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Friday, December 28, 2012

Prayer for 2013

For 2013:
May tragedies cease and truth commence;
all over the world, may our eyes and hearts be opened;
may the power of the violent be removed,
and may that of the compassionate be uplifted.
Amen.

Overall prayer, expressed in the order it must occur:
May our eyes be opened,
may truth be revealed,
and may we be transformed into a planet of compassion.
Amen.

Blessings for the New Year to all!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Little Miracles

       It was the post-post-post Katrina relief work my family did with a Christian relief agency over a year after the hurricane that drew me to the Red Cross.  I had caught the relief work bug and teased I didn’t mind being the tenth responder but really wanted to get there right away.  My husband and I had both taken leaves of absence from our jobs to do Katrina relief.  Before we left, several predicted we’d never return.  It was tempting to stay or find a similar project, but we knew it was right to come home.  Among other reasons, my dad's health had hit a moment of crisis.  He was in “Middle Alzheimer's,” the hardest stage.  Those in the early stage are confused, frustrated and need their loved ones to help keep them on track, but they can still enjoy a genuine quality of life.  Those in the late stage, as my dad is now, are too absent to grasp the depth of their suffering.  But those in the middle stage are deeply disturbed that they are “not in the right place” (all meanings intended).  Even though we lived 800 miles from my parents, I could still come when needed.
                My dad's perseverance in this life has astonished us all.  He's had several “this is it” moments when we thought he was facing his last few weeks.  Remarkably, he's pulled through them all.  Still, I know he understands enough to be aching for his true Home.  Much of my reading this year has been of those who have experienced near death experiences (NDEs) or other out-of-body visions of the next place of light.  The books have also described that thin veil between this life and the next, in which those near to death are already glimpsing the glory of what comes next.  I've been yearning and praying for this place for him.
                My family planned a trip to visit him and my mom and I was praying I could pray him into this heavenly realm, even as his body remains here.  Since it hasn't been safe for quite a few years for Mom to care for him, he's been in a special home a little over an hour from where she lives.  We arrived at Mom's and had made arrangements to visit Dad the next day, including with a private time and place for me with him. 


One of the first photographs I saw on my Facebook news page and the one I reposted,
taken about 10-15 miles from my home
After sharing a special evening with Mom, I logged onto Facebook and saw the news and pictures from my local friends. My hometown was on fire.
I checked my cell phone and, sure enough, there was an urgent message from my Red Cross director for my assistance.  I contacted her and other Red Cross friends and they all said they were handling it, that I needed to stay, and they’d have plenty for me to do upon my return.  I then checked other media outlets and saw us in the national news.  That was a tough night.  My heart was aching for my dad, worried about my community, and angry with God for double-booking my calendar!
                Since I couldn't sleep anyway, I got up with the sun and took an extended prayer walk.  I prayed for Dad and my hometown, but also released my confused anger as to why I was away when my own community was suffering in the very way I had been training to help.  The Lord took my anger well and calmed me down.  I also prayed I could be all there with Dad and that my time with him could carry him into the places of light.
                God answered that prayer in a big way.  I prayed Dad into the places of light, describing the images I had read about by those who've had NDEs.  I saw his face relaxing, his eyes seeing it, his eyes welling up, and his whole body soaking it in.  After my prayer, I kissed him, which is usually a one-way kiss of me to him, as he barely moves.  Not this time.  He leaned over and planted a big, full kiss on my cheek.  I knew Dad had just seen heaven.  I also knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Watching Dad glimpsing heaven was the first little miracle of these intense weeks.  I've since been praying that he is spending more conscious time there than here. We spent our fully planned time with my family.  Upon my return, the fire was still raging, much help was needed, and I was given plenty to do.  Meeting with clients in the fire zone, seeing my own beautiful community charred in black for miles upon miles, and breathing in its smoke felt heavy and surrealistic.  But I resonated with what one of my Red Cross friends noticed: “In the midst of all this destruction are all these little miracles.”
Some of the “little miracles” were small, like the heavy envelop filled with change a volunteer firefighter brought to the Red Cross filled with “widow’s mites” of grateful locals of little means, or the provision of yard tools to a couple who managed properties for multiple tenants of lost and destroyed homes. While I was helping to close a shelter, we were deciding where to bring the many donations that had poured in and we had places for most of them, but not for the rakes, shovels, and other yard equipment.  Three hours before closing, the couple managing properties came in, needing these yard tools in the quantities we had, and they gratefully took away most of the materials we had no space for.
Some of the “little miracles” were not so little, like the lives and the home of the couple living deep in the fire zone and a far distance from town.  The couple had tried to evacuate, but never made it out of the fire zone, as the fire was surrounding them.  They waited in their truck for a couple of hours, seeking an opening, but as the fire was coming toward them, they saw that it was also retreating from where they lived.  They decided to return, hoping to save their own lives, but expecting to find their home destroyed.  With blackness all around them, and all around their property from 10-30 yards, their home was in tact. The couple had used basic fire repellent from a local hardware store; it was hardly professional grade and certainly not meant to ward off a raging wildfire.  But, along with divine grace, it worked.  It seemed to me as if God had looked down and said, “I see you’re doing what you can and I’ll take it the rest of the way by My Grace.”
Other “little miracles” touched me personally, like the assistance I was able to give to one particular client.  A local organization had put up a communications website for the fire so that those who had need could connect with those who wished to help and vice versa. The cry for help by one woman whose home had been destroyed moved me into special prayer for her.  I had not remembered her name, but knew God did, and kept praying the Lord would provide for her.  That evening, I was working through a list I had been given of clients to call to arrange meetings with us.   I spoke with one woman who was staying with some friends, but needed some privacy and felt the friends did too.  I arranged to have her come to one of our shelters and I met her there the next day.  My partner and I also provided her with some basic necessities and small funds for more. Two days later, I checked the website again and looked for an update on the woman who I had been praying for.  She was the same one I had had the chance to help.
                In those two weeks, I saw suffering but I also saw little miracles.  It seems when we step outside of normal, everyday living, we put on new eyes and we see what the Father is doing at all times. For years, I’ve posted the following as my “favorite quotation” and it fits perfectly.  It comes from “The Lost Years of Jesus,” when Jesus, as he so often was, was being tested by religious authorities to produce a “miracle.”  Too bad the canonical texts missed his response on this particular occasion: “Miracles happen every day and et every moment.  He who sees them not is deprived of one of the fairest gifts of life.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Meditation of Champions


As I watch the Olympics, I’m struck by the paradox of desire.  The Buddhists teach the notion of “non-attachment,” which Jesus reaffirms in the shortest of his sayings, “Be passersby” (Gospel of Thomas 42).  The take-away lesson is often that too much desire can lead to our demise.  Of course, so can too little.  A few years ago, the following whisper came to me on how to handle desire: Hold anything you cherish like sand in the palm of your hand.  If you grasp it too tight, you’ll squeeze it out, but if you hold it too loose, it will fall through your fingers.  So cusp it gently and lovingly.  Let the sand that wishes to blow away.  That way, the remainder will stay true to you.

Great desire grasps too tightly.  But great desire also builds the champion.  No Olympian could be a “passerby” and no athlete could make it to the Olympics without exceptional desire, even intense passion.  It must be a feverish sort of passion that leads to outstanding highs or devastating loss.  I was especially struck by the depth of passion as I watched the despair of the Russian women gymnasts when they knew they were destined for the silver.  “To receive a silver medal at the Olympics,” I thought, “Wow!  How amazing!  Ought they not be ecstatic?  Elated?”

Admittedly, most silver medalists are elated and even as early as now, I imagine the Russian gymnasts are too.  Much of their despair was due more simply to knowing they hadn’t reached their own personal best.  In countless rehearsals, they had nailed every step, every turn, every flip, every jump, and every landing.  Then at the event that really mattered, they nailed all of it but the landing.  While the Americans were hitting every move, the Russians were in a tragic script that kept replaying itself, indicting gymnast after gymnast: a brilliant, daring, remarkable performance followed by a bad landing.

These gymnasts were shown with faces swollen in tears, absolutely devastated. To be so very devastated when so great an accomplishment had been achieved can only be the mark of tremendous passion.  Those of us with average passion would not despair over a silver.  Nor would we achieve such greatness.  Only intense passion can bring one to break a body into impossible feats and break a mind of the universal human fears gymnasts must overcome.  I’m mesmerized by the gymnasts (and high divers) not just by the execution of their glorious stunts, but also by their willingness to even try them and train for them.  At 10, I quit gymnastics and joined the swim team just after graduating into Level 3 – that level when the gymnast moves from walk-overs to flips.  This is the moment when the gymnast faces fear.  With my closest friends on the swim team, swimming provided a nice out from facing that terrifying moment when the coach would move away from his spotting position and say to me, as he already had for some of the others, “OK, now do the same flip on your own.”  Part of me eagerly wanted to prove I could do a flip all by myself and the other part of me – the stronger part, I regret to say – was terrified to try.

Much of what makes a great athlete great is that desire trumps fear.  When the athletes are interviewed about how they manage to overcome fear – or blood, sweat, tears and all else – they nearly all reply with an answer like focused meditation.  They enter their own meditative space and focus hard.  That’s what 2011 world champion gymnast Jordyn Wieber did on Sunday.  While the announcers spent an inordinate amount of time rehashing Jordyn’s distress at missing the qualification for the coveted individual all-around competition, they ought to have been focusing on how she overcame it.  Finally, one of them noted how she did: she said she “went in to a personal bubble” and then emerged ready to compete in the team competition.  Had she lacked the capacity to master her disappointment, she may have lost the US the gold for the team competition.  Such an inability is often due to grasping the sand too tight.  In other words, Jordyn had to have extraordinary desire to win the gold, but she also had to have the capacity to temper her desire in order to avoid losing the gold.  Her “personal bubble” of meditation served that purpose.  It tempered her desire, giving her just enough to compete at her best, but not so much that her loss would hold her back. Sure enough, she emerged from her bubble a true champion and went on to flawlessly execute all three of her team events to help the US take the gold.



Jordyn’s “bubble” and similar methods described by other athletes sound akin to mystic methods of meditation.  I’ve been struck by this, as meditation often leads to the decline of intense passion, at least the form of intense passion usually associated with champions: the passion to achieve greatness.  But Jordyn’s bubble teaches us that perhaps what meditation does for us all is to temper desire.  Meditation trains us all to cusp sand in the palm of our hand.  Some of it will blow away, as did Jordan’s disqualification from the event she most cherished.  But if we permit the sand that wishes to blow away to do so, then the remainder will stay true to us.  For both the mystic and the champion, the meditative bubble permits us to face our fears, persevere in trials, beat disappointment, and strike the perfect balance to achieve our dreams.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fruit of Paradox

Since "paradox" is a reoccuring theme among those of us at ChristianMystics.com, this one is getting reposted:

The mysteries of the kingdom are hidden in layers of paradox. They are like a labyrinthine maze that cannot be compared with anything we humans can grasp. Perhaps the Universe itself provides the best analogy in nature, but the purpose of an analogy is to minimize big abstract mysteries into some small, tangible object we can comprehend. The Universe simply will not do!

The Kingdom’s Fruit of Paradox

Let's imagine instead a fruit that we'll call the "Fruit of Paradox" layered like an onion, but designed with each layer unique: each with a different taste, texture, and color. Some layers are delightful, others bitter. Some layers bring awe, others terror; some joy, others grief; some bring laughter, others tears; some bring dancing, others mourning. Only after eating from a layer of suffering may we later eat from one of rest. Having eaten a layer of poverty, we may later be surprised with a layer of abundance.

The sweet taste of wonder, awe, and rest reside in the very core of the Kingdom’s Fruit of Paradox. On occasion, the Lord may bless us with the gift of a glimpse, a quick little taste of the core to encourage us onward. Consider the mystery of “abundant life”: we may catch a glimpse of this mystery from the very first layer of the Kingdom’s Fruit of Paradox. That mystery draws us into deeper layers. These layers often call for sacrifice. Eventually, we will arrive at the Layer of Death. If we are willing eat and digest this most bitter layer, then we discover a deeper layer that returns to the mystery of abundant life.
Perhaps even more challenging than the Layer of Death is the Layer of the Sword (Gen 3:24). The Bible abounds with stories of those encountering the Layer of the Sword: Abraham tested with the sacrifice of Isaac; Jacob wrestling with God; the Israelites crossing into the Promised Land; David on the run from Saul; Daniel in the lion’s den; Paul receiving 39 lashes, and finally, the ultimate story of the Layer of the Sword: the Cross.

Differing Mysteries at each Level


Each layer of the Fruit of Paradox not only has its own taste, texture, color and feeling, but it also contains its own set of mysteries. Sometimes the mysteries in one layer appear to contradict the mysteries in another. But they all belong to the same Fruit of Paradox, maintaining itself as a harmonious whole.

Paradox abounds: God is full of love, but also judgment. We humans fall short of God’s glory, and yet, we are made in His image. Only God alone is good, yet we are commanded to be “perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” We are given free-will, but we are also chosen before birth. Were we to attempt to compile a list, we would find an endless series of mind-boggling puzzles. The believer claims the scriptures can be comprehended if only one uses the right method of “hermeneutics.” The cynic throws in the towel, calls the scriptures “contradictory,” and walks away. But a genuine and deep-level kingdom seeker not only acknowledges the Lord’s multiplicity of paradox, but is also awed by it.

In its own way, each layer is called into the core. It is like the core sings to each layer, calling the seeker there to draw deeper, to come closer. Will we continue?

Tendencies toward certain Layers

Our unique personalities, temperaments, fortes, and hang-ups help determine not only how quickly we will move through the layers of the Fruit of Paradox, but also which layers we may choose as almost permanent stomping grounds. We humans tend to be of a stubborn stock, and few pilgrims move quickly through the layers. Some are content to stay put. They’ve found a layer that’s comfortable, that suits them just right – not too bitter, not too sweet, but just right – and, by gosh, they’re going to stay right there. Meanwhile, some of their friends are leaving! How dare they! “Wait a minute!” wail the layer-sitters, “God says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and you’re taking off, abandoning us!” “Well then, come along! Join us!” call the friends seeking deeper ground. But the layer-sitters tremble and remain.

Most like the sweet layers and do all they can to stay there. When their layer becomes dull of fresh sweetness, they seek further into the Fruit of Paradox, hoping the next layer will have a new delicious taste. But sometimes the next layer is bitter. Now the pilgrim is faced with a new dilemma: go back where it’s messy, go forward where it’s bitter, or stay stuck in the mud. The best path is the bitter one, though few take it. Many opt for the mud. Peddling hard on a stationary bicycle, they exert much energy, go nowhere, and react to everything around them. Stuck, they have no control over anything and are filled with frustration.

Others turn around, only to discover their previous layer – which had been sweet – has turned rotten. The sugar is no longer tasty, but gooey, sticky and messy. Still others return with a vow: to clean house back there. “I’ve gone a few paces forward,” they reason, “With my new insights, I can help clean up.” Little do these folks realize the “few extra paces” they have is like the teenager with a driver’s permit, insisting he can drive his friends on his own. Both he and his friends may be in for a dangerous ride. Likewise, the “few extra paces” pilgrim may be wise to first walk a few more paces.

Finally, some pilgrims – obscure in the minds of most of us – will accept the bitter layers and reject the sweet ones! Perhaps it is pride that prompts this odd rejection of joy. Perhaps it is skepticism. Perhaps it is fear: sweet layers can be spontaneous and require a loss of control. Whatever it is, these most miserable of all pilgrims endure suffering after suffering.



Conflicts between Those of Differing Layers

The contrasts of competing mysteries at differing layers often put us at odds with one another. A pilgrim eating a bitter layer may think the happy pilgrims aren’t genuine in their faith. A pilgrim who has spent much time in a layer of joy may think that the next layer of suffering is a sign that enemy is attacking him. As humans, we don’t like paradox. We like to be in control and to have a firm grasp on “truth.” Paradox ruffles our feathers, requires humility, and asks us to remain ever learning and growing. So rather than embrace paradox and accept the possibility that our neighbors could be discovering a different element of truth, we find it much easier to call them “heretics,” “infidels,” “deceived,” or “led astray.”

If we take any conflict too far, we may harm, injure, or even kill one another over what may in the end prove itself to be an inconsequential difference of opinion that stems from two different layers in the Fruit of Paradox. Ironically, when we do that, we violate the one everlasting truth that exists at every layer in the Kingdom: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

After one young man summarized the Law and the Prophets’ message of eternal life with these two commands, Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28). All pilgrims at all layers of the Fruit of Paradox will agree with the centrality of our purpose to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. When we engage in bitter conflict over theological matters, we not only fail to “love our neighbor,” but we also fail to love God. If God truly is a God of Paradox, then do we not limit God Himself by claiming that we grasp His truth well enough to proclaim another a “heretic”?

Regarding those mysteries that we deem to be necessary for the soul, have we not ways to proclaim them lovingly? Can we live our understanding of truth, such that others will be willing to hear our understanding too? As we move into deeper layers of mystery, may we humbly call upon the Lord to help us love Him and our neighbor. The mysteries are great, but our purpose is simple. Achieving it is not. Let us submit ourselves to the Lord for assistance and, in doing so, soak in the awe of the mysteries.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Love is Harmony and Harmony is Love

“Love is harmony and harmony is love”

The whisper was hardly a novel message.  We’ve heard the cliché “Peace, love and harmony” and we’ve seen the image that came to mind to represent the message: that iconic picture of children of all lands holding hands around the earth. Even still, the message caught my attention.  It came as many do, when my mind was on nothing related to it, but in one of those rare moments for a mom juggling work and kids -- a moment of stillness. 


Cliché or not, the whisper struck me as both intuitively true and not at all understood.  More than anything, love is limited by separation, division – that painfully human tendency to adopt an “us and them” mentality.  It is Love that helps us drop this mentality and enter instead into harmony.  We think of those totally in love and we see them to be as one, a unit; we cannot imagine them separate.  Their names and identities blend together as a single, harmonious unit.  At times, those of us on the outside of this harmonious little couple can be indignant toward their harmony, but that is because we are on the outside of it.  If we can imagine the little couple growing to a family, a community, and an entire society, while maintaining that initial harmony of the couple, then we could perhaps catch a glimmer of Love.

A whisper is pondered and then set aside until support arrives through more natural means.  This time, it came about a month later while I was perusing through the Jewish mysticism section in Portland’s staggering bookstore, Powell’s – a must for any booklover coming to the NW.  One of the books there struck me with confirmation of the recent whisper.

But first, a background: Jewish mystics are known to glean mysteries by peering into the Hebrew letters of words.  Hebrew is a remarkably powerful language; to each letter is assigned not only a sound, but a word, a picture, and a number.  The Hebrew word for “letter” also means “sign,” even wonder.  To the Jewish mystics, then, even a single Hebrew letter holds a treasure of mysteries.  (My favorite introduction to this subject is  Rabbi Michael L. Munk's The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet.)  Within this system, the specific study of the numerical values of words is called Gematria.  The one many may be most familiar with is the divine name, YHVH, with a value of 26, deriving from the Yod (10), the Hei (5), the Vav (6), and the final Hei (5).  Once the Jewish mystic has determined the value of a word or name, he enters an adventurous quest into innumerable mysteries. 

Returning to the bookstore perusal, one of the books I was looking through was explaining this very concept of Gematria by introducing these two words: unity and love.  Both hold the same value of 13.  In Hebrew, unity is achad (AChD) and love is ahebah (AHBH)  Achad is made up of Aleph (1), Ches (8), and Dalet (4) and ahebah is made of Aleph (1), Hei (5), Bet (2), and Hei (5).  From this, we see that love, unity, and the number 13 all hold something in common and that the meaning of one speaks to the meaning of the other. 

Having not purchased the book I was perusing, I consulted other sources for further information.  One quoted Rabbi Meir Ibn Gabbi of the fifteenth century:

“For the perfect adoration worship demanded of the true worshipper
is the service of Unity, that is, the unification of the glorious and Only Name.
But the essence of Love is the true Unity,
and the true Unity is what is termed Love.”

Several sources noted that “achad” (spelled by some as “echad”) is also the word for “one” and, in fact, the very word used to describe God in the foundational Jewish prayer, the Shema:  “Hear O Israel the Lord they God, the Lord is One” (Deut 6:4).  “Oneness,” then, may be the more appropriate word to connect with love than either “unity” or “harmony.”  The very next verse is just as foundational for us Christians: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).  While these verses are often heard separate, they belong together.  The first expresses Oneness and the second expresses Love.

To continue contemplating the meaning of oneness and love, one can also consider the value of each, 13, which has a bad rap in our culture.  Could it deserve its reputation?  Most likely, Jewish sages would say “no,” pointing to its special quality as half the value of the Divine Name (26 = 13 x 2).  We also see here that Oneness + Love = the Divine Name.  While Christians rarely consider this, 13 ought to be sacred for us too, as it is the number of Jesus with his disciples.  Finally, the most sacred symbol in the Jewish tradition, the Star of David, is also made up of 13 units.  As two perfect equilateral triangles joined together, one pointing upward and the other downward, the Star suggests the unification of God and Man, Heaven and Earth, “As Above, So Below,” or as Jesus expressed it, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”




Jesus also called for a kinship of Oneness and Love within humanity by calling us to love our brother as ourselves, who he then defined as our enemies (Luke 10:27-29& 36-37).  Hence, more than merely saying, “Love your enemy,” he was saying “love the one you consider your enemy as yourself.”  To completely follow Jesus’ command, then, we should release ourselves from considering anyone an “enemy” at all; all are “brothers” who we love “as ourselves.”  Such oneness is genuine love.

Within Jesus’ paradigm, however, love and unity must go beyond the cliché of “peace, love and harmony,” for this same Master also said, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword . . .” (Matt 10:34).  We would expect a sword to represent not oneness, but division, which Jesus further notes by his added words that he has come to divide, set against, or set at variance man and son and mother and daughter (Matt 10:35 )  If God is One and Jesus came to preach Love, then how could he have also come to bring a sword?


Within Jesus’ paradigm, however, love and unity must go beyond the more cliché of “peace, love and harmony,” for this same Master also said, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword . . .” (Matt 10:34).  We would expect a sword to represent not oneness, but division, which Jesus further notes by his added words that he has come to divide, set against, or set at variance man and son and mother and daughter (Matt 10:35)  If God is One and Jesus came to preach Love, then how could he have also come to bring a sword?

I wonder if, ironically, the sword helps lead the way to Oneness.  The fusion of Above with Below ought to be expected to be traumatic and temporarily painful.  In that moment when Man meets God, he turns his face.  Should he look or hear God’s voice directly, man says he will die (Ex. 20:19).  Perhaps he is meeting Cherubim with swords and fire before the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24).  So when Jesus says he came to bring not peace but a sword, perhaps he was referring to the sword of the Cherubim, the very sword that leads to the Tree of Life – but only through the confrontation with mighty angels waving fiery swords.  This sword can be seen as that painful moment when Heaven and Earth meet.  In the sacred geometry of the Star of David, one could imagine it as that moment when the upper and the lower triangles fuse together to form the glorious Star Tetrahedron. 

The idea in this single paragraph above is, I know, the subject of what could be a very extensive and controversial book.  I've begun to explore this theme elsewhere, such as the final part of my “In the Beginning” series and Colors of Harmony and Duality.  But it comes here as a way to explore not only the unification of Oneness and Love, but also to investigate what seems to be the very opposite of oneness, the sword, and to peruse how they can all come together.  It may be that the Star of David, with its own value of 13, may start to hold a clue.  But these are merely initial considerations.  In any case, even if the whisper feels like a cliche, I sense that it is profound beyond our comprehension.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Tree of Duality

(The theme of duality has been a popular one lately, so this post and participants' comments can also be found at the Christian Mystics site.) 

“And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
for when you eat of it you will surely die."
(Gen 2:16-17)



We’ve all heard the story: God commands Adam and Eve not to eat of a particular tree; the serpent entices them to eat it by arguing they’ll be “like God”; they eat it; they are cast out of Eden; and now we all suffer the consequences of their “Fall.”   The traditional script continues, in the logic of Augustine, to express that we all have been born into sin because our first parents ate from the fruit of the wrong tree.


Ironically, this “wrong” tree was called the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.”  One might expect “knowledge,” particularly of “good and evil,” to be a virtue, one that equips humans to be better equipped to make good choices.  So we face an irony in the traditional doctrine: we are “sinners” because our first parents “fell,” and they “fell” because they sought something typically designed to help humans avoid sin!


A few questions naturally arise:  Did they really “fall”?  Who was the “serpent”?  Was he really “deceptive”?  Would they really be “like God”?  If so, what does that mean?  And why would it threaten “God” so much that He would pronounce them dead?  Also, why would He command Adam and Eve against the knowledge of good and evil?  Years later, are not Christians encouraged to acquire exactly what Adam and Eve were commanded not to acquire?
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant,
is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
But solid food is for the mature,
who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
(Hebrews 5:13-14)


Once we begin asking these questions, we find ourselves in a never-ending cycle of paradox.  To use the same distinction noted in the tree Adam and Eve ate from, it is hard to know which figures in this story are really “good” and which ones are more “evil.”  One could argue that choosing to overcome ignorance for knowledge is “good.”  One could even argue that a command against something that ought to be “good” in order to protect one's own power is “evil.”


But what if none of the choices and none of the characters in this story are “good” and none are “evil”?  What if the story is more about evolution in consciousness and those very distinctions – good and evil – are teased in order to help us see in a new way?


The story tells us their “eyes were opened” (Gen 3:7).  This implies new development, new evolution.  Such development expresses what the mystic desires: a forward path with eyes that can see better.  But the story also suggests the cost of better eye sight.  Those eyeglasses aren’t free!  According to the warning given by God, this improved eye sight brings “death” and, according to the consequences, “separation.”  As soon as the eyes are opened, one blames the other: “she made me do it” (v. 12).  The illusion of separation begins.  The man and woman who had been one from a single body now see themselves as separate and perceive in “good and evil,” suggesting a new name for the tree from which they ate: "the tree of duality."


The separation incurred by the improved eye sight also suggests what had been perceived through poor eye sight: connection, harmony.  Before their eyes were opened, the man and woman not only felt unity between themselves, but also with God.  Afterward, they felt separation particularly from God.  This prompts us to return to the question of whether they “fell” or whether they “moved forward.”  If they had been in harmony and now they were not, traditional logic says they moved backward, they “fell.”  But prior to the separation, their eyes had been closed.  In essence, they had a blind sense of harmony.


What becomes hard for traditional logic to follow is the notion that a movement that brings separation and suffering can still be a movement forward, something positive.  But it would not be desired for the movement to end there.  The “death” that came to our first parents was a form of amnesia: a separation they perceived from the divine.  But God himself did not perceive this separation and wished to cure them of their amnesia.  So He issued the first command and the most important prayer, the “Shema”: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut 6:4).


The Shema may have helped the Hebrew people affirm the Oneness of God, but their own separation from the Lord continued to persist.   Through the greatest of blasphemies, Jesus then came to provide the next step: “I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).  If that weren’t enough, he went further on behalf of his followers: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one--as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21).


When the eyes of our first parents were opened, a form of suffering and death resulted; it is to be expected that when our eyes open again, another form of suffering and death are to come.  Often, Jesus warned us to so prepare.


Just as many have a nostalgia for childhood, many also have a nostalgia for Eden.  There exists a wish to return to blissful innocence, spared from the conflicts of duality.  But perhaps this wish is rooted in part by an aversion to suffering.  But if we are willing to face the cost, even if it feels like a “fall,” then we can experience something much sweeter: a return to harmony with open eyes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hidden Resurrection


We enter Holy Week on April Fool’s Day.  Delightful synchronicity for my musings.  Holy Week is often a time when we contemplate the Mystery of Resurrection.  Lately, I’ve also been contemplating “Hidden Resurrection,” such that the ignorant are “fooled" into perceiving that one who has come "alive" remains instead in his prior state, "dead."
The first story I discovered in scripture of “hidden resurrection” is the one of Isaac in  Genesis 22.  We imagine, like all the pictures depict, that Abraham and Isaac were alone on their journey.  But we discover in verse 3 that Abraham took not only Isaac, but also “two of his young men” to whom he says, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you” (5).  Perhaps they both do, but the text doesn’t say that.  Instead, after Isaac is freed, the text reads, “So Abraham returned to his young men” (19), suggesting Isaac’s absence.

Christian readers may roll their eyes at such an absurdly literal reading of this scripture, but the Jewish sages have made it common practice to observe the “plain text” and see what mysteries may lie there.  The Midrash apparently did ask, “And Isaac, where was he?” (Sasso, “What if the Angels should come too late?” in God’s Echo: Exploring Scripture through Midrash) Although the Midrash may have been more interested in why Isaac wasn’t mentioned, where he was, what he might have been doing, and how long he was absent ((traditionally answered as three years), what interests me is what the two young men may have thought.  To them, was Isaac dead?  Had they thought he had been sacrificed?  Were they aware he was alive?  If not, then Isaac experienced what I am calling a “hidden resurrection.”  Following the Midrashic interpretation, it could be that after three years, the young men discovered something extraordinary: April Fool’s!  He’s alive!

A New Testament corollary to Isaac’s “hidden resurrection” takes place for a little girl whom Jesus raised, but we’ll wait to share her story until A New Testament corollary to Isaac’s “hidden resurrection” takes place for a little girl whom Jesus raised.


"And one of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up,
 and upon seeing Him, fell at His feet,
and entreated Him earnestly, saying,
“My little daughter is at the point of death;
please come and lay Your hands on her,
that she may live”
(Mark 5:22-23)

The symbolism may have been far too controversial in the wake of the destruction of the Temple had the gospel writer chosen a Temple official for the worried father of the sick daughter in Mark 5.  Hence, a synagogue official provided a nice substitute.  Perhaps this following interpretation may be understood by the mystics, but I have never before heard it, so bear with my own discovery of the “daughter” of the synagogue official, who was “at the point of death” (Mk 5:23), as potentially representing the Temple.  True to form, the “daughter” apparently dies, but Jesus tells the father, “Be not afraid, only believe” (36).  When Jesus finds the people in “commotion,” “weeping” and “wailing,” he asks why they are making such a raucous and says, “The child has not died, but is asleep” (39).  In secret, he then raises the child to life and she begins to walk (41-42).  The few witnesses of the event (the parents and three disciples) “were completely astounded” (42).



Perhaps even more astounding is what he tells them: “He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this” (43).  Generally, we read this verse to mean that “no one should know” that the little girl was not yet dead.  What if, instead, we read it that “no one should know” she was raised to life?  In other words, according to the weeping and wailing people outside, she was still dead!  In this mystic reading, the ignorant weeping masses are fooled that she remains dead.  April Fool’s!  She’s alive!

Even today, the commotion surrounding this daughter, the Temple, continues with very literal “wailing” at the “Wailing Wall.”  Meanwhile, even orthodox Christians have adopted the mystical interpretation of the Temple as “raised” within us, the followers of Christ.  "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16)

Still, Jesus foresaw a time of “sleep” for the new Temple he was raising among his own followers.  In the parable of the ten virgins, in fact, “all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matt 25:5) – even, then, the “wise” ones.

Jesus' own resurrection, hidden from the many and revealed to the astonished few, continues to mystify us all.  As each of these, in some way, may be a hidden resurrection, so may be the series of little hidden resurrections within the mystic.  Then when the ignorant wakes, the two can look upon one another and laugh: "April Fool's!  We're alive!"

Friday, March 2, 2012

One Living Tree

 

Living Tree stood in the center of the heavens and the earth
He was one,
perfect, glorious
and alone.


Living Tree desired a partner,
a perfect opposite.
But Living Tree was one:
from where would a partner come?
Through Living Tree himself,
Creator carved out a perfect opposite
and Living Tree beheld her beauty



Living Tree breathed one
Making them two, his partner breathed two
Creator called them to unite
And the two became One



Saturday, February 4, 2012

Whispers of music


Inexplicable tears have been frequently streaming down my face in recent weeks when certain songs are played.  With my parents' favorite albums now cycling through my ipod, I've thought some of these tears come simply from childhood nostalgia.  Perhaps.  But maybe there's something deeper too.  It’s only after I find myself mysteriously crying that I slow down to pay attention to what the song is saying.  When I paused to really listen to this one, I was struck at how poignantly it captures the portrait of a mystic.  As the song speaks for itself, I’ll let the Beatles be my voice for this blog . . .



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Momentary musings

Given that everyone is interested in 2012 and in making predictions over what this year means, I thought I’d throw my own two cents into the bucket, as that's probably about what it's worth!

So, by year’s end, we’ll rebuild the Tower of Babylon, fire up God’s rage, and then be blown away by a firebomb from the heavens.  All will be dead except for  a few who had been sporting bumper stickers warning of their pending rapture.  These will be left behind to sort through the miles of debris and start civilization again from scratch, for which they’ll recruit the help of robots and cockroaches. . . .

All right, all right.  That’s not really what I believe.

To me, it seems 2012 is more about what the “moment” we're in, as opposed to the “year,” and that this moment is one of internal transformation.  Given that the internal manifests itself externally, such a wave of internal transformation can bring about the rise and fall of civilizations.  However, many in the media may be “disappointed” that 2012 lacked the really great big news story they had hoped would define their careers -- even though the year should be anything but boring.  Still, at year's end, we may hear, “Ha!  Nothing happened in 2012!  Nothing changed!”  Ah, that’s because you don’t have eyes to see.

Though economic and political breakdowns are ripe for the world to experience this year, it may be that the most critical news for most will be more local, expressing internal upheaval in places closer to self, such as divorce, bankruptcy, drug overdose, illness, mental health breakdowns, accidents, suicide, and so forth.  Such personal crises can stimulate genuine transformation that is deeply liberating.  Just as divorce and illness rises, so do their complements for liberation: dreams, epiphanies, creative expressions, life-changing moments, and scientific discoveries, perhaps especially in physics, energy and medicine.  Such awakening recognizes that our strength lies not in external authorities and institutions but within ourselves.  As such empowerment gains traction, more rulers will be toppled and even leaders over small groups of people may suffer from these changes if they are too set in their ways or are holding onto too much pride. 

But true change is a long process.  We are in early stages in movements like the Arab spring and Occupy Wall Street.  I pray that this momentum gains the power of wise progress.  Occupy Wall St., thus far, is more a mob of complainers than it is a movement of genuine reform.  May this momentum evolve into genuine liberation.  

As the process continues, old methods of doing business will be increasingly seen as inefficient, impractical, and even damaging and the liberation working within many will seek to develop new methods.  This is already clear to those who are benefiting by the old methods and they have been working very hard to maintain the status quo.  May the plots begin to be foiled; may exposure come to those who have been hiding in secret places; and may truth be exposed for those who have been fed falsehoods.

Finally, we may be in a year, as we already have been recently, of "buried" news.  Some news may be buried because the mainstream media can't handle it; other news may be buried because it won't be seen as relevant to most audiences, and other news may be "unburied" and then "reburied."  For this latter, we can imagine archeologists "unburying" sacred texts and the media "burying"' the story until the texts are translated and delivered to the public.  I do pray that we see greater awareness and liberation in this new year.

Blessings of Light to all!
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