Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘mysticism’ Category

Holy Spirit

Focusing on the third major phrase of the Creed, we have:

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

A reflection –

From the very beginning, a perfect union of the love of creative force and Man was to be fulfilled,

and the Spirit that hovered over the deep unknowable set in motion a series of improbable events 

leading inevitably to the God-Man, the exemplar destined to express the Divine energy and creative love 

inside the world of human affairs. 

Incarnation is the second momentous event after the moment of Creation of our universe: the moment of full expression of the divine birthing spark setting in motion the next epoch in the life of Creation on its journey home to the beginning.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

the-son-of-god

Perhaps no statement sits more uneasily in our hearts and minds than the second phrase of the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.

In our age, an ecumenical spirit continues to rise alongside of defensive orthodoxies. While many of our brothers and sisters embrace the stated belief completely, still others see the sacred light shining through many other manifestations in other traditions as well, as in the life and teaching of the Buddha, while still others cling to belief that they worship the “One True” God.

The Council arrived at a formula that members felt would establish the divinity of Christ in such a way as to set aside the many divergent views of who Jesus was at the time. This served the theo-political goal of cohesiveness under Constantine and the promulgation of a coherent guiding creed by which to define identity as a Christian.

How do we bring these words to life in our times while being respectful of the inspiration ( witting and unwitting) contained in what the Council fashioned?

I offer the following personal meditation:

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher of righteousness, the Son of Man, from  whose life and words springs the truth of God’s Love and Presence.

In His example, I see God’s Presence lived fully and in walking with Him I open myself to die to who I think I am to be born as the one I really am.

I believe in the Cosmic Christ, inspired and expressed by the Source, Father-Mother of all, that was there before the beginning, at the beginning and is still the central archetype of the evolving Universe.

I believe that God is the light that pierces all the darkness and the love shown by Christ is the way to that Light.

There is an eternal unity that binds the children of the Light to the beating Heart that set all in motion and that draws all back home.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

nicene-creed

How do we interpret and reintegrate the concepts of the ancient Church in the 21st century? We can accept them as they are given I suppose but that strikes me as intellectually lazy leading only to formulaic thinking and all the attendant prejudice and superficially ritualistic exchanges. Or, we can toss it out altogether and find a new system of thought – drop the Nicene Creed, for example, from our Liturgies.

Yet, that amounts to throwing the baby out with the wash water. Just because something was written in pre-scientific times does not relegate it to the junk heap of history. Consider the genius of Plato and Aristotle, the pre-Socratics and the texts of the Wisdom traditions of the East. While post-modern hubris may direct many to discard what is old simply because of its age, this would be adolescent and the height of folly. As Hans Gadamer has said: ” Read nothing that isn’t at least 2000 years old.” Add to this, Alfred North Whiteheads comment: ” Everything is a footnote to Plato.”

I agree with Gadamer that all understanding is bounded by the perspectives shaped by language and  culture. Yet, wisdom transcends culture. When the early Fathers of the Church gathered in 352 AD for the First Council of Nicea they struggled with so-called heresy and, through dialogue, arrived at a consensus about what to belief about Jesus. While framed by pre-scientific thought, sincere communities in dialogue discover things that each person would not have. Often, communities of prayerful debate stumble upon rich metaphor that emerges from the intersection of different agenda and experiences that tap a deep well of Knowing.

Nonetheless, we cannot interpret through their eyes, though scholarship certainly places us in a better place to appreciate where they were coming from. We read mindful of history but of course within the context of our age, our experiences, our language and new forms of thought.  We must allow the words to soak in and find in them the wisdom that speaks to us. “What if it simply goes nowhere for me?” asks a sincere person struggling with the statements of the Creed for example. In this instance, one can do no better than focusing elsewhere on aspects of tradition that do speak to you and, failing that, to find a group that approaches the mysteries from a different vantage point altogether. I, for one, have chosen to stay put having spent two decades sampling many different approaches only to find something missing. So, with feet squarely planted on the ground in the Episcopal tradition, I struggle with the beauty and the sometimes incomprehensibility of antiquity. I choose to allow the words to rise out of history and live in whatever way they may in me as they forge new meaning especially through dialogue with others.

On this the Eve of Thanksgiving, I share a meditation in this vein on the first phrase of the Nicene Creed to be followed in subsequent posts with reflections on the remaining phrases:

” We believe in God the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.”

Beyond all imagining, I embrace the timeless Beginning, the  matrix on which  the whole of Creation is shaped and is moving;  a Heart, a force of Love, that is ever present in this moment as in the first moments of the Big Bang, drawing all things forward toward their completion and fulfillment in a larger pattern unknown.

I believe in the “father” of time as the universe expands, the “mother” of life who inspires all becoming, the “spirit” driving patterns that ebb and flow according to unseen fields of force.

I believe that more is unseen than seen. I believe that all knowing has its roots in the Cosmic Knower who yearns for unity in diversity, and that all knowing is always personal. 

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

religion

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really looking for. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. (Joseph Campbell)

I find myself engaged in frequent conversation these days with very earnest and thoughtful people who struggle, as sons and daughters of post-modernity, with the religious notions handed down from antiquity. I struggle right along with them. The struggle is meaningful in itself. I too feel the tension between the call of scientific consciousness that seeks to understand how things work and the deep need to know why there is anything at all which science can not address.

As one dedicated to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, I must navigate between their import and the traditions and rituals that have wrapped themselves around them. Should I, as one keen to know through the lens of science, dispense with all the myth that has no basis in historical fact and rededicate myself, in all aspects of my life, to only the verifiable and objective? If I did, what would I miss other than the comforting blanket of forms that surrounded my early years that were taught with such seeming authority:  a virgin birth, raising people from the dead, resurrection, an ascension, a star of Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus in December after a long journey for Mary & Joseph from Nazareth on a camel, three wise men, etc.

None of these are rooted in fact. None of these are history. They are either stories that can elevate our sights or provide quaint and dispensable legends. 

Mythos means story or fabrication. In what sense are myths true or are they simply fictions designed to avoid facing what we don’t know? As Joseph Campbell expresses so well, they actually make it possible for us to be more fully alive. They are  lenses through which we can discern meaningful movement and detail, texture and color that would otherwise be lost to us. Myths bring the banal and ordinary to a heightened level and call us to deeper presence in relating to the world. 

Myth is another form of sight. Like an astronomer using different lenses to reveal subtler detail of studied planets or a photographers use of lenses to extend seeing, myth serves to examine teachings in the form of story that engage our whole being ( head, heart and spirit). Entering the story makes it possible to journey deeper into the truths at which the teachings are pointing. Even in science, metaphor is used to capture the realities under study in ways that tell a story so we can enter into physical mysteries more deeply: black holes, white holes, warping of the fabric of space-time, the curvature of space, quarks ( never seen but evidence suggests they are real), dark matter, dark energy, etc.

So, how might we make right use of the myths of Christianity to experience its teachings more deeply and fully. I offer merely one set of possibilities born of my own meditations choosing three of those mysteries/ myths mentioned earlier:

  • a Virgin birth: I imagine Mary’s full “Yes” to the Spirit delivering such news regardless of the social awkwardness of that revelation. I envision her fear giving way to joy in accepting even the seemingly impossible – a lesson in what it means to take a leap of faith into the unknown guided by gut instinct and a personal epiphany. Mary’s “Magnificat” calls me to examine the boundaries of my own surrender to the real and cynicism in response to hope and possibility. All births are miraculous! All births are arrivals from the unknown? One life can change us all! Where is the impossible happening in spite of my disbelief and what are the self-imposed limits by which I restrict my sense of what’s real?
  • a star shining brightly over the manger in Bethlehem: Three Kings of the Orient came bearing gifts and I imagine their dedicated search for the One foretold in scripture journeying over the desert in the “bleak mid-Winter”. I see their joy at coming upon the scene marked by portents in the Heavens and adoring the Child whose life would change the world. What lies beneath such a story that communicates enduring truth? In childhood, we see things animated by fantastical purposes and then, as we age, life’s challenges weaken our hold on hope and a sense of possibilities. Are the stars so separate? Are we not made of the same stuff?Are we not children of the stars? Are there not many seeming coincidences that nonetheless strike us as meaningful and that enrich our experiences? About what am I so passionate and so alive that I will journey long and hard to search it out? Where is the dedication to revelation that this story expresses? Do I see the miracles embedded in the events that too often go unappreciated?
  • Resurrection: A Soter, a bearer of Light, dies and then rises again as prefigured in the myth of Osiris and Persephone’s rise from Hades in the Spring; a Presence too great to be snuffed out who achieves a consciousness about which we can only imagine. Is death the end? Do we live on in another condition? Is our personal consciousness dead once the brain stops? Where are we going? Do we merely become dust once more? This is the central myth of Christianity. In the universe, matter and energy is neither created nor destroyed. Carl Jung spoke of the objective psyche, independent of any one of us, that draws us toward certain constellations of thought and ultimately story. I can leap into the arms of mystery and believe that, like matter and energy, consciousness too rejoins a process that, like all things in the Cosmos, is complexifying and moving toward completion. To posit an abrupt end to consciousness would stand in contrast to everything else we know about the universe. I leap into the arms of mystery, suspend my disbelief and open my heart to what mind can never grasp. I can imagine it beyond the limits my reason would impose.

Myth is a form of poetry. Without the humanities, science is cold, impersonal and can lead to destruction ( e.g., we made the atom bomb because we could). The arts are not optional. Without the aesthetic sense and literature, all things lose their deeper essence and rootedness in the mysteries. We loose the soul in the machine. Science too is written in myth like the Myth of Objectivity. We know that our tools of study affect the phenomena that we study. Mind is structured in terms of story and stripping story of metaphor is to make it hollow.

Hegel reasoned late in life that poetry was the only language that can carry us farther than simple logic. Indeed, I could say to you: ” As I age, I see that I, like everything, am on the move propelled by the same forces”, or we can read the poetry of Dylan Thomas:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower 
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees 
Is my destroyer. 
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose 
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The poem carries us deeper and speaks to mind, heart and soul and from the imagery we are perpetually edified.

Myth is the process by which we see into ourselves and the mysteries and are a critical part of knowing.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

trinity

In playing the piano, pressing one key is hardly making music. Intoning one note does little to  inspire. Pressing two keys is not much better, offering a musically lean sound; an incompleteness. It is only the intoning of three, a full chord ( the 1st, 3rd and 5th), that we move  toward music. Interesting, too, is that the chord itself is made up of notes a third higher up to the perfect 7th.

With chords in mind, we then sequence them and orchestrate their intersection to form musical phrases. So, until we reach the triads, we are missing dimensionality and fullness. One thinks of Bach and the exquisite, complex interweaving and harmonics that leave us  amazed – all of it an evolving musical phrase with roots in the Law of Three.

This reference to the mathematics of music serves as an experiential anchor for understanding the Sacred Trinity. A flight to thinking reductionistically in terms of Unity alone, is the intellectual equivalent of intoning a single note. This arguably diminishes the natural experience of the tri-fold movement that is so essential to music and, in fact, to the very structure of the universe: (e.g., the attraction of atoms to form molecules and molecules to form the complex chemistry of life).

Dualism, conceiving things in dyads, adds more dynamism but operates only along a tense two-dimensional polar axis: right – wrong, heaven – hell, love – hatred, light- dark, etc. The tension has no hope of resolution until arrival of  the 3rd. Mother and father join to conceive a child and thus family is born. In this example, the family is the arising 4th made possible by the triad ( Father, Mother, & Child). At the molecular level, two elements join to form a new molecule that has characteristics different from either of its constituent parts. With greater and greater complexification, as reasoned by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, whole systems emerge. Each triad gives rise to a new entity, the 4th. The Law of Three is also at the heart of the thinking of Russian Mystic Gurdjieff who founded an entire system on the idea. 

In matters of mystical theology, this idea has great import. Reference to the “Heavenly Father” alone marks a first monotheistic step in human thinking about the sacred. Yet, the Father was still “ein sof, the unknowable One”, “the Other” and often fearsomely distant. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, we came to see the Father in the Son – the epitome of love and compassion. That relationship gives rise to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, completing the sacred musical chord. Once complete, consciousness moves inexorably toward greater complexity and the grand orchestration of the musical spheres carries us toward inner experiences that reason can never manufacture. Reason sets the table for epiphany but then must be transcended if we are to have the true knowledge of the Heart.

Trinitarian thinking is concordant with nature itself. Anything less weakens the spiritual engine driving us toward true knowing.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

3639281836_1d91f9d2ea_z

With a rich and diverse history dating back to around 800 AD, the practice of saying the rosary (or a  place where roses grow) blossomed rapidly.

Over the centuries, many forms  emerged. It was St. Dominic who first referred to the practice of reciting  three bouquets of  fifty prayers each (prayers tracing back to the lay Medieval practice of prayer after  monastic chanting of each of the 150 Psalms of David).

The symbolism is deeply rooted in Western consciousness.

As most species of roses have five petals each, it came to represent the five wounds of Christ and became quickly associated with the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven. The rose is the national flower of England and the U.S. state flowers of New York, Georgia, North Dakota, and Iowa. It is the recognized flower of Valentine’s Day and is often associated with love. It’s fragrance too has come to connote transcendent self offering, humility, grace and peace.

A walk in a rose garden with a set of rosary beads in hand is a wonderful way to invite all of one’s senses to open to the sacred mysteries.

It is the very essence of simplicity: walk slowly through the garden, slow down your breathing. Stop on each bead and breath peace. Bathe in the silence. No need to use a lot of words or any in fact.

Simple, easy, open and thankful.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

IMG_0060

Gentle immensities:  bark-worn, branch- torn,  grey-green friars,
tell me in whispers to what one aspires.

No fear, nor pretense, without want or bold opinion,
the maple giants speak of Knowing and Dominion.

” But humble moments –  fleeting filaments of time and space,
we reach for the Sun, our eternal face.

The All runs in our veins as we move unmoved, through storms, and cuts, falls and cold,
Knowing that the end is but the beginning, and the new rests on the old.”

Wisdom rises in simple Presence that calls on me to know,
that only Angels see tomorrows and which way the winds will blow.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »