The Beauty of Inscape Unknown

And God stands winding His lonely horn,
And time and the world are ever in flight;
And love is less kind than the grey twilight,
And hope is less dear than the dew of the morn.

— W.B. Yeats

Meandering among the heather and gorse, the late John Moriarty perceived the resonant vibrancy of the world from within the ossification of the modern western mind. The world, living and divine, does not cease to exist because we refuse to acknowledge it. In the pools and bogs of Southwestern Ireland, Moriarty found Connla’s well, surrounded by the nine hazel trees of Crimall the Sage, from which drop the nuts that feed the salmon, that wisest of all things. Moriarty understood that the deeper archetypal world does not come at the expense of the phenomenal. We, as moderns, have been cursed with the notion that noumena and phenomena are separated by a cosmic gulf. But Connla’s well exists simultaneously within those myriad unnamed dark pools of County Kerry, neither excluding the other. Thus, breaking from many mystical traditions that pose a unbridgeable separation between the world of illusion and the so-called real world, we may conceptualize the spiritual world as inhabiting the living world of the senses.

As the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins observed, the mind contains its own landscape and topography. This inner, deeper world is vast and “unfathomed,” as Hopkins puts it. But it is not independent from the hills and forests we wander in our waking life. The world of spirit and the living world are reflections of the each other. Layered worlds, in concentric circles, moving ever within but ever larger as they descend. And no less real are any of them. At the center, from which all else emanates, we find the abyss of god, which for Suso the Servitor is a place of endless play and joy, and which the gnostics termed “the depth,” the ultimate source of god. Here, of course, we will find corollaries in the primal yawning and creative void of all pagan cosmologies. For Emanuel Swedenborg, there are two suns that shine upon the two worlds. The mistake, as Swedenborg argues, is to assume that the spiritual sun is somehow more real than its twin. We walk simultaneously in two worlds. There is a subtle perceptive change, no doubt dulled by our atrophied modern sensibility, experienced when one crosses from one world into another. At times, wandering through the groves, hills, and bogs of our world, we pass into its reflection, as smoothly as a leaping fish returns to the water. With the familiar strangeness of the dream state, we find things subtly othered. The quality of light shifts, an eerie tune is heard in the rushing of the waters.

Those who seek the mystic path are none other than they who strive to discover this other world, hidden in plain sight, and inhabit it most fully. As Mircea Eliade puts it, spiritual humanity attempts perceive the irruptions of the sacred in the profane, to imbue all life with spiritual significance. As moderns, it is our challenge to put aside notions of the spiritual and material that perpetuate the separation of the two. We must recover immanence. As we walk, we walk with gods and the elemental spirits, in a world that is both the one we know and the other.


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