Decently Writ, XXII
A meditation for Ash Wednesday.
“But you, practical man, have lived all your days amongst the illusions of multiplicity. Though you are using at every instant your innate tendency to synthesis and simplification, since this alone creates the semblance of order in your universe — though what you call seeing and hearing are themselves great unifying acts — yet your attention to life has been deliberately adjusted to a world of frittered values and prismatic refracted lights: full of incompatible interests, of people, principles, things. Ambitions and affections, tastes and prejudices, are fighting for your attention. Your poor, worried consciousness flies to and from amongst them; it has become a restless and a complicated thing. At this very moment your thoughts are buzzing like a swarm of bees. The reduction of this fevered complex to a unity appears to be a task beyond all human power. Yet the situation is not as hopeless for you as it seems. All this is only happening upon the periphery of the mind, where it touches and reacts to the world of appearance. At the centre there is a stillness which even you are not able to break. There, the rhythm of your duration is one with the rhythm of the Universal Life. There, your essential self exists: the permanent being which persists through and behind the flow and change of your conscious states. You have been snatched to that centre once or twice. Turn your consciousness inward to it deliberately. Retreat to that point whence all the various lines of your activities flow, and to which at last they must return. Since this alone of all that you call your “selfhood” is possessed of eternal reality, it is surely a counsel of prudence to acquaint yourself with its peculiarities and its powers. “Take your seat within the heart of the thousand-petaled lotus,” cries the Eastern visionary. “Hold thou to thy Centre,” says his Christian brother, “and all things shall be thine.” This is a practical recipe, not a pious exhortation.”
From Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill