There be dragons!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The convergence of the three

Three things happened that converged into this idea; a dream, a Biblical reading, Mary Wollstonecraft's mother.

The dream -
I came into a Gothic style church and Father J and several other priests were preparing to say Mass. Father J was excited to see me b/c now there would be good singing. But instead of Mass there was a heated debate going on about the nature of scripture; was it the direct word of God? was it not the direct word of God? Did God even exists? I interjected myself in good teaching fashion and proclaimed that the people there had it all wrong. The truth of the work did not lie in its direct descent from a divine being or not, but rather that the work inspired such vivid reactions and debate amongst those who read it. No one, after all, has such debates over Judy Blume books or over Dr. Seuss. The bible inspires such debates because it encourages readers to seek for the truth, and because truth is important to them they discuss the merits of the work with passion. If they were striving for unity, such unity would be found in that they all wished to find the good, the true, and the beautiful - nor would they sacrifice their pursuit of these three things for the sake of just getting along. The bible creates unity either by instilling in its readers a desire to know the real or by fanning that desire that already existed in them.

In the Song of Solomon Chapter 3 one reads that

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth:
I sought him, but I found him not.
I said,
I will rise now, and go about the city;
In the streets and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth:
I sought him, but I found him not.

The watchmen that go about the city found me;
To whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?

It was but a little that I passed from them,
When I found him whom my soul loveth:
I held him, and would not let him go,
Until I had brought him into my mother's house,
And into the chamber of her that conceived me.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the roes, or by the hinds of the field,
That ye stir not up, nor awake my love,
Until he please.

Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all powders of the merchant?

Behold, it is the litter of Solomon;

Wollstonecraft in Vindication writes:
In the world few people act from principle; present feelings, and early habits, are the grand springs: but how would the former be deadened, and the latter rendered iron corroding fetters, if the world were shew2n to young people just as it is; when no knowledge of mankind or their own hearts, slowly obtained by experience, rendered them forbearing? Their fellow creatures would not then be viewed as frail beings; like themselves, condemned to struggle with human infirmities, and sometimes displaying the light, and sometimes the dark side of their character; extorting alternate feelings of love and disgust; but guarded against as beasts of prey, till every enlarged social feeling, in a word, - humanity, was eradicated.

Somethings cannot be revealed to some people. Perhaps the whole of our iconography exists in order to bring us to a farther shore of knowing who we are. As rational creatures we understand things by creating an image in our minds of the thing to be considered; we imagine things to understand them. As they correspond to the reality being considered they are more or less "true".

A. image -----(degree of truth)------> B. reality

The point of the faith life is to unite image and reality as closely and honestly as possible such that we are able to love that which is lovable. The metaphor for this is a marriage union between man and woman. Image unites with reality so that the mask and the masker are the same and the dancer and the dance are one.

But our problem is manifold. First, we can't handle a great deal of reality, so we have to cloak the reality in layers of imagery. As people mature in their spiritual life they are able to comprehend more beyond the initial image; not losing the initial image (though that is a risk and often seems to result in loss of faith completely), but rather a looking beyond, like Bilbo looking out over Mirkwood.

Second, we have a tendency to cling to our images - to concretize them and insist that the image, not the thing imaged, is the real. Problematic, esp. when we then try to impose these (artificial) concretizations upon others, insisting they live and think the same way as we.

Third, b/c we are so good at self-delusion we frequently construct an image which we know to be wrong - willfully avoiding the images that work in favor of the images that will allow us to get our way; we manipulate images to enforce the dominance of our will over others. This is necromancy.

All this on the natural lacuna, the abyss that occurs as a consequence of the distance between images and reality. Images always fall short of reality and thus need to be abandoned at some point. EVERY image must be abandoned if we are to truly understand either image or reality. This "dark night of the soul" or negative vision, is, it seems, a necessary part of the whole spiritual exercise but probably also the hardest as it is the most terrifying and difficult to accomplish. Those who are afraid of it shy away and retreat to their concrete images, become literalists and doctrinalists, and never enter again the realm of questioning and darkness. Those who are untrained to go through this experience come to think that every image is bogus and all faith is a lie; they cease to question what faith even means (or what terms like "soul", "God" "heaven" or "hell" could mean). Thus they fall into atheism, ridicule or critique of all faith. Rather than trying to comprehend what faith actually seeks to accomplish, namely coming to love that which is lovable, which

cometh up from the wilderness
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense

as one would love a man or a woman; self and other; image and reality joined in a union; the members of these two camps become law-driven or lawless, the Hammerites or the Trickster's Pagans.

Note to self: Read more Ratzinger

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