(Part 7 in the series, Experiences of Mystery and Wonder)
My own experiences of mystery and wonder led me first to poetry then to theology, and later back to poetry. I think poetry is a more primary response. Theology, like philosophy and psychology are secondary responses in that they require categories, definitions, rules, and analyses. Music may be even a more primary response to mystery and wonder than poetry since music can be done without words.
There are those who say that the best response to mystery and wonder is a theological one. Others prefer to give psychological and sociological interpretations to experiences of mystery. Carl Jung was one who saw the psychological and theological implications of mystery and greatly elucidated psychological aspects to promote personal and spiritual growth.
One of my experiences of wonder came in a dream. At the time I was not quite sure what to make of it, but as I examined it, it became clear that there were strong religious allusions, classical Jungian psychological elements, and a strong affirmation of the poetic response. This is how I recorded it in my journal on August 31, 1982:
I was awakened, or I awoke, in the wee hours of the morning
in the midst of a most enchanting dream. I do not use the
word "enchanting" quaintly. I cannot remember much of the
dream, but I remember its effect - it was fantastic and
enthralling. When I awoke, my first thought was to get
up and write down what I had just heard in my dream, But
when I realized that I couldn't actually remember the exact
words I instead lay back down and fell asleep - which is
perhaps unfortunate. However, I shall now attempt to relate
the effect and the impression of the dream. Here is what
I remember - it seems that I had given a book of my writings
to a young lady. The lady seems to have been a good friend
and in some way important to me, but I cannot ascribe an
actual person to the image in the dream. My memory of the
lady in the dream seems vivid, yet at the same time I cannot
recall her features enough to know if it was someone I
know in real life. At any rate, she was somehow special
to me in my dream. She began to read to me from my own
writings. As she read, the words were immediately familiar
- and pleasing - to me. It was as though I knew the words
before she read them, which was not surprising since I
had written them. However, as she read, the words took
on some different kind of beauty which completely enthralled
me. Then she came to a poetic passage - it had all seemed
poetic, but this passage had definite rhyme and meter -
now for the first time I heard my writing being sung. I
suppose it was still the same lady, but the beautiful
feminine voice was not coming from any particular direction,
and I was no longer looking at the one reading, but I was
caught up within the magical scene that was being described
in the song. The song was beautiful, almost a chant but
it was a song with definite rhyme and sounded quite
ethereal. By this time I was caught up in another world,
as it were, utterly astounded by the beauty of what I heard.
It was at this point that I awoke and realized that the
words I was hearing were not words that I had written -
not yet at least. I thought, "I must write down what I
remember of the song - it was so beautiful!" But I could
not remember completely even the last two lines that I
had heard. I do remember that some portentous event was
about to be related and the song, at the time I awoke,
was describing the night in which it took place. All I
remember is there was something unusual about the moon
- something, it seems, having to do with its intensity.
There was something about a ring around the moon - I think
- and something about the nature of the moon's light. I
remember visualizing a night-blue sky and a full moon and
an ocean below. The effect of the dream, primarily due
to the song - the words and the music and the vocal quality
- was one of sheer beauty, magic, and delight.
Unfortunately, it is also utterly ineffable.
The following are two attempts to speak poetically to the dream:
To Our Lady
My love bore twilight in her breast,
And starlight beauty shone
That bade me gladly leave the rest
To seek out flesh and bone.
My love bore sorrow in her eyes,
And joy within her heart
That made me fully realize
An ever missing part.
My love bore grief within her bones
And victory in her brow.
Her strength rolled back the massive stones
That held my heart till now.
To the Queen of Heaven
I do not know how long I slept
Before being awakened by the dream
And by the voice of the Lady.
I was on the ocean
or on a mountain
or between earth and sky.
Her voice was so lovely, I barely noticed
where I was.
I cannot tell which was more beautiful,
the sound of her voice
or the words that she spoke.
I knew her face
But could not call her name.
She spoke of a wonderful time to come,
A magnificent event.
The sound of her words vibrated my heart.
Then she sang,
And beauty was heightened all around.
I was caught up in wonder.
I slowly became aware
that I knew every word she would sing
Before she gave the words voice.
As I watched her singing
Somewhere between earth and sky
I realized that the words were my own.
It was my joy to hear her singing
the words in my heart;
Reading from the book that was to come.
I do not know how long I slept
Before being awakened
By the voice of the Lady.
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