Liminal Gifts: 2

This is the second of three posts in this series.
Part One and the introduction are here.

Discerning Callings

I’m sitting in the Roanoke City Library re-reading portions of Citadel of God, an historical novel about Benedict of Nursia. I’ve lucked upon one of the few armchairs scattered among the stacks. Some newspapers had been laid across it, but I put these aside and become immersed in the life and times of the man who helped birth western monasticism.

A woman in well-worn clothes walks by, glances at me, then sits down briefly on the floor a short distance away. Some of Roanoke’s homeless people take refuge in the library when the weather turns cold. I wonder whether she’s the one who had marked the chair with the newspapers.

Later I lay the book down on my lap and stare into space, thinking about the monastic components of Light Morning. Then my gaze turns to the large bookcase across the aisle from where I’m sitting. The title of one book comes into focus: Callings. I’ve just been reading about how Benedict, a young nobleman living in the waning days of the Roman empire, followed a series of inner callings to leave Rome, live as a hermit, and later become the founding abbot of the Monte Cassino monastery.

I stand up and take the book off the shelf. The author is Gregg Levoy. I open it to the inside front panel of the dust jacket.

“How do we know if we’re following our true callings? How do we sharpen our senses to cut through the distractions of everyday reality and hear the calls that are beckoning us? …How do we distinguish the true calls from the siren song? How do we handle our resistance to a call? What happens when we say no? What happens when we say yes?”1

The questions resonate. So I sit back down and read a few random passages from the book. When it’s finally time for me to leave the library, I spread the newspapers back over the chair, wish the homeless woman well, and return Citadel of God to the shelves. Then I go to the front desk and check Callings out of the library. It will become a pivotal book in my life.

* * *

My dictionary defines a calling as “a strong inner impulse toward a particular source of action, especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.”2 Callings can arrive in a variety of shapes and sizes. My own significant callings include being drawn into the vortex of Light Morning; opening to the inner guidance that became Wax Statues; taking my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course; volunteering to be certified as an EMT in order to serve at Rescue 8; and applying for an 18-month program with the School of the Spirit. Entering each of these life-defining arenas came from following a quietly strong (if often disconcerting) inner knowing.

But listening for the more mundane impulses has been equally important. For the first time ever, for example, I recently joined a gym, needing to rehab an injured knee. But even after the knee had completely healed I kept up my membership. Many other health benefits had become obvious.

Mother Night

An impulse to start walking for miles in the middle of the night caught me by surprise. But I honored the impulse, choosing to use a flashlight as little as possible. Soon thereafter I “happened upon” an audio-book by Clarissa Pinkola Estés called Mother Night: Myths, Stories and Teachings for Learning to See in the Dark. I immediately knew that I would listen to these stories during my nighttime walks; and only during those walks.

Many years before, I had been led to another of her books. As recounted here, The Gift of Story deepened my appreciation for the medicinal properties of stories and dreams. Now I was walking down a back country road at 3 AM, just barely able to see by the starlight filtering through the trees, listening to Clarissa tell the timeless tale of Tiresias, the blind seer who had once been turned into a woman.

Tiresias appearing to Odysseus

According to Wikipedia, “Tiresias is presented as a completely liminal figure, mediating between humankind and the gods, male and female, blind and seeing, present and future, this world and the Underworld.”3 The liminal gifts and prophecies Tiresias shared with others, however, weren’t always gratefully received.

It’s easy to belittle the low-voltage nudges and insights that come through the back door of the mind. But nudge means “to push slightly or gently; get someone’s attention; prod someone into action.” The root meaning of nudge is knock. “Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” [Revelation 3:20 NIV]

We sometimes discount intuitive nudges. The dream-worker Robert Moss wrote a book called The Three “Only” Things. He recommends tapping the power of dreams, coincidences, and imagination, instead of dismissing them by saying “it’s only a dream; it’s only a coincidence; it’s only my imagination.”

Was finding Callings in the endless stacks of a large city library only a coincidence? Or was is serendipity: “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident”? Was finding Mother Night, soon after I’d started my nighttime walks, simply a happenstance? Or was it synchronicity: the word Carl Jung coined to describe meaningful but apparently non-causal coincidences?

Maybe the luminous threshold with its liminal gifts is all around us. Maybe the veil between the worlds is diaphanous. Maybe the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.

That we only need to open our eyes in order to see other worlds is out-pictured in the following dream. It’s the second of three dreams we’re using to explore the underlying themes of this paper. Last week’s dream was “Down Under;” next week’s dream will be “Ancient Fawn.”

This week’s dream is a striking illustration of what one spiritual tradition calls Indra’s Net. Here’s Alan Watts’ description of Indra’s Net: “Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum.”4

The title of the dream is “Harvesting the Moment Points.” The concept of moment points comes from a tradition that’s further out on the margins. In Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts, Seth says that he and his fellow discarnate entities “do not exist in any time framework as you know it. Minutes, hours, or years have lost both their meaning and their fascination.”

“We travel through various intensities,” he continues. “Our work, development, and experience all takes place within what I term the ‘moment point.’ Here, within the moment point, the smallest thought is brought to fruition, the slightest possibility explored, the probabilities thoroughly examined, the least or the most forceful feeling entertained.”5

The following dream, then, weaves together the idea of moment points, the image of Indra’s Net, and a belief that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. It was recorded on the morning of April 22nd, 1991.

Dew drops / Indra’s Net

Harvesting the Moment Points

Scene 1 I’m walking along a gravel road a mile or two from home. At a bend in the road I pause, maybe to pick up some litter. Then my eyes open and I suddenly see a myriad of small bubbles or spheres spread out across the landscape below the road, adhering to the bushes, trees, and grass like shimmering drops of dew. I wander among them, enchanted.

Each sphere is a moment, an energy, an impulse, an awareness. Whenever I “enter” a moment point and fulfill its essence, the path to another – or rather a series of others – magically opens. The path through the moment points isn’t a single-strand path, therefore. It’s a constantly expanding, multiple-opportunity exploration.

It’s like a treasure hunt. Each of the spheres contains clues to the next. Yet the clues and spheres aren’t objects or activities; they’re feeling-tones. That’s why there’s no set way to follow the trail of clues. For although the progression is from one feeling-tone to another, many of the bubbles, spheres, or moment points are able to elicit whatever feeling-tone is needed next.

Scene 2 Then a friend passes by on the road above me. She asks what I’m doing. When I try to explain, she suggests a better way. But she isn’t seeing the moment points. She’s only focusing on my outward activity, so she can’t understand my seemingly random behavior. And there’s no way I can explain, for it’s literally a case of “seeing is believing.”

Scene 3 Then comes the knowing that we move from sphere to sphere in the same way that a butterfly goes from flower to flower, gathering nectar from each blossom. We, too, collect an ineffable nectar; an ambrosia; a dew that’s both life-giving and life-enhancing.

This lies close to the heart of healing. It’s as though we all share, by birthright, an easement for the harvesting of the moment points that are spread out across the Earth. The recognition and utilization of such an easement brings healing.

* * *

Associations/Scene 1 Waking from the dream, I know why that one particular bend in the road was the setting for the dream. Many years before, several neighbors and I had come to the same place to remove two large trees that were blocking the road. They’d been blown down in a strong wind.

I was limbing one of the trees with an ax. As I moved from limb to limb, fully focused on the task at hand, my sense of Robertness unraveled. I no longer remembered where I was. Or who I was. Or what century it was. Name and age, time and place faded away, until all that remained was a wood-chopper, so engaged in the moment that he momentarily became formless and free.

This rare interval of self-forgetfulness happened at the same bend in the road where I later dreamed of the moment points spread out across the landscape like a vast web-work of luminous dewdrops.

* * *

The brief passage about moment points quoted earlier is from Seth Speaks, which was published nearly twenty years before this dream was received. Ten years after the dream, Volume 4 of The Early Sessions was published. In the following two passages from this book, Seth offers a tantalizing perspective on moment points and how they’re portrayed in this dream. And he does so while subtly encouraging us to soften our rigid fixation on linear time.

Portrait of Seth by Rob Butts,
Jane Roberts’ husband.

“You experience action as if you were moving along a single line, each dot on the line representing a moment of your time. But at the imaginary point on your line that represents any given moment, action moves out in all directions. From the standpoint of that moment point, you could imagine action forming an imaginary circle with that point as an apex. But this happens at the point of every moment.

“There is no particular boundary to the circle. It widens outward indefinitely. In the dream universe, in all systems of such nature, development is achieved not by traveling your single line, but by delving into that point that you call a moment.”6

* * *

“The ego is that portion of the self which experiences time as continuity, and to whom experience is a series of stimuli and responses carried on one after another… The simultaneous nature of a given action is here experienced in slow motion, as a child must learn to walk before the child can run.

“The subconscious, however, is not so limited. If you consider the ego at the apex of the moment point, and imprisoned therefore within the realm of its own before-and-after, cause-and-effect experience, then you can imagine the subconscious reaching further outward and seizing upon many other moment points.”7

* * *

Associations/Scene 2 Remember, I keep telling myself, don’t get lost in the literal content of the dream. All the dream characters are aspects of myself. I’m both the one who can see and the friend who can’t see. That’s why the admonition to love one’s neighbor, love one’s enemy, and love oneself are three ways of saying the same thing — love God.

* * *

Associations/Scene 3 Healing by Easement has always been the alternate title for this dream. Sometimes it’s been the second half of the title: Harvesting the Moment Points, Healing by Easement.

Butterflies are undeterred by garden fences and property lines. Once the appetites of the caterpillar and the constraints of the cocoon have served their purpose, butterflies move freely across borders and boundaries. They have a right of easement to follow the flowers.

We, too, have a right of easement. Once our own appetites and constraints have served their intended purpose, we, too, will be free to follow the dewdrop moment points, wherever they may lead.

Part Three of Liminal Gifts will be posted next week.

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