A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

12 What is Christianity?

12 What is Christianity?

Christianity is a word that wears many hats; it is a belief system, to be sure, but it is also a social system, a religious discipline, a global philosophy, an organization of like-minded people, and an opposition of contrary-minded people; it is a mysterious spiritual union of souls transcending time and space, and yet it is a powerful financial institution serving many mundane cross-purposes in terms, for instance, of humanitarian activities.

C.S. Lewis describes it thus:

" . . . the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners."

The fact that there exists contradiction within factions of an admittedly splintered  belief system, (the various dialects of which presumably all came from the same source,) is somewhat troubling; not because disagreement is nothing if not merely human, but because these religious differences of opinion have, historically, resulted in unspeakable violence. It is a good thing that people are passionate about their religion: the passion for God is a fire that lights our way up the spiritual path; however, when we meet other pilgrims, traveling along an ever so slightly different track along the pathway, we hail to them to join us on our ONLY TRUE path, and when they don't, we try to kill them.

I have spoken before of the evils of the spirituality that is religion-driven, as opposed to the religion that is spirit-driven. The very existence of the various Christian denominations attests to man's inborn propensity toward contentious social/moral attitudes; this only becomes a bad thing when we want to be right more than we want to be good. We cannot help but want the whole world to agree with us that the face we have painted on God is His only possible face, universally accepted by all mankind; and if somebody doesn't see the same face as we do, we try to kill them.

In a way it is beautiful thing--all these people who want to kill all the other people who don't believe the way they do: it means that people are willing to put their lives on the line for something they consider to be more important than themselves, something bigger than themselves. However, I always worry that this killing seems to be over disagreements about gradations of semantic subtlety, and not transcendent spiritual experience-- it is my feeling that true spiritual experience always obliterates the confinements of literal definition, thereby freeing the soul to soar with flights of angels, all angles of God, all one in spirit.

From Wikipedia, here are some comments on, and a list of some (not all) of the many various "Christian" denominations:

(November 2009)
"A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity.
Some groups are large (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans or Baptists), while others are just a few small churches, and in most cases the relative size is not evident in this list. Modern movements such as Fundamentalist Christianity, Pietism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and the Holiness movement sometimes cross denominational lines, or in some cases create new denominations out of two or more continuing groups, (as is the case for many United and uniting churches, for example). Such subtleties and complexities are not clearly depicted here.

Note: This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. As there are reported to be approximately 41,000 Christian denominations (figure includes overlap between countries), many of which cannot be verified to be significant, only those denominations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable.
Between denominations, theologians, and comparative religionists there are considerable disagreements about which groups can be properly called Christian, disagreements arising primarily from doctrinal differences between groups.

There is no official recognition in most parts of the world for religious bodies, and there is no official clearinghouse which could determine the status or respectability of religious bodies. Often there is considerable disagreement between various churches about whether other churches should be labeled with pejorative terms such as "cult", or about whether this or that group enjoys some measure of respectability. Such considerations often vary from place to place, where one religious group may enjoy majority status in one region, but be widely regarded as a "dangerous cult" in another part of the world. Inclusion on this list does not indicate any judgment about the size, importance, or character of a group or its members.
·         Catholicism
·         Protestantism
·         Lutheranism
·         Anglicanism
·         Calvinism
·         Anabaptists and Schwarzenau Brethren (Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites)
·         Plymouth Brethren and Free Evangelical Churches
·         Methodists
·         Pietists and Holiness Churches
·         Baptists
·         Apostolic Churches – Irvingites
·         Pentecostalism
·         Charismatics
·         African Initiated Churches
·         Messianic Judaism / Jewish Christians
·         United and uniting churches
·         Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
·         Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement
·         Southcottites
·         Millerites and comparable groups
·         Adventist (Sunday observing)
·         Adventist (Seventh Day Sabbath/Saturday observing)
·         Church of God movements (Sunday observing)
·         Church of God movements (Seventh Day Sabbath/Saturday observing)
·         9 Nontrinitarian groups
·         Latter Day Saints
·         Oneness Pentecostalism
·         Unitarianism and Universalism
·         Swedenborgianism
·         Christian Science
·         10 New Thought (Church of Divine Science, Anthroposophical Society, Theosophy, Rosicrucian Fellowship)
·         11 Esoteric Christianity
·         13 Syncretistic religions incorporating elements of Christianity (Native American Church, Cult of Santa Muerte, Voodou, Chrislam)"

Many of (let's admit it, MOST of) these denominations make claims of exclusivity when it comes to spiritual truth, even to the point of denying the spiritual validity of all the other denominations. Now, since one of the bottom lines in Christian dogma is the existence of Hell as the ultimate destination for nonbelievers, it is therefore an implicit conclusion that, members of all other opposing denominations/belief systems are condemned to Hell. There many somewhat subtle dogmatic disagreements which may thus condemn the so-called heathen infidel to Hell. This is the belief that turned me away from Christianity for about 20 years.

One big dogmatic disagreement, that divides the various denominations, is the issue of Salvation through Grace, as opposed to Salvation through Good Works. One component of the Salvation-through-Grace philosophy is the law of pre-destination--a law which grants life to certain chosen believers, and condemns rest of the world to Hell. I have spoken on this subject before, and find the disagreement to be essentially transparent and insubstantial. The question of pre-destination as opposed to free will is a quandary whose resolution resides outside time, and is, therefore, beyond man's powers of literal comprehension. As such, literal disagreements about this issue are fundamentally non-applicable if not right down silly.

Many disagreements, among the denominations, reside in the domain of BEHAVIOR. It will be no surprise to hear that many Christians disavow the legitimacy of the beliefs of other Christians on the basis of things like whether they smoke, whether they go to movies, whether they use slang expressions like "gosh", or "jeez", or "darn", or "frickin'", whether they say "a-men" or "hallelujah", after key points in sermons, whether they work on Sundays, or whether they vote Republican.

Now, so far, we have been discussing the various flavors of Christianity merely within the generally accepted world Christian community. However, one of the purposes of this address is consider how “Christian” some other world religions are, religions which do not even recognize Jesus at all. Below are some relevant comments; this first one, from Bible evidences.com sums up the conventional view:

What About the Other Religions?
To non-Christians one of the most offensive claims of Christianity is that it provides the only path to heaven.  If you are a non-Christian it is certainly understandable why this would offend or upset you, but I would hope you can at least appreciate and respect why it is important for Christians not to skirt such an important tenet of Christianity. If the Bible truly is the Word of God, wouldn't you agree that it would be incredibly selfish of Christians to fail to mention such a far-reaching, eternally important component of the Bible?

Comparing World Religions
The first thing we should do is determine how the major religions of the world differ from each other, and to ascertain whether these differences are bridgeable. Christianity is based on the Triune God of the Bible - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and particularly the life of the Son, Jesus Christ. All other religions are based on the writings of men and not the life of any particular individual. Judaism, the sister religion to Christianity, is based on the Old Testament of the Bible, rejecting the entire New Testament and holding that the Messiah has not yet come. Islam is based on the writings of Muhammad, where they worship a single, impersonal god. Mormonism is based on the writings of Joseph Smith, where they deny the eternal divinity of Jesus, believe in many gods, and believe men can attain godhood (as their Jesus and Father did) and rule over their own planet. The Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, and Western new-age religions, such as Christian Science, essentially believe everything is god (Pantheism - may the force be with you). These religions also teach reincarnation until the spirit reaches a level of "enlightenment" and oneness with god or the gods.

Christianity teaches one death and one judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Christianity is also the only religion that recognizes the hopeless gap between man and a Holy and Righteous God, teaching that salvation can only be obtained through God's grace. All other religions teach that salvation can be achieved through human effort."

[Sidebar: This last paragraph is such a distortion and over-simplification of the truth, it borders on “bald-face lie.” The author uses, in the same sentence, the terms “hopeless” and “grace”. Now, it goes without saying that without grace, sinful man would indeed be hopeless; but the simultaneous reference to hopelessness and grace in the same sentence is an obvious contradiction in terms, and a logically confused concept. The words are used for dramatic effect and not clarity of meaning, hence revealing an emotionally charged subtext which defies reason. This author cares more about being right than about being good. It will also be immediately apparent that this sentence refers to the “grace vs. good works” controversy, and that the author is not only condemning the heathen masses of the world to Hell, he is also condemning the entire Catholic denomination to Hell as well. Furthermore, and finally, the sentence, “All other religions teach that salvation can be achieved through human effort,” is just plain ignorant; it makes presuppositions about the other world religions that are clearly apples and oranges contradictions. Indeed, the whole idea of “salvation”, in the sense that this author clearly means, is not even an issue for many of the Eastern religions.

Back to Bible evidences.com:]

“I think at this point we should be able to agree that that the major world religions are quite different, with many conflicting and contradictory views.  To hold that all religions are equally true is simply not a rational belief.”

[Sidebar: Sorry to disagree, but: “to hold that all religions are equally true” is, absolutely, a rational belief, because truth must forever be enslaved by the constraints of rationality. It is the UN-Truth, the NON-truth, the SUPER-Truth that interests me, and if I can find, in any of the other religions, the inarticulate Love of God permeating the Cloud of Unknowing, I spit on rationality, or, in less graphic terms, I rise above rationality. The trouble with religion is that everybody wants it to make sense!

Back to Bible evidences.com:]

"Biblical View on Other Religions
So, what does the Bible have to say about other religions?  It teaches that there is a spiritual war going on and the intention of Satan and his host of demonic spirits is to divert us from the truth. The apostle John wrote that "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19)", and the apostle Paul warned us that people will "follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1)". From the beginning Satan has been deceiving humanity.  In the garden he convinced Eve that "ye shall be as gods". Don't you find it interesting that to be divine "as God" is a common thread among many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and even false Christianity teachings by Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and others?  The Bible also teaches that Satan and his servants will masquerade as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Satan's hoisting of false religions has been a very effective lie since it mixes in some truth.  A lie mixed in with truth is much like rat poison, which contains 99% good food and 1% poison - its that 1% of poison (or lie) that will kill you!”
We are quite familiar with the preceding train of thought. It is an obvious conclusion based on mainstream Christian dogma. The next comment is from the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue:

Michael Fitzgerald

The Jewish Tradition
"With regard to the Jewish tradition it is important not to overlook the Jewishness of Jesus. There is not only the fact of his birth, but also his love for the Scriptures and for the Temple as evidenced in his preaching and his ministry in general. It should be remembered too that the first Christians were in fact Judeo-Christians, though very soon Gentiles entered the Church.

In the first two centuries there does not appear to be much opposition on the part of the Jews to Jesus as a human person. From the 3rd century onwards, as the Christian faith in the divinity of Christ became more clearly expressed, and the distance between Judaism and Christianity grew, Jews tended to ignore Jesus. After the year 1000, when persecution of Jews increased, and Jesus was perceived to be the source of all their woes, Jews adopted a more critical stance. Yet some Jewish sages, writing between the 12th and 14th centuries, could speak of Jesus as a "saint", as one who "served to prepare the whole world for the veneration of God in the communion of hearts".

The Qur' an contains several passages on Jesus and Mary. The virginal birth, the role of Jesus as a prophet, his mission to confirm the Torah, but to abrogate some of its prohibitions, the calling of "helpers" in his mission, - these are all features of the Quranic portrait of Jesus.
There are thus similarities with the Christian understanding of Jesus, but there are essential differences. The divinity of Christ is denied, as is also the reality of the Crucifixion. . . .

Hindus, who have heard about Jesus Christ from Christian missionaries, have reacted in various ways. Some have come to admire Jesus, but without any feeling of commitment to him. Others have come to know and love Jesus and have committed themselves to him, but within the context of Hinduism. Still others have responded to the person of Christ by seeking baptism and incorporation into the Church.
Mahatma Gandhi is an example of one who greatly admired the teaching of Jesus but who, as he himself said, was not interested in the historical person of the teacher. He was particularly struck by the Sermon on the Mount. For him Jesus, through his message, became an ethical symbol.

Many Hindus have no difficulty in accepting Jesus as divine. What they find difficult is the Christian understanding that the Incarnation of God in Jesus is unique. Jesus is often seen as the supreme example of self-realization, the goal of the Hindi dharma. He is taken to be a symbol of human progress. For some he becomes more of an ideal than a historical person. According to Hindu traditions, history always provides an imperfect knowledge of reality. In such a context, to identify the mystery of Jesus Christ with historical fact is seen as reducing God to imperfection.

Since Buddha deliberately avoided talking about the existence or non-existence of God, it is obvious that Buddhists will have difficulty when faced with the Christian belief in Jesus as the Son of God, true God and true man. Yet some Buddhists have paid serious attention to Jesus Christ. A contemporary Japanese scholar, Masao Abe, has reflected on the self-emptying of Christ as referred to by Paul (Phil 2: 5-8). He compares this kenosis with the concept of sunyata (emptiness) in Buddhism. Christ is here an example of denial of the self (ego). So it can be said that «Every day, here and now, we die as the old person, and resurrect as the new person with Christ».

Other Buddhists see Jesus as the liberator, because he teaches people the correct view of life, helping them out of darkness and blindness. Jesus does not impose liberation, but offers it, through faith in him. For the Dalai Lama it is the compassion of Jesus that is most striking. He sees the importance of the Gospel teaching on love of neighbour, kindness, forgiveness.”

It must be apparent from the foregoing quotations I have chosen, that I am building a case for a sort of “religion without walls”, a dogmatic system that includes more than it excludes. To some, this may seem like the road to insanity. Indeed, it is well understood that your egoic definition of who you are consists of two opposing components: who you are, and who you are not. I give this lecture all the time to children who have turned 13, and have contracted the “Jr. High Disease”-- the state of mind where you have to disagree with everything your parents say because that is the only way you can separate yourself from them and find yourself. Of course, as natural as it is, victims of the Jr. High Disease typically throw the baby out with the bath. There is a philosophy that affirms that “the more people you can relate to without going crazy, the wiser you are.” Clearly not everybody’s threshold of insanity is not the same, so most people cannot embrace the humanity of all without losing themselves. Everybody needs to have somebody they are NOT; every right needs a wrong. When it comes right down to it, the RELIGION part of Christianity is merely a question of the devotee's RANGE of intellectual capacity, NOT absolute truth.

The next comment is from, you guessed it, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Religious perspectives on Jesus

"The religious perspectives on Jesus vary among major world religions. Jesus' teachings and the retelling of his life story have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians.

Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) and the Son of God Incarnate. Christians believe that through his death and resurrection, humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life. These teachings emphasize that as the willing Lamb of God, Jesus chose to suffer in Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his Father, as an "agent and servant of God". Christians view Jesus as a role model, whose God-focused life believers are encouraged to imitate.

The Bahá'í Faith consider Jesus to be a manifestation of God, who are a series of personages who reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world. Bahá'ís rejects the idea that divinity was contained with a single human body.

Traditionally, Buddhists as a group take no particular view on Jesus, and Buddhism and Christianity have but a minor intersection. However, some scholars have noted similarities between the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha and Jesus. These similarities might be attributed to Buddhist missionaries sent as early as Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE in many of the Greek Seleucid kingdoms that existed then and then later became the same regions that Christianity began. Jesus was seen as the savior and bringer of gnosis by various Gnostic sects, such as the extinct Manichaeism. In the Ahmadiyya Islamic view, Jesus survived the crucifixion and later travelled to India, where he lived as a prophet (and died) under the name of Yuz Asaf.

The Religious Science/Science of Mind teaching generally incorporates idealistic and panentheistic philosophies. RS/SOM teaches that all beings are expressions of and part of Infinite Intelligence, also known as Spirit, Christ Consciousness, or God. It teaches that, because God is all there is in the universe (not just present in Heaven, or in assigned deities, as believed by traditional teachings), Its power can be used by all humans to the extent that they recognize and align themselves with Its presence. Ernest Holmes said "God is not ... a person, but a Universal Presence ... already in our own soul, already operating through our own consciousness."

It will be noticed that even belief systems that include science fiction in their catechisms, find it difficult to keep clear of this notion of the “Christ”. Even though the orientations of these religions toward spiritual discipline may be obliquely opposed, sometimes, they can’t seem to stay clear of this idea of God incarnate. Even though they can’t look at the historical record and give a name to this Christ, they cannot escape a compulsion to acknowledge His presence. The Holy Trinity seems also to be an inescapable conclusion even for philosophers who are not wholly committed to the divinity of Jesus--as we saw last week in the writing of Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living:
"The key to understanding the problem that’s solved with the symbolic idea of the Trinity is the Tantric saying,
'To worship a god, one must become a god.'
That is to say, you must hit that level of consciousness within yourself that is equivalent to the deity to whom you are addressing your attention.

"In the Trinity, the Father is the deity your attention is addressed to; you are the Son, knower of the Father; and the Holy Spirit represents the relationship between the two.

It seems to me you cannot have the notion of a god without having implicit the notion of a Trinity: a god, the knower of the god, and the relationship between the two, a progressive knowing that brings you closer and closer to the divine.
"The divine lives within you."

Now, I know that to many people what I am saying resides in the frontier between truth and blasphemy, and to many more it crosses way over the border into the realm of heresy. In this regard, we know that unfamiliar material is always greeted with suspicion by those who do not understand it. The shadow of "false prophet" lurks on many pages of the Bible; thus the greatest philosophical feat of all is to be able to distinguish something that is true from something that is Satanic in character. Is something Satanic because you never heard of it before? Or is something new, also true, because we are eternally directed to "Sing unto the Lord a new song!"?

Last week I sent my "HolyGhost III" sermon to my brother, a Nazarene minister. He wrote back and mentioned the section on angels.

Thanks for sharing. Your idea about angels being messengers for the Spirit is intriguing."

I wrote back and said:

"By the way, the bit about angels is not an "idea". I have either talked with angels many times, I am delusional, or I am the victim of satanic possession and am a false prophet. I feel pretty good about the "talked with angels many times" sentence. The impressions we get in prayer are heaven-sent, and the mechanism of transmission is the Angel. The fact that angels have no personal identity does not make their messages impersonal, because they come from God, the BIG PERSON. The abstract nature of the angelic "personality" is what makes their messages resonate in eternity."

It must never escape our attention that forays into the realm of the so-called "occult" may lead us down paths forged by Satan; heightened spiritual sensitivity always includes the threat of misdirection by the Prince of Liars and his minions. Still, communion with higher beings is very Biblical, and was known to all the great saints. In our thirst for higher knowledge, we must not only keep an open mind, but a DISCRIMINATING mind. As John says in 1 John 4:1-13:

"1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit."

This passage is loaded with nuggets of encouragement and warning for the seeker of spiritual knowledge in the psychic world.
1. The sentence, "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God" says that we do receive messages, from the Holy Spirit, message which come from the super-physical dimension, but we must not trust every impression that floats into our consciousness.

2. The sentence "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" attributes ultimate authority to Jesus. Thus, a simple test of the spiritual validity of any psychic impression is whether   it claims, as its source, the Divinity of the Son. This is something that the spiritual devotee learns to FEEL. Trust me, I have been deceived enough times to tell the difference, but it is not an easy road, and it requires constant exercise of high-minded discrimination.

3. The sentence, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist," reveals the fatal weakness of Satan: he cannot bear the name of Jesus. He may twist and squirm around it, but Jesus' name is filled with the power of the armor of God, and can defeat every trick of the devil to confound us.

4. The sentence, "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us," affirms that the devotee's love for God reveals the knowledge of God in unmitigated purity and strength.

5. Finally, the sentence, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God," draws a pretty clear bottom line: spirituality is love of God. We Christians have given a name to God's love: it is Jesus. Conversely, when we use the word Jesus, we mean, and will always and ultimately mean: LOVE.

I have only one point to make today: the bottom line of Christianity, in all its articulate, (and thereby contradictory), expressions, is Jesus Christ. Jesus created the moment in human history when the voice of God came to Earth incarnate in the body of a Man; Jesus accepted responsibility for Original Sin, and gave His life in order to demonstrate to humankind that death is an illusion, and that God has established a Kingdom on Earth which is habitable by any who are willing to open their eyes and see it. True, absolutely essential moral imperatives are imbedded in the teachings of Jesus; but they are very, very few, and all are specific to the individual anomalous soul and not to any generalized, or culturally specific principles.

I think of the language of religion in very much the same way I think of the language of music: I know there are many levels of literacy, many vernacular and elitist dialects, but I also know that all these levels come from and lead back to a single source. The legitimacy of your chosen musical dialect depends on YOU not IT. For an example of "vernacular" Christianity we merely turn to the Fundamentalist Southern Baptist denomination; these people like things simple, down-to-earth, anti-intellectual, and black-and-white, in Alabama, mostly white, ha ha.

For an example of a more mainstream denomination we could look to the Methodists (mainstream for the present, anyway, as the fundamentalists gain ground every day); these people place a high value on church family potlucks, and community Christmas trees; the language of their catechism reads a lot like the constitution of the United States—nothing extreme, nothing particularly charismatic, very familiar, very comfortable, very 1950s, very Chamber of Commerce.

For an example of an elitist form of Christianity, or a so-called “New Thought” dialect, we turn to Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy; as you well know, I lean hard toward this body of literature for my articulated theology, and, like any snob, I have a hard time not feeling superior to lower forms of Christianity; but I know enough to recognize prideful vanity when I see it, so I never let these thoughts lead me down unwholesome paths.

The quality that distinguishes these three points on the continuum is nothing more than language, and the amount of information that language expresses. I like Steiner because, while he places Jesus squarely in the center of his belief system, his theology INCLUDES vocabulary, concepts, events, and consciousness states from many more points of origin than that of the Baptist old time religion. The problems I always had, making sense of the many socially generated articles of faith included in the Baptist (Nazarene) dogma, are done away with in Steiner’s cosmic view. Of course, it is this very cosmic dimension that is so off-putting to Fundamentalist or even Mainstream Christians, because, in an effort to do away with superstition, both of these schools of thought have tended to suspect (and condemn) anything that smacks of magic or mysticism. They seem to have lost the idea of a Heaven on Earth, where miracles are a stock in trade; they prefer to put off the experience of heavenly ecstasy for after death.

Still, what is it that makes these people one body—THE CHURCH. It is the unifying power of Jesus—Jesus the Mediator between God and Man, Jesus the perfect superman whose beneficent smile neutralizes all our estrangements in a great wave of love. Jesus’ divine intellect is available to all in whatever dialect they need to see it in. Jesus’ patience and tolerance are available to all, in whatever capacity or degree they are able to receive it.

In this regard, I have one more important point to make: much is made, in Christian dogma, of the necessity of BELIEVING in Jesus. I do not think that believing in Jesus has much to do with our ultimate salvation, nor do I consider it a requirement for membership in the Invisible Church; Jesus believes in YOU, whether you believe in Him or not; thus, as we mentioned above, religions that don’t even recognize the historical Jesus as significant, let alone divine, are not cut off from His boundless mercy and grace. Here I quote these words from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle:

Even C. S. Lewis, a man who could never be confused with a namby-pamby, or Pantheist Christian, made allowances for differences of opinion at this basic level. At the end of The Last Battle there appears the following conversation between Aslan and a Calormene soldier--a soldier who, though born an enemy of Aslan, was, at heart, a friend:

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.”

“But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.”

“Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?

The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him.
For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.

And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.
Dost thou understand, Child?

I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.

Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek."

I have read this passage before; to me, it is one of the most meaningful sections in all of C.S. Lewis, because it affirms a basic principle: that Jesus' love is universal, and not restricted by verbal constraints. Jesus loves us all equally, and makes Himself available to everyone who tries to do good, regardless of creed or allegiance.

Religious snobs are not able to understand how Jesus can love all equally; they are not able to accept that there is no continuum in Heaven—that we are all poured into an infinity of molds, from exactly the same well; they are not able to see that One in Christ means ONE IN CHRIST. This is what it means to be a Christian—every other definition is vanity and declusion. If this belief makes me a false prophet, I have truly been deceived--but I don't think so; in Jesus' name, I don't think so.

Let us pray: Jesus, lead us to each other, and to You. Teach us to listen to our minds JUST ENOUGH for our hearts to open to your divinity in all its glory and diversity. Teach us to recognize your voice in the din; teach us the simplicity of silence. Amen.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

11-Holy Ghost III- Modern Slant

11-Holy Ghost III- Modern Slant

For the past six weeks we have been exploring the subject of “ecstasy”; it is a spiritual experience I am recommending. Eventually, our discussion worked its way around to a concept the Holy Ghost as the motivator of the ecstatic experience. Last week we studied writings, by Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas, concerned with establishing without doubt the nature of the Holy Trinity. This week, beginning with Martin Luther, we will be looking at what a group of more modern philosophers have to say about the Holy Ghost. Eventually, we hope to tie all these thoughts in with some of our previously espoused ideas about ecstasy.

From the Boethius/St. Thomas Aquinas excerpts we sampled last week, we can come to one general conclusion about the neo-Platonist Christians: they love to play word games. I do not wish to trivialize the effort that went into creating these magnificently complex and insightful rational structures, but sometimes the delight these philosophers take, in creating long flawless trains of thought, is lost on me. I know, a lot of the time, I do the same thing, but, for me, after an hour of testing the strength of a subtle semantic distinction, the radiance fades from it, and I welcome some good old Martin Luther charisma.

[Sidebar: Just to be clear, here is a dictionary definition of “charismatic” as it pertains to certain aspects of Christianity;

":  a member of a religious group or movement that stresses the seeking of direct divine inspiration and charisms (as glossolalia or healing)"

What is Charismatic Spirituality?
"We are familiar with many different spiritualities: Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Holy Cross, Jesuit, Marian, Pauline, Vincentian. There are spiritualities for priests, religious, contemplatives, families, singles for Christ, missionaries, social ministries, various professions, and the like. These various spiritualities provide scriptural norms for spiritual maturity in these specialized lifestyles. We are grateful to the Holy Spirit for these spiritualities which are approved and are embraced by many disciples.

We must keep in mind that these various spiritualities presuppose and are built on the sacraments of initiation and the spirituality of the Christian life. A Christian's life, like the life of Christ, is led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. "Charismatic" means something initiated by the Holy Spirit or someone cooperating with the Holy Spirit. A "charismatic" spirituality is the Pentecostal spirituality initiated by the Holy Spirit for all Christians."]

As I have said many times, the index of truth in spiritual matters is DIRECT experience. We need language to give us a leg up in thought and meditation, but there is no substitute for direct experience. Clearly, no matter how dogmatic Luther may be, however tough-guy unsentimental he is, however GERMAN he is, his beliefs spring from a deep well of personal experience—through his sermons we can see that he truly knows Jesus; and, yet,even if he sometimes indulges in conclusions that are culture-driven, or, as I am fond of saying, “religion-driven”, there can be no doubt, from his writing, that he has personal knowledge of Jesus, which is to say knowledge of Jesus as manifested in the mundane world, which is to say, as the Holy Spirit.

The following is from an online article published by the Lutheran Church.

“Martin Luther wrote; "I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith."”

[Sidebar: This sentence is chock full of nuggets of meaningful significance:

1.   The statement,“I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ,” puts Jesus beyond the reach of rational thought or mundane commitment. Luther emphasizes the fact that spiritual knowledge gained through ecstasies self-consciously triggered by concentration on divine symbols, is still ultimately a gift of grace. Furthermore there is the glaring implication that rational belief is inferior to direct personal experience.
2.   The phrase, “the Holy Spirit has called me,” makes it clear, again, that it is not by our own efforts that we peek around the corner of the physical into infinity, but through a WILL greater than and beyond our own. This expression also impugns the Catholic idea of salvation through good works; Luther thinks that no matter how hard we try, we cannot achieve sainthood without the aid and consent of the Holy Spirit.
3.   Lastly, this comment on the gifts of spirit, “enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith,” makes it perfectly clear that the Christian life in quintessentially inspired, at it source, by the Holy Spirit—thus “no one may come to the Father but by me.” Also, it is clear that the “true faith” is, once again, inspired, nay, DEFINED by the imprint of the Holy Spirit on the devotee.

Now, the problem with this, again, comes down to “RELIGION” with a capital R. The Holy Spirit may, transform the heart of the devotee, but when translated into the verbal language of dogma, mistakes of a social or strategic nature may seriously flaw the behaviors of followers who are not so generously blessed with insight. Remember, this is why Jesus spoke in parables: He did not want His meanings misconstrued by people who are apt at interpreting the letter but not the spirit of the Word.

Back to the Luther article:]

“For Lutherans, the Holy Spirit “as person” teaches that the Holy Spirit is one of God’s "three revealed faces." These faces are God the Creator, Jesus Christ the Redeemer, and The Holy Spirit. The center of God’s divine activity is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, just as the Son performed the work of the Father who sent him, so the Spirit performs the work of the Son in the believer, whom Christ “sends” into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world. In carrying on Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Spirit’s ongoing work is to reveal truth, give life and strengthen faith."

[Sidebar: At this point, I would like to interject this idea: I feel strongly that that the Will and the Word of the Holy Ghost are made manifest, in the soul of Man, via the activities of the Angels--that it is the Angels who are the mechanism through which the work of the Holy Spirit is performed. Indeed, there are several concepts that link the Holy Spirit and Angels in my mind. For one thing, remember that the Holy Ghost is often symbolized by a faceless WIND. Keywords are "FACELESS", (that is, lacking a personal identity of its own), and WIND (an amorphous, indiscrete, yet potent, cloud of invisibility). Both of these designations may be appropriately applied to Angels.

I’m just spit-balling here, but I have always had the intuitive impression that the work of the Holy Spirit is done by the so-called "angles of God", the purely impersonal thought forms of God. Angels are lower than Man because they have no personal identity--they exist in the purely abstract realm of thought, and convey their meanings to the Human souls, innocent of all carnal context. (Steiner says the angels IMPRINT the divine truth on the astral body of the devotee.) Since Angels are pure thought, AND pure energy, the logical consequence of injecting pure thought into the sequential stream of time and material, is movement--it is not the MATERIALITY but the ENERGY of the Angelic touch that imprints itself upon the devotee's spiritual body, creating a thought form, i.e., a coherent sequence of images which synergistically convey a holistic meaning, from a string of partial meanings, and which refer to an Eternal Truth unencumbered by the fetters of Time.

Let us examine the word "Form" more closely, especially as it pertains to the expression "Thought Form". A reasonable definition of the term, FORM, might run thus: the sequential creation of a continuum of variously weighted values, whose impact on the physical is capable of:
1. making an imprint on the soul of, and
2. initiating change in, the subjective reality of the devotee. 

In other words, a thought form is an ACTIVE thought, an entity originating in the lofty stratosphere of the abstract, but which is capable of descending into the physical and exerting a TANGIBLE effect on the material plane. The FORM is the sequence as it is played out in time, and recorded into MEMORY. In memory the thought form may be repeated again and again like a favorite TV episode; thus, the thought form's positive benefits may be reinforced with each repetition. Divine Truth is imperceptible to the rational mind, but these angelic thought Forms act kind of like the carrier waves of the Divine Truth--Truth imparted to us from the Will of the Father, through the personal affection of Jesus, into the abstract notes of Gabriel's trumpet (so to speak).

Steiner talks about angels IMPRINTING divine images on the soul; indeed, I have always kind of suspected that these images were transmitted to the devotee from the Father by way of the angel, the, you might say, MOUTHPIECE of the Holy Ghost. It’s just a thought. This is one of the subtleties of spiritual mechanism I fear we are destined to understand only much later.

Back to the Luther article:]

"Much of our understanding of “the work” of the Holy spirit comes from the New Testament book of John – specifically verses 14:26:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

John 15:26,
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:”

and John 16:7-15:
“7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 about sin, because people do not believe in me;
10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;
11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

According to the New Testament the “new life in Christ” from beginning to end is solely the work of the Spirit. The Spirit’s essential work of bestowing God’s grace of forgiveness is pure gift, renewing us so that Christ may dwell in us.”

[Sidebar: And here is the kicker:]

“For Christians, the Spirit makes the living and lifechanging Christ a personally experienced reality."
"In John 14:16 we are told by Jesus that the Spirit is our Advocate which is given to dwell with us forever. John goes on to say, 
John 14:17:
"You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you."
Thus the Spirit, equal in time, power and glory, comes to humanity from both Father and Son. The Spirit not only creates faith, but also sustains the church in the “one true faith” passed on from the first disciples.”

I wish to emphasize the point made here that the CHURCH is not a building, nor an institution, nor a constitution of dogmatic guidelines--it is a mystical structure of interlocking personal experiences and angelic transmissions from the Holy Ghost. It is the commonality of Spirit, not anything else, that makes the church holy and indestructible.

In line with this thinking  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, says in The Cost of Discipleship:
“The temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.”

C.S. Lewis describes the essence of THE CHURCH in this back-handed report from The Screwtape Letters:

" . . . the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy."

I could not resist throwing in a few more quotes from various philosophers and poets to round out our perspective:

 William Blake:

“I myself do nothing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes all through me.”

Rudolf Steiner from Le Mystere Chretien et les Mysteres Antiques:
        “In the early days of Christianity there sprang up in the old Pagan world, systems of the universe which seemed to be a prolongation of the philosophy of Plato, but which could be understood also as a spiritualisation of the wisdom of the Mysteries. All these systems had their starting-point in Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, who said : `It is necessary for the soul to come out of the ordinary ” I.” Then it enters into a state of spiritual ecstasy, of illumination, when it ceases to know, to think, and to recognise in the ordinary sense of the words. For it has identified itself with the divine, they have become one.”

Edgar Cayce:
"Jesus Christ and His comforting spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- are a powerful force for helping us to forgive. Cayce identifies the Holy Spirit as “the motivating force of man’s relationship to God and to the fellow man.” He identifies the mind as “the Christ-Way,” saying that the mind “becomes the channel through which there is builded the greater understanding with ourselves, others, and God” (1947-1). Therefore, we need to evoke the motivating force (the Holy Spirit) and channel it through our thoughts about ourselves and others each day. When negative thoughts come, clear them away with the higher motivation of the Holy Spirit and the rebuilding power of the Christ Consciousness."

Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living:
"The key to understanding the problem that’s solved with the symbolic idea of the Trinity is the Tantric saying,
'To worship a god, one must become a god.'
That is to say, you must hit that level of consciousness within yourself that is equivalent to the deity to whom you are addressing your attention.

"In the Trinity, the Father is the deity your attention is addressed to; you are the Son, knower of the Father; and the Holy Spirit represents the relationship between the two.

It seems to me you cannot have the notion of a god without having implicit the notion of a Trinity: a god, the knower of the god, and the relationship between the two, a progressive knowing that brings you closer and closer to the divine.
"The divine lives within you."

Jack London from The Call of the Wild:
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.”

David A. Bednar:
"Revelation is communication from God to His children on the earth and one of the great blessings associated with the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost."

Dallin Oaks:
“The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten”.

Watchman Nee: from The Normal Christian Life:
“There is nothing stereotyped about God's dealings with His children. Therefore, we must not by our prejudices and preconceptions make watertight compartments for the working out His Spirit, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. We must leave God free to work as He wills and to leave what evidence He pleases of the work He does.”

[Sidebar: I like this quote a lot because it emphasizes the vital spiritual technique of letting go. As rational beings, we want desperately for the universe to make sense, but whatever "sense" we stumble on to will be ultimately inadequate to satisfy our minds. Only when we rebuke the tyranny of the mind on our attitudes and let the heart lead us into abstruse and foreign terrains, will we be engulfed by the Cloud of Unknowing and be free.

It also touches on a point we made about prophecy: that prophecy is a BY-PRODUCT of ecstasy, not the object of ecstasy. Thus, the divine truths, delivered down to us from on high, are never complete, never definitive, always ambiguous because, as stated above:
"We must leave God free to work as He wills and to leave what evidence He pleases of the work He does.”]

Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

[Sidebar: We have heard these words many times--that words can't convey true meaning. But I wonder about the term MEMORY. How do we remember? Is it always in words, or images, OR is it in the "inaudible language of the heart" that our best memories are expressed?]

Arthur Rimbaud: Sensation
“On the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths,
And walk over the short grass, as I am pricked by the wheat:
Daydreaming I will feel the coolness on my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head. I will not speak,
I will have no thoughts: But infinite love will mount in my soul;
And I will go far, far off, like a gypsy,
through the countryside - as happy as if I were a woman."

Virginia Woolf, from Orlando:
“A toy boat, a toy boat, a toy boat,’ she repeated, thus enforcing upon herself the fact that it is not articles by Nick Greene on John Donne nor eight-hour bills nor covenants nor factory acts that matter; it’s something useless, sudden, violent; something that costs a life; red, blue, purple; a spirit; a splash; like those hyacinths (she was passing a fine bed of them); free from taint, dependence, soilure of humanity or care for one’s kind; something rash, ridiculous, like my hyacinth, husband I mean, Bonthrop: that’s what it is — a toy boat on the Serpentine, ecstasy — it’s ecstasy that matters.”

 T.S. Eliot, from Four Quartets:

“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.”

Rabindranth Tagore:
"There the whole sky is filled with sound,
and there that music is made without fingers and without strings;
There the game of pleasure and pain does not cease.
If you merge your life in the Ocean of Life,
you will find your life in the Supreme Land of Bliss.

What a frenzy of ecstasy there is in every hour!
and the worshipper is pressing out and drinking the essence of the hours.
I speak truth, for I have accepted truth in life;
I am now attached to truth, I have swept all tinsel away.
Thus is the worshipper set free from fear;
thus have all errors of life and of death left him."

Thus endeth this lengthy discourse on ecstasy and the Holy Spirit. If I have learned anything from this series, it has been to sharpen my will to acquire Divine Sight, because my thirst for living water has grown incrementally.

To conclude, here, once again, is St.Augustine from his Confessions:

“We are inflamed, by Thy Gift we are kindled; and are carried upwards; we glow inwardly, and go forwards. We ascend Thy ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with Thy fire, with Thy good fire, and we go; because we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem: for gladdened was I in those who said unto me, We will go up to the house of the Lord. There hath Thy good pleasure placed us, that we may desire nothing else, but to abide there for ever.”

Let us pray: Jesus, we thank You for the blessings of the Holy Ghost which rain upon us unceasingly. We pray that, in striving for perfect understanding, we may be blessed with that which passeth understanding. We pray the Holy Ghost may visit our community here and now, and abide in our hearts no matter where our bodies are. Amen.

Monday, June 23, 2014

10-Holy Ghost II - Pre-Modern Slant

10-Holy Ghost II - Pre-Modern Slant

Call to worship:

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
    that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
    that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
    that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
    to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
    that I always may be holy.

For the past six weeks we have been exploring the subject of “ecstasy”; it is a spiritual experience I am recommending. Eventually, our discussion worked its way around to a concept the Holy Ghost as the motivator of the ecstatic experience. Last week we reviewed a lot of conventional wisdom concerning the Holy Ghost, including some general definitions and connections to other concepts we have been bandying about. Next week, we will look at what a group of more modern philosophers, beginning with Martin Luther, have to say about the Holy Ghost. Eventually, we hope to tie all these thoughts in with some of our previously espoused ideas about ecstasy.

Today, we will get to hear from two of the great, old, pre-modern grandfathers of the church: Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas. They both have much to say about the Holy Ghost, or, more generally, the Holy Trinity. Last week we saw that the Bible amply supplies precedents for the ceremonial passion for God which I am recommending. Today, Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas will supply us with food for thought. These men, both of whom we have studied before, have proclaimed the power of the spirit in their daily lives, and have contributed meaningfully to the spiritual literature. The lessons they teach encourage soberness of mind, and openness of heart.

In previous sermons, we have upheld Boethius (ca. 500 AD) as a very wise Roman, a harbinger of the eventual Christian domination of European philosophy. Here is his commentary on the Holy trinity, a gateway to the subject of the Holy Spirit. This monograph, The Trinity is One God not Three Gods occupies itself entirely with proving that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “three in one”. It is very clever how he demonstrates that if you say the same thing three times, it is the “Sameness” not the “Threeness” that is operative. The article barely mentions the Holy Spirit at all, as a distinct entity, but the Boethius repeatedly affirms the principle that all three are one. This is important if we are to proceed to this crucial question: is an ecstasy inspired by the Holy Spirit the same thing as an ecstasy inspired by God?

Let me emphasize this: is an ecstasy, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the same thing as an ecstasy inspired by God? Are the sweet words of wisdom and encouragement we receive in ecstasy--are they REALLY from God? In answering this question we must base all our a priori concepts on scripture--writing unequivocally inspired by God. It is important to establish a firm Biblical and Historic connection between the ecstatic experience and the truest forms of Christianity; because the subjects we have been discussing lately, fall well outside the philosophical circumference of most "Normal" Christians, it is ethically compulsory that we generate our dogma from the most uncompromised Biblical precedents. We have discussed several qualities of ecstasy, and have found that those ecstatic transports, which are inspired by material things, are of less benefit than those ecstasies inspired by spiritual things. If this is true, then the NAME of the Holy Spirit, and the ORIGIN of the Holy Spirit is relevant.

Furthermore, we know that unfamiliar material is always greeted with suspicion by those who do not understand. The shadow of "false prophet" lurks on many pages of the Bible; thus the greatest philosophical feat of all is to be able to distinguish something that is true from something that is Satanic in character. Is something Satanic because you never heard of it before? Or is something new, also true, because we are eternally directed to "Sing unto the Lord a new song!"?

The following discussion is a linguistic exercise attempting to prove through reasonable trains of thought that an incomprehensible concept like the TRINITY is actually possible--that the universe is unified in ONE.

Boethius On the trinity:
“But God differs from no God, neither are [Gods] separate in accidents or in substantial differences which have been posited in a subject. But where there is no difference, there is no plurality at all therefore no [plural] number, and thus unity alone. For even though 'God' is thrice repeated when Father, Son and Holy Ghost are named, the three unities do not produce a plurality of number in respect to that which they truly are, if we turn to countable things and not to the number itself. For in the latter case, the repetition of unities produces a plural number."

[Sidebar: Notice he specifies "countable things"!]

"But in the number which corresponds to countable things, the repetition of unities and the resultant plurality in no way produce a numerical diversity of countable things. For number is of two varieties: the one by which we count, the other which corresponds to countable things. Moreover a thing is one, but unity is that by which we call a thing one. Again there are two in the realm of things, e.g. men and stones; but duality is nothing but that by which there are two men or two stones.

And the same holds for other numbers. When it comes to the number by which we count, therefore, the repetition of unities produces plurality; but when it comes to the number of things, the repetition of unities does not produce plurality."

[Sidebar: This is the point: “, the repetition of unities does not produce plurality”. A lot of the same thing is still just one thing--whereas, a lot of different things are countable, and constitute a plurality. What Boethius is saying, in this discussion of numbers, is that the numbers exist on two planes: they exist in the abstract realm of a priori knowledge, a plane which is pure rationality, and they correspond to things in the physical world. So many things are like that.

Back to Boethius:]
"For instance, if I were to say, concerning the same thing, 'one sword, one blade, one brand.' - since one sword can be known by so many terms- this is an iteration of unities, not an enumeration. For instance, if we were to say, 'brand, blade, sword.' this is, so to speak, a repetition of the same thing, not an enumeration of different things. Or if I were to say, 'sun, sun, sun’ I would not have produced three suns, but I would have predicated of one sun so many times.

Therefore, if 'God’ is predicated thrice of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, it does not follow that this triple predication produces a plural number. For, as has been said, this is a threat to those who impose distance between these [three] according to their merits, but for Catholics, who
[a] assign nothing in the way of difference,
[b] consider the form itself to be as it is, and
[c] hold the opinion that His essence is not any other,
it rightly seems to be a repetition of the same thing, rather than an enumeration of different things. When it is said, "God the Father, God the Son. God the Holy Ghost and this Trinity are one God," just as "blade and brand are one sword." or "sun, sun and sun are one sun."

But for now, let what has been said be a signification and a demonstration by which it is shown that not every repetition of unities produces number and plurality. But it does not follow that "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" is said as though of some synonymous thing; for blade and brand are identical and the same, but Father, Son and Holy Ghost are indeed the same, but not identical. This matter will be looked into shortly. For to those asking, "is the Father identical to the Son?" they (i.e. Catholics) say, "not at all." Again, to the question, "is the one the same as the other?" the answer is no. For there is not lack of difference amongst them in every respect, and thus number slipped in, which was brought about by diversity of subjects, as was explained above. About this point we shall make a brief consideration, once we have said how each and every thing is predicated of God.

There are in all ten traditional categories, which are universally predicated of all things: substance, quality, quantity, relation, location, time, condition, situation, active and passive. And these are such as their subjects will permit; for part of them refer to predicates in reference to the substance of other things, and part of them refer to a number of accidents.

But when one applies these to divine predication, everything that can be predicated is changed. Relation is not at all able to be predicated, for the substance in question is not a true substance, but beyond substance; the same holds for quality and all the rest which can arise. That our understanding may be greater, examples are given as follows."
[Sidebar: I find this to be a fascinating point, that: “Relation is not at all able to be predicated, for the substance in question is not a true substance, but beyond substance”, that is to say, a RELATION is beyond substance, a RELATION enters the world of the abstract, the proper context of spiritual things.

Back to Boethius:]

"For when we say 'God' we indeed seem to signify a substance, but the sort that is beyond substance: yet when we say 'just' we indeed signify a quality: not an accident, but rather a quality which is a substance, again of the beyond substance sort. For 'to be' is not one thing and 'to be just' something else, but indeed for God to be and to be just are the same. Likewise, when he is called ‘great' or 'best' we seem to signify a quantity, one that is the same as a substance, of the sort we said was beyond substance; for to be God is the same as to be great. And concerning his form, it was demonstrated above how he is form and truly one and no plurality at all.

[Sidebar: Notice the use of the word "form"; the Trinity seen as some sort of coherent shape, and the term "shape", we move to the term "idea". We will come back to this.

Back to Boethius:]

"But these categories are such that they make whatever they are in to be the same as that which they signify', in a diverse way for most things, but for God in this linked and joined way: for when we say 'substance’, e.g. man or God. it [substance] is said as though that of which it is predicated is itself a substance, e.g. the substance man or the substance God. But there is a difference, for a man is not simply and entirely man, and because of this, man is not [simply and entirely] a substance either; for he owes that which he is to things other than man. But God is the same in this way [simply and entirely], for he is nothing other than what He is, and thus He is simply God. Again 'just’, which is a quality, is thus said as though it were the very thing of which it is predicated, i.e. if we say, ‘a man is just', or ‘God is just’, we declare a particular man or God to be just: but there is a difference, since a man and a just man are two things, but God is the same as that which is just. And again 'great’ is said of man or God, as if a particular man were himself great or if God were great: but man is merely great, whereas God exists as greatness itself."

[Sidebar: I believe the sense of this paragraph resides in an understanding of spiritual reality as a continuum of greater to lesser material resolutions, infinitely great to infinitely small; in this sense: a man may assume the quality of greatness as an aspect of himself, which he shares in common with the Father; but it is the Father who PERSONIFIES the essence of every possible quality, greatness et al.

Back to Boethius:]

"But the remaining categories are predicated neither of God nor of other things [in reference to substance]. For location can be predicated of either man or God: of a man, such as 'in the forum:' of God, such as 'everywhere’ but such that the thing spoken of is not the same as that which is predicated of it. For man is not thus said to be in the forum in the way that he is said to be white or tall, nor is he encompassed and determined by some property by which he can be designated according to himself, but all that is pointed out by this predicate is that a thing has been described by other circumstances.

But it is not so concerning God, for it seems to be said that He is everywhere, not because He is in every place (for he is unable to be in a place at all) but because every place is present to him insofar as it holds Him, although He Himself is not contained in any place: and therefore He is said to be nowhere in a place, for He is everywhere but not in any place.

Time is predicated in the same way, as concerning man, ‘yesterday he came' or concerning God, ‘He always is’. And He, whose yesterday arrival was mentioned, is said to be such, not as though this amounted to something, but merely that which has befallen Him in respect to time is predicated. But the fact that it is said of God, ‘He always is’, indeed signifies one thing, as if for all the past. "He was," in every present, -whatever that means- "He is,' and for every future time, "He will be." But that which according to Philosophers can be said of Heaven and other immortal bodies cannot be said of God in the same way. For He always is, since 'always' belongs to the present in a point of time, and there is so great a difference between the present of our affairs, which is now, and the present of divine affairs, because our 'now,’ as though running time, produces a sempiternity, but the divine 'now’, being quite fixed, not moving itself and enduring, produces eternity; and if you were to attach 'always' to this name, you would make the course of our now into something continual and untiring and therefore perpetual, i.e. 'sempiternity.'”

[Sidebar: I looked up sempiternity just to be sure; it is an interesting word:
sempiternity (uncountable)

1.   (philosophy) existence within time but infinitely into the future; as opposed to eternity, understood as existing outside time

I believe that Joseph Campbell would equate the word sempiternity with the word “everlasting”. In one of his conversations with Bill Moyers, Campbell makes the distinction between everlasting and eternal. Most people have an image of Heaven as an everlasting sequence of moments, whereas the concept of eternity is outside sequential time, and has no beginning or end, (or middle for that matter). It is interesting that this concept has come up in a discussion centered around ecstasy, because the ecstatic is said to enter an “eternal moment” that exists outside time. And yet, not all experiences that we designate as "ecstatic" are without sequential definition--some ecstatics pass through discrete levels of consciousness, as in, say, any other journey from one place to another. Thus, it may be suggested that some ecstatics pass through the gates of Heaven and visit there for awhile, and other ecstatics touch and eternal moment for NO WHILE.]

Now, having tasted of Boethius' cosmic take on the Trinity, we now turn, about 700 years down the road, to St. Thomas Aquinas, who will discuss, in his The Summa Theologica, matters concerning the origin of the Son and Holy Ghost as the progress from the Father. The importance of The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas as a philosophical breakthrough cannot be overestimated. In ca. 1250, with the renewed interest in the neo-Platonist Humanism that led to the scientific (and not to mention godless) modern age, it is admirable indeed how he took the mechanics of Platonic philosophy and applied them to religious dogmatic thought.

What that means, specifically, can be best exemplified by a review of the FORM of the articles in The Summa Theologica. Each article is based on a proposition, a question to be argued, such as:

“Whether this name "Holy Ghost" is the proper name of one divine person?”

The proposition is then followed by a series of plausible objections, then some contraries, replies to the objections, (this is where St. Thomas, excuse the expression, plays devil's advocate with himself, and argues the point from several sides), and then, finally, a definitive resolution of the question. For our purposes here, it would be only of didactic interest to give the articles in their completeness; but, as you will see, in context, Saint Thomas makes some discerning comments about the Holy Spirit. Notice that we take up the subject about where we left off with Boethius—the question of plurality in regard to the Trinity must have been difficult for the people of this time, because the precision with which the idea is expressed is of extreme importance to the philosophers of this period. The question we begin with, “Whether this name "Holy Ghost" is the proper name of one divine person?” addresses, implicitly, the same issue, the plurality of the Trinity, that occupied Boethius.

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Article 1. Whether this name "Holy Ghost" is the proper name of one divine person?

Objection 1. It would seem that this name, "Holy Ghost," is not the proper name of one divine person. For no name which is common to the three persons is the proper name of any one person. But this name of 'Holy Ghost'---

[It should be borne in mind that the word "ghost" is the old English equivalent for the Latin "spiritus," whether in the sense of "breath" or "blast," or in the sense of "spirit," as an immaterial substance. Thus, we read in the former sense:

(Hampole, Psalter x, 7), "The Gost of Storms" [spiritus procellarum],
and in the latter
"Trubled gost is sacrifice of God" (Prose Psalter, A.D. 1325), and
"Oure wrestlynge is . . . against the spiritual wicked gostes of the ayre" (More, "Comfort against Tribulation");

and in our modern expression of "giving up the ghost."

As applied to God, and not specially to the third Holy Person, we have an example from Maunder,

"Jhesu Criste was the worde and the goste of Good."]

But this name of 'Holy Ghost' is common to the three persons; for Hilary (De Trin. viii) shows that the "Spirit of God" sometimes means the Father, as in the words of Isaiah 61:1: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;" and sometimes the Son, as when the Son says: "In the Spirit of God I cast out devils" (Matthew 12:28), showing that He cast out devils by His own natural power; and that sometimes it means the Holy Ghost, as in the words of Joel 2:28: "I will pour out of My Spirit over all flesh." Therefore this name 'Holy Ghost' is not the proper name of a divine person.

On the contrary, It is said (1 John 5:7): "There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost." As Augustine says (De Trin. vii, 4): "When we ask, Three what? we say, Three persons." Therefore the Holy Ghost is the name of a divine person.

I answer that, While there are two processions in God, one of these, the procession of love, has no proper name of its own, as stated above (27, 4, ad 3). Hence the relations also which follow from this procession are without a name (28, 4): for which reason the Person proceeding in that manner has not a proper name. But as some names are accommodated by the usual mode of speaking to signify the aforesaid relations, as when we use the names of procession and spiration, which in the strict sense more fittingly signify the notional acts than the relations;

[Sidebar: This discussion of the NAME of the Holy Spirit is in basic agreement with my objection to calling Jesus, by the name "Christ". As you have heard me complain many times, Christ is not a name but a title: "The Christ", "The Anointed One". Similarly, the Holy Sprit is not referred to by who He IS, but by what He DOES.

Notice also the phrase, "the procession of love, has no proper name of its own". Is this, perhaps, merely so that the absence of a name might facilitate the subject's ascent into a non-verbal reality?

Back to Aquinas:]

"so to signify the divine Person, Who proceeds by way of love, this name "Holy Ghost" is by the use of scriptural speech accommodated to Him.

The appropriateness of this name may be shown in two ways.

Firstly, from the fact that the person who is called "Holy Ghost" has something in common with the other Persons. For, as Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 17; v, 11),

"Because the Holy Ghost is common to both, He Himself is called that properly which both are called in common. For the Father also is a spirit, and the Son is a spirit; and the Father is holy, and the Son is holy."

Secondly, from the proper signification of the name. For the name spirit in things corporeal seems to signify impulse and motion; for we call the breath and the wind by the term spirit. Now it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved. Further, holiness is attributed to whatever is ordered to God. Therefore because the divine person proceeds by way of the love whereby God is loved, that person is most properly named "The Holy Ghost."

[Sidebar: More and more often, we are seeing the Holy Spirit spoken of as a PREDICATE, in language consistent with the the idea of movement from one consciousness state to another; statements like, "the name spirit in things corporeal seems to signify impulse and motion," and, "it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved,"; these expressions appear routinely in descriptions of ecstatic experiences. In ecstasy, the saint's consciousness is drawn upward, in love, closer and closer to the object of its desire, that is to say, God.

Back to St. Thomas:]

"Reply to Objection 2. Although this name "Holy Ghost" does not indicate a relation, still it takes the place of a relative term, inasmuch as it is accommodated to signify a Person distinct from the others by relation only. Yet this name may be understood as including a relation, if we understand the Holy Spirit as being breathed [spiratus].

Article 2. Whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son?
Objection 7. Further "the actual and the possible do not differ in things perpetual" (Phys. iii, text 32), and much less so in God. But it is possible for the Holy Ghost to be distinguished from the Son, even if He did not proceed from Him. For Anselm says (De Process. Spir. Sancti, ii):

"The Son and the Holy Ghost have their Being from the Father; but each in a different way; one by Birth, the other by Procession, so that they are thus distinct from one another."

And further on he says:

"For even if for no other reason were the Son and the Holy Ghost distinct, this alone would suffice."

Therefore the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Son, without proceeding from Him.

On the contrary, Athanasius says: "The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding."

I answer that, It must be said that the Holy Ghost is from the Son. For if He were not from Him, He could in no wise be personally distinguished from Him; as appears from what has been said above. For it cannot be said that the divine Persons are distinguished from each other in any absolute sense; for it would follow that there would not be one essence of the three persons: since everything that is spoken of God in an absolute sense, belongs to the unity of essence. Therefore it must be said that the divine persons are distinguished from each other only by the relations. Now the relations cannot distinguish the persons except forasmuch as they are opposite relations; which appears from the fact that the Father has two relations, by one of which He is related to the Son, and by the other to the Holy Ghost; but these are not opposite relations, and therefore they do not make two persons, but belong only to the one person of the Father. If therefore in the Son and the Holy Ghost there were two relations only, whereby each of them were related to the Father, these relations would not be opposite to each other, as neither would be the two relations whereby the Father is related to them. Hence, as the person of the Father is one, it would follow that the person of the Son and of the Holy Ghost would be one, having two relations opposed to the two relations of the Father. But this is heretical since it destroys the Faith in the Trinity. Therefore the Son and the Holy Ghost must be related to each other by opposite relations.

Now there cannot be in God any relations opposed to each other, except relations of origin. And opposite relations of origin are to be understood as of a "principle," and of what is "from the principle." Therefore we must conclude that it is necessary to say that either the Son is from the Holy Ghost; which no one says; or that the Holy Ghost is from the Son, as we confess.

Furthermore, the order of the procession of each one agrees with this conclusion. For it was said above, that the Son proceeds by the way of the intellect as Word, and the Holy Ghost by way of the will as Love. Now love must proceed from a word. For we do not love anything unless we apprehend it by a mental conception. Hence also in this way it is manifest that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son.

We derive a knowledge of the same truth from the very order of nature itself. For we nowhere find that several things proceed from one without order except in those which differ only by their matter; as for instance one smith produces many knives distinct from each other materially, with no order to each other; whereas in things in which there is not only a material distinction we always find that some order exists in the multitude produced. Hence also in the order of creatures produced, the beauty of the divine wisdom is displayed. So if from the one Person of the Father, two persons proceed, the Son and the Holy Ghost, there must be some order between them. Nor can any other be assigned except the order of their nature, whereby one is from the other. Therefore it cannot be said that the Son and the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father in such a way as that neither of them proceeds from the other, unless we admit in them a material distinction; which is impossible.

Hence also the Greeks themselves recognize that the procession of the Holy Ghost has some order to the Son. For they grant that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit "of the Son"; and that He is from the Father "through the Son." Some of them are said also to concede that "He is from the Son"; or that "He flows from the Son," but not that He proceeds; which seems to come from ignorance or obstinacy. For a just consideration of the truth will convince anyone that the word procession is the one most commonly applied to all that denotes origin of any kind. For we use the term to describe any kind of origin; as when we say that a line proceeds from a point, a ray from the sun, a stream from a source, and likewise in everything else. Hence, granted that the Holy Ghost originates in any way from the Son, we can conclude that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son." . . . .

Reply to Objection 4. When the Holy Ghost is said to rest or abide in the Son, it does not mean that He does not proceed from Him; for the Son also is said to abide in the Father, although He proceeds from the Father. Also the Holy Ghost is said to rest in the Son as the love of the lover abides in the beloved; or in reference to the human nature of Christ, by reason of what is written: "On whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, He it is who baptizes" (John 1:33).

Reply to Objection 7. The Holy Ghost is distinguished from the Son, inasmuch as the origin of one is distinguished from the origin of the other; but the difference itself of origin comes from the fact that the Son is only from the Father, whereas the Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; for otherwise the processions would not be distinguished from each other.

I answer that, Whenever one is said to act through another, this preposition "through" points out, in what is covered by it, some cause or principle of that act. But since action is a mean between the agent and the thing done, sometimes that which is covered by the preposition "through" is the cause of the action, as proceeding from the agent; and in that case it is the cause of why the agent acts, whether it be a final cause or a formal cause, whether it be effective or motive. It is a final cause when we say, for instance, that the artisan works through love of gain. It is a formal cause when we say that he works through his art. It is a motive cause when we say that he works through the command of another. Sometimes, however, that which is covered by this preposition "through" is the cause of the action regarded as terminated in the thing done; as, for instance, when we say, the artisan acts through the mallet, for this does not mean that the mallet is the cause why the artisan acts, but that it is the cause why the thing made proceeds from the artisan, and that it has even this effect from the artisan. This is why it is sometimes said that this preposition "through" sometimes denotes direct authority, as when we say, the king works through the bailiff; and sometimes indirect authority, as when we say, the bailiff works through the king."

[Sidebar: I find this section to be very clever, linguistically speaking: to say of a "preposition" that it "sometimes denotes direct authority . . . and sometimes indirect authority", gets right down there in the nitty-gritty of verbal nuance, and explores the utmost of what the literal mind can distinguish.

I would like to introduce a point which I will develop next week: I have long intuited that, in the case of the Son working "THROUGH" Holy Ghost, the MECHANISM of transmission, the materialization of the preposition, is the ANGEL. In this analogy, of the MALLET and the ARTISAN, the


Angels are the so-called "angles of God", the purely impersonal thought forms of God. Angels are lower than Man because they have no personal identity--they exist in the purely abstract realm of thought, and convey their meanings to the Human souls, innocent of all carnal context. (Steiner says the angels IMPRINT the divine truth on the astral body of the devotee.) Since Angels are pure thought, AND pure energy, a logical consequence of injecting pure thought into the sequential stream of time and material, is movement--it is not the MATERIALITY but the ENERGY of the Angelic touch that imprints itself upon the devotee's spiritual body, creating a thought form, i.e., a coherent sequence of images which synergistically convey a holistic meaning, from a string of partial meanings, and which refer to an Eternal Truth unencumbered by the fetters of Time. We will return to this next week.

Back to St. Thomas:]

"Therefore, because the Son receives from the Father that the Holy Ghost proceeds from Him, it can be said that the Father spirates the Holy Ghost through the Son, or that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father through the Son, which has the same meaning. . . . .

Reply to Objection 3. As the begetting of the Son is co-eternal with the begetter (and hence the Father does not exist before begetting the Son), so the procession of the Holy Ghost is co-eternal with His principle. Hence, the Son was not begotten before the Holy Ghost proceeded; but each of the operations is eternal.

I answer that, The Father and the Son are in everything one, wherever there is no distinction between them of opposite relation. Hence since there is no relative opposition between them as the principle of the Holy Ghost it follows that the Father and the Son are one principle of the Holy Ghost."

Thus doth St. Thomas affirm the unity of the Trinity.

In my own mind I try to imagine the unimaginable Trinity declension as, sort of, levels of ego resolution:
God the Father the densest resolution,
God the Son a medium resolution, as befits a mediator, and
God the Holy Ghost, the finest resolution.

Thus, the same essence appears in various levels of formal manifestation. Indeed, it is the FORM of the Trinity that distinguishes Its components as discrete entities within a continuum of Being. St. Thomas repeatedly referred to the RELATION of Father, to the Son, to the Holy Ghost, and made the point that Aspects of God may only bear an OPPOSITE RELATION in terms of ORIGIN; the elements of the Trinity PROGRESS one from the other. Thus, the term "Relation", in this context, creates "Form". We will go deeper into the subject of "Form" next week, but for now it will not hurt to project into the future a little bit; next week I will read the following paragraph again:

"Let us examine the word "Form" more closely: a reasonable definition of the term, FORM, might run thus: the sequential creation of a continuum of variously weighted values, whose impact on the physical is capable of making an imprint on the soul of, and to initiate change in the subjective reality of, the devotee.  In other words, a thought form is an ACTIVE thought, an entity originating in the lofty stratosphere of the abstract, but which is capable of descending into the physical and exerting a TANGIBLE effect on the material plane. The FORM is the sequence as it is played out in time, and recorded into MEMORY. In memory the thought form may be repeated again and again like a favorite TV episode; thus, the thought form's positive benefits may be reinforced with each repetition."

The bottom line is this: BEING is a VERB not a NOUN. The distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is in HOW THEY AFFECT ME. Thus, Holy Spirit is not defined by WHO It is, but by what It does. Nevertheless, the miracle is that, in active manifestation, the power of the Holy Spirit comes FROM God, THROUGH Jesus. Thus the Fixed and Eternal effect movement in the material plane. Just as Dante, approaching the Changeless Face of God, sees the Face of God changing with every change in himself, so does the personality of God change with every graded manifestation of Himself.

We will close with another prayer of St. Augustine:
Let us pray:
"O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams." Amen.

Monday, June 16, 2014

9 The Holy Spirit I - (Christianity)

9  The Holy Spirit I - (Christianity)

We have just completed a sermon series on the subject of ecstasy. Our motivation for this series was to inspire us (me) to elevate our (my) level of consciousness during our (my) daily religious devotions, and to make the ecstatic state one of the goals of our (my) spiritual discipline. To be sure, every prayer we send to God, through Jesus the intermediary, is equally blessed by divine grace; and yet our discussions of ecstasy have indicated that we can get qualitatively more out of our devotions if we focus our contemplation, with heightened intensity, on certain divine realities, whether they be symbols, or scriptures, or sounds, or simply inner visions; we have learned that such concentration may trigger an acceleration of higher intelligence, an acceleration which may kick our state of mind into a higher-vibratory consciousness level.

Now, our study of the chapter on ecstasy from Evelyn Underhill’s book Mysticism was a very in-depth, albeit somewhat generic description of ecstatic rapture; but it can hardly escape our notice that Jesus does not figure prominently in her discussion. To Christians, who daily lean on Jesus, our Savior, for counsel and guidance, it just seems wrong to outline a spiritual discipline that does not include Jesus in the formula. This was of some concern to me, when I first began following this train of thought, but then I rediscovered a very important promise of Jesus’ which cleared up the controversy, and gave me language for talking and thinking about the divine component, the divine motivator of ecstasy—the Holy Spirit.

Today we will give a general description of the role the Holy Spirit plays in the ecstatic experience, focusing on references from the scriptures. Next week we will see what more modern saints have to say.

So far, we have learned that an ecstasy may be triggered by just about any obsessive process of contemplation, but we have also learned that the spiritual benefit of the ecstasy will be nil unless the object of contemplation is of divine origin. Why? Because the Holy Spirit bestows on these objects a divine radiance and resonance which the merely mundane objects do not enjoy. Thus, contemplation directed toward initiating a spiritual ecstasy must, at all times, be endorsed, validated, and blessed by the Holy Spirit--which, in a way, is to say that the object of contemplation must COME from the Holy Spirit.
In the upper room at His last supper, Jesus said:

John 14: 15-17:
"15If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever; 17that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.…"

Jesus knew that His mediation between Man and the Father was going to be a very personal experience for all, but He also knew that a higher impersonal element would be necessary in order for devotees to raise their personal consciousness join with the Mind and Heart of the Christ. Therefore, it was this ghostly dimension of Himself, quickened by super-personal abstraction, that He assigned to be with Man in his strivings toward godhood.

Now, what does the literature say about the Holy Ghost?
As usual, we will begin with Wikipedia:
The Holy Spirit (Christianity)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"For the large majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, from Old English gast, "spirit") is the third divine person of the Holy Trinity: the "Triune God" manifested as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each person itself being God.
The New Testament includes over 90 references to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles. In the Johannine writings, three separate terms, "Holy Spirit", "Spirit of Truth", and "Paraclete" are used.

The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew and the Nicene Creed state that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary". The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove during his Baptism, and in his Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his departure.

The theology of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Lord and Giver of Life in the Nicene Creed. The participation of the Holy Spirit in the tripartite nature of conversion is apparent in Jesus' final post-Resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19):

"make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost".

Since the first century, Christians have also called upon God with the name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, absolution and benediction."

[Sidebar: Notice this last sentence uses the expression:  “Christians have also called upon God with the name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, absolution and benediction.” It is interesting to consider the distinction between these three NAMES which Christians use to call on God. First comes the Father, too great, and vast, and incomprehensible to address; then Jesus, our friend and companion, who accepts us as we are in our frailty and inadequacy, and the Holy Ghost, the breath of God moving on the face of the deep, giving life to dry bones, enlightening the mind, transforming the heart, and raising the dead.

Back to Wikipedia:]
Old Testament
"What the Bible calls "Spirit of Yhwh" and "Spirit of Elohim" is called in the Talmud and Midrash "Holy Spirit" ("Ruaḥ ha-Ḳodesh). The expression "Holy Spirit" occurs in
Psalm 51:10-12:
"10Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.…"

and in Isaiah.63:11-14:

"11Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
        Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His     flock?
        Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them,
12Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses,
        Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
13Who led them through the depths?
        Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble;
14As the cattle which go down into the valley,
        The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
        So You led Your people,
        To make for Yourself a glorious name."

In these early times, the term Holy Spirit had not yet the definite meaning which was attached to it in rabbinical literature: in the latter it is equivalent to the expression "Spirit of the Lord". In Gen.1:2 God's spirit hovered over the form of lifeless matter, thereby making the Creation possible.

Although the Holy Spirit is often named instead of God, it was conceived as being something distinct. Though the nature of the Holy Spirit is really nowhere described, the name indicates that it was conceived as a kind of wind that became manifest through noise and light. The Holy Spirit, being of heavenly origin, is composed, like everything that comes from heaven, of light and fire. The spirit talks sometimes with a masculine and sometimes with a feminine voice; i.e., as the word "ruaḥ" is both masculine and feminine."

[Sidebar: Note that many reports of spiritual ecstasy include mention of blinding firy light, and overwhelmingly loud thunder. The sound of “Eck” according to Paul Twitchell, is that of a rushing wind. Of course these expressions, occurring in the supernatural dimensions, are merely similes for the actual experiences; and yet, the symbolic significance of these onomatopoetic images cannot be considered trivial. In ecstasy we will “hear” a wind, and “see” a light, without hearing or seeing, but this is how the experiences will be remembered. How could it be otherwise? In what other language than the literal could remembering be expressed?

Back to Wikipedia:]

"The most characteristic sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy."

[Sidebar: Let’s think, for a moment, about the sentence,
“The most characteristic sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy.”
Let us recall a sermon I gave some months ago concerning the fluidity of time when it comes to spiritual matters. We mentioned sehnsucht as the insatiable longing for God which is only satisfied through projection into the future; we mentioned that the soul’s journey up and down the continuum of mind states naturally resulted in prophetic visions, visions which are not the exclusive territory of the great saints, but, indeed, are the birthright of every spiritual devotee committed to elevating consciousness.

Prophecy was not a leading feature of the ecstasies of the saints we considered in the Underhill chapter, but transport out of sequential time characterized every ecstasy that was mentioned. The projection of visions of the future onto the face of the ecstatic now, are more or less trivial collateral effects of entering the spiritual domain. Nevertheless, little prophesies are as much a part of the Christian’s stock-in-trade, as are little miracles.

Furthermore, or perhaps conversely, Old Testament prophecy was usually a by-product of the prophet’s ecstatic experience. In other words, the Reason d'être of ecstasy was to achieve oneness with God in a Heavenly place, not to bring back pearls of wisdom. However, it cannot be denied that a very attractive by-product of this union with God was a fluidity in Time which enabled the prophets to speak meaningfully about the future; clearly, the prophets did not enter their ecstatic states motivated by the intention of prophesying, the prophesying was an EFFECT, not an EVENT. The same might be said of PREDESTINATION; that is to say, the choices made in the heart of the devotee are made outside time, but these choices result in temporal effects such as unity with the church, and gifts of Grace.

In 1st Peter 1:10-12 we read:

"10As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
11seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look."

In this scripture we read of Isaiah’s commission from God which, clearly came to him in an ecstatic vision:
Isaiah 6: 5-9:
“5 mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not."

Here the idea of prophecy as a mystery, that will only come to be understood in later times, presents a theme immemorial of the ecstatic experience. Jesus couched His parables in just such language. Indeed, the Holy Ghost manifests in the most mysterious ways, and expresses itself in supernatural terms which are just barely intelligible by the minds of its witnesses.

Back to Wikipedia:]

"Mark 13:11 specifically refers to the power of the Holy Spirit to act and speak through the disciples of Jesus in time of need: "be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit." Matthew 10:20 refers to the same act of speaking through the disciples, but uses the term "Spirit of your Father".

Pauline Epistles
The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles and Apostle Paul's pneumatology is closely connected to his theology and Christology, to the point of being almost inseparable from them.

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was likely the first of Paul's letters, introduces a characterization of the Holy Spirit in 1:6 and 4:8 which persist throughout his epistles. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul refers to the imitation of Christ (and himself) and states:

"And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit",

whose source is identified in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 as

"God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you".

These two themes of receiving the Spirit "like Christ" and God being the source of the Spirit persist in Pauline letters as the characterization of the relationship of Christians with God. For Paul the imitation of Christ involves readiness to be shaped by the Holy Spirit and as in Romans 8:4 and 8:11:

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

Jesus and the Holy Spirit
Specific New Testament references to the interaction of Jesus and the Holy Spirit during his earthly life, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit during his ministry are:
•      "Spirit without measure" having been given to Jesus in John 3:34, referring to the word spoken by Jesus (Rhema) being the words of God.
•      Baptism of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit descending on him as a dove in Matthew 3:13–17, Mark 1:9–11 and Luke 3:21–23
•      Temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4:1 the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert to be tempted
•      The Spirit casting out demons (Matthew 12:28), in Exorcising the blind and mute man miracle
•      Rejoice the Spirit in Luke 10:21 where seventy disciples are sent out by Jesus
•      Acts 1:2 states that until his death and resurrection, Jesus "had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles"
•      Referring to the sacrifice of Jesus to be crucified out of obedience to the father, the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews 9:14 states that Jesus "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God"
In his Farewell Discourse to his disciples, Jesus promised that he would "send the Holy Spirit" to them after his departure, in John 15:26 stating: "whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth... shall bear witness of me".

God the Holy Spirit
In Christian theology Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is "born again of the Spirit". The Holy Spirit enables Christian life by dwelling in the individual believers and enables them to live a righteous and faithful life. The Holy Spirit also acts as comforter or Paraclete, one who intercedes, or supports or acts as an advocate, particularly in times of trial. And it acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God. Another faculty of the Holy Spirit is the inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church."

[Sidebar: The next section details various “fruits and gifts” of the Holy Spirit, permanent positive residue of the ecstatic experience.]

Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit
"The "fruit of the Holy Spirit" consists of "permanent dispositions" (in this similar to the permanent character of the sacraments), virtuous characteristics engendered in the Christian by the action of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 names 9 aspects and states:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.”
In the Epistle to the Galatians these nine characteristics are in contrast to the "works of the flesh" and highlight the positive manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit in believers.

The "gifts of the Holy Spirit" are distinct from the Fruit of the Spirit, and consist of specific abilities granted to the individual Christian. They are frequently known by the Greek word for gift, Charisma, from which the term charismatic derives. The "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit" pour out on a believer at baptism, and are traditionally derived from Isaiah 11:1–2, although the New Testament does not refer to Isaiah 11:1–2 regarding these gifts. These 7 gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (strength), knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord."

[Sidebar: So it will be apparent from the preceding presentation that the Holy Spirit is the operative force in all Christian ecstasies. Now, let’s delve deeper into the history of this ecstasy as an article of faith in the Christian catechism:]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Pentecost (Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], "the fiftieth [day]") is the Greek name for the Feast of Weeks, a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai. This feast is still celebrated in Judaism as Shavuot. Later, in the Christian liturgical year, it became a feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ (120 in all), as described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1–31. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes described by some Christians today as the "Birthday of the Church".

In the Eastern church, Pentecost can also refer to the whole fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the Pentecostarion. The feast is also called White Sunday, or Whitsun, especially in England, where the following Monday was traditionally a public holiday. Pentecost is celebrated seven weeks (50 days) after Easter Sunday, hence its name. Pentecost falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday.

The Pentecostal movement of Christianity derives its name from the New Testament event. The biblical narrative of Pentecost is given in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Present were about one hundred twenty followers of Christ (Acts 1:15), including his core group of twelve Disciples (Acts 1:13, 26), his mother Mary and various other women disciples (Acts 1:14). Their reception of Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room is recounted in Acts 2:1–6:

“ And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language."

While those on whom the Spirit had descended were speaking in many languages, the Apostle Peter stood up with the eleven and proclaimed to the crowd that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy ("I will pour out my spirit"). In Acts 2:17, it reads: "'And in the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams." He also mentions (2:15) that it was the third hour of the day (about 9:00 AM). Acts 2:41 then reports: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Peter stated that this event was the beginning of a continual outpouring that would be available to all believers from that point on, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Pneumatology is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the spiritual aspect of human beings and the interactions between humans and God. Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is Greek for "breath", which metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence. Pneumatology as the study of the spirit is to be distinguished from psychology, the study of the soul.

In Christian theology pneumatology refers to the study of the Holy Spirit. The English word comes from two Greek words: πνευμα (pneuma, spirit) and λογος (logos, teaching about). Pneumatology would normally include study of the person of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the Holy Spirit. This latter category would normally include Christian teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts (charismata), Spirit-baptism, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity (which in itself covers many different aspects).”

It would be well to remember that this discussion of the Holy Ghost began with a series of presentations on the ecstatic spiritual experience. We were led to the Holy Ghost as the SOURCE of power and the prime mover of the devotee in search of ecstasy. Thus, the Father is the ORIGIN of Divine Truth, the Son is the MEDIATOR of Divine Truth, Holy Ghost is the TRANSMITTER of Divine Truth, and the Angels are the MECHANISM for the transmission of Divine Truth. As mentioned at the outset of my series on ecstasy, such intense experiences tend to reside outside the framework of ‘normal” human experience, and are therefore thought of as suspect, by “normal” people. However, I have been steadfast in insisting that the Christian life should NOT BE NORMAL in any way; I have maintained that Christians who are able to fit their religion in between basketball practice and TV, are not on fire for God as should be anyone who has met the Holy Spirit face to face.

The preceding presentation has shown that the Bible amply supplies precedents for the passion for God which I am recommending. Next week we will look at the writing of two post-Biblical, pre-modern saints, Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas. These men, both of whom we have studied before, have proclaimed the power of the spirit in their daily lives, and have contributed meaningfully to the spiritual literature. The lessons they teach encourage soberness of mind, and openness of heart. But that is next week.

For now, Let us pray:
Jesus, He whose Name is Holy, continue to provide a face for us to contemplate in our prayers, but do not deny us access to that faceless power, that holy wind that fills our sails and dries our tears. Amen.