THE MYSTICAL JOURNEY
“It is yourself as perceiver of the world, not the world that you should be attempting to change.” (Dreamtime, 248)
Mother Earth is suffering, and undeniably it is because of human greed and exploitation. John Moriarty tells us that the root of this problem lies in our perception of the Earth as something that we rule over and dominate. We have become conditioned in a type of cultural narcissism and a sense of entitlement that is detrimental to the overall good of life on the planet. This mindset is so ingrained and conditioned by our culture that we barely recognise that there might be an alternative way of relating to the Earth and to each other. We have forgotten, and perhaps scoffed, at the Native American Elder called Chief Seattle who pleaded with the European invaders who were tearing up the land of his ancestors in search of their fortunes. He said “The Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. If men spit upon the Earth, they spit upon themselves”. We in our prevailing attitude have been invaders seeking material advantage, in our behaviour we have been like a virus upon the Earth, we see the Earth as a dead host to feed upon, a resource to be bought and sold and profited from. This must change; it is no longer sustainable.
John Moriarty believed that there is a different way of being on the Earth and he was hopeful that our conditioned and deeply ingrained perspective can change if the willingness is there. Quoting Victor Hugo in Dreamtime he agrees that “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” Not only is this shift in consciousness possible but it is now essential if we are to have a future on Planet Earth, or indeed on any other planet. In the following beautiful passage Moriarty gives us every reason to believe that we can be more than what we have become. He writes “On the assumption that we had just come from elsewhere into the universe, who looking at the yolk of a pheasant egg would predict pheasant feathers? Who looking at an eight-legged, green cabbage caterpillar would predict a white butterfly? We live in a surprising universe, and it would be stupid not to dispose or predispose ourselves accordingly.” (Buddh Gaia, 13)
John believed that an abiding sense of alienation and separation afflicts humanity, we see it manifesting in ever increasing problems like depression, anxiety, and addiction. For in us all is a deep yearning for reconnection and wholeness that cannot be satisfied unless we journey deeper. His diagnosis is that “soul loss is the great calamity of our age” ( Turtle, vol 1, Overture) and the solution he believed lies in the mystical journey, a journey from division and soul loss back to union in the source of our being. We are all mystics in that we have an instinctive sense that we are rooted in some source, and consciously or unconsciously, we are continually drawn back to it. Mystics according to the Sufi’s are lovers yearning for the beloved. “Love is the bridge between you and everything” (Rumi)
John Moriarty calls his autobiography Nostos, and it means; a home coming journey, mystically speaking it is a journey back to reconnection in the source of being where we are all connected.
He frequently calls this source” Divine Ground” a term that includes the Earth and the Divine. Modern advocates use more neutral terms such as non-duality, Ultimate Reality, Self etc. In his writing, John does not shy from using religious terminology from a variety of belief systems. Nor was he afraid to challenge our modern consensus about Reality or our conditioned way of seeing.
Though in our general world view we seem to have wandered very far from the source, in reality it is no distance at all. In it, we are told “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17: 28) However there are obstacles that block us off from this realization, veils that obscure our capacity to see clearly beyond the surface of our busy lives. Letting go of these obstacles is part of the mystical progression. Yet according to John a change in perception can open us to greater possibilities, William Blake explains in this way “If the doors of perception was cleansed then everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
The mystical path could therefore be described as opening us to the Divine and removing the veils of everyday perceiving. Meister Eckart, whom John greatly admired, says that “Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language” Furthermore he advises, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by a process of subtraction.”
This is more than a change of mind; it is a process that we experience and integrate. It is a journey that leads towards a vital, living energy which is the source that connects us with all of creation, there is a necessary letting go and simplification that is inevitable along the way. Moriarty quotes Lao Tzu:
“The practise of Tao consists in
Subtracting and yet again
Till one has reached inactivity.
By this very inactivity
Everything can be accomplished.”
John Moriarty coined the very beautiful expression “Pleroma of aliveness” to convey a sense of the vital energy that permeates and is the source of every living cell. He later describes this energy as sacred and refers to the “Hosanna at the heart of the atom.” The mystical journey is a migration in consciousness from every day, ordinary seeing to a new relationship of reverence and beholding. He invites us to “Be open and behold.” (SnF )
Our solutions to the current crises that now confront humanity and the Earth seem inadequate. The prescription is a type of ecological ten commandments of thou shalt nots, an ever-increasing list of guidelines on how we should behave. This is certainly important; however John Moriarty does not see it as a lasting solution. This is a fear-based response and what is required now is a response based on love, integration and deeper connection, with the realization that all life is sacred. Then we will not act out of duty or obligation to a distant cause, we act as we would towards our mother, as we watch her suffer and struggle. From this perspective we can and will do no harm. A changed behaviour will inevitably flow from this change in perception. Then there is hope that perhaps we will act mindfully and follow John Moriarty seeking to walk beautifully upon the Earth, a sentiment echoed in the wisdom of Black Elk who urges: “Let every step you take upon the Earth be as a prayer.”
This seems like a very simple shift and for some perhaps this is so; but for most of us, firmly ingrained in the modern western mindset, surrounded with the noise of industrial progress, within the scurry of the modern rat race, it is a difficult migration, Blinded by a myriad of colour and bright lights we cannot see the divine light; bombarded by a war of sounds we cannot hear or feel the vibration of the creative pulse. Moriarty senses a thirst and a hunger for change, and he fears that if we are to survive then this needs to happen soon, We might start to consider the impact of human dominion as thousands of plants and animal species face extinction each year as a direct result of human behaviour; we might reflect on this line,“blackbirds’ eggs haven’t had time to adapt to modern mechanical noise, haven’t had time to soundproof themselves against the revving roars and the roaring drone of the chainsaw.” (SnF, 154).
Sometimes it is only in darkness that the light becomes visible, it is only in silence that the pulse can be experienced. And often it is times of crisis that we are prompted to stop and rethink the journey that we are on. John tells a story about a tourist lost in Connemara. He pulls over his car and asks a local man for directions. He is advised that he is indeed on the right road, but he is headed in the wrong direction.
John sees that we too are headed in the wrong direction, he recognizes that we are out of tune with nature, and he wonders whether there is a way back. “Are there cracks in reality?” he wonders. “Cracks into which we can sow our yearnings.? Can the roots of our yearnings become the roots of our reality? Is the real responsive to religion? If we sing it well, will the mountains sing our song? Is reality with us in ways we haven’t allowed for? Is it with us in depths of ourselves we haven’t often come into?” (Dreamtime, 118)
I would say that the purpose of John’s life’s work is to bring about a healing of the human psyche, to face us in the direction of the source, so we can connect and be a source of healing for the Earth, and realize our connection with every living thing in what he calls Divine Ground. And in the end, we realize that it is not a journey that can be measured in miles, it is a journey to where we are and always have been.
When John worked as a gardener in Connemara, he undertook the task of reopening an old lover’s walkway through dense woodland. This lovers trail had become long overgrown, forgotten and impassable over the years. I see this as a metaphor for what John was attempting to do in his larger work also. Imagine two lovers entering through separate gates, meeting at the edge of the woods and following the winding trail, growing closer and emerging the other side as one, only to discover that they were in fact back at the point they had originally set out from. Though the place was the same they themselves were utterly changed. John’s work illuminates a journey from “us and them” to “we” consciousness, from separation and segregation to union with nature which has its source in divine ground. There are many paths that lead us to Divine Ground but the one that John Moriarty himself found and followed was the Christian mystical path which has become so overgrown and disused we hardly know it ever existed. He was attempting to reopen this trail to people of all religious persuasions and none, in the hope that it would be a blessing to the world.
Love was a word John didn’t use often because it can mean different things to different people, for this reason he more often used the words “passion and compassion”. He tells us that there is a wisdom below knowing in the human mind, there is wisdom in unknowing (Six Stories audio). Buddhists refer to it as the “beginners mind” and Christ tells us that we must be “like little children”. They too have the unconditioned beginners’ mind that is capable of being open and experiencing the newness and wonder of every moment.
Moriarty knew that our voyage to a heavenly elsewhere is a voyage to where we are, he assures us that we can reattune ourselves with this sense of presence and wonder because “We belong to a universe that is out of Divine Ground. We belong to a universe that we can sing with.” (Dreamtime, 262)
“When at the end of a stupendous journey, we finally reach home, how surprised we will be to discover that we hadn’t in fact ever left home.
Within our eternal home it was that we were homesick.
It was for where we already were that we yearned.
To be in the world is not to be outside of God.
Nothing that exists or doesn’t exist is outside of God.
God as ground, grounds all that exists.
Divine Ground isn’t only under our feet. it is everywhere in us, It is everywhere in everything.” (Anaconda Canoe, 186)
Open to pure perceiving and wonder John writes
“On a calm day in the mountains, I postponed all purpose and allowed my spirit to be still. When I was calm as the lake, I mirrored the mountains as serenely as it did. Mirroring them, I didn’t modify them. No ebbing into self-awareness shimmered them. Clear like the lake, to my very depths, they touched the quick in me with their unperturbed, ageless summits. By nightfall there was no me. Where no perceiver was, where no organ of perception was, there was eternal, serene perceiving.” (Dreamtime, 193)
By Amanda Carmody. Chairperson of the JMI
John Moriarty’s cd collection called Triduum Sacrum is a detailed account of the Christian mystical path and in parables in the cd collection called Six Stories.