Then I saw what was not so obvious: that the holding together could only be done by “quakers.” . . . men and women everywhere who were prepared to quake. . . . Perhaps, in the end, what mattered was how many people were prepared to quake this way, for such quaking spirits were the keepers of the keys.
The Chymical Wedding, by Lindsay Clarke, p. 385 (1989)
Although I can no longer remember the plot or the specific characters, I have never forgotten the passage on page 385 of my copy of The Chymical Wedding. And, as it does from time to time, it popped into my head on Sunday, on my birthday. I turned 62. I felt older Sunday morning after having been awake much of the night. That shaky feeling you get when your body is yelling at you that it needs more rest? That was what I was feeling. Although “shaking” and “quaking” are two very different qualities, both were present on Sunday as images from the book floated to consciousness.
In this book, characters “hold the tension” of their divisive natures, and as a result of this holding, they “quake.” New York Times writer David Brooks wrote an op-ed about this “holding” the tension this week in response to the vigilante killing in Florida, and the killings in Afghanistan, reminding us all that we have the capacity for evil as well as good. And, it is up to us, whether by individual will, or by aligning ourselves with friends, family, and community to nurture goodness, and control outbursts of rage which can maim or kill.
In a conversation with a new friend, she shared with me that one of the things she is “doing” in her retirement is striving to be a “good” person, to notice if the clerk at the check out counter in the grocery store is looking attractive, and to say so. To speak and look into the eyes of the customer service representative who assists her at the bank. Slowing down her pace of living has prompted her to notice, to pay attention, to the day-to-day, and moment-to-moment occurrences. She also expressed some embarrassment in sharing this intention with me. After a long and productive career, she noted, it doesn’t sound very ambitious. But somehow, she shared, it is very satisfying to choose to live this way.
There it is again, the matter of choice. Combined somehow with the matter of grace or gift. Perhaps this makes up “the Chymical Wedding” which I’m learning has a basis far older than any I imagined the first time I read it. Reaching all the way back to the era of alchemy, the visions, the imagination, of the Chymical Wedding go back at least to the 15th Century with the illustrations by Christian Rosenkreutz.
When “The Chymical Wedding” was first written down, it was still possible to convey spiritual revelations as they are here conveyed, in pictorial Imaginations. Later, such Imaginations dried out into abstract, purely conceptual thinking. Today the time is ripe to enliven the intellectual consciousness into a renewed pictorial one. It is therefore in accordance with the spiritual demands at this point of time that “The Chymical Wedding” again begins to attract notice and that its beautiful sequences of imaginative pictures again begin to speak to our hearts and understanding. A Commentary on the Chymical Wedding
In my reading I discover that it is in this original Chymical Wedding that Lindsay Clark must have gleaned her image of quakers as “keepers of the keys.” Although my reviewing this commentary written about the original Chymical Wedding leads me to believe this is highly esoteric stuff, the illustrations themselves are reminders of our tendency to take that which is imaginative and “dry” out the visual into “abstract, purely conceptual thinking.” I will research this a bit and report back in this space what I learn about the Chymical Wedding.
Today, though, my birthday re-membering is this: I’ve begun my new year on this earth having a quaking birthday. A time to recall something from my long ago past, and re-visit it in a new way. Even though my birthday was shaky from lack of sleep rather than holding the tensions of good and evil, it has led me to reflect, to feel, to imagine. And, be conscious of quaking, of holding together. Perhaps this may qualify me in some sense as one of those “keepers of the keys.” I’d like to think so.