testing the waters once more….

Dipping my feet back into the water with spirituality with “The Bhagavad Gita.”

I am fulfilled. the elements of nature, the body and senses, what are they to me? or the mind? what is emptiness or despair?

I am boundless space. the world is a clay pot. this is the truth. there is nothing to accept. nothing to reject, nothing to dissolve.

know you are one, pure awareness.  with the fire of this conviction burn down the forest of ignorance.  free yourself from sorrow and be happy.

you are always the same, unfathomable awareness, limitless and free, serene and unperturbed.  desire only your own awareness.

the ultimate consciousness is always present everywhere. it is always present everywhere. it is beyond space and time with not before or after.  it is undesirable and obvious. so what can be said about it? you are it.

the birth and dissolution of the cosmos itself takes place in me. there is nothing that exists separate me.  the entire universe is suspended from me as my necklace of jewels.

Water for my soul….

God, rid me of God

I’m on a journey.  Since having left the wild and wacky world of “primitive Christianity” (house church with a splash of new-monasticism and a strong sprinkling of fundamentalism) I have essentially been searching high and low for a place to hang my hat.  It is taking me across some interesting places.  Many of the posts I’ve thrown up in the last several months are themed towards this.  It isn’t exactly a worldview, but I am attempting to come to grips with both the content and implications of the places where I am.  In response to a recent comment I posted the following, and I think it’s a fitting description of where I am currently and what interests me:

The Project: Religion With/Out Religion

For the past while, I’ve been attempting to find some sort of working model for what Bonhoeffer called “religionless Christianity” and Derrida called “religion without religion”. Those seem, to me, to be very important concepts–and they resonate with me, they speak to me. Can God be the good news of the religionless without converting them to being religionFULL?  I would say, yes…and I’m trying to flesh out what that means. Part of what my war on certainty has affirmed is that almost everything requires a choice–a value decision. There really isn’t anything that is just “plain truth”, no matter how much science (or their kissing cousins fundamentalists) believe so. They are choosing the narratives that make sense to them. I believe this is Polkinghornes point from my last blog post of quotes(by the way–his charge was, i believe, more or less leveled at rationalists who come up with a utilitarian model of a clocklike universe…that lacks any sort of life, beauty, mystery, or wonder…).

The (Un)Wholly Other

I have also been meditating on the im/possiblity of God.  Or rather the impossible as God.  One way of thinking about this is that God is wholly other. In other words, we mostly fail to see God. Our intellect, our very ability to perceive God, is what is ill-equipped to witness God. Another way of thinking about this is that our imaged thoughts of God do not allow for God. This is why Meister Eckhardt cries out, “God, rid me of God!” Our concepts of God prevent us from experiencing God…often. However, God cannot be wholly other…else we would miss God altogether. There is, admittedly, an element that lies within our constructs causing an awareness. We are not totally oblivious to God.  There are aspects of the unknowable which, surprisingly, are  knowable. 

Here comes the first critical choice…on one hand you could say that the human species has evolved this collective consciousness of God…it cannot exist without having an Other to live with…This view seems to say that there is a God construct that our survival instinct depends on.  But that is a supposition, an interpretation, and hardly the only assumption to be drawn (I would also add it’s not even an assumption that bears out in our normal existence.) Far more common sense, frankly, is that the thing which we desire, and can sense (if not altogether perceive) is communicated by that which desires us (and wishes us to sense it). Just as hunger testifies to the dependence on and the existence of food, so too our own awareness to the wholy other speaks of the wholly other which is in relationship to us.   This to me, makes God, once more–loving, relational, and personal. God as being, or more than being, or less than being (I don’t know) is engaged in whispering and wooing.  Our awareness describes not constructs but communication.  I recognize that this is as a subjective choice, a value decision…but to me it paints a much more beautiful picture than the other subjective choice that opts for the other side of things.

Loving Love

Having said that, I’ve taken up the Augustinian question, that Caputo alliterates, “who do I love when I love my God?” And I’m trying to find a working articulation of what exactly I mean when I speak of God. Personally, I am coming to the Johannian (as in the epistle writer) view, that the first name of God, is love. That love, in all its forms, pure love is God. Love is something intangeble…always drawing us into action, but never quite resolving in that event…it requires more of us. God is that which we desire, but also that which desires us and pulls and propells us towards the event of love. Love in this case is so deeply intimate that to describe it impersonal, or unrelational, would be to demote it. Love requires such relating and such personhood.

If God is Love…Then Who Are We?

“If Love is the first name of God, then ‘of God’ is the name of those who love”. We’re always looking for who’s in and who’s out… To me, love, is the dividing line…always. This is why a secular person who’s life is for the other, is always a religious or God filled life. And a religious person who is only for themselves and what they consider right and wrong is not at all religious and God filled. The people of God are those who are lovers.

The (non)Spiritual Journey

The spiritual journey then is discovering that love…both in terms of our own sense of Belovedness and in terms of being a channel through which that love may flow.

So…these are the places I am coming to…I’m using, perhaps, overly vague language…and doing so because I deeply believe that the Christinese that we have so often used, no longer has place in this world. It has lost the right to speak. it has, to often, been complicit in evil for to speak of lofty good. It’s words are poison. This is the project I’m attempting to develop. I recognize that both cardinals and ordinary Christians alike may not be very happy about the direction its going. I suppose that’s the price I’ll have to pay for thinking about Christianity without Christianity.  But, I have to try…I can do no other.

From the Thought Box

It’s rare that I share less developed thoughts on here…most of them represent things that I’ve had rumbling around for a bit, not final yet, but not just begun either.  At any rate, here’s a snippet from my thought box:  I realize that I’m increasingly attracted to the faith that Jesus held rather than the faith that holds Jesus.  The religion that Jesus practiced is different than the religion that worships Jesus.  I don’t thinking I’m talking about a return to some positivist notion of “pure Christianity” from the age of the apostles.  Perhaps I am, though I can’t exactly be sure.  To be honest, I don’t exactly know how I mean it but I thought I’d put it out there. Cheers.

Easter

Today is Easter, by some accounts.  And I’m reminded of new life.  More specifically I’m reminded of life that survives, in spite of.  That is the Big Story, I think.  The Christ life can’t be held down.  The Good, the Just, the Beautiful, is a force that cannot be killed–for long.  It is a promise.  There’s a flip side–the Ideal also can’t be contained, just as it can’t be killed.  The Resurrection doesn’t end with Triumph, it ends with a disappearance…another promise.  The Ascension takes the Perfect away again (40 days later), towards an undisclosed future and invites us (yet again) to get on with living with(out) God’s Presence…

Easter is about, at least in my opinion, longing contentment, hopeful resignation…that Darkness is never quite so dark as we imagined, and that Light is the promise of the Empty horizon.

The devil and a bit of truth

The devil and his friend were walking down the road when they noticed a passer by pick something up off the ground.  The friend wondered aloud as to what the person had found.  Satan replied that they had picked up a piece of Truth.  His friend was chagrin, “You can’t just let people go around finding Truth, can you?  I mean, what kind of world would this be….?” 

The devil laughed out loud and calmly reassured his friend, “Oh don’t worry, they’ll just turn it into a belief…I’ve seen this a million times before!”  Somehow Satan’s friend didn’t look convinced to which the devil addressed his final comment, “Just ask Jesus.  He’s came into the world and embodied Truth and look what happened to him…his disciples just ended up founding Christianity!”

Relieved, the friend mused, “Yeah, I guess you’re right…nothing to be worried about I suppose.”

Son of who, exactly? Exactly.

It’s not going to surprise anyone that the story of the Exodus, and particularly elements from the Moses biographic portion, are about (un)knowing God.  Take the burning bush incident for example: here Moses asks to to know the name of God.  From the ancient cultural understanding to know the Name of something, to name someone, is to control it or them; it is to have power, the power of knowledge or definition.  And you know how the story goes. In a manner of speaking God gives Moses the great kiss off.  The “name” he tells Moses is far less of a name and far more of an event, or even a stiff middle finger. One well known Old Testament scholar said that YHWH, “I am that I am” or “I am what I will be” is actually rather like saying “Never you mind, is my name”.  God refuses to be controlled, conquered, or even discerned.

Later on, as you again already know, Moses gets up the courage to ask God to show his glory.  Glory, T. Austin Sparks said once, is the “fullness of something.” The glory of a Rose would be a fully blooming one, fully developed, etc… It has to do with maturity and reaching the apex of possibility.  In other words, once again Moses was asking to see the very being of God. Coming from his Egyptian tradition, in a way, he would have been requesting substance, form…an idol.  He wanted a knowable God.  This time God concedes…but with a caveat.  God’s would shelter Moses’ eyes as His glory passed before him, and then Moses could look at God’s backside.  I’ve always thought that was strange.  But I love the ancient rabbinical reading of it suggesting that by “backside”, the writer’s meant where God had just been.  Moses could look upon God’s fullness, but only where it had just previously been.  Once again, God refuses to be given form or definition.  He is knowable…but inscrutable.  His goodness is not question, but rather his discernibility at each and every level.  

Those are both rather well known examples. I’ve read them in a dozen places it seems in the last year alone.  But recently I saw something that I hadn’t heard before. It had to do with Moses’ actual name.

Moses is not a Hebrew name.  It is actually Egyptian.  We’ve actually seen it so many places that it has become common to us. Tutmoses, Ramoses…etc…Moses means “son of”.  In the Egyptian tradition royalty were given the name of their patron God and declared themselves to be divine.  Son of Tut. Son of Ra. Etc…  Historians presume that at one time Moses had a longer name as well. He was defined by his divine lineage. He had a certain God and a certain manifest destiny.  But…somewhere along the line his name was cut off. His name was abbreviated to simply “Son of”.  Son of what?  Son of who?  Exactly.  Uncertain. Inscrutable. Indefinable.  Even his own name would be a constant reminder to him that he could not fathom God.  

Pretty interesting stuff.

A feeling…

Longing for some other language, for some geometry or glossolalia or primal scream, sweeps over me. I have every intention of falling on my knees and speaking L O U D L Y! 

There is a sense, as if I want to scream, “I’ve FOUND IT!!!” But of course what I really mean is that I have lost it.  Any sense of form or container feels like it’s been shattered.  The Beauty cannot be held–and that is why it is a painful and slippery Beautiful.  A song written, hardly authored by me but more or less through me, that I forget instantly and hear traces of melody in all other songs ever written–but never again THAT hymn, THAT anthem, THAT one that I remember.

And so there it is. I have found and misplaced and commit to remembering again that miraculous agonizing praise song to the One, the Mystery, the Singularity, the Beauty, the Anguish of Freedom, the spilling out and the flooding back again, the Hidden, the Other, the Ineffable…and I can’t think of too many words, they spill and splatter like tears on a page.  I sit, transfixed by the Artist and am content to write these words–they will be my kneeling, screaming, crying out in the tongues of men and of angels. And they are only for You.

Beyond

I’m learning that if we can approach God in reality at all it is in the simplicity of wonder and awe. It is in shining darkness and screaming silence. To have our eyes opened to the light of God is to be struck blind along with Saul of Tarsus. In that moment, the sightless eyes of our heart, can faintly make out the glory of God.

It’s not exactly the revelatory, joyful, ecstatic experiences I thought it would be…rather it is an ambiguous even doubting cry of “why have you forsaken me?” This absence of God is, for me, the presence of God…the fellowship of His suffering…the knowing of Christ crucified…powerless, weak, wondering, and looking towards a hope not yet realized. That’s the place I find myself in…and this too is Christ.

Trinity!! Higher than any being, any divinity, any goodness!

Guide in the wisdom of heaven!

Lead us up beyond unknowing and light,

up to the farthest, highest peak of mystic scripture

where the mysteries of God’s Word

lie simple, absolute and unchangeable

in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence.

Amid the deepest shadow

they pour overwhelming light

on what is most manifest,

Amid the wholly unsensed and unseen

they completely fill our sightless eyes

with treasure beyond all beauty.

Exhaustion and enjoyment

So…this is sort of the working analogy for my life right now.  I think it may provide some clarification on previous posts as well…

A polar explorer, a climber of some renown, has ventured farther and higher than ever before when at last he chances upon a sheer glacial wall.  Impossibly tall, the climber cannot see the top, nor can he peer around the edges, in fact he is at an end for the wall cannot be gone around, only scaled…far from discouraged, he pulls out his best mountain climbing equipment and sinks the pick ax into the ice–except it don’t sink in at all but bounces backwards.  The ice is too hard for his ax.  He tries again and again and again, all without any success.  So, he tosses aside the ax and pulls out a grappling hook.  Swinging the chord round and round he hurls it upward, hoping to catch onto a lip of ice or crevice.  However, the hook plummets back down; it didn’t catch anything.  Over and over the climber attempts to penetrate or chisel, without any results.  Finally he collapses backwards, exhausted. His tools are splayed out in front of him–useless in conquering the Wall ahead.  All of his natural resources are depleted.  And there he sits staring at the immovable object ahead.

Then, something occurs to him…how beautiful the glacial sheet is. How rare and peculiar. How unlike any other monument he had ever seen.  He watched the light play off the edges and skitter across it.  The adventurer is entranced…and then…and only then, exhausted of all ability and attempt he can at last enjoy the site ahead.

This is our relationship with God.

The Orthodox believe this to be the case.  St. Francis also spoke of this, he said that we must fully experience the senses, the heights and the depths of life so that we may become as a plain–leveled before God.  Madam Guyon also understood it, she said that only when we have passed through all the seasons of life fully can we become “seasonless” in the Christian life.

Some people would skip ahead…committing “sensual” suicide.  They want to be seasonless before understanding the seasons. They want to enjoy before they have exhausted.  And…try as they might…this really won’t occur, at least I don’t think so…

So, here I am, swinging my pick ax, trying to chisel away…and the whole time beginning, just beginning, to appreciate the mystery and paradox and beauty that is God.

Make sense?

is it “modern to be stupid”?

Matt Pond PA has a song lyric (which I posted before) where he says “it’s modern to be stupid”…and I have no clue what he meant by that statement, but I know what I am hearing.

The sacred/secular split–the great counter stroke by post-enlightenment theologians designed to keep hope alive, designed to prevent the utter loss of spirituality–which served only to keep God in the church building on Sunday’s and let good Christians live like atheist scientists on the weekdays is behind it.

And ever since that split seperating God’s things from the world’s things (which include science, philosophy, the mind, thought life, emotions, and practically everything aside from “spirit”) we Christians have kept a healthy distance from intellect and all things intellectual–save that which we define as “Christian intellect”…and that’s what’s funny.

Some people would say that normative Christianity is aimed at the frontal lobe…and in many ways Protestants do talk an intellectual talk. But it’s a shallow intellectualism. It’s an unimaginative intellectualism. To borrow Rohr’s word, it’s a “neutered” intellectualism.  Unlike Lewis and Wright and Dostoevsky and Tolstoy who were men who knew God…who knew Him deeply, but also intellectually…and most of Christianity is just trying to prove points–not exhaust their resources (including the intellect) on the enjoyment of God.  And that’s just one side of modern Christianity…

the other side literally thinks it’s spiritual to be inoculated from the intellect; spiritual to disengage; spiritual to not talk, to not think, to not reason…

It’s modern to be stupid.

But I’m not willing to allow the intellectual imagination of God to rot in pseudo-spirituality that owes more to the enlightenment than it does to God’s persistent purpose.

Let’s exhaust ourselves on God.

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