The Mystic Heart of Sport

‘The national game’ – Arthur Streeton, 1889 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) – Wikimedia

Brendan McNamee
is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. Brendan is an independent scholar and lecturer with a PhD at the University of Ulster in Ireland. He is the author of numerous books and essays on a wide range of writers, including John Banville, Michel Houellebecq, Gerald Murnane, Elizabeth Bowen, Sean O’Casey, Flannery O’Connor, W B Yeats and others. I’d like to present here one of his essays called ‘The Mystic Heart of Sport’. My attention was one day drawn to this eloquent title, while browsing through the platform ‘Academia’.

The text speaks about sport in general, using here the example of football, and mingling its wonderful argument with quotes by William Blake, Meister Eckhart, or W. B. Yeats. Brendan McNamee shows that “the conflict” on the football pitch is “between gods and mortals”, between “time and eternity”, both “inextricably entwined”. At its best, a game of football can give birth to “moments that justify sport at its best being called ‘poetry in motion’. Moments of sheer grace” when “skill and spontaneity join hands and, momentarily, dancer and dance are one.” I hope you will enjoy Brendan’s skilful writing and exposition as much as I have…


Eternity is in love with the productions of time.”
~ William Blake


The Mystic Heart of Sport

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Arthur Dent makes the startling discovery that white mice, rather than being the objects of experiments carried out by humans, were in fact carrying out experiments on humans. I wonder if a similar principle might be applied to sport. Take any high-stakes football match. Passions run high. The passion, on the parts of both players and spectators, is primarily for victory. The players receive a huge ego (and cash) boost, and from the fans’ point of view, a win for their team is, by some mysterious process of osmosis, a win for themselves. This lust for victory is so intense that the other source of sporting joy, the quality of the game itself, is often relegated to a secondary position, rendered lip service, of course, but seen really as essentially a means to an end. This, I would contend, is topsy-turvy. I want to argue here that it is the lust for victory that should serve the game, not the other way around, and that this order of things reflects a wider truth about life itself.


Discover Brendan McNamee’s skilful essay on the mystic of sport… (READ MORE…)


Humanity’s Healers

‘Clytie’ – Frederic Leighton, 1890 – WikiArt


The moment I realise I am humanity,
that is the greatest action
~ J. Krishnamurti


Why has humanity left this whole field of knowing oneself — all the spiritual endeavour, the extraordinary adventure that it is — outside the conventional and widely accepted way of living? It is a difficult thing to understand, since the door to it is so wide open and evident. Of course, religions are there, and have taken an all too consuming place in the past, but yet to no real avail. For an immense majority of people, religious faith didn’t go very deep, and didn’t put much of a light on the everyday suffering of humanity other than being a widespread system of morals and rituals destined to give some rules to society, and to instil fear, consolation or respect. So why has this understanding been confined to only a few, scattered individuals? Why has it not yet become the one accepted and necessary endeavour of our lives?


An essay exploring the place of humanity in our being… (READ MORE…)


The Wisdom of Humility

‘Buddha as mendicant’ (Part) – Abanindranath Tagore, 1914 – Wikimedia


To look into and understand the meaning and implications of being truly humble, of that state of humility which we often hear about — but rarely fully understand — is a precious thing. The word ‘humble’ finds its roots in the Latin ‘humilis’ which means ‘lowly’, literally ‘on the ground’ (from ‘humus’ meaning ‘earth’). Its etymology covers both the more active aspect contained in being ‘humiliated’, or being ‘humbled’, and the one that refers to the state, or quality, of being ‘selfless’. The first one gives the primary importance to the self that we are, to this separate entity that we believe to be, and which needs to be rendered humbler, smaller, lower. But why would we want to do that? Why, if it wasn’t for our deep intuition that this self is illusory, false, and is ultimately preventing our true identity of peace and happiness to be recognised and realised? 

This inherent peace contained in just ‘being’ refers to the second aspect of the word. Being humble is being without self, without the belief of being separate from objective experience. We are not this restless entity that wants to achieve, to aggrandise itself, and needs to be rendered low. We are rather this pure being whose very nature is complete, and already, unconditionally humble. Otherwise, why would Shiva or Buddha be portrayed as a mendicant? Therefore, the solution to our chronic state of suffering and conflict does not lie in having more, or less, or better ‘self’, but in realising, and living from, this deep and already achieved peace that we are. This realisation, and the action that is born of it, is what true humility is about. This simple phrase from the Bible made it crystal clear long ago: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

I am sharing here a few quotes that will further explore this deep and essential question:


In a space of humility,
no conflict is possible
~ Éric Baret (‘Let the Moon be Free’)


Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. […] If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.”
~ Thomas Merton (‘Seeds of Contemplation’)


Discover many more quotes on this question of humility… (READ MORE…)


Being Alone

He who is always alone,
he is worthy of God
~ Meister Eckhart


The meaning of the word ‘alone’ in the Oxford Dictionary is stated as such: “having no one else present”. This sounds like a perfect definition of the Advaitic understanding, and an essential feature of the nature of consciousness, of our deepest sense of being. God is alone because he is all encompassing, and doesn’t have another reality by its side. He is alone in the sense that he is all one. This wisdom is fully apparent in the English word ‘alone’ which comes from Middle English ‘all one’. In the French word ‘seul’ though, this is very different. ‘Seul’ comes from Latin ‘solus’, as in ‘solitude’ or ’isolated’. The emphasis is on being one amidst others, not in being all one. So the sense of being alone can bring in both the feelings of loneliness, isolation, separation, insecurity, protection, but also the sense of being one, whole, self-sufficient, contained in oneself, and ultimately at peace. 

So which aloneness are we feeling to be? The one that will express our sense of lack, or incompleteness, or that other one which is the expression of our fullness, of our happiness?


Continue reading these few thoughts on being alone… (READ MORE…)


The Everlasting Arms

‘Winter Scene’ – Bruce Crane, 1890 – Wikimedia


yes is a world
and in this world of 
yes live 
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

~ E. E. Cummings


Really, to surrender seems the most difficult thing to do. Even in our most relaxed moments, we are unconsciously holding the show through a subtle kind of effort. And this effort is being maintained throughout our life, even more so in moments of threats and desperation. The consequences of this constant tension is visible in every aspects of our being, physically and psychologically where they shine in an obvious manner, but also in our inward, spiritual life where it has even more devastating effects, keeping us at bay, at distance of any deep understanding or realisation.

At every moment of our lives, we experience at best a subtle if not unnoticed resistance to the propositions of everyday experience. Let’s put it simply: we argue. We argue, complain, judge, evaluate, regret, hope, expect, and so many other gesticulations that we superimpose on reality. Really it sometimes feels there is a madman locked here in the room of existence. The present reality, what is taking place here and now offers nothing less, if you look at it carefully, than a quiet and smooth run. ‘What is’ flows majestically like a large river does. It bears the silence of presence, the quiet inescapability of ‘is ness’, of being just the way it is. So why does life and circumstances expose us to such amount of conflict and resistance? How did it all become such an unsolvable riddle? […]

An exploration into the meaning of true surrender… (READ MORE…)


This is Meister Eckhart

‘Trinity’ – Andrei Rublev, 1410-1420 – WikiArt


The eye wherein I see God 
is the same eye wherein God sees me; 
my eye and God’s eye are one eye, 
one vision, one knowing, one love
~ Meister Eckhart


In the Middle Ages, in the heart of Europe and of the Christian faith, rose a voice of such richness and profusion, of such dumbfounding wisdom and precision of thought, that it is a duty for all serious seekers to be reminded of it. The name shines with a polish of spiritual mastery and authority: Meister Eckhart. Eckhart von Hochheim OP was born in 1260 near Gotha in central Germany. OP stands in Latin for Order of Preachers, which is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church — better known as the Dominican Order — of which Meister Eckhart was a monk and a leader. His teaching and sermons left a deep impression but he was so ahead of his time and of the general understanding of his pairs, that his work went into oblivion only to reappear in the 19th century. His voice and light could not possibly be left unnoticed. He is now accepted as one of the most profound and eminent theologians, philosophers, and mystics of all times.

Little is known about his family and early life. From 1295 onwards, he held many posts of responsibility in various states of central Germany, and as far as Cologne or Strasbourg. Among others, he was a Prior of the Dominicans, managing tens of convents, and was later made Provincial of Saxony. He also travelled around Europe and more specifically to Paris where he studied Aristotle and the Platonists. With the degree of Master of Arts, he later on became a professor of theology at the school of Dominicans in the French capital and was invited as a magister — equal to the doctorate — for two consecutive years. At this time in Europe, during the Avignon Papacy, Christianity was prey to many tensions and confusion, the Inquisition was blowing a wind of suspicion and terror, as a result of which many new groups and movements were forming in search of new avenues of practice and understanding. It goes without saying that Meister Eckhart was a coveted source of wise counsel in these times of darkness. 

Let’s say it plainly: Meister Eckhart was a scholar, but it is as a preacher that he is most remembered. His sermons in the vernacular German were highly unusual for the time and took many a liberties with the conventional church rituals and dogmas. He stated: “When I preach, I usually speak of detachment and say that a man should be empty of self and all things.” […]


Blessed, supremely blessed, are they who are installed in the eternal now, 
transcending time and place and form and matter, 
unmoved by weal or woe or wealth or want, 
for in so far as things are motionless they are like eternity
~ Sermon 16 


An exploration into the teachings of Meister Eckhart… (READ MORE…)


The Poor Man

Reading again this sermon 87 by Meister Eckhart, entitled ‘The Poor Man’, I felt that I had to give it a place in this blog. I was stunned by its qualities, the modernity, profundity, clarity, precision, subtlety that breathes in and out of this piece, and its impeccable construction. We owe this translation to the teacher of nonduality Francis Lucille and I borrow it from the website ‘Stillness Speaks’ that offers wonderful resource for self exploration.

Meister Eckhart was a Christian theologian and mystic born in 13th century Germany. He became famous as a talented preacher and his sermons, unusual and disruptive to the church dogma and ritual, caused him troubles. Largely forgotten until the 19th century, he is now appreciated as one of the foremost exponent of the spiritual endeavour. The universal qualities of his message extend far beyond the usual Christian jargon and make it accessible for all who have a deep interest in these matters.

Starting with the famous biblical expression ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, he endeavours to describe the qualities that are to be found in a truly poor man, and that are a prerequisite to any real understanding of truth. In his own words, and in just a few passing sentences, he exposes nothing less than the nature of our true being, of free will, the pervading presence of consciousness in all beings, the blissful nature of God’s presence, the non-objective and empty substance of God, Its timeless and immortal nature, and the oneness that pervades all and everything. Be this piece a prayer illuminating these few Latin words contained in the picture above: ‘Trahe nos post te’, ‘Draw us to you’


Whoever is to be poor in spirit 
must be poor in all his own knowing 
so that he knows nothing of God, 
nothing of any created object, 
and nothing of himself
~ Meister Eckhart



Beati pauperes spiritu, quia ipsorum est regnum coelorum.

Ultimate bliss speaking in its wisdom, said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mathew 5,3). All angels, all saints, and all creatures that have been born, must be silent when this eternal wisdom of the Father speaks, because all the wisdom of the angels and all creatures is as pure nothing when compared to the limitless wisdom of God. This wisdom has said that the poor are blessed.

Now, there are two kinds of poverty. The first is an external poverty and it is good and very much to be praised in one who accepts such poverty willingly, out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ, because He, likewise, was poor on earth. I will not speak of this poverty any further. Then, there is yet another poverty, an internal poverty, which underlies each word of our Lord when He says ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’.

Now I beg you to be likewise so that you can understand his words; for I tell you by the eternal truth: if you are not identical with this truth about which we will now speak you cannot possibly understand me.

Some people have asked me what poverty is in itself, and what a poor man would be. We will now answer them. […]

Continue reading this sermon by Meister Eckhart… (READ MORE…)