Tuesday, 3 November 2015

GUEST POST! Lit From Within: Meditations on Autumn, by Will Musham

Once again, per Wendy Harding's request, I am honored to guest-blog in this august space! Wendy suggested I spiel a bit on the topic of Autumn, which of course isn't really a "topic" per se, but is something of an archetypal concept, a Platonic Ideal made flesh, so to speak. Hard to resist that! So let me splash some Impressionistic colors on the wall ...

- Several autumns ago, not long after I first came unto Facebook, I posted a short essay on how I perceived October, the second autumnal month, to be the most bifurcated month in the calendar. The first half of October, I observed, was rather jolly, full of slanting molten light, wind-frenzied leaves, crisp apples, folk singing around bonfires, and so forth. It was as if we imbibed the energy being thrown into the air by the dying vegetation and found it quite bracing indeed. October's second half, on the other hand, was a time of lengthening shadows, hints of frost, obscured vision, darker dreams, chill thoughts - the energy now turned inward. It now occurs to me, as Wendy's Seasonal Apologist, that this bifurcation is reflected in the fact that it's the only season that has two names: Autumn and Fall. Ever wonder what the difference between Autumn and Fall is? There is none!

- Actually, "Autumn", a French word, is evidently preferred by the British, whereas "Fall" is preferred by Americans, this according to cultural writer Forrest Wickman of Slate.com. In deference to Wendy's noble lineage, I'll go with "Autumn" - and besides, there are many wonderful songs with the word "Autumn" in the title. I invite y'all to name a few.

- Are we not all hard-wired to respond to the seasonal Turn of the Wheel? I've found that no matter how lovingly I embrace a summer that follows a long, harsh, unforgiving, icy hell of a winter, by mid-August I'm getting a bit bored with the bliss of it all. I need a challenge, I need a change. I need *renewal*. Thus the slight chill of September nights is like the flavor of mint in my iced tea - it perks and invigorates me, but not in the same manner that Spring and summer invigorate me. Whereas the latter seem an ex-citement, an invigoration from without, autumn signifies an en-thusing, a vigor that is kindled within me. Kind of a little bonfire in my soul, you know? And this always occurs even though I know that blue wintry Death is soon coming down the avenue. What should this seasonal dynamic tell us, we students of "the law of likenesses" to be found in all of Nature, higher and lower, macro and micro?

- I remember once seeing Alex Haley, the celebrated author of Roots, on a talk show. Though he was very soft-spoken and almost preternaturally relaxed, his presence dominated - in a supremely benign sense - the entire set and all the other personages on the show. Though by no means a young man, Haley radiated a kind of youth, an agelessness, really, that was absolutely riveting. Here was a man at peace with himself and all that he had lived through, and he glowed as if lit from within. I remember leaning forward trying to catch his every word - I was thinking that no matter how simple his utterance, it simply had to be profound.

- Two weeks after his talk show appearance, Alex Haley died of a heart attack. I am told that his kind of preternatural calmness and sense of acceptance are not uncommon among those who are soon to pass from this world, whether they are aware of their coming transition or not.

- Lit from within:The autumnal darkening of the exterior light gives birth to the interior light of things. When we behold the multi-colored splendor of autumn's dying foliage - isn't this an inner light shining forth? The darkness of autumn itself can seem to radiate a supernal glow. I imagine this is not "ordinary" darkness marked by the absence of light, but is a darkness that is simultaneously a light, a natural and uncreated light.

- 17th century poet Henry Vaughn: "There is in God (some say)/A deep, but dazzling darkness". Autumnal darkness, I am thinking.

- Autumn in the city and suburbs is certainly pleasant enough. I recall walking home from grade school in the early darkness, past all the homes and apartment buildings that were glowingly lit from within, and marveling that I, too, had such a bauble of light to return to. I'm living in the countryside now and I can tell you there is another dimension to autumn: clarity of the senses. The vapors of summer are dissipating, the air is clearing. The clatter-clack of the mile and half-distant evening freight train sounds like it's passing through my driveway. The thin whine of jet engines 5 miles overhead, very audible. So are a whole host of mystery night sounds that I seem not to notice during the warm months. Of course the cawing of crows is always very noticeable when the skies are darkly overcast.

- As the trees shed their skins and the foliage withers away, great vistas are revealed for country boy! Wow, I can see for miles now! Look, about a half mile away, there's my nearest neighbor's house! And there's another house! This is like the first revelatory photos taken by the Hubble telescope - what, the Milky Way isn't the only galaxy in the universe??There are billions of them?? (In the photo at the top of the post, taken in November 2013, you can see a pond near my house. A half year went by before I realized that pond was even there. BTW, this is a view to the west, taken in the early morning. That's right, it's the moon you are seeing, not the sun. Autumn revels in visuals, the more mysterious, the better).

- So if autumn reflects the inner journey, the autumnal clarity of our senses must reflect the clarity and sobriety of mind that we discover while on our inner journey. The external world of summer is the illusion, then; autumn is the true reality. I'm on a roll here, I think.

- One Bible story I heard as a kid confused me - when Christ dies, the sun darkens. But why would the sun darken? Considering the divine victory Christ's voluntary death is said to have signified, wouldn't the sun have grown even sunnier, friendlier? The 17th century Christian mystic Jacob Boehme explains: the light of the sun is the material light of primordial chaos, a corrupted light, as it were. When the true light of Christ entered the world upon his death, the material light of the sun faded in response - an entire world beginning to be lit from within, then. A world of autumnal light/darkness.

- Samhain, the Gaelic festival that marks the the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, is said to be a time whereupon the veil between worlds is thinned and we can communicate with the world of spirits, devas, angels, divinations. Of course, we must remember that the doorway to the Other World - made more accessible by the Samhain period - is always within. If the heart of autumnal darkness is Samhain - the mother/father of Halloween - then we are obligated to receive this gift by going within so that we may kindle our own inner fire.

- Are people low in spirit this autumn? I think that many of us are, perhaps unconsciously, drawing an analogue between the end of the year and all the chaos going on in the world - maybe what we perceive as the decay and eventual death of Western Civilization. Thus for many this autumn may seem particularly dark and oppressive. Well, it's hard to not to believe that there's a great dissolution at work in the world today. However, let's remember that the Great Wheel of Time is actually a series of wheels within wheels. If the slow moving outer wheel is now ferrying humanity through a Great World Autumnal Period, then surely this is a time of great spiritual opportunity for us all. The engulfing darkness can be rendered - if we wish it to be and act accordingly - into a darkness that dazzles.

May you be lit from within! Happy Autumn to all!


  1. BRAVO! A exuberant,deeply thoughtful,meta musing on fall ..with so many ramifications ! Such a rich gift for these last few days of gold,bronze and crimson..You have left me with so much to thonk about!! Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing !!

  2. BRAVO! A exuberant,deeply thoughtful,meta musing on fall ..with so many ramifications ! Such a rich gift for these last few days of gold,bronze and crimson..You have left me with so much to thonk about!! Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing !!

  3. Thanks, TZ! Dare I hope it might inspire a poem??

  4. This is stirring, even for someone who is already in the throes of more than one Autumn, watching abundandance give way to a time of challenge even as the lush green gives way to the brittle brown. Thank you for sharing these thoughts!