Jesus Thoughts (7) : in the beginning....

Improvisation is part of this thread; I'm not always completely sure of what I'm going to say.  This is just a journal, Henry's Logos-log : I have to seize the day, free time is scarce... so when the moment is opportune, then here I am.  Maybe this diary will accumulate gradually into something of value.

Someday I'll try to write in more detail about the crisis, back in 1972-3, which entirely reshaped, re-oriented me.  I've posted scattered things here & elsewhere about it (including an essay in the 1994 anthology for Edwin Honig, A Glass of Green Tea), but much more could be written.  Someday.  For now, let's just say that - to paraphrase Simone Weil - when I was about 19 years old, I had come to the end of my "natural" self - I reached an inner limit, my merely personal spiritual resources were exhausted, burnt out.  I was sinking under the weight of my own natural  gravity - I was in need of supernatural grace.  & grace arrived, in the nick of time.

Faith itself is a spiritual gift.  Without it, the mystery of truth is too deep for any one person.  I know exactly how meaningless these phrases sound to someone who doesn't think they believe in God.  I've been there.  I'm still there.  But my convictions are firmer now than they were three, five, ten, fifteen years ago.  When convictions and principles are weak, then the short day's distractions, mistakes, temptations are strong.  Yet, as Roger Williams well knew, and proclaimed from his rustic rooftop - you can't force belief or conviction of any kind, on anyone.  An imposed conviction is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms - a mode of intellectual tyranny.

No doubt I could be dwelling in utter delusion; yet I feel confident instead.  I feel my vision of things as they are is growing more clear.  Not wise myself (& never have been) - still, I sense my perception becoming aligned with a truth that is inherent in reality.

I say these things because, to repeat, I understand how extremely difficult it can be to attain a rational basis for a spiritual truth.  I spent many years in the mid-1970s as a kind of wandering seeker, a dreamer - mostly in a kind of meditative trance (while hitchhiking around out West, or doing odd jobs in New York City or Minneapolis, or traveling to London with musical ambitions) : reading, reading, thinking, pondering... trying to grasp 1) what had happened to me, and 2) how to imagine - realistically - a "personal" divine Being.

Many writers & thinkers fall back on mystical paradoxes when confronted with these issues.  I can't disagree with them : I agree (reservedly) with Nicolas Cusanus, that there is a fundamental distinction between the finite and the infinite, the human and the divine - a logical distinction, in other words - which is, nevertheless somehow bridged and transcended in the Incarnation (the union of finite and infinite, of divine and human).  But mystical paradox can result in a sort of explanatory cul-de-sac.  It's poetry, not prose.

So today, here, I am going to sidestep in my discourse, make a flanking maneuver.  I'm simply going to assent to the irrational bridging of that distinction (as the diagonal bridges a square with an irrational number).  I'm going to take it, for the moment, on faith.  And I'm going to turn (return) to a schematic mapping of what seem to be some implications of such a (cosmological, ontological) logos-design.

To do that, let's go back and reiterate, in a new figuration, the main plot of the Bible.  We recall the "hexaemeral" cosmology of the opening chapters of Genesis.  The story is metaphorical, analogical - we were never meant to take it literally.  When Genesis states that God created the universe in 7 days, what the author is doing is aligning the cosmic, seasonal order of solar time with a theological explanation of that order.  It's convenient : it's "fitting" - it fits, since the 365 days of the solar year and the 12 months of the lunar cycle divide into 52 weeks of 7 days.  The story that the world was made in 7 days is a kind of hymn of praise disguised as a prose narration : it allows a people, a tribe, a community, to align itself with the cosmic order on a human level - on an ordinary, daily (weekly) basis.

All the seasonal festivals of ancient peoples are simply elaborations of this fundamental cultural orientation.  This is what is called piety : the structuring of human works and days on an attitude of trust and supplication offered toward the logos, the divine order, of the universe.  The dome, the house, the temple - fundamental, global phenomena representing what Osip Mandelstam (in a literary analogy)  termed an attitude of "domestic hellenism" - a radiant push-back against harsh existence with "teleological warmth" : confidence in humanity's ultimate place, a being-at-home on earth, a dwelling.

Of course, we are no longer ancients : we are modern.  In the context of 19th-21st century history & science, the voices conceptualizing a remote, impersonal cosmos, subject to randomness, chance, violence, and the finality of death, have grown strong.  For many, the notion of a cosmic Spirit, a somehow "personal" God, simply outrages our own rationality.  It's a shock to the mind.

Yet the mind itself is the key.  One meaning of Logos is "ratio".  The poet, the seer, deals not so much in analysis, but with analogy (leading to synthesis).  An analogy is a kind of ratio.  The fundamental ratio that structures belief in God was narrated at the climax of the creation story at the opening of Genesis : when "God made man, in his own image and likeness".  This too is a literary fiction : it was never meant to be taken literally.  But it symbolizes a ratio inherent in nature, in the entire cosmos.  Here is the analogy : just as the mind of Man (male & female) senses, interprets, & orders life on this planet, so the ineffable mind of God orders the cosmos which emerged from nothing.  Body is to mind as Man is to God : and the "Son of Man" is the verbal sign given to the summary, the totality, of that physical manifestation, that embodiment of the logos, the ratio.  "God is Spirit," declares Jesus, "and those who worship him do so in spirit and truth."  In this spirit, then - in this light - it's possible to recognize the signs of the "Son of Man" as omnipresent and pervasive throughout the natural world.

Suddenly we understand we are participating, mostly without being aware of it, in a planetary and cosmic mystery play : as St. Paul wrote, we are all dying to this "body of death", all at once - & all rising too : into that "third heaven" (the intellectual heaven, above the 1st heaven of the sky and the 2nd heaven of the stars).  Into the dimension of the eternal, "uncreated" Logos.  There the spirit of God is the living "person of persons" - that is, a personal being more personal than our own deepest experience and consciousness of personhood (as we have known it, imperfectly, in our own lives).

These are the strange metaphysical mysteries I've come to accept, after much hard experience, seeking & searching.  I know exactly how drastically they overturn the modern "rational" worldview.  But this is the way home; this is the fireplace in the kitchen of "domestic hellenism."

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