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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

In my recent post, I focused on the myth of the “one” true and destined love and the importance instead of choice and commitment.

Further reflection at the opening of Advent 2012 leads me to consider the Christian dogma of the “one” and “only begotten Son”. It is a matter of orthodox theology that Christ stands apart from all others as the true Soter or savior of the World: an exclusivity, the embodiment on Earth of the Father whose Presence is mediated by the Holy Spirit.

How do we make sense of this within the context of Faith with reason? Is the notion of the “One” equally mythic with that of the single destined lover for whom we are meant to be joined: the one who completes us? Is there an alternative way of thinking that protects the deep sense of mystery and special character of the One who Luke makes reference in ascribing to the Father the words: ” You are my Beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.”

In reply to the question, my meditation stumbles on a framing error implicit in the questions themselves. In their construction, they are dualistic, (i.e., either/or).

A better question is:

In what way is the “Son of God” both inimical and yet non-exclusive?

After all, Jesus says elsewhere:

“Timeless truth, I tell you: ‘whoever believes in me, those works which I have done he will also do, and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to the presence of my Father.’ ” Aramaic Bible in Plain English

or ” Otherwise believe for the very works’ sake. Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do.” Douay-Rheims Bible

Jesus was fulfillment of prophecy. As it came to pass in the unfolding of time and history, the Christ nature was a charism bestowed to a babe in Galilee & it was once and for all. And – beyond space and time, in the timeless space of the Sacred, this emblematic and iconic moment was a call to all: an invitation to the next significant advance in human consciousness.

As so beautifully stated in the Gregorian chant, Ubi Caritas: ” Where Beauty and Love are there also is God.”

Spiritual transformation is the yearning of the Divine Heart for Humanity to emerge into full “Sonship” wherein love defines us and we integrate in ourselves the Shadow and the Light and act with authentic compassion. In this sense, living sacramentally involves  learning to be able and willing reflectors of the Divine Light and  to help restore the State of Eden: to be “christ” for one another.

© The Harried Mystic, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What is the relationship between science and religion?

Throughout history, and even now, the tension between them has been too much the characterization. The argument goes that science proffers testable hypotheses and the scientific method uncovers either support for that hypothesis or fails to do so. Religion, on the other hand, is discussed as wholly subjective, defined by untestable beliefs.

In establishing this dichotomy, a false one in my estimation, they are endemically at odds with each other. In today’s scientific and pseudo- scientific ethos, science is often deemed superior and more appropriate for our times. Religion, on the other hand, is portrayed by empiricists as a quaint remnant of pre-scientific explanation. Theists, on the other hand, see science with suspect eyes, arguing that it misses the deeper import of events and what it means to be. Both polar viewpoints are ill informed.

Fundamentalist science and religion are, indeed, at odds with one another. Both suffer the same problem: they proceed from a dogmatic position of what is true, right and knowable. I set aside fundamentalisms of all kinds as too narrowly constructed and thereby intrinsically fragile and lacking in merit. Those who subscribe to them are welcome certainly to their beliefs but it strikes me that such extreme positions render dialogue impossible, and creates a climate of mistrust, sterile bickering, and mutual claims about the inadequacies of the other. For me, such banter is a waste of energy and are, simply, uninteresting.

Instead, I live at the nexus between these two methods of knowing and both have much in common along with complementary differences. They need each other if the goal is agreed upon as a seeking after truth and a deep desire to get inside the ontological mysteries. Science speaks in the language of mathematics. Math is wholly based on certain assumptions and, while an invention of humankind, it is unusually powerful in unraveling the mysteries of the Cosmos. The scientific method then is brought to bear on predictions to apply critical tests. Yet, while we have seen convergent evidence of their existence, no one has ever seen, for example, a quark. In other words, we study the cumulative record. Having done so, new evidence may overturn, and often does, our most established interpretations.

Religion is also a cumulative record. Yes, it is a phenomenological one but this too is data. Seen through the lens of well reasoned theological discourse, it too makes predictions and offers interpretations. For example, in a universe that became conscious of itself, one can rightly posit that intelligence must be fundamental in its essence ( I.e., that it had a first cause). One need not resort to a simplistic Creationism that mangles good science to get there either. With the integrity of both science and theology left fully intact, one can catch inspiring glimpses of the heart of mystery.

To devolve to angry and oppositionally defiant atheism is to ignore experience and the universal sensibility of something greater than we that beckons. Such a retreat to mere science reduces matter, energy and space-time to mere objects of study rather than deep subjects with which to have a relationship. The result is spiritual reductionism and solipsism.

I am a scientist- theologian because as I study the one it informs the other. The reflections of science for me give rise to the meditations of spiritual practice. I delight in the online lectures such as those offered by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in the UK Faraday Institute for Science and Religion that serve to elevate and poke our understanding.

When both scientific and religious discourse act with genuine humility, we can proceed boldly and with the spirit of the child into realms of deep wonder. May our eyes be opened to see the wider landscape that awaits us if only we get beyond the tyranny of methodological chauvinism.

Life is way too short to narrow one’s field of view.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Western church. The “Immaculata” emerged early in the history of the Church.

Among certain ancient Christian sects, the “Mother of God” was, from the outset, given a very high spiritual station, as there are arguably none more intimate with a son’s soul than his mother.

So great was the Spirit of Christ, that she who bore the Anointed One would naturally be set apart as especially blessed. The universe brought forth a soter (or savior) from the womb of a common woman of Jewish faith.

She bore him, bathed him with unconditional regard and support, and, in the end, bore the unimaginable pain of his passing.

In the Orthodox tradition, they refer to her Ascension as “the Dormition of the Virgin,” or the “Going to Sleep”. The Divine Mother archetype is the soft blue image of infinite patience, attention, and conscious silence. She is eternally alive within us.

Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann revealed that the sacred mysteries documented in the Gospels are in no way diminished when we cut away the mythic story-telling appended by later writers.

He insisted that instead of the super-naturalizing that was grafted onto the texts,  an existential reading, in the way of philosopher Martin Heidegger, was truer to the essential kernel of the teaching.

In doing so, the intersections of the teachings with those of other Eastern religious systems become more visible. In both Buddhism and Christianity, at a mystical level, there is an androgynous quality in experiencing the Divine Presence.

There is an implicit marriage of male and female forming a new alchemical union (e.g., the trinity and the rise of Mariology, yin and yang, Buddha & Kwan Yin).

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St. Thomas Aquinas, Framer of "Just War" Principles

This week, President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, acknowledging both his aspirational leadership, and game-changing actions in his first year to cool down the rhetorical belligerence and strident voices of American exceptionalism.

He has, and continues, to reach out in all directions to encourage dialogue on the complex issues of our times among allies and adversaries. His language reveals his sizable mind and heart, the depth of his deliberateness, and his appreciation for complex decision-making. He understands the need to grapple with dilemmas and the delicate and difficult task of threading a needle between polarized passionate views. The speech itself modeled the reasons he deserves the award so early in his  tenure.

It was the work of a realist with vision, a pragmatist with clear aspirational values, and the voice of one who fully recognizes that he cannot be the leader of one faction or political persuasion. He masterfully travels the middle road, while irrational fears, extreme and unthinking ideology, and propaganda designed to distract, obfuscate, frighten, and derail inspire the speech and actions of lesser leaders.

Of course, this is the nature of political theater, but the central issues shaping the political landscape of this new century are undeniably important matters for our meditations.

In his Oslo speech, the President took great pains to refer to the need to accept that there is real evil in the World. He went on to say that the idea of a “just war” is reasonable. He commented that as Commander-in-Chief, he did not have the luxury to simply follow the examples of Mandela, King, Gandhi and so many other unsung heros of nonviolent resistance in India, Pakistan, China, Iran, Africa and elsewhere. He expressed the need to consider, also, the awards bestowed on such leaders as George Catlett Marshall.

This is the dilemma a sitting President and, frankly,  any political leader faces. As an ordained person, this raises for me the question: Can one be an authentic disciple of the Teacher of Righteousness, Jesus of Nazareth, and still support the idea of a “just war.” Roman Catholicism put this to bed for their parishioners a long time ago by declaring that a war is “just” if it meets a few clear guidelines ( paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church):

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

The Society of Friends, the Quakers, of which I was a member for several years, takes the opposing point of view ( i.e., that there is no justification for war at any time and in any form). I agree without reservation.

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Walking on the road to Caesare’a Philip’pi, according to the Gospel of Mark 8:27-33, Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do men say that I am”? They answer variously, Elijah, John the Baptist, and one of  the prophets. Then, he refines the question, and raises the stakes: “Who do you say that I am”?

In seven powerful words, he invites the disciples to reveal their inmost thoughts and, in doing so, their state of openness and vision. This question reverberates in my thinking and draws me into the scene as I imagine my own response if he posed this question to me today, right now.

I would reply:

” You are the voice and touch of the Divine Heart, the Teacher of Righteousness, the face of the Beloved.”

I

whisper on the wind, saying, “come this way, be joyful;”

light on a clear night, lead the way to freedom.

II

I am afraid and cannot speak nor clearly see the path before me;

but sweet and gentle warmth consoles this fretful fever.

III

consumed with doubts and questions, yet I step into the night;

arms outstretched to clasp the Light that draws me ever nearer.

IV

though I walk headlong in chance and awe, into this time’s enigma;

my heart awakens, eyes reach deep, into the Blessed Kerygma.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Among the special qualities that make us human, none is arguably more significant than our capacity to imagine. We bring things into being – new ideas that become inventions then ubiquitous technologies, cultural thought-forms, works of art, and even the idea of the Self. We are to a very significant extent, what we dream ourselves to be. A lack of imagination can be the root cause of neurotic fixation and fearful attachment to the way things are and our dislike for thought, process, or appearances that are “Other.”

It is a weighty fact that Yahweh responds to Moses’ request for the name of the One sending him with His message by saying: ” Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” which translates from the Hebrew as ” I will be what I will be” ( from the Jewish Study Bible). While this translation is uncertain and has also been rendered “I am that I am,” this quite plausible alternative is exciting.

It says that G-d is also evolving, is in process, and is intimately tied to creation and consciousness. It suggests that G-d resides in possibilities that we sing into Being with Him. So, from the point of view of “theurgy”, imagining G-d, we are partners in Divine emergence in the World. Through our creative acts ( like liturgy) we quicken the movement of the Spirit and serve as midwives to the continuous birthing of the Divine intent.

The unhealthy and withering alternative is that our thinking ossifies and we become arthritically cut off from process. In this case, we are left instead with only a static snapshot: a dead object or stale concept or narrowly conceived, and possibly neurotically inspired, expression of idolatry. In allowing our imaginations to atrophy is counter to our best nature and, so, Biblically represented as an affront to the second commandment: No idols! The Zohar of Jewish Mysticism places great emphasis on the capacity to imagine, and this is motivating me today to consider the practical implications.

With this as a reflection for Matins, I will come back this evening and put theurgy to work in doing some automatic writing in the same context as Jungian active imagination – to allow what begins as a seemingly random set of thoughts to spool together in a self-organizing fashion and we’ll see what it produces. The whole thing intrigues me and I am quite looking forward to giving it a “spiritual whirl”.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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