when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

pandora’s box

“They gave Pandora a box. Prometheus begged her not to open it.
She opened it. Every evil to which human flesh is heir came out of it.

The last thing to come out of the box was hope.
It flew away.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


(an annoying pest moments before its demise / Julie Cook / 2017)

What have we become?

It was way back in 1989 when the world wide web, or more aptly known www., was
officially “created” by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee,
an independent contractor working in Switzerland at the European Organization for
Nuclear Research…otherwise known as CERN.

It’s actually all quite above and beyond me really so I won’t even try to rehash any of it
or even attempt to explain it or its history except….
that I know that it was shortly after 1989 that one of those governing bodies
of all things science there at CERN proclaimed that access to and of the “web”
would be made available and free to the general populace….meaning you and me.

And life as you and I know it has never been the same.

And maybe that was the opening of pandora’s proverbial box.

Fast forward to 2017.

I am not a fatalist nor am I a henny penny the sky is falling doomsday sayer…
I’m also not one to put a whole lot of stock in prognosticators such as
the likes of a Nostradamus…
those soothsayers among us who carry the fatalistic signs proclaiming
that the end is near and we best all be ready…..

However that is not to say that I ever dismiss Christian mysticism…
I’ve lived long enough to know that I don’t know nearly as much as I often think I do.
I do believe in prophets.
I do believe in spiritual gifts.
and I also believe in spiritual curses…

I believe that there are those among us who tune in much better to God and His vast
and otherworldly Word than most of us average bears.
They hear and see and believe on a much deeper level than most of us are ever capable of
doing, possessing or going.

Theirs is a burdensome faith that most often comes with a heaviness that would suffocate
the average believer.
Carrying the weight of God’s very direct and personal words is not for the faint of heart.

Oh we’d all like to think we believe, we think we are faithful,
we think we step up to the plate when called…but trust me,
the majority of us fall much shorter than those few hearty inwardly seeing souls.

These certain individuals have been with us throughout the duration of time.
We know the ancient ones readily by name.
John
Jeremiah
Noah
Moses
Isaiah
Habakuk
Daniel
Simeon, etc…

on down to the very saints that today we so often reverently recall….
in places such as Fatima, Guadeloupe, Medjugorje, Lourdes
and even in the death camps of places like Auschwitz or in the Gulags buried deep
in Siberia.
Those select few have heard with a cutting clarity what the rest of us often naively
yearn for….but foolish mortals, you know not what you ask….

Most of us are not ready for such a sorrowful burdens of the Divine.
Think of the pieced heart of Mary…

And yet we must know that this mysticism of God is not far nor is it absent from our
modern-day lives despite many claiming quite the contrary.
Those frustrated among us who today proclaim we have no prophets,
no holy ones who see and call us to stop, look and listen–
No holy vocal polestars who point the rest of us in the right direction…

So what does Christian mysticism and the world wide web have to do with one another?
Well, not much really to the casual observer.
But to the more attuned…a great deal really….

Shortly after 1989 access to everything came to everyone with a frightening speed and
a deadly accuracy.
Now everyone had and still has the power.

The gift of technology was a boon but also a curse.

As it has begotten unto itself a wealth of spiraling accesses
of both new boons and endless curses.

It’s brought a connectivity to mankind that had never existed before.

Cell phones tying a crisscrossing virtual thread of global webs to the far flung edges
of civilization.
Internet at your fingertips anywhere, anytime….with anything you could imagine available
24/7 free of charge,
as our brains are now altered to seek out and be satisfied.

Twitter and its war of words with the tit for tat endlessness of anger and hatred…
Instagrams and its images galore be they good or be they bad….
Facebook and its sharing, bragging and constant underlying theme of human mayhem
Pintrest and its posting of the frustratingly fantastic
Snapchat and its humor of shenanigans
and so it goes…on and on, ad infinitum it begets and begets….

And what meaningful purpose does the majority of this all provide, offer or share
other than simply that, sharing…
with that sharing not always being a betterment for mankind kind of sharing….

And within all this dizzying wonderful and awful connectivity and sharing lies a
dark and sinister side…

Yet no one really wants to hear or acknowledge the darkness.
No one wants to see those who hold the signs proclaiming dangers or
that the end is near and are you ready….

For an unhealthiness has been bred deeply into mankind and it’s only boring deeper
and wider within.

Some now simply call the world flat…
Such as is the title of Thomas L Friedman’s 2005 book
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century.

But at what cost have we flattened our world and ourselves?

There is new research stating that the brain has actually been altered by this
obsessive and loving addiction to our technology and it is called brain hacking…
(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brain-hacking-tech-insiders-60-minutes/)
as in people are actually working on programs to addict your brain to
the need to access…..

So with this gift of access came to us a great responsibility along with a great curse…
Such that the majority of us were or are not ready nor prepared to bear…
rather we have been swept up within the fracas of begetting…
while the din of a million voices now vie for our thoughts…

Have we lost our ability of hearing…
listening and being attuned to those mystics among us calling out the words
of our God as we stare, with the blinders attached to our heads, ever so intently at the
devices at our finger’s reach……

Lest we be wary to whom and to what we now listen and give our beings over to…..

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end.
Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined;
but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand;
but those who are wise shall understand
But go your way till the end; and you shall rest,
and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Daniel 12: 4, 9, 13

This time of year….

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

William Shakespeare

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish saying

Halloween Pumpkins, Witch, Devil, and Black Cat
(vintage halloween card)

What is it about this time of year…
This time of year when we seem to crave the supernatural?
Is it in our nature to lean-in, ever so closely,
to those ancient tales of the “other side”?

Halloween,
what once was an evening relegated to the innocence of the imaginations of children,
has grown to become the second largest commercial “holiday” following Christmas.
No longer is All Hallow’s Eve a single night for young children to don costumes…
all the while as they canvass their neighborhoods, singing trick or treat,
as they amass a small mountain of candy…

Adults have gotten deep into the act.
With Halloween merry making and party going exceeding that of New Years Eve…
For it has now become a month long event….

Yet aside from candy and costumes, which innocently afford one the opportunity to play
dress up as some alter ego,
Halloween has become, more or less, a spiritual excuse.
An open invitation allowing ourselves to taste a bit of a spiritual realm…
But the trouble…
for that is what it becomes, a trouble…
lies in the choice of realms…

Bemused, you may wonder if there is a problem with this yearly interest,
of which borders on obsession,
in this revelry of the realm of the spirits…

And I fear that…yes, perhaps there is.

For you see, we are indeed spiritual beings…
with spirituality being hardwired into our DNA—
And history has proven that it is not necessarily always a need
for a monotheistic God that we seek,
but some sort of spirituality none the less.

Hollywood has long jumped on the bandwagon of our desire to examine spiritual realms,
while at the same time allowing us to exert that odd need to be frightened.
Spook and Horror movies, as well as those tales of witchcraft,
demon possession and specters, have long topped box offices
as we have an almost sick obsession with such.

It is as if cultures worldwide use Halloween as some sort of green light,
a go ahead in affording ourselves permission to dabble in the art of
fortune telling, tarot cards, palm readers, seances, Ouija boards,
paranormal hunting…the supernatural.
All coupled with jaunts to places that are supposedly haunted, creepy and even perhaps dangerous…
and lest we forget the trips to the myriads of haunted / horror houses
which open throughout the month.

Even Disney and Six Flags have each gotten into the act…

So we tell ourselves that that makes it all perfectly safe and harmless.

And yes Halloween, and the thought of spirits,
does indeed course through the blood of humankind….
With those roots traveling far back to Celtic Europe, the ancient Pagan Middle Eastern Kingdoms,
ancient tribes of the Americas, Asia and even Africa—
as every race of people has had that aspect of the supernatural and mystical tied
to their very beginnings.

So maybe we’ve just deem it as all innocent fun as we explore this need of the mystical.

Perhaps we merely convince ourselves that it’s simply wired
deep within the ancient core of our brains…
this odd desire to be scared and frightened…
all the while as we parle into a realm different from our own…

Maybe it’s just something we simply enjoy…

“So what,” we grouse, if it morphs into something else…
something other…
“I’m not scared, I don’t believe in that
hocus locus business…it’s just harmless fun…”

Yet there is just something troubling about it all…
Something actually quite unsettling…
Something actually very dangerous..

For in the naiveté of opening seemingly harmless doors,
we enter into an on-going battle…
an ancient battle for which we are simply not prepared to fight…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13

Essential oneness

For what is Mysticism?
It is not the attempt to draw near to God, not by rites or ceremonies, but by inward disposition?
Is it not merely a hard word for ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within’?
Heaven is neither a place nor a time.

Florence Nightingale

DSCN1682
(morning light at an inlet harbor near Sligo, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The desired oneness of the created bound to the Creator.
A bridging of the here to the there.
A crossing of the chasm between You and me…

Beyond the noise, beyond the distractions, beyond the life of this world…
He is there…as I am here.
Yet it is in the stillness and the silence within…as well as without,
where He waits…

Pulled and torn from this and that, I struggle to work my way towards Him…
It shouldn’t have to be this difficult, this hard…
but the world won’t allow anything other than her own desires…

It has become a life’s quest…
A fractured journey which consists of splinters and pieces…
The longing of wholeness found in the joy of One…

Dreams, mysticism and God’s heart

I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God, or such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that He was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in Him. This was in no sense a vision: I believe it is called mystical theology. The soul is suspended in such a way that it seems to be completely outside itself. The will loves; the memory, I think, is almost lost; while the understanding, I believe, thought it is not lost, does not reason—I mean that it does not work, but is amazed at the extent of all it can understand; for God wills it to realize that it understands nothing of what His Majesty represents to it.”
― Teresa of Ávila

DSCN8886

DSCN8816
(anthurium / Julie Cook / 2014)

I believe that there are those who’s relationship with God is on a different level then the rest of us.
Those who have a more mystical relationship.
Those who experience visions.

Like Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th century German mystic nun, I have suffered most of my life from migraine headaches. Whereas historians have noted that Hidegard suffered from terrible headaches, as well as other certain “aliments,” which were often associated with her visions. . . my headaches have only come with the stop you in your tracks blinding strobe light auras coupled with excruciating pain and nausea. There was never any voices, visions or outer body experiences—despite my wishing I was out of my body at the onset of the headaches, no one ever spoke to me from the great beyond.

I have also been known to have rather vivid dreams during my sleep—and lest I remind you, woman my age are not known for sleeping—-however when I am fortunate enough to be asleep and experiencing my odd subconscious form of entertainment, there have never been any visions or divine visits of such, just very real palpable bizarre dreams.
I often wake from these dreams with very real and very intense emotions of both joy or sorrow, depending on the dream.

I also have a bad tendency to “talk” in my sleep during the bad dreams—more like mutter and groan as I am attempting to scream in my dreams— yet in the real world, the world of conscious husbands who have been woken up from sound asleep wives who are having outer body experiences, as I innocently lay there like a gyrating possessed clump totally immersed under the covers, there is a power play between the subconscious and the reality of the conscious raging in the stillness of a silent night.

On one such occasion, my poor husband tired of listening to these alienesque noises coming from his supposedly sleeping wife, attempted to shake me. I was so thankful that he did. In my dream I was in a dire predicament and so frustrated that I was unable to speak and/ or yell for help during the dreaming crisis that when he pushed me, waking me up, I finally let out a blood curdling scream. I never did understand why he got so upset. . .there I was finally happy to be out of danger and feeling so much better and relieved and he was upset, go figure—–
Such is the dilemma of the sleeping and the awake.

Night before last I was having the most lifelike dream fraught with a great deal of anguish.
An odd crazy dream yet most troubling.
It was a dream concerning our 26 year old son as a little boy. Some bad people who I know not, as I never actually saw them or him, had kidnapped him. It’s just one of those oddities about dreams. . .one doesn’t often “see” the situation at hand but yet is keenly aware of what has obviously transpired.
And I know that there are those out there who would love to get ahold of this dream—picking it, as well as me, apart explaining what in the heck it all means. . .but trust me, I have a few of my own ideas.

In my dream I had begged and pleaded with these bad people, whoever they were. I was a mother who was rife with grief, fear and sorrow. It was all so real and I was certainly in a terribly bad place. However as luck would have it, I was “shoved” back to reality by a sleep deprived annoyed husband who had no idea that with his shaking of his dreaming wife, he had saved the day by ending the grave drama playing out in my subconscious.

I had tears streaming down my face and I was visibly upset.
I laid there a long time afterwards thankful I had been woken up and wondering what in the heck that dream was all about.
Oh I’m sure it has something to do with the frustration of my son’s being in a tough spot in his life right now and with me, as his mom, helpless to “fix things”—only as mothers so often feel they must do.

As I wondered, staring out in the dark, as to what sort of lesson I was to be learning from just one in a litany of life’s good and bad dreams, the thought of God as parent came to the forefront of my thoughts.
There I was in my dream—a desperate mom battling to save my child. I was besides myself with frustration and grief of the heart that I was unable to stop the bad things from happening to my child—when the thought occurred to me of how frustrated and sorrowful God must often be with us His children.

I was overcome thinking of the sorrow shed by a Father who loves with a love beyond my own comprehension of what love truly is, such that He must shed many tears over us.
There are those who argue that God, if He is God and is this all powerful entity that so many of us say He is, that He should just be able to do a little of that abracadabra business of His and poof, we’re all good. There are those who see the bad things happen, for no apparent reason, and therefore proclaim that if He is God and if He is really up there then He could indeed do something to stop the badness down here. . .and since He does not nor chooses not to do so, then He much not exist.

A long time ago, humankind severed a life line
A link, or more like a major artery, between life and death had been destroyed.
The bond was broken.
The separation was set in motion.
The world became void of Hope.
God, the Omnipotent, the Alpha and the Omega, watched Love fall into an abyss.

And yet, God knew, in order to save humankind, to be able to allow the continuum to the link of everlasting Love, He would have to allow and then watch His own Son, fall into that same empty black abyss.
A torn heart which was a swirling elixir of emotions of pain and sorrow on a scale not grasped by man, blanketed all of creation.
Raw grief and pain unimaginable yet given freely to offer us a bridge back home.

Life is much greater than what we know here on this Earth. Most of us do not possess the ability to grasp the extent of God’s true abiding love, yet in the dark, reeling from a dream so strong and real, I had a tiny glimpse of the enormity of God’s own heart.