Whenever Christmas draws near, I always find it to be a time of retrospection; thus, a review of this year's sermons is in the spirit of the season. As I look back over this last year's series of sermons, I get the sense of a rhythmic progression in time, as each of the individual elements of my newborn, newly reformed, newly constructed, theology slip into place.
These sermons have changed me. In researching each of the various subjects on which I have spoken, I have found my faith bolstered, and my vision cleared. Each sermon, or, rather, series of sermons, led me deeper into the realm of spiritual existence, and encouraged me to summarize my experience of that existence in words; even though we know that the words are all vanity and Maya, we all still need to SAY things--we need to be able to say things that are meaningful and contribute to the realization of our Heaven on Earth; by putting things down in writing, my thinking has zeroed in on some basic issues, and the rough edges, of many of the details, have been filed off. Speaking the Word has brought me INTO the Word, and this is a good and interesting thing.
I remember starting the church year (I consider Advent to be the beginning of the church year)--I remember starting the church year with the Steiner myths about the dark giving birth to the morning.
The following is from Rudolf Steiner's Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival, I, The Birth of the Light, Berlin, December 19, 1904. It highlights (haha) the significance of light and sun, and points to the resonance of destiny that accompanies the symbols of the season:
"Christianity stands as the external mystical fact for the birth of the light. Christ brought to the earth what had existed from the beginning, although it was hidden from mankind throughout the ages we have been speaking of. Now, however, a new climax was reached. Even as the light is born anew at the winter solstice, so . . . the Savior of Mankind, the Christ, was born. He is the new Sun Hero who was not only initiated in the depths of the Mystery temples, but who also appeared before all the world so that it could be said, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). When it was recognized that the Divine could descend into a personality, the festival celebrating the birth of the Sun Hero, the Christ, came to replace the festival celebrating the birth of the light."
I remember a sermon on Santa Claus, referring to the primitive elf like magical energy that permeates this season.
Here is an offhand remark made in Wikipedia concerning Theosophy and angels:
"It is believed by Theosophists that nature spirits, elementals (gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders), and fairies can be also be observed when the third eye is activated. It is maintained by Theosophists that these less evolutionarily developed beings have never been previously incarnated as humans; they are regarded as being on a separate line of spiritual evolution called the “deva evolution”; eventually, as their souls advance as they reincarnate, it is believed they will incarnate as devas."
Things just went on from there straight into the business of Epiphany:
From "Joyce's Dubliners as Epiphanies"
By Francesca Valente:
"--from Stephen Hero:
"By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments."
From Joseph Campbell's Masks of Eternity:
"Joyce’s formula for the aesthetic experience is that it does not move you to want to possess the object. A work of art that moves you to possess the object depicted, he calls pornography. Nor does the aesthetic experience move you to criticize and reject the object — such art he calls didactic, or social criticism in art. The aesthetic experience is a simple beholding of the object. Joyce says that you put a frame around it and see it first as one thing, and that, in seeing it as one thing, you then become aware of the relationship of part to part, each part to the whole, and the whole to each of its parts. This is the essential, aesthetic factor — rhythm, the harmonious rhythm of relationships. And when a fortunate rhythm has been struck by the artist, you experience a radiance. You are held in aesthetic arrest. That is the epiphany. And that is what might in religious terms be thought of as the all-informing Christ principle coming through."
I remember, in Santa Cruz, at this time, we used to sing that Randall Thompson/Robert Frost song, The Pasture, because, it expressed the idea of spontaneous discovery. We have talked for a long time about the epiphanic discovery, and how true religious experience is like an epiphany because it takes us into a recognition of the eternal moment, stretched out in time like a vast mural.
Epiphany has proven to be a key concept in my theology, because it is so closely related to the subject of my Doctoral Thesis; it was all about achieving a conceptual end condition that depends, for its effect, on psychological recentering. This is the moment of instantaneous contact with pre-conscious material: archetypal symbols, collective consciousness, higher spiritual dimensions, Omega Point, whatever.
In our discussions of re-centering, we talked about how, when you start searching for an idea, for the resolution to a problem, your thoughts undergo this mode of inspiration called recentering; in psychological recentering, the components of the train of thought become reshuffled. The resulting end condition, which includes the answer to the problem, is a consequence of that reshuffling. Epiphany is like recognizing, out of the blue, an old friend you had completely forgotten. The answer to the problem is the moment of recognition. Tony Bastick calls this the "intuitive response".
In developing a description of the epiphanic process, we talked about the role of the Freudian Ego Resolutions: Id, Ego, Superego--the three levels of man's psychology. We seem to be talking very often about groups of threes; in fact, when I was in L.A., my piano teacher enlisted me as his research assistant on a book (which he never finished) which was supposed to propose the idea that you needed three levels of structure in music notation.
Here is a lengthy quote from that sermon. It was an important one because it reviewed a lot of concepts in psychology that needed reviewing, but it also because introduced the term from Steiner "moral imagination"; this is a term which has played an important role in the development of my theology:
"Much of the following deals with some basic terms from psychology, many of which were coined by Sigmund Freud, so I thought it would not be amiss to provide a review of Freud's basic model of the mind since we will be referring to it for the rest of the sermon."
"Freud's Division of the Mind by David B. Stevenson '96, Brown University
"Freud understood the mind as constantly in conflict with itself, and understood this conflict as the primary cause of human anxiety and unhappiness. . . Freud's investigations into internal conflicts such as this led him to an eventual division of the mind into three parts, three conflicting internal tendencies, the well-known id, ego, and super-ego.
This division, it is important to note, is not the separation of the mind into three structures and functions which exist in physical partitions in the brain; they are not even truly structures, but rather separate aspects and elements of the single structure of the mind. Although it is convenient to say, for example, that the id "demands" immediate gratification, the mind has no three distinct little men who engage in a constant fisticuffs of conflict. The personification of these elements merely serves as a convenient guide through a complex psychoanalytic theory.
The id, the ego and the superego function in different levels of consciousness: indeed, Freud's theory of the mind hinges upon the ability of impulses or memories to "float" from one level to another. The interaction between the three functions of the mind represents a constant movement of items from one level to another.""
[Sidebar: The idea of "floating from one consciousness state to another relates directly to my idea of the multi-dimensional character of the human personality, which we have discussed several times in the past; in particular, it pertains to the idea of conceptual re-centering of the intuitive response, or, as we have referred to it before, the EPIPHANIC response, a psychic event which we will review momentarily.]
As the baby emerges from the womb into the reality of life, he wants only to eat, drink, urinate, defecate, be warm, and gain sexual pleasure. These urges are the demands of the id, the most primitive motivational force. In pursuit of these ends, the id demands immediate gratification: it is ruled by the pleasure principle, demanding satisfaction now, regardless of circumstances and possible undesirable effects. If a young child was ruled entirely by his id, he would steal and eat a piece of chocolate from a store regardless of the menacing owner watching above him or even his parents scolding beside him.
The id will not stand for a delay in gratification. For some urges, such as urination, this is easily satisfied. However, if the urge is not immediately discharged, the id will form a memory of the end of the motivation: the thirsty infant will form an image of the mother's breast. This act of wish-fulfillment satisfies the id's desire for the moment, though obviously it does not reduce the tension of the unfulfilled urge."
[Sidebar: In this case we are using the term "wish-fulfillment in the same sense as the term "end condition" as it applies to intuitive re-centering. Both terms refer to a mind state projected into the future at which our mental efforts are attempting to arrive.]
The eventual understanding that immediate gratification is usually impossible (and often unwise) comes with the formation of the ego, which is ruled by the reality principle. The ego acts as a go-between in the id's relations with reality, often suppressing the id's urges until an appropriate situation arises. This repression of inappropriate desires and urges represents the greatest strain on, and the most important function of, the mind. The ego often utilizes defense mechanisms to achieve and aid this repression. Where the id may have an urge and form a picture which satisfies this urge, the ego engages in a strategy to actually fulfill the urge. The thirsty five-year-old now not only identifies water as the satisfaction of his urge, but forms a plan to obtain water, perhaps by finding a drinking fountain. While the ego is still in the service of the id, it borrows some of its psychic energy in an effort to control the urge until it is feasibly satisfied. The ego's efforts at pragmatic satisfaction of urges eventually builds a great number of skills and memories and becomes aware of itself as an entity. With the formation of the ego, the individual becomes a self, instead of an amalgamation of urges and needs.
While the ego may temporarily repress certain urges of the id in fear of punishment, eventually these external sources of punishment are internalized, and the child will not steal the chocolate, even unwatched, because he has taken punishment, right, and wrong into himself. The superego uses guilt and self-reproach as its primary means of enforcement for these rules. But if a person does something which is acceptable to the superego, he experiences pride and self-satisfaction.
The superego is sub-dividable into two parts: conscience and ego ideal. Conscience tells what is right and wrong, and forces the ego to inhibit the id in pursuit of morally acceptable, not pleasurable or even realistic, goals. The ego ideal aims the individual's path of life toward the ideal, perfect goals instilled by society. In the pursuit, the mind attempts to make up for the loss of the perfect life experienced as a baby."
Having reviewed the basic Freudian vocabulary I now want to shift our discussion to a more spiritual plane. We begin our examination of some of this source material with Steiner. This is from a Wikipedia article on his most famous book, Philosophy of Freedom:
Steiner observes that the key question concerning the existence of freedom of the will is how the will to action arises in the first place. Steiner describes two sources for human motivation: our natural being, our instincts, feelings, and thoughts insofar as these are determined by our character - and the dictates of conscience or abstract ethical or moral principles. In this way, both nature and culture determine motivations that play into our will and soul life. Overcoming these two elements, neither of which is individualized, we can achieve genuinely individualized intuitions that speak to the particular situation at hand. By overcoming the dictates of both our 'lower' and 'higher' sources of experience, by orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience, we find the freedom to choose how to think and act.
Freedom for Steiner thus does not lie in uninhibited expression of our subjective nature, but in the conscious unification of this with the objective constraints of the world."
[Sidebar: The idea of "orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience" is the crux of the matter; the whole process of evaluating experience as either spiritual or carnal depends on our ability to distinguish the spiritual from the carnal. How we take the various levels of experience in hand and reconcile them into an integrated experience is the subject of this discussion, and must be looked at closer and closer if we are to derive any meaning from these comments.]
"Steiner coined the term moral imagination for the inner act which results in free action. He suggests that we only achieve free deeds when we find a moral imagination, an ethically impelled but particularized response to the immediacy of a given situation. This response will always be individual; it cannot be predicted or prescribed. This radical ethical individualism is, for Steiner, characteristic of freedom."
[Sidebar: We remind you that the intuitive epiphanic response cannot be "predicted or prescribed." Unlike the ego, which depends on rigidity of thought--stability of literal meaning--spiritual truth defies all the devotee's efforts to control or direct the direction of the information stream. People determined to pin down the sayings of Jesus into neatly contained, fixed little boxes, will ALWAYS fail, because spiritual truth cannot be controlled by the literal mind--it takes the language of the heart to accomplish this. What Steiner calls the "moral imagination" is just another way of referring to the mysterious working of the heart on mundane issues and realities. Furthermore let me remind you that the conclusion arrived at by the heart are nearly always a surprise. It must be noted that staunch dogmatists HATE surprises.]
"We become aware of the outer nature of the world and its inner nature in radically different ways: our sensory perceptions inform us about the outer appearance of the world, while our thought life penetrates its inner nature. This division is particular to and defines human experience. Steiner suggests that we actually have the capacity to overcome the dualism of experience by reuniting perception and cognition. When contemplating our own thinking activity, we are perceiving that which we are thinking, and thinking that which we are perceiving. Steiner suggests that freedom arises most purely at this moment, when free ideation arises out of ego activity; this is, for Steiner, spiritual activity. . .
Steiner seeks to demonstrate that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our perception, which reflects the outer appearance of the world, and our cognition, which gives us access to the inner structure of the world. He suggests that outer freedom arises when we bridge the gap between our ideals and the constraints of external reality, letting our deeds be inspired by the moral imagination. . . "
[Sidebar: Thus, it may be seen that Steiner wants us to USE the ego to motivate higher cognition, therefore creating imaginative realities whose purpose is to synthesize or integrate the energies of both flesh and spirit into each other.]
Talking about the illusion of the senses led us to Kant and several other 19th century philosophers. These people were all concerned with the idea that we can't be completely sure that reality is outside in the world--it might be completely in our heads.
By extension, from Wikipedia:
"Kant holds that there are two kinds of knowledge:
sensible (sensual) and logical.
Sensible knowledge is based on sensation;
logical knowledge is based on reason.
Kant's division of Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Logic result from these two kinds of knowledge.
The Transcendental Aesthetic is that part of the Critique of Pure Reason that considers the contribution of sensation to cognition.
Kant distinguishes between the matter and the form of appearances.
The matter is "that in the appearance that corresponds to sensation".
The form is "that which so determines the manifold of appearance that it allows of being ordered in certain relations".
Clearly there is a fuzzy line between spirit and flesh--there is a definite barrier between these levels, but in addressing this problem we came up with the idea that Jesus is the mediator between Man and God, Flesh and Spirit.
I conceived this sermon as a summing up of the year's activities, and as a kind of letter to a generic unbeliever. I was going to call the sermon, Preaching to the Choir, because everybody here already knows everything I'm going to say. However, it has been noted, by a few people, that the attendance of our website church audience is not a trivial number, and is, in many cases, equal to the type of church attendance that other larger churches in this area enjoy. So, it is not inappropriate to address this sermon to an audience which is not here at the moment--because somebody IS out there reading these things, and at least one of them is an unbeliever. I would like to convince this one person that the transformations that have taken place in me spiritually are not accidental, and not imaginary, and it all has to do with Jesus.
The thing that's so troublesome about any kind of religious jargon is that it tends to be exclusive; one variety of jargon addresses one community of believers, while a different jargon addresses a different audience. Many people have this idea about what spirituality is, and others have this other idea about what spirituality is, and when the semantic categories don't match, then there is dissension. But, bottom line, people very often think they disagree when they actually don't.
To me the most important spiritual dogma is that personal experience, is the ultimate authority of truth. The memories, of experiencing out-of-body states, or supernatural or superpersonal events, are the real test of spirituality. Although it is absolutely true that I have become more and more allied to the group of people in the world called Christians--people who put their faith in the words and the presence of Jesus.
Notice the word "people". Unfortunately, my opinion of most of the religious people in the world, is that they are not very religious at all, at least in the area of personal experience. As Kierkegaard mentions, most "people" derive their beliefs, pretty much, from a response to a sort of literal or moral monologue--a monologue that has been created by their peer group, or ancestors, or family, or culture. Thus, it becomes a matter of constancy, or stability, or safety, that these people cling to; the stories their grandmother told them represent order in the universe--and most "people" hate the adventure of discovery that dispels all quietude and calm, and invokes the storm that always accompanies evolution and change. I feel these people who would rather be comfortable than right are lacking the personal experience--for if they had the personal experience there could be no doubt.
Although it's just as easy to say that, on the multileveled continuum of existence, religious people are all religious in some small way and I am simply exercising my prejudices, and revealing my hypocrisy; because, surely, claiming that my spiritual level is higher than their makes me guilty of the same insensitivity of which I accuse THEM. Clearly, if we are all one, we are all links in a great chain of being and consciousness--the whole wholly contained in the partial.
Nevertheless, the bottom line to this semantic argument is this: the nonverbal superliteral experience is the ultimate authority.
One of the concepts that we have put forth in recent months is the idea the Cloud of Unknowing. We have suggested that our faith is an image created by our verbal consciousness, by our intellect, but which may become open-ended--which may become literally undefined, as the higher truth enters and is lost in that cloud of unknowing. The Cloud of Unknowing is situated at the the fringes of our brain's ability to comprehend verbal structures; we have learned that the nonverbal experience of spirit always must eventually take over, if we're going to get into higher levels of consciousness.
Another concept we have introduced in relation to Joy in the spirit is that of “sehnsucht”: the feeling of intense longing for the unattainable, first suggested by Novalis then taken up by C.S. Lewis. Our discussions of joy centered around this term. From the RFT Sermon #17, Joy III, we remember:
"Be warned, at the outset, that C.S. Lewis' definition of "Joy" is most complex, and has little of the implication of "Happiness" in it--it is much more a spiritual state of mind linked to the German philosophical concept "sehnsucht". Because the concept of Sehnsucht is so important in Lewis' writing, the Arizona C. S. Lewis Society titled their annual journal Sehnsucht: The C. S. Lewis Journal."
"Sehnsucht is a German noun translated as "longing", "yearning", or "craving", or in a wider sense a type of "intensely missing".
[Sidebar: remember the scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:2:
"Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our
and Proverbs 13:12:
"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."
In the following discussion we will attempt to make plain this principle:
if we can take the experience of longing for a future heavenly dwelling, and, through impulse of desire, project ourselves into that future, we will have found the surest pathway to joy."
Finally, just recently we have explored the ramifications of the I AM Presence, in conjunction with the Unified Field Theory of the New Physics:
John Hagelin, Ph.D. in his YouTube presentation On Consciousness (1 of 2) says the following:
"With the discovery of the unified field, the so-called superstring field, we now understand that life is fundamentally one. At the basis of all life's diversity there is unity. In our basis you and I are one, and that unity at the base of mind and matter is consciousness-universal consciousness.
So with that deep understanding, that consciousness isn't created by the brain, it's not purely an outcome of mental molecular chemical processes in the brain, but is fundamental in nature; it's the very core of nature, call it the unified field. Now that we have that foundational understanding of what consciousness is, we can solve the mind/body problem-we can see how consciousness percolates up through our physiology to become the consciousness that we experience, see, the sensory perception of all of that. So there is a foundation now to really link, rigorously, neuroscience with quantum physics... What we've discovered at the core basis of the universe, the foundation of the universe, is a single universal field of intelligence--a field which unites gravity, electromagnetism, light, with radioactivity, with the nuclear force, so that all forces of nature all the so-called particles of nature, quarks, leptons, electrons, neutrons are now understood to be one. They're all just different ripples on a single ocean of existence."
So, with all this material, how do I convert the unbeliever? What words may I speak to entice the unbeliever to drop his guard and allow God to do what is most necessary and most simple--effect in the life of the unbeliever a personal experience? How do I get pride to relax its grip on ego and let in the healing soothing light?
How do I say that it is this spiritual experience in my life which seems to surpass all other considerations? It is simply the personal experience of Jesus.
I have to go back to a very traumatic period of my life in which I had a serious battle with demonic possession. It was this battle which awakened my dulled senses to the spiritual plane, but which, at the same time, also threatened, in a very destructive way, my very existence. The outcome of this episode was a moment of submission to the consciousness of Jesus. You may remember the story:
"I was standing in front of the heater, worrying that I had lung cancer, and I said, "Jesus, I give you one chance to prove your existence to me: if you are real, heal my lung. And then I heard a voice in my head saying, as clear as a bell, "Raise your arm." And, as I raised my arm above my head at an eccentric angle, something sprang loose in my back, and suddenly my lungs didn't hurt anymore."
It is that voice that has continued to speak to me for 25 years, and I have no doubt His voice is real, it is true; that it's so much smarter than me and that it could not possibly be some pretend fantasy of me, that I'm making up, like a multiple personality or something. It's not. It's absolutely external to me. It's bigger than me, but it is part of a higher part of me. It speaks to me as a separate entity. It helps me in decisions, and it promotes aptitudes in the fields of healing and prophecy.
In my search for a broad-minded and universal religion, I have very often included so-called New Age principles, and organizations, and entities; the trauma of my childhood experience with the Jesus represented by my mother's soul-condemning church, has never completely worn off, and, thus, I have avoided all conventional thinking and language about God.
It was this conventional language that kept me away from Jesus for so long--I felt I must make sense of this religion thing as separate from all the religion of my youth. In me, the sanctity of the name of Jesus is threatened by all the memories I had of mediocre and and condemning and, of, frankly, evil personalities: people who prayed for me in the name of Jesus, but who more often condemned me to hell in the name of Jesus.
It's so hard to say that name without remembering all those bad memories. But talk about throwing the baby out with the bath! Jesus has never been more real than he is now, has never been more a constant companion. I begin each day in counsel with Him, and I know that that counsel, and that little bit of healing, was always there waiting for me to ask for it; but you have to ask nice: you have to ask Jesus, not scream in His face with your desperate fingernails. Humbly, meekly, and calmly, calm in the assurance of faith, you ask Him to enter, to bring his presence into yours, and yours into His.
And this can be your salvation. We call it salvation, not because it keeps us from going to hell, but because the kingdom of Being is here; the trip from Hell to Heaven is instantaneous. Right now. The salvation available through Jesus Christ is the miracle of the ages, and as much as we respect science, science can still not put a name to Him. They never will until they listen to His voice and not their instruments. Their instruments can only point a finger at God, they cannot hear the voice of God.
Like the music of the tree falling in the forest, the voice of God may only be heard by ears willing to hear. The tragedy of unbelief is that, for those most in need, for those who suffer the most from the absence of spirit in their lives, the touch of spirit is blocked by the zeal of the insane mind, a mind alive and on fire with an intensity so determined to see the trees that the forest is rendered completely invisible.
I close with a poem of mine from 1999; it is a plaint, a plea from a period of my life when I still found it difficult to believe.
"Lift Thine Eyes
The new day covers its grin with a tentative hand,
Shadows and clouds for eyes;
But behind the gloom of sky,
Beneath the erratic earth,
Joy is rushing up,
a thousand miles an hour,
a thousand miles away.
I know He is coming for me,
His fluttering virgin bride,
But it is difficult to bide that mountainous hour,
And I don't know whether to point my lantern up or down.
The moment coming, so long delayed,
Feels arriving never—and
The closer it comes the more impossible it seems.
I dawdle over prose for a moment, then lift mine eyes again,
Back to the drawing board, then again and again.
"Look there!" I moan, "Look—there!"
At nothing, always nothing,
And my eyes Lear over, and the blur darkens but will not extinguish itself.
I am imprisoned on a Grecian urn, in a posture of pain,
forever frozen in an ecstacy of agony.
. . . notice how the mouth, fixed in an unnatural attitude,
shrieks silently, and in that silence rends the fabric of space-time like a cosmic knife, twisting in the heart of God.
(stuck in the bas, from which there is no relief)
whether suffering ends with the end of time,
And Jesus steps down off the cross, shattering the vase along with the pasty nails—
Or if it just goes on and on, and it is the last thing you feel in the end.
No! I must banish these thoughts
And scan the horizon once more,
He is coming—the ground is trembling—
Or is it the sky?"
Let us pray: Jesus, give us your patience. Let us continue to struggle with the quandaries of mind that so fatally block the light of heaven, and come to our rescue one more time, and one more time, and yet one more time. Amen.