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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Enter the Kingdom as a Little Child

Enter the Kingdom as a Little Child

Today's sermon explores that dusky twilight zone between child-like innocence and literal consciousness. Like so many truths embedded in the text of the sayings of Jesus there is a paradox here to be pondered—like the ideas of losing yourself in order to find yourself, or the first must be last, a kind of reversal of thought (perhaps a meta-level of thought, or merely a transcendence of thought, a DOING though NOT-DOING) is necessary in order to open the mind and heart to the truth resonating beneath the appearance of contradiction.

The first principle, that we may only enter the Kingdom of God as a little child, is stated in almost identical words in the three synoptic Gospels. Later we will hear the version in Thomas, which, uncharacteristically offers a higher level commentary on the issue. First the Synoptics:

Matthew 19:13-15
13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
 15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

Mark 10:13-15
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Luke 18:15-17
15And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
 16But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
 17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

We all pretty much understand what this means: that only by open-hearted, non-judgmental, non-prejudicial acceptance of unconditional love may we enter the higher mind state of timeless, spaceless spirit consciousness. As a child we must open ourselves to, and be penetrated by the personality of God without preconception. As we discussed last week, the ego definition, with which we delude ourselves into thinking we know who we are, must be abandoned, ejected from our hearts to make room for the immensity of the transcendent Christ Consciousness.  The music must emerge from silence.

William Shakespeare comments:
“The silence often of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails.”

The pure innocence of childhood is much to be envied by us old people. Experience has all but rubbed the newness off our lives, and it is only with concentrated effort that we can refresh our outlook and revisit the garden. As children everything was uncomplicated, nonverbal, instantaneous and direct. The connection between ourselves and the world was still unsevered, and we could not tell, didn’t want to tell, where we ended and the world began. Creative naivete flowed out from our spontaneous responses to things, events, and ideas; intuitive, irrational conclusions were as valid and anything that we now would now characterize as "making sense."
As we got older, bit by bit, the verbal structures of language, and the memories of experience, began to crowd out the unrehearsed directness of NOW, and, instead of the anomalous moment, we began to experience repetitions of categories of things; instead of “this is a one-of-a-kind thing” we began to think, “this is one-of-those-things”. Sequential time robbed us of the sensitivity to recognize each and every passing moment as a unique, spiritually charged event. Thus, without the motivation to perceive the newness of life, we lost the knack of recognizing God in His various, ever-evolving manifestations; and with the loss of recognition, we also lost the ability to respond.

[When I was teaching at the Waldorf School, I heard that the development of the myelin sheathing around the nerves of children, especially the brain's nervous system, is not completely finished till between the ages of seven to ten. Thus a young child's brain is not shielded from the kind of electromagnetic activity that surrounds and engulfs us. Thus the "magic child" is simply a more sensitive-than-normal sender and receiver of fine grade impulses until his body finishes binding him in the security of electromagnetic insensitivity.]

 Pablo Picasso comments:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Erasmus comments:
“I do not like a child who is a man too soon.”

 William Butler Yeats comments:
“The innocent and the beautiful Have no enemy but time”

Thomas Traherne observes that:
"Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world, than I when I was a child."

and John Updike says:
"The essential self is innocent, and when it tastes its own innocence knows that it lives for ever."

The question, however, becomes: how does innocence taste itself? How does it know that it lives forever, or, needed, anything else? Since KNOWING is one of the qualities that pure innocence does not possess?
Sophocles has said:
“To know nothing is the only happiness.”

How can we know and not know? Harder yet, how can we LEARN to know and not know?
I like to talk to my students about the hologram. My understanding of this scientific phenomenon is sketchy, but I think the basic idea is this: light is REFLECTED in a mirror, and DIFFRACTED in a hologram; in a hologram, instead of seeing the light bounced back from a single point on a flat object, the light waves bounce OFF THEMSELVES from many different points, kind of like billiard balls on a good break; the result is a kind of cloud of light, photons bouncing around every which way, thus creating the illusion of three-dimensionality. In a way, this is a good way to describe consciousness--it is a three-dimensional illusion created by many competing points of view.

[Julian Jaynes makes a case, for the birth of consciousness in the bicameral mind, by suggesting that consciousness is merely the result of holographic crosstalk between the two hemispheres of the brain. Jaynes’ theory is heavily dependent on the idea that LANGUAGE has an electromagnetic component.  I have no doubt that there is more than a grain of truth embedded in Jaynes’ speculations, but I hasten to add, that, as a materialist theory, no accommodation for transcendent mind states is made, so any conclusions to be drawn from it can be considered correct or helpful only “as far as they go.”]

Now, in a child's mind there is one point of view only--HIMSELF (perhaps this is NO POINT OF VIEW--another paradox). Thus child-like innocence lacks perspective. It lacks distraction, and that's nice, but it fails to perceive, or simply ignores, anything in its field of vision it doesn't understand or want to understand. Childlike innocence is single-minded, or, shall we say, single perspected, and, thus, it penetrates to the heart in one direct, unbroken line, uncompromised by any non-subjective trivialities. To the child, therefore, the essence of existence is not merely obvious, it is all-encompassing. So what's the problem?
The problem is the world. The spiritual path leads back to God. But how did we get separated from God in the first place? How did we lose the innocence of the Garden? What was the true original sin?

In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell makes the following observation:
"The Garden of Eden is a metaphor for that innocence that is innocent of time, innocent of opposites, and that is the prime center out of which consciousness then becomes aware of the changes."

So children are not aware of things? Maybe yes, maybe no. Clearly, bringing experience into literal consciousness was one of the chief effects of the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil. But was there no consciousness, no "naming" before the fall? Adam named the animals--that's something. The question is not so much, “Is there child-like awareness?” as, “What is the quality and scope of child-like awareness?” Perhaps, returning to the hologram, it was Adam's perception of the animals from multiple perspectives, contradictory perspectives, that changed the animals from subjective realities springing from, and part and parcel to, Adam's own self, into THINGS outside Adam? Separate from Adam? No longer one with Adam? Perhaps the apple gave Adam the power to see things from more than one angle at a time and, thus, created the illusion that they existed outside himself?

Time is always a culpable villain in this scenario. The illusion of time helps create the multiple-perspective effect, and it is time to which ADULTS become ever more the slaves, as older they get, and dumber.

My composition teacher Herbert Brun distinguishes between "statements" and "arguments". A musical "statement" is completely self-contained and miraculously (one might say impossibly) made entirely of itself. An "argument" includes, in its makeup, references to, quotations from, other previously made artistic statements; thus, an argument brings along with it not only the meaning of itself in its current context, but a huge pile of extra baggage. Brun insists that the necessity of taking into account these extra histories and pedigrees effectively diffuses the potency of the expression. By calling up the past, the expression is divested of its anomalous now. The inclusion, in an expression, of referential pre-existing material demands that that material be included in any interpretation of the expression: thus the term “argument.” To Brun originality was the prime requisite of legitimate artistic expression. It was the childlike non-referential vacuum that gave the expression its power to live a long spiritual life, to resist the decay that all things are subjected to, compromised, as they are, by the paradox of dualistic material existence.

[The movie The Never-Ending Story features a highly archetypal image: the hero must pass through a narrow passage between two twin sphinxes. The appearance of such twins is a familiar component of many mythological tales. They always make me think of the dualistic personality of literal consciousness arguing with itself about black and white, male and female, right and wrong, good and evil, etc. Perhaps, in light of the holographic model we have been considering, we should refer to the “triplistic” personality of literal consciousness?]

In the article, Lewis’ Children, by Duncan Rize we read the following comments on the reason C.S.Lewis chose to write his stories from the perspective of children:

"When authoring The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis selected children as the primary characters of his tale. Interestingly, Lewis may have chosen children because of their direct connection to innocence—such a state of innocence links them to Adam and Eve before the fall of mankind and also links them to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is noted as the lamb throughout the bible and lambs, probably because of their gentle nature, are animals that are frequently associated with innocence. Likewise, Lewis depicts children in his novels as the main characters who endure hardships and successfully overcome them. Such a narration suggests a link to Christ because Christ overcame many hardships on earth only to be later resurrected and seated on the right-hand side of his father: God.

Interestingly however, Lewis’ children can also be associated with Adam and Eve, before they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Before Adam and Eve were cursed with “original sin” they were in the state of innocence. They knew nothing of death and lived in paradise. The word Eden, literally translated, means “paradise.” Children, especially young children, are associated with a state of innocence that only becomes marred after they have lived through various experiences and obtain significant knowledge. Likewise, Adam and Eve lost their innocence when they ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil."

The existence of Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil cannot be ignored when discussing the child-like nature of the Kingdom of God. As much as we want to be child-like, that darned tree haunts our reveries:

C.S. Lewis:
Transposition and Other Addresses:
"We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness..."

 The Problem of Pain:
"From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it."

To stay in the Garden, or to leave--to attempt to be God ourselves, or to remain protected and ignorant?

The Oberlin Evangelist. May 26, 1852
"It is important in the outset to consider attentively the fact that the case taken for illustration is a little child; not a young man or a young woman;--not one who had reached the period where little children, as they advance in age, are wont to lose the simplicity of little ones. Let it also be carefully noted, that the characteristics of the little child, to which the Savior refers, are not, as they appear in the very young child, moral, but only natural. They serve to illustrate the moral qualities of character which are indispensable conditions of salvation; yet they are not themselves moral, for the reason that they are spontaneous, and are not developed under the action of either the intelligence or the conscience. Until both these faculties are so far matured as to act responsibly, it is a great mistake to suppose that there can be either moral character or moral action.

The language used by our Lord plainly shows that He refers to analogous and not to identical qualities. "Except ye be converted and become as little children." He does not demand that we should become as ignorant as they--as void of enlightened conscience as they. No. Like Paul, He would say: "In malice, be ye children; but in understanding, be ye MEN."

1 Corinthians 13:11
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Anatole France:
"It is well for the heart to be naive and the mind not to be."

So we are enjoined to be childlike on the one hand, and to put away childish things on the other. Whassup wit dat?

Now the afore mentioned quotation from the Gospel of Thomas (Patterson-Meyer Translation)
"Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom." They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."

I find this passage extraordinary just in terms of its PSYCHOLOGY. Jesus is giving very precise instructions for integrating the two polar opposites of our dualistic nature (remember the sphinxes?) into one synthetic consciousness state. He is not saying that ignorance is bliss, that childlike cluelessness is preferable to advanced knowledge, he is saying that, at whatever level of consciousness you find yourself, at any given moment, you must integrate all your personal histories into a single point of view—LIKE A CHILD. Thus, no matter how much we know, or think we know, that singleness of perspective must necessarily result in a kind of innocence.
I always describe these kinds of things to my students as an outward twisting spiral. It is necessary to have that intuitive, non-articulate affection for music, but we have to know what we are doing too. That level of literal consciousness can (does) lead to a higher level of intuitive sensitivity which leads to a higher level of literal consciousness which leads to a higher level of intuitive sensitivity which leads to a higher level of literal consciousness, etc., etc.

I would like to finish off with a reading of William Blake’s poem from Songs of Innocence, The Lamb:

“The Lamb”
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Let us pray. Jesus thanks for making it simple. Thank you for BEING simple. Remind us to keep our eyes open to the wonders of life, as though we were seeing all with the eyes of a child for the first time. Let those eyes look to heaven and see you smiling back at us in perfect innocence. Amen.

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