The last time I visited Whitby Abbey I was a boy. I recall little of it. Just that I was bored. Of course, I have been to Whitby many times since, often with my father who had business there. He would leave me for an hour or so to wander and once I recall taking my oil paints to paint the harbor. I was last there just a few years ago with my parents, ex-partner and daughter. I do like Whitby!
I must say that the abbey ruins are fairly impressive but I felt no atmosphere or energies. It seemed a dead ruin to me. A stark reminder of other times. As we pondered aspects of the Abbey in the context of the spiritual prompts of the weekend, my sense was of the skeletal remains of something erected to the glory of man rather than the glory of God. What was left reminded me of what Asteroth has called the ‘horny matter of experience’ – essentially, the structure that we build through life to protect ourselves, shut out the inner and act out our public outer selves. The spiritual activities that took place in the Abbey are no more and, for me anyway, have left no energy ripple in time that I could pick up. In considering this analogy, I was reminded of how we act out roles, how we have our sensitivities dulled by our experience of life, and how we often lose sight of the true spiritual nature of self.
“Let go!” someone said….. echoing Asteroth again.
We had each selected four words as we set out on the weekend. As we sat eating lunch, we each first held and then fished about in a bag for pieces of paper with four words. Mine was quite a shock at first – Meanness, Avarice, Non-attachment and Omniscience – it said. Strangely, or rather just like me, my focus was on the negative words and not on the positive ones. I don’t believe I am either mean or avaricious. In fact, I am anything but (although maybe I am blind to it?). Except, as Sue pointed out, possibly mean to myself.
So, as I considered this skeletal structure originally built to glorify God and as a place for men and women to worship and carry out God’s will, I could not help but see me reflected in it. Non-attachment was the word I wanted as I considered this.
A ruined Abbey. Is this a parallel for each of us as we live life? Born perfect and innocent yet, somehow soiled through living? Erecting our defenses consciously and subconsciously around us as horny matter or in this instance, bricks and mortar, losing sight of the living indwelling God within? Some forms of religious belief would have us soiled with original sin anyway – incapable of redemption without intervention. Perhaps, however, does the intervention need to come from within?
“Just let go….”
The contrast between the stark remains of the Abbey and the vibrant pulsating heart beat of the Church at Lastingham couldn’t be more apt. For me, one was a stark reminder of how life sucks you in. The other, held the promise of life….. a living guiding inner spirit.
Yes – non-attachment was the phrase of the weekend for me.
Each of us had chosen our words at the beginning. Divine providence had ensured we picked the words that would guide us and have us ask the right inner questions. I am not privy to what inner experiences my fellow seekers had, but I’m fairly sure they were also profound. So much of the mystical is deeply personal and yet, also universal.