Expansion and Contraction of Awareness

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The timeless expansion of awareness in illumination arises together with the continuing temporal contraction of awareness in purification because whilst glory breaks in with illumination, temporal awareness reasserts itself, dividing future glory from past glory, reducing timeless presence to a fleeting present.  Purification of the heart is already illumination in action, but temporal fluctuation subjects experience of uncreated light to unevenness, a coming and going that is only gradually cured by the immediacy of timeless glorification.  Since glorification is a mystery, Hesychast tradition does not often speak of it, preferring to abide in ineffable silence.  But living prophecy does speak to reveal the Name, although in a veiled language of ancient symbols, lucid to those who are awake, baffling to those who have not yet awakened.  Prophets were able to communicate these mysteries to apostles, who in turn were empowered to communicate them to elders, who then transmitted them to the saints, but sometimes saints awoke to these mysteries spontaneously, discovering later the glory of the grace that illumined them.  Always, in every case, turning purifies the heart so that seeing illumines the mind in the heart, because grace is grace whether or not there are saints to discern its glory.  The uncreated light of the Holy Spirit clarifies confusions and cures divisions by luminously encircling all centres of awareness, unveiling the presence of glory in the midst.

In the modern age, the practice of wisdom is often not recognised but post-modernity is gradually opening to perspectives that begin to make way for integral wisdom, and sometimes even to a desire to embrace a living practice of wisdom.  The awakening of the heart begins to resonate as throne and crown mysteries when the glory of grace is recognised.  Awakening begins to renew the creative imagination as well as the contemplative intelligence, transmuting external surfaces into luminous effulgence.  But illumination is not a quick fix, nor is deification a flash in the pan.  Hesychasm always prefers silence to curious chatter, releasing wisdom into wonder, rather than sophisticated theories or analysis.  When the single eye of the illumined heart awakens, wisdom discerns the glory of grace, transfiguring all seven centres of spiritual awareness.  The ancient wisdom of the patriarchal age was fully present in the prophets and alight in the apostles, renewing a living tradition of elders and glorified saints, lasting down to our own day.  The same science of light infuses the desert in every generation, although its living representatives may be very hard to find.  Wisdom’s generous favour has no special favourites, but there can be no doubt that some souls, like Saint Symeon the New Theologian, are riper than others, so when wisdom dawns, although uncreated light is one, some shine brighter than others.  

The intelligence of angels is unintelligible to materialists but intelligible to the awakened intelligence of saints, not because they are more intelligent than others but because they have been transformed by the uncreated intelligence of the Holy Spirit.  They see with the wisdom eye of the Spirit at centre and are awake to the Spirit’s awareness of glory, though never with the same degree of insight that the Spirit knows, through the glory of the Father expressed in the Son.  Wisdom is filled with a wondrous joy when the union of wisdom and glory transforms the heart into a Bridal Chamber, unveiling the mystery of the Holiest of Holies.  Awareness expands to the degree that timeless glory is unveiled, but contracts to the extent that awareness returns to temporal preoccupations with past or future, reducing the present to a passing moment.  Actually, the timeless presence of awareness is only a passing moment when obsession with time contracts it, for when awareness is timeless, it is boundless and ever-present, releasing thoughts of past and future.  The timeless radiance of the Holy Spirit is pure, boundless expansion, utterly transcending space and time.  ‘I AM’ is one and the same in all, but in the Spirit, the Holy Name of God reveals God, unconfined by confusion of ‘I AM’ with ‘me.’   God is indivisible in all, through all, when God’s Name unveils God in the midst.

It is not that the temporal ego is destroyed by timeless union with God but that it abides off-centre when union awakens to God at centre.  Glorification is a wholesome equilibrium between time and the timeless, transcending whilst including temporal self-awareness.  With glorification, spiritual crowning steadily expands, embracing contracted incompleteness within the Spirit’s timeless completeness.  This is an experience of the translucence of everything in the Holy Spirit, releasing everything into the co-inherence of wisdom and glory in the Spirit.  Translucence is the joy of grace uniting boundless expansion with contraction in such a way that the timeless embraces time by permeating time with timeless glory.  Hesychast wisdom has always said that uncreated energy is profoundly transformative, but it is the experience of glorification that reveals this to be true.  Purification is glory purifying in order to illumine the heart, transfiguring purgatorial fires into celestial light, to the extent that the human frame can bear it.  The heart can be awake even when sleep overwhelms both mind and body, restoring psychic balance as well as bodily strength.  Grace and mercy communicate wholeness through the invocation of the Jesus prayer, even when the prayer of the Name has become unceasing prayer in Spirit that imparts God’s glory as truth and life.

Elders in ancient times did not have access to the sciences of physiology and psychology that we do today but they were well aware of the existential unity of physiological and psychological phenomena through their psycho-physiological practice of wisdom.  The heart of light overflowing at the crown was familiar to all, giving rise to the iconographic depiction of the halo in Orthodox Christian icons.  The charisms of the Spirit were the gifts of wisdom on the path of glorification, well served by prophecy and prayer.  The sacred poetics of prophecy sustained the unceasing prayer of the Spirit in the heart, expanding awareness of crowning grounded in an awareness of enthroning glory.  In fact, with  crowning, enthroning is another ancient icon of embodied glorification, sustaining the experience of hallowing that earths doxological coronation.  Orthodox investiture is simply glorification lived as enthroning and crowning, including enthroned rainbow radiance, depicted in icons as the mandorla.  It is the activation of the spiritual body as the luminous body, including the uncreated rainbow body of the sacred imagination.

Grace blesses the whole body as well as the mind like an ambrosial nectar transmuting strain and stress into the bliss of ineffable beatitude.  Blessing expands timeless awareness by liberating temporal contraction into the rainbow radiance of the Great Expanse, extracting one-pointed focus from quintessential contraction and embracing boundless expansion as ineffable liberation.  This experience of focused expansion unites contraction with expansive liberation in ways that heal all division between time and the timeless.  This is deification that realises the grace of divine-humanity in Christ as the Spirit bears witness to it in the heart.  Prophecy opens this so that prayer can assimilate it, unveiling the mysteries of glory with radical self-emptying.  Prophecy blesses mind and heart so that prayer unites mind and heart in the grace of the Holy Spirit.  When awareness contracts, ever-present presence contracts into a fleeting present, hemmed in by past and future.  But when awareness is embraced by the Holy Spirit, it expands into timeless presence of timeless awareness, united by grace to the timeless life of God the Holy Trinity.

Wisdom overflows with wonder at the glory of grace, rejoicing in the expansive rainbow radiance of uncreated light, even when temporal contraction deprives the heart of awareness of that light for a time.  Faith, hope and love stand steadfast even when awareness is contracted by time, falling short of timeless wisdom and glory.  Timeless awareness is a boundless expanse, an infinite presence that never wavers, a liberated awareness that is not confined by past or future.  Awareness abides without contraction in the timeless awareness of uncreated presence when it abides in the Spirit, awake to the timeless presence of Christ restoring timeless glory to the Father.  There is no trace of temporal confinement or a fleeting present here in the timeless presence of awareness, in the awareness of timeless presence in the wisdom and glory of God the Holy Trinity.  Time releases into timeless presence when awareness releases into timeless awareness.  The contraction of timeless awareness liberates into an uncontracted expansion of awareness, opening awareness to presence and presence to awareness in timeless freedom.  Death releases me of ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ together with the contraction of awareness to fleeting moments of time.  But the Name imparts God’s self-revelatory ‘I’ awareness and ‘AM’ presence, together with the mystery of participation by grace in the truth and life of the Name.  Blessed, indeed, are all who abide in the Holy Name of God, because for them, death has no sting and resurrection is their victory.  Resurrection expands awareness, releasing every contraction into the expansive openness of wisdom, wisdom abiding at centre in glory.  In ascension, time is transfigured by the timeless so that the fleeting present of contracted awareness releases into the timeless presence of uncreated awareness, which in glorification, reveals timeless presence at the heart of deified awareness.