Our Own False Light


Addiction to the whirling often induced by love, but which is not love. And to your own understanding and perception of things, which is so limited – Let go of all of it . Truly, truly, it is really just a clinging to your own false light.

Step out over the edge of the precipice and into the Mystery – Behold! You are still walking…

Abide humbly in the Silence – Behold! It is a really a chorus of angels…

And above all, allow the pain to overwhelm you at times, swallow you whole, like the whale. God’s holy ones are precisely those who abandon themselves to this great process, this great, eternal working. They relinquish themselves up to ever greater, ever wider, ebbs and flows, falling in love, even, with the stretching, the hollowing out, the dying and the rising again.

The “old man” in us always wants to contain the pain, hoping (vainly) that in so doing we will not have to die. But what we are invited to is precisely to die – to relinquish, not to contain. And so remember: “All manner of things shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.” This is the madness of the Peace to which we are called, and it takes root it in the depths of our being in proportion to the depths of our darkness, and uncertainty.     


Amo ergo sum

The Spirit, as von Balthasar rightly says, is the “reality of mutual presence and indwelling.” This is the core and essence of prayer. The Spirit enables prayer (which is the basis of, and in some sense, already in itself, eternal life) by enabling us to share intimately, like a lover, in the inner life of God. And so, to be made in the image of God is to be created with this capacity – not so much for rational thought (as many in the past have claimed), but for love. Love is what makes man man. The fullness of life consists, then, in shared life, in a life of mutual self-giving. God, through Jesus, initiated this movement. It all boils down to this one, simple fact: God’s interaction with the human race runs lie a love poem. Our life itself is a love poem unfolding.  

Promethean Desire


“We either contemplate or exploit.” We’ve heard it so many times. And yet how few of us truly live it. Another phrase, and perhaps less known: “The glory of our eyes is to become the eyes of the dove.” Yes, yes…Beauty is yearning to gratuitously pour itself into our lives, flood them in profusion, but we are all of us blind, obtuse, and thankless creatures – swinish and miserly to the last. We want to storm beauty’s gates, but then only to strong-arm it into submission, and greedily gut it of its secrets. Like grace, beauty, to be fully itself, must be utterly free. Dostoevsky once said something to the effect that beauty is a kind of arena in the heart of man within which God and the Devil do battle. The whole idea could also be brought down to this: Holding beauty in one’s hands is a bit like playing with fire. Originally a gift inscribed in all creation for the purpose of spurring the heart on to the joy of complete self-abandonment, beauty has, since the Fall, become a treacherous incendiary towards the exact opposite. It is no longer inherently trustworthy. But it is not beauty’s fault – the problem lies in our own distorted hearts, penetrated as they are to their unknowable depths by a Promethean desire for plunder and possession. That is, alas, as with so much else, where the problem lies. And so, rather than allow those scattered fragments of Paradise – whose glimmering, as if from a mirror, we catch askance in passing faces, in moments of true communion with others, and in all the solitary places of the world – to lead us beyond ourselves into the Source of All Beauty, which is ever present and yet infinitely beyond us, we so often would rather cling to them, as if they were pieces of driftwood in a raging storm: straight to the bottom of the sea.

Approching Art…(Part II)

There are moments when something strikes you, and must therefore be written down – however approximate and incomplete – before it is forgotten. This is what struck me today…

Regarding beauty, one must allow oneself to become lost in its bewildering landscape. One must, as it were, pick up one’s brush and canvas, and participate – lose oneself – in its vast dance. The point of a painting or of a piece of music is to draw, entice, introduce – to set one, if it can be put in these terms, along the right course. But one cannot simply rest content there. One does not achieve blessedness, finality, in the mere act of beholding. No indeed. Art and beauty cease to be a simple matter of detached taste when they are stepped into and the terror begins. It is like being caught by the wind and then flung like laundry out into the open sea. I say again: beauty must be stepped into, like a furnace. There is great risk here, for one does not know how things will turn out, what the final product of one’s efforts will look like. But waiting, sitting, admiring  – these are all death if they don’t lead one into losing oneself completely, entirely. And when this happens, one realizes, perhaps for the first time, that they are very small indeed, merely a humble, timid guest in the great expanse that is life.

Approaching Art…


I would never pretend to try and define art – its purposes, meaning, and modes – under any one, all-encompassing label. There has been so much said on the topic – and most of it leading nowhere – that I have always had a natural distaste for considerations that remain solely on the detached, theoretical plane. Or perhaps I simply don’t have the mind for it. I would be willing to admit to that, too. But I do have my thoughts regarding what it means to be a specifically spiritual artist. Or at least, what being an artist means for me as a spiritual person – in my life, in my experience. Throughout my life, I have always been drawn to art, of whatever kind (music, literature, poetry, painting, photography, etc.), that draws me into a life-changing encounter with beauty. I realize that talking about beauty in such a way might not be fashionable – too cliché and all that (I seem to remember serious talk of beauty being dismissed, somewhat condescendingly, in philosophy class at school). But I take comfort in the fact that I have Mary Oliver on my side. If you’ve ever read her poem, “The Swan,” you know what I mean.

So to be a spiritual (and in my case, a Christian) artist, then, means that your work – and ideally the whole of your life – becomes a kind of expressive channel, or medium, for beauty. The kind of beauty that redeems because it is on some level, as Rilke said, terrifying to the core, in the fullest sense of the expression. Your life and work communicate an experience of the Mystery to others’ hearts, the Mystery that is as blindingly bright as it is broodingly dark (and even painful). The spiritual artist is one who goes about art ultimately as an act of service. They lead others to God through the depth of what they feel and, by extension, the depth of their own humanity. “Self-expression” and “God-expression” thus merge into the selfsame act, the selfsame way of life. I often find that there is a kind of necessity, therefore, to great artists and great works of art. You get the feeling that this or that work of art, simple or grand, famous or obscure, was created out of an encounter – conscious or unconscious – with something that both penetrates and emanates from from the very depths of us. You are drawn, enticed, into the great ocean, the great furnace, the great solitude of beauty. The only question worth asking next is, “And have you changed your life?”