Sunday, 19 December 2010

Mysticism

Brief paraphase of articles from the website The Wild Things of God which I came across recently and I liked the style of writing. The end indented paragraphs are directly copied text as it was getting too laborious for me to rework them into my own words.

Mysticism - a spirituality of the direct experience of God. It is a knowing, not a belief, and marked by love and joy but not an emotional experience. Marriage of the soul to Christ just as Jesus and God are one. The mystic should be as fully permeated with Christ as God is being fully human and fully divine (by the grace of God). It isn't all about experiences which can come and go but on the lasting experience of God. The believer is transformed into a union with God (via Transformativa?)

The Bible was written by mystics. How can you read it without preconceived perceptions of language, culture. personal history?

We need to have a religion not about Jesus. but OF Jesus - of his knowledge and unconditional love.

Mysticism is about unconditional love - and that could apply to anyone. (1Jn 4:7)

When Jesus declares "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10.30) - in himself is the union of God and humankind - offered to all.

Starting point for mysticism is encountering the Goodness of God - not a conditional 'goodness' but pure Goodness. (Original Blessing, Cosmic Goodness...) Few of us are able to see the infinite goodness around us... (ongoing Divine Creative energy) What has happened?

We need to be as children - v. mystical.

We have been told to accept the contradiction of God is infinite love vs eternal torture in Hell. So we believe it is conditional of our: salvation, works, prayer .... . Dichotomy of heart and head: child's faith in absolute goodness vs adult awareness, intelligence and incompetence.

Let go, let God.

Beware of pride, fear and holding on to experiences. Also loneliness - and a narrow path (I know it all too well)

The idea that God is love but will also torment those who do not accept Jesus is an impossible contradiction and erronness misunderstanding of the gospel. How could a Father punish his children endlessly? It is pointless as it accepts no rehabilitation or healing.

Greek word for 'Eternal' means 'Age' - indefinite but not infinite. God's eternity is not described in the Bible. True eternity = absence of time. ie is part of creation, but God transcends time. God is in time, but he is over time. God is not eternal, he is eternity. To God there is nothing but the NOW.

"Consider this: did you really know what you were doing when you accepted Jesus? How can anyone know what they are really doing in rejecting him, or more accurately, what they perceive to be him? We don't. Forgiveness has been proclaimed."

"Literally dozens of passages of Scripture say that salvation will be universal. All mankind, even all creation, will be saved. The hills shall jump for joy, the trees clap their hands, the lion and lamb lie down together. The rocks and stones will sing praises."

"Does Salvation Mean "Knowing Jesus?"

No. The teaching that Jesus is the only path to salvation, contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself. In the three earlier Synoptic gospels, Jesus never suggests "believing in him" is the criterion for salvation. In fact, Jesus warns that it is not those who call him "Lord," who will enter heaven, but those who live the Kingdom life of love! (Mt. 7.21) In the Judgment scene in Mt. 25.31-46, (far and away the most detailed description of judgment in the Bible), Jesus says that those who do good works, creating a better world for the "least of his brothers," actually do it for him whether they know it or not, and will be blessed with his Presence, while those who do not will suffer "burning" in the age-long fire which we've already discussed. Throughout these first three gospels, Jesus doesn't even care if anyone "knows" him or has "a personal relationship" with him! He cares instead that people embrace his teaching—Good News—that the Kingdom of heaven is here, that God is "Father," that in embracing selfless love, we lose our false self, but gain the whole world.

On the other hand, the later gospel of John presents Jesus as the "Cosmic Christ," who is one with the Father, and called "Word", "Light", "Water of Life", and "the Way." The emphasis has shifted from the teaching to the Teacher, in light of his embodiment of the love of God. This Love is called Christ. When Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by me," (Jn 14:6) he is speaking of his nature as the love of God made visible. It is only by being filled with Divine Love that we can "come to the Father." By whatever name it is given by followers of whatever religion or no religion, it is the same, and it is "the narrow gate" through which all must come. The human identity of its bearer is not what's important; the essential thing is following his example in loving unconditionally, becoming Christ. As he said: This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you. (Jn.15.12)

Many passages in the apostles' writings at first glance suggest that belief in Jesus is essential. But the Bible never records the apostles using a threat of "damnation" for not accepting the Gospel. Paul's voice speaks especially strongly about universal salvation. Yet Paul also presents Jesus as the "necessary sacrifice" for sin, implying belief in him is mandatory. The reason for this is found in his letters, where he repeatedly explains his dual mission of presenting the Good News to both the Jews and the Gentiles, and adjusting his message to his audiences, "becoming all things to all men." (1 Cor. 9.19-23). His Jewish audiences demanded to know how sacrifice fits into this message, and so, Paul presents Jesus as the only sacrifice needed, the fulfillment of the Law. To Gentiles, he presents the cosmic Christ, "the love of God made visible," (Rm. 8.39) reconciling all things in heaven and earth to the Father through selfless love. (Eph. 1.10-11). "

"The Gospel of John reveals the "Cosmic Christ," that is, Christ is identified not only as Jesus on earth, but as the whole creative and redemptive movement of God throughout space and time. Thus, Christ is the Word which brings everything into existence (1:2-3), the Light that enlightens all humanity, (1:9) the Bread of God that sustains all life, (6:33) and much more."

"Panentheism and Christian Mystical Spirituality:

Most great truths of Christian faith, and perhaps most great truths, period, are expressed as paradox. God is completely One, and yet, Triune and Infinite. Jesus is fully and completely human, but fully divine, as well. Panentheism presents another one: God is completely transcendent, and yet, immanent throughout his Creation. Like the mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation, panentheism is an ancient theological realization.

The Greek Church Fathers referred to the transcendence of God as God's "essence" (ousia) and the immanence of God as his "energies" (energeia). In 553, at the Second Council of Constantinople, the universal Church proclaimed a panentheistic vision of the Trinity, developed from St. Paul's writing in Ephesians: "There is One God and Father from whom all things are, one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are." God is in all things, for they spring from him, and all things are in God, for they subsist in him, yet he transcends all as well as emanates in all. "

Panentheism and other God-views:

Panentheism offers the potential for greater dialogue and communication between Christians and those of other views. Other religions share with Christianity this apprehension of the simultaneous beyondness and hereness of the Ultimate as well, even though they use different terms. Buddhism, for instance, speaks of "the Unmade," "the Unconditioned", "the Void"-that which is beyond all concepts on the one hand, but of "Buddha-nature" the divine potential immanent within all "sentient beings," on the other.

Furthermore, many people who call themselves atheists or agnostics actually are not; many have a strong sense of a spiritual dimension, but simply find the images of a "personal God" an intellectual hurdle. Often this is because of misunderstandings brought about by poorly communicated concepts of a very man-like God (though with extraordinary powers) somewhere "up above," reacting with wild emotions to events in the world. These simplistic images have offended countless people from believing in God, and countless more from being able to trust him deeply. So millions of Christians find themselves adults with dissonant, childish (and often threatening) images of God, and millions of non-religious people have only seen such images and rightly reject them.

The panentheism of the Bible is quite different: it certainly presents God as relating to persons and thus "personal," but also as infinitely beyond personality. To communicate God's infinity, the Bible describes God in many non-personal images as well. Consider a few: Spirit,(Jn 4.24) Sun, (Mal 3:20) Word, (Jn 1:1) Rock, (1Cor 10:4) Fire, (Heb 12:29) Light, (1 Jn 1:5) Waters of Life, (Rev 21.1) Wisdom, (Pr 1.20) and Love. (1 Jn 4:8) Perhaps we should keep in mind that God's "person"-ality is also a metaphor, for (he? she? it? all pronouns fail when contemplating this magnificence!) is as infinitely beyond being a "person" in the traditional sense as the One who created light is beyond being light.

No view of God is larger than the panentheistic view. All other theisms (deism, theism, polytheism, animism, pantheism, atheism) are fragmented theologies compared to panentheism. This is the ground for an inexhaustible faith-that God is present right now, in every cell of our bodies, in every beat of our hearts, in every person, in every star, in every loving thought, birthing every particle of every atom of the entire Creation into a constant stream of existence, the invisible Nothing and Nowhere that brings forth Everything and Everywhere. God in all things and all things in God invites wonder, and wonder invites all to touch God.

Beliefs are not Reality

It's essential to remember that all of these ideas are metaphors. Doctrines, words, concepts, thoughts and pictures all translate, emphasize, reflect, and otherwise point to reality. But no description of reality is the reality it describes. Words and pictures, ideas and doctrines, are not the things they point to. They are distorted indicators, utterly different in kind from what they point to. You can describe a tree in your backyard to me all day long, but until I touch it with my own hands, I can't feel its bark. If description can't communicate the tree-ness of a tree, how much less can words communicate God!

This is important! Challenging ideas are often vital for breaking up entrenched thought patterns and opening the mind. Yet no concept, no matter how inspirational, is that divine reality we seek, anymore than Magritte's pipe is something you can pick up and smoke.

We need to remember that God is the name we use for the Unspeakable. Simply put, the Source of everything is beyond all names. The “Trinity” is a conception of how the Infinite One relates to the phenomenal world of beings, matter, and time, which we call Creation. “The Fall from grace” is another. Other religions have their concepts as well—lila, nirvana, maya. But to latch on to any one of these as “the Truth ” instead of a helpful pointer to truth, is to miss the point entirely! It's like several people pointing to that tree in the backyard and arguing whether the tree has three parts or fifteen parts—or arguing if the leaves are dark green, forest green, or olive.

God cannot be divided. God simply is. The Universe simply is. What is simply is. All our thoughts and concepts divide Is-ness in our minds, and divide our minds from Is-ness.

Awakening is the transition from "religion" with its firm answers, perspectives, and experiences, to realization, the awareness of what IS. Even more important is “Real-ization,” the embodiment of that awareness. The important things in mysticism are not concepts, thoughts, feelings, or even experiences, but the questions and questing for nothing else but this One we call God. Beliefs—in the sense of concepts which must be protected, are not part of Christian mystical life. In this sense, you must not “believe” in God. Instead, just rest in Being. And in being, and being with Being, you rest with God, the Ground of Being. Don't “believe” in the Trinity. Trust the holy and wholly indescribable Reality in whom you “live, move, and have your being”.

The Greek word pisteo is almost always translated “belief” or “faith” in the New Testament. However, it also means trust and is better translated as such. Dare to move from belief to trust.

Slowly, joyfully, lovingly, destroy your concepts and mental images into the burning furnace of just being with the One. Just love what is, seen and unseen. Don't name it. Don't label it. Don't even think about it. Just do what Jesus said: Come as a child.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Green Lane

Sunday 12 December and a short weekend visit to Herefordshire

I haven't walked up the road from Titley to Green Lane Farm before. The darkness and starlit sky is gradually giving way to the just perceptible and gentle brightening on the distant horizon. Beneath me the frost covers the cold ground and the road is a touch icy. I climb up the side of the valley between the tall hedgerows and turn west along the Mortimer Trail that follows the top of the hill towards Burnt House, a place I have been to many times before.

It has been a good year and a half or more since I have walked up here and the farming landscape has changed dramatically. A large new farm sits on the hilltop where once there was just pasture; ancient hedgerows have been cut back and replanted and now fields of frosted fodder beet (?) covered the hillside and were being grazed by at least 200+ cattle kept in check by long lengths of electric fences. Around the edges of many of the fields long rows of pale blue round wrapped silage bales in a pattern that seem to reflect the technical planting of conifers just on the other side of the valley. Rather incongruous to the natural landscape. But there is nothing 'natural' here as even the old hedges would have once been laid by hand and Green Lane itself the result of landowners gone by. The woodland was probably managed significantly in the past; the old farmstead at Burnt House must have been a significant dwelling and the quarry further up hillside a source of much stone and activity.

The peace and beauty of the hill here is incredible. The sun is now pouring golden light upon the cold landscape from a cloudless blue sky and yet the valley down below on the northern escarpment between Knill and Presteigne and beyond on is a sea of impenetrable mist. This is a welcome break from the very cold snowy, dark and freezing weather of a week or so ago. This is a time of brightness, refreshment, and re-energising.

I stand against a tree near the old barn and could easily fall into a melancholic flow of nostalgia about the house that must have stood here and the farmers who lived and worked in this isolated but beautiful location. Instead I just try and listen to the landcape - the squirrels rushing about from tree to tree; the robin that flits cautiously in the hedgerow nearby and the occasional flock of starlings (possibly) that can be heard 'brushing' through the air from field to field - perhaps attracted by the nearby cattle. Later, when I pass back by here I am sure I hear a flock of long-tailed tits not far away.

It was too cold to sit down and write on the spot and I was a little short of time to do so anyway. But the place gave me the inspiration to at least write something when I returned back home to Bedfordshire later in the day. I feel I am loosing the flow of writing and would like to return to discover its power, wisdom, creativity, sense of exploration and exercise of the mind.