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Black Elk

The Wilderness that Leads to the Heart of the Mystery

June 25th, 2008

When I was in Germany my publisher told me about a wonderful teacher, Sean O’Laoire, whose tour he had just accompanied – a Catholic priest who had transcended religions in his approach and yet still taught and wrote of the spiritual way. I was intrigued and read an interview of his, which culminated in the following splendid passage, which I quote with Sean’s permission.

I believe that we have to become serial killers in order to reach enlightenment.  Firstly, we have to kill the ego, in the sense that it needs to be confined to its appropriate tasks (ensuring that I pay my taxes on time, stop at red lights and tie my shoe-laces) but not become my identity.  Then I have to kill my father, by which I mean that I have to outgrow the cultural traditions into which I was born, and, instead, embrace a global identity.  Thirdly, I must kill my guru.  Here, I mean the religious traditions through which I have journeyed.  Kabir, the great Indian poet of the 15th century is a model of this.  Born to a Hindu widow, he was adopted by a Muslim couple and went on to transcend all religious traditions, challenging them all but honoring their avatars.  He quoted Jesus at one stage, “Jesus, blessed be he, once said, ‘life is a bridge, cross over it but do not tarry on it.’”  No guru can take you all the way, for you have a way which is all your own.  And the final murder is that you have to kill your God; for all notions of God are made up.
At the beginning of our search we may set out together on a common path.  At some stage, if we persevere long enough, we will each chose a path less travelled.  And for the final stretch of the journey you will “go where no man has gone before.”  You will forge a brand-new path in the trackless, unchartered wilderness that leads into the very heart of the Mystery.

Sean’s grand-father told Sean the old stories in the grand tradition of the Bard and Druid, and you can read an essay Sean has contributed to the OBOD website here and you can browse his website here.

6 Responses to “The Wilderness that Leads to the Heart of the Mystery”

  1. What an interesting man. The essay is beautifully written, particularly the wonderful descriptions of him finding God in his environment. Not so sure I warm to the ‘serial killer’ analogy above, although I can certainly appreciate the sentiment. I find it puzzling, given his mystical discoveries and his need to transcend the religious structures and dogmas that might limit experience of the Divine, that he still chooses to be a Catholic Priest. On the surface, this appears at odds with his advice. Perhaps, I am just getting hung up on semantics here. Perhaps, he is focusing more on the interpretation of ‘catholic’ with a small c, as opposed to Catholicism as it is more generally understood.

    Being overly identified with something – be it a philosophy or religion – to the extent that your perception of life is narrowed – is something to avoid. I am sure we can deny ourselves a great deal by not being able to step outside the boundaries of our own understanding. When we release the need to have systems, we open ourselves to a wealth of potential.

    My Dad is really in to Taoism and often quotes that philosophy’s understanding that a culture with too many rules and boundaries has ‘lost the plot’, and far from being in harmony with ‘The Way’. It seems that ‘The Way’ is infinite, so why limit our ability to experience it by inflicting upon ourselves mental and spiritual straight jackets. I think that there is probably a balance to be struck. Systems can be helpful. I love the Wheel of the Year; it’s a system that works beautifully for me. After eleven years it still surprises me with fresh insights and experiences. If it stopped doing that I would have to be honest with myself and move on. The tool is not the thing.

    Concepts of God are merely that – they are not God her/him/itself. That experiential contact with the Divine in nature – that O’Laoire so wonderfully writes about in his essay – seems to me to hold many answers. If we can open ourselves to all that nature expresses and see it with innocent eyes, letting fall the preconceptions that might limit our vision, then maybe we can venture where we have never been before, as O’ Laoire suggests.

    This has made me recall something I explored at college: Kristeva’s theory of ‘semanalysis’. She was talking about language but I think it has a wider application. She wrote that in any linguistic system, sound is divided into ‘significant’ sounds, i.e. those that are contained within the rules of grammar, and ‘insignificant’ sounds, i.e. all that is repressed or outside of the symbolic order of our language. Just think of all the words – not yet formed into meaning – that lie in this place of unformed sound; potential words that could enrich our understanding, but also words that could place a limit on our perception too. It seems to me that the Divine dwells in that place of unformed sound, and our attempts to give the Divine form, structure and meaning can be very beautiful but never all encompassing. It strikes me that this place of unformed sound is the Source, and in drawing from it we can never fully define it.

    I’m sorry, this has turned out to be really long (and I hope not too garbled – I’m a bit tired). O’Laiore is fascinating because he also defies our preconceptions (or should I say my preconception) of what being a Catholic Priest is – why indeed should he limit himself.

  2. well…….i think that all around the world something is happening……..people are getting to the point that really matters……..
    its hard sometimes………lonely too…..but its inside us the key to a new brand world….

    and thank you phillip for your presence in my midsummer dream, watching the sun rise with so many people…

    did anyone else dream it?

    bright blessings from portugal

  3. It always amazes me that the journey towards wholeness bears no relation to how clever someone is – there is no rushing it – no tmescale – no formula or map – even the most tuned in of people still have to struggle through the forest of discovery, tripping over, spending time in darkness, taking paths that lead nowhere until we come across little glades of wisdom and eureka moments. I think Mr O’Laoire’s essay is a good demonstration of the importance of the passage of time towards wholeness.

  4. Yes Riverwolf – an unfortunate choice of term in some ways, but attention-gaining and this piece did come at the end of an interview which gradually built to this idea. It is reminiscent of the Buddhist idea ‘if you meet the Buddha on the road kill him.’

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