Symbols are deeper than words; speak when words become silent; gain where words lose meaning; and so in hours of holiest worship the Church teaches, by symbols, truths language may not utter.  (Emphasis added.)

A. M. Fairborn, in Catholicism, Roman and Anglican

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Psychiatrist Carl Jung held the view that religion was full of symbols with important psychic value, that is: symbols that revealed our self to our self, that provided wholeness and health.

That being the case, religion leads us to a whole self, a self fully and safely revealed.

What if, as is the case today, a culture dismisses religion, individuals reject religion?  Well, illness and disorder ensues.  A culture and its people become sick, unhealthy, psychologically disturbed – and few have any self-knowledge and wisdom becomes rare and utterly unrecognizable to the populace.

Rather sounds like today.

Imagine if you have a leader who is among the sick, one who rejects religion as unnecessary.  Or you have legislators and members of the Supreme Court of the same ilk, local city councils with the same view.  Well in these circumstances, children are killed in the womb, their organs harvested and sold, marriage gets redefined, estranged young men with drug histories walk into churches and kill innocent people attending a prayer service and police are told to go easy on violent urban rioters.

It stuns me that we are unable to see the nature of the problems we encounter or understand the course of illnesses pursued by those who would govern.  How can the sick and the blind lead?  And what of the purported scholars?  The media pundits?

It is never a good thing when disordered people wish to govern others.  Need we ever say more of exclusionary secularism and humanism?

Religion is the supreme art of humanity.

Abba Hillel Silver


Note – One of the big problems of today’s Church is this: it is not aware of the nature of secularism and its devastating consequences to the society, government and the individual through its hostility to God and faith.

There are alleys in the soul where man walks alone … a world of privacy … Life comprises not only arable, productive land, but mountains of dreams, an underground of sorrow, towers of yearning, which can hardly be utilized to the last of the good of society …

Abraham Joshua Heschel

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Yes.  We have within us, when we give it time and recognition, “alleys in the soul” where we walk alone amid dreams, and sorrow and yearning.

For most of our life these lay within: ignored, dormant, unattended for we are occupied, preoccupied, claimed by the world of work, and obligations, entertainment and distraction, the intervention of others, events that find us.

But alas turn to the quiet and you enter the alleys of the soul.  And you wonder. What is this all about, this living – a life?  And how has the world moved away from me in so short a span of sixty years, or seventy?

Thus it is and more so when the pace of change accelerates as it has in the last century.  Change that re-orders life itself, and its vital (formerly stable) understandings and institutions.

A dear friend told me of her adult, educated son who said that he and his wife were getting a divorce … and three weeks later purchased a large home to reside in.  Another dear friend told me she was stunned when one of her sons, educated and successful, spoke admiringly of a useless, secretive, greedy, dishonest in-law despite knowing that the in-law was a fiercely aggressive adversary of his mother.

Lest you think that our walk in the alleys of our soul is without its benefit, think of this – who among us, expect us, has the time to ponder these things and stand and witness, speak with an informed heart that has been culled from years of toil and pain, surprise and disappointment, sadness and joy?

The point is this: elders have a place, and wisdom to share.  What we have others younger than us need.

In saying this I am reminded of a speech that psychiatrist Scott Peck gave in May 1992 in which he lamented the loss of understanding of and appreciation for the place of spirituality in the needs of men and women in his profession and the public they serve.

He spoke at that time of spiritual development as giving one access to “the unseen order of things,” a phrase he borrowed from the highly gifted and esteemed psychologist William James whose short book Varieties of Religion is a must read.

Yes, “the unseen order of things.”  In the alleys of the soul we come to such “things” and their “order.”

In a culture that segregates the elders, while its young swirl in confusion and growing blindness … despair and worse, do those of us who are “alley dwellers” not have a role?  Are we not needed?  Is wisdom not in short supply and its need large?  Is compassion not diminished and discontent multiplied?

If your education has not included the things that would help you come to know the “alleys of the soul” or tasks have denied you the time to ponder the dreams, sorrows and yearnings within, take time – read, sit in quiet, engage knowledgeable others so you might speak, help and restore a health to a culture that is lost and getting more so every year.  Those younger than us are our children, they are missing what we now possess.

The soul … presses upward … It distrusts things seen … It seeks things which truly and everlastingly are.

Desiderius Erasmas, in Enchiridion


Note – I will shortly develop a short reading list of books that you will find useful in your efforts to situate yourself in this troublesome culture.  Why?  Our educational system has short-changed us, conformed us to a disordered culture.

Christian love, which applies to all, even one’s enemies is the worse adversary of Communism.

N. Bukharin, in Pravda, March 30, 1934

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I have been reading Peggy Noonan’s When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan.  It is a relaxing read and written in Ms. Noonan’s easy style, one in which the reader feels as if she is sitting in your living room chatting with you.

It is a delightful read about an interesting man, one of character whose life, like each of ours, had its substantial hurdles.

In Mr. Reagan’s case he faced poverty, the Great Recession of the 1930’s, a father who wrestled recurrent unemployment and alcoholism, a divorce he did not want, loss of his acting career, and conflict with the Communist Left in the Hollywood labor unions of 1940’s-50’s.

Yes, he was down, and he was up – but through it all he maintained his character, and his good values.

It is Ms. Noonan’s account of the conflict with the Communist Left that speaks to me today.

In particular I am struck by how the conduct of those Leftists mimics the conduct of the American Left today.

First, if you took a view different from the one they held you were persona non grata – simply unwelcome, the enemy, called a right-wing zealot or worse.

Second, they were not interested in argument, a test of ideas publicly aired.  If you were out of step with their views you were attacked personally, your career was at risk.  Freedom of speech was neither cherished nor encouraged; it was not tolerated if your words did not match their view.  People were silenced. Conformity was enforced.

The Left he encountered was secretive.  They worked in silence to gain control over useful institutions and power. They sought to control.  They attacked those who stood in opposition and name-calling and character assassination were invoked, reputations were targeted.

They spoke a common language of conflict and division.  They divided people from one another.

They were hyper-political, consumed by it.  They saw themselves as superior to others, smarter, more knowledgeable, as people alone “divined” to govern by the dint of their intellect.  They practiced a modern gnosticism – they knew better than others.

They threatened violence and donned the public cloak of “progressives” – the benevolent “new idea” people;  yet, always their ideas were designed to centralize power and put them in control.

Their loyalty was to ideology not country.  They had contempt for democracy.

I am struck by the circumstances Ms. Noonan recounts and how much like the Left of today this conduct is, and by the fact that virtually no one in public life or public media makes any mention of this.

Yes, those who forget history are to relive it.

Sacred history is not restricted to the contents of the Bible, but is still going on; we are living in sacred history.

Jean Danileou, The Lord of History

Are you struck by circumstances?  Do you live in sacred history?  Or do you live otherwise?


We are all … of God only insofar as we are seeking God and only in so far as we find Him in the truth about ourselves.  Silence, solitude, and seclusion are means to this and nothing more.

Fr. Flavian Burns

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These are words in a homily delivered at the Abbey of Gethsemani by Fr. Flavian Burns the day after his fellow monk Thomas Merton died.

I write with gentle Gregorian chant in the air as night surrounds and crickets sing. There is a sound to summer nights just as there is a door to the Divine.  The door is you.  Yes, we find Him in the truth about ourselves.

The antithesis of course is to stay on the surface, trapped in the ego – never going deeper, staying fortified on the surface, fighting life in its circumstances and those we encounter from the shallow fortress of selfishness, a brittle posture of fear and instant hostility triggered to hurt and ward off all that might challenge us to grow.

To live in the ego is to live in a lie, a life of lies – self-made falsehoods, hurled at all outside of our small false claim.

We live better unarmed.  We lay down the weapons when we enter ourselves, where God waits.

Yes, God sits in the truth about ourselves, the honest self-examination.  The look without excuse or defense – the acceptance of a guilty plea that illuminates the unwarranted grace that saves a soul like me.

In silence, solitude and seclusion we meet ourselves in truth.  This itself a holy transaction, for how else can you be present to your own birth?

Take in the quiet alone and meet who you are in truth.  In Dante’s walk a life is honestly observed … even the parts with tears and faults, fractures and missteps each surpassed by grace.

” … we find Him in the truth about ourselves.”


Welcome Back to Spirlaw

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces more fruit.

Jn 12: 24

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Honestly, I doubt that we fully absorb all the lessons in the Gospel, or that we can do so in a life time.  We are, surely, not God and not easily able to hear, see or understand as God teaches, appropriate the scope of the wisdom and meaning of what we are told, or given to see and experience.  Such is the distinction between mortal and immortal, the Divine and each of us.

That is, of course, not to say that we may never hear, or see or understand but that it does not come instantly – and, better yet, we progress in sight, hearing and understanding over time.

The point: stay with faith, attend to the Gospel throughout your life and, yes, you will gain wisdom and insight, come to a fullness of being and draw closer to God.

My friend Marty, a faithful and learned man, a gentleman, a father, a brother, a husband – now a widower helped me think more deeply about the above passage.

I stayed with Marty, in his 80’s and fit as a fiddle, this past weekend and Marty said to me that he sees himself in the final third of his life and he wondered what God might ask of him.  He was implying, in part, that he wondered what might be asked of him when he came to the point where he was limited and needed the help of his children or others.

A fair question indeed.

I instantly responded – and, yes, responded not from the head but the heart –from the Spirit … 

“Marty, you will be a grain of wheat,” I said.

I went on to say that he would in his need teach those who loved him and others how to love, and serve, and come to give them in his need a divine lesson, a lesson that would deepen their understanding of God, of love, of life, of being human, of sacrifice, of faith and the absolute gift God imparts to all things.

You see when we suffer, falter, or come to the end – others who walk with us learn what cannot be learned in any other event but serving the needs of those who once seemed so invincible, so successful.  There is, frankly, a shared humility in being in need of help – especially in the final scene of the last act of a human drama that is our life.

Jesus is telling us this in discussing his “final hour.”  But understand he is not telling us something limited to his final hour – but that which is true of each of us.  We are, in our mortality and missteps, that piece of grain, too.

There is in all things, even decline and need, God teaching us and others.  There is good in what appears to us less so. There is in this proof of God’s omnipotence, unbounded wisdom, eternal scope, and of eternity.

The grain that dies creates living – as Jesus did and as we, too, are invited to do.

Rest in certainty.  Fear not.  You and I are a grain of wheat.  We will fall to the ground and life will have been born anew – especially in those called to stand and sit with us when the journey enters in latter stages.


It is good to be back with my friends.

Preview Post Today, July 25, 2015

Renew Daily Posts on Tuesday, July 28th – Internet Installed on Monday

Thank you for staying with me during my two week absence.

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Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.

Mt 5: 8

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You may not recognize this Gospel passage but it comes from The Sermon on the Mount.  You and I see God when we have a clean heart.  The cleaner the heart, the better the vision.

This makes sense.  If we purge ourselves of prejudice, anger, envy, fear, hatred, pettiness and such, we are moving toward God by becoming more who God made us to be, and – frankly – more like the God we seek, the God who made us and all Creation.

How does one progress to a pure heart?  I offer an answer within your easy grasp. Prayer.  I will go one better.  I will offer you a very simple centering prayer – one you can use daily and not forget.

In centering prayer we draw to a quiet place and fix on one phrase and repeat it, dropping the first or last word each recitation until we are left with one word – the essence of our desire.  You may want to repeat each line more than once.  I usually recite each line three times, in quiet with my eyes closed.  In doing this, my heart is settled and I focus in ways that I most often cannot.

Here goes:

Make for me a pure heart.

For me a pure heart.

Me a pure heart.

A pure heart.

Pure heart.


Yes, in seeking a pure heart, you need only ask God and your prayer will be answered as this desire is internalized and you become more conscious of it daily.

God bless.  We meet again, on Tuesday, next.

Peace be with you.  Thank you for your continued interest and friendship.  We have culture to change, and a faith to share.  Tally-Ho!

Friends, I am moving to be closer to my family.  Yes, boxes, duct tape, rented truck and all.  As you can appreciate this is an involved process but to assume more Grandpa-time and be closer to my son and his family is WELL WORTH the effort.  That said I will take time away from writing while I settle in.  I assume about two weeks ought to do it.  I need, for example, to secure an internet hookup.  This will be the first time I have not done a daily post in about five years.

I invite you to review past posts by category.  There are over 1600 past entries – all grouped by category.  Sorry for the absence.  I know that you understand.

God bless, Bob. 


We see the most proper image of the beauty of Christ when we see beauty in the human soul.

Jonathan Edwards

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Ah, yes.  But do we see it?  Do we see beauty?  See Christ?  Know our soul?  Our self?

Or are we a culture blind to beauty?  To the soul?  If so, then to Christ.  And what a cost.  The cost of life itself, and our wholeness, peace and health – physical, psychological, social, emotional, interpersonal and spiritual.

Without beauty we are blind, lost, dismembered, alienated, confused, in pain, sick and unsettled.

Why is beauty ignored?  Has it ever been the focus of your “education?” Do you recall a single book, or lecture or quotation about beauty?

Why not?  And who is to blame?  What does this say about life as it has been presented?  As it is presented?


See you in two weeks.

… writing … one of the conditions on which my perfection will depend …

Thomas Merton

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This is another entry from Merton’s journal.  The date: September 1, 1949.

There is a truth to what he says of those who read, and write.  He makes me wonder what that truth says, how it is filled out.

He speaks of writing on his death bed, of how he must “put down on paper” what he has “become.”  Likewise, how in writing he remains himself and how putting himself “down on paper” demands “the most complete simplicity and integrity, masking nothing, confusing no issue.”

Strikingly, he calls it “a kind of crucifixion” that “so much requires honesty” and “a holy transparency … losing (himself) entirely by becoming public property … (his) way to solitude.”

I am struck by this and it makes me ask: Why do I write?

It is for me a giving.  A contact.  A connection with others, someone.

Does it come from loneliness or from the drive for friendship, fellowship?

This I do not know.  I presume that latter for we are social beings and complete in the contact with one another.  Friendship is such a deeply interior desire, our nature when we are whole.  But, then too, it is a bridge to solitude and the self within, our soul and its doors to the collective unconscious … to those kin who have come from long before, spoke different languages and drew on cave walls.

We are alone when we write.  It is now 3 a.m. and the rain is falling and it is quiet but for the rain and the clicking of the keys on the keyboard.

Writing is such an odd combination of reaching out in silence to those whose names and particular state of being you may not know, and being in solitude at the very same time.

A public crucifixion?  I do not know, but I do often think of Christ who died for all those yet to be born.  I suppose that is the reach of friendship and love and sacrifice … and, perhaps, of writing.  We read, after all, the words of others from days long past and they speak to us as if today.

It is 3 a.m. and it is raining.  I sit in solitude and reach out as the keys click and the rain drops soothe and speak.


Everything hangs on the possibility of … understanding, which forms our interior bond, and is the only basis of true peace and true community …

Thomas Merton

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Monk Thomas Merton tells in a journal entry in October 1958 of receiving a letter from writer Boris Pasternak and detecting that he and Pasternak shared a deep and fundamental understanding as to life, faith and the world.

Hence the above observation.

Yes, shared understanding does form the essential and longed-for interior bond we need as human beings.  Yes, I am talking about intimacy, real human contact – the kind that allows a reader to know a writer without ever having met him, for reader and writer to become friends.  Yes, intimacy – the thing that makes a friend, a brother – that makes a wife and husband one whole being.  Yes, intimacy that makes a neighbor part of you.  Yes, intimacy that makes a community a community, a nation a nation.

Having said that, we are not an intimate nation.  We have strayed from what we once were.  No Pledge of Allegiance recited anymore.  The elevation of the individual over all else.  Constant agitation that is called “advocacy” – what I call “special pleading” – an unsavory self-proclamation that divides and creates discord.  Must a homosexual couple really demand their local Mom-and-Pop bakery deliver a cake to their “wedding?”  Is it really necessary to offend or destroy another to “get your way?”  Where is the intimacy in that?

When have you seen or heard anyone stand up for another person who held a view that was not their own as well? This is a rare event now.  It used not to be. It is what I did all my life and as a lawyer everyday.

We have become in the last Leftist filled sixty years a divided nation – much like the Greeks who run up debt and refuse to honor the implicit promise that entails. Yes, selfish and self-centered.

There is no intimacy in doing what you want and shifting the cost to others.  No decency in that, no understanding – nothing in common, no union.  And we see that daily at-large and in our own lives.

In that October journal entry Merton also says this as to understanding:

External, juridical, doctrinal, etc. bonds can never achieve this … my vocation is intimately bound up in this bond and this understanding …

Mine, too.

We have a parade of people seeking to become our next President.  Their focus is on policy.  However, our fundamental problem is about understanding, intimacy, community and peace.

Only a mature and developed person of spiritual depth and independence can speak to that essential need without which there is no nation, nor human wholeness.  Become neighbors and friends and anything is possible.  Be adversaries and nothing is possible.


Please Note – I am having computer problems and will be relocating in the next week.  It may come to pass that I will, for the first since I began writing Spirlaw, miss some time in my daily publishing.  I will let you know if that becomes a necessity.

I’ve found that contemporary psychology enrages me with its simplistic ideas of human life, and also its emptiness.  In the cosmology that’s behind psychology, there is no reason for anyone to be here or do anything.  We are driven by the results of the Big Bang, billions of years ago, which eventually produced life, which eventually produced human beings, and so on.  But me? I’m an accident – a result therefore a victim.

Well, if I’m only a result of past causes, then I’m just a victim of those past causes.  There is no deeper meaning behind things that gives me a reason to be here.

James Hillman

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Psychotherapist, teacher and writer Jim Hillman bravely challenges the thinking in his profession and in our time. Well read and thoughtful, he looks deeply and sees the “holes” in our game.

In the above quote he speaks of a fundamental proposition we face today in Western culture: knowing why we are here, a ground of meaning that leads each to recognize their purpose in being, gives each direction – a staying power in the face of suffering, misfortune and life’s inevitable challenges.

To those who lack a faith narrative, or those who reject faith narrative – there is no particular reason to “be here.” Consumption does not explain our need to be.  Nor does appearance, nor power or status.

Wonder why the young are suicidal?  Meaning.  It has been (in a significant measure) drained from the culture.

People are not easily given to determine their own purpose.  To attempt to invent a meaning and person is like trying to create your own conception, fertilize your own egg.

Hillman’s view is a classical view – that we are souls, and each has a soul in which there is a calling, an inborn meaning and identity, and it is our task in life to realize our call, our identity and live out its imperative.

This is thinking that has been echoed throughout time but muted in the modern age.  Now muted we are lost, self-injuring, chaotic, sick.  We are far from the words of the Bhagavita-Gita, Svetavatara Upanishad, Socrates, Cicero, Seneca, Origen, Aquinas, Newman, Emerson, Berdyaev, Dawson, Maritain, et al.

Without meaning we are ill-equipped to face the inevitable challenges to life itself – the challenges that have us ask: Will I fight to live? Will I die to live or for others that they might live?

Brings to mind the memorable lines of novelist Cormac McCarthy in No Country for Old Men in which the narrator, Texas Sheriff Ed Tom Ball, thinks of the men he knew who held his job and did it well and the utterly incomprehensible violence he now faced doing their job.  Says Ed Tom:

The crime you see now, its hard to even take its measure.  It’s not that I’m afraid of it.  I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job … But I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand … A man would have to put his soul at hazard.  He would have to say , okay, I’ll be part of this world.

If you wonder about us now, and the West and you cannot understand our reticence, think about the soul, purpose, meaning, Ed Tom, Creation, the Judeo-Christian narrative, Christ, the history of the West, your birth.


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