Review: Eternity’s Sunrise: A Way of Keeping a Diary
by Marion Milner
ISBN-13: 978-0415550741 (I read an older edition printed in 1989)
This was a satisfying read in that the author was aging at this point and became if possible even more introspective, and it was fascinating to follow the delight she took in seemingly simple things but on a much deeper level. Internalizing experience can happen at a lot of levels, and it seems to me that as one ages one seems to see eternity more easily in the mundane. I think that’s what I’m trying to get at as what I found in this book.
Marion Milner also wasn’t just any aging woman. She was someone who’d explored her inner workings from the time she was young, had spent years helping others do so as a psychoanalyst, and had never stopped growing and learning and considering that there was something deeper she needed to get at. So many people seem to decide that they’re “finished” at some point and become more know-it-all than questing. I feel that it’s our quests that really define us and make us wise rather than just knowledgeable.
The book is organized as a kind of internal travelogue. It follows her on four different trips to Greece, and a visit to Israel, paying attention only to what stood out for her, observations if you will that she identifies as “beads” as if she were putting together a string of prayer beads, each one special for its own (and her own internal) reasons. This isn’t what one expects from a travelogue. There isn’t anything that a casual tourist looks for. It will appeal only to the tourist of the psyche, playing with the images that stand out for the author in her travels, viewed as one might read the images in dreams.
Some early passages that stand out for me:
“Now I knew what it was I had missed in the other two visits, when there had been no time to climb the mountain, knew that it had not been that I had wanted just to see what flowers and birds were there, nor to get to the top, nor to find the Bacchantes’ cave (we really knew we’d never reach it), but rather to achieve something of what arriving at a holy place by mechanical transport deprives one of, the sense of spending, not one’s money but one’s self, to get there.”
(See the Greek play, Bacchantes by Euripides, “O hidden cave of the Curetes!” (http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/bacchan.html), which the author had been reading while on an earlier trip to Greece.)
“I had certainly found that the whole idea of turning one’s attention inwards was deeply threatening to some people.”
(Contemplating the Daphni monastery Christ Pantrocrator mosaic) “… could this be a glimpse of a new vision that the artist who made the mosaic was speculating about, perhaps not even knowing that he was, a secret doubt whether the wholesale rejection of the body which had become so embedded in the way Christianity had developed since the days of Christ really was what Christ had meant? Could it be showing the mosaic maker’s own intuition that to be truly human did not mean denying the body but redeeming it from the body-mind split that practical life in the world so often seems to demand, redeeming it by a recurrent resurrection, not after death but in this life? And, therefore, not retreating from bodily love but going deeper into it, finding richer and richer possibilities in relationship, in psychic and physical creativeness, bringing the full inner body awareness into being together?”
All of this was of course the author’s personal musing, reflecting on her Christian upbringing and coming to terms with her early rejection of that teaching and her interest in nature and in paganism – and later in psychology. Although the author was a Freudian psychoanalyst, she occasionally referenced Jung and skirted around Jungian ideas. In fact throughout her four books that I’ve now read she made reference to what she called the “inner gesture” and an “Answering Activity” or “the sense of something other that lives one.” All these I found leading to or similar to what Jung referred to as the Self.
I’ll stop sharing passages here and leave the rest to be discovered by those who choose to read the book, as I think I’ve made clear by now that this isn’t so much a travelogue of Greece and Israel as it is a travelogue of Marion Milner’s unique vision of life, and an invitation for others to find their own unique visions of life.
There are some passages that refer to her earlier books and are likely best understood if one has read them, but I don’t think any lack of familiarity with those books will detract too much from understanding this one. I just feel lucky to have read them and feel as if I know the author better to start with. This was almost like finding as yet unread letters from a dear friend.