Earlier this summer I read that Alice Oswald had been elected as the next Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. I recognised her name but wasn’t familiar with her poetry, so on a whim I went to BBC Sounds and on entering her name came upon a programme in which she had been interviewed. I listened to it, was attracted to her poetry, but fascinated by what she said about the business of writing poetry. I think I’m quoting her accurately: she said that “The poem is not necessarily coming from inside you but is already out there and you’ve just got to listen & find it.” It’s “A voice that is simply there and speaking and that I listen to.” In order to do this, she has to concentrate very hard. And “When I write a poem, I try not to be aware of what I think, I don’t know if the poem thinks that.” I recognise the process she describes.... (click 'read more')
The business of being empty and waiting, being open & sometimes something coming. Often, I sense its existence before I can express it in words. Sometimes it’s another voice speaking, and I am surprised at what I hear and then write. It’s a process I’m aware of in writing many of these blogs. I only start to write something if I feel led to do so, and then it can take some time to take shape. I might wake in the night with an additional insight or a recognition that I need to change drastically what I’ve written so far, or even abandon it altogether. Ideas often come during that period after waking up in the morning and while I’m still dozing, while I’m sitting mulling, or out walking. When I sense that I’ve got as far as I can, for now at any rate, then I’ll post it as a blog. And the beauty of a blog, over against a book, is that the process has no end, a thought is always evolving, I might re-visit it, and others can critique it, add to and be a part of it as well. It can become a corporate process and the richer for it.
I like John Henry Newman’s words: “No revelation can be complete and systematic, from the weakness of the human intellect; so far as it is not such, it is mysterious ... The religious truth is neither light nor darkness, but both together; it is like the dim view of a country seen in the twilight, which forms half extricated from the darkness, with broken lines and isolated masses. Revelation, in this way of considering it, is not a revealed system, but consists of a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed.”
If what is revealed in this process is “a number of detached and incomplete truths” and what we are talking about here is indeed ‘revelation’, which I think that it can be, then what is revealed will be greater & more reliable if a number of people are involved, indeed, the more the better. So please do join in by commenting.
My hunch is that all artists rely on this process, indeed we all do when we are being creative. Others may express it in art, music or some other creative form. Alice Oswald expresses it in her poetry, I express it in my blogs. Crucially, we’ve all learnt to trust it.
This is also true with a spiritual experience. Indeed it’s probably more accurate to see that all of the above is ‘spiritual experience’ in the sense that it appears to come unbidden from beyond our conscious selves. The experience precedes the words. My brain expresses it in English, and if I was French would express it in French, but the pre-verbal experience is presumably the same. The experience comes first & then our brain expresses it using the medium, language, symbolism & culture with which we are familiar.
Originally posted at A Contemporary Spirituality
Comments about the site
Just wanting to say “yes” to this. You will be speaking for, and to, many. I will certainly be passing this on to others, and will contribute some thoughts myself later.
So, I was delighted to see Feral Spirituality make an appearance. I'd think you could find many wanting to join in