Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682)
  by Richard Lang

Men that look on my outside, perusing only my condition and fortunes, do err in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders.

Sir Thomas Browne


Sir Thomas Browne, 1605-82, was an English author and physician. In Religio Medici (c.1635) he attempted to reconcile science and religion. Other works, including Hydriotaphia: Urn Burial (1656), express a philosophy now chiefly of historical interest. The quality of Browne's faith and his mode of expression make him an outstanding figure in English literary history. (Biographical details taken from

Sir Thomas Browne's words echo what every true mystic celebrates - that we are not limited to our human frame. Our true centre is limitless spirit. >From this centre our lives flow, whether we recognise it or not. However, the truth is, recognising it makes a huge difference.

As a human being I am conditioned. There is no escaping this. But to live as if I am only human, as if this is the sum total of my condition, is to imprison myself unnecessarily. Not much more than the old can flow from this place. Repetition and imitation are bywords in this country. On the other hand to live consciously from the spirit within is to tap into a source with no background, no conditions, no restrictions. It isn't even human. From this mystery, this unknowing, flows the new, the fresh, the inspired.

We have misread our situation. We are not simply what we look like - the image we see in the mirror and the images other people reflect back to us.This constructed, complex self-image we hold in our minds is not the whole story, useful and important as self-consciousness is.

Who am I really? My limited brain, my personal history, my role in my family and society, my bank account, my body, my job - or the uncreated light from which effortlessly flows every level of the universe?

Of course this is not an either/or situation. The truth embraces both the invisible centre and the visible periphery.

We are deep. Our lives flow from a source beyond our human mind or psyche. We have for backing the divine. Each of us has the opportunity, the potential to draw on this, to open ourselves for guidance and help from the source within. But instead of recognising and calling upon this resource we tend to overlook it in favour of the identity society gives us. We let ourseles get talked out of our true wealth.

However, the one and indivisible Source is who we really are, ever reliable and accessible. Infinitely wise and loving it never abandons us even for one moment. Nearer to us than our own breathing, it is there whenever we need or want it. It is a life-giving water, a fountainhead that never runs dry.

How might this awareness affect our everyday lives? Take relationship. We can either operate from our constructed self-image, fixed also in who we think our friend is and what we think the relationship is all about. Or we can let go of these images and look and act from who we really are, from the unknown, the mystery that we are. From this latter place, this true and deep place, relationship becomes new again, fresh and surprising. Our friend's face, given in the emptiness, the spacious awareness of our own being, is revealed as if for the first time.

Richard Lang
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