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The heART of Ritual


The Cycle of Form and Formless

We are taken into winter, when the leaves are fallen from the trees and the branches are bare. Winter is this barrenness that belongs to what is essential. Even the colors of fall have faded, the leaves scattered; the sound of the animals is muted. The cycle of the sacred that began with a spark, a birth and opportunity, changed into the many forms, colors, fragrances—all the possible variations and many possibilities of the inner and outer life. Then after the season of autumn comes the way the sacred returns from form to the formless. This is return to the essence of life, which is the breath of the soul, the inner existence of the heart. It is fully alive and whole without color or fragrance, without sound. This season of winter is a time of completion.

And yet it needs an inner strength to fully honor this cycle of the sacred, to allow life’s book to turn to this empty page. We have to acknowledge that we are a part of a greater whole than we can imagine, a whole that includes the formless as well as the multitude of forms. Hopefully during the cycle of the seasons we have learned this strength—hopefully the sacred has taken us to this place where we are no longer frightened by the unknown. The wisdom of the sacred is in how it can give us what we need for each stage of the journey. Otherwise we are left stranded, unable to take another step. This is part of the tragedy of our present culture, whose disconnection with these deeper rhythms leaves so many people stranded, without the substance of the sacred, without having developed the qualities needed to complete the journey. How can one go further without welcoming winter, knowing it will be cold and have an element of desolation, but also sensing the beauty of this bareness?

Few words can be said of where this cycle finally takes us. But in the pattern of the seasons there is a simple mystery: after winter comes spring—there is another birth, as the light in the midst of darkness takes us further on the journey of no end. Letting the breath come and go, we die and live, night and day, winter and spring! And the final image of an empty circle contains both the cycle of form and the formless.

Words by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


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