The Dark Night

‘Night’ – Ivan Marchuk, 1981 – WikiArt

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Being human is a complicated gig.
So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug.
Howl the eternal yes!

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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There is a poem that fed the imagination of many prestigious writers and philosophers like T. S. Eliot, Simone Weil, or Thomas Merton. Many a spiritual seeker has found in it a guiding lamp for the harsh ascent towards divine union. Its name: the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, a short poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet John of the Cross. It refers to the unknowable nature of both the goal and the path, and how such darkness would allow us to merge with the presence of god in ourself. As John of the Cross wrote: “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.” I am presenting here the translation by Edgar Allison Peers. Following the poem is a short text that I wrote, words that the poem has evoked in me, the inspiration that it invoked…

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On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings — oh, happy chance! —
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

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Read this famous poem by John of the Cross and a few more words… (READ MORE…)

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A Fabulous Secret

‘Poetry of N. Gumilyov’ – Oleh Sokolov, 1973 – WikiArt

I’ve always had the intuition that writing hid a fabulous secret. That there lay a soft power, a beauty to which no other thing compares. That words could express harmony. That a particular form of them could take me into the unformed, into the soft ether of life. That words had the capacity to unravel the meaning of the totality of possible existence. That they were alchemists that could produce in all of us the perfume of their own land of birth — which is ours too. That they could clear all the mist that keeps lingering around this life of ours. This is the promise that words held for me. And I do not mean that they could do all of that through their explanatory power alone. Through their simple, logic, arithmetic value. They could and would comply to do so if you wanted them to. But it’s not quite why I had praised them all along. Words could seduce me through their music alone. Through their soft capacity for intimacy and poetry. Through the intrinsic harmony that they carried, and were a vehicle for. Words could be like Tango dancers. And their arabesque was love itself.

And yet. Yet words had eluded me all my life. I have always been short of them. They were never allowed to run freely in my field. They had been concealed by the majesty of pain. But would I be willing to engage with them, that they would come hastily as a balm on myself. Would I be willing to let them express their all, that they would arrive in bouquets that flowered with all their perfume. Words can act in us as clarifiers. They make clear and clean. And they can be hard workers, if you let them be. If you keep still while they come inviting you into their round. This is where they service you — in the power of their expression. This is where they silence you — in the stillness of their homeland. This is where they present you with the simple gift of being. Listen to them carefully: they will show you how they share the same ground of being than you. I’ve always had the intuition that writing hid a fabulous secret…

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Text by Alain Joly

Painting by Oleh Sokolov (1919-1990)

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Website:
Oleh Sokolov (WikiArt)

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Other ‘Ways of Being’ from the blog…

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The Riddle of Ignorance

‘Landscape’ – Sergey Vasilkovsky – WikiArt

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There is a truer, hidden reality lying just under the veneer of life. Don’t think that what you have is the real thing. It is not. This hidden reality is being covered by the thick blanket of our deceptive representation of reality, made of a whole array of thoughts, feelings, memories, worries, beliefs, conditionings, that have numbed our aliveness, blunted our sensitivity, and rendered our god-given natural endowment as if inexistant. This is why, in some religious traditions, man has been proclaimed ’ignorant’. This is a word that indicates that simple fact — the plain and unfortunate forgetting of a nature in us that has been temporarily hidden, and that craves in the background for our recognition, our remembering. This is why all men and women on this earth are seeking peace and happiness in one form or another.

This particular reality is the subject of countless religious books and spiritual traditions in the world. This was never about having many different beliefs like we sometimes think it is. It was about revealing this truer reality of ours. In the process of doing so, approaches may vary depending on the times and cultures where they arose, and misunderstandings have sprung proportionally, but the fact of our ignorance is the same for all, at all times, in all places. And the reality discovered behind its dispelling is not only the same for all, but is one whole and single reality present here and now as the rock-like experience of being in all beings — be they human or not. This is not a small affair to be pushed around and despised as being mere ‘beliefs’, but is the very core, substance, and meaning of our lives. So why is such an obvious reality being missed by so many of us? What has made it so commonly invisible, and inaccessible?

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Some reflections about how reality is being ignored by man… (READ MORE…)

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A Disencumbered Now

Expecting anything from the next moment will make you leave the present moment. Holding on to anything that took place in a past moment is a hindrance. It will curb your ecstasy. It will dampen your freedom. It is like the surging of time in a timeless moment. It will throw a cold. Now is always timeless. Otherwise now is not now anymore. Now then mingles itself with thoughts of past events, and with expectations. It is sullied. Eternity is lost, replaced by the movement of separation. Stillness is disturbed, transformed into endless seeking. Now is being encumbered with time. And time is nothing but the main constituent of our limited, illusory, suffering self.

The present moment can never be a moment. It would make it of time. It would make it last. Nothing lasts in the field of the now — which is pristine being. Something that lasts is already stained. But presence is only shining in purity. It is an empty container, even when it is full to the brim with multiple appearances. Presence is unencumbered by anything past. It doesn’t need to accumulate. It doesn’t need to expect, hope, project, prepare. How do you accumulate in fullness? How do you prepare for the inconceivable? How do you expect the unanticipated? How do you hope for the unexpected? Presence is like a pure diamond. Any impurity, the slightest stain, will lower its intrinsic power and value. For the diamond of being needs clarity. This is how it takes ever more light. The diamond of presence has to be unadulterated. This is how it is made genuine and innocent. Disencumber the now. Unload it from anything that is coming from thought, that finds its origin in the memories of the past and the images of the future, and expresses itself as fear and lack. Your apparent self is made of such thoughts and images, with their concomitant feelings. They are like the soldiers of the separate self’s army. Take a time off from these. Stop indulging in them. Don’t be fooled and misguided by them. You are not made of the past or the future. These are only the now in disguise. Now is who you truly are. Now is all there is. So go for the now. Allow it to shine freely. Disencumbered.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Other ‘Ways of Being‘ from the blog…

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A Song of Two Humans

‘Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans’ – F. W. Murnau – (With actors George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor)

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Silent films had a language of their own;
they aimed for the emotions, not the mind,
and the best of them wanted to be,
not a story, but an experience
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~ Roger Ebert on ‘Sunrise’ (film critic)

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Life is relationship. No matter what. We are always engaged in a relationship with an apparent ‘other’. Should we be left alone in the world, with no other humans, life would remain an encounter with the other — any other being — be it the sun, the wind, the rugged stones on our path, or our very own self. Our life is always a song of apparent duality. And the success of any relationship, which is the coming of intimacy and love in our life, is always the road taken from apparent separation to the realisation of our shared being. Life is one. But that needs to be fully seen.

I was put on these tracks by watching the 1927 silent movie ‘Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans’ by German director F. W. Murnau. The film is a splendour. Although an overly simple love story, the title suggests that its lessons are of an universal nature. And the finesse and poetry of its making renders it as an archetypical manual for everything that a relationship can bring or teach. The story can be summarised in a few lines: a country man has become weary of his relationship with his wife, and has started a love affair with a passing woman from the city. His new lover convinces him to kill his wife while being on a boat trip on the lake, a plan which the man, overtaken by remorse, fails to execute at the very last moment. The rest of the film is the story of his winning his wife’s forgiveness and the return to a dazzling feeling of love and happiness between the two.

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Discover the lessons contained in this masterpiece of the silent era… (READ MORE…)

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The Contemplative Mind

Contemplation is a place of leisure and space. It is, as its etymology conveys, a ‘place for observation’. It has space within itself. It is a temple, which in Latin means an ‘open and consecrated space’. It is a sacred spot. A place where you find yourself meditating without having initiated it. It means that you — your Self — are on an equal footing with the objects of experience. You have not been absorbed, or engulfed by them. You are rather with them, hosting them all, embracing them in your emptiness. You see life from the standpoint of your temple of being. This is the position where from things acquire beauty and meaning. This is how you contemplate — by looking at everything from within the position of your Self. This is like being at the beach. The beach is a threshold, as are the front stairs that lead to the Ganges in Benares. This is when or where the city life is left behind and we come to be on vacation, on a holy-day — which is always a holy ground — to have leisure, freedom. To meet a certain form of death. To face the emptiness of the sea, the river, and the sky in front of us. We know intimately, or have the intuition of this place in ourself — this threshold, this passage from a dull and empty sense of acquired fullness, to the fullness of emptiness which is nothing but our natural, god-given state and being. This is the temple from which objective experience ought to be contemplated. This is where the contemplator is felt to be the contemplated. Contemplation then becomes a prayer. And such a prayer asks for nothing but the fact of being. This is the place of convalescence, where you come to heal from the world, from yourself. This is where you come to paint, to produce a new world out of your Self. This is where you get healed by this new vision, where your life finds a reorganisation, a new standpoint, a new temple where you can breathe at last and be content. Contemplation is completion. Sitting in an empty boat, or amongst dirty laundry, and be taken far out of yourself into your newly discovered sense of Self. This is a cleansing process, both of yourself and of the world. This is the contemplative mind.

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Painting and text by Alain Joly

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The painting was made from an original black & white photograph by Bjørn Weinreich.

Bibliography:
– ‘Benares, A Sacred City in North India’ – by Bjørn Weinreich and Ulla Mørch – (Denmark, 1983)

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Other ‘Ways of Being‘ from the blog…

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A Story of Lack

‘Melancholy’ (Part) – Odilon Redon, 1876 – WikiArt

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When the ‘I’ is divested of the ‘I’, only ‘I’ remains.”
~ Ramana Maharshi

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Don’t run in the other direction. Don’t take a sense of lack for a need. For this is what we do, when we sense in ourself an insufficiency, we want to fill it up, by all means necessary. We think it important to grant its wanting, its craving. But a lack is never a need. A lack is a fact that needs no repairing and no repairman. By bowing or giving allegiance to it, we submit ourself. We give up all power of understanding. We place ourself at the level of that lack. We become small. We don’t respect it. For this is not to respect it, to obey a random sense of lack. For lack comes as the supreme teacher, and our genuine bowing to it rather takes the form of listening. This is how we bow to a teacher, how we respect it, fulfil its function: by listening to it. So we listen. We stay motionless and invite its teaching. We don’t run away in the other direction.

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A story about how a sense of lack can be the real teacher… (READ MORE…)

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