Great Smoky Mountains, Pisgah National Forest
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As the scriptures say, "Rivers of Living Water will flow from within them."
*Gospel of John 7.37
... it is high time to wake from sleep ...
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"You said what we most need isn't of this world, but we're in this world. How can it help us, if it's not here?" The Sage said, "It's here, it just doesn't come from here. That it's not of here does not mean it's not fully here. You don't even come from this world, but you're here. True?" "I don't know." The Sage said, "You know, and you will come to know you know."
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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"To arouse" is "to wake up, stir to action." This is pragmatic. Getting out of bed is practical. How is key.
An early Church ascetic, monk, and spiritual theologian, Evagrius Ponticus (345-399), used the Greek praktikos as the title of one of his books on this sacred technology. The title derives from proktos, "done, to be done." To spiritually grow, something is done, as to grow physically, something is done.
We need means aimed toward waking us up and, yes, keeping us awake, even cultivating deeper and deeper wakefulness. This continuing growth is referred to in Christian spirituality as an ongoing conversion and being sanctified ("made sacred, holy") - for example, "For the message about Christ's death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God's power" (I Corinthians 1.18, GNT).
Here, then, we see something is happening to us. Engaging sacred means positions us for something to be done to us - the practice does not make anything happen.
These instruments are sometimes called in Buddhism "skillful means." In Christianity, they are most often called "spiritual disciplines." St. Benedict, in his Rule (ca. 530), refers to specific practices as "tools of good works."
If you cook a meal, you need the implements for it. Spirituality is no different - implementing the how is essential.
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Like going in the opposite direction of an echo, in seeking its source, we need clarification about the yearning but can end farther from the Source, not closer. We may reduce the urge to neurons firing, out-moded tradition, or childish, wishful thinking. We may flee the urge due to its oft association with religion, which many have lost faith in and are antagonistic toward. Yet, the inner longing does not belong to a religion or spirituality.
What remains after all the fleeting highs and materialistic-intellectual-ritualistic reductionisms is that same innate, inner urge to Life, a yearning defying explanation and exploitation, refuses to be silenced by the drugs of spiritual or secular sensationalism. Something remains to arouse us. We may sense it more as a frequent or infrequent visit from an unknowing nagging at us or a constant sense of inescapable dissatisfaction.
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C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Christian lay theologian, author, and educator, spoke of the arousal, and how the arousal points us beyond the chronology of our lives to the Source, a World veiled by our illusions -
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
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Jesus points us to the Arouser, calling that "Father," the Presence that is like a hint echoing from another place, not of this world, saying, "I have so much more for you." He calls the reality the arousal derives from and leads to the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heavens. He says this Reality is so wonderful, so divine, it is worth being the priority in our lives, even before what we call the necessities for sustaining physical life. Traditions speak of this differently, pointing to the Ineffable headwater of the oceanic longing - the way home - not home later... now.
I spoke with someone recently who had a spiritual awakening after a terminal cancer diagnosis. This diagnosis was critical to the arousal, the stimulation to change, to wake up, to conversion (lit., "a turning around"). Often a crisis is the meeting point of longing and awakening. It need not be. Here, now, we can begin to wake up. We can listen to the neglected urge - it speaks now and has been, whether we listen or not. We can cooperate with Grace by engaging in a way of life, including specific means to invite the arousal, the alive-awareness of something beyond our thoughts and senses, something that satisfies the thirst for Living Water.
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2023.
*Use of photography is allowed accompanied by credit given to Brian K. Wilcox and title and place of photograph.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.