The Tree of Life

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.




Part of "The Spirituality of John's Gospel" retreat.

Archival Photo


Different date on cassette case vs. cassette itself. Case date -1995.MM.DD




I want to resume or pick up or recall a few things we said last night.
Remember we went through several figures looking for a kind of structure in John's Gospel
and arrived at a structure which is chiasm and which can be drawn in the form of a horseshoe
there with its five parts, or perhaps in a more satisfying way in the form of a cross
and a mandala.
I want to give you the reference for that article at Cahill, by the way, which is really
I've been looking at it again.
It's called The Johannine Logos as Centered, and it's from Catholic Biblical Quarterly,
1976, pages 54 to 72.
That together with Ellis' book sort of gives the elements, the basic points of view which
are coming together here, as far as the structure of John is concerned.
Now, we spent most of our time last evening talking about the center of that mandalic
figure, which is the, remember, verse 12 of the prologue and what we've called episode
or section 1 of the Gospel, which is chapter 6, 16 to 21, 16 through 21, and the center
of that is the words of Jesus, walking on the water, I am.
So it's centers within centers.
I didn't say anything.
I forgot to say much about the correspondence between those two centers.
The center of the prologue, you remember, is, to those who received him, who believed
in his name, he gave the power to become the children of God.
And the center of the Gospel narrative is the sea-crossing episode, Jesus upon the water
with the disciples on a boat, but especially those words, I am, give me a test, these are.
Now, the approach to use on these things is kind of to bring them together and then
reflect on them.
There are a lot of things in the Gospel of John that come alive when you bring the two
of them together.
This is a case of that.
Take the center of the prologue and bring it together with the center that we found
in the Gospel.
And remember that we're connecting this, we're finding this related to the baptismal experience.
Baptism of Jesus, baptism of the Christian.
The words, I am, Jesus upon the water, that self-manifestation of Jesus, or the revelation
of the identity of Jesus in his own baptism, when the Father says, you are my beloved
Son in whom I am well pleased, the voice speaks from heaven, the dove descends, the spirit
over the water.
Now the connection between the center of the prologue and that center of the Gospel, I
am, and to those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become the
children of God.
The children of God and that I am, that beginning, that being born in the being of God.
In other words, that new creation, which is a receiving of new existence within the old
existence, a new identity within the old identity, so that the hollow I am, or maybe I am, in
which we usually live, becomes the I am of light itself, light itself which doesn't doubt,
which doesn't hesitate, which simply is, and simply radiates its own being.
That's this baptism of illumination.
So the connection, or the deepest connection, seems to be, from our point of view, that
connection of identity, of being begotten, actually, in a new being which is not other,
an alien to one's own being, but simply is the inside of one's own being come alight
in the indwelling God, in this being born.
What's the difference between the first creation and the second creation?
The old creation and the new creation?
Think of the old creation in the terms of Michelangelo, remember the Sistine fresco, and God reaching
out and touching Adam at the tip of his finger and bringing him alive?
That created a very Western picture, too.
But that creation at the tip of God's finger, that creation outside God.
Now what is it that characterizes the new creation?
Creation inside God.
Remember the last verse of the prologue, nobody's ever seen God, it's the only son who is in
the bosom of the Father who has made him known.
How has he made him known?
He's made him known by bringing you to birth in himself, inside God, which means that God
is not only father but mother.
Who is it that gives birth inside the self?
Who is it that bears within oneself?
Not the Father as we know the Father, is it, in human terms, but a mother.
So we get to this point where God is metasexual, God is beyond sexuality, and yet includes,
as it were, both sides.
Includes that creative power which we associate with the Father and with the Creator in our
But also that intimacy, that unitive relationship which we associate with a woman, with femininity
and especially with motherhood.
The child remaining inside the begetter.
So the difference between the old creation and the new creation and what happens in baptism
is the fact that you're born in God and God is born in you.
And the God that is born in you is the Son, is Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, but identical
with yourself.
And that's this inexpressible light that flashes on, the baptismal experience, which is also
the contemplative experience, the unitive experience, is somehow a knowledge of the
unity of all things.
Because in being born in God, in the Word, you're born at the point where everything
is together, where everything is one.
Not only are you one, but you're one in the oneness of God, which is the absolute, as
it were, core of the oneness of everything, the oneness of every individual, the uniqueness
and the selfness of every individual, but also the oneness of all things.
The thing we have so much lost in our modern Western world.
But John has it, it's right at the center of John.
So yes?
Sometimes, do you think you would have a couple minutes to relate to this theme, the last
discourse, which I think of as this withinness and the togetherness, in a way?
Yeah, I should get to that, as a matter of fact.
A little bit later on this morning, I'll touch it, when we get to the separate discourse,
because that's in the next stage of what I'm talking about.
But, just for a moment, the words of Jesus, that they may be one as we are one, see, that's
what he's talking about there, at the end of the Supper, in the prayer to the Father,
which concludes the Last Supper, that they may be one as we are one, and that one is
the refrain, one, one, one, one, you see, that's what it is, that being begotten in
the very oneness of God, which is beyond language, okay, what does oneness mean, anyway, what
does it mean?
It doesn't mean division, it doesn't mean anything.
It means not division for us, but it's much more than that.
Oneness is a resonance of being inside being, just like an intensity, an inner intensity
of light, or an inner intensity of music, or of sound, or of correspondence, or of harmony,
or of life itself.
And we have moments like that, maybe not many moments like that, but we have moments which
are beyond words, where what is is simply more intense than the is that we know.
And by the way, there's a lot of use of that word, is, in the Prologue of John, especially.
There's a good paper on that by a literary critic, Frank Kermodey, I guess that's how
you pronounce his name, in an excellent book, which I should mention, called The Literary
Guide to the Bible, which is an approach to the Bible which is not analytical and sort
of disintegrative, but rather literary, and trying to read it as integral composition,
as it were.
At least that's the approach he takes to John.
So he's got an article on John in there, which is quite good, where he talks about
precisely this verb to be, in the Prologue, as contrasted with the verb becoming, which
is our state of being, and how the two are brought together there.
That about the relation of the two centers, of Prologue to Gospel, which really rewards
reflection, I think, if you keep it with you and think about it.
And the reason why I'm spending so much time on this center is, if you take the center
away with you, you've got a lot.
If you hang on to the center, and that image of the dark waters, and the light shining
in the dark waters, the birth of the light from the darkness, at this meeting point of
land and water, of air and water, of light and darkness, that's the point to which we
come back, that boundary line.
It's the starting point, I think, for talking about John, as well as for talking about life.
I'm going to read something now, simply because, having been written, it's more concentrated
than I can make it by just talking about it, so be patient with me for a moment.
If I read this to try to catch the further resonances, the further overtones or levels
of this central point of the Gospel, which is the sea-crossing episode, Jesus upon the
Remember the scene.
All beginnings are born together in this place where in darkness the light shines over the
Here the world originates from nothingness.
Here the word is generated from the invisible fullness of the Father.
The light coming from darkness is not only Jesus in the darkness of creation, but the
light being born in what for us is the darkness of the Father.
As Irenaeus has said, Jesus is the visible of God, the invisible, of the invisible God.
And the Father is the invisible of Jesus, who is visible to us.
Jesus is the very manifestation of God.
He is the very light in this darkness, which is beyond our comprehension.
Think of God as the invisible, unseizable, ungraspable, untouchable God, who manifests
himself in his word and in his spirit.
And the word is the visibility, the audibility, the hearability, the touchability of God.
Remember the first letter of John?
What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and touched with our hands.
That's Jesus.
That's the word, the manifestation of God, the light.
Then this light shines in the night of the creation, the other darkness.
Here again begins the new creation within the divine darkness and within the darkness
of created being.
This meeting place of sea and land, that's where they are in the Sea of Galilee, of air
and water, of light and darkness, becomes the boundary of boundaries.
Here we are placed at the borderline between consciousness and mystery.
In other words, this is a psychological development.
Between conscious mind and the numinous psyche, between creation and creator, it's all boundary
lines, this point of baptism, this point of the light and the darkness, this point of
the land and the water and the free space of air and the invisible space beneath the
Here upon the dark waters, at this boundary, is the place of awakening, of compunction
and metanoia.
In other words, the center of the monastic tradition sort of is there, the monastic experience
of conversion.
Baptism and metanoia, baptism and conversion, baptism and this turning of the heart, this
awakening of the heart, this new birth, new life in the heart, go together, they belong
So when a person is converted, naturally they become baptized.
Baptism itself should complete the process, the experience of conversion.
They're correlative terms, just as faith and baptism go together, faith and this compunction.
The sense of compunction, the sense of tears also, which we've lost, which is kind of important,
which marks entering into the deeper levels of our psyche.
The place of silent meditation, where we are simply there in nothingness, you know, whether
you're talking about Buddhist meditation or Christian meditation, of creative inspiration.
This is the boundary line at which intuition comes forth, from which poetry comes, from
which the imagery springs out of this nothingness, out of this darkness.
Here in this darkness is the womb of creative light, it is the place of poverty and expectancy,
the place of all potential.
In other words, this is the place we have to go back to all the time, we have to go
back to zero, we have to go back to nothingness, we have to go back to utter helplessness and
poverty, so that the whole thing may be regenerated from there.
Not only what we want, what we need, what we have to do, what we require at the moment,
what we lack, but even ourselves, in other words, the boundary line to which we go back.
If we want something really to happen, remember Jesus' parable about, you know, the king
who has to go out and fight another army, and he counts up his forces, naturally, he
counts his soldiers to see if he has enough, if he has as many as the other guy, or the
person who is going to build a tower and measures his resources to see if he has enough bricks.
And then it's a funny moral that he draws from those two images, because then he says,
well similarly, unless you give up everything you have, you can't follow me.
It's the opposite, in other words, it's not counting, it's going back to point zero, it's
going back to square one, it's going back to the beginning, which is this point in the
darkness, this place of baptism, this place of creation.
That's why that image is so important.
And it's also inside of ourselves.
You can read about the night sea journey, you know, in the Jungian tradition, and so on.
The sign of Jonah, as it's experienced in our own life, death and resurrection, but
it's always going back to this point of, as it were, utter nothingness, to begin all over
Paul says, and my weakness is my strength, because he knows that point.
Because he knows what's important is not to get a little stronger, but to be regenerated.
What is important is not to get a little more, to do a little more, to get a little better,
to get it down a little more perfectly, but to be begotten all over again.
In other words, to come out of the darkness brand new all over again.
That's what's important.
So that's the point we have to find over and over again.
And I guess it's why there has to be darkness in our life, and often so much of it, so that
we can come from there.
Not a place of strength, but a place of poverty.
Here we are all fishermen, fisher people, fisher persons.
And here in our poverty we are in touch with the dark depths of God from which the light
is born into our world.
So we repeat the sort of mystery, we repeat that event that happens inside God, which
is the birth of the word, the birth of the light, the birth of the son, the child, inside
God, which baffles our intelligence, because God ought to be more simple than that.
John's theme is the coming of the beginning who enters into the middle, dwelling there
as the end.
His gospel has a beginning, a middle and an end, as we'll see, each of which is a beginning.
Each beginning takes place from water.
The water of the Jordan, in John chapter 1, that's where we find John the Baptist, and
Jesus has been baptized, and we don't see him baptized, John just refers to it, but
the image that we want there, behind the words of the first chapter of John, is the baptism
of Jesus.
I think that determines everything that happens there.
Even where he says to Nathanael at the end of that chapter, do you think that's something?
You'll see the heavens opened and the angel of God ascending and descending upon the Son
of Man, and that refers back to the baptism of Jesus in some way, and forward to our
own baptism.
That's a strange prophecy that we never see fulfilled in the gospel of John.
I've puzzled and puzzled over that, but somehow it refers to a baptismal experience.
That's John chapter 1, verse 51.
The water of the Sea of Tiberias in the center, as we have been reflecting here on the sea
crossing, and again the water of the sea in the last chapter of John, John 21, remember
they're back at the Sea of Tiberias again, Peter says, let's go out fishing.
Water in John always bears upon its face the brightness of the beginning.
It confers this beginning, just as baptism does.
From this beginning unfolds the structure of John's gospel, this four-fold symmetry around
the center, which is the beginning.
The beginning is in the middle.
Just as John the Baptist says, well, the one who follows me is really first, because he
was, and it's that verb, is, the one who really is, whereas I come first in some ways,
but I'm not really first, because he is, and what is, is prior to what becomes, to
what wanders around on the earth in its transitoriness, in its contingency.
He is, he was, before Abraham was, I am, Jesus is.
Those words, I am, keep reawakening this point of the center, which is the beginning
throughout John's gospel.
It's from there that everything else comes.
We can return to this point of beginning again and again, as John does in his narrative,
and each time find the spring flowing forth.
This is the first great secret of John, this place in the bosom of the Father, and in the
open body of Christ, where continually the light is born from the darkness.
And there on the cross, you see, that place is opened up again when the body of Jesus
is opened.
That's where the new creation starts from, where the water comes forth.
Continually, the light is born from the darkness.
Creation comes forth anew, but filled with God, where we are born in God.
Here, in the Johannine unitive beginning, is the source of the peculiar simplicity and
depth of the fourth gospel.
To it correspond the radical inversions of the synoptic gospels and of Paul.
Unless you change and become like children, remember, you can't see the king of heaven.
That's moving in the same direction.
It's the same thing, but John takes it a little further, because he doesn't just give you
the reversal.
He doesn't tell you you have to become like a child.
He tells you you have to be born all over again, and then he tells you where.
And he points right to that point, right to that center, the logos and the dark waters,
as it were, the invisible center where that birth takes place, which relates to baptism.
I thank you, Father, for you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent
and have revealed them to infants.
Same thing, going back towards the child, going back to the beginning.
Unless you go back to the beginning, you can't enter the kingdom.
And it doesn't just mean a ritual of baptism, it doesn't just mean a sacrament, it means
an attitude, it means a way of being.
To dwell on that boundary line, to dwell next to the water all the time.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
That inversion which is in the Matthew, Mark and Luke, every word you know about,
Jesus turns it all upside down.
He takes the high and makes them low, and takes the low and makes them high.
And the reason is because they're at that point.
When you get back to that point, when you invert it, when you take away the strength
and the wealth and the resources and whatever it is, and get back to that original point,
then you can start, then you can be Christ, you see, then you can be born all over again,
unitively in the Word, in the Logos, in Jesus.
For whenever I'm weak, then I'm strong.
For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger
than human strength.
Those marvelous words of Paul in 1 Corinthians.
He's talking about precisely this.
And if he says, I don't want to know anything among you except Jesus Christ crucified,
that's because the cross is at this point.
This is the point of the cross, in Paul's language.
The Word of the cross.
Okay, now something about the liturgical connection of all of this beyond baptism,
or to the side of baptism.
We're about to start Lent, and one thing you could do this year as you approach Holy Week
is to take an especially Johannine perspective, for instance, because you're going to find
that the readings channel you into that anyway.
Notice that the readings of the Sundays of Lent, we're in the C cycle this year, by the way,
but for the A cycle, which is the primary cycle, the readings for the Sundays of Lent
are readings from the Gospel of John from the third Sunday on.
And the reason for this is because they are oriented towards Christian initiation.
It's as if the whole Gospel of John is a text that was written to prepare people
for their baptism and their first Eucharist, or to explain to them afterwards what's happening,
to give them almost a world in which to fit the experience of baptism.
And then, of course, the experience of the Eucharist.
Somehow the experience of baptism is more accessible to us through John.
I haven't found so much of the experience of the Eucharist yet,
but I think that's partly because the baptismal experience corresponds to going backwards in history,
as it were. The Eucharist, in a way, I think is still ahead of us.
I think it's the fullness of the Incarnation which still has to work itself out in history.
That's one reason why Teilhard was so in love with the mystery of the Eucharist,
and why he sort of weaves it into his scientific conjectures.
Because that, somehow, is the full Realization.
It's the full Incarnation, whereas baptism is the beginning, the seed of the Spirit,
and of the Word, sown in the world, in the matter, in the earth, in the flesh of the world.
Anyway, we'll talk more about that later.
But the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent, in the classical scheme, the traditional scheme,
are three Gospels from John.
First of all, Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.
Then, Jesus healing the man born blind.
And finally, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
So, you're put into a Joanine channel because that's the deepest track as you approach Holy Week.
Then the Easter Vigil, that series of readings, you know,
which orients you really towards Christian initiation.
Remember, that's the center of the liturgical year.
And it gradually orients you towards this mystery of death and resurrection,
the birth of the light out of the darkness, which is signified by the Paschal Candle.
Remember, the new fire and the Paschal Candle.
But precisely this mystery which we're talking about here,
the center of John's Gospel, is that mystery of the light and the darkness.
The birth of the new light out of the complete darkness.
And what happens after that? Baptism.
That's the classical time for baptizing converts.
So, the whole thing is oriented towards this point, towards the center.
It may be helpful if you kind of keep that in mind as you move towards that point
during Lent this year and during Holy Week.
Also, when you get to Holy Week itself, you find yourself in a pretty Joanine context.
Remember the Gospel of John and Holy Thursday?
Remember the foot washing and the supper?
That comes from John.
So, John is the one who somehow got those mysteries most fully assimilated,
most fully expressed, also, in this great poem, which is his Gospel.
Okay, that's probably enough about that.
This whole mandala figure, it can be satisfying,
and then when you get finished studying it, you say,
well, how does it help me to read John's Gospel?
Doesn't it get in my way, rather?
Because John's Gospel is presented as a narrative,
moving from the baptismal monk, John the Baptist, in the beginning right through.
And the natural way to read it, or to hear it, is to follow the narrative order.
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, go right through that.
Is this going to get in my way?
Well, it can, but I think what we have to do
is learn to do a kind of double reading of John.
In other words, if you have something like this,
you have a sense of the whole, and especially the sacred geometry of the whole,
and the center of the whole, how the whole thing fits together.
It's like carrying a philosophy in your head.
You have a sense of the whole and of its center,
and you carry that through and sort of bring it to bear at every point upon the narrative.
And then you rediscover this whole thing at every point in the narrative.
Because what you have in John's Gospel actually is this center,
or this figure, let us say, which is the Logos, the wisdom of God,
which expresses itself, as it were, as this tree form, this mandala form.
You have this walking through the Gospel,
encountering you and encountering other people along the road at every point.
And at every point what happens is that the light flashes forth from this center
again and again and again and again.
And it's as if the same figure explodes from every point.
So you rediscover the whole thing at every point along the road.
Every time that the light which is in Jesus flashes out there,
it's as if this whole thing lights up again.
So if you keep it in mind as you go through, you can do a kind of double reading.
It becomes, as it were, the figure which helps you to interpret
each episode along the way, each manifestation of Jesus along the way,
of what's in it, the dimensions, as it were.
One example, for instance, is simply the cross, when Jesus is nailed to the tree.
This tree, somehow, as we've seen in Paul and Ephesians and Colossians,
is precisely the theological figure, as it were, which we're talking about here,
at least from one point of view.
From another point of view, it's a piece of wood on which a man is nailed and allowed to die.
But from this point of view, which is really in the New Testament,
it's not as if this is something we based on afterwards,
but this kind of reflection is in the New Testament,
it's at that point of the cross that all of the wisdom of heaven and earth unfolds.
Remember how Paul says, forget about those simple elements in the world,
because all wisdom and all divinity is contained in him bodily, in his body.
And it's upon the cross that that wisdom flashes out,
that the dimensions of that wisdom become clear.
Or you can say, where the dimensions, the axes, the poles of existence itself
are brought together, unified upon the cross by Jesus,
by the body of Jesus, the wisdom of God, which is nailed to the wood,
that's the way Paul looks at it.
So we have to do a double reading of the Gospel, as it were,
and the Fathers were used to doing that.
They'd always look for another level beneath the letter, beneath the surface.
And that other level is the logos, is the word, is the center, the light, but also the fire.
But if we have to do that for the Gospel, we also have to do it for life.
In other words, we learn to make a kind of double reading of our own life.
There's the surface, and then at every moment is what's really happening.
Donald Nicol, some of you know him, has a good formula for that.
He talks about two levels of history.
A lot of his background is in history.
How do they express it? He's got letters for it.
That's the surface level, one damn thing after another.
And then the other level is what's really happening.
Now John is doing the same thing, and we have to do the same thing too.
In other words, to find the center, and to rediscover that center,
to rediscover, as it were, the shape coming erect,
the shape aligning the tree, sort of, in its true dimensions,
this tree of reality, of truth, of wisdom, at every point along the way.
Otherwise we just move from point to point, point to point.
Remember the psalm, we had a couple of readings in our Sunday liturgy a couple of weeks ago,
about the tree, about cursed be the one who trusts in man,
remember, because he's going to be like a dry tree planted in the desert.
But in the psalm, he's like dust which is blown away,
like the chaff, like grass which dries up and blows away.
But blessed be the one who trusts in God,
because he's like a tree planted by the flowing stream.
There's your kind of ultimate image of stability, and of life, fullness of life.
But that tree, planted in reality, and, as it were, growing out into the fullness of his dimensions,
is representative of what life is supposed to be.
Wisdom, as it were, incarnate in life, blossoming into life.
The tree expresses it.
The tree, actually, is the image that I want to leave with you at the end of the second encounter.
One more text about that center point.
And this is from Paul, it's in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4,
which pulls together very nicely what John is saying, I believe.
It's worth reading those several chapters of 2 Corinthians.
I don't have them by now in my heart.
Paul says that the God who said,
has shown in our hearts to show the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.
Now, he's moved from talking about the Torah, talking about the Old Testament,
on the Exodus level, on the level of the usual interpretation of the law,
to a kind of breakthrough in which he moves to the point of creation.
He's identifying that breakthrough from the letter to the heart of the word,
from the letter to the spirit, from the surface to the center,
with the breakthrough from the ordinary Jewish theology of the law,
which could also be our ordinary Christian interpretation of the scripture on a literal level,
to this level of creation at which the God who said that light shine out of darkness,
that's the first day of creation in Genesis, remember, has shown in our hearts.
Now this, for Paul, is his conversion experience.
This is equivalent to the baptismal experience.
This is the enlightenment, the illumination, the photosmos of the experience of Christ,
which is new creation. It's very important. It's a new creation.
Because not only does it mean a starting from the absolute beginning so that all is made new,
and this is what baptism is about, this is what Christianity is about, this is what grace is about.
Not only does it mean that, but it also means that everything is touched, everything is new.
That's the point at which there are no limits anymore.
That's the point at which there are no boundaries anymore.
That's the point at which the ecclesial theology, for instance, the walls collapse,
and everything that's created is touched. Everything that is, is touched at this moment.
It's a kind of unitive explosion from that moment, when that light shines.
Very important.
So, it's as if the whole Word is received in baptism.
The whole Word is received in baptism and remains as a light inside of you.
And as you read the words of the Gospel of John or of any of the other Gospels, of any of the Scriptures,
that light of the whole Word, which is in your heart and in your mind, interprets.
And it's as if, as the light is in your heart, inside you, the same light is also inside the words, inside the Scriptures.
So it's shining from beneath the surface, pulling together what you read.
So that the single unitive light that's inside your heart, to that corresponds the single unitive light that's inside the Scriptures,
which is the Word, which is the Logos itself, which is Christ itself.
And so it all begins to shine for you with the same light. It all begins to be saying the same thing.
The opposite of that thing is fundamentalism, you know, where you take one line or one word of the surface of Scripture and absolutize it.
So you take it absolutely, literally, and refuse to go any deeper than that.
So you end up, in the end, with an assortment, a collection of mutually incompatible assertions,
which then you refuse to deal with because you renounce, as it were, theology,
you renounce the intellectualism of trying to reconcile those statements.
But you get hung up on certain statements which become absolutes and you miss the heart of the Word.
The opposite of fundamentalism is wisdom.
So if we're troubled today by a kind of resurgence of fundamentalism, also inside Catholicism, everywhere around us,
people grappling to that literalism for security.
The antidote to that is really getting beneath the surface of the Word to its heart, to its center,
and finding where it's all one Word, and where the life very gently flows from that center.
It's a whole different kind of approach.
Instead of that hardness where the Word becomes a hammer, a hatchet, a sword,
you have a kind of reconciliation, a kind of integration of the masculine and the feminine,
so that it's a living being, the Word is a living thing.
The Word is a living and gentle thing, and a birth that's happening, organic instead of inorganic.
About baptism elsewhere in John, I just want to point out a couple of places
where the baptismal moment is present there, in case we miss them later on.
We've mentioned the center, John 6, and also the beginning, John 1,
where implicitly is the baptism of Jesus.
Now consider the end of the Gospel.
First of all, chapter 20.
In the first chapter of John, John the Baptist will say,
I baptize you with water, but there is one who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Now, this is one of the advantages of chiasm,
that when we find something in one passage, we can use it to interpret the matching passage.
So the episode in John that matches that first chapter, when the Baptist says that,
is the episode in which Jesus appears to the disciples in the closed house,
remember the closed room, and he breathes on them, and he says, receive the Holy Spirit.
So obviously that's their baptism in the Holy Spirit.
That's the moment of baptism for them.
Which is also, what does that in-breathing mean, besides the moment of baptism?
It refers back to the moment when Adam was created, remember?
When God molded Adam from the moist earth, and then breathed the Spirit of Life into him.
So it takes you back once again to the creation moment.
So John is very insistent about bringing you back to the creation all the time.
Because somehow that's where it's at.
That's what this profundity and power of the Word of God is.
It's at that boundary line where the Creator and the created meet.
And so where everything is made new all over again.
That's where the confidence and power comes from, for instance of St. Paul when he writes.
Because he knows that nothing is outside this power which is manifested at that point,
which is manifested in Christ.
The uncreated One, who has also become created,
who has become a creature like us, who brought the two together,
so that the uncreated, the Creator himself, if you want to put it that way,
the Divine is in us.
Some of the Fathers, especially Irenaeus, talk about that in terms of what they call recapitulation.
That is the Word who is the beginning.
Jesus is the beginning. He's not only in the beginning.
But the Word who is the beginning, out of which everything comes,
comes into the world and becomes one of us.
And so the beginning comes, and then unfolds everything within itself.
The beginning comes, the Word comes, and gathers, as it were, all of history,
and all of history's lost children into itself, so that they all become one once again.
See, that's this mystery of redemption from another point of view,
where it's not a, what would you call it, a forbidding,
or some kind of a juridical operation that's happening,
but a wonderful mystery of wisdom and love.
If you see it as the Father saw it, and as John has put it forth.
That word recapitulation actually comes from Paul, but it's very much in John.
I think it's more fully developed in John than it is in Paul.
What I wanted to talk about this morning is the second pole, as it were, on our figure.
I should give you a couple of analogies to sort of strengthen this a bit.
We're reading the Gospel of John starting from down here, and moving up in this fashion.
Up here, and then across here, and then across here, and then up to the top.
So that John 1 is here, John 20 is here, and then there's quite a quantitative imbalance here.
So, we're in the middle of Chapter 6 here.
Now, what's the ultimate background for this figure?
It's the Father, and the Word, and the Spirit, and Creation, and us.
The ultimate background for this is the Trinity and the Creation,
or the Trinity and Matter, or Earth, or Body, or Humanity, or you and me, whatever you want to call it.
The Father who is the invisible God, God beyond images, beyond words.
Jesus, the Word, who is the expression, the visible, the audible, the manifestation of God, the revelation of God.
The Spirit, which is also the wisdom of God, but the wisdom of God inside you,
not visible to you, not what you see, and hear, and touch with your hands, and eat,
but that which is within you, speaks within you, acts within you, burns within you.
And here we have a kind of contrast of masculine and feminine.
The Word being, as it were, the masculine, dualistic manifestation of God.
The Spirit, or Sophia, the feminine, being the interior and unitive manifestation of God.
Where God is no longer revelation to you, God is no longer known to you as a truth, a reality,
but God is somehow one with your own being.
And so the spontaneity, the freedom of God becomes your own spontaneity and freedom.
The movement of God is your own movement.
And down here is, as I say, us, the creation.
And we have gotten somewhat cramped in our theology because we have thought about God as Trinity very hard,
but we have forgotten that Trinity accepts the creation, accepts humanity, accepts Adam into itself.
It is Jung who has celebrated this fact of quaternity most in our time.
You know, Jung was so happy over the proclamation of the Dogma, of the Assumption,
because he felt that in bringing Mary into Heaven, symbolically,
what the Church was doing was accepting the fullness of the quaternity.
Trinity for him is an incomplete figure, but it's something to think about.
It doesn't mean that the Trinitarian God is left behind, not at all.
It's only that the very grace of God means that that which is created is brought into that company,
into that communion, into that koinonia of the Trinity, so that the Trinity becomes the quaternity.
The three become four, and that's what generates all of the symbolic richness and power that we're talking about,
which is in Jung, and which is also in the image of the cross.
The image of the cross is consequent to, is the product of this grace of God,
which brings the creation into its own circle.
We can also talk about this in connection with,
well, I should say something about the contrast between this and our normal way of thinking of the Trinity,
is thinking of the Father generating the Son,
and the Father and the Son breathing the Holy Spirit together,
which then becomes a relationship between the Father and the Son.
That's the Western tradition.
The Western tradition, as it were, of the Trinity, which is perfectly valid,
and yet maybe not quite as rich as an Eastern tradition,
in which both the Word and the Spirit come forth from the Father, as it were, side by side,
like bridegroom and bride.
In other words, the fullness of symbolism of human reality and of creative reality
is somehow in the nuptial relationship, okay?
In the sexual relationship.
This is the deepest language of the Bible, I believe.
It's the sexual language of male and female.
It's an implicit language. It's not called language.
But the Song of Songs is one of the deepest texts in the Bible,
even though it's very hard for people to explain why it's in the Bible.
It's always been a problem, why it's in the Bible, just like Ecclesiastes, why it's in the Bible.
But it's there, and remember Rabbi Akiva said something like this,
that if all the scriptures were taken away, or if I could only keep one, that's the one that I would keep.
It's not exactly what he said, something like that.
In other words, certain Jewish mystics have realized that that's at the heart of the whole thing.
The basic language of the scriptures, the deepest language of the scriptures,
is the language which is written into creation itself,
which is written into what God has made, which is his image, right?
Male and female he made them.
In his own image and likeness he made them.
And this mystery is there, who's God talking to when he says that?
Let us make humanity, let us make man in our own image.
Who's he talking to?
Himself or wisdom, you know.
In other words, is there somehow, mysteriously,
a glimpse there in this mystery of what is inside God?
Because you have just the monotheistic, the one God at that point.
So it is talking to himself or herself.
So, the alternative view of seeing the Holy Trinity
is the Father, the invisible, absolutely invisible, as it were,
remote and yet intimate God,
giving birth to the Word, the Son,
and also breathing forth the Spirit,
or the Divine Feminine, if you wish to put it that way.
And it's these two children, as it were, of God
who relate between God, communicate between God and the creation.
Sometimes I wonder if the phrase,
you shall see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man
doesn't really refer in the end to that.
To the Word and the Spirit mediating between God and the Son of Man,
who is all of humanity in the end,
together in Christ.
The Word incarnate and all of humanity.
Anyway, this is the image that we're sort of working with.
That's in Irenaeus, who has this picture of God breathing the Spirit into earth
and raising up the earth to himself
in his two hands, which are the Word and the Spirit,
and then breathing the Spirit of life into that earth.
It's a beautiful image.
Once again, Quaternary.
Irenaeus was one of the earliest and greatest of theologians.
He was very set on this idea of squareness,
of the figure of the cross, of the tree, of Quaternary.
That's the way he saw it all.
He was close to John, too.
So, something about the phases, maybe, of entering into John
based on this figure.
Some of you are acquainted, no doubt, with that old classic
ladder of contemplation.
It comes from, I think, Guigo of Carthusian,
probably in the 13th century or somewhere,
which you move from reading to meditation
to prayer to contemplation.
Lectio to meditatio to oratio to contemplatio.
And I'd like to make a certain analogy to that here,
to that Quaternary.
What we've started with is this boundary line with mystery,
which you can consider, really, to be the mystery of the darkness,
as it were, of the divine being itself, here at the top.
You can also consider that to be the moment of baptism at the bottom.
It doesn't matter too much.
And the second point that we would proceed to,
and this is also, of course, the center.
Things jump around on here, but that's okay.
The second point we would proceed to is the logos,
is the Word of God, the wisdom of God,
which is actually content, which is actually structure,
which is actually bread, which is something that feeds you along the way,
which is something solid.
Quite different from this invisible mystery of God,
this divine darkness that the Easterners love to talk about.
So we come to this point of meditation, let us say,
where we begin to draw out concrete meaning,
something we can grasp with our hands,
something that we can really grab with our minds and move with,
which is what Jesus gives us.
He gives us an abundance of stuff, as it were, of content, of detail,
in the Gospels, so that we may deal with that,
so that we may chew on that, almost literally.
He says, I'm the bread of life.
And when he says, I'm the bread of life, he also means that he's that.
He's simply content of understanding for you to eat, to chew on,
to assimilate, to transform yourself into in some way,
to deal with, to wrestle with.
And from there, we move to this point, which is a simple point,
which is also what I would call the...
If this is structure and content, this is simply the fire,
the interior fire, an interior movement, an energy of God,
which corresponds to the third point there, or ratio.
Now I find when I make that comparison with that old scale,
that ladder of contemplation, I have to reverse it.
And we end up with contemplatio, which is up here, actually.
So your lectio would be the letter down here,
the materiality of the word down here, starting with that.
Your meditatio would be chewing on the content of the word,
actually the thoughts, the ideas, the images, and so on,
dealing with all of that concrete stuff,
from which you move to the energy, the fire,
the movement itself, the voratio, or prayer.
And that's the way it's expressed by the monastic writers.
And then finally to the ineffable, to that which is beyond
both image and movement, both feeling and idea, which is God.
And we need to recover that notion,
that understanding of God as beyond,
beyond thoughts, beyond ideas, beyond comprehension,
beyond all boundary lines, beyond all distinctions,
and therefore able to embrace everything
in his word and in his spirit, or her word and her spirit.
The sexual pronoun there doesn't matter anymore, almost,
when you talk about God.
We have to realize it's beyond that, beyond that.
No idea is it either, because it suggests something inanimate.
Now the four talks I had wanted to actually organize
according to those four points.
The first one leaving you with that image of the dark waters
and the light shining, and really the boundary of mystery,
that was the idea.
That's the boundary of the invisible God, of the divine darkness,
which is also the place of baptism, the place of creation,
the place of the birth of the word,
but not yet focusing on the word itself.
The second point, this one over here, is the word itself,
is Jesus himself as the wisdom of God,
as the content, the stuff of understanding,
which we eat, on which we walk,
which we see, in which we touch, in which we deal with,
teaching and learning, understanding, thinking, reflecting, meditating.
The third point is where we get to the feminine
and the interior, and also the unitive,
and where the step-by-step walk of understanding, of meditating,
or the substance somehow, the content of wisdom
gives way to something very simple,
to a single movement, as it were,
to a single arc, a single curve of whatever this is.
Call it fire, call it energy, call it movement, whatever it is.
We'll get to that a little later.
That is expressed actually in what we call the sixth day of creation here,
in the figure that you've got.
So, we'll talk about that next time.
Is the third one over there on the right?
That's the third one on the...
Yeah, that's this one over here, the third one on the right, yeah.
And finally, down to the bottom,
and as far as I can see it, the image for the first one
is that baptismal image, okay,
or the image of the sea crossing and the dark waters
and the light shining forth in the waters.
First moment of creation, moment of baptism,
moment of manifestation of Jesus, and so on.
The figure for the second one is the tree itself.
See, that's where you have...
The basic structure that we're getting here
is the structure of the tree, of the fraternity,
of this skeleton, as it were, of the figure, of the mandala,
identified with the logos.
Irenaeus does that, he identifies that with the Word.
He said that the Word of God had to project itself forth
in the world, in those four dimensions,
and then Jesus, when he came into the world,
the Word made flesh was crucified upon the tree
to correspond to those four dimensions of the Word
which were already in the world, created in the world.
The Fathers used to think that way.
I think also it's in Plato somewhere,
about the four-fold structure of the universe.
It's very typical of the ancients.
In Timaeus, Plato says that three is the number of the divine,
four is the number of the whole cosmos,
and the world in time.
Good, yeah. Yeah, that's it.
It is in Timaeus, yeah.
So that's typical of ancient thought,
even in our Western thought, as well as Indian,
so I can't speak so much about that.
The image for the third one,
we could select among images,
but what I'd like to do is take the wedding feast of Cana,
and the miracle of Cana,
and the wedding banquet that's happening there,
and the wine that's generated there,
and behind it the image especially of the feast of wisdom,
the banquet of wisdom, the lady wisdom in the Old Testament,
who, remember, slays her beasts and pours out her wine
and erects her seven pillars and so on.
That mysterious woman in the Old Testament,
who somehow corresponds to the wine
and to the wedding banquet and to the wedding itself.
We get beyond all the individual images,
it all pours into one,
all pours into the cup at that point.
The cup, which is also, of course,
chalice and grail and everything else.
And the fourth image that I would want to leave with you
is an unformed image,
but go back to that figure of Irenaeus that I mentioned,
where God is bending over the earth
and reaching down with his word and with his spirit
and picking up that earth
and breathing into it the spirit of life.
Now it's that child who somehow is within the feminine,
within the woman,
and not yet fully formed, not yet emerged,
and which is what?
Which is our own deep self,
which is the future,
which is the future of the world.
Remember what Paul says,
that the creation itself is groaning in labor.
If the creation is groaning in labor,
that means it's bringing forth something.
What's it bringing forth?
We can't yet say, can we?
We can feel the fire within us,
we can feel the energy of it,
we can feel, sometimes dimly,
the shape of it within us,
but we can hardly give it a name.
So the fourth image is simply
the woman still bearing the child,
the child which has not yet appeared.
And the woman really identifies with us at that point.
In other words, even she disappears
because she identifies with our own being.
But we'll deal with that a little more when we get to it.
But that final figure identifies with the earth,
it identifies with our self,
it identifies with everything that comes up from below
and has not yet, as it were, flowered,
has not yet appeared in its fullness,
has not yet emerged in clarity.
In the first letters, John,
it seems like darkness is equated with sin and negation.
The way you speak this morning,
it's a fecund dimension,
it's God beyond all knowledge,
therefore much more positive,
which then colors the way we can think about
diminishment in all of the human life.
It's not simply a matter of light and dark,
or sin and holiness,
but something far, far more complex.
Could you just sort of live a little bit more, how, John?
Okay, let me repeat the question
for the sake of posterity there.
The question is about these two ways of thinking of darkness.
One way is typical in the first chapter,
and maybe second chapter too, of the first letter of John,
where God is light and there is no darkness in him.
And the darkness is the place of sin, actually,
the place of sin and ignorance and so on.
The second way of thinking of the darkness
is the way that we've been talking about it here,
in connection with, say, the sea crossing,
the baptismal moment,
where first of all there's the divine darkness
and then there is the darkness of creation.
But both of them can be thought of in a positive way.
Okay, John thinks about it often, very often,
in a sense of evil, there's no doubt about it, okay?
But I think, especially in the prologue,
not only in the sense of evil.
So, when I do this with the moment of baptism,
I'm not entirely corresponding to John's thought,
because he does like to use darkness as a metaphor for evil,
and he does it very much in the Gospels
as well as in the first letter.
He'll do that in the chapter 9 on the man born blind.
So, I'm glad you raised the question,
because if you take a Jungian perspective completely,
for instance, to this mandala,
and read John only from that point of view,
I think it would be unfaithful to John,
because he does consider, he does use the metaphor,
let me say it that way, of darkness,
also quite preferentially for evil, very often.
So, there's no...
We can't use evil in a...
What would you call it?
In a single...
We can't use darkness in a single sense with John.
We have to move from one to the other.
And most of the time, darkness is evil for him, I'm afraid.
There's not...
I mean, this gets into sort of strange areas,
but my friend recently was speaking about a dog
reveling in the play of the tectonic plates.
So, you know, that's a cosmic overview.
Meanwhile, you know, cities and prisons and lives are being destroyed.
And there's that tension of mystery
that both have a place in creative order.
We can't too quickly determine evil,
even though it's experienced as such.
But from a divine perspective, it's a much broader horizon,
and they all have its place.
Is John sort of flirting, consciously or unconsciously,
with the fact that the darkness is both
the place from which life emerges,
and also what we call sin?
I'm trying to think of a place where I can say that he's doing that.
And so far I haven't thought of him.
When he thinks of it as being sin,
he's very serious about it.
And he couldn't make a transition from there
to the point of, say, playfulness,
where, as he does very frequently, he plays with things.
But when he talks in that language,
for instance, in Chapter 9, he's deadly serious.
And there's a deadly duality there between light and darkness.
And as it were, never the twain shall meet.
The blind man has been brought from darkness into light.
The Pharisees, who claim to see and yet are blind,
remain in the darkness.
And so you're left with that absolute contrast
between the two, in that case.
And very often that's true.
That's true with John.
But if you take his symbols,
where he's not focusing on the darkness itself
as image, as metaphor,
then the darkness can assume this other sense.
Then we can, as it were, play with it.
Then we can find a freer symbolic movement in it.
But not when he's focusing right on it.
It's as if when he talks about darkness itself,
skotia, you know, the word itself,
he's committed to considering it equal to sin
and genuine unsaveable evil, in a sense.
So there's a combination of integration
and this dualism that remains in John,
which can't be completely resolved.
And so the mandalic figure doesn't completely fill the bill
in that sense.
Because it suggests a Jungian perspective
in which darkness is something
which is ultimately integrated.
But John's picture, in that sense,
is not only a picture of integration,
it's a picture of separation as well.
There remains a darkness
which is not integrated at the end,
as far as he gives us to understand from his Gospel
and from the First Letter.
I have a question on the unformed image
at the top there.
I was just looking at the passage
and I'm not going to find it,
but it's that where it says
that it doesn't appear,
what we are doesn't appear to him.
But we know that when he appears
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
So is that in the formation of that image?
Is us being like Christ?
That's right, that's right.
That's the one down here.
Up here we've got, as it were,
the Father, the ineffable God,
the invisible God,
who remains invisible
and is known somehow only by Jungian, it seems.
And down here we've got the reflection
of that mystery
and the mystery of matter, first of all.
Just the opaqueness, the opacity,
the darkness of matter.
And then the emergence of our own true being
from that matter,
as it were, bearing the image.
But there's also something there
that remains dark.
In other words, the matter that remains dark
and between that and this image
and likeness of God
is, as it were, the space of God's grace,
the space of the gift.
So there remains a dark matter there, I guess,
yet which is somehow elevated
into image and into beauty.
So the passage is very appropriate.
We know we're the children of God,
we've been called the children of God.
And it's really surprising,
and he says,
we don't know what we shall be,
what more can you be?
What more can you be than a child of God
except God himself,
or God herself,
which is impossible to say.
In other words, which is blasphemous
just about to say,
but that's what's implied
very distinctly there.
So we are this matter,
this darkness of matter,
and yet we shall be the glory of God.
We shall be this radiant,
full image of God,
remaining matter at the same time.
So there are fuzzinesses
that are bound to remain there
as we talk about this.
What is the image for the,
number one, the Father,
from Platio?
Well, it's not only the Father,
but it's the boundary line, okay?
Because the Father being beyond image,
I couldn't give you an image for him,
so what I gave you is the image
of the boundary line,
which is that image also
from the center,
the baptismal point
of the dark waters,
and the darkness out of which
the light appears, okay?
The point where Jesus has just appeared
or is just about to appear
on the waters at night
in John 6 there, okay?
During the sea crossing
by the disciples.
So it's almost like the darkness
out of which the other images appear,
but there is light beginning
to appear there.
But a boundary line
is the essential expression, I think.
The boundary line of mystery,
the boundary line of darkness,
the boundary line of the unknown,
of the source, of God,
of the Father, the Mother,
Any other questions before we adjourn?
I just want to pray for you.
When I first came to you,
I had no idea of the key items,
so I really felt
it was kind of special to know
what wisdom can we get out of
this elaborate restructuring,
you might say, of the God.
Okay, the principle...
And then you've given so much more
meaning to it in this interpretation
than I had before.
But if you wanted to use it,
or if anybody in your thinking
wants to use another key item
in another area altogether,
but which also does the same thing,
it gives tremendous illumination
to the subject matter.
You see it in a way that makes
your previous vision black and white.
And that is Shakespeare.
The Shakespeare tragedies,
we double themselves.
If you could write a Shakespeare tragedy
on toilet paper,
a real long, long, long strip,
and then if you took that long, long strip
and folded it,
the crease would be the crux of the play.
The place where the hero turns
from good luck to bad luck.
Almost right on the line.
You could almost do it blank.
Just take the pages of a tragedy,
if they're evenly printed,
and find the middle one and read it.
We'll be within a page or two.
And then if you re-read Shakespeare
as a construction like this,
a deliberate construction,
you'll see that the emotions generated
in the first half are like
fairly simple, direct emotions.
And in the second half, they're doubled.
In the first half of Macbeth,
he's a man who was drawn deeper and deeper
into murderous evil,
and it's very obvious.
And you're building up a sort of disgust for the guy,
and a dread because he's so powerful
and so successful.
And in the second half,
you see a human being
who's caught up in his own sin.
And he becomes the victim of himself.
And although you despise his sinfulness,
you really pity him.
So you end the play with this torn feeling,
which you can also apply to yourself
and do all you want to do.
And this is the great one in particular.
He does it with very deliberate literary devices like this.
So if you wanted to use another kind of piasma
that reveals meaning,
it might help to ward off from people
this initial sense of
this is too elaborate to be true.
John could never have had this in mind.
It's too sophisticated.
But now I see that it's not at all.
It's an inspired literary device
from which we can see meanings
that you would never, never get
if it was straightened out.
So if you want to see a Shakespeare play,
you've got to see it twice.
There's no sense in seeing it once.
You've got to see it twice
with a very critical, sophisticated mind.
And then you'll walk away enlightened.
The first time around,
you'll only walk away entertained.
Yeah, that's very interesting.
I hadn't seen that.
There's a good deal written about chiasm.
It's not so well developed in the critics.
It's there, but it never really...
Especially in contemporary critics,
they don't make a big thing of it.
Chiasm was much more familiar to the ancients
than it is to us, of course.
You know, in ancient Roman...
Of course, Shakespeare's sources
are of the ancients.
Yeah, so you may have learned it there.
Yeah, Greek and Roman.
Okay, classical literature
had quite a bit of chiasm in it.
Even the way that they learned the alphabet
seems to have been related to chiasm.
Oh, really?
In other words, they learned it orally,
first frontward and then backward, and so on.
About the first question,
what's the advantage of the thing?
Well, first of all,
initially there seems to be a complexity,
but in the end,
I think what you find is a simplicity.
In other words, it's like reading Shakespeare
or hearing Shakespeare twice.
The first time you run through,
it's an unsupportable complexity.
This is just too much.
This is the last straw.
Why do you have to bring this along?
It's bad enough already.
The second time through, however,
when you begin to see the symmetries,
it becomes almost...
You could memorize John's Gospel.
You could memorize
the structure of John's Gospel
rather quickly with this kind of thing.
And then you notice
that the resonances
between different matching things
begin to make sense.
Now, even if John didn't put it there,
it would still be a very good machine
for getting deeper into John
because what we need
is a kind of digging machine.
We need a kind of plow,
a kind of drilling machine.
Well, this is a drilling machine.
And it's almost
the ultimate drilling machine.
And that's why the mandala
is so popular
and so widely used
in spirituality and psychology.
It's a drilling machine.
It works
because it finds
the archetypal symmetries in things
and finds the unity
that's written
into the very roots of reality
and which expresses itself
in every form of reality,
as it does in John's Gospel.
But I believe it is there.
Also, there are probably
some miscalculations
in this particular version,
because you can't get it all right,
so there are bound to be some mistakes.
But in general, I think it's there.
Can you give a simple
or brief explanation
of what kheesting is?
I've heard of the mandala
and so on and around,
but I don't really understand
what you're talking about.
Well, kheeism comes from
the letter chi.
Basically, it's an X and V.
And it means a crossing.
So if you have, let's see,
a composition.
This is a poem, let's say,
which has three pieces.
Let's say A, B, and C.
Well, suppose I wrote it
so that part C reflects part A.
Then I'll call this A1 or A2.
A1 and A2.
So I have a certain symmetry here
and then a center.
Now, suppose that
I have five parts here
and I make it A, B,
plus C then in the center,
and then B2 and then A2.
Well, then I begin to get
a more complicated symmetrical form.
And if I do this,
then I can rearrange it
in the form of the mandala,
if it's got five parts.
But the point is that
I recapitulate what's in the beginning
at the end,
and that's very important
in poetry or in literature.
Now, what does it do, actually?
It takes us from a linear level
of reading and of understanding
to a multidimensional
or two-dimensional level.
In other words,
instead of reading on a straight line
and walking on a plain surface,
I have a vertical dimension
of reality introduced
by which I have to go to another level.
You see?
Because now I've got a center, for instance.
So that center begins to call for attention.
That center begins to claim importance.
And the symmetry of the beginning
and the end begins to claim importance.
And so I'd better put that importance there
if I'm writing a poem.
In other words,
I'm beginning to have
a three-dimensional figure, as it were,
in which value plays a part.
A geometry which can correspond
to the depth dimension of reality.
A geometry which is no longer linear,
but is capable of expressing
also the depth dimension of reality.
And that's what John is doing.
So then I begin to read it
in terms of what's going on
between A1 and A2
and B1 and B2.
And why is the center so important?
Why does he put that in the center?
That kind of thing.
So it channels your reflection.
It channels your reading
so that you begin to find
actually meanings
connected with those
resonances and with the center position.
The geometry begins to alert you to meanings.
And the geometry becomes
a means of expression
complementing the words themselves
and, say, the narrative.
So basically, in simplest terms,
it introduces a vertical dimension
of understanding,
a vertical dimension of meaning
into what would be a linear text otherwise.
It gives you another dimension of expression
which can become very important.
Also, the fact of center.
What happens when you go
from straight line to center?
You're saying something about reality itself.
You're making a metaphysical assertion
when you go from a straight line
to a center.
You're saying that there is a center to reality
and ultimately that there is an absolute meaning,
there is an ultimate meaning.
That's the implication
when you use this kind of form.
Now, you don't have to take it
all the way to that implication,
but if you do what John does,
then that's what he does.
In other words, the center for him
takes you to an ultimate depth of meaning
rather than just the one damn thing after another
on the surface of the linear progression.
So, it has profound...
And that's why geometry is so important
to ancient religious cultures.
They talk about sacred geometry
which is very often mandalic.
And that's the reason for it.
It enables you to express the vertical
or the spiritual
or that which is above or deeper
than the ordinary level of life and existence
and yet express it visually and spatially.
We get off the normal plane of existence
with its kind of blindness
and half-awake state
and we're awakened to another dimension.
I want to mention something
that is very important in poetry and literature
when an idea is stated
and getting in and it's recapitulated at the end.
Why is that?
Well, I think it's the...
It's something similar.
Let me...
What does poetry do?
What's the peculiar gift of poetry
with respect to other language?
Well, metaphor, right?
And repetition are two great things about poetry.
Now, what are metaphor, repetition and symmetry doing?
They're indicating relationship, right?
So, instead of just lining things up,
A, B, C, one day after another,
one thing after another,
I begin to indicate relationship
between things that are separated on a linear plane.
And I do it by means of putting a rhyming word
or a refrain into a poem
or by having the beginning reflected in the end,
having it symmetrical with the end.
I indicate a relationship between those two
which enables me then,
with the words that I put at those places
or the events or the scenes or the images,
to go deeply into reality.
But I'm not just putting it there, I'm perceiving it.
In other words, because I perceive a relationship
between things in reality, in life, in nature, in myself,
therefore I introduce it into the poem,
which is an artificial creation,
to reflect that interior relationship.
The center especially lends itself to ultimate meaning
or to depth or to a single absolute,
whereas the symmetries
and the reflection of beginning and end, let us say,
indicate resonances and relationships between things
which also suggest an ultimate unity.
Beyond the disparity,
beyond the separation of one thing after another,
one thing that annoys us is that life falls into the wastebasket
behind us.
We go along and one page off the calendar
after another one drops off and goes into the wastebasket,
there's nothing left, there's no relation.
Nothing is building, nothing is increasing,
nothing is deepening with life.
But the symmetry gives you an opportunity
to indicate relationship and therefore deepening
and therefore, once again, this other dimension.
Beyond the discouraging, depressing, tiring,
linear dimension of life and of existence.
So it's a device for meaning, really.
And doesn't it just mirror,
what you're saying is just a statement about memory and imagination
and that's the nature of it.
Like Eliot said, having experienced this meaning,
there isn't that kind of symmetry,
there isn't that reproduction of the way memory works
and recovers those things that go into the wastebasket.
It's all pristine, for example, understanding that.
Yeah, so to save meaning from this kind of,
what do you say, daily death of...
Repetition changes and repetition,
instead of being the very thing that kills us,
that bores us and is a symbol of death,
becomes a thing that awakens us.
Because it's somehow a rhythmic repetition,
it's a meaningful repetition.
One repetition picked out of all the other meaningless repetitions
becomes significant, carries us once again to that other dimension.
It's like it's always an attempt to get from the
horizontal, linear dimension of meaninglessness,
of mere progression to the vertical dimension of meaning,
to put it in a very simple way,
whether we're talking about a center
or whether we're talking about these repetitions and reflections.
By the way, Eliot does have a mandalic form in some of his poetry.
Who is it? It's Fry, Arthur Fry,
that wrote about four quartets
and analyzed them in terms of a mandala, like this.
The horizontal line is the line of time.
The vertical line is the line of, as it were,
the absolute meaning, which comes and intersects time.
Remember, what's that line?
To find the intersection of eternity with time.
Yeah, that's from Four Quartets.
But Eliot is very much in that line.
Even Fry uses the images of emptiness and plenitude
as being that vertical line.
I.E. Richard, who is a well-known poet,
for his book on the meaning of meaning.
As I recall it, his thesis is context.
It's context that generates meaning.
A thing conceived all by itself like a single molecule in space
is totally meaningless.
You can't find any meaning in it, and you never will,
unless you relate it.
You see something else with which you can relate it.
And the relationship can give meaning to nothing else.
I think that's valid.
It's also very biblical in a way.
In other words, the difference between that scrap of dust
or of dry grass and the tree is relationship.
The tree is something which is all relationship,
which is rooted into the earth,
which in some way unites all the elements within itself,
whereas the scrap of chaff is an unrelated fragment.
Also, when we talk...
The tree is in movement.
It involves time as well as matter.
That's right, sure.
But I see it in terms of relationship.
So our problem is to get built into the tree,
which is the Word, which is the Logos,
which is the wisdom of God,
to become part of that tree.
And in doing that we become a whole tree in ourselves.
But the tree is completely relationship,
because it's like a creature which is reaching in every dimension.
It reaches down, it reaches up, and it reaches out.
So it's kind of a total relationship, the image of the tree.
And that's why it's a good image for the wisdom of God,
or for Christ, for the Logos.
I just wanted to ask if you could give us the name of the article,
of Cato's article.
Do you have another...
If there's anything on this Chiasma, would you read it?
Oh, sure.
I'll get a reference on Chiasma for you for next time.
The Cahill article, perhaps.
Okay, the Cahill article is called
The Johannine Logos as Centered.
And it's in Catholic Biblical Quarterly.
It starts on page 54 and it goes to 72.
If need be, we can make a copy of it.
What article were you reading from earlier,
about the darkness and the water and the light?
It was an interpretation of John.
Was that Cahill?
No, that's me.
That's part of a book.
Okay, thank you very much.
So, if anybody needs any further explanation on that monolith thing
that didn't pick it up last night, let me know
and we'll have a special session for that.
But otherwise, our next meeting is 7.30 p.m. tonight.
Thank you.