Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallow Even

Desert Oasis
-a thin place-

It's Halloween - children in costumes "trick or treating" from door to door, carved pumpkins, scary images of skeletons and graveyards, parties and parades. While this is what happens on Halloween in our contemporary times, the origins of this day are considerably different and far more "spiritual."

Way before the dawn of Christianity, the ancient Celtic peoples of the British Isles designated certain places and various times of the year as "thin places." 

These ancient pagan Celts were a particularly spiritual people. They believed that the world available to the senses (what you could see or taste or touch or smell) was nothing more than a veil separating human beings form a richer, deeper,  more mystical world - an awesome world of Divine Holy Presence where everything and everyone is intimately interconnected and intertwined. (The famous "Celtic knot" is a rich symbol of this intertwined inner world on the other side of the veil.) 

The Celts believed that sometimes this separating veil was like a thick wall making it extremely difficult if not impossible to experience the Divine Presence and the mystical world. However, at other times the wall became very thin (a thin space) - a mere veil, with the sense of the mystical just a breath away.

The Celts believed that certain geographical areas were particularly "thin places (the cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea were thin places).  They also believed that certain times of the year were "thin places/thin spaces." 

Just as the seasons were about to change and the hint of winter was in the air, the night before the first day of November was one of those "thin spaces" of time. The ancient Celts called this mystical night:  "All Hallow Even."  

On "All Hallow Even" the veil between heaven and earth, the veil separating the living from the dead was was very, very thin. This was not a night to be frightened by scary images of dead people, but rather it was a holy night, an awesome night of communion with "heaven and earth"-communion with everything and everyone on the other side of the veil. 

I actually very much believe that there are "thin places" in life. If you live in a desert, you almost can't help but believe in thin places because, unlike any other places I have ever lived, the desert, itself, is a thin place. 

There has not been one time when I have walked out onto the desert floor where I haven't felt like some sort of door has been opened - when the thick walls of separation become mere veils and I am invited into that mystical world of a cosmic knot of interconnection - the world of Divine Presence.

And yes, even in the thin place desert landscape, for me, some desert places are "thinner" than others.  

My Meditation Garden is a very thin place as I sit there every morning when the sun rises, the wind howls, and all creation sings in a cosmic harmony.

The night time desert sky is also a very thin place for me. The vast untamed immensity of the cosmos encompasses me; it humbles my ego and exalts my being all at the same time. 

There is also a little palm oasis in the middle of the desert floor not far from my desert retreat house. Almost every day we walk our dogs up to that oasis - a cooling breeze blowing, the vast expanse of space before me, always so amazingly beautiful. It is a very, very thin place.

Tonight may be an occasion for Halloween parties, costumes, candy and "trick or treat." But it is also "All Hallow Even." Tonight is a mystical night, a "thin place" time.

On this holy night I will sit in that thin place under the cosmic skies.  I can only wonder and barely imagine what will be opened up to me.   

A wisdom saying in the Sufi tradition seems to be perfect for this "All Hallow Even:"

Know that all that is, is nothing more than that which God veils Himself.
If it were not for your ego and your alienation, 
you would look upon Him face to face.

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