Monday, October 20, 2014

We Had the Experience but Missed the Meaning IV

The antidote to all these false paths can be summed up in a single word: behold. It is arguably the most important word in the bible, and the most important aspect of the shifting of attention I have described. It is no accident that Julian of Norwich sums up her Long Text not in the catchphrase "all shall be well" but rather, "seke to the beholdyng." Beholding sums up everything the bible teaches, everything about seeking the divine over which millions of words have been written, and reservoirs of ink have been spilt. Beholding is our covenantal reciprocity with the divine. It is the means by which God, who is beyond being and time, allows us to hold him in being and time, even as he is holding us in eternity. The major theme of The Cloud of Unknowing is not unknowing but rather beholding: the author uses the word thirty-five times. The Cloud-author is trying to teach the reader not to be fooled by or trapped in lesser "beholdings"—that is, experiences—but to seek the beholding.
There is a lot of talk these days about the "new monasticism," which is neither new nor monastic; about fluffy "spirituality," about self-indulgent "contemplation." We need to remember that in sharp contrast all this self-seeking exceptionality, God works through the ordinary. Meister Eckhart gives us a word here: "If you are doing anything special, you're not seeking God."
Simply having the intention of silence, and reinforcing that intention by eliminating as much noise from daily life as possible—but without being artificial—will teach us more than any "experience" staged by a celebrity guru. Cultivating the unself-conscious habit of reaching for the silence of the heart beneath words, beneath everyday tasks, at the core of relationships, the environment, our own minds, will bring more illumination than reading a thousand books.
Sit in the cell of your heart and "seke to the beholdyng," and all the rest shall be added unto you.


Blogger Ultra Monk said...


10:31 am, October 20, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another wise and knowledgeable summary which I find helpfully describes "The Way, the Truth and the Life" which is the grace of Beholding. Thank you.

10:37 am, October 20, 2014  
Blogger Joel Watson+ said...

Amen... to every paragraph. Just behold me. It is "either/or" or "both/and" or "neither/nor" or "god" speaking to us, or we speaking to God? Yes. Oh YES!

7:05 pm, October 20, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. I understand and agree, but as your conclusion hinges on 'beholding' wonder if in subsequent posts you could write more about your understanding of this word. That might help people who haven't (or haven't recently!) read your writing on this elsewhere: I think you write about it in 'Icon of the Heart', but I may have mis-remembered.

Thank you. Alison

9:20 am, October 24, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Dear Alison,

I have written a paper on the word 'Behold' but because of copyright laws I can't publish it on the blog. However, if you will send a comment with DO NOT PUBLISH at the top, I will send you the paper.



10:24 am, October 24, 2014  
Blogger Yiayia Ann said...

Thank you Maggie, this has been very helpful.

2:50 pm, October 25, 2014  
Blogger Ian Duncan said...

Hello Maggie. Is IV the final posti
ng on this topic? OK if I post it on Facebook?

8:00 pm, October 31, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Yes, Ian, if you wish. Thank you. You might mention my new book when you give the attribution. Thanks.

8:47 pm, October 31, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew C said...

Thanks for that Maggie - I am thinking about how 'seeking to behold' God through a shift away from noise might deepen or enrich or challenge the metaphors we use for God. The bible tends to use male metaphors for God and I wonder how silence might spring clean the tired cliches we use to 'describe' God. Brueggemann has argued that the Nicene Creed is poetry that has been flattened into a memo and you can see what he means in the sense that when you constantly try to pin God down in a certain kind of language God becomes an idol. But we need language! Frustrating for us post-Enlightenment rationlists who can't live with paradox, or silence for that matter.

1:41 pm, November 04, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking personally. It is entirely possible to idolize language. Or idolize silence if that means doing away with necessary words. Through it all though, I live now more clearly because of silence, and in silence, and for silence ... and paradox is always present because I live as well in this world.


6:11 pm, November 05, 2014  

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