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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

14Words, Words, Words

14Words, Words, Words

From Act II Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet:

LORD POLONIUS:What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.

In this scene from Hamlet, Hamlet disparages the power of words to convey meaning or significance. Words, like grains of sand on the beach are just so much noise; although Hamlet cannot rouse himself to action, he prefers action to words. Many, many times, you have heard me speak from this pulpit against the reliance on verbal structures as the cornerstone of religious experience. I thought I had pretty much covered the subject until I ran across this new material from Deepak Chopra, and Nietzsche. I am therefore going to review the subject from a fresh standpoint, with the aid of some new supportive material.

To kick off the sermon I refer, once again to one of my favorite passages, the one taken from the Gospel of Mathew:

Matthew 11:16-17:
"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented."

In this passage Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of the time, the pitiful play-acting that dominates most religious worship. In addition, He is pointing out how deluded we can become by buying into the street theater that so dominates most of our social interactions with each other, how false these interactions are, how childish, and how transparent these hypocrisies are if seen in the right light.

From George MacDonald's Phantastes, we read:

“But words are vain; reject them all—
They utter but a feeble part:
Hear thou the depths from which they call,
The voiceless longing of my heart.”
Many times we have preferred the irrational language of the heart, to the declusive inadequate claptrap of speech. However, the argument, today, is that speech has a role to play in spiritual experience--that, in spite of its short-comings we must use words to create a context from which the heart may speak its truth.

Let us recall the several discussions we have had of Julian Jaynes' book The Birth of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I'll be honest, I don't really know whether this idea is actually in the book, or whether I just kind of made it up from what I THOUGHT I was reading, but the idea goes like this: we have two brains, which are perceiving everything all at the same real time moment, but from slightly skewed perspectives;(remember our brains are cross-wired so that the left brain gets its input from the eyes and ears on the right side of the body, and vice versa). Thus, since the sense perceptions of the two hemispheres of the brain are separated by distance, they register slightly different things to our brains--different levels of intensities experienced from different angles. These slight differences in the two-fold perceptual experience of the bicameral mind interfere with each other creating crosstalk or, so-called, diffraction. And with diffraction comes the hologram; remember that a hologram is diffracted light light, bouncing off itself. So the these little waves of mentally generated electrons, projected by the radio transmitter of the bicameral mind, bounce off of each other, and consciousness emerges as a holographic representation of that energetic source.

The language of spirituality, or, we might say the jargon of spirituality can deceive us into thinking we are being spiritual when, in fact we are being merely mindless monkeys parroting back empty words. As Julian Jaynes has reminded us, consciousness consists, in large part, of the language with which we express experience--and if our language is corrupt at bottom, our expressions will convey no truth, only noise.  As we mentioned last week, this is why, even when we seek the spiritual truth of the Word, so that we may transcend the natural propensities of our sinful flesh, we so often fall short of this potential, and remain sinners; we discussed how sometimes, even with the purest of intentions, our literal consciousness mistakes truthful virtue for just another kind of sin in sheep's clothing. 

It goes without saying, that the things our literal consciousness, the ego, needs to function well in daily life, and the things our higher consciousness, the soul, needs to experience HIGHER reality, may not be the same things. This is the problem: we need to learn to distinguish carefully between the qualities of our various experiences, i.e. the literal-dominated ego, and the intuition-dominated heart. As Rainier Maria Rilke says:

"Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”
As Chogyam Trungpa says:

“Enlightenment is ego's ultimate disappointment.”
Deepak Chopra says:

“The ego relies on the familiar. It is reluctant to experience the unknown, which is the very essence of life.”

I mentioned, at the outset, that I would bringing Nietzsche into the discussion. But, before I do, I wish to insert a disclaimer: I find that Nietzsche is out of his mind with anger, guilt, and paradox; I have read quite a bit of his work lately and find about three fifths of it to be downright dog doo-doo, and about one fifth of it hysterical cacaphony; however, about one-fifth of it (I haven't really done the math) is inspired, intuitive genius. Like other philosophers and psychologists I have referenced from this pulpit, many people are not ALL WRONG, Julian Jaynes, for instance. Kant's reflections on knowing and intuition are brilliantly concise and helpful as far as they go, they just (like Jaynes) don't go far enough. Thus, this quotation from The Joyful Wisdom comes from a drastically skewed point of origin, but, in terms of the psychology of his time, I find it to be decades ahead of other philosophers and psychologists; I find it presages Jaynes by almost a century. The key point, here, is that Nietzsche, a hundred years before Jaynes, is finding that "consciousness" is not the dominant mode of human experience--that there is another resolution of being more powerful and more present than "consciousness". 

[As I read, there will be several key points I will wish to emphasize later--I usually insert sidebars at these points, but the logic flow of Nietzsche is so intensely integral, I hesitate to interrupt his discourse, and will therefore attach my comments at the end:]

The Joyful Wisdom:
"Consciousness. — Consciousness is the last and 
latest development of the organic, and consequently also the most unfinished and least powerful of these developments. Innumerable mistakes originate out of consciousness, which, " in spite of fate," as Homer says, cause an animal or a man to break down earlier than might be necessary. If the conserving bond of the instincts were not very much 
more powerful, it would not generally serve as a regulator : by perverse judging and dreaming with open eyes, by superficiality and credulity, in short, just by consciousness, mankind would necessarily have broken down : or rather, without the former there would long ago have been nothing more of the latter !

Before a function is fully formed and matured, it is a danger to the organism : all the better if it be then thoroughly tyrannised over! Consciousness is thus thoroughly tyrannised over — and not least by the pride in it ! It is thought that here is the quintessence of man ; that which is enduring, eternal, ultimate, and most original in him ! Consciousness is regarded as a fixed, given magnitude ! Its growth and intermittences are denied ! It is accepted as the " unity of the organism " ! —

This ludicrous overvaluation and misconception of consciousness has as its result the great utility that a too rapid maturing of it has thereby been hindered. Because men believed that they already possessed consciousness, they gave themselves very little trouble to acquire it— and even now it is not otherwise! It is still an entirely new problem just dawning on the human eye, and hardly yet plainly recognisable : to embody knowledge in ourselves and make it instinctive,— a problem which is only seen by those who have grasped the fact that hitherto our errors alone have been embodied in us, and that all our consciousness is relative to errors ! 

What does Knowing Mean? — Non ridere non 
lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere ! says Spinoza,
“One should neither laugh at, nor lament the world, but only understand it.” says Spinoza, so simply and sublimely, as is his wont. Nevertheless, what else is this intelligere (understanding) ultimately, but just the form in which the three other things become perceptible to us all at once? A result of the diverging and opposite impulses of desiring to deride, lament and execrate? Before knowledge is possible each of these impulses must first have brought forward its one-sided view of the object or event.

[Sidebar: Posted by chipbruce
"This is consistent with Spinoza’s own rejection of the mind-body dualism of René Descartes. Much later, John Dewey proposes a related notion, that inquiry is reconstructive experience: The experiences, and our emotional responses, come first, but knowing is the reflection and articulation of those experiences, which leads away from simple judging."
Back to Nietsche:]

"The struggle of these one-sided views occurs afterwards, and out of it there occasionally arises a compromise, a pacification, a recognition of rights on all three sides, a sort of justice and agreement : for in virtue of the justice and agreement all those impulses can maintain themselves in existence and retain their mutual rights. We, to whose consciousness only the closing reconciliation scenes and final settling of accounts of these long processes manifest themselves, think on that account that intelligere is something conciliating, just and good, something essentially antithetical to the impulses ; whereas it is only a certain relation of the impulses to one another.

For a very long time conscious thinking was regarded as the only thinking: it is now only that the truth dawns upon us that the greater part of our intellectual activity goes on unconsciously and unfelt by us ; I believe, however, that the impulses which are here in mutual conflict understand rightly how to make themselves felt by one 
another, and how to cause pain :— the violent sudden exhaustion which overtakes all thinkers' may have its origin here (it is the exhaustion of the battle-field). Aye, perhaps in our struggling interior there is much concealed heroism, there is certainly nothing divine, or eternally-reposing-in- itself, as Spinoza supposed. Conscious thinking and especially that of the philosopher, is the weakest and on that account also the relatively mildest and quietest mode of thinking: and thus it is precisely the philosopher who is most easily misled concerning the nature of knowledge. . .

The " Genius of the Species — The problem of 
consciousness (or more correctly : of becoming conscious of oneself) meets us only when we begin to perceive in what measure we could dispense with it: and it is at the beginning of this perception that we are now placed by physiology and zoology (which have thus required two centuries to overtake the hint thrown out in advance by Leibnitz). For we could in fact think, feel, will, and recollect, we could likewise " act " in every sense of the term, and nevertheless nothing of it all need necessarily " come into consciousness " (as one says metaphorically). The whole of life would be possible without its seeing itself as it were in a mirror : as in fact even at present the far greater part of our life still goes on without this mirroring, — and even our thinking, feeling, volitional life as well, however painful this statement may sound to an older philosopher.

What then is the purpose of consciousness generally, when it is in the main superfluous? 
Now it seems to me, if you will hear my answer and its perhaps extravagant supposition, that the subtlety and strength of consciousness are always in proportion to the capacity for communication of a man (or an animal), the capacity for communication in its turn being in proportion to the necessity for communication : the latter not to be understood as if precisely the individual himself who is master in the art of communicating and making known his necessities would at the same time have to be most dependent upon others for his necessities. It seems to me, however, to be so in relation to whole races and successions of generations where necessity and need have long compelled men to communicate with their fellows and understand one another rapidly and subtly, a surplus of the power and art of communication is at last acquired as if It were a fortune which had gradually accumulated, and now waited for an heir to squander it prodigally (the so-called artists are these heirs in like manner the orators, preachers, and authors: all of them men who come at the end of a long succession, "late-born" always, in the best sense of 
the word, and as has been said, squanderers by their very nature).

Granted that this observation IS correct, I may proceed further to the conjecture that consciousness generally has only been developed under the pressure of the necessity for communication -that from the first it has been necessary and useful only between man and man (especially between those commanding and those obeying) and has only developed in proportion to its utility Consciousness is properly only a connecting network between man and man,— it is only as such that it has had to develop; the recluse and wild-beast species of men would not have needed it The very fact that our actions, thoughts, feelings and motions come within the range of our consciousness-at least a part of them —is the result of a terrible, prolonged "must" ruling man's destiny: as the most endangered animal he needed help and protection; he needed his fellows, he was obliged to express his distress, he had to know how to make himself understood — and for all this he needed "consciousness" first of all : he had to "know" himself what he lacked, to "know" how he felt, and to "know" what he thought. For, to repeat it once more, man, like every living creature, thinks unceasingly, but does not know it; the thinking which is becoming conscious of itself is only the smallest part thereof, we may say, the most superficial part, the worst part : — for this conscious thinking alone is done in words, that is to say, in the symbols for communication, by means of which the origin of consciousness is revealed.

In short, the development of speech and the development of consciousness (not of reason, but of reason becoming self-conscious) go hand in hand. Let it be further accepted that it is not only speech that serves as a bridge between man and man, but also the looks, the pressure and the gestures ; our becoming conscious of our sense impressions, our power of being able to fix them, and as it were to locate them outside of ourselves, has increased in proportion as the necessity has increased for communicating them to others by means of signs. The sign-inventing man is at the same time the man who is always more acutely self-conscious ; it is only as a social animal that man has learned to become conscious of himself, — he is doing so still, and doing so more and more.

As is obvious, my idea is that consciousness does not properly belong to the individual existence of man, but rather to the social and gregarious nature in him ; that, as follows therefrom, it is only in relation to communal and gregarious utility that it is finely developed ; and that consequently each of us, in spite of the best intention of understanding himself as individually as possible, and of "knowing himself," will always just call into consciousness the non-individual in him, namely, his "averageness " ; — that our thought itself is continuously as it were outvoted by the character of consciousness — by the imperious " genius of the species " therein — and is translated back into the perspective of the herd.

Fundamentally our actions are in an incomparable manner altogether personal, unique and absolutely individual — there is no doubt about it ; but as soon as we translate them into consciousness, they do not appear so any longer. . . . This is the proper phenomenalism and perspectivism as I understand it : the nature of animal consciousness involves the notion that the world of which we can become conscious is only a superficial and symbolic world, a generalised and vulgarised world ; — that everything which becomes conscious becomes just thereby shallow, meagre, relatively stupid, — a generalisation, a symbol, a characteristic of the herd ; that with the evolving of consciousness there is always combined a great, radical perversion, falsification, superficialisation, and generalisation.  

Finally, the growing consciousness is a danger, and whoever lives among the most conscious Europeans knows even that it is a disease. As may be conjectured, it is not the antithesis of subject and object with which I am here concerned : I leave that distinction to the epistemologists who have remained entangled in the toils of grammar (popular metaphysics). It is still less the antithesis of "thing in itself" and phenomenon, for we do not " know " enough to be entitled even to make such a distinction. Indeed, we have not any organ at all for knowings or for "truth": we "know" (or believe, or fancy) just as much as may be of use in the interest of the human herd, the species ; and even what is here called  "usefulness" is ultimately only a belief, a fancy, and perhaps precisely the most fatal stupidity by which we shall one day be ruined.

As I indicated. above, I will now comment and amplify several sections of the Nietzsche excerpt:

"Consciousness is the last and latest development of the organic and consequently also the most unfinished and least powerful of these developments."
It makes perfect sense that man, the most highly evolved of all earthly creatures, should possess the most sophisticated speech systems, and therefore the most highly evolved state of consciousness. I hasten to emphasize the term "earthly creatures". The case has been made repeatedly that consciousness is a function of language, and is thus not a spiritual state but a one-higher-than-animal level of carnal existence. I wish to emphasize that the sense of self, the ego resolution created by consciousness, is not the TRUE self, the eternal self, but merely an extension of that higher consciousness into the physical world, no more or less significant than the operation of sense organs like hearing or seeing.
"Before a function is fully formed and matured, it is a danger to the organism."
Here again, Nietzsche is expressing contempt for the conscious mode of being; as he states later, it is the APPROXIMATE character, the AVERAGE character of consciousness that introduces lack of specificity into our thinking, thereby contaminating all our conscious thought with ERROR. The danger to the organism through erroneous thinking is obvious, witness wars, insanity, hate, envy, and greed, all created by bad thoughts (bad words).

There is a famous story about Felix Mendelssohn: when asked if he felt deprived by the lack of specificity of the musical language (meaning the inability to express precise verbal meanings), Mendelssohn replied that he could make much more subtle and specific distinctions with the musical language than he ever could with words. Thus, the spiritual component of music gets closer to expressing the essence of the soul than the best prose. Poetry is another matter, of course, because there is no poetry without music.

"This ludicrous overvaluation and misconception of consciousness has, as its result, the great utility that a too rapid maturing of it has thereby been hindered. Because men believed that they already possessed consciousness, they gave themselves very little trouble to acquire it— and even now it is not otherwise! Non ridere non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere!” “One should neither laugh at, nor lament the world, but only understand it.”

There is more embedded in this paragraph than meets the eye. He is saying that the maturation of consciousness had been hindered because man has taken to it too easily, and has therefore been less than diligent in extending and refining its capacities. How does Nietzsche know that consciousness is overvalued? How does he know that its maturation had been hindered through inattention? It must be because he has developed sensitivities in himself of a super-conscious quality, a meta-conscious quality that can perceive more than the symbolic approximations of language. This is the heightened sensitivity to spiritual energy that I have been developing in myself, and have been recommending from this pulpit. By saying, “Because men believed that they already possessed consciousness,” Nietzsche is indicating both that most men are kidding themselves about how consciousness they truly are, and that he, Nietzsche, in order to say this, has attained higher levels of literal and/or spiritual consciousness than most men. It is an arrogant posture, indeed, but it must be admitted that in order to point this out, it must be true.

“Nevertheless, what else is this intelligere (understanding) ultimately, but just the form in which the three other things (to deride, lament and execrate) become perceptible to us all at once?”
Here, we now take a sideways flight into the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas; while I was composing this sermon, I ran across a section on the subject of IDEAS. Surely, an idea must be considered in its aspect of a verbalization, and therefore bears closely on the subject at hand:

“Augustine says,"Such is the power inherent in ideas, that no one can be wise unless they are understood."  
“It is necessary to suppose ideas in the divine mind. For the Greek word is in Latin "forma." Hence by ideas are understood the forms of things, existing apart from the things themselves. Now the form of anything existing apart from the thing itself can be for one of two ends: either to be the type of that of which it is called the form, or to be the principle of the knowledge of that thing, inasmuch as the forms of things knowable are said to be in him who knows them. In either case we must suppose ideas, as is clear for the following reason: 
In all things not generated by chance, the form must be the end of any generation whatsoever. But an agent does not act on account of the form, except in so far as the likeness of the form is in the agent, as may happen in two ways. For in some agents the form of the thing to be made pre-exists according to its natural being, as in those that act by their nature; as a man generates a man, or fire generates fire. Whereas, in other agents, the form of the thing to be made pre-exists according to intelligible being, as in those that act by the intellect; and thus the likeness of a house pre-exists in the mind of the builder. And this may be called the idea of the house, since the builder intends to build his house like to the form conceived in his mind. As then the world was not made by chance, but by God acting by His intellect, as will appear later, there must exist in the divine mind a form to the likeness of which the world was made. And in this the notion of an idea consists.”
St. Thomas Aquinas is making a fine distinction between different types of forms: there is the type of form that represents a thing as a similitude, or an approximation of something existent in the physical dimension, as mentioned above; but there is also a form as it exists in the mind of God, which is a form IN PRINCIPLE. We have previously referred such forms as “archetypes”, and we have referred to stories told with such archetypes as “myths”. The transition of a verbal expression from the world of sense to the world of archetype, is the transition from mundane existence to spiritual existence. St. Thomas also distinguished between expressions that spring from nature, and that spring from the intellect; this would be the same distinction we have just made between the mundane and the archetypal. Thus, in the theology of spirit, “intellect” is not necessarily linked to what we commonly refer to as “consciousness”; the Mind of God is characterized by a mode of intelligence far above and beyond the expressive boundaries of verbal consciousness. Nietzsche gets close to this idea in the following brilliant sentence:

“The problem of consciousness (or more correctly: of becoming conscious of oneself) meets us only when we begin to perceive in what measure we could dispense with it. . . the thinking which is becoming conscious of itself is only the smallest part thereof, (not of reason, but of reason becoming self-conscious). . . indeed, we have not any organ at all for knowing or for "truth.”

Notice the expression, “reason becoming self-conscious”: here we have another veiled reference to the mind of God, to a meta-level of intelligence—reason as distinct from consciousness. The Will, or the I Am Presence, is an entity that defies the ego’s power to approximate or to encapsulate; still it, the I Am, has a sense of self, and this sense cannot help but filter down into the mundane consciousness in some FORM that may be appreciated to some extent by the human mind. In an elegant aphorism, St. Thomas Aquinas says it all in these two brief sentences:

"Truth and falsity exist in the intellect. The will wills the intellect to understand."

How much clearer distinction between Higher Mind and lower mind could there possibly be? In many places in the Summa Theologica St. Thomas implies that there is a faculty of consciousness that is beyond intellect, but which is linked to and operates through intellect. We simply must sensitize ourselves sufficiently to be able to reconcile the messages of symbolic representation in the lower mind, with the archetypal representations of the Higher Mind.

It is the nature of this connection of higher Mind, to lower mind, that I wish to clarify in the remainder of today's sermon. Indeed, the following quotation from Deepak Chopra’s book God was the inspiration for the message. The scene is a conversation between the saint Sanchara and Mandana, a righteous man; they are involved in a contest to see which one can convert the other to his way of thinking about God:
"God is beyond reasoning," declared Mandana.

[Sidebar: This is the mantra we have pronounced many, many times--but the fact that God is beyond reasoning does not mean He is without reason. There is definitely something weird about the hypocrisy of standing up in church every Sunday and using words to declare how full of crap words are. Even admitting their inadequacy, there is something to the search for truth in verbal structures.]

"God is beyond reasoning," declared Mandana.

"If that were true, then any jumble of words could be called scripture. Nonsense would be divine if all that is needed is lack of reason. Madmen would be better than priests. . .

"What does it take to actually reach God?  Two things, knowledge and experience. The scriptures give us knowledge. We are told how to worship, how to perform duties in leading a good life. More than this, we learn how to go inward to find the spark, the essence of God that is inside us. It is our source. Such knowledge, though, is only half the path. The other half is experience. What good does it serve you to know that a rose has a beautiful scent when you have never smelled one?" 

"Mandana Mishra, your house is full of hope for God, as an empty vase is full of hope for roses."

Sanchara is telling us that verbalization is only half the battle for truth, as we have affirmed many times. However, he is also making a place for knowledge in the spiritual environment that leads to enlightenment; he tells us that knowledge, expressed in language, understandable by the mundane mind, is necessary to train the devotee in the ceremonies of worship, in the duties of life in the world, and in techniques for traveling inward. He says that God is NOT beyond reasoning, but the quality of the reasoning used to navigate the spiritual world is different than the reasoning we use to navigate the mundane world.

A few weeks ago we discussed some of the concepts of William Blake; in so doing we mentioned his Theory of Contraries.

"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."

The connection between this theory and the present topic may seem obscure, but the relevance obviates itself when we consider how verbal expressions and archetypal expressions may war with each other, in the exact same thought process, at the exact same time. The battle between ideas of Representation, and ideas In Principle may rage on in our articulate discourses--but the battle is not in vain, and it is not without its successes. Blake is a man of passion and irrational feelings, but he does not take refuge in nonsense; he clearly states:

"Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have curbed & governed their passions or have no passions, but because they have cultivated their understandings. The treasures of Heaven are not negations of passion, but realities of intellect, from which all the passions emanate uncurbed in their eternal glory. The fool shall not enter into Heaven let him be ever so holy."

Thus, Blake, the passionate man, does not vent his emotions in a thoughtless vacuum, but, rather seeks to originate his enthusiasms in the intellect. Therefore, the Mind of God is not only the birthplace of all righteous thought, but also of all righteous action. In this union of opposites, or, rather, in my opinion, union of higher and lower impulses it is possible to make such paradoxical proclamations as:

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."


"The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction"

Hence,  the mixture of physical and spiritual referents in our religious discussions is really the price we have to pay for being human and having our Higher Consciousness plugged into a feeble human brain.

There is an optical illusion I use in my music aesthetic classes that has a bearing on this subject:


At first glance this looks like a picture of a vase, but if you look closer, you can see two men facing each other--the vase is black, the faces are white. The problem, is that you can't see them both at the same time: it is either the vase or the faces, not both. This is how art works: it is sometimes an expression of mundane existence, the picture of a house, the sound of thunder, etc., but then again it exists in a rarefied ideal world in which only ideas about idea exist, and every form is a sacred emanation of divine intelligence. Thus, it is my opinion that all human activities have an artistic component, including the art of philosophy and the art of religion.

Hence, we return, at last to this morning's scripture,

Matthew 11:16-17:
"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented."

Clearly, the children's pretensions in the marketplace lack a degree of artfulness, or we WOULD dance, we WOULD lament. The piping and the mourning must have been deficient in the archetypal components that give our mundane lies the resonance of truth--there was not a complete enough fusion of earth and Heaven.

Rudolf Steiner has this to say about the fusion of Heaven and Earth:

"Every moral deed and every physical action in human life is connected in the human heart. Only when we truly learn to understand the configuration of the human heart will we find the true fusion of these two parallel and independent phenomena: moral events and physical events."

In this paragraph, Steiner brings back a concept we have brought out many times: the concept of the "moral imagination". Moral imagination encapsulates today's discussion in a single expression:

"moral", meaning spiritualized action originating in the mind of God, and

"imagination" meaning "to make an image of".

I have seen Hamlet many times, and I always look forward to the "Words, words, words," episode because Hamlet usually does something funny; Kevin Kline rips out a page of his book, licks it, and pastes it to Polonius' forehead. But Hamlet's frustration with the limitations of words has a light at the end of the tunnel: if we open our minds and invite, into them, the light of divine illumination, we will always think the truth and speak the truth. Thank you Jesus!

Let us pray: Jesus, we acknowledge the difficulties in making this life make sense. We appreciate your willingness to whisper the true meaning of our stuttering lips, into the ears of our hungry hearts. Amen.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

13 Jesus Wept

13 Jesus Wept

Jesus wept wins the prize for "Shortest Bible Verse". Certainly, as such it wins the "All-time Less is More Award" as well. Never were two little words packed with so much power and significance. Also, as is usual in these cases, there is disagreement as to the true meaning. Today we will explore the resonance and ramifications of the tears of Jesus.

First, the scripture from the Gospel of John in which the episode appears:
John 11:1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
John 11:2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
John 11:3 Therefore his sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.
John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
John 11:6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he stayed two days still in the same place where he was.
John 11:7 Then after that said he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.
John 11:8 His disciples say to him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone you; and go you thither again?
John 11:9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world.
John 11:10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him.
John 11:11 These things said he: and after that he said to them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
John 11:12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
John 11:13 However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
John 11:14 Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
John 11:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe; nevertheless let us go to him.
John 11:16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, to his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
John 11:17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
John 11:18 Now Bethany was near to Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
John 11:19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
John 11:20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
John 11:21 Then said Martha to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died.
John 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatever you will ask of God, God will give it you.
John 11:23 Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again.
John 11:24 Martha said to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
John 11:26 And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this?
John 11:27 She said to him, Yes, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
John 11:28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calls for you.
John 11:29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came to him.
John 11:30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
John 11:31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goes to the grave to weep there.
John 11:32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died.
John 11:33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.
John 11:34 And said, Where have you laid him? They said to him, Lord, come and see.
John 11:35 Jesus wept.
Our purpose, here, is to get at the REASON Jesus wept. Since, as Christians, our ultimate goal is to be Christ-like, understanding one of Jesus' most ambiguous acts should be of interest; if, in emulating the Christ, we, too, should weep, the main question is, "Why?". Certainly one of the other questions is, "How?". In researching this text, I found this fascinating detail of translation: the correct translation is not, "Jesus wept," but, "Jesus wept silently." It seems that to many of the scholars commenting on this text, this nuance is common knowledge, but I did not know this until a few days ago. 

From Vincent's Word Studies:
"Wept (ἐδάκρυσεν)
A different verb from that in John 11:31. From δάκρυ, tear, and meaning to shed tears, to weep silently. Only here in the New Testament. Κλαίω, to weep audibly, is once used of our Lord in Luke 19:41:
"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,""

[Sidebar: The idea of weeping silently will attain greater significance as we continue.]

Barnes' Notes on the Bible:
"Jesus wept - It has been remarked that this is the shortest verse in the Bible; but it is exceedingly important and tender. It shows the Lord Jesus as a friend, a tender friend, and evinces his character as a man. And from this we learn:
1. That the most tender personal friendship is not inconsistent with the most pure religion. Piety binds stronger the ties of friendship, makes more tender the emotions of love, and seals and sanctifies the affections of friends.
2. It is right, it is natural, it is indispensable for the Christian to sympathize with others in their afflictions. Romans 12:15; "rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."
3. Sorrow at the death of friends is not improper. It is right to weep. It is the expression of nature and religion does not forbid or condemn it. All that religion does in the case is to temper and chasten our grief; to teach us to mourn with submission to God; to weep without complaining, and to seek to banish tears, not by hardening the heart or forgetting the friend, but by bringing the soul, made tender by grief, to receive the sweet influences of religion, and to find calmness and peace in the God of all consolation.
4. We have here an instance of the tenderness of the character of Jesus, The same Savior wept over Jerusalem, and felt deeply for poor dying, sinners. To the same tender and compassionate Saviour Christians may now come Hebrews 4:15; and to him the penitent sinner may also come, knowing that he will not cast him away."
Wesley's Notes:
"Jesus wept - Out of sympathy with those who were in tears all around him, as well as from a deep sense of the misery sin had brought upon human nature."

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:
"Jesus wept-This beautifully conveys the sublime brevity of the two original words; else "shed tears" might have better conveyed the difference between the word here used and that twice employed in Joh 11:33, and there properly rendered "weeping," denoting the loud wail for the dead, while that of Jesus consisted of silent tears."

[Sidebar: Did you get that? SILENT TEARS.]

"Is it for nothing that the Evangelist, some sixty years after it occurred, holds up to all ages with such touching brevity the sublime spectacle of the Son of God in tears? What a seal of His perfect oneness with us in the most redeeming feature of our stricken humanity! But was there nothing in those tears beyond sorrow for human suffering and death? Could these effects move Him without suggesting the cause? Who can doubt that in His ear every feature of the scene proclaimed that stern law of the Kingdom, "The wages of sin is death" (Ro 6:23), and that this element in His visible emotion underlay all the rest?"

[Sidebar: It is time to emphasize the several ideas that are expressed repeatedly in regard to this passage. We have the primary interpretation, that Jesus:
in spite of His foreknowledge that He will raise Lazarus from the dead,
in spite of the even larger issue that He knows better than anyone, that there is no death, and all this brouhaha about dying is an admission of human weakness and attachment,
He still sympathizes with the grief of His friends and weeps with them, thus admitting to the tender frailty of His humanity.

Then we have the secondary consideration that the whole issue of death brings up in Jesus the sorrow that must necessarily be "from a deep sense of the misery sin had brought upon human nature", and must furthermore be associated with the foreknowledge of "stricken humanity".

In both interpretations, the presence of Jesus ability to see the future plays a key role.

We will encounter yet a third interpretation below, but I want to save it for awhile, heeheehee.

The following is from the Commentary on John 11:17-27, 32-36 International Bible Lessons, Sunday, May 20, 2012, by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. This commentary was quite long, so I cut it down somewhat; but there are still some important details, here, that need to be brought out:
John 11:17-27:
"(John 11:17) When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Because Lazarus was sick, his family sent for Jesus to come to heal him. He could have healed Lazarus from a distance, as He had healed others; instead, Jesus waited until Lazarus had died before returning to Bethany (John 11:1-6; Luke 7:1-10). To teach His disciples and others that He was the resurrection and the life, Jesus wanted to raise Lazarus from the dead in their presence. Jesus planned His arrival time, and Lazarus had definitely died when Jesus arrived outside Bethany.
(John 11:18) Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,
In order to distinguish this Bethany from the Bethany where John the Baptist had preached and baptized Jesus and others, John identified this Bethany as being about 2 miles from Jerusalem. A Sabbath day’s journey was about 1 mile; therefore, someone could not travel to and from Bethany and Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Jesus ascended into heaven from Bethany (Luke 24:48-53).
(John 11:19) and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
Jesus was a dear friend of Lazarus and his family. Jesus sometimes taught and dined in the home of Mary and Martha. Their home was large enough for many to gather to hear Jesus teach. Their family was influential, and many Jews came to console Lazarus’ sisters, some coming even from Jerusalem, for some returned to report on Jesus’ good deed to the Pharisees and chief priests (John 11:45-47)."

[Sidebar: It is not a trivial point that the home of Lazarus was a meeting place. This fact provides a possible explanation as why Jesus delays his arrival; it cannot be denied that Jesus had a flare for the theatrical, and there is more than one episode in His life when He does things in order to draw maximum attention to Himself and His message. When He hears of Lazarus' illness, He says:
"This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby."
Clearly, He means to glorify God through a public display of His own miraculous powers over life and death. If, by delaying His arrival until more mourners have arrived to pay their respects, He can play to a bigger audience, why not?

Back to Parkhurst:]

"(John 11:21) Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
We can imagine Martha and Mary and their family and friends saying, “If only Jesus had been here,” over and over again to each other as they mourned Lazarus’ death, because Mary used the same words when she met Jesus (John 11:32). So they would not worry, perhaps they had also encouraged Lazarus and one another that Jesus would come and heal him before Lazarus died.
(John 11:32) When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Mary came to Jesus and Martha. She told Jesus what Martha had told Jesus. She too expressed her faith that Jesus had the power to heal her brother, but like Martha confined Jesus’ ability to heal to His actual physical presence with them – this would be natural and logical to conclude. Mary went with Martha to see Jesus after Martha told her that Jesus wanted her to come. Martha called Jesus, “the Teacher” (11:28)."

[Sidebar: It is interesting that both Martha and Mary say the same thing when they first see Jesus:

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

It is not hard not to hear, in this, a pained accusation: "Jesus, where were you? We waited, we prayed, and still you did not come! Why did you delay, when a little speed on your part might have saved our brother, might have spared US the pain of losing him? The sentence above, "perhaps they had also encouraged Lazarus and one another that Jesus would come and heal him before Lazarus died," offers a tantalizing spin on the whole social dynamic of the scene: clearly these people have absolute faith in Jesus' power over illness; but any further than this, they could not imagine. They held out hope, to the last, that the Jesus cavalry would come galloping the rescue, and when He failed them, in their eyes, the disappointment was intensified--I'm sure their faith was shaken as well. Thus, Jesus' primary agenda item out of this affair was dramatized: Jesus came to prove that He not only had power over illness, but that He had power over death. Imagine the joy they felt as the Jesus cavalry snatched life from the very jaws of death! As we mentioned in our last sermon, 12 The One Door -- II, the bottom line of Jesus' good news to the world was, "THERE IS NO DEATH". In this story the flamboyance of Jesus' dramaturgy is at its peak--except, of course, for the story of His own self-generated resurrection.

Back to Parkhurst:]

"(John 11:33) When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
Some scholars teach that Jesus was angry at death and the sorrow death brings, but He was not angry with himself as the Creator and the Giver of life. Jesus’ humanity moved Him to feel deeply the sorrow that humans feel when facing death. Jesus knows exactly, from personal human experience, the feelings humans have when death separates them from a loved one.
(John 11:35) Jesus began to weep.
Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; among other verses, John 11:35 supports this prophecy from Isaiah (see Isaiah 53:3). John shows Jesus loved Lazarus and He wept that the one He loved needed to go through the process of dying to go to heaven, a kingdom not of this world. He wept for those who had suffered separation from Lazarus because of his death. Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Perhaps Jesus wept because He knew that to glorify God and answer the prayers of Martha and Mary He would need to bring Lazarus back from the glories of heaven and return him to Earth where he would die once again (we do not learn when Lazarus died again, but the enemies of Jesus plotted his death: John 12:10)."

[Sidebar: This last, "the enemies of Jesus plotted his (Lazarus')death" is also very interesting. The story of the raising of Lazarus must have been a terrible blow to the Jews who sought to discredit Jesus as the Messiah. I'm sure they spared no pains in doing what they could to nullify this miracle. There is a striking scene in Martin Scorcese's film, The Last Temptation of Christ, where the Zealots are seen murdering Lazarus, very shortly after his resurrection.]

Back to the subject of Martha' shaken faith: the following piece discusses the relevance of another of Jesus' sayings on this occasion:

Tony J. Alicea January 18, 2011
Why Jesus Wept--Martha’s Theology
"While Jesus was about two miles away, Martha goes out to meet him while Mary stays at the house (interesting). Let’s look at the interaction. It is a bit long but you really have to see what happens here:

“Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:21-27

I don’t know about you but I read this in a very matter-of-fact tone. At first glance, it looks like Martha is saying all of the right things. Lazarus is dead but she professes that even still, anything that Jesus asks, God will give. She even gives some solid theology about the resurrection. I look at that and give her props! Good word, Martha!

But Jesus knows the heart. Look at what He asks her. He says “I am the resurrection…Do you believe this?” Again, her response is spot on. But why did Jesus ask her that in the midst of her mourning?

I believe He wanted to address her theology. Hers was a theology of the mind. She said all the right words but she didn’t know His heart. You can’t tell this by her words but Jesus knew Martha’s heart. She was the one that lost sight of the “one thing that is necessary”. I believe that one thing is intimacy with Jesus."

[Sidebar: The point here is that Jesus discerned in, Martha's comments, the shadow of doubt. He chastens her by making her repeat her statement of faith:

“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

But still His insistent questioning, "Do you believe this?” implies, not necessarily that she does not believe, but that she does not believe ENOUGH. We have been raised on the resurrection of Jesus--we have heard the story many, many times, and are quite used to it; but remember how new this all was to Jesus' contemporaries--I'm sure that, even with their burgeoning faith, there were still many things they could just no get their minds around. As a teacher, I know how many times you have to tell students the same thing, over and over, before they finally get it, before they finally own it in themselves. In spite of the lip service they paid to Jesus, I'm sure that Jesus, as the teacher, knew that He had to demonstrate His power over death again and again before His disciples would truly believe.

Back to Alicea:]

"You can’t tell this by her words but Jesus knew Martha’s heart. She was the one that lost sight of the “one thing that is necessary”. I believe that one thing is intimacy with Jesus.

Mary had it, let’s look at her encounter with Jesus.
Mary’s Heart
Notice that in verse 28 Jesus calls for Mary. Again, interesting difference in how Martha went out to Jesus with her words.

Okay now check this out, Mary says the exact same thing that Martha says to Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus saw her weeping and “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled”. After He asks where they have laid Lazarus, we see the shortest verse in the Bible:
Jesus wept.

My heart is pumping hard in my chest just writing this. Jesus is overwhelmed with compassion in His heart. He weeps with Mary in her hour of despair. He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus intensely. He knew the very thing He came for was to raise Lazarus from the dead. And still, He wept.

Mary’s response to Jesus wasn’t in an attempt to have the “right” answer. She believed that if Jesus was there, He would have healed Lazarus. Jesus didn’t need to correct her theology. Mary had the theology of intimacy. She knew His heart. I believe that is what moved Jesus to weep."

The idea of Jesus weeping, out of sympathy for His disciples in pain over losing a friend and brother, is given a slightly different spin by C.S. Lewis. The following is from:
C. S. Lewis: The Sense or Nonsense of the Christian Idea (Part 5 of 5) by Jacob Schriftman:

"I ended my last post by saying that C. S. Lewis could quite easily picture a universe in which vicariousness has been redeemed and is only used in a good way. In his view, we do not have to throw out Nature with the bathwater. The Christian message neither merely confirms nor flatly contradicts our experience in nature, but offers a new twist to a recognized principle."

[Sidebar: The point, here, is that Jesus weeps because, as a product of Nature, He participates in one of the activities of Nature: vicarious connection with all other creatures on the physical plane. People of many religious persuasions deny the spirituality of the physical as Maya, and reject those limitations outright. As we have lately been affirming, repeatedly, Jesus came to validate the spirituality of the physical, thus creating the possibility of a Heaven on Earth. It would follow, therefore, that any of the participations of His disciples, in Natural vicariousness, would also be behaviors available and proper to Him.

Back to Schriftman:]
"The Christian message neither merely confirms nor flatly contradicts our experience in nature, but offers a new twist to a recognized principle.

That point is an important one, because it distinguishes Christianity from the vicariousness of other religions that are either nature religions or anti-nature religions. The nature religions simply drive men to fulfill their natural desires: “You actually got drunk in the temple of Bacchus. You actually committed fornication in the temple of Aphrodite. The nature religions simply give a new sanction to what I already always thought about the universe in my moments of rude health and cheerful brutality.”

And the anti-natural religions are simply a flat denial of nature: “I starve my flesh. I care not whether I live or die.” This merely repeats “what I have always thought about it in my moods of lassitude, or delicacy, or compassion.”

But Christianity is different. It never says that death does not matter, that we ought to deny nature altogether. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus and shed tears of blood in Gethsemane. Death—that is, Christ’s vicarious suffering—is “an appalling horror; a stinking indignity.”And yet, it is not only that. It is also infinitely good. “Christianity does not simply affirm or simply deny the horror of death: it tells me something quite new about it.”

In the line, "Death is an appalling horror; a stinking indignity. And yet, it is not only that. It is also infinitely good,"  there is a subtle implication that leads us to our next point; the implication is that:
the vicarious character of Jesus' weeping may not have been merely sympathy for His loved ones, but may have included a component of transcendent wisdom.

The interpretation, of Jesus' weeping out of sympathy for His disciples in pain, is overwhelmingly endorsed by the majority of commentators on this scripture. But, as I mentioned above, there is yet a third interpretation of the sentence, "Jesus wept," and it is a radical interpretation, to be sure. This interpretation comes from, you guessed it, Rudolf Steiner. From I AM the Resurrection and the Life - Five by Kristina Kaine, we read:

"Rudolf Steiner says that it was not for sorrow but for joy that Jesus wept. He wept for joy that the god in Lazarus may be manifest, that the I AM in him may be revealed."

 Remember that, above, we emphasized the point the "Jesus wept silently." Elsewhere, the point has been made that the weeping of mourners was a loud raucous affair, street theater in a quite legitimate sense of the term. Jesus weeping silently makes two points:

1. that He wasn't making His weeping a part of the show, and
2. this expression of inner, private feeling may mean something other than the outward displays of sorrow, that were felt to be appropriate by everyone else there.

At this point we get closer to the complex meaning of the sentence, "Jesus wept." Surely, the idea of weeping out of sympathy cannot, under any circumstances, be discounted; but the wrinkle that Steiner adds about, "weeping for joy", must not be dismissed offhandedly either. Why couldn't it have been BOTH? Smiling through tears is a concept that has been legitimized at many times, by many religions. Indeed the balance between joy and sorrow might well be a valid definition of the "middle path" that is a cornerstone of Gautama Buddha's teaching, and it certainly qualifies as a possible interpretation of Steiner's insistence on balancing the Satanic and Ahrimanic consciousnesses.

Balance between opposites is the larger subject into which we have entered, and there is way too much to be said. However, we absolutely may not mention the balance of polar opposites without at least a sidelong tip of the hat to ying and yang:

From Urban dictionary:
A ying-yang is a circular symbol split in half so that each half looks like a sideways tear-drop. The two sides are labeled Ying and Yang. Ying is white with a circle of black in the bulb of its tear and has the point of the tear up. Yang is black with a circle of white in the bulb of its tear, its point is down.

A ying-yang symbolizes the belief that there are two sides to everything. No light without dark, no day without night, no happiness without sadness, no good without bad, etc.

It also shows that nothing is purely good or bad or so on and so forth."

In keeping, with my efforts to provide a common ground for comparing and contrasting some of the New Age, and Eastern religious philosophies, I was interested to find the following article on the web:
Jesus and Yin Yang
Posted: January 2, 2011:
"It struck me yesterday as I drove behind a car with a yin yang sticker that there is a key understanding about the person of Jesus that can be better seen through a simplistic look at the yin yang of Taoist Chinese philosophy. I know I am comparing polar opposites here, Jesus, who chose to save the people he helped create from eternal destruction, and Taoist philosophy which is most often contrary to the teachings of Jesus. While I do not wish for anyone to decide that Jesus and yin yang can exist as mutual beliefs, I do, however, think that we can use the concept of yin yang to learn something important about the nature of Jesus.

“The concept of yin yang is used to describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other.” (Thanks to Wikipedia for explaining it far more simply than most other sources I could find.) This basic concept of seemingly opposite forces that are interconnected and interdependent is that which I believe is useful for a better understanding of Jesus.

John 1:14 (NIV version) says that “the Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” As a follower of Jesus, one of my desires is to live a life that typifies the characteristics of Jesus, GRACE and TRUTH. If I can do this then I will bring God glory which in turn brings me joy. (For who can honestly say that they do not find joy in celebrating the magnificence of the things they revere?)

From my experience it is difficult to find an accurate balance between GRACE and TRUTH. How can we (those who embrace a relationship with Jesus) be full of grace and truth as Jesus was? Grace and truth can appear so contrary, and so, often, people end up being full of only GRACE or only TRUTH. My opinion is that being full of grace only, leads to an amoral culture where everything goes (seem familiar). Whilst being full of truth only, leads to a fundamentalist culture where no-one can think for themselves (also sadly familiar). How can we be full of grace and truth as Jesus was?

This is where I find yin yang to be a helpful example. We need to see grace and truth not as opposing actions but as interconnected qualities that give rise to, and strengthen, each other. The more truth we know, the more grace we show, and so on and so forth. I believe there is less purely black and white in a life of relationship with Jesus than is often believed and I believe there is more that is absolute than the other side believes. In the midst of this yin yang is the complete fullness of Jesus who totally combines all of GRACE and TRUTH to bring glory to God.

In future when I look at a yin yang symbol I am going to be reminded that Jesus is in everything and that I need to seek his TRUTH and his GRACE in order to live a balanced life."

[Sidebar: On the reasons this author chooses Grace and Truth to represent polar opposites, I choose not to speculate; but the bottom line of this little piece is that a Christlike life requires balance--a balance between all negative and positive forces. We have seen this in Steiner's theory of the Satanic and Ahrimanic forces, and in Blake's theory of contraries.]

Another example is taken from Deepak Chopra's book, God:A Story of Revelation  where he gives this quote from the medieval saint, Julian of Norwich:

"God showed that sin shall be no shame, but worship. For right as to every sin is answering a pain by truth, right so for every sin, to the same soul is given a bliss by love."

The danger here, is that, in balancing these opposing forces, it is likely that we will deduce that the result is stasis, neutrality. The next comments from our lakeliveslife commentator are expressed in an extremely illiterate fashion, but, nevertheless hit on a crucial point:

"See, my thing is, Yin and Yang is actually right, in a way - if you combine darkness and light and see them as equal and complimentary forces, then it is true that they ultimately become one and the same. To put it a little simple, if you combine black and white paint, you get grey paint. Jesus, on the other hand, has come up with an ingenious way to combine darkness and light, evil and good, to produce only white/light/good. He has worked out a way to mix black and white paint and end up with white paint. And, even though his way is extremely costly (to him), he offers it to us."

Indeed, the mixing of black and white to get white is the miracle of the Christ Consciousness--except that that metaphor does not really hold water because the mixing of black and white raises the whole game to a higher level--a level where black and white do not even exist. It is a charming play on words, though, don't you think?

Again, from Julian of Norwich we read:

"Truth sees God, and wisdom beholds God, and of these two comes the third: that is, a holy marveling delight in God: which is love."

Indeed, all our verbal reasoning and bargaining comes to nothing when the spiritual power of love is thrown into the equation.

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by the Reverend Bill Darlison, June 14th, 2009:

Smiling through the Tears:

"At the beginning of February this year I gave an address called Lacrimae Rerum, ‘the tears of things’. It was inspired by a passage in Virgil’s Aeneid in which Aeneas weeps as he looks at representations of the Trojan War, and laments, ‘There are tears at the heart of things, and men’s hearts are touched by what human beings have to bear.’ The address went on to suggest that all of us are born to suffer as a condition of life, and that the realisation that this is so should engender feelings of compassion for suffering humanity within us all. At the end of the address I said that one of our greatest human qualities was the ability to smile through the tears, and I promised that one day I would preach on this. . .

I suppose that the traditional religious answer would be that our suffering here on earth is temporary, and that one day all tears will be dried and we will all live happily together in God’s kingdom, either here on earth or in the celestial realms. In heaven, they tell us, our earthly suffering will seem like a bad dream from which we have thankfully awoken. There’ll be no more pain, no more wars, no more starvation, no more crime, no more unfairness, and no more death. There are numerous scriptural passages which could be used to substantiate this particular hope. . .

We have to explore ways in which we can come to terms with our own mortality – smile through the tears. First, we can refuse to accept the bleak picture of life painted by those tortured souls who seem to have dominated the literary landscape for a century or so. Sometime in the fifties and sixties ‘happy endings’ passed out of literature and film, and it became a mark of sophistication to declare that life was pointless, and even that it would be better never to have been born at all. The plays of Samuel Beckett, which purport to strip life down to its bare essentials, and present human beings inventing ways to escape the boredom and the futility of existence, stem from a view of life which I personally cannot share, and which I suggest most human beings cannot share. Beckett’s uncle described life as ‘a disease of matter’, which is probably the most cynical and pessimistic assessment of existence ever made, but I cannot go along with it. I, no doubt like you, have waded through numerous books, and sat through countless theatrical and cinematic presentations of this depressing view of life, but I’ve never been convinced that it described my experience. Even when I considered such assessments chic and intellectually respectable, cheerfulness kept breaking through. ‘I’m glad I’m alive,’ I would think. ‘I don’t believe any of this miserable stuff, and what’s more, I don’t think the authors really believe it either.’ As Mr. Micawber says in Dickens’ David Copperfield, ‘No man needs to feel the pains of life while he has access to shaving equipment’. . .

A second way in which we can come to terms with the pains of existence is to recall frequently just how amazing it is to be alive at all. Richard Dawkins, who has been accused of taking the magic out of life by dispensing with God, says in his book Unweaving the Rainbow, that we don’t need God to appreciate the unlikely nature of our existence. He becomes almost mystical as he contemplates the vast chain of accident and coincidence, stretching into the remotest antiquity, which has produced a single human life. ‘The thread of historical events by which our existence hangs,’ he writes, ‘is wincingly tenuous’, and on the statistics of causation alone, the chances of any one of us being born are the same as the odds that ‘a penny, tossed at random, will land on a particular ant crawling somewhere along the road from New York to San Francisco’. . .

I was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2002. My condition intensified my response to life and gave me an understanding of love and commitment for which I have ever since been grateful, and it taught me not to live too far into the future. Even in the darkest days of my illness I could not remain downcast for long. I would tell myself that although my death was imminent, it was unlikely to occur today, so I could save my worrying for another time. . .
A little anonymous piece I found on the internet a while ago puts this approach in a nutshell:

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised, and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coiffed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she manoeuvred her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet curtains that had been hung on her window.

‘I love it,’ she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

‘Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room .... just wait.’

‘That doesn't have anything to do with it,’ she replied.

‘Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it ... It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away ... just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account--you withdraw from it what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. 
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

Free your heart from hatred.

Free your mind from worries.

Live simply.

Give more.

Expect less.
How do we smile through the tears? We decide we are going to. It’s a choice we have to make every day."
To be sure, this little piece has its problems, but the idea of choosing happiness over sadness, is not unlike the choosing the Open Door to Heaven. Hence, smiling through tears may not be a description of a state of mind as much as it describes the moment of stasis, physical existence, before positive action is taken to claim our birthright as sons of God.

On the subject of smiling through tears, I have a personal experience  to relate: as I have repeated many times in the past few months, Jesus has made a Heaven available to us on earth; however, in order to access this Heaven on earth, we must exercise will, that is to say we must choose. Now, I have a lot of pain in my life--I have a lot of bad memories, lots of crummy things have happened to me. Unfortunately, it is a habit of mine to ruminate over the these memories in idle hours; I can be driving along, writing a sermon, working on music, even watching television, and at any random moment a bad memory, one of many habitual bad memories, can leap into the forefront of my mind and destroy my mood, driving me towards negative thoughts and feelings, sometimes almost to the point of suffocation. It is in these moments of negativity that I am learning to turn my thoughts toward Heaven and substitute the heavenly vision for the dark vision that I'm seeing with the eyes of bad memory. I am happy to report that I am getting better at this, day by day, and that I am getting practice at keeping it up for longer periods of time. Invariably when I choose this state of mind, when I choose to see through the veil of Maya, and observe spiritual resonance laid out before me, I invariably exchange these tears of sorrow and self-pity, for tears of joy, and those memories of my misfortunes diffuse into a disappearing mist. The tears of joy are always accompanied by a thrill that runs through my entire body, and the chattering voice of my monkey mind is drowned out by Angel voices.

What follows are a collection of meditations on the subject of smiling through tears:

Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
 "And the smile that is worth the praises of earth is the smile that shines through tears."
"I laugh that I may not weep."


"Crying with the wise is better than laughing with the fool."

Sir Winston Churchill:
"I like a man who grins when he fights."

Christina Rossetti:
"Better by far you should forget and smile. Than that you should remember and be sad." 
From George MacDonld's Phantastes:

 “Past tears are present strength.”

“I rose as from the death that wipes out the sadness of life, and then dies itself in the new morrow.”

“As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy.”

Why did Jesus weep? Can we ever pin down the reasons for the a actions of the Christ on any occasion? I doubt it--the reasons for Divine ceremony are beyond reason itself, and thus we must understand with our hearts alone and weep with Him, and smile with Him.

Let us pray: Jesus, the magnitude of your humanity is as staggering for us to contemplate as any other aspect of Your Divine Nature. Open our hearts to receive from you the vibrations of sympathy, love, and hope. Amen.