I am just back from spending a few days in Somerset with a dear friend whom I see too seldom. We shared a few days in Glastonbury, birthplace and setting of so many iconic myths and legends in England. We also visited the ancient and beautiful Cathedral at Wells and briefly the Gorge at Cheddar.
Three very different places, steeped in history and tradition, bursting with folklore and stories that chart the human story, from the bones of Cheddar Man, through the tales of Avalon and the coming of Christianity to the Isles.
Think of Glastonbury and the Tor looms over all, dominating myth as it does the landscape. The solitary tower on its summit stands as beacon in the Somerset Levels, capturing the imagination, carrying with it the emotion of whatever tradition one follows in the Mysteries. Below flow the waters of the red and white springs, the waters of the dragons, the milk of the Mother… or just a natural phenomenon. We each interpret according to belief.
The holy waters are again mirrored at Wells, where the great cathedral was built close to the sacred pagan springs. Roman occupation left its trace in the landscape now dominated by the delicate tracery of the stonemason’s art. How imposing must the building have seemed in the almost empty landscape from which it rose?
As inspiring as the towering geology of Cheddar, perhaps, where the waters seep through the stone creating a living cathedral of stalactites.
For some reason these few days have reminded me of an old Hindu prayer that I love.
“O Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations: Thou art everywhere, but I worship thee here; Thou art without form, but I worship thee in these forms; Thou needest no praise, yet I offer thee these prayers and salutations, Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations.”
I see no sin in being human. It is a stage in the evolution of the One Life, and as such is as sacred as any other. By embracing our human life we experience with passion the same energy that flows through all manifestation and it rises from the same sacred source. Like the waters of the springs it is part of a cyclical process that has meaning and purpose in its function.
Nor is limitation always a bad thing. Believe me, in the shops of Glastonbury limitation is a very good thing for two women intent on some serious retail therapy. Had my funds not been severely limited, I would have bought far more than incense and candles! Limitation forbade me the jacket that fit me perfectly and suited me like nothing I have ever donned before. But I enjoyed the trying on, enjoyed the exploration of what was on offer and have a wonderful collection of memories as souvenirs of my time with my friend. The only thing invested in those memories was love and laughter.
Limitation gives the framework in which we can operate fully. We are constrained by its boundaries, but those very walls give form to our activity as a chalice gives shape to the water it contains.
Three places these past few days have lifted my heart towards the One. Three very different places have drawn that inner response of joy and have done so in different ways, finding expression in a manner appropriate to the setting. From the magic of Glastonbury, to the beauty of Evensong in the Cathedral and the majesty of towering cliffs in the Gorge I have felt my heart sing, “ Thou are everywhere, but I worship Thee here….”