It just happened?

In her beautiful book The Other Buddhism, Caroline Brazier tells the story of a swarm of bees who return years after their removal, to their home in the roof above her mother in law Irene’s bedroom window, the morning after her death. Caroline and her husband had walked into the garden, among the trees and plants Irene had so loved, at the very moment the swarm arrived and settled. She writes:

Why did the bees come? What brought them to Irene’s window that morning? Why did we go into the garden? Why did I look up? The questions bring further questions. Answers do not come. And if they do, perhaps something is lost.

No answers.

In their arrival, the bees help me to touch something beyond expression. I cannot say why they arrived at that point. I have no metaphysic or natural explanation to fall back on. The timing seemed to belie coincidence, and yet my practical mind finds no reason for their coming. They speak to my being in a different language.Their presence resonates with ancient stories of portentous occurrences. It connects me with feelings and intuitions that go beyond words. Like the rising of a snipe [she is referring to Saigyo’s poem ‘The First Winds of Autumn’], the bees are as messengers of the gods.

Stepping onto a different path we go beyond our rational minds into another kind of knowing… We feel held by a deep bodily knowledge of truth, without having words to ascribe to the process of knowing. This is the foundation of faith, and faith is the starting point and the end of the spiritual journey…

Beyond the ordinary is the unseen. Beyond the extra-ordinary the unseen becomes a little more visible, but yet remains shrouded in its own mystery. Faith involves the recognition of a world beyond self… It is the acceptance that forces shape our lives which we do not and cannot understand…

CG Jung, with his passion for explaining spiritual things, came up with the term “synchronicity” to describe what he termed an “acausal connecting principle”, in which, following discussions with the theoretical physicists Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, he related the concept to relativity theory and quantum mechanics.

Jung may or may not have been right – despite Marie-Louise von Franz’s plea for further research, no one to my knowledge has seriously explored the theory’s implications – but what he was speaking of resonates with the life of faith on more than one level.

We recognise synchronicity by a deep instinct. Something within us cannot ever quite accept that things “just happen”. We think of people, and they suddenly ring up out of the blue. We ponder whether we are called to some role or occupation, and within a few days receive a job offer. Most strikingly, we pray, and in Tennyson’s words, “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of…”

Increasingly, my heart is “held by a deep bodily knowledge of truth, without having words to ascribe to the process of knowing.” Yet my own knowing is for me deeper and more sure than any awareness of fact, or academic discipline. I long for this path, for the flying up of snipe in the marsh at evening, for the voice of the tide along the sand as the sun sets.

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