Frontiers of Wisdom

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Part of "Frontiers of Wisdom"

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#set-frontiers-of-wisdom

Box labeled "Master for Duplication". What was the intended purpose?

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You have to submit your title about a year and a half early, and by the time you get to the retreat itself, that may be part of history, that particular part of your thinking. So there's a little of that involved in this one. Another idea snuck up on me during the year, which is equally exciting, if not more, and that's the idea of the revolution of Jesus, following a particular structure, a particular image of that, which I'll try to outline during this talk. So you'll find some tension between those two formulas, between the idea of the frontiers, which are things that we encounter, and that challenge us, and that also invite us or offer something to us. And on the other hand, there's the thing that happens inside Christianity, and that begins from within Christianity, and it begins to transform the world, the idea of a revolution centered and beginning in Christ. So I'll talk about two dimensions of that, a kind of vertical and a horizontal.

[01:00]

Wisdom Christianity, first. What's that? Well, most of you, those of you who have been to these retreats before, know what it is, or you only need to have it recalled to you. But Wisdom Christianity, or Sapiential Christianity, sapientia is simply the Latin word for wisdom, and so it is a kind of, an expression of Christian truth, which is not just theology, but spirituality. So it's not only the truth in an objective way, but it somehow also involves the subject of participation, which is instinctively what we want. So it's not a classroom theology, it's more a theology of the heart, mind and the heart. But the mind, but emphatically the heart as well. So it might be called a poetic theology, or even a musical theology, a theology which combines knowledge with love, knowledge and love, as they used to call it in the old days, the loving knowledge, the wisdom of God. And it is the theology of Christianity for the first twelve centuries or so, almost exclusively.

[02:06]

And then a more rational kind of theology took over, and theologians started talking about what they were doing as science. Scientia, rather than wisdom, sapientia. It became more analytical, more conceptual, with clearer outlines, just like science usually does, as contrasted, for instance, with poetry, and so on. So what I'm interested in is a kind of rebirth of sapiential theology, which you can see. You can see, but it doesn't have a name, and it doesn't have a capital, as it were. So it's scattered, and it hasn't found its unity yet. But in writers like Thomas Merton, or Karl Rahner, coming from another angle, or a number of other ones that you yourselves will know, or one that we encountered this year, we gave a retreat, Ronald Rolheiser, sapiential theology is already around in different forms, which haven't yet somehow congealed into a single organic entity. And meanwhile, there's a lot of work to be done.

[03:08]

The, what do you call it, the stakes are high. That is, the promise of a new sapiential theology is very rich, because it's contagious, because it makes Christianity palatable, makes it attractive, makes it something you can assimilate, makes it something that has meaning, not only for your head, but also for the rest of you. And it is the original theology of the New Testament. At least the deeper and more, what would you say, more reflective parts of the New Testament, especially John and Paul. The literature that we attribute to John and Paul is largely sapiential. So I'll have an example or two for you. So it's experiential, it's related to feelings as well as thoughts, it's a theology of loving knowledge, it's participatory. That's a key word for me. That is, to know it, you have to do it, or you have to in some way be it. You have to become it. If you're talking about Christ, then somehow it comes from your experience of participating in Christ. What you know, what you understand, what you think, what you write.

[04:10]

So that's the sales pitch for this wisdom theology, which I'm sure that all of you, in one way or another, have already encountered. But it's been dormant for quite a while, as a total organism, okay? For about how many centuries? Eight centuries, something like that. It sort of went to sleep, it sort of got relegated to the margins of Christianity, and also to the esoteric branches, the esoteric traditions, you know. So it'll come across in the writings of Gurdjieff, or come across in the Theosophy, and so on. All different kinds of ways, from all different kinds of angles. Here's an example. This is Romans 8, that unique chapter, Paul's letter to the Romans, just part of it. Starting with verse 18, going about 27. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us, or in us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will,

[05:16]

but by the will of him who subjected it in hope. Because the creation itself, everything that exists, everything that is, this world, this universe, the creation itself, will be set free from its bondage to decay, and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning and travail together until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as children, sons, literally, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Notice the things that are joined together here. That are joined together inseparably, you might say. The cosmos and the microcosmos, okay? The whole universe, the whole creation, and ourselves. And this groaning in the whole universe, and the groaning in all of the creatures, and especially in the living creatures, and the creatures that are feeling, creatures that can suffer. The groaning in all of those creatures, and the groaning in our own hearts. That's typical of sapiential theology, which leaps across the boundaries

[06:18]

and joins things that seem like opposite extremes, very often. The subjective and the object, the cosmos and the microcosm. And that's a lot of the excitement of it, is that when it talks about one thing, it's talking about everything, very often. When it's talking about one thing, it's like touching an organism at one point, but touching the whole being, touching the whole thing, touching the whole body of reality, somehow. So, it's exciting from that point of view. This is also exciting, isn't it? Because it's talking about something, not only do we experience it, but somehow it gives it... I don't want to say edifying, it's kind of a dead word, but it gives it an inspiring dynamism, it gives it an inspiring movement. That these pains, these things, the negativities that we suffer, and there are plenty of them in this world, in this life, are pains of childbirth, are the sufferings of something, sufferings somehow that are inevitable, or they are necessary, if the birth is to take place, even though we don't know how and why.

[07:20]

So, it's a transforming theology, because it gives you that basic New Testament message of hope. Now, we've got in our title also the idea of frontiers. Frontiers and encounters. These things that we run into that confront us sometimes, surprise us, shock us, and we don't know how to deal with them. And the church, as you know, has encountered plenty of those things for the last 500 years, if not the last 800 years. And, in fact, those things knocked Roman Catholicism into a kind of ghetto or defensive mentality for about 500 years. You know, between the Protestant Reformation and Vatican II, the church was in a kind of defensive and militant stance. So, we're kind of emerging from that period, and emerging into a great big field of hopes, which we need to discern. Hopes and also dangers. So, sinkholes and things. What do we encounter? We encounter, as we look over the fence, outside our own Christian faith,

[08:23]

and outside our Christian theology and understanding, we encounter a new world, a modern world. We encounter modern thought, you know. We encounter existentialism, or post-modernism, or Marxism, or wherever you want. We encounter a new theology. I mean, a new cosmology, a new view of the world. Think among the Christians of Teilhard, and Thomas Perry, and Brian Swim, and that whole new tradition of a new cosmology, an evolutionary cosmology. We encounter a sense of history, that everything is moving, somehow. And we somehow have to catch up, or even get going, because it won't stand still as we stand still, and if we stand still. We inquire, we encounter a new social consciousness, okay? The issues of social justice become very pressing upon us, a new ecological sense. We encounter a global horizon, don't we? All of a sudden, we have to open ourselves to a global consciousness, to realizing all the time that we're living among the whole of humanity,

[09:23]

and not just the people that are visible to us, or that visibly affect us. It's a whole bunch of things that we encounter. And then we encounter the East. We encounter the other religious traditions, particularly those of the East have hit us with a special impact, as if they resonate deep into our own Christian tradition. We don't understand exactly how. The traditions of Hinduism, and of Buddhism, and of Taoism. Why is it that they seem to make the foundations, the heart of Christianity, vibrate somehow? And we know that they're different, very different from Christianity, but what is it that we have in common? That's another one that... But I would propose that all of these encounters, all of these challenges have a promise, and Christianity is not what it should be. It's not as big as it should be. It's not as inclusive as it should be. I remember Simone Weiss said that, I can't become a Catholic because Catholicism excludes too many things that I love. That shouldn't be true. Even the word Catholic means something that contradicts that.

[10:25]

It shouldn't exclude what people love. What people love is somehow coming from God, and our own faith, our own religion has to find a way to embrace it. Not necessarily completely to understand it. We'll never do that. But to understand it at its heart, to be able to affirm it, to be able to find it, to feel our resonance with it. But that's talking kind of in generalities. One thing here, one movement which we've had to make is to start thinking of Christ and of Christianity as an event. Okay. Because for a long time... I don't want to keep saying before Vatican II, but it's implicit in much of what I'm saying. For a long time, we thought of Jesus as a person, as a divine human person. And a great deal of theological energy was spent on defining that, remember? From the early centuries of the church. The person who is both God and man. One person, two natures. Things that can be hard to understand, but they're conceptual. Okay. But the trouble was that we tended to isolate Christ from...

[11:28]

There was Christ in us, certainly, okay? In our spirituality, in our piety. But we isolated Christ from everything else. We drew a circle. We cut a circle around Christ in order to study Christ. And in doing that, we lost a lot of Christ. Because Christ is the center of everything else. And if you abstract him in that way, if you cut him out, circumscribe him, and just try to look at him without looking at the rest, then his work is no longer understandable, really. And also, Christ is essentially intrinsically unitive. So he's intrinsically participating in solidarity with other things, with all of those things. So, isolated in the sense he's killed. I'm exaggerating a little bit. So, we did that with everything. We were so analytical that we isolated everything in order to study it, like a scientist does now. Put it in a test tube and make sure it's not contaminated with anything else, and then give it your heats and your pressures and your stuff. But you can't do that with Christ.

[12:31]

He demands to be inclusive. But to think of Christ as an event, as something that happened. Now, that's not a complete view of Christ, obviously. He's also someone. In a sense, he's something. But particularly, he's someone. And he's a divine someone. He's also something that happened. Something that happened. One encounter that we have is with a historical sense. It's been growing in the West for how many centuries? You know, at least three, three or four. That somehow everything is moving. Everything is a product of a history. Everything came into being gradually. A revolution derives from that kind of, that tradition of thinking. That God didn't just create things immediately in their final forms, but he planted the seed and then let it emerge according to its own principles, the principles that he had put in it. The power that he had put in each thing. And so with us. We have a kind of a freedom of development and autonomy in that sense, in that picture. But that creation is an event, and Christ is an event.

[13:31]

It's like event number one is the creation itself. And we've always thought of it that way. But that's a continuing event. Event number two is Christ, the Christ event. And that too is a continuing event. It's like two big banks. The first one with which the universe is still expanding, right? You know, that microwave radiation and things going further and further apart, as the universe still expands from that first explosion. The second one is like that too. It's still happening. In other words, the universe, and we ourselves especially, human beings, are still moving. History is still moving under the impulse, under the momentum of that first explosion. That's why we talk about the Christ event with such emphasis, okay? With such intensity. Because everything is there. It's the big bang. And the Christ event, ultimately, if you scrutinize it under the highest magnification, is what? The death and resurrection of Jesus. But we don't have to isolate just that part, because the whole of it, the whole of his life and his continuing existence and influence.

[14:36]

Influence is too weak a word. Continuing power. All of it is relevant. All of it is what we're interested in, because we are in the field of that power, in the field of that energy. So Christ has an event... Christianity has a continuing event, as the continuing event of Christ. And Christ has an event which affects everything. I think often we have thought of the effects of the event of Christ as just being within the church, just being within Christianity. People being drawn into salvation through being brought into the church, in faith and in baptism. But it's much more than that, isn't it? The coming of Christ somehow, the event of Christ, has affected everything, has touched everything. And that's evident enough, I think, in the Western world, where a very secular world grows out of Christianity, grows out of a Christian tradition, and therefore ultimately grows out of that same event of Christ, which liberated a human person.

[15:37]

Liberated a human person to such an extent that without even knowing Christ, people are born into a kind of expanding freedom, a culture, a kind of water, a context, a medium of freedom, which they eat and drink, which they breathe. And so they inherit, as it were, that freedom from outside, and from the culture itself. A freedom which is complete enough so that you can also forget where it came from, if you ever knew. Which the secular culture largely has, hasn't it? It doesn't consider that its roots are in Christianity. That the human being has been liberated by Christ to have that autonomy, to be able to kind of make its own world, to make a new world of its own, without even mentioning God. But the freedom goes that far. Sometimes with awful results, as we know. But then to think of Christ not only as an event, but as a revolutionary event, as a revolution. That's a gospel for discontented people.

[16:39]

Okay. It's particularly attractive to people who don't like the music that's playing, who don't like the way things go, who have always been discontented with their lives. I happen to be one of those people, and so I'm very fond of the idea of the revolution of Jesus. You might ask, Why a revolution? Didn't he come to straighten things out, to correct things, to put them back into shape, to complete what had been done in the creation? Yes, he did. But if you look at the New Testament, notice how dramatic it is. Look at the central image of Christ that we inherit from New Testament time. What is it? It's a cross. It's contradiction. It's the image of contradiction. It's not a tree. It's not a pretty tree, a flowering tree, a flourishing tree, a fruitful tree. It's a cross. And so it is in the New Testament. It's not the way it ought to be if it were a nice story. It's not a story for children, the New Testament quite is it. There's too much that's violent in it. There's too much that's awful. It has to be in some way sweetened for our children, usually, I believe.

[17:42]

It's dramatic. And there's something in us that needs drama, isn't there? There's something in us that needs a story, not just a formula, not just a scientific chart with tables and numbers and figures and equations, so it's going to work out to thirty-two and a half fine, you know. That's not enough for us. We need drama. We need excitement. We have ever since we were kids. We need something that turns around. We need something that surprises us. We need something that thrills us. We need a story which moves into the darkness of impossibility and then explodes into light, don't we? We need that. We need the movie, not only with a happy ending, but with the utterly incredible ending. The thing that couldn't have happened because things were so bad. Don't we need that? Don't we somehow know that in our hearts? Don't we know that at our center? That's what we want. That's why we go to those movies, I think. We need not just a happy ending, but an utterly surprising, astonishing ending. And that's what the New Testament is about. I mean, Jesus' death and resurrection,

[18:47]

that's as far as you can go in that direction, I think. That they have to be developed, they have to be spelled out, they have to be brought into our own experience. That's that turnaround, that dramatic, impossible conclusion. That surprise, that utter surprise. More surprising than the creation itself, in a way. Because by the time we get to that point, it's been raining for too long, it's been dark for too long. The good, the utterly good good has become impossible. We can't even imagine it anymore. And then it happens. Then it bursts through like a springtime in one moment, in one second. So, Christ is revolution. If you think about it, it may grow on you. But also, that makes Christ a revolutionary, and it makes Christians revolutionaries, doesn't it? It makes Christians revolutionaries as if the prevailing reality, as if the establishment, in some way, was wrong. And as if we had the truth. As if the whole thing's run by the mafia, okay?

[19:49]

And we have the secret, and we're going to crack it. Well, in some way it's true, isn't it? I mean, that's the kind of world we're in. Not that people aren't good. Not that families aren't good. Not that there isn't a tremendous amount of good in the world. Not that the world itself isn't good. But something's wrong. Something's wrong. Why are so many people starving? Why are so many people poor? Why are the rich so rich and the poor so poor? Why does it continue like that for centuries and millennia, okay? Why do people suffer so badly? People that have never done anything wrong. Why do kids grow up in the inner city without a chance? With nothing but drugs and gangs. Why is that? Something's wrong. Something's terribly wrong. And it's not only for human beings. I think it's centered in human beings. But look around you. Why do all the critters have to eat one another, for heaven's sake? That's that futility, that groaning that Paul talks about in the whole creation. Something's wrong. Now, according to Paul, in that little bit that I read from Romans 8,

[20:51]

that's somehow centered in the human person. It somehow started with the human person, according to the biblical story, original sin, the fall. But the human person, in Jesus, attains the power to turn it around. Jesus, God becomes a human person, turns the key, and then hands that key on, so that human beings... The key is in their heart. That human beings have the power to turn that whole thing around. That's what I mean by revolution. Don't we need some kind of posture like that in life, in the world, that has that kind of thrill to it? Don't we need that kind of vocation in some way? And I think that is a Christian vocation. Whether for the heroic missionary, or the Berrigans, you know, who stand up and go to prison. Whether it's that way, or whether it's ordinary Christian life, and fighting against the terrible weight of egotism, the terrible weight of selfishness and isolation, and the weight of cynicism and discouragement, and all of that that goes with it. Fighting against that.

[21:52]

Instead of saying... Instead of cursing when you first wake up in the morning to be able to bless. Thank God, another day, another chance, another blank sheet of paper for me to write on. Another possibility of discovery. Another certainty of surprise. So anyway, I contend that there's something deeply wrong. Christianity has always contended that. We can't let it weigh us down, because precisely the thing that we're given is the thing that's victorious over that. Precisely what's given to us, the secret, the key that's put into us, not into our hands so much as into our hearts, but in our hands too, is the thing that turns it all around. The simple, simple thing of faith, and hope, and love. And they're all one thing. They're all that one positive energy, okay? It says yes instead of no. Yes instead of no. We had Ronald Roelhofer for a retreat this year, and it was a marvelous retreat. I think it was the best one I ever had here.

[22:54]

And he boils things down very simply. He doesn't talk much about Christ, but the spirit that's in him and that speaks to him, and the light that he sheds on things comes from Christ. So he's talking about the basic option of life, you know. What is it? Well, it's whether to bless or to curse, basically. Whether to say yes or whether to say no. To what life confronts us with. From within ourselves, and from around ourselves, in front of ourselves, and behind ourselves. Whether to say yes or say no. Whether to bless or to curse. If I look into my own life, I find that in the long run, that's the truth. That's true. It's as simple as that. If we can continually say yes, if we can continually... If we can find the secret somehow of blessing. And it goes further than just saying a thank you, or just saying a word of praise, or a poem, or something. It goes further than that, doesn't it? It goes far enough to communicate the same blessing to somebody else. In other words, it's something that gets passed on.

[23:57]

Jesus said, I came to bring fire into the world. Remember? How I am squeezed, how am I constrained until it's lit, until it's burning. And that fire has been given to us. And it's one utterly simple thing, which can be manifested in a thousand forms. In other words, it's always moving in the same direction. It's always coming from the same place. It's always moving in the same direction. It's always moving into light. To light rather than darkness. Even though it goes into the middle of the darkness, and then blazes, then turns off, and dawns from there. But it itself is always moving. Sometimes, I think Jung, for instance, would want to even things up. He loves balance by putting evil in God as well as good. But that's not the Christian picture. The Christian picture is that God is light. God is light, and in the light there is no darkness. The light moves through darkness and then transforms it. It turns the darkness into light. So that whole revolutionary idea, I kind of recommend it.

[25:01]

It finds the kind of zest in life that I think we have coming to us in some way. And it can also be the key to finding our own vocation. In what way am I supposed to be a revolutionary? Of course, everybody is supposed to be the revolutionary in that fundamental way of faith and open love, which I like to call fontality. Fontality, font from fountain, okay? Fontality means something that flows forth. Flows forth in one direction and doesn't go back, doesn't turn back on itself. That's certain, like yes. Yes is certain. Not yes but, but just yes. That energy, that flow, that liquid, that fountain. It's the fountain that Jesus promises. Remember in John's Gospel, he says, come to me and I'll give you living water. And whoever believes in me, a fountain of living water will open up in their hearts. And that's what we're given, that fountain. So we need to be able to recognize it. And that fountain is revolutionary. It's always flowing into a world that needs it, that's thirsty for it.

[26:03]

It has, there's nothing but space for it. A world that's asking to be liberated, as Paul said. Asking to be enlightened. Asking to be told what it is. Asking to be loved. Asking to be made conscious by a human person. Karl Rahner writes about poetry. He's got some, a couple of great papers on poetry, poetry and the Christian. And he says that the creatures are waiting to be recognized by human beings. That is, the animals, particularly, are waiting to be recognized by human beings and be brought into the light and the love of human consciousness, which is somehow their fulfillment. At least until the resurrection, at least in this life. Fascinating thought. That things are waiting to be recognized and loved and somehow dignified or liberated by us. It goes along with what Paul and Romans 8, that the whole creation is waiting to be liberated from futility. Futility means death, but it means also all the heaviness and the sorrow and the terrible drudgery

[27:07]

of anybody, any life, you know. Animal life or human life, to be liberated from that. But the whole creation is to be liberated through the human being. You ask, how do we start to do that? Well, first of all, I think, seeing the beauty that's in what God has created and affirming it. Sort of letting our love go there, too. Letting our love go to what God has made. And we don't even have to be praising God theologically or spiritually while we're doing it. We recognize that beauty. It's already the praise of God, isn't it? It's already the recognition and the acknowledgement and the affirmation. Affirmation, the essential word to affirm. So we'll be reading some poems tomorrow that kind of bear that up. There's a kind of a crack in the middle of this retreat plan because, as I mentioned, the first idea was the frontiers and then the revolution came along

[28:07]

and the two don't perfectly mix at every point. So that's a confession that I make now so that I won't be punished for it later. But there is a certain correspondence. In other words, I'm contending that there is a vertical revolution of Jesus and a horizontal revolution, okay? And the vertical revolution is the turning upside down of hierarchies, largely, okay? If you look at the New Testament, you'll find it everywhere. Everywhere. Read the Magnificat of Mary. It's in Luke chapter 2, you know. The high ones will be brought down and the poor ones will be elevated. So on and on and on. And so also in the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus. And so also in Jesus' own life, death and resurrection. There's this inversion, this revolutionary thing that's happening and it threatens the powers. Paul talks about the powers and dominions of his angelic beings, okay?

[29:08]

But it threatens the powers and so the powers want to hang on to what's already here. But the revolutionaries are invested in the future, aren't they? They're invested not in what you see, not in what you've got, not in your file over here. But they're invested in what's coming. They're invested in what's promised to us. They're invested in what corresponds not to... responds not to power, but to faith. Not to power, but to faith. And it turns out usually the people who have more power very easily have less faith, because they don't need it. And the people who have less power have more faith, because they really need it. So that investment in the invisible is where the heart of the Christian revolutionary is. Much could be said about power and the lack of power. Anyhow, you'll find a kind of disconnect between the revolution of Christ

[30:12]

and the frontiers and encounters that you were promised here in whatever was sent out. So it's the same old figure. I don't know if it's red this time. Double revolution. This is a historical revolution, a horizontal revolution. And this, what shall we call this one? I don't like to say metaphysical. It's social, spiritual. And in the end it goes much higher than just human hierarchies, or human top dogs and bottom dogs, and so on.

[31:13]

It goes all the way up to God, remember? Because we're talking about the incarnation, in which God becomes a human person. God enters into the human person, descends into this world, and comes in not at the top, but at the bottom. God comes in not at the top, but at the bottom, and then turns the whole thing over. Even though it takes decades and millennia of history to work that out, in principle, the whole thing has been turned over with the resurrection of Jesus. The one who was condemned as a criminal was put to death in the most humiliating, disgraceful, painful way, and arose from the dead to turn the whole thing around. So that's that vertical revolution. Now, horizontal revolution, the historical one, has an excitement of its own. And when Jesus said that he came to bring fire to the earth, that fire is something that he puts into the human person, puts into the human heart and into the human mind. And you can think of it as a fire of newness.

[32:15]

N-E-W-N-E-S-S, of newness, okay? Because, before Christ, it seems to me that, historically speaking, things went round and round like a clock. Round and round. The old visions of history, in most of the cultures, are cyclical visions, okay? That is, you go through a whole cycle, it may take thousands of years, and then you return to the beginning and start all over again. Like winding up a clock, and then continuing to rotate. But Christianity, and also the Jewish phase before Christianity, gives you another kind of history. It's a linear history. It sounds dull, it sounds boring. But the fact is that the linear history is going somewhere. It's directed. It's not trapped in a circle. It doesn't have its own tail in its mouth. It's going somewhere. And where it's going is the interesting thing. Where it's gone. But with Jesus, when he brings this fire to the earth, what does he do? What does he put into history that wasn't there before? He puts into history a new energy which is able to make things new.

[33:21]

So the word new duplicates itself. It kind of winds around and becomes an intensity, a density of newness. A power of newness. Suppose that something new came into the world and whatever it touched became new. Suppose that not only what it touched became new, but what it touched had that power of newness by touching other things and renewing them. Well, that's what Jesus did when he came into the world. And that newness of God, of course, is the Holy Spirit. But we need expressions, we need translations like newness, I think. And the fathers of the church liked to think in that way. But they didn't have the same kind of sense of history that we have. This dynamic sense of history where we can see the world itself going somewhere. For better or for worse. We can see a progress which is not obviously reversible. It's going somewhere. So, that idea of the horizontal revolution, the historical revolution, as being the critical change that happens when a power of newness is put into the human being.

[34:25]

Because people before the time of Christ, I believe, people before 2,000 years ago didn't have much of a power of newness. Just as their picture of history was a cyclical picture, round and round and round. So, they themselves expected that their life would be that way too. It would return to earth and whatever, you know. But there wasn't a sense of building something that would last. They could build a dynasty, they could build a temple, they could build a palace. But in the end, it would all come down and crumble to dust. There wasn't this sense of making something new with a creativity which was a divine power. Even though they would use that language sometimes, I think. So, the power of newness given to the human person. I think that's the key to the transformation of history. And that's what you see especially in the West. If the East is deep, the West is creative. If the East is unitive, the West is historical. If the East knows the stillness and the infinite depth of the center, the divine center,

[35:31]

the West knows movement. And a movement which is also upward. A movement which is progressive. A movement which is positive. So, that contrast of East and West around that central point of the event of Christ. So, I leave you with those two dimensions of the revolution. And we'll be exploring them further. Now, the vertical revolution tends to move in two directions, as we'll see. The ascending direction and the descending direction. Jesus expands both of them as if he transformed both of those dimensions of human life. So, in the baptismal experience, one is reborn, and one's personality, as it were, expands. But then at the other end of it, that's changed just from, say, maturing, just from growing up, just from awakening, just from a natural process of education and natural enlightenment, you might say, to an initiation, a baptismal initiation.

[36:33]

The downward, the downward pull, the downward direction, what's that? Well, that's diminishment. That's when we get older, when we get sick, when the clock begins to run down. And finally, when we die. Can a new meaning be given to that? Well, it is by Jesus. So, you have a way of descent, which, of course, has been interpreted in our Christian spiritual traditions in several obvious ways. All self-renunciation, okay, could be considered that descending way. Especially the path of humility, which is pretty universal, but especially in Western monasticism, the rule of Saint Benedict, the chapter on humility, chapter 7, is the heart of the rule of Benedict. In all kinds of mortification, and all kinds of, what would you call it, renunciation, or attempts to get out of the enclosure of the self, of the little self, of the ego, all those descending ways. And sometimes, in a socially conscious pursuit of poverty, or consider Francis, you know, jumping off his horse and embracing the leopard.

[37:38]

Okay, that's descent, radical descent, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit. And so you can find a lot of other varieties of that. But the point is that Jesus gives a positive direction to that. Even when you're going down, you're going up. Even when you're going down, you're realizing the truth of yourself, you're realizing Christ in yourself, you're participating in the event of Christ, and specifically in the passion of death of Christ, okay? Whether it's aging, or whether it's illness, or whether it's some other thing that happens, or something that you deliberately take up. So, the ascent and the descent. What about the horizontal? The horizontal seems just to be moving ahead and not to be moving back. And that's certainly largely true in our time. But when we encounter the East, we encounter something else. We encounter something that seems to go back to the beginning. In other words, once again, Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism,

[38:41]

they want to go back, I believe, to the original, undifferentiated unity, okay? To the One, to the One, to the ground of being, to your original face before you were born, to the uncarved block. It's got all these different metaphors and the different traditions. Going back to the beginning, and the unity that was there before the differentiation, before even the separation, the sprouting of the individual human person from that original unity. Back into God, as it were. Back into the ground, the source, the origin, okay? And Christianity doesn't seem to pick that up very much today. However, it did traditionally. Traditionally, Christianity, often for maybe 1,500 years, was thought of as the going out. It would be the going out from paradise, the going out in the fall, the going, the alienation, the departure from God. Story of the prodigal son, okay? And then the turning around and the return to God.

[39:44]

The whole story of your redemption would be the return to God. So it's the prodigal son going out and then coming back. It's Adam going out from paradise, expelled from paradise because of his sin, because he's already separated from God. And then hearing the, somehow, the interior call, and turning around and going back to the Father. Christ coming back to the Father, as Adam had, and bringing humanity back to the Father, as Adam had led them away from the Father. So there was that. There was that return to the beginning. Until you get to a couple hundred years ago, and then the sense of progress, the progressive movement, becomes so strong in the West that that tends to be superseded by something else. Which is a movement forward in which you begin to be motivated by the future, by the end, instead of the beginning. And the extreme of that, as far as I'm concerned, is Teilhard. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who's been such a challenge to Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and such a blessing at the same time.

[40:45]

The two extremes for me are, among Christians, and among Christian religious, are Abhishek Tananda, going back to the beginning on one end, okay, going back east as far as you can go to the east. And Teilhard going about as far as you can go to the west. So Abhishek Tananda would return to the unity of the beginning, the undifferentiated unity of the one. And Teilhard would move forward to the unity of the end, which for him is the Christ Omega, okay? And the difference between the two is that the one is spiritual, just like divinity before creation and before incarnation, certainly. And the other one is not just spiritual, it's bodily. The Christ Omega is a physical reality, okay? So the process from one to the other is largely, overall, a process of incarnation. So that incarnation becomes the principle of history, which I believe is true, okay? And which puts history itself on a kind of descending vector,

[41:50]

a descending trajectory, as I think we can see in the West. Not descending, certainly, in terms of education, in terms of economic growth and prosperity, or things like that, but descending from a very spiritual theology and spirituality, for instance, to a very embodied spirituality and theology. Just think of the movement from Eastern Christianity to Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, okay? It moves in that incarnational direction. And so do many, many other things in the course of all of that history. So, there is a movement back which we have to recover. I think, once again, Rollheis is a good guide in that, I think, because he takes a whole bunch of old things and presents them in a fresh way, so that they open up and they become something you can experience. In a very positive way, in a very Christian way. For instance, the idea of blessing, or the idea of delight, which we'll talk about tomorrow, or a bunch of other things. In the New Testament, where do you find the return to the beginning?

[42:53]

In Jesus, where he takes your return to the beginning. One case is, remember when the question of divorce comes up there, asking Jesus these questions, can a man divorce his wife or not? And he says, well, it wasn't that way in the beginning. Moses gave you that prescription because of the hardness of your hearts. But in the beginning, it was another. So, Jesus takes him back to the beginning, restores the beginning. Other places? He spoke of what he saw become like children. Yes, good, good. Become like children, return to an early state, almost like an initial state. Also, in John's Gospel, that's where you really find it. Remember, John's Gospel starts with a prologue. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was... In the beginning, where do those words come from? It's the beginning of Genesis, right? It's the beginning of the first book of the Bible, and the beginning of the story of creation. So, John is deliberately, right at the beginning, taking you back to the beginning, because he wants to speak of a new beginning.

[43:54]

So, that one's kind of ambiguous, because it's both a beginning, but it's also a new beginning. It's moving forward. What about Jesus? What does he say that makes you think of a return to the beginning? This Nicodemus. Yeah? How do you read it? Now, this man's born again. He explains to Nicodemus that he has to go back to the original source. Yeah. Beautiful. Yeah, beautiful.

[44:56]

So, that's Nicodemus' resonation and promise, it's called. Yep, yes. And as I was saying, I was just thinking that not only he's telling Nicodemus that he has to be born again, but he talks about the wind, the spirit. That's right. And being able to... Also, the wind cannot... Being able to pick up the very subtle movements of the wind, being able to flow with it, turn out of pit and go. Yep, yep. When Jesus says, I am, I think he's talking about... He's talking about his being in the beginning. Remember where he says, before Abraham was, I am? So, he's sort of identifying himself as the beginning, because I am, of course, is a translation, Sego and me in the Greek, translation of the sacred name of God in the Old Testament. So, he's identifying himself with the creator. He's identifying himself with the beginning, with a capital B, okay? So, John's Gospel is like the eastern pole of Christianity. And that's where you find the return to the beginning, I think. Whereas Paul typically is a movement forward,

[45:57]

John often is something like a movement backwards. But it's tricky, because the new creation, the new element is very emphatically there. In John 20, you've got four episodes, each of which recalls the first creation. What's the first one? The first one is Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden, remember? Adam and Eve in the garden. The second one... What's the second one? It's where the beloved disciple goes into the tomb and sees the face cloth, remember, rolled up in one place, and the garments rolled up in another place. Remember, when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they didn't have any clothes, right? They didn't have any clothes. They were given clothes by God when they were thrown out of the garden. And the face cloth, I think that has a special significance, that's Sudarian. You know, your eyes are going to be open, and you're going to be like God's, knowing good and evil. Well, instead, their eyes and senses have been closed, but the blindness of their expulsion of their sin has been removed.

[46:59]

And there's another one. The next one is when Jesus comes to the disciples in the upper room, remember, and breathes into them and says, receive the Holy Spirit who sends you forgiven, who sends you retained and retained. Remember that? You see how it recalls the first creation? When God breathed his breath into Adam, and he became a living being. And then the last one is when Thomas is invited by Jesus to stretch forth his hand and put it into his side, and then be not unbelieving, but believing. And that one recalls when they were thrown out of the garden. And God said, or he said to his angels, whoever was listening there, well, let's close the garden or however it goes, so that they may not, man may not put forth his hand and take from the tree of life. So that's what Thomas is invited as it were,

[48:00]

to take from the tree of life by believing in Jesus and physically by putting his hand in his side. So John is continually pointing it back towards the beginning, as if where you're going somehow is beautifully symmetrical and balances perfectly where you're coming from. Where are you coming from? In the beginning, not in the middle. In the beginning, which was pure and is yet unspoiled. I don't want to hold you any longer. There's some other questions about the relationship between the two revolutions and so on. So I'll just leave that to you. They're really one revolution, but when we think about these things, we need to in some way differentiate, distinguish, so that we can just get a hold of them with our minds. Let me say something about the four talks here. You've got that little program sheet. So we did the first one, sort of at a run. The second one, we explored the vertical ascent, okay?

[49:04]

The vertical dimension, the vertical revolution moving upward, moving into ascent or expansion rather than contraction, okay? And identify that with the baptismal experience. But the particular attack I'd like to take onto it is through poetry, okay? Looking at poetry as a kind of breakthrough into this expansion into spirit or awakening. That kind of experience of, through delight, through delight, discovering the larger self, the larger dimension of self. And then... Yeah, that's that, okay. And then the next one, Saturday afternoon, is the horizontal one. We do all of that in one session. The movement from east to west, to from that unity of the beginning that I was talking about to the unity of the end. Revolution from past to future. From being determined by the past to being determined by the future.

[50:07]

Now, if you think about it, the risen Jesus is not just the past. He's not just something that happened in the past, not a moment at the end of his life where he expanded into resurrection physically, too. But it's also the future. That's where we're going, okay? And then, finally, on Sunday morning, we did the second dimension of the vertical, which is the descent, the contraction. Which I like to talk about in terms of Eucharist. We move from baptism, which is the receiving of the gift of God's Spirit, receiving of self, in the sense of receiving of ourselves in the deep and spiritual sense, okay, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to Eucharist as the giving of self in which we give self. We give our self, finally, okay? As Jesus did in the Eucharist and then on the cross, okay? So, thinking of the descent in Eucharistic terms. Also, you can think of that descent as a descent into earth, a descent into body, a descent into bread and wine,

[51:12]

a descent into matter, a descent into earth, which is our other vertical path there. And something which we have to do anyway, so we better do it with a yes rather than a... We have the blessing rather than the curse. That's where that one goes. And that one's influenced largely by Roheiser, that idea of descent, because he seems to be talking about that everywhere he writes. First of all, recognizing our limitations and so on, and then finding out how this turns around. The book of his that I've been reading is called Against an Infinite Horizon. And against this infinite horizon, everything else tends to shrink. But then, after it shrinks, it begins to glow, okay? After it's reduced to its own limitations, then it begins to take on some of the quality of the infinite light. So, any questions before we quit for the evening? Yes, sir? Just when we were talking about the fourth episode for John,

[52:14]

talking about the hand in the womb, could that also be that he's putting us in the position of you taking the rib from him, and saying something maybe also about the church, the new Christian community, after the Christ event, that somehow we're all being taken from that one thing that's in Christ? Could be. Usually, the place where that is usually understood as being in John, okay? In John chapter 19, when Jesus is on the cross, he has died, his side is pierced, and the blood and the water come forth, okay? So the blood and the water are very often interpreted as being Eucharist and baptism, water and blood, baptism and Eucharist, the sacraments. And that's the transmission of the very physicality, the divine physicality of Jesus, as it were, to the church. So the water and the blood together are interpreted as the church sometimes. The church as the new Eve being born from the side of Adam, okay?

[53:17]

So that's the more common interpretation, the more common, what do you call it, discovery of that particular movement of transmission to the church and of the church. Okay, well, thank you for your patience, and see you tomorrow morning.

[53:33]