The life and vision of Catherine Harding, the widow of the famous English mystic Douglas Harding, is described by Karin Visser in a biography that is also a handbook for Seeing who/what you really are. The new dimension that Karin Visser adds to the concept of “biography” is as fascinating as the life of the gentle woman she describes: It is an emotional and practical book.
On the one hand we meet “little” Catherine; the loving, traumatized French woman, feminist, mother, lover, teacher, who is often so poor that she is nearly starving; other times she is able to experiences a calm light, especially when her suffering is unbearable and she surrenders to it. In such moments she suddenly sees the irrepressible splendour of life, in which an apple is as precious as a jewel. Later she rediscovers this splendour, reflected in the work of the man she loves: Douglas Harding.
Karin Visser leads us through the life of Catherine; to the places where she once lived, to houses, islands, countries, and landscapes; through the ups and downs of Catherine’s life. Karin Visser makes us listen to the loving voice of Catherine and thus brings us back to the kitchen where the story is told and recorded and where coffee is poured and chocolate served. Karin Visser recognizes herself in Catherine’s story.
On the other hand, we meet “big” Catherine through a number of experiments; she who is without a name, without an identity, she who is just like you and me; empty capacity for the world; a woman without a face, a woman without a head, a woman who consists of one big eye, a genderless woman, a woman who is aware that she consists of mere sensations and consciousness, and that this awareness binds us all and makes us one. She is a woman who is built open to Everything and she realises this is unconditional love.
As “little Catherine” grows older she lives increasingly from that “Big One”, from that colourless brightness, until death will swallow her.
She is not afraid of her imminent departure and hopes that it will be a state of eternal, uninterrupted Seeing. She wants to be buried next to Douglas her name has already been engraved in the tombstone.
The headstone has the image taken from the massive book The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth; Harding’s lifework about the nature of all things. The image shows the mystery of our existence.
But for now Karin and Catherine sit together on the balcony and look and remain silent. They look out at what occurs out there. They realize that they are filled to the brim, here, with what occurs out there. They are, through the story, sisters in the Art of Seeing, a bond that cannot be broken. They realize that they are one with All there is and that Seeing this is a very simple affair. They are enlightened, undying, unborn creatures, while at the same time they are ordinary women who like chocolate. They don’t do high-priest mysticism because they know, with Ramana Maharshi, that enlightenment is as simple as seeing a small mound of berries in your hand, and that it is just as near.
Suzanne Visser, Australia, November 2016
(Suzanne Visser is not related to Karin Visser.)