This is a beautiful extract from Divine Beauty by John O’Donohue about the beauty of thought, what it reveals and how it gives rise to forms in imagination. We often believe we have to ‘get rid of thoughts’ on the spiritual path, but this passage brings a new perspective…
“It is one of the lovely ironies that our thinking about beauty has also revealed much about the beauty of thought itself. Thought is an amazing thing: it can be a mirror, a lens, a bridge, a wall, a window; a ladder or a house. There is nothing in the world that has the cutting edge of a new thought. It is fascinating to watch the clearance it can make and the new life it can bring. Often, without knowing it, we are waiting for a new idea to come and cut us free from our entanglement. When the idea is true and the space is ready for it, the idea overtakes everything. With grace-like swiftness, it descends and claims recognition; it cannot be returned or reversed. It becomes the mother of a whole sequence of new feeling, thinking and action. Though we live mostly in the visible world and our personalities, roles and work distinguish and identify us externally, we dwell more forcefully elsewhere. A person can dwell inside a thought. Sometimes a thought is the most intimate and sacred temple, a place where the silence of the earth is wed to the fire of heaven.
“Many of the most intimate presences in our lives dwell within us in the form of thoughts. Though you might live with the one you love, he remains only physically adjacent to you; however, the thought of him can enter into the centre of you and become as intimate to you as yourself. In one of his poems, Rumi explores the approach and encounter of two lovers but then concludes: ‘We were inside each other all along.’ The suggestion is that ‘being inside each other’ is what brought them together outwardly in the first place. The converse is also true: when a relationship between two people dies, they stop being inside each other though they may still live side by side. The same is true of family, friends and God: all enter us and remain with us through thought. Thought is more penetrating than light, it can travel further inwards to create an intimate world within the mind. This is at once the terror and the beauty of thought. Indeed, beauty itself can enter us as thought. In his poem ‘The Arrow’, Yeats says:
I thought of your beauty, and this arrow
Made out of a wild thought, is in my marrow.
“A prophetic thought claims its own future; it awakens, disturbs and brings transformation. Such a thought is a gift of the imagination. It is not an abstract ghostly cipher. In such a thought, spirit and sensuousness cross at the frontier of their richest tension and exposure. A great thought is a sense-spirit object. It takes on a life of its own. We are familiar in our history with certain frontiers where such thoughts awakened. At a personal level, each of us is aware of certain threshold times in the lives of our hearts when such thoughts arrived and changed everything.”
– from Divine Beauty by John O’Donohue