I it am
The greatness and goodness of the Father
I it am
The wisdom and kindness of the Mother
I it am
The light and grace that is all blessed love
I it am
I it am, the Trinity
I it am, the Oneness
I it am, the highest goodness of all things
I it am that makes you to love
I it am that makes you to long
I it am, the endless fulfilling of all true desires [I IT AM]
The Western High Middle Ages witnessed the blossoming of intuitive spirituality that resulted in perhaps the greatest teachings of the numinous. In Germany, Meister Eckhart took the lead in popularizing the exalted path of Mystical Theology. But it was in England that Spiritual Mysticism especially flourished, in particular through the writings of the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing—a work that highlighted the via negativa and influenced the likes of spiritual giants like John of the Cross. Religious women, too, became the vanguard of a unique style of “spiritual showings” that revealed the hidden splendor of the deathless face of the Absolute. The Anchoress Julian of Norwich (late 1342 – after 1416) is an excellent case in point:
With this came the spiritual lesson that until she was “oned” to the divine in herself, she would not find lasting bliss. To accomplish this union, she wrote, we must all understand that everything created is nothing—the darkness is the light—and we all stand naked before God. This visionary showing was as healing as it was intense and her illness departed soon afterward.
For Julian, human beings did not experience oneness with God only because of their lack of faith in its possibility. She was convinced that prayer helped to overcome this failing by helping us to focus on the divine within us.
With eyes closed in the darkness, our concentration flowers into a more earnest desire and we reach our soaring infinite in holy communion with our own being. Then we may realize, as Julian did in one of her showings, that:
God is nearer to us than our own soul, for He is the ground in whom our soul stands … if we want to have knowing of our soul, and communion and loving with it we need to seek into our God, in whom it is enclosed. [(Ross Heaven & Simon Buxton, Darkness Visible: Awakening Spiritual Light through Darkness Meditation, pg. 32]
Today’s opening verse portrays the heightened sense of her union with the Unborn Absolute. One needs to be “oned” to IT before the trappings of the charnel house can be shed. This numinous awareness is the apex of Apophaticism—the dark path that negates all sensate phenomena in favor of the Translucent Light THAT points to what is ineffable but can truly be experienced AS Such. Medieval architecture also demonstrated and partook in this supernal darkness:
In medieval lantern churches and gothic abbeys, darkness was also considered part of the architectural design of the structure itself, so that stepping into one of these places removed the individual from normal vision into a landscape of spiritual seeing, from light and the world of forms into a sacred plane where God can be sensed in shades and shadows.
The French art historian Emile Male writes of one of these cathedrals—chartres—as a place of “somber twilight,” where only thin fingers of sunlight sparkle in the gloom, high up in the clerestories.
This twilight limits our vision for at least an hour after we enter, until our eyes adjust to the darkness. We can see things only dimly, their edges blurring into indistinct patterns. The small amount of light that does exist is strained through windows of cobalt blue and red glass, which allow for the least amount of visual acuity. Because clear glass was also available to the architects of Chartres, we must assume that these colors were deliberately chosen for this effect. Similarly, in the ambulatoire of Notre-Dame de Paris, light is filtered to such an extent that visitors can barely see their hands before their faces, even on the sunniest of days.
The medieval physics and metaphysics seen in Chartres and Notre-Dame are based on Plato’s theory of optics, which asserts that physical light hides God from us, but by embracing darkness, we may move to that place without form where God is waiting for us (or where we can reassemble ourselves to become God once again). This place is the void, the sea of energy, the consciousness of the universe, where all is one and there is no separation. Darkness: the place where I am That, I am Thou, and the eye of darkness sees. (ibid, pg. 33)
I’m reminded of the recent fire that ravaged-through that ambulatoire structure of the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame; thank goodness that greater architectural heads prevailed in planning for its reconstruction—imagine those fool modernists attempting to even suggest that its upper portion be transformed into a parking garage or even housing a swimming pool! How reflective of the present day because we have become “so blinded by the daylight—by the assault on our senses of ten thousand advertisements and television soap operas until even our hearsay is made up of plots within plots from old movies or TV shows. In darkness there is none of this and our blindness can unfold to become a way of true seeing—into ourselves, our purpose, and the nature of reality beyond the media smokescreen of socially conditioned reality.” (ibid, pg.26)
Oh, Lord, save us from this garish light of this insolent day!
This is where faith in that Translucent Darkness erases and overcomes trust in the transient emptiness that leads to nowhere but greater despair in the false light of the artificial.
With Faith in the Tathagata, Trust in the Buddhadharma, and the Living Compassion of the Sangha, the Noble Spirit charts a course unknown in normal human exchange. Faith causes a darkness and a void in the intellect, Trust begets an emptiness of possessions in the memory, and Compassion produces the sheer emptiness of affection and joy of all that is not of the Unborn. Hence, there is a total absence of all spiritual faculties (linked with sensate phenomena) that can be a hindrance to divine union….Always be mindful that Mara, too, can transform himself as an angel of light and produce spiritual visions of his own design. Absent, too, is the spiritual delight in pleasing fragrances like incense. Yea, the spirit needs to empty itself of all this in order to rest unattached to anything but the proximate [dark] union with the Unborn Mind. The adept must refute the notion that they are somehow doing nothing in this new spiritual realization. They must not disturb their newfound quietude in the ALL of ALL by retreating backwards into pleasing sensations stirred by the false-imagination.
Living the eremitical lifestyle my own spirit can attest to being “oned” with the Unborn in the darkness of silence, far removed from that garish light of samsara and all other distractions—both spiritual and material. Faith itself is a darkness visible yet a guiding translucent light whose mission is to lead the soul safely over troubled waters into Dharmakayic-Union with the unknowable and unalterable True.