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Bede Griffiths on the Abyss

I’ve started re-reading Bede Griffiths, Return to the Centre, a wonderful book I first attempted to understand when I was 16. This time through, I have help.

I think of hexagram 29, the Repeating Chasm, as a dark place of bottomless depths. Yi talks of ‘holding fast your heart’ here, I think, because there is nothing else to hold onto – nothing solid, no way to orient oneself.

And from the Sequence of hexagrams, I have the understanding that you arrive here by ‘greatly overstepping’, in hexagram 28, all the usual boundaries. The familiar frameworks are buckling with the ridgepole; somehow you have to find a way to go beyond them. At the extreme of the experience, 28.6, it goes beyond ‘making sense’ altogether:

‘Stepping over, wading, water covers your head.
Pitfall.
No mistake.’

Now I come back to Bede Griffiths, and 28.6 makes a new kind of sense:

‘So all existence, all thought, loses itself in a void, a darkness, an abyss, where all landmarks fail. No wonder people are afraid of going beyond being, beyond thought – one may lose one’s self entirely. And yet – “he who will lose his life [or ‘soul’] shall save it.” If we do not make this plunge, we shall never reach the Truth. Every great religious tradition has known this… . Without this basis in the Transcendent, the Inexpressible, all revelations would lose their meaning.’

One response to Bede Griffiths on the Abyss

  1. I met Bede Griffiths when he came from India to California with Paul Russell, the musician. When he first came, he stayed at the Empty Gate Zen Center, then on Arch street in Berkeley. I remember when he gave a short talk thinking that this was a soul of real spirit. He was kind enough to speak with me privately for a time afterwards. He was gentle with a paper-thin transparency at the eyes and hands.

    There are so many hexagrams that apply to great souls, depending on the circumstances in which one meets them. For me at that time it was important to know that the spiritual path was real, that it had validity, and in particular that the attempt to join Christianity with the spiritual tranditions of India was no betrayal, but rather a fulfillment. This gave me the freedom for years of subsequent work. This is what the old can do for the young, allay their fears and set them on a fruitful path.

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