The Abyss

This story contains for me the essence of the transformation that takes place in one's consciousness, in one's awareness, on becoming a "mystic". It is not a one-off event: one crosses the abyss countless times, for as long as we continue to inhabit our human bodies, though the initial crossing is still perhaps the most profound.

I am standing near the edge of a cliff somewhere in a state we can call Mammon.

From where I am standing, the cliff falls away, it seems, for ever. If I look out beyond the cliff, again there is nothing as far as I can see.

Yet a hand appears in front of me, and a voice says, "Take my hand and step outwards. I will help you cross." I don't know how I know, but I believe it is the voice of the Christ.

I decide to chance it. After all, I have spent a lot of time out here lately near the cliff edge. But if I am imagining things I am done for, because there is nothing else out there except the hand, and a long way to fall. I reach out to take the hand and step outwards towards it.

My foot lands on solid ground. The hand has gone. I turn around. There is no abyss. There is no Christ either.

But just a yard or two away and straight in front of me is someone who is looking straight through me and I’ll swear he is gazing into infinite space. He certainly isn’t seeing me. And when he looks down, just in front of his feet, he shifts backwards, nervously.

I recognise another, just such as I had been a moment or two before, and, on impulse, reach out a hand towards him, and I hear from within me the voice of the Christ saying, "Take my hand and step outwards. I will help you cross."


W.T Stace, in "Mysticism and Philosophy" (1961) quotes a Buddhist tale which I read many years after my own story was written:

The Saints set forth in the Great Ferryboat (the Mahayana), which is to carry them from the hither shore of this world across the river of samsara to the Far Shore which is nirvana. As they proceed, the shore which they are leaving grows fainter and fainter until it disappears in the mist. The Far Shore at the same time slowly arises on their vision. The Great Ferryboat arrives and the Saints disembark. But for them, now in nirvana, there are no longer any distinctions, and therefore there is no distinction between nirvana and non-nirvana, this world and the next, the hither shore and the Far Shore. There is not and never was any hither shore from which they set out, there never was any Ferryboat or any passengers or any nirvana, or any saints who have entered into nirvana.


A Hands Off Guide to Spiritual Healing

Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not renew itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill

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Random Jottings

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