st john of the cross

a few days ago, i went to a fabulous workshop with rob des cotes of the imago dei community about st. john of the cross. i’d like to share my notes with you.

but just a bit of an intro. maybe this post could be prefaced with another preface, written by r. kirkham at amazon about another christian mystic book, the cloud of unkowing

it seems only proper to begin a review of this book with the warning given by the anonymous author in his/her prologue. my paraphrase of that warning goes something like this, “in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit, and in the bond of love i beg you not to read, copy, or look at this book unless you are ready. furthermore i beg you not to copy it, loan it out, or give it to anyone else to read unless they, too, are ready for this depth of spiritual growth, lest they misunderstand the things written herein and fall into error.”

what follows is of course not nearly as important as what was written in the cloud of unknowing; however, what i want to get across is that this experience was in the spirit of mysticism, which means that the words and ideas expressed need to be seen from a point of view of that is curious, open, wondering; and at the same time, it needs to be infused with wisdom. so when there is talk of surrender, for example, it should not be seen as the oppressive surrender that, for example, the highly politicized catholic church of the 16th century wanted to see in its believers in order to use them better as pawns in their machinations. rather, i invite you to see it as the strange, awe-ful, incomprehensible surrender that accompanies the moments of first falling in love …

here are my notes.

st ignatius asks: what’s god’s job, what’s mine?

st john of the cross: passive purification – letting god do the job. there’s nothing for me to do but accept god. it’s god’s initiative. i make myself as nothing, and present myself to god. god gives us freedom – and invites us to submit. let myself be created. jesus says, “your job is to remain in my love”

we cannot “do” contemplative prayer. st john: “contemplation is none other than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion of god, which if the soul allows it to happen, enflames it in the spirit of love”. the best way to start praying: lord, show me how to pray. the illusion is: “when i don’t pray, prayer isn’t happening.” in truth, god prays us.

“the dark night of the soul” – the darkness an owl experiences as she flies into the light. darkness is good. darkness is faith: you don’t need to second guess. in moses, there is talk of “the thick darkness where god is”

embrace the poverty of spirit. very different from the idea of enriching our spirit that is practiced today. we strive to become less so that god can fill us up. take me back to my emptiness.

most of us have a spiritual sweet tooth. we like the hymns, the icons, the lovely feeling of relaxation in meditation. then we mistake the sweetness for god. are we following god or the warm fuzzies? our sense of god can eclipse our relationship with god. “i’ve lost god” can mean “i’ve lost the feeling (the warm fuzzies) for god”. similar with art. art can be the garment of the spirit. just don’t confuse the garment with the spirit. in the end, even st john is just a garment.

the life i live is not my own, it is god’s life. i want to be possessed by god, commingled: “i in you, you in me”. if i give myself to god, i will lose myself and at the same time gain myself, just like the trinity is simultaneously unified and distinct

withdrawal into god as a martial arts move: rather than fighting, i step aside and “let god”. go blind to our attachments, don’t react to them. the dark night of the senses – sometimes when our appetites http://www.ocd.or.at/ics/john/dichos.htm get too big, god quenches them by taking them away. the dark night is a good thing. it lets us fall into god’s abyss. trying to grasp it causes us to lose it. go deep, descend into god.

we have access to our senses, we don’t have access to our soul. according to scripture, the soul is (approximately) the place where i reflect god (in a clean window, the light and the window appear as one)

“if i just get angry enough with myself, my relationship with god will get better” – no. better a blind faith that is not defined by how we feel. how much energy are we spending editing ourselves? why are we striving? why are we tiring ourselves out?. rest in the trust. no need to immediately snap into problem solving mode. just trust. just allow it to play out. we take a good thing and add too much to it. let it die. if it’s meant to be, god will resurrect it. god makes us restless until we rest in him. give god free rein to be god. let’s get to the point where god’s actions prevail. “shouldn’t i be doing more?” <– leave that alone. how does the apple ripen? it just sits in the sun.

the seeking for god is love for god. it is god who gives me the desire for god; i can pray for the desire.

single and simple minded: cultivate the beginners mind, over and over again.

the ticket: the recognition that we need to be saved. saved – salvation: making whole. we come to god to have him set us right.

the new covenant eclipses the 10 commandments.

my thoughts after all this:

christ and hekate ARE one. julian of norwich and majaraj-ji ARE one. iaveh and lugh ARE one. bill w. and st john of the cross ARE one. meister eckhart and eckart tolle ARE one. robert mugabe and i ARE one.

curious how this very christian workshop strengthened my conviction that god IS one.

and

the stream that brought me here,
strong,
gushed me out at the mouth of your river,
the mouth that opens
wide
to your sea.
your stream, your river, your sea.
me, a loose bag of
drops,
spending myself
into your stream, your river, your sea.

6 thoughts on “st john of the cross

  1. Evan

    The mystical experience certainly seems to be the same in different religions.

    I’m having an argument with kaushik at the moment about no-self language and whether it is an adequate representation of the experience.

    One of our differences I think is about attachment. I think we can deal with our attachments through identifying with them – eg. expressing our anger fully is a way to let go of our anger. This seems the opposite way to the ‘letting go’ (into god or no-thingness) though having the same outcome (two rafts perhaps).

    My problem with no-self mysticism is that it doesn’t seem to have room for the way of identifying with as a way to letting go.

    These thoughts are provoked by St John of the Cross’s advocacy of letting go into god. I wonder if it has room for an active path or whether it simply means choosing contemplation and renouncing other ways.

  2. isabella mori (@moritherapy)

    evan, this is always an interesting question. i personally think/feel/intuit that the two can go together although i am sure the st john of the cross of his day would not agree. but then this needs to be seen in the context of history and circumstances. when we look at the life he lived, letting go into god was probably the more logical option.

    when rob des cotes talked eloquently of stopping our continuous editing of ourselves, i think he made room for moving THROUGH our attachments (or maybe having god move us through the attachments).

  3. nancy (aka moneycoach)

    i would have so loved to have been there with you, Isabella. Thank you (!) for blogging all these salient ideas. “God prays us” “rest in the trust”. I know I make my faith praxis so A,B,C – go through a set of exercises – as if its some kind of fitness journey instead of remaining in Christ’s love. All these thoughts are very rich and I will need to mull them over bit by bit. Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: “be love now” by ram dass – annoying or enlightening?

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