Seeing With The Third Eye : Wednesday Sixth Week Ordinary Time Mass and Reflections Seeing With The Third Eye

Mass readings for today are here

Gospel Mark 8 22-26

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”


Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even
go into the village.”


                                                                                   Image of blind man from here 

It’s no coincidence that so many of the miracles in the Gospels involve healing someone suffering from blindness. Sight is a common metaphor for faith and so much depends on our ability to see with perspective.

Our world today is filled with people who are blind and yet see, who claim to see and yet are blind, who could see but choose to keep their eyes closed. 

 Richard Rohr also says "Nothing is more dangerous than those who presume that they already see." 

Some commentators say that this is essentially a parable that Jesus is acting out for his disciples and draws our attention to the fact that Jesus heals the man's blindness in two phases . They emphasise that Jesus obviously could have healed him perfectly the first time, but He was teaching his disciples something as He gradually restored this man's sight. 

This passage along with its broader context give a glimpse into the nature of the discipleship of Jesus' closest followers.The disciples are blinded to who Jesus really is despite Him  demonstrating His power to them day by day right in front of their eyes. Their understanding is coming, but it is coming in stages. 

 Right after this healing, Peter finally "sees" and confesses Jesus’ identity, that Jesus is “the Christ.” But then, Jesus begins to tell them that the Messiah must suffer, which they don’t fully understand. They see, but not clearly.


 At the transfiguration, Jesus allows the dazzling light of his full divinity to break through whereas after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus he only gradually reveals Himself in a more subtle way until the two disciples recognise who he is in the breaking of the bread.





So as I reflect on this I ask myself what can I do to to avoid being counted among those who have eyes but do not see, and those who have ears but do not hear ? 








 Richard Rohr  has written a piece entitled Mysticism in Religion: Three Ways of Seeing, here in The Huffington Post giving insight into a different way of seeing with the "third eye" and a capacity that he suggests we need to nurture. 

It intrigues me that his recent piece has attracted so much recent attention because really the concept of seeing with the third eye is nothing new and Rohr's views are already expressed in his book The Naked Now.

The idea of the third eye has been around in both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions for a long time and is commonly used by Jungian therapists and by the founder of archetypal psychotherapy James Hillman, who has been credited with "restoring 'soul' to its psychological sense. 

Seeing with the "third eye" is not some geeky New Age frivolous trend,  but it is perfectly in keeping with Catholic teachings and is evident in the lives and writings of so many of the saints like St John of The Cross, St Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart and St Francis of Assisi to name just a few.

Although the words soul and spirit are often viewed as synonyms, Hillman argues that they can refer to antagonistic components of a person. 

Summarizing Hillman's views, author and psychotherapist Thomas Moore associates spirit with "afterlife, cosmic issues, idealistic values and hopes, and universal truths", while placing soul "in the thick of things: in the repressed, in the shadow, in the messes of life, in illness, and in the pain and confusion of love." 

Rohr often borrows from Hillman's  beliefs that religion—especially monotheism and monastic faiths—and humanistic psychology have tended to the spirit, often at the unfortunate expense of soul. 

This happens, Moore says, because to bypass the "lowly conditions of the soul ... is to lose touch with the soul, and a split-off spirituality, with no influence from the soul, readily falls into extremes of literalism and destructive fanaticism."  and Hillman's archetypal psychology is in many ways an attempt to tend to the oft-neglected soul, which Hillman views as the "self-sustaining and imagining substrate" upon which consciousness rests, and "which makes meaning possible, deepens events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern" as well as "a special relation with death.

Departing from the Cartesian dualism "between outer tangible reality and inner states of mind," Hillman takes the stance that there is a "third, middle position" in which soul lives. 

Archetypal psychology acknowledges this third position by attuning to, and often accepting, the archetypes dreams, myths, and even psychopathologies through which soul expresses itself.

I have posted the whole of Richard Rohr's article below ...

"Three men stood by the ocean, looking at the same sunset. 
One man saw the immense physical beauty and enjoyed the event in itself. This man was the "sensate" type who, like 80 percent of the world, deals with what he can see, feel, touch, move, and fix. 

This was enough reality for him, for he had little interest in larger ideas, intuitions, or the grand scheme of things. He saw with his first eye, which was good.
A second man saw the sunset. He enjoyed all the beauty that the first man did. Like all lovers of coherent thought, technology, and science, he also enjoyed his power to make sense of the universe and explain what he discovered.

He thought about the cyclical rotations of planets and stars. Through imagination, intuition, and reason, he saw with his second eye, which was even better.
The third man saw the sunset, knowing and enjoying all that the first and the second men did.

But in his ability to progress from seeing to explaining to "tasting," he also remained in awe before an underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness that connected him with everything else. 

He used his third eye, which is the full goal of all seeing and all knowing. This was the best.

The Urgent Need For Contemplative Seeing
Third-eye seeing is the way the mystics see. They do not reject the first eye; the senses matter to them, but they know there is more. Nor do they reject the second eye; but they know not to confuse knowledge with depth or mere correct information with the transformation of consciousness itself.

The mystical gaze builds upon the first two eyes -- and yet goes further. It happens whenever, by some wondrous "coincidence," our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and nonresistant. I like to call it presence.

It is experienced as a moment of deep inner connection, and it always pulls you, intensely satisfied, into the naked and undefended now, which can involve both profound joy and profound sadness. At that point, you either want to write poetry, pray, or be utterly silent.
In the early medieval period, two Christian philosophers at the monastery of St. Victor in Paris had names for these three ways of seeing, and these names had a great influence on scholars and seekers in the Western tradition. Hugh of St. Victor (1078-1141) and Richard of St. Victor (1123-1173) wrote that humanity was given three different sets of eyes, each building on the previous one. 



"The first eye was the eye of the flesh (thought or sight), the second was the eye of reason (meditation or reflection), and the third eye was the eye of true understanding (contemplation).
 
I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the separation and loss of these three necessary eyes is the basis of much of the short-sight-edness and religious crises of the Western world. 






Lacking such wisdom, it is very difficult for churches, governments, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing. 

Everything divides into oppositions such as liberal vs. conservative, with vested interests pulling against one another. Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation. Even theology becomes more a quest for power than a search for God and Mystery.
One wonders how far spiritual and political leaders can genuinely lead us without some degree of mystical seeing and action. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that "us-and-them" seeing, and the dualistic thinking that results, is the foundation of almost all discontent and violence in the world.³ 

It allows heads of religion and state to avoid their own founders, their own national ideals, and their own better instincts. Lacking the contemplative gaze, such leaders will remain mere functionaries and technicians, without any big picture to guide them for the long term. 

The world and the churches are filled with such people, often using God language as a cover for their own lack of certainty or depth.

The third-eye person has always been the saint, the seer, the poet, the metaphysician, or the authentic mystic who grasped the whole picture.
There is more to the mystical gaze, however, than having "ecstatic visions." If people have ignored the first and the second eyes, their hold on the third eye is often temporary, shallow, and incapable of being shared with anybody else. 

We need true mystics who see with all three sets of eyes, not eccentrics, fanatics, or rebels. The true mystic is always both humble and compassionate, for she knows that she does not know.

What It Means To Be A Mystic
Now do not let the word "mystic" scare you off. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and available to everyone. In fact, Jesus seems to say that this is the whole point! (See, for example, John 10:19-38.)
Some call this movement conversion, some call it enlightenment, some transformation, and some holiness. It is Paul's "third heaven," where he "heard things that must not and cannot be put into human language" (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). 

Consciously or not, far too much organized religion has a vested interest in keeping you in the first or second heaven, where all can be put into proper language and deemed certain. This keeps you coming back to church, and it keeps us clergy in business.

This is not usually the result of ill will on anybody's part; it's just that you can lead people only as far as you yourself have gone. 
Transformed people transform people. From the way they talk so glibly about what is always Mystery, it's clear that many clergy have never enjoyed the third heaven themselves, and they cannot teach what they do not know. Theological training without spiritual experience is deadly.

We are ready to see and taste the full sunset now and no longer need to prove it or even describe it. We just enjoy it -- and much more! "

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A significant part of St Paul's teachings to the early church reminds me that in this life I will only be ever capable of  seeing through a glass darkly, just a dim reflection of the whole picture of God and he goes on to say that even if we are lucky enough to have  all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that unless we first have love, these spiritual gifts mean nothing.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then we shall be seeing face to face: the knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known. In short there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love" 





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