I had been reading about Rudolf Otto’s concept of the numinous and studying his classic The Idea of the Holy for a few decades, and it all made perfect conceptual sense. But on our recent trip to Hawaii in April of this year (2018), Diane and I actually experienced the Holy, the numinous, on a very raw and visceral level. In The Idea of the Holy, Otto, who coined the term “numinous”, describes it with the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Literally translated, that phrase means “the tremble-inducing [tremendum, the same Latin root as “tremor”] and attractive [fascinans, the same Latin root as "fascinating"] mystery [mysterium]”. Despite the title of his book, Otto makes it clear that the Holy is not only, or even primarily, something about which one entertains ideas. Rath
"Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god."--Aristotle
"I'm not anti-social; I'm pro-solitude."--Beth Buelow
"We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship."--C. S. Lewis
"One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude."--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I've been spending a lot of time alone lately. Even though I'm really high on the introvert scale, I've always equated excessive time alone with loneliness. It's only been recently that I've understood that being alone is vital to my well-being. I didn't realize that inspiration is easier to allow in solitude. I didn't realize that I can hear myself think more clearly when I sit alone and quietly.
January is a month of quiet stillness, the stillness of snow falling, the stillness of early darkness. It is time when the earth sleeps waiting for the renewal of life coming in future months. January is a desert time, a time when the darkness can overwhelm us with emptiness, and loneliness. For some the month of January can last forever, or seem like it anyway. But spring is coming, hope lies just below the surface of cold snow and hard ground just as water lies beneath the surface of the desert waiting until it is able to break through into the light.
Today I invite you to join me in the practice of Visio Divina with the above desert picture. As you focus on the desert scene ask yourself the following questions:
When have you felt the silence of the desert in your