Spiritual direction is a very wonderful thing, something that I commend to all who want to experience life in a deeper, clearer perspective. I travel to see my spiritual guide. I go to London, which is an enlightening experience in its own way. The new service from Oxford Parkway is enriching – lots of staff on hand, newspapers and coffee on sale, few other travellers and quiet carriages. How civilised! But good soul searching can be challenging especially if your soul friend is discerning and courageous enough to address with you some of the demons which lurk just below the surface.
The quest for purity of heart, the first beatitude, was the primary focus of the desert mothers and fathers who sought Jesus’ teaching in a very radical manner. They left the comfort of their own homes in the ancient near east, distancing themselves from their kith and kin, they travelled to the western desert in order to lead lives of pure prayer. They attempted to remove all obstructions from their paths which prevented a communion with God. Some of them have been described as esoteric, others quite mad! Many tales exist of these desert hermits which exemplified their absolute hunger and desire for God’s blessing for purity of heart.
It is not necessary to travel to London or the desert in order to desire God’s blessing, or to become purer in heart. It is, however, absolutely necessary to make a more direct pilgrimage, the hardest path to travel, the journey from the head to the heart as Meister Eckhart observed in the 13th century. This is the path from knowledge to feeling, from thinking to being. Pure prayer manifests in the heart, a prayer which is an instinctive desire, but which lies dormant in many of us. Ours is a quest for direction, guidance, counselling, to address the demons and to seek out fellow travellers to journey to the heart together.