(To the children of Christchurch)
Sympathy is the elemental Angel who takes me by the hand – Leads me
To the small shaken voice of my granddaughter whose ten-year-old body, still
Reels from the overnight quakes & the recent 4.9 rumble beneath her room –Sympathy burns – She’s a blazing Seraph transfigured by an excess of clarity –
I am less certain – But still smell the smoke – Especially round my granddaughter
& the other boys & girls who show me their cracked trembling worlds –
Sympathy is my flickering heart fanned to flame by the breath of an Angel –
Till I sense the great terror entering my granddaughter’s post-Christmas world –
Till I feel my anger – my powerlessness – my instinctual love – till we struggle as One
Whakapapa: I started writing this psalm after the Boxing Day earthquakes 2010. I rang my son & granddaughter after the morning quake to see how they were. My granddaughter was outside on the driveway too afraid to enter her home. When I spoke to her, she was very shaken, quiet & frightened. Later in the day I was rung by the mother of a girl I’d been counselling as a result of the September 1st earthquake & aftershocks. The mother told me her daughter had spent two hours in tears after the Boxing Day quakes. On the TV news that evening, the acting Mayor of Christchurch talked about the effect of the quakes on the business district. I felt very angry. The business district was her primary priority. Nothing was said about the children of Christchurch who, the day after Christmas, had once again had their child worlds invaded by a huge scary earthquake. So I wrote the poem.
Part of the background of the poem is that I had been reflecting on ‘Sympathy’ for some months. I had felt drawn to ‘Sympathy’ as I read Tom Cheetham’s Book: After Prophecy; Imagination, Incarnation and the Unity of the Prophetic Traditions. Below are some quotes from the book. When Cheetham uses the phrases, ‘the True Prophet’ or ‘the Angel,’ he is speaking of the Self. When he speaks of ‘the opus,’ he is speaking of the transformative journey which leads to individuation. Individuation involves the ongoing realisation & manifestation of the Self. When he speaks of knowing something ‘esoterically’ he means knowing it inwardly & experientially (as contrasted with head knowledge). ‘Esoteric’ means ‘inner’, the experiential world of body, soul & spirit.
“When the lower soul, the ego, drops away, even for a moment – and this is often the best we can manage – we can see more clearly the beauty and the unselfish, giving love that connects us to the world and links all beings together. Sympathy calls us to compassionate action. Sympathy calls us to the world.” Pg 24
“And surely the opus is a lonely undertaking. Yet it is only by such a struggle to hear the voice of the True Prophet that the sympathy required for communion with other beings can be acquired.” Pg. 28
“There is an essential proportion between the visible and the invisible, and the ability to perceive this connection is based upon sympathy as a mode of perception. Corbin speaks of sympathy’s “poetic or cognitive” function. Only sympathy reveals ‘the angelic function of a being.’ It is this angelic function that makes possible a life in sympathy with beings, capable of giving a transcendent dimension to their being, to their beauty, to the form of their faith…’” Pg. 84
“The meeting with the Angel is a release, an opening toward a life in sympathy with the world and its inhabitants. It is an initiation into a form of life dedicated to the transmutation of idols into icons.” Pg. 119
“Love is personal, intimate, and particular and can only be understood esoterically. It is the means by which the esoteric is known. The Personal face of the Angel opens us to the sympathy which enables us to feel compassion. And this brings us to tears.” Pg. 135
After Prophecy; Imagination, Incarnation and the Unity of the Prophetic Traditions: Tom Cheetham.