The Hound of Heaven
Francis Thompson (1859-1907)
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
Though the language seems distancing and perhaps a little daunting, the spirit behind the beginning stanza of this Francis Thompson poem ignites something within me that defies the intellect and stirs my very Soul. As much as I have longed to Know and re-unite within my Source, I recognize as well a place that has often fled It even as It experientially moved toward me in merger. It is so very difficult at the level of the felt-sense to know if it is me seeking Source, or if it is Source seeking Its Self as me. In my passionate longing for the One, I run towards the stirring within my heart center. It beckons, it beseeches, it stirs, and it calls me: ceaselessly and endlessly. I stretch toward this calling with every ounce and fiber of my being. As I begin to feel the mystical merging I have so longed to experience, something within me shutters, bolts, contracts, and runs. With an intensity equal to that of the internal stretching forward, the fearful self is “fleeing down the days and down the nights, down the labyrinthine ways of my own divided mind.”
I compassion the self that so wants to live within the felt-sense of my Source, but has also been theologically programmed to fear the very Life that is living me. I feel the painfulness within my heart, the home-sickness, the sacred longing. I acknowledge the teachings, so well intended, that speak of chosen people who are tortured and annihilated century after century. I look upon the endless symbols of a cross upon which a sacred Soul was killed to appease the Only Source of Love. I shutter at the images of the people surrendered into peace, who wage holy wars to maintain their stance. And this all festers within the unconscious of the same me who longs to give way into this One, this One unrecognizable in the tradition of my birth. And so I flee.
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.” My running, my fleeing is at the very core of personal betrayal. I cannot literally betray my Source. Yet I can and do betray my own commitment to the embodying of that Source. Even as I move through and past images of an ungodly G-awed, the experience of merging becomes so very intense, so richly intimate, so deeply felt. I have known pray little of that level, that depth of Love, here in this human dilemma. It is at once blissening and frightening. I have known love as loss here in this incarnation. It is through this fear of loss that I have looked upon love. This fear of loss has blinded me to Loves True radiance. I pray to see anew. As I begin to truly see, I realize that I am being seen as well. It is sometimes simply too much. I feel my body respond in ways my religion would flatly and rapidly condemn. I feel the breath of the One filling me, compelling me, caressing me. I fear I will feel too much. That I will be lost in the ecstasy of this Love. And so I flee. I latch onto the nearest thought, the most convenient concept. Anything to distance the intensity of the tryst. In betraying my Lover, I am betraying my love. I am running from the truest part of me. I am denying the very experience that I have come here to have. I am fleeing the hound of heaven, which is my very Soul.
I choose to flee no longer. I choose to allow my fearful self to be caught. I choose to move more deeply into the intimate embrace of my Soulful Self, and to embody fully the merging into One. I will no longer betray my Lovers affections. I will stay, and I will feel all the subtle intimacies of Its tender embrace. With no thought or concept to interrupt this Union, the running becomes the relaxing into the frequency of Love Its Self. “Yes my Love. It is I. I am here. I am Love. I am Source. I am You.”
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