ."

From the Mariandale Centre

Protestant Mysticism

Rich Vincent at TheoCenTric writes:

What does one get when one channels medieval Catholic spirituality through the lens of Protestant theology? The answer: Johann Arndt's spiritual classic True Christianity (1605). Labeled by Albert Schweitzer as "the prophet of interior Protestantism," Johann Arndt presents a mystical theology that is thoroughly rooted in the soil of Lutheran doctrinal distinctives. Consequently, his work provides a good starting point for wrestling with a mystical spirituality that is grounded in Protestant theology.

For more read Protestant Mysticism

Journeys through the Netherworlds

It has belatedly occurred to me that there are a few other works I should mention in connection with the world tree and axial mountain archetypes and germanic mythology.

Dante_pergatorio First up: The Divine Comedy by Dante. Written back in the fourteenth century, The Divine Comedy describes Dante's journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso), guided first by the Roman epic poet Virgil and then by his beloved Beatrice. The mountain of Purgatorio forms a central motif connecting the upper and lower realms. Whilst quite problematic from a biblical perspective (purgatory is a theological construct that has no real foundation in the Bible) it is well worth noting from a phenomenological perspective as there are some obvious parallels here to the Mount Meru myth of Buddhist and Hindu cosmology. After climbing the mountain of Purgatorio Dante enters paradise where he experiences ecstatic visions he confesses he is unable to describe.

Golum Secondly, The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. Since Andii mentioned C S Lewis I should also mention his mate J R R Tolkien, writer of Lord of the Rings and the man credited with introducing Lewis to Christianity. Both of these guys liked to explore spiritual themes using mythological devices and Tolkien in particular drew heavily from Germanic mythology. What is less well known however is that they also had an interest in Jungian archetypes.

In Tolkien: Archetype and Word, Patrick Grant notes: "The Lord of the Rings can be read, with surprising consistency, as an interior journey through the psyche as Jung describes it." In particular, I draw attention to the character of Golem in Lord of the Rings who in many ways operates as the shadow of Frodo.

So a thread I am interested in exploring is in whether in some sense these works may be viewed as literary meditations on the interior journey and how in turn this may also enrich the visionary pathworkings of open minded spiritual seekers.

The Cross of Christ As The Yggdrasil of History


While I'm on the subject of Asatru. I couln't help but note that one of the artworks hosted on the Assembly of The Elder Troth website was an image of Yggdrasil, the world tree that connects the cosmos in Norse mythology.

So this seems an appropriate moment to suggest that an exercise you might like to try sometime is meditating on the cross of Christ as the Yggdrasil of history.

It is worth noting a few things in preparation.

Firstly, the world tree motif we find represented in Yggdrasil is a common myth to many cultures. It is also related to the Axis Mundi, Omphalos and Mount Meru legends and there is reason to believe this is an archetypal motif deeply embedded in the collective unconscious.

Secondly, as Wikipedia notes, "the most commonly accepted etymology of the name is ygg "terrible" + drasil "steed". Yggr is taken to be an epithet of Odin, giving a meaning of "Odin's steed", taken to refer to the nine nights Odin is said to have spent hanging from the tree in order find the runes." Athropologists have long noted that many shamanic societies employ 'sacred steed' and 'world tree' motifs to enter into altered states of consciousness and that the Yggdrasil-Odin story has strong overtones of visionary journeying. 

Thirdly, again as noted by Wikipedia, "Many people have discussed the parallels between Odin's self-sacrifice in search of knowledge and the Crucifixion, particularly as Odin, like Jesus, was pierced with a spear before death."

Where am I going with this? Well I simply note that the world tree motif makes a number of appearances in the Christian story as well. Most significantly, in Revelation 22 the seer of Revelation is shown the tree of life standing in the centre of the New Jerusalem (itself an axis mundi archetype) with the implication being that with the coming of Christ the access to the tree of life will be restored. What was made inaccessible in Genesis 3:22 is now offered freely because of the loving sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

The obvious difference here between Odin and Jesus is that the death of Christ is a historically verifiable event. What we are faced with here is a deep motif from the depths of our psyche finding historical actualisation in this pivital moment.

Tree_of_life_jesus_2With that in mind I thought I would post this image of Jesus as the tree of life.

It's a photo of a Netsuke scrulpture created by Warwick Saxby, an amazingly creative associate of ours who is currently based in Tasmania, Australia. If you would like to see more of his works check out Musterion: Hidden Things Revealed.

Assembly of The Elder Troth

I was reading Witchcraft Magazine recently and realised there's an Asatru community located in the local area. Calling themselves the Assembly of The Elder Troth they're dedicated to Germanic Heathenism and promoting "the study of Northern Mythology, Magic, Religion, Philosophy, Culture and History."

Anyway, the reason that I bring it up is that they're currently advertising a meditation gathering at Parramatta Park at 11am on 4th December. For reference that's only about fifteeen minutes from here.

I'm intrigued as to how their practice differs from Christian meditation - apart for the obvious of worshipping multiple gods and goddesses. Not sure how open to conversation they are given this article, however maybe they just need to encounter a new kind of Christianity.

Christian Classics Etheral Library

Desert_hermit_by_james_disney If anyone else is interested in reading the classic texts of Christian mysticism you may want to check out the Christian Classics Etheral Library.

It features the Cloud of Unknowing, Mystical Theology, Meister Eckhart's Sermons, Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Dark Night of the Soul, Practice of the Presence of God, Way of Perfection, Imitation of Christ, Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness ... the list goes on and on. And its free. What a treasure trove. I've got some serious reading to do.

On The Trail of the Christian Mystics

Luke As someone who started practicing meditation years before I started practicing Christianity, learning to meditate as a Christian was a core struggle in my early discipleship experience.

Given the scarcity of evangelical resources to aid me in my journey and the importance of this process for me I was forced look back to the Orthodox mystics as much as the Protestant reformers as I struggled to find my feet. As a consequence I was never fully enculturated into the evangelical tradition and instead forged my own hybrid path - never taking either tradition at face value.

But because my journey into evangelicalism and Christian mysticism were simultaneous, in an ironic sort of way I often find myself advocating a far more evangelical approach to the exploration of the Christian Mystics than many Evangelicals in the Emerging Church today. For me the deconstruction of the Eastern Orthodox tradition is just as much a priority for me as the deconstruction of the Western Evangelical tradition. I am not running away from one tradition to embrace the other but critique and embrace both.

Continue reading "On The Trail of the Christian Mystics" »

Beyond Grasping

MobiusstripGod cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, He would not be God. - Evagrios of Pontus (c. 345-399)

Creative Visualisation, Imagination and Aesthetics

Icon_jesus_2 Having prompted Mark Berry to explore a theology of the imagination earlier tonight it has occured to me that I should actually make some of own thoughts available for scrutiny. Unfortunately it's late so I'll have to be brief and revisit the topic at a later date.

So here's a rough synopsis.

I see the question of whether Christians can practice creative visualisation with integrity or not as deeply related to the iconoclasm controversies. Use of imagination and use of icons - it all has to do with image, aesthetics, artistry and creativity.

Continue reading "Creative Visualisation, Imagination and Aesthetics" »

Meditation as a Subversive Activity

I came across a fascinating article by Sarah Coakley where she writes of her experiences leading inmates through Christian contemplative prayer practice. She writes:

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work for a semester as a chaplain at a Boston jail. My primary work was helping to lead a group of inmates in the practice of silent prayer. I cannot say that I had any particular expectations or resolves about this undertaking before I began it. But by the time my semester came to an end, I learned some wholly unexpected lessons about the transformative power of prayer in a jail setting; about the effects on the body of such personal transformation; and about this country’s systemic racism and how it is in some ways coterminous with the attempt to prevent or repress such transformation.

For more see Meditation as a Subversive Activity

People of the Spirit?

Mike Riddell writes:

Spirituality is a lot like sexuality. There's generally more people talking about it than doing it. And there's not a lot of talk about either of them in the church.

Whilst I think Mike is a little naive in some of the statements he makes in People of the Spirit? I can't help but agree with the above comment. Here's another quote from Ecclesiastes that I came accross the other night:

Do not be quick with you mouth,
Do not be hasty in your heart,
To utter anything before God. [Ecclesiates 5:2]

Some of my most profound communal prayer experiences have come out of silence. Just sitting with a couple of friends in silence for fifteen minutes, becoming attuned to God before we uttered a word.

I long for spiritual conversation. But even more I long even more for spiritual conversation that flows out of pregnant silence.

The Lost Art of Meditation

Jeremiah Griswold writes:

Many Christians today are afraid of meditation and often associate it with eastern religion and mysticism. It is true that meditation can be perverted and even used to glorify the enemy, but so can music, art, or virtually any day to day activity if it is not done for the glory of God. We must remember that meditation originated in the scriptures and was practiced by Christ himself. The Psalmist mentions 16 times in the Psalms the importance of meditating on God's works, precepts, decrees, and promises. Why then, have I never heard a sermon about it or ever seen meditation used as a form of worship?

Why indeed?

For more see The Lost Art of Meditation

Testing Your Metal

In Ecclesiastes 27:21, Qoheleth observes:

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
But man is tested by the praise he receives.

Hot_crucible When I read this I am reminded that the way of Jesus is the alchemy of everyday life. Christ was the quintessential activist and he calls me to follow him into the same arena. One temptation I face when reading the Christian mystics in the hyper-individualist context of today is the seductive lie that Christian meditation is a solitary path. Not so. Jesus repeatedly equated love of God with love of neighbour. Qoheleth suggests that the fruitfulness of spiritual disciplines are reality checked most effectively in social contexts. We are called to prepare our minds for action, not to indulge in peak experiences as though they were an end in themselves. It is in the context of the active life that our genuiness is tested.

The Limitations of Language

Today I came across these words in Ecclesiastes 6:11

The more the words,
The less the meaning,
And how does that profit anyone?

One of the lessons I learned from the Zen meditation tradition (back in my twenties) was the limitations of language. In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki observed, “The more you understand our thinking, the more you find it difficult to talk about.” This realization that words can confound rather than enlighten is not limited to Zen masters however; it is also expressed repeatedly in the Judao-Christian scriptures, particularly the book of Ecclesiastes. Sometime words obscure meaning, rendering communication meaningless.

Hebrew_scroll_1No matter how much it frustrates us, language has its limitations. And the more the subject of discussion transcends ordinary experience the more difficult it is to express in the language of ordinary experience. How hard then to speak of the One who transcends all else! Christian mystics like Dionysius understood this only too well. True understanding requires us to move beyond words into direct experience. Yet in Jesus we have the ultimate enigma, the One who transcends everything becomes immanent to everyone. The Word of God became embodied and walked amongst us.

Thousands of years ago the apostle John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life…”

In Jesus, the Word transcends mere words. My challenge to meditation practitioners is the same: seek more than mere words of wisdom but a direct experience of the Word who is Wisdom.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.
Therefore stand in awe of God. - Ecclesiates 5:7