A Vespers Service

About ten years ago, I was active in a Unitarian Universalist young adult group. (Surprisingly, I qualified until I was about 35 but the group was defunct by then.)

For our group, I put together a Vespers Service open to the entire congregation, which was a meditative service done by candlelight at night. A poem or bit of scripture would be read, or two…then a bit of music would be played.

I based it around the idea of devotion and mystical relationship and how it was explored in various faiths and mystical traditions…as well as one of my own mystical poems.

I just came across it again this morning while looking for something else. Weird mix. Much as I love the RAW piece, I’m not sure it fits into the tone of everything else. And the Crowley scripture seemed profound to me at the time but I’m no longer as keen on him.

Anyway, thought I’d share. Enjoy.


Music: “The Feeling Begins”-Peter Gabriel*

“Constant Conversation” by Rumi

Who is luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed.
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music.
All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only
of this chance. They sway in the canebrakes,
free in the many ways they dance.

Without you the instruments would die.
One sits close beside you. Another takes a long kiss.
The tambourine begs, “Touch my skin so I can be myself.”
Let me feel you enter each limb bone by bone,
that what died last night can be whole today.

Why live some soberer way and feel you ebbing out?
I won’t do it.
Either give me enough wine or leave me alone,
now that I know how it is
to be with you in constant conversation.

The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of-the-Cross

1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.
2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.
3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.
4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
– him I knew so well –
there in a place where no one appeared.
5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.
6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.
7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.
8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

A Few Of The Things That I Know About Her by Robert Anton Wilson

I know that She forever grows more lovable as I understand Her better; and that She forever grows more understandable as I love Her better.
I know that She is incarnate, a living presence, Anna Livia Plurabella, in every living creature of us, including the people I can’t stand – which shows Her incredible humility and Her fantastic sense of humor.
I know that She has time and time again ravished me entirely with Her beauty, so She is the supreme artist; and I know that She forever transcends my understanding, so She is the supreme intelligence; but She is more than beauty and intelligence.
I know that She inspires the Bard who sings to me, and that he is Her priest; and that I am only the local transmitter through which he broadcasts his eternal adoration for Her.
And I know that I adore Her, my Babalon! I adore Her, my dark-eyed Nu!
And I know that it is the supreme glory of my life that She has manifested Herself to me, sometimes for hours on end, once even for two weeks; but She has manifested Herself most truly in those brief moments when I have been annihilated entirely in Her.
I know that I can lover Her best through one woman; but this is my nature, as a Capricorn, and there are other paths for other lovers of Her.
I know that, although She seems fickle and arbitrary at times, She is only so in my narrow egotistic view of things at the moment; and that I have understood Her, and lover Her, best in those moments when I accepted Her total perfection without question.
I know that She is my complement, my other Self; and that She is all the fiery intoxication that draws me out of my narrow self into eternal striving toward Her perfection.
And I know that I adore Her, my Babalon! I adore Her, my lion-loined Nu!
I know that I only know a few things about Her now, but I am luck beyond beliefe, for once I knew nothing about Her.
I know that She loves me with as fierce a passion as I lover Her; but She is promiscuous and loves all Her lovers that way.
I know that She is in the stars and between them; and in every sentient mind.
I know that all Her lovers go mad, by the judgement of this world; but this is false, for it is the world that is mand, and deranged, and besotted in grief – because it does not know Her.
And I know that I adore Her, my Babalon! I adore Her, my mother Nu!
I know that She is beyond metaphor, beyond speech, beyond thought; but She is radiantly sane and simple in Her heart.
I know that She is happiest of all, because She loves All; and She is wisest, because She is drunken in Her ecstasy of creation.
I know that She is in the dance, because She is dance; but She is in the movements of the stars and in the astronomer’s equations, for She is the Mother, not the Daughter of Order.
I know that She is feared and comes as the nightmare into the minds of those who are without love; but She is forever gracious to those who sing to Her, and cry out to Her, and moan to Her, and repeat endlessly in thier hearts:
I know that I adore Her, my Babalon! I adore Her, my soft-fleshed Nu!
I know that even though my heart may sing with the ecstasy of Her, and my brain whirl with the mystery of Her, one part of me will live in misery forever, until I am entirely lost in Her.
I know that even though my heart may sink with despair, and my brain stop with confusion, one part of me will be joyfully understanding forever, because I am not truly separate from Her.
I know that She is beyond intelligence, beyond emotion, beyond intuition; I know that She is drawing me beyond intelligence, beyond emotion, beyond intuition.
I know that I am enslaved and entraptured and destroyed by Her again and again and again until my words die in my throat and I can only moan as I try to repeat:
I adore Her my Babalon! I adore Her, my hot-tongued Nu!

“Extinguish My Eyes” by Rainer Maria Rilke

Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.
Break off my arms, I’ll take hold of you
with my heart as with a hand.
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.
And if you consume my brain with fire,
I’ll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.

Unorthodox Sufi Poems by Ryan McGrath


I am the unorthodox dervish
lost and lonely
longing for your affection
some sign or favor

I have no need
for the revelations of others
of prophets or holy books
or mystics, or saints or Sufis

These are only barriers between us

You and I, Me and You
a friend, Beloved, companion and Sun
The something missing from my existence
is You.

Pour out the wine,
light the nargileh
lie naked with me in my bed
until there is no distinction between ourselves
and our embrace embodies creation.


You weren’t in the books I read
or the ones I found
exalted on altars.

Poetry hinted at your existence
and you were glimpsed
at each intersection
of Beauty and Wonder

They never understood you
who looked for you
outside this world.

For in every taste, every smell,
every kiss, every drink,
every glorious moment of being alive
was a moment in your embrace.


I question your existence often
given no proof or voice or word
which will satisfy my suspicions.

Only in the presence of your absence
can I turn my heart to you.

I ask and cry and beg you to talk to me,
speak to me,
just one word,
but you remain silent and withdrawn.

I find my proof in your silence.

MUSIC: “Passion” by Peter Gabriel*

The Song of Songs (Song of Solomon)
Chapter 5, Verses 1-8

1 I come to my garden, my sister, my bride;
I gather my myrrh with my spice,
I eat my honeycomb with my honey,
I drink my wine with my milk.

Eat, friends, drink,
and be drunk with love.

2 I slept, but my heart was awake.
Listen! my beloved is knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my perfect one;
for my head is wet with dew,
my locks with the drops of the night.”
3 I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on again?
I had bathed my feet;
how could I soil them?
4 My beloved thrust his hand into the opening,
and my inmost being yearned for him.
5 I arose to open to my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
upon the handles of the bolt.
6 I opened to my beloved,
but my beloved had turned and was gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but did not find him;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
7 Making their rounds in the city
the sentinels found me;
they beat me, they wounded me,
they took away my mantle,
those sentinels of the walls.
8 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you find my beloved,
tell him this:
I am faint with love.

Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente (The Book of the Heart Girt With A Serpent)
Book II, Verses 7-16 by Aleister Crowley

1. Moreover I beheld a vision of a river. There was a little boat thereon; and in it under purple sails was a golden woman, an image of Asi wrought in finest gold. Also the river was of blood, and the boat of shining steel. Then I loved her; and, loosing my girdle, cast myself into the stream.
2. I gathered myself into the little boat, and for many days and nights did I love her, burning beautiful incense before her.
3. Yea! I gave her of the flower of my youth.
4. But she stirred not; only by my kisses I defiled her so that she turned to blackness before me.
5. Yet I worshipped her, and gave her of the flower of my youth.
6. Also it came to pass, that thereby she sickened, and corrupted before me. Almost I cast myself into the stream.
7. Then at the end appointed her body was whiter than the milk of the stars, and her lips red and warm as the sunset, and her life of a white heat like the heat of the midmost sun.
8. Then rose she up from the abyss of Ages of Sleep, and her body embraced me. Altogether I melted into her beauty and was glad.
9. The river also became the river of Amrit, and the little boat was the chariot of the flesh, and the sails thereof the blood of the heart that beareth me, that beareth me.
10. O serpent woman of the stars! I, even I, have fashioned Thee from a pale image of fine gold.

“I am, you anxious one” by Rainer Maria Rilke

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting:
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of the stars I enfold
your cities made by time.

Whispers From Eternity
A Book of Answered Prayers

by Paramahamsa Yogananda

O Mother of time, space, form, and relativity, Thou hast taken a finite form…the Kali-Divine, colossal, symbol-idol of all-sheltering nature. The invisible Spirit took Thy shape…visible Mother Divine, in whom throbs the heart of all-protecting, mothering kindness.

O Mother Divine! The beauty-mark of the moon is set between Thy two dark eyebrows of twilight and night. Clouds of eternity veil Thy face. Gusts of prophetic lives often have dared to blow fitfully away Thy veil of mystery, momentarily revealing Thy face hiding from our stares of ignorance.

O Mother Divine, in the dawn of creation I beheld Thee on the track of time, roaming in the rustic attire of primitive culture, crowned with wild nature, and wearing the garland of unpolished minds and opaque, finite things.

In the noon-day of creation, I beheld Thee, wearing a garment of sunny mentalities, scorching souls with the heat of their own material fire. Thy body of activity sweated with restlessness. All Thy children felt the strain of struggle, and implored Thee to send the cooling breeze of peace.

In Thy noon-hour of fulfillment, Thou didst equally attend the forsaken slums of misery, the halls of festive prosperity, and the shrines of peaceful wisdom.

In Thine attire of mid-day mentalities, Thou didst travel through the fiestas of centuries, beholding the dream of human life and death, of the evolution and dissolution of planets, of the birth and death of civilizations, of the drama of nebulae-molding worlds…the dream of new-born planets and earthquakes and partial dissolutions. Then the dark night approached, and Thou didst wear the grim, dark veil of mourning, to put creation through the terrible but purifying ordeal of destruction’s fire. The sun burst and belched fire; the cosmic earthquake broke the vase of the sky, dropping embers of stars; and all creation was a furnace of flames. Everything was fire: matter, sin, darkness, all things were cast into Thy crucible, there to become pure, luminous.

Creation came from fire: beneath the ashes of matter, the embers of creation slept; and, rocked by Thy hands, O Mother Divine, creation awoke with its body of pure flames.

Thine one hand of power wakes unseen creative force to take many-hued, fair, finite forms. Another hand holds the astral sword of preservation, keeping all planets swinging in the rhythm of balance. Thy third hand clutches the severed head of cosmos, representing dissolution when all creation sleeps in Thee. Thy fourth hand stills the storms of delusion, bestowing the rays of salvation upon seeking devotees.

O Kali, Thou deep Mother of creative activity, wearing a garland of human minds; the rhythm of Thy wild dance of creation ceases only when Thy feet touch the transcendent breast of Thine Invisible Consort of Infinity—Shiva, in whom all creation has rest.

O Mother-Progress, the dance of Thy life I hear in the tinkling bells of little laughing, harmonious lives. On the floor of my tender thoughts, Thine inspirations softly dance in tune with the music of the spheres.

In the hall of creation, everywhere, O Kali, I hear the rhythm of Thy footsteps, dancing forcefully in the booming thunder, and softly in the song of atoms.

The Infinite sleeps beneath the shroud of magic delusion, and then, O Goddess of Forms, Thy fantastic dances of finitude begin on His bosom. Thou hast danced nearer than the throbs of my soul, and I have heard the symphony of Thy steps on the farthest horizon of my mind. Divine Mother, Thou mayest dance everywhere: but O, I pray Thee, do Thou ever play the music of Thy magic footsteps in the sacred sanctum of my soul!

O Goddess Kali, in Thy changing robes art woven the dreams of creation, preservation and destruction. Mother Divine, on the beauteous veil of Thy mind a million cinemas of cosmic dramas play. Thus dost Thou entertain and amuse Thy good children, and frighten Thy naughty ones.

Mother Divine, draw aside Thy glittering veil of cosmic motion pictures and show me Thy delusion-dispersing face of mercy.

“Dissolver of Sugar” by Rumi

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of the hand, or a look.
Every morning I wait at dawn. That’s when it’s happened before.
Or do it suddenly like an execution. How else
can I get ready for death?
You breathe without a body like a spark.
You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter.
You keep me away with your arm,
but the keeping away is pulling me in.

MUSIC: “In Your Eyes”-Peter Gabriel

~ by R.M. McGrath on 05/19/2016.

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