Fogou at Carn Euny, Sancreed Nr Penzance. A fogou is a sacred chamber beneath the earth. There are several in West Cornwall and this is one of the best preserved. I took this photograph last year. Its difficult of access and one prays not to meet a car coming in the opposite direction. Dad first took us there when we were children. But it has ever since fascinated me and has a spiritual message.
Our remote ancestors looked deep beneath the earth for images of spirituality. The Catholic priest and poet Fr Gerard Manley in his poem God’s Grandeur wrote the following lines.
“And for all this nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;”
The crypt, the cave, the cairn, the well, are among the ancient earth sites that still remain as testimonies to this deep spirituality, sometimes called chthonic. They also represent our personal experiences of the spirit which are often discovered in the caves and crypts of memory. Powerful bodily emotions and feelings, frequently cause long forgotten memories to surface in our waking minds. The human soul has been compared to a cave – hidden, dark, mysterious and unfathomable. The beauty of the soul is shrouded in emotional haze and mist. The depths of the mind and soul reach down to our earliest origins in our mother’s womb…that inner sea from which we first emerged as human beings.
True spiritual strength isn’t always to be found in broad day light on the mountain top. For religion to be grounded, it must also reach deeply into the tortuous patterns of personality and life. The Lord may indeed be enthroned in the heavens, but it is often out of the depths that we cry to him. Neither should we forget that each of us was formed in the depths of the earth as Psalm 139 reminds us.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
It is an elusive law of the Spirit that we cannot safely go on high unless we also visit the depths. Without attention and cultivation, deep thoughts can remain raw and wild. Spiritual people often ignore those wild and raw imaginings and thinking themselves “holy” are plagued by bigotry, aggression and sexual confusion. Zealotry (fanaticism) in all its manifestations is the very enemy of our Lord’s generous and loving nature. Our depths are the very locations of the soul where we learn and breathe compassion