Revisiting the Well: “Unknowing” God

Sherborne Old Castle
Sherborne Old Castle

I’ve been re-reading an old favourite recently: Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. It’s taken  me straight back to the “well” of contemplation and of encounter with what I would call Christ, God, the spirit. Over the years I’ve come to know  this as a place of simplicity, when all our  extraneous ‘ stuff’ falls away, leaving just an essence of being and being known. Like the Samaritan Women, who urged her neighbours, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did!

In the very best of friendships, even if time and circumstance have changed our way of being, even our view of each other; yet that essential spark that brought us together  remains. Likewise the way we view and experience God.  The time comes when we need to ‘unknow’ that that no longer gives us life, and nurture that place of simple encounter.


Reading Merton has reminded me, (not for the first time!)  that my sometime struggles to define the undefinable  and to try and fit into a framework that is not my natural milieu are perfectly ok; natural even. It’s both exciting and reassuring.  Here’s a passage that sums this up for me. Followed by  my own way of encapsulating this: a poem written several years ago after another time spent at the “well.”

In the end contemplatives suffer the anguish of realizing that they no longer know what God is…That is precisely one of the essential characteristics of a contemplative experience. It sees that there is no “what” that can be called God. There is “no such thing” as God because God is neither a “what” nor a “thing” but a pure “who.” God is the “Thou” before whom our inmost “I” springs into awareness. He is the I Am before whom with our most personal and inalienable  voice we echo “I am.”

– Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, Burns and Oats, 1992 ed


You Are

You are the wind in the trees.

You are the warmth on stone.

You are sunlight spilling over the fields,

You are the colours of weathered lichen in the shade-shimmered shadows.


You are the train racing through the present

into cloud kingdoms on the horizon.

You’re the cry of the birds sky-skimming, held in the warm currents.

Yours are the diamond drops still dew-tipped on a blade of grass. are in ruins: jagged, fragments time-travelled, troubled…torn…

You are in all…

You Are.

©️Jane Sigrist 2014, Sherborne Old Castle












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