It is a beautiful image, although I am not at all sure what it means. We are separated from Evagrius by centuries, by a Scientific Revolution, by the Enlightenment. I am not suggesting that we have nothing to learn from the ancients, or that certain of human longings and concerns are not so deeply ingrained in our biology as to resist cultural modification. Only that the metaphors we use to describe our most profound experiences are drawn from the times in which we live, and it is difficult for a person of the 21st century to enter into the mind of a 4th-century monk.
Doug’s book is about the Word, which I take as an expression of the Divine as revealed though the world. The Word graces and redeems the world; we have only to listen. Which, in Doug’s view, is the importance of the contemplative tradition. His wonderful book is an extended hymn on the art- or grace- of listening. But what are we listening for? Doug quotes the early monks of the desert, who lived in a world of ghosts, dreams and spirits, physical deprivation, and (presumably) sexual sublimation. He also quotes (for example) the modern poet Theodore Roethke:
Doug’s book speaks, I think, to both believers and agnostics. In the moth beating against the curtain, Doug hears the voice of the Word. I hear a moth beating against the curtain. I’m not sure the difference is as important as the hearing- for us and for the moth.”