1979: Radical Enquiry and Vision of the Virgin mary
t.k. speaks about childhood photos: 1979 a time of radical spiritual enquiry and visions of the Virgin Mary”
When I was young I lived some time in southern France, Provence. This period of my life had a great impact as even the ground itself there is filled with blessings and the force of spiritual transmission extending over centuries. The Albegensians, the Cathars, the Troubadours, Kabbalists, Sufi mystics, Mary Magdalene, the Court of Love and more had gathered in the melting pot that was Provence.
In my late teens I spent a good deal of time mediating in the Val D’enfer, the Valley of Hell in Baux de Provence. I spent days at a time sitting up high in the bauxite caves carved by the infamous Mistral winds. At this time I was practicing a form of radical enquiry wherein the mind is turned back upon itself in the noticing of any perceptual content. One hunts for the much vaunted “I” who would be the context of phrases such as “I see a tree. I think this or that. What I feel is”. At 17, 18, I was plagued, hounded, tortured by this question. I would sit high in the Bauxite caves and let mind relax into the openness of the blue sky and whenever any perceptual content “caught my minds eye” I would shatter it with a wrathful sound PHAT. I would explode the connectivity, the subtle grasping, that is conventional mind’s activity. Then I would relax mind once again into the simultaneity of inner and outer sky.
I would also engage this practice in the small chapel at the convent of Saint Pual Asylum where the painter Van Gogh was committed for a time and the underground chapel of the Black Virgin, Sara la Kali, patron saint of the Romani or Gypsy peoples. It was also said that amongst that Mary Magdelene had washed up on this spot in a little boat with the other great Mary’s of Jesus’ life. The cool dark silence of these stone chapels with their walls several feet thick was inviting to the intense tapas, or spiritual heat of enquiry practice.
It was in the Chapel of Mary that one day after several hours of enquiry I got up and began to walk toward the door. A luminous glow at the side of the chapel attracted my attention and I walked toward it. Looking up at a statue of the Virgin Mary the entire room began to shine with a light like 10,000 suns and in the middle of this was the living form of Mary herself. I have no external memory of the next couple hours and “came back” when a small French nun was shaking me by the shoulder to say the chapel was closing for the day. I was kneeling before the statue my face wet with tears. Internally it had seemed only a moment – a moment in which the Blessed Virgin had spoken of prayer and redemption. This was the first of three visions of Mary which I had between 18 and 21. I had not been raised religious at all and had never had any particular connection with the Virgin Mary so it was all quite surprising. It was even more surprising when my mother, then ambassador to the United Nations for the United States, Jean Kirkpatrick told me of the visions she had had of Mary at 18 years old as well.
Two generations of non-Catholics having visions of Mary who vouchsafed spiritual instruction and prophecy to us was quite shocking. My mother had never spoken of her visions to anyone until that day she spoke of them with me, my wife and a good friend. She had been 18, living in Duncan Oklahoma, her family was Southern Baptist and they viewed adoration of Mary as sinful bordering on Satanic idol worship. One night she awoke to an immensely bright light in her room and Mary hovering a bit above the end of her bed. She sat up and shook herself sure that she was sleeping. She pinched herself and shook herself again …. And then Mary began to speak.
At first I tried to ignore this vision of Mary as it did not fit with my enquiry practice that eschewed any grasping at perceptual content – even blisses and visions. However the living force that is the Virgin Mary is not easy to ignore, nor does she accept being ignored. Her instructions while adding to my current spiritual work were in no way in contradiction to it nor mandated changing it. Nothing about her instruction implied a need to become “Christian” or follow any dogma at all. There was profound and subtle instruction about contemplative practice and obstacles to such. There were also indications about events to come. Over the years it was always visionary women who intervened when my inner spiritual practice needed tweaking. First was Mary, later the Tantric protectress Dorje Yudronma and the great female Tantric Buddha Yeshe Tsogyel.
This picture was taken in the caves of the Valley of Hell, Provence during that period.