Infinite extension

The human person is a centre of consciousness
which is capable of infinite extension and as it
grows it becomes more and more integrated with
the whole complex of persons who make up

Bede Griffiths
A New Vision of Reality

Is this what mellowing’s about? – quieting the ego, the Me, Me, Me-ness of existence here in this world. The late and great Fr Bede spent a lot of his time on earth contemplatively growing and becoming “more and more integrated”; there are one or two inspiring YouTube videos of interviews with him in old age that give hope on the days when human behaviour around the world looks bleak. I guess we don’t do anyone any favours by trying to rush things. Growing’s not like that at all. But after just a cursory glance at today’s world news coverage I find I’m yearning with every fibre of my being for the “infinite extension” of an integrated humanity.

A veil lifted

I’ve been driving in Northumberland today – though aquaplaning might be a more accurate description. Sheeting rain falling in heavy torrents out of a leaden grey sky pressed down upon us. In marked contrast to yesterday’s cloudless blue sky and sunshine, today the world we journeyed through was veiled. Sight – and even insight – depressed and dimmed.

Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk, spent the last forty years of his life in India making synthesis between Eastern and Christian mysticism, living the simple life of a Hindu sannyasin. As a schoolboy he was transported by a mystical experience in a sunlit field. A veil lifted that altered the course of his life. In his spiritual autobiography* he wrote

“This experience may come, as it came to me, through nature or poetry, or through art and music; or it may come through the adventure of flying or mountaineering, or of war; or it may come simply through falling in love, or through some apparent accident, an illness, the death of a friend, a sudden loss of fortune. Anything which breaks through the routine of daily life may be the bearer of this message to the soul. But however it may be, it is as though a veil has been lifted and we see for the first time behind the facade which the world has built around us. Suddenly we know we belong to another world, that there is another dimension to existence … We see our life for a moment in its true perspective in relation to eternity. We are freed from the flux of time and see something of the eternal order that underlies it. We are no longer isolated individuals in conflict with our surroundings; we are parts of a whole, elements in an universal harmony”

Bede Griffiths, 1906-1993
*A new vision of reality

No let up in the grey cloud cover and the teeming rain today until, as so often before, just before sunset. And then a veil lifted. Suddenly orange and yellow hues of sunlit western skies, like the simple robes of a lifelong contemplative, were bright and glorious, everything around and within illuminated, warmed and heartened – “freed from the flux of time” …