“The mountains are calling” is a common saying in the European Alps that invites you to hike or climb a mountain. It is a magical call that attracts, that promises something: summit happiness? Magnificent views? Feelings of fulfillment or self-realization of our ego? Or is it a call from another world? The world of the Soul, which wants to make itself heard through the radiance of the “mountain” within us? As the Psalmist speaks:
I lift up my eyes unto the mountains, from whence cometh help unto me. From where does help come to me? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth…
In our modern age, dominated by higher-further-faster, the mystical significance of the mountains has almost been lost. Does the physical mountain, a “rock massif,” call us, or does our Soul call us to a “mountain” that is not of this world? Should we change our physical location and travel and climb the mountain, or go within ourselves and seek and pursue the origin of the call within us? Can we find answers by climbing a mountain or by seeking the “kingdom within us that is nearer than hands and feet”? Or ….. does a path lead from one to the other?
In world religions and philosophies, mountains have a special meaning. The Himalayas are the seat of the gods in Hinduism and Buddhism, with Mount Meru as the center of the world, visible in Mount Kailash in the Indian-Tibetan border region. In the Old Testament, Moses was called by God to Mount Nebo to see the Promised Land, to which he could not enter himself. In the New Testament, we read of Jesus’ retreat to various mountains, the Sermon on the Mount, and then Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Here it is described what happens on the summit of the “mountain of souls.” The crucifixion of Jesus takes place on a mountain, and so does the Ascension. The Cathars, who lived in the Pyrenees, carried out their contemplations and inner transformations in the caves around Ussat-Les Bains and went to Montségure as the last refuge from the army of the Pope and King. There is Lalibela in Ethiopia with its rock-hewn churches and hermitages …
Man seeks a connection to God; he seeks to come closer to the divine. And since time immemorial, he has been attracted to the radiance of the mountains, giving them a mystical, religious significance. Today, the call of the mountains is mainly experienced as a call to adventure and the realization of ambitions. Still, perhaps even today, a second call resonates in the background, the “Voice of Silence.”[i], that wants to lead us into our innermost being.
The call not of this world
The search for another dimension has left its mark all over the world, and the mountains bear witness to this: cairns have been erected on them, prayer flags have been placed, prayers and statues carved in stone can be found on them, prayer walls, crosses on the tops and shrines at forks in the road. There are pilgrim places on mystical mountains and rock structures oddly shaped by nature. There are natural lakes at 4,000 to 6,000 meters in the Himalayas, challenging to reach but revered as the seat of Shiva and Parvati and visited annually by great streams of pilgrims. They take on the arduous climb with devotion and faith. A bath in the ice-cold waters of the Gosainkunda Lakes is said to wash away all sins and karma and ensure a good rebirth. From the outside, it appears to be the hustle and bustle of simple pilgrims, shamans with drums and bells, yogis, and sadhus. Will they all find the peace they seek, the upliftment from the tribulations of their daily lives? Besides the worldly affairs and noise, profound silence is, rising majestically … but not easy to hear or perceive. So laments the “Voice of Silence”:
Bigger, faster, higher. The tent cities at the base camps in the Himalayas are famous. The Voice of Silence is hardly heard, and the Psalmist’s call “… for help from the mountains….” is drowned out. And yet this call is there, and we can approach it. From the high peaks resounds the call of the Voice of Silence, the call of the Psalmist, the call of Nirvana, the sound of the innermost of the human Soul, of the World Soul. From the heart of the world, the call resounds. From the mountain tops, it spreads out over humanity – the call of the spiritual, holy earth. To hear and accept it, we do not need to climb the physical mountains but must descend into ourselves – to then “ascend again to the “summit on which the form dies.”
The Kingdom of God is closer to us than hands and feet. The “new earth and the new heaven” can descend on us.
I grew up with mountains. They were and are my friends. I have shared moments of happiness and sorrow with them, and even in my childhood and youth, they gave me joy, comfort, and help. They attracted me and led me to the Himalayas. Along with this change, my search increased. This search was not limited to conquering more and more and higher mountains. It led me to seek something else and to realize that I should not seek the physical peaks of the mountains but follow an inner call.
I was offered the opportunity to work in the Himalayas. I could climb higher and higher mountains and at the same time visit and experience the spiritual centers and radiations of the mountains in the Himalayas, its temples, and monasteries. I tried to absorb their messages. I learned to accept the call of the mountains as a new, immaterial, and spiritual call of the Soul and tried to respond to it…….
Lost in thought, I walk through an intricate forest of rhododendrons toward my destination for the day. Which path am I on – the path to the summit of happiness of this world? Or on the way to “the mountains from which help comes to me”?
I remember an incident by Christian Rosenkreuz on his way to the Alchymic Wedding: he stands at a fork of his road to the wedding when he had to choose and could not come to any rational decision. A dove approaches him, and he shares his bread with her. The dove is frightened away by a raven, which disputes the bread with her. Christian Rosenkreuz runs after the birds to save the dove and chase away the raven without realizing that he has thus chosen his path. The spontaneous decision to defend the dove came from within him and led him to accept the “good path,” which he spontaneously entered.[iii]. This story strengthens in me the confidence to choose the way which is right for me in humility and alignment: Thy will, not mine, will be done.
In the light of the setting sun, the snowy peaks of the Himalayas turn pink, and the peace and tranquillity that nature radiates strengthen my longing and desire to open myself to the “help that comes from the mountains”…… So I reach my goal for the day and the certainty that one day I will find the “peak where form dies.” However, it seems to me that the peace and quietness of nature also send out a sorrowful lament:
Alas, that all men should possess Alaya (the Universal Soul), be one with the great Soul, and that possessing it, Alaya should (still) so little avail them. [iv]
[i] H.P.Blavatzky: The Voice of Silence, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California 2015; www.theosociety.org
[ii] Idem: p.25
[iii] J.van Rijckenborgh: The Alchymic Wedding of Christian Rosycross, Vol. 1, p. …
[iv] H.P.Blavatzky: The Voice of Silence, op. cit., p.25.