A Stumble in the Dark
Looking back on the spiritual journey to date, which is more like a stumble in the dark, some mentors or guides stand out. I read the works of many others and found them, not necessarily false, but not on my wave link. On the silly side, I reject the prosperity gospel not because I don't like money, but the idea of a gumball machine godhead is ridiculous (pray and get a new car). On the serious side, after reading the works of St. Augustine I experience total nonretention. For example, Augustine wrote: "And what is written, that He wills all men to be saved, while yet all men are not saved, may be understood in many ways, some of which I have mentioned in other writings of mine; but here I will say one thing: He wills all men to be saved, is so said that all the predestinated may be understood by it, because every kind of men is among them." About the twins Jacob and Esau, Augustine wrote in his book On the Gift of Perseverance, "It ought to be a most certain fact that the former is of the predestinated, the latter is not." Such positions are for trained theologians to debate, certainly not for me to judge. With Augustine, I end up wondering what happened to the unnamed woman who was his concubine and the mother of their son, Adeodatus. She was abandoned and sent back to Carthage so Augustine could have a successful career with a socially approved wife. Also, I wonder about his conversion to Christianity from Manichaeism soon after Theodosius issued a decree of death for all Manichaean monks. His life makes an interesting story, but his theology....
Although raised in the Methodist church, attendance and attention to religion stopped at my first year of college; I left my religion at home with my high school diploma. My rediscovery of religion, other than academic courses in comparative religions, began with the works of Nikos Kazantzakis in the 1960s. I gradually worked backwards to Matthew half a century later.
Christianity and Western Civilization are woven into same tapestry and have partially formed my idenity and, to some extent, basic personality - just as the English language has shaped my thinking....all part and parcel of what I am. For thirty years I lived in the Midwest, but my cultural home remained Southern. Had I lived thirty years in Japan, I would never have become Japanese. That said, my physical growth depended on inherited genes and my intellectual growth was due to education and my individual effort building on the cultural foundation I inherited. Although I am not a religious person, I accept Christianity because it was handed down to me, just like the English language. However, education improved both my spoken and written language as well as my concepts of Christianity.
1. St Matthew is the Gospel writer first on my list, because of his covering of the story of Jesus in the Wilderness; the man Jesus struggles alone. Although Matthew records miracles, the Temptations act as a counter balance to the magic stuff.(Link to more on Temtations)
|Christ in the Wilderness -Ivan Kramsko|
2. St Paul. For the simple reason that he was instrumental in establishing the church. Paul's epistles are the roots of the theology, worship and pastoral life in the Latin and Protestant traditions of the West, as well as the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions of the East.
3. Peter Abelard. He restored the authority of Aristotle which
became firmly established in the decades after Abelard's death. The completed
Organon (his six works on logic) and gradually all his other works, were made
available in the schools. Before Abelard, Plato's authority was the basis for
the prevailing philosophical/theological thought.
4. Vladimir Solovyov. Mainly because of his ideas 1) that freedom leads a human being away of God, but only through freedom can he/she return to God. 2) Sophia is the Eternal Feminine, the feminine soul of the world. Sophia is the passive force, the feminine hypostasis of Divinity, which unconsciously strives for unity, while God's Logos (Christ) is an active and formative energy and has the conscious idea of total-unity. 3) Reverence establishes the moral basis of man’s relation to that which is higher to himself and, as such, is the root of religion.
5. Nikos Kazantzakis for some of his books: Zorba the Greek, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Odyssey: a Modern Sequel, and The Saviors of God. I like new takes on old ideas, otherwise dogma is in danger of becoming cant. Kazantzakis thinks our struggle involves violent clashes between opposing forces in the soul: mind and matter, spirit and flesh, instinct and reason, vitality and form, action and contemplation. On the social and historical level, Kazantzakis saw this process as requiring terrible, bloody, and catastrophic upheavals. Zorba is in a knife fight to protect the Widow when one of the townsmen suddenly cuts her throat. Zorba throws his knife down and walks away from the fight: don't fight over the dead. So very unlike the idealist who favor Antigone for burying her dead brother; an act that she know will lead to her death and several innocents on the side line. Idealist playing god seek justice but only bring chaos to the world, the innocent suffer, justice always eludes the idealist, but the bodies do pile up.
6. Flannery O'Conner. Her Catholic outlook is reflected sympathetically in the treatment of her characters, who have a religious impulse but no traditional church to guide them (Hazel Motes the self appointed preacher in his own Church of Jesus Christ Without Jesus). Another source of humor for her was the attempt of well-meaning liberals to cope with the South, and American problems in general, on their own terms. Their inability to come to terms with disability, race, poverty, and fundamentalism, other than in sentimental illusions, highlights the failure of the secular world in her 20th century...and now in our 21st century. Liberals want to cure the race problem by purging white society of "racism", cure poverty with free money, replace religion with humanism, and eradicate stupidity by abolishing IQ tests. Her approach was to hit liberals with a literary rubber chicken. She understood disparity in society, which means that some are on top, some in the middle, and some on the bottom. We can either learn to live with disparities or we can opt for totalitarianism.
In conclusion....well there ain't no conclusion, certainly no denouement. We just keep learning, relearning, and forgetting. And so it goes....