Numinous Beauty: Omer 17

Numinous Beauty: Omer 17
Peacock in flight, hovering, wings spread like a condor, illustrating a post about numinous beauty.

Tiferet: Beauty. Tiferet she’b’Tiferet: Beauty within beauty.  The ultimate. The heart of the tree of sefirot.

Some say the vibe of Tiferet is like the vibe of YHWH. The ineffable divine, subtle like a breath. But also, like a breath, threading through everything we do.

Occasionally it catches our attention. Leaps forward and touches our psyche. And it leaves a permanent trace: an image, loaded with feeling. It’s a “poetic moment,” says philosopher Gaston Bachelard. We can analyze it, of course. But that comes later. In the moment, we are too full.

Poetic moments can be gentle and inviting. Sublime and sweet. But they can also be terrifying. More like what theologian Rudolph Otto calls a “numinous” experience. An “eruption” of the holy into our world.

Numinous experiences come in dreams, too. Here’s one I had recently:

I am on a mountaintop, in a large cabin. Dozens of people sit on the floor. Older Habonim-Dror members are leading a seminar. It’s interesting, congenial, I enjoy it. But I leave the cabin anyway. I walk along a rocky trail on the mountainside. Other people walk it, too. But we are far apart, each walking alone. Suddenly, we all stop and turn in awe. Hovering near us is a giant condor. It faces us, brown wings outstretched, showing us its bright blue belly. On its head are three little upright feathers, like quail feathers, only blue.

Sure, I could analyze it. I’m on a mountaintop, a peak, close to heaven. But I’m in an enclosed space, receiving religious teachings. It’s an openminded tradition and I enjoy it. But I step outside of it to walk a rockier path. Others walk solitary paths there too. And that’s where we see beauty. A terrifying beauty. A numinous beauty, showing itself to us. A hybrid beauty, a new synthesis, part condor, part peacock. And all we can do is gawk.

But the analysis pales next to the dream’s power. Next to the bird’s beauty. Yes, the analysis says, “Go outside the box.” It’s a good message. But it puts the dream in a box. Yes, it seems to follow the dream’s metaphor. But too quickly, too neatly.

So, when I woke up, I didn’t analyze the dream. Instead, I googled “peacock condor.” And I found some amazing images of peacocks in flight. When I look at them, the feeling of the dream comes back. The poetic moment lives in me again.

Maybe the dream has no message other than, “Pay attention.”

Today is day 17 of the Omer, one week and three days.

New to the Omer count? Here’s a primer.

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