Passion can only be approached through the existential stance: any other stance will eliminate the need for its risk-taking venturing, its acceptance of the pain of deepening, its courage in making the leap of faith, its generosity in taking the stand of truth, its love that burns with fervour for the redemption of all things.
Yet there is, in this existential realism, also a mystery that entails passion is ultimately mysticism.
Not mysticism of the sky, but mysticism of the earth.
Not mysticism of nous enlightenment: the mysticism of awakening.
Not mysticism of soul ecstasy: the mysticism of joyousness.
Mysticism of heart.
Not opened eyed transcendence, but closed eyed surrender.
Not opened winged uplift, but closed winged letting go.
Not freeing oneself of the tragedy of the world, but plunging in.
In this closing of the eyes in order to plunge in to a deep mystery, we travel to a strange place not reachable if we open our spiritual eyes wider and wider, and insist on the light of illumination.
In this closing of the wings in order to plunge in to a pained unknown, we battle in a perilous contest not reachable if we open our spiritual wings wider and wider, and insist on the joy of union.
In this strange journey, in this perilous battle, it is revealed to us that we are a part of humanity, and there can be no saved and damned, no winners and losers, in the ultimate. In the ultimate, each heart is tied to every other heart, and all hearts are tied together, and tied to the world wherein they dwell. In the ultimate, we all come through, or we all go down. In the ultimate, there is only one ship and it is sail or sink for this ship. When we reach ‘the heart ground’, we find out there is only one heart, and it is only this one heart that ultimately will uphold us all. Without brotherhood we will fall endlessly into the groundlessness of the abyss. The heart ground is also ‘the killing ground’, because it is where the journey reaches its end, and the battle between depth and shallows, greatness and smallness, division and standing together, is at its fiercest. It becomes more risky, more pained, more weighty, more costly, as it comes ‘down’ to this final contest on the heart ground. This ground is the place of sacrifice.
Faith is needed to enter this place, and faith is needed to enter its contest.
Faith, in the way of heart, is far more ‘spiritual’ than the enlightenment of illumination and the ecstasy of union.
Nous enlightenment and soul ecstasy are often regarded by those who have attained their altered state of consciousness and altered state of being to be ultimate. Both gift the human being with significant, and life changing, knowledge, and this knowledge is certainly spiritual in nature. In enlightenment, illusion is stripped away from reality. In ecstasy, the origin of all reality is embraced at source. I respect the traditions that pursue these kinds of spiritually advanced states of consciousness and spiritually advanced states of being. Buddhism seems more concerned with the former, Sufism seems more concerned with the latter. The Greek Fathers of Eastern Orthodox Christianity have been concerned with both, often blending them.
The important role played by nous and by soul in the human constitution must be acknowledged, for we are complex creatures; we are a composite of many different, and marvellous things. Who can discern how they all fit together?
But, these states of consciousness and being, contrary to what the traditions that specialise in them claim, are not ultimate.
The heart knows spiritual knowledge is not ultimate.
The way of heart, the way of passion, is ultimate, and this way is not about spiritual knowledge, but requires that a certain restriction be put on any and all knowing, whether merely intellectual and scientific, merely philosophical and metaphysical, or even the expanded states of nous knowing in illumination and of soul knowing in ecstasy. The way of heart is a way of not knowing. It is not about expansion, but contraction. It is not about advanced states, but being engaged and committed to something at once hidden, undisclosed, and foolish in the risk, the pain, the weight, the cost, it asks from us. We give everything in the way of heart, and can preserve nothing. This way requires a surrender of light, a letting go of union, in order to go to a dark and pained place, to enter upon the strange journey and perilous battle in that place.
No one goes to this place and enters its battle except through faith. St Isaac of Syria: “Faith is the gateway to mysteries.”
Thus, it is empty boasting of traditions of enlightenment and of ecstasy to reckon their respective kinds of spiritual knowledge rule out any need for faith. Even the most exalted spiritual knowing is incomplete, because no one can ‘know’ the heart in this manner. Neither enlightenment nor ecstasy can fathom the heart. Its secrets, its treasures, its horrendous edges, gaps, cross-roads, its Koan and its Cross, are not revealed to those who have experienced enlightenment and those who have experienced ecstasy. To walk the heart way needs faith, and as a Red Indian elder put it to me, faith is trust in the unknown. To journey and battle on the heart ground requires the ultimate leap, the ultimate surrender, the ultimate letting go.
Faith is the trust in the unknown that is necessary for the way of the heart. No enlightenment of nous, no ecstasy of soul, can light up the dark abyss of heart, nor release the jet of blood, nor kindle the fire of spirit. The mysticisms of enlightenment and ecstasy are not able to comprehend the black of depth and the red of greatness that are the way of the mysticism of heart.
Thus suffering must not be shed, but accepted and delved to its end. Suffering becomes pregnant, in the end, with the deepened human being, the man or woman of heart. And out of this black depth there rises up, and comes forth, the only spiritual red fire, the fire of the human spirit aflame with God’s Spirit, the human passion kindled by the divine passion.
The heart is given over entirely to “the contest of love” that alone is the irrational rationale of passion having to suffer depth, and having to be burdened with the summons to greatness, and for this to be decisive for all of humanity and for the whole world process.
But black is the depth that can be for heaven or for hell; depth is the darkness of evil as well as the mysteriousness of the absent and unknown God. This God is the only depth that can fill the human depth. This God can only be present and known in the heart when we allow our suffering to open the heart to the world’s suffering. Then the red of passion born of the black is brave, generous, honourable: it suffers for love.
This is not inevitable.
The dark and pained depth can, if resisted and refused, or if falsely resolved, give birth to a very different red of passion: the red of hate and malice, of vengefulness. This is also the red of the religious fanatic, the false zeal that by never facing the hell in itself, is all too ready to find hell in others and to visit hell upon them if they do not bow down to its religious dictates. This is a red of coercion, of domination, of power over the other; a red of damning to hell, of condemning, of spiritual murder dressed up as loyalty to God. Satan stalks the way of heart.
The way of heart is therefore spiritually dangerous. This is why humanity in many cultures preferred the way of nous or the way of soul: the mysticism of glowing light or the mysticism of living water. If fire is present, it is only a coal of flickering incandescence, not really a flame, and certainly not a raging torrent.
All monastic traditions readily lend themselves to the mysticism of nous, or to the mysticism of soul, and sometimes both intermixed. Rarely do monastic traditions attain the red of passion, from their way of being in the black of heart.
The light and the water are necessary, and not to be dismissed. Christ identified four faculties by which we must love God: nous, soul, heart, and strength or spirit [Mark, 12, 30]. The latter two belong to passion: the human spirit is our passion. But the former two are necessary. Egyptian Desert Tradition gave the injunction, “take the mind [it means, in context, the spiritual mind, the nous] down into the heart.” Christ said the same to St Silouan: “Keep your nous in hell, and despair not.” The ‘hell’ referred to is that in the heart. The nous, therefore, can join the heart in its problematic wrestlings, to shed a helpful light on these.1 Equally, we could advance an equivalent injunction for the soul: take the soul down into the heart. Soul is almost universally regarded as feminine, the spiritual woman, while the heart is Biblically regarded as masculine [in 1 Peter, 3, 4, St Peter speaks of ‘the hidden man of the heart’], the spiritual man; thus it is possible to see the soul as wife, and hence as the ‘helpmate’ of her husband, the heart, offering the nourishment and regeneration of joy to his sorrows and injuries. God can use both nous and soul as partners with the heart. In dramatic stories, the nous is often the mentor figure, the wise old man or wise old woman, who instructs the hero, through discipline and advice; the soul is often the romantic figure, the young and beautiful love interest, who becomes the hero’s friendly companion and erotic lover, sharing the onerous ordeal with the hero, and not only urging on his valour but bringing her own magic, her own love of life and affinity with its spiritual gifts, to his rescue.
Yet, there is a rub in this. Both nous and soul have to be ‘lowered’ to play any constructive helping role vis a vis the way of heart. For those who do not want the way of heart, and in one sense that includes all human beings, it is tempting to keep nous and to keep soul well separate from heart. This is how spiritualities of nous enlightenment and spiritualities of soul ecstasy become entirely estranged from any involvement with the human heart.
Nous estrangement from heart, and reconciliation to it, is shown in the history of Buddhism.
Buddhism’s original teaching contends that in our ignorance of the spiritual reality, we regard the world’s reality as an end in itself, separated from the spiritual. There is a need for awakening to the spiritual reality, which will fundamentally recast our attachment to the world’s reality.
Yet there is a very fine cutting edge here.
On the one hand, regaining the awareness of the spiritual may overcome our delusive belief in the world’s autonomy, and thus may undercut, dampen, ‘take the heat out of’, our delusive cravings in relation to that separate entity.
But, on the other hand, this new mind awareness can then also support an entire turning away from the world, as if only awareness of the spiritual, not involvement with the world, ultimately mattered. This implies that the only possible relation to the world in which we are ‘thrown’ is delusive in how it sees and thus delusive in what it wants from the world, because of the ego at the root of that seeing and wanting. Remove the ego, and the mind will be free from worldly attachment, and free for unencumbered awareness of the spiritual.
We see the world not as it is, but as we are, and that is why we develop delusive cravings toward the world. These delusive cravings are in two major groups: lust and greed, clinging and grasping, and possessing, are one group, and hate and ill-will, animosity and hostility, aversion and negation, are another group. This closely corresponds to the Desert Tradition of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which speaks of exactly these same two groupings, the first termed the ‘appetitive faculty’ of perverted desire, and the second termed the ‘incensive faculty’ of perverted anger. The former is fallen due to desire becoming self-enclosed in ‘self-love’, and the latter is fallen due to anger becoming self-enclosed in ‘self-pleasing.’ St Maximus says the former cuts our desire off from union with God’s Eros, while the latter cuts our thymos off from solidarity with the Neighbour; by the former selfishness, we devour and acquire, and by the later selfishness, we coerce and murder. In the former, we ‘use’ others and things, in the latter we ‘dominate’ others and things. The core of the problem is the same in both Traditions: the delusive or fallen passions arise through attachment to the self.
If we cease to see the world as we are, a separate ego out for itself, then we will cease wanting from the world things that arise out of this egoism. If we change the false consciousness of delusion [moha], and become capable of ‘seeing things as they are’, then we will cease to be attached to the world out of selfishness, whether in the lustful [lobha] or hateful [dosa] manner. Again, the Desert Tradition agrees with Buddhism on the nature of the awakened nous, which releases the other two kinds of energy from delusive attachment to the world, and reveals their potential for good. Buddhism says the nous that sheds delusion becomes capable of wisdom [anaoha], and this both frees the desirous faculty of lust and greed, making it capable of ‘rapture’ [piti] and ‘charity’ [alobha], and frees the incensive faculty of hate and ill will, making it capable of ‘vibrant energy’ [viriya] and ‘loving kindness’ [adosa].
The delusion of nous, and the two kinds of delusive cravings it generates, are the root of all suffering [dukkha]. Only if we change the false consciousness of mind, will the false energies of soul [desire] and heart [anger] be changed. This will remove the worst suffering, and allow the attainment of spiritual happiness.
This makes ‘mind’ the instrument of salvation, the deliverer, and upholds the spiritual mind as more in the leading position than any energy–whether soul longing or heart passion–that ‘naturally’ attaches to the world; consciousness leads energy out of error, it takes the heat out of the error in energy, but it does not really give energy free expression to unlock its own energetic potential. Soul and heart energies remain, because of this nous watchfulness over them, cooled off, muted, gentle, but not very dynamic. Another way to put this is, enlightenment breaks delusive attachment to the world, but it does not replace this with anything approaching an ecstatic or suffering attachment to the world. Buddhist philanthropy of soul and kindliness of heart are not to be dismissed, but they are benevolent and benign, not all that loving in any radical sense= the soul is not married to the heart, and the heart is not married to the world. The nous still drives the chariot, and has the two active horses well reigned in. They avoid evil in the way they do good, but they do not take the chance of a more dynamic and more difficult good that requires a more attached relationship to the world. The latter is love at its most ‘given.’
Two friends, one a Romanian woman, the other a Greek woman, both confirm that in their native tongues nous is adept at curbing false energy, but not able of itself to go where true energy takes us. Ioana Novac says that in Romanian ‘ia a-minte, ia seama’ means ‘be mindful’, literally ‘take-into-mind’, or be careful, take care through the mind’s awareness and perceptiveness; similarly, Dee Jaquet conveys the same point through telling a story: “My mother and grandmother’s exhortations to me any time I went out on a date as a young woman was ‘na exeis to nous sou’, which meant simply, ‘be self aware, pay attention, be vigilant, be alert, be present, guard that you remain true to who you really are’.” But, not losing who we really are is not the same as losing who we are for love.
Salvation by mind, not by soul or by heart, is particularly clear in early Buddhism. The following words, attributed to Buddha, illustrate this:
“One should with clenched teeth and with tongue pressing on palate, subdue, crush, and overpower the mind by the mind, just as if a strong man, having taken a very weak man by the head and shoulders, were to subdue him, crush him, and overpower him. Then the harmful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion, will disappear.”
‘The Dhammapada’, a book devoted to the Buddhist path of virtue, starkly asserts this spiritual bias in favour of expanding the mind, and weakening the vital energies which attach the soul and heart to the world in a wrong way. In chapter 20 [The Way] is this exhortation:
“The best of virtues is passionlessness;
The best of men [those] who have eyes to see.
This is the way, there is no other leading to the purifying of intelligence.
Go on this path!
[If you don’t go on it, you will be caught up in] the confusion of Mara the tempter.
If you go on this way, you will make an end of pain!”
This clearly supports a widespread interpretation of Buddhism, at least in the west, that suffering is not existentially or mystically inherent, but that, on the contrary, much human suffering is self-generated, and arises out of illusion created by the mind. When the illusion departs the mind, then suffering is diminished, and happiness replaces it.
But Buddha’s voluntary departure from the palace that had been the citadel of his existential innocence is usually not recounted in full. This tells a very different story.
In the book called ‘The Life of Buddha’ written in the first century A.D. by the 12th Buddhist patriarch, Asvaghosha, it is not that the youthful prince confronts the four existential givens of death, old age, sickness, and poverty, by accident, but rather, it is a Deva, a God, who actually assumes the form of each of these, in order to bring them to his notice.
The real question is, was the divinity seeking to bring this human predicament to the prince’s mind, or to his heart?
–If the former, it is only necessary to awake from the illusory existence, and stand back, not involving oneself in it, except from the benign and bloodless position of the teacher helping others to get free.
–If the latter, then awakening from the illusory existence is only in order to return to the real existence, and immerse fully into it, to uncover its ultimate worth, and be bound to that worth, no matter what it asks in sacrifice.
In the latter case, the spiritual mind becomes secondary to the active engines of involvement, soul and heart.
It is less of a shock for the soul woman to be dragged down by the heart man ‘to his level’ because, in desiring Eros, the soul is already a being of love. But it is a momentous shock for the nous to have to confront an existential truth it had never been forced to face before: that the irrational energy carries the profounder and greater meaning, while consciousness, even if expanded, can only gasp in amazement at how deep and how far this energy will go in its more loving attachment to the world.
Thus here the spiritual consciousness of the mind can no longer lead the energy of heart, but is led by it– into a baptism, an immersion, first in soul water and then in heart fire. The psalms speak of this when saying, to be redeemed we must ‘pass through water and fire.’ The salvation of mind, offered by early Buddhism, gets us ‘out’ of polluted water and polluted fire, but it does not pass through water and fire. The nous’ light is not baptised in water and fire.
This is where faith enters. No direct seeing of reality without illusion, before we leap into the ravine where a more ambiguous reality is hidden and awaiting release, can absolve us having to dive in and go through that which the spiritual mind can only see from the outside, but never understand because it cannot undergo it from the inside. This is why in the way of heart there cannot be any ultimacy to an ‘open eyed’ transcendence of illusion that is raised into a vast light; more ultimate than any enlightenment is a ‘closed eyed’ plunge into existence’s unfinished and suffering cauldron that is given up to a vast dark.
Consequently, this is why it is necessary to ‘take the mind down into the heart.’ This refers to the attentive, alert, wakeful, sober, vigilant, watchful, earnest, non drunken, non sleepy, non dreamy, non conceptual, non discursive, nous. This nous is not automatically housed in the heart, and thus is not the eye or the thought of the heart. The nous that has descended into the heart can be like a lamp illumining dangerous and challenging terrain in the night, but to play this role entails a radical and fundamental humbling for the spiritual mind– which it resists for reasons mistakenly regarded as ‘highly spiritual.’
Two issues are at stake.
 The spiritual mind is given to the temptation to misuse its direct seeing of, its in-sight into, the spiritual reality that inheres the world’s reality. For it wants this to elevate it above the ambiguous mess and degraded dirt of existence, and place it in the ‘leading position’; it sees itself as the driver of the chariot, while soul and heart are only the horses, thus it can and must guide them. But, the spiritual mind ignores that all its awareness is capable of is an experience of ‘seeing’, which is not the experience of being wholly involved. The nous is not constituted so as to be able to roll its sleeves up and get itself really wet and get itself really scorched by existence. The soul and heart energies actually experience what is and what is not true of existence, in venturing a far more involved, a far more attached, connection to it. Nous is the watcher, soul and heart are the participants. Thus, nous awareness is ultimately secondary, not primary, in spirituality to the soul and heart energies. Without humility, the nous earns the condemnation of St Maximus, who described the mind of enlightenment as “the visionary mind, swift flying bird, and most impudent.”
 The leadership role the nous appoints for itself as watcher, standing back and not having to give anything radical—teaching students, in order to raise them out of the mire to where you are out of the mire, is giving very little—has to be inverted. The humbling of the nous, as the price of participation in existence’s reality, has a spiritual purpose the nous is apt to not understand. Christos Yannaras sums it up well when he says that the nous, the spiritual mind, the mind of enlightenment, “has to submit to the contest of love.”
The soul and heart energies are spiritually more ultimate, whatever their fallenness on the way, than even the enlightened nous Buddha refers to as the “purified intelligence” of those “with eyes to see.” This is because soul and heart are inescapably involved in the contest of love that is being waged in the world. The soul and heart are attached to the world because in their truest being they are totally engaged with and committed to that contest to redeem the world for love. The soul and heart are lovers, not just knowers. They incipiently know something deeper and greater in their love. This is why, unlike the spiritual intelligence, or seeing eye of the nous, they cannot be attached just to the spiritual– whether the spiritual is seen as entirely apart from the world because of being above and beyond it, or the spiritual is seen as so overshadowing the world in ‘non duality’ that the need for any brave and generous contest to gain the world for love is eliminated.
Early Buddhism fails to confront the Daemonic, and its Otherness. The ego, or self-attachment, is really only overcome to free love. Love is egoless, love is not attached to the self, but love is not a-personal, de-personal, impersonal. Love is personal, it needs distinct beings who take a real chance in relation to each other, and God. These distinct beings are I—Thou, as in Martin Buber.
The contest of love is irrational, and requires a mystical unknowing and a mystically unfixable pain as its ticket of admission. Yet the victory love wins in the contest of love in this world is immeasurably more ultimate than any enlightenment that should be a matter of coming out of soiled waters and ravening flames but temporarily, for the sake of returning to them in a new way.
My wife wrote this story about her life: “In India, as well as in my family and at the Catholic convent school I went to, my spiritual nous was fed and I took to it as a bird to air. My spiritual nous although a child’s was very clear, I often saw more than my elders which I found disconcerting and silenced me. Later at 19, I was alone one Christmas and befriended by a priest. We were discussing certain choices I had to make. In my youthful untested arrogance I said, ‘When I can clearly see the outcome of doing something, how can I act on it?’ To which he replied—he was middle aged—‘you cannot evaluate something until you have experienced it.’ I found through the suffering brought by age this was true—it was heart truth.”
My mentor in spiritual psychology, E.G. Howe, reached enlightenment in Ceylon, after months spent sitting in a Buddhist monastery near a river. He was in his 70s then, and I only in my early 20s. I asked him if he would describe this event at a public lecture for the many people who came to his foundation which combined spirituality, therapy, and teaching. He agreed. During this lecture he told us about the ascetic process that led up to its culminating moment, which included allowing cockroaches to crawl over his seated body, so as not to interfere in their comings and goings. To the shock of everyone gathered, especially in light of the prominent place given to ‘Non Duality’ in all his lectures, he suddenly said, after briefly describing enlightenment, “so what?”, and then began to cry. “It was cold” he said of the enlightenment. Then he added, “I don’t know what love is. I know what love is not.”
The silence that followed was dramatic, its tension unrelieved. Later I heard one of the people who had witnessed this unexpected moment of defencelessness in a man of otherwise imposing presence sneering at the old man. This cynic said, “He was just play acting, his tears were contrived.” They were not. Graham Howe was huge, both physically and spiritually. The Buddhists had repeatedly invited him to join them, though he had invariably refused, and my own Tibetan meditation teacher Trungpa Rinpoche had always forced me to tell him about Graham Howe before he would settle down to instructing me in the subtleties of Tibetan Buddhism. On that night I saw this man of impregnable height abandon his mountain, and leap into the vulnerable but pregnant depth.
What William Blake said of European Enlightenment ‘reason’ can with equal force be asserted of Buddhist enlightenment as originally understood and practiced: “Energy is the only life, and Reason is the outward bound or circumference of Energy. Energy is eternal delight.” Energy is delight to the soul, but to the heart it is ‘the sufferings and raptures of the Spirit’ which God requires to write people’s names into the Book of Life. Delusion, lust, hate, do indeed distort the contest of love. But a certain kind of enlightenment is arrogant, because it abandons that contest and pats itself on the back for this heartless and passionless existential cowardice, regarding it ‘spiritual.’
Buddha’s Middle Way brought the Hindu and Greek nous that is transcendent, above the world, back into the world, making the nous immanent. This is significant, for which we owe Buddha thanks.
But later Buddhism still had to overcome the intrinsic temptation of arrogance of the swift flying and impudent spiritual mind, in order to rejoin the contest of love. Zen can say this:
“Master: Buddhahood is passion and
passion is Buddhahood.
Monk: In whom does Buddha cause passion?
Master: Buddha causes passion in all of us.
Monk: How do we get rid of it?
Master: Why should we get rid of it?”
Enlightenment will always be prone to introduce a new and more subtle duality, for it chooses Non-Duality at the expense of duality. ‘Form is not Void, Void is not Form.’ This is “the stink of Zen.” Having separated the spiritual reality from the world’s reality, we fail to realise that only if the two are reunited will the way things really are be acknowledged. ‘Form is Void, Void is Form.’ However, the first realisation is very accessible to, but the second realisation is almost impossible for, the nous. Why? Because the spiritual reality is present in the world’s reality fully only through love. Nous cannot take this second step, only the heart, bringing along the soul, can take it. Non-Duality, so long as the arrogant predominance of the spiritual mind goes unchallenged, remains as heartless as it is impersonal. Spirit and world are only united ontologically because they are existentially married through love.
Love is ultimate, but it is not a disincarnate love, rather it is love taking a chance with the world. Hence in this world, the contest of love is ultimate, and no one joins that contest except through faith. No one knows yet, and it is granted to no one to see, what the world’s ravine will test and prove for the destiny of all the world. That ravine, that cauldron, is as binding for the spirit that joins the world in love as it is for the world itself.
Christ said, ‘be in the world but not of the world’ [John, 17, 11-19]. Only passion can attain the true attachment to the world, and push it deep, and push it far.
Holiness is not the same as enlightenment. In holiness we have passed through the water and the fire and reached the far shore, not for ourself alone, but for everyone and everything. We go together. We bring each other through. In the waves of existence the need for spiritual direction fades away, and is replaced by a brotherhood where we carry each other, bear each other, forgive each other, so that none shall finally be lost, so that none shall drown, so that none shall be burnt up.
For the soul, coming down into the heart is a different shock to that faced by the nous. As a being of energy and of love, the soul is ‘half way there.’ But there is still a problem.
For the soul is a love junkie, and the addiction to love is desire for Eros. What shocks the soul is to find that the Daemonic anger for truth, and the contest of love, is not love as the soul yearns for it. Inevitably, ugliness is added to beauty, chaos is added to harmony, evil is added to goodness. The soul’s love of joyous union is interrupted, and postponed, and must learn to include the heart’s love that is wounded and burning, and is inextricably bound up with the world, so there is no bounteous haven ‘away from it all.’ The soul too must submit to the contest of love. Where the nous does it out of its humbling, the soul does it out of respect, and love, for ‘what the heart is doing’ and thus for the heart who does it.
This is the meaning of the saying to Mary, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also…” [Luke, 2, 35]. At the Wedding of Cana, she told Christ that humanity had no more Eros, and Christ performed his first miracle, changing water into wine, to answer this thirst of the soul. But at the Cross, Mary let go of her soul’s desire for Eros, and bowed, with much grieving and sorrowing, to the necessity for the Daemonic destiny that the divine and human hearts were always going to have to face, have to step up to take on. Mary let the sword of truth pierce through her soul, that the thoughts of many hearts could be revealed.
If the way of heart passes through a black night without stars, then it needs light not to dispel the darkness through which it must pass, and in which it will give birth, but to illumine its way, to help differentiation and discernment. If the nous will submit to the contest of love, it can be the traveller’s lamp.
If the way of heart passes through an empty desert without rivers, then it needs water not to dispel the abysmalness wherein it must find its ground, and upon which it will stand, but to nourish its way, to bring good things, beautiful things, providential things, as refreshment. If the soul will submit to the contest of love, it can be the traveller’s oasis.
Yet, even with a lamp and a wellspring, still the heart must walk on; still the heart must embrace its fate to be able to create its destiny. Like the nous and the soul, the heart began in a garden; but the heart cannot return to paradise. The heart is called to the city.
The mysticism of heart will pass through the deepest black to reach the greatest red.
The affected heart is the suffering heart; the suffering heart is the tested heart; the tested heart is the deepened heart; the deepened heart can become the burning heart.
The passionate are the wounded ones and the burning ones.
This mysticism is a paradox: we must be wounded by love to burn with love.
If we resist the wounding by love, we burn with hell.
By a wound evaded in heart, we created hell.
By a wound taken to heart, Christ created heaven in hell.
Both are the way of heart.
Heart is tragedy, and heart is redemption of tragedy.
To seek this, despite its irrationality, foolishness, stumbling blocks, is the mysticism of heart.
- Christ’s words to Silouan, in St. Silouan The Athonite, Archimandrite Sophrony, trans. by Edmonds, R., St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 1999, XI, pp 208-213. These words should not be misread. As Dante said, hell is where all hope has to be abandoned. Rather, Christ’s words mean staying in the hell of the heart with full awareness, with perception and understanding, without fleeing. ‘Do not despair’ does not mean clinging to hope in the place that is hopeless, but it does mean remaining open even in this place, staying there without assuming it is ‘the end.’ In this context despair would be a premature foreclosure, a kind of literal or spiritual suicide, because we cannot accept just being in hell without wanting to finish it, via a total giving up. But the person who can remain in hell without despair “leaves it wholly to God how he is to be helped, but he believes that for God all things are possible” [Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death, trans. by Lowrie, W., Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1968, pp 171-172]. Even in hell, passion cleaves to God.