Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: oceanic feeling
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 15:57

The Oceanic Feeling

All marine ecosystems are in constant flux, affected by external influences and short-term disruptions as well as by seasonal cycles. Those who live within an oceanic environment necessarily see the world in a different way from those who dwell in the plains, highlands or mountains. Sudden and unexpected changes foster the representation of distant divine beings whose behavior is unpredictable; the sense of uncertainty generated by the environment encourages flexible strategies, rather than linear thinking. Nowhere is this truer than in the Pacific Ocean, which covers a surface larger than the one occupied by all land areas, and which accounts for eighty percent of the islands of the globe.

In the Pacific world, the ocean is the continent: the sea constitutes the natural environment for all forms of life, it is also the vector of communication... A writer from Tonga, Epeli Hau'ofa (1939-2009) has spoken of a "sea of islands', a sea that unites rather than divides, a sea that is a lived story: for the ocean moves and breathes in those born on its banks like the salt in the sea and the blood within the body. The immense ocean also dwells within the narrow limits of a human body, allowing man to travel into himself in the same way he embarks for finding other islanders.

All this may remind us of what the writer Romain Rolland called, in his correspondence with Freud, the"Oceanic feeling.” Through this expression he was trying to encapsulate a feeling of infinity that goes beyond all structured religious belief. Nowadays, Romain Rolland’s “Oceanic feeling” has become little more than a footnote in the history of religious psychology. Freud was not very appreciative:  "How foreign to me are the worlds in which you move! Mystique is as closed to me as music” he wrote to Rolland – who replied, "I can hardly believe that mysticism and music are foreign to you. I rather think that you are afraid of them, as you wish to keep the instrument of critical reason unblemished.”

Going a step beyond Romain Rolland, one may say that the presence of God in the soul is like the triumphant sound of the waves - and this “like” means two things at once: first, it speaks of the universal nature of spiritual experience; and second, it recognizes the fact that no comparison can account for the way God makes himself present within the depths of man. What the Oceanic feeling helps us understand is that joy arises in our soul always as something nascent. The joy that comes like the light of the day within the darkness of our depths is sung and evoked by the movement of an ocean everlasting and yet nascent, by the rhythm of the waves engraving and erasing their writings on the sand with a finger trembling and yet assured. Eventually, the Oceanic feeling lets us glimpse the mystery of the birth of God within the soul: a gift eternally offered – and always new.

Illustration by Bendu



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