"The true vision of God consists in this, that the soul that looks up to God never ceases to desire Him."
Gregory of Nyssa
Pop spirituality tends to demonize longing and yearning, informing us that any sense of lack we may feel is in reality a painful illusion that should be quickly filled with a belief in the power of ever-present "abundance." However, in the mystical traditions of Christianity and Islam, this yearning - when oriented toward the search for Truth - IS the experience of the Divine and should therefore be valued as an endlessly precious jewel.
Today in my Naropa class we talked about a 4th century mystic named Gregory of Nyssa, who grew up in Asia Minor (in modern-day Turkey) where my grandfather was born. Gregory was in love with and endlessly fascinated by Divine transcendence. He loved mystery! For him, the mysterious Divine Source dwells on the endless horizon of Being, beckoning to us like a series of mountain peaks shrouded in mist.
The decisive factor for Gregory is the LONGING that our quest for this infinite Horizon elicits in us. He realized in fact that our longing to experience ever closer glimpses of God will continue for all eternity, and that every insight we receive paves the way for a desire to experience EVEN MORE of the divine mystery. It is for this reason that our longing is actually endless and eternal! In fact, Gregory consistently sees desire as ITS OWN fulfillment!
Gregory understood that the limitless quality of our yearning or lack actually corresponds to and participates in the limitless quality of divine infinity! Or, as Anne Carson says in "Eros the Bittersweet," our seemingly infinite sense of lack comes from the fact that our Source - The Beloved - has "taken a bite out of us," and "consumed a part of us" - so ravenous is He and She for our love! This is, of course, the flip side of the fact that some part of each of us - both men and women - wants to be TAKEN and consumed by Beauty, and longs to surrender endlessly to that Beauty!
Thus, it begins to dawn on us that our endless desire is actually a direct experience of UNION with a Beloved who ravenously absorbs us into Itself so that we might live the Divine Life FROM WITHIN !
Photo: Misty spires just up above Emerald Lake, with a Limber Pine stump in the foreground; Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, January 25, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.