Han Marie Stiekema Sermes
The story of his encounter with her
Q. Your connection to Teresa of Avila has
highly surprised me. I thought she represented a kind of very loyal discipleship to the
church. How did her and your world meet?
A. Yes, it is a great surprise
to me too. I could never imagine, that she would become so important to me.
Q. So, how did it happen?
A. First of all through the
discovery, that there is only One World, which we both share. Her descriptions of the Way
is one big recognition, being the cause of great gratitude and joy.
Q. (Silence). Well, there must be also another
reason. Why feeling a relationship with her in particular? There are countless other
"colleagues" of yours with similar Experiences, but without this intimate
A. That's right. Let's start
with the beginning, then. Meeting people on the spiritual Path is often reflecting the
special stage you are in yourself. Thus, in the beginning, my favorites - apart from
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, through whom I received Transmission ("despite himself")
- were the Buddha and some of his excellent disciples. That was, because I was in the
stage of Full Awakening, aspects of which I recognized in reports, written by people from
Q. Thus, it all changed, as you
A. Then, in my "Dark Night
of the Soul" I was seeking support from those, who understood the other steps of the
Spiritual Path. I wanted to know more about the sequence of those steps and the logic
behind. So, it happened, that I came across the book "Mysticism" of Evelyn
Underhill. Through this book I discovered - for the first time - the value of Christian
Mysticism. Especially, the place of suffering became a lot more clear to me. As said
before, the strength of Buddhism is the Path toward Enlightenment. The function of
suffering is greatly underdeveloped though. So, I was really grateful to be able to read
some important Mystics from "my own tradition". My favorites were a.o. Hadewych,
Beatrijs of Nazareth, Eckhart, Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit, Ruusbroec, Suso,
Catharina of Siena, Giordano Bruno and Juan de la Cruz.
Q. No Teresa yet?
A. No, I now know the reason.
It is, that I wasn't ready for her at that time. "Shame on me", for I thought,
that she would be much "inferior" to the others I had read.
Q. Was there a turning point?
A. Yes, indeed. After I had
"discovered" the Great Mother as the Ultimate Reality, suddenly, there was need
for developing a relationship. This had not occurred before, for "in the Enlightened
State" there is not another Realm "higher" than You...An "I and
Thou" relationship I considered - and many with me - as to be part of a
"lower" level. It belonged to those, who were still ignorant, who hadn't
discovered yet, that ultimately you are the Divine yourSelf.
Q. So, you had to get used to this new idea.
A. Absolutely. I remember a
kind of desperation, not knowing how to establish relationship with "the
Mother". I even went to a Christian bookstore to find a book about "how to
pray". TV broadcasts about Christian Services suddenly draw my attention. Rather than
"being backward", I suddenly considered these people "far ahead of
me". I realized, that "simply surrendering" to the Ultimate, as they did,
was something I had great difficulties with.
Q. Something I don't understand. On the one
hand, you lived a very spiritual life, while on the other having no contact with the
Divine. How can that be?
A. Through the Great
Realizations I know, that "I Am That". It is not a common experience, one that
comes and goes. Dissolving into the Ultimate is equal to receiving a New Identity. You
have become reborn. From that moment on, you know You Are Oneness. Everything is part of
You, rather than you being part of something else. This remains your Self-insight until
you die. In fact, that happens to most of "my kind" (laughter). However, it is
because of the Grace of the Mother, that She granted me a Higher Insight, namely, that the
Divine and therefore Self-realization is not the Ultimate.
Q. Which brought you back to zero, rather
climbing further up the mountain.
A. I had reached the top
already for a long time. Now, the Mother invited me to descend to Her Valley. The former
can be realized, while the latter cannot. How can you realize a Vacuum, Emptiness beyond
Emptiness? You can only surrender to It, worship It, take refuge in It. Hence, my whole
situation was turned upside down.
Q. So then it was, that you "met"
Teresa of Avila.
A. That's right. It was really
a shock and this for many reasons. First of all, the recognition. This was (is) so
perfect, that actually I could only feel: "She is me and I am her". This
was not only true with regard to "sharing the Essence", having equal
Experiences, but to all kinds of biographical details as well. Very often I was so moved,
that I couldn't stop my tears. Simultaneously, I realized her superiority, especially in
those areas, in which I was (am) still a beginner. So "I asked her", if she
wanted to become my sister, teacher and soulmate.*
* Which doesn't mean, that I
"agree with her" on all issues. For instance, her rather fanatic rejection of
"the world", I consider to be unfruitful. Her past - in which "she loved
the world too much" - and her subsequent concern, that "the world" may
distract her from being focused on God, plays a major role here.
Q. Did she answer you?
A. Until this very day I have
not yet received a refusal (laughter).
Q. So, what were the areas, in which she became
A. First of all, there was this
last part of the "Dark Night of the Soul". Although it had come to a closure,
there were still some very small gaps of understanding about the function of suffering.
Teresa was very outspoken about this. In moments of intense suffering, she asked her Lord
to grant her more. Now, I must confess, that initially resistance came up. "Typical
Christian masochism" I thought. In the context of the Mystical Path though, the
meaning is different. Through letting your suffering go the bottom of your soul, your
longing for the Ultimate will grow accordingly. It is out of Love for her Lord, that she
wanted it all.
Q. Quite amazing. But isn't not her humbleness
something - for which they say she was renowned - that is possibly not so recognizable to
modern man, not even to you?
A. Teresa was partly humble,
because of the pride she used to have. This is the genuine part. The other part was
strategy. Actually, she was incredibly ambitious to get her message through. However, both
as a woman of 16th century Spain, as well as a potential candidate for being convicted as
a heretic by the Inquisition, she exaggerated her humility all the time.
Q. Back to your learning process. What exactly
was she able to teach you, something others apparently couldn't?
A. It is her unconditional
surrender to her Lord, which totally "fascinates" me. Why? Because it is
something, that is most difficult to me. So difficult, that I know, that this will be the
issue until the end of my life. Therefore, I am absolutely certain, that Teresa will never
Q. What about the "practical part" of
your relationship with her.
A. Yes, that has been another
great surprise. Again, from my background I considered meditation the ultimate technique.
Through it, you realize your True Self, which is the most crucial step on the spiritual
Path. Meditation helps you to make the leap from ignorance - to be identified with a
fictitious idea of yourself - to awareness e.g. liberation. Again, it was the last thing I
expected, that "beyond" meditation something could be hidden, that was more
valuable, certainly not "prayer". Reading Teresa, my eyes were definitively
opened. She masterly describes her method of "Inner Prayer". It consists of
first becoming aware of yourself, subsequently followed by becoming aware of the Ultimate
as the all-inclusive Divine. It exceeded the meditation, for it not only focused on
yourself, but also on the Ultimate. This was exactly where I had been looking for.
Q. Please, go on.
A. Now, through having
established this relationship, words spontaneously start bubbling up. The astonishing
thing is, that she again and again emphasizes, that everything - self-awareness, awareness
of the Divine and awareness of your prayer - should take place in the HereNow....It is a
cosmic experience, far exceeding "personal awareness". But that wasn't all. In
Zen - which used to be my meditation background - it goes, that emotions shouldn't be paid
attention to. That is indeed the best attitude with regard to achieving clarity of mind,
at least up to a certain intensity (of your emotions). After that "active
acceptance" has to be added to it. Trying to establish relationship with the Mother -
"something", that cannot be realized, only surrendered to - was another thing
though. In this case, emotions like "longing", "trusting",
"pleading", "praising" and "surrendering" were crucial.
Teresa represents this all in a absolutely unique way. It gave me a deep sigh. I had found
a masterly friend.
Q. You are a master yourself. How does it feel
for you to have found one?
A. My life is blessed, in such
an overwhelming way, that I only can hope, that I may be fruitful, to the benefit of
Q. Teresa worshipped "her
Christian Lord", whom she often calls "His Majesty". You know from your
experience, that "God" is not the Ultimate. How can Teresa be a teacher to you?
A. It is the attitude of
unconditional surrender, that is decisive.
Q. So doesn't it matter, whom
you are worshipping: God or the Mother?
A. Remember: God is the Light
Body of the Mother. Hence, through the Mother you respect every tradition. And when I
become tired of reading "His Majesty", I simply replace it by "the
Mother" (big laughter).
Be receptive and the Mother
will come and give you "everything you need"
Praise the Mother!
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