When Love first spoke to me of love–
How I laughed at her in return!
But then she made me like the hazel trees,
which blossom early in the season of darkness,
and bear fruit slowly.
–Hadewijch of Antwerp (ca. thirteenth century)
“Yet there is a process to this extinction, a meaning to this annihilation. But this is not for the fainthearted, nor for those who want to abide in the bliss of the Self, to remain in the intimacy of union. Those who have paid the price of “fana”, who have gone beyond the illusions of the ego and watched every identity be burnt away by longing, can remain in the circle of love, living and witnessing His oneness. But there is a doorway beyond that chamber of the heart. This is the doorway of non-existence, where a cold and brutal wind blows away even the secrets of oneness. Its color is black because it has no color. This primal emptiness has a power and vastness beyond anything that is created, and it destroys everything that ever existed. It is the real home of the mystic, of the one who is “lost in the company of those who are lost in God.” ~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in “Fragments of a Love Story” p. 35f
Somehow, I have missed reading the works of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a well-known teacher of Sufism and mystical topics, also billed as a Jungian theorist. Recently, I have come across several excerpts of his writing, and they make me curious. As I have already remarked, I have read very little of his writing, but what I do read seems to be fraught with predictions of doom and gloom, annihilation, darkness, and fear. They seem intent on challenging the seeker, predicting dreadful ending for us all, and making it clear that he is an authority on such things. It is true that coming to realization has the effect of bestowing a level of confidence one didn’t have before, and if the receiver of these gifts is sincere and committed to the treasure s/he seeks, it can be a natural thing, inspiring to the one who encounters it. But I simply don’t understand the motivation to terrify the reader into jumping off a cliff of Vaughan-Lee’s creation. It seems to me that what he says, while true, is not said in the context of what really IS, but is offered in stark contrast to what is usually unknown until one reaches the point of willingness and readiness to take the leap into the void he so loves to speak of. Mystically speaking, it is generally understood–and it seems to me that this is true–that in God there is no such thing as time, time being a marker that we need to indicate change. Thus, does the reader of such words understand that being–and being IN GOD–is a system of becoming and nonbecoming all at once? What is the point of jumping up and down and saying, in effect, “Yah, yah, I’m braver than you are, you don’t know what I do…..” like a bully on a playground, challenging and pointing the finger? It is a mystery to me, but I do know for sure that L. Vaughan-Lee seems to preach his sermons with an intention that I am not at all sure is healthy…to him or anyone else.
I took this quote and these pictures off a Facebook page, and thank Sura Diane Sheldon for them. Accompanying the quote were a number of WONDERFUL pictures:
As someone who tries to facilitate knowledge when I can, I would be inclined to show my student the above picture, as compared to scaring them to death with talk of voids and darkness before they can be properly understood and contexted. Here’s another:
My point: can we not go gently into that good night, escorted by the poets and the artists and the others who have come home to True Love, rather than doomsaying and challenging? I suppose it’s all a matter off taste, but don’t look for that here.
I believe in the night. It’s nothing to be afraid of.
You, darkness, of whom I am born–
I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations–just as they are.
It lets me imagine a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night. –Rilke, Book of Hours