Monday, January 23, 2012


Robert Lax 

The following is excerpted from "Mystics: Ten Who Show Us the Ways of God" by Murray Bodo. The last chapter is about Lax and I like how Bodo is able to pull from Lax's writing the vocation of waiting that is at the heart of his spirituality.
"I open my eyes in the dark and see darkness. I close my eyes, even in the light, and see darkness. All the same darkness. Almost the same. Light comes and goes, but the darkness stays. Almost always the same. A fairly steady darkness. One you can count on. Almost." (Lax, 21 Pages, p. 191) 
Almost. Because even darkness becomes a sort of light that is not darkness.
"My observatory powers in the meantime had grown keener. I could see in the dark. I could see much further into the dark than before.” (Lax, 21 Pages, p. 194)
Even of darkness Lax is positive, grateful, blissful.
“My dark night of the soul, if that’s what it is. My long night’s waiting, if that’s what it is. I saw a lot more then, on those nights of sleeping, not sleeping under bridges, sleeping, not sleeping on benches, under trees, in barn or on church steps than I’m seeing now. No matter. I continue to watch." (Lax, 21 Pages, p. 194)
For Lax the watching is all because,
“I’m looking ahead. I’m looking toward some point, some vanishing point, or anyway, not yet visible point in the distance, in the future where something or someone I’d recognize would appear. (Where you would appear.) ….
“My person. My beloved, if you like; my sought-after-being, my remembered-one, would be there.” (Lax, 21 Pages, p.197)
I love that in this passage and throughout Lax's oeuvre, there is no mechanical, muscular working to attain some goal, to attain God, but a looking, a waiting, a receptivity to receive the other. Lax has no righteous sense of his won accomplishment in work or in prayer or of his own virtue. Insead all he is and brings is ...
“A readiness to recognize you; that’s all I’ve brought, that’s what I bring to the encounter.” (Lax, 21 Pages, p.197)
And even then, even recognizing why it is he waits and looks in silence, he doesn’t take credit for that stance. Rather, he says,
"I didn’t give up because I couldn’t. I didn’t, because I was made to go on waiting. Made, put together, invented, born, for that single, singular purpose: to watch, to wait. There’s no giving up on who you are … I’ve wondered sometimes if you came, and I saw you, and I knew you were there, I’d continue to go on waiting.” (Lax, 21 Pages, p. 198-199)

- Mystics: Ten Who Show Us the Ways of God, by Murray Bodo, Kindle Location 3178 of 4267


  1. Hi Beth. I remember reading this in Bodo's book a year or so ago. At the time I was scratching my head as to what was being said. Great to get a surprise reading of it this morning. It makes more sense now, or at least on the edge of sense. Seems that Lax is talking about steadiness in his practic or his spirituality...just letting it come to him and being at peace with that. It seems like there were few expectations from him but more of a relaxed state of acceptance either way.

    Something that caught my attention in reading this again this morning is in the phrases like "Where would you appear", "My beloved", "I wonder some times if you...", etc. It struck me how the words like beloved, you, etc are not upper case. These lines read much like say John of the Cross in speaking of God but yet without the upper case letters it's seems that Lax could be talking to himself about him self....speaking to the illusive true self. ??? Not really sure what to think there yet.

    Great picture of Lax at the top. Thanks again for the post.


  2. I think of Lax as being a receptive spirit, Robert. Always open.

    Lax seems to be addressing an "Other" to me. Someone utterly Other. Recently I was reading something about how hospitality to the stranger was essential to faith. One must be, at a deep level, open to the stranger -- the ultimate being they way Mary said "yes" and the "Other" (and utterly Unknown and Strange) came to live in her very body.

    Anyway, Lax seems to have a very feminine soul, to me.

    I found that photo of Lax on the web, and unfortunately it did not name the photographer or time it was taken. I would like to find out more about it.

  3. But reading it again ... "my sought after being" ... I see better what you mean about perhaps he was seeking his "true self". Or his completion. Or the object of his longing.

  4. If we could ask Mr. Lax he might not be able to say for sure either. I've read this offering a few times today and between Lax's words and Bodo's I'm now wondering if this is more about just simply being "open" to whatever comes...recognizable or not...God, guidance, insight, aspects of the self, etc. The waiting may be much like meditation where sits with an openess not rejecting or clinging to any thing that stirs. This somewhat ties back in to what you commented regarding Mary saying "Yes". Also reminds me of one of Hammersjold's entries about having the courage to leave everything say "Yes".

  5. Thank you Beth for this post and for this site. I have been enjoying it for over a year, but haven't been moved to comment until now. His reference to a 'vanishing point' spoke to my belief that when we 'vanish' we are left with only our being, with only love, with only god, and thus at a place out toward the horizon where these are all one. I hope so.

  6. Your post on Lax reminds me of a major idea in apophatic mysticism that runs through the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, the unknown author of the Cloud of Unknowing, the Rhineland mystics, and of which St. John of the Cross is the chief spokesman: that there is light in darkness. To put it poetically: it is about the ray of divine darkness that pierces through the cloud of unknowing.

    Personally, I found the apophatic approach a much more appealing approach to spirituality. It counteracts the God-talk, that seems to be clogging the airwaves, by people who think that they have a handle on God. When in truth, at least according to the apophatic mystics, when faced with the mystery which we called God, we are reduced to silence. Because He/She/It is beyond thought, and can't be described by words.

    "He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know." ~ Lao Tzu

    ~ Matt

  7. Robert, I'm a long-ago fan of Hammerskjold. I discovered his "Markings" in a library in Oregon in 1974 and was so stricken that I never took the book back. (I think I paid the lost book fee.) I still have the book and everytime I return to it, I know that he is a kindred spirit. I think I even have a post on this blog about him. And I remember that Yes quote. Anyway, it's good to find another Hammerskjold fan here.

    I like your comment about not clinging and not rejecting anything. That is the way that Cynthia Bourgealt (and Thomas Keating too, I think) teach Centering Prayer.

  8. Thanks for commenting, Anonymous.

    That "vanishing" reminds me of Merton talking about "disappearing". So ironic that those are just about his very last public words on the day he died.

  9. I agree, Matt! I, too, much prefer the apophatic approach. My challenge is to be more tolerant with all the God-talk. It can drive me nuts!

  10. The copy of Markings that I have has been with me for some time now as well. It's tattered and falling apart but loved. Much like an old worn out disintegrating t-shirt it sure goes well with coffee and a rainy day.

  11. darkness
    so this


    as a flower
    blooms *

    across the years
    days of noon -

    the nights array -

    the brightness
    of the day -


  12. Hi, I am from Australia.
    Robert Lax also wrote these words - "The Mummery Book is brilliant in all its aspects. It would be hard to express my happiness at the way it breaks and exposes the heart of the world. Living and writing as a writer for many decades, I have not encountered a book like this, that mysteriously and unselfconsciously conveys so much of the Unspeakable Reality"

    He was referring to the prose-opera-novel introduced here:

    Also Touch

    The Scale of the Very Small

    The Truth About Human Life

  13. That is really interesting. I am not familiar with Avatar Adi Da, but after looking at a few of the links, I find it all quite fascinating. It seems that the book has been made into a theatrical production? Would love to know more about that and will have to look into it.


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