Epiphanic Consciousness


 I have yet again discovered a writer I love only to learn that she died recently. Just as in other cases, I discover someone and think: 'I'm going to write or call her. I'd love to talk personally with this inspired being and then, upon googling, read with dismay about a funeral service!’   

 In this case, I had stumbled upon an article written in 1994 by Professor Barbara Nolan, an English Literature Professor whose speciality was the medieval poetry of spiritual vision. My kind of interest. 

 The Professor got my attention, in particular, because she wrote about her journey towards what she called "a new way of seeing." Her focus was upon the practiced ability to behold epiphanies, moments of sudden revelation or insight.  

 Barbara's great yearning was to cultivate what I will call an 'epiphanic consciousness', a way of seeing which is a total contrast to that restricted and imprisoning level of ordinary consciousness which has been described as like living in an 'epiphanic prison.' 

 Barbara's search begin early in her life. "Once, when I was quite young, kneeling at the back of a darkened chapel, I found myself suddenly thinking that I could, if I wanted, choose sainthood for my life's work." (Barbara Nolan, the foreward to Gurumayi Chidvilasananda's The Magic of the HeartReflections on Divine Love, p 1x) 

 Now, who do you tell such a thing to, who won't think you're nuts?! Well, Barbara had trouble telling it to herself! Thus she negated her inspired and holy desire.  

 She did, what I think not a few do, when they've had the vision of a great  possibility. They dismiss it as unrealistic and impractical. To keep the vision at bay, one thinks of everything one can that is negative about it.

 In Barbara's case, she allowed images of "arduous penances," to come crowding into her mind. She thought of 'hair shirts, self-imposed suffering and joyless discipline.’ 

 And concluded: "Too hard, and what's more, sainthood is no way to make a living."   

 But even then, Barbara knew down deep, as she was refusing sainthood that, she was also "suppressing something as essential to myself as breathing." Which was her "love of the sacred to which she had been intuitively drawn from early childhood on." 

 She says that from that point on that, she left her heart 'partially open.'  Later, it was to open fully.

 Barbara's heart would open fully because of two events in particular. The first was that she came in contact with the heart-opening practices of Siddha Yoga Meditation and begin to practice meditation regularly. 

 The other event was when she learned that her husband Carlos was dying from a brain tumour.

 The structure of Barbara's experience then became her husband's journey toward death and her own journey to that new way of seeing.'     

 We then read that Barbara's dying husband was to be instrumental in leading his wife into that deeper seeing of an epiphanic consciousness. 

 Just months before his death, Carlos expressed the wish to return to his home in Milan. This was thought impossible in the light of his condition.

 Nevertheless, it was decided that this was a journey that had to be made, and the family travelled there for his last trip home.

 Barbara describes a certain wonderful weekend, that was to get even better!  It was when Carlos said to her 'out of the blue:' "I can't wait to enter a church.

 She asked him why and he responded: "To see it, to smell the incense, the candles burning."  

 After a church service, the spiritual adventure continued when Carlos decided suddenly to lead Barbara to a painting that had caught his eye.  

 It was a painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio featuring the shepherds adoring the newborn Christ child in the manger and the Magi arriving through a triumphal arch to offer their gifts." 

 In the painting, as Barbara describes it (shown above) "there are many layers of history and several events seem to lose their temporal sequence as they melt into a unifying, richly nuanced mystery. 

 "And the newborn baby by the power of his simple presentness, dominates everything else in it."    

 "The entire company - mother, shepherds, animals, wise men - are joined in the epiphanic moment of divine revelation."  

 "History no longer matters; the distinctions of social class no longer matter; death no longer matters. The presentness of the divine birth and spiritual discovery unite and enliven all to whom the epiphany is given."

 For Barbara, that painting would live on in her consciousness, its dimensions growing ever deeper, long after Carlos had died.  

 What Professor Nolan passes on in her article, and I pass on here, is the affirmation that it is possible to escape from "our ordinary ways of seeing into a new awareness of the Divine in every moment."

 Barbara wrote that we have the power to choose how we will see: "In every event, there are always two possibilities: either we see each moment and everything that happens around us through the filter of our rational minds, our limited sense of fairness, or by our often convoluted, self-absorbing psychological histories; or by making a subtle adjustment in our normal habits of "sight" and valuation, we can begin to see and even live epiphanically - to recognize in each moment, whatever its configuration, a revelation of Divine grace." (Barbara Nolan, Carlo's Gift, Everything Happens for the Best, Darshan, 1994) 

 Barbara continues in the article to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson who said once: "In our normal perception of our lives, "day creeps after day, each full of facts, dull, strange, despised things.”  

 But Emerson then writes about a 'meditative spirit' or epiphanic consciousness that can find gold and gems in one of these scorned facts and then understand that "that fact is an Epiphany of God."  

 Says Barbara Nolan: "Carlo's death was such a fact; sickness, divorce, injustices in the workplace, even humdrum work assignments are all such facts.”

"By shifting our angle of vision, says Barbara Nolan, by seeing "facts" as epiphanies of God, we can turn the facts to gold, perhaps even into the light of Divine presentness."


Audio: Two And A Nine by Melorman