Every Grain of Sand

Henri_Rousseau_-_La_zingara_addormentata

Every Grain of Sand
Brian Zahnd

In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

–Bob Dylan, Every Grain of Sand

I had a dream. I dreamed I was riding a yellow bicycle. While riding my yellow bicycle I was intently observing the beauty of creation, especially the vibrant colors — the green of the grass and trees (the human eye is more attune to the green spectrum than any other), the blue sky, the red roses, the yellow dandelions. During my colorful dreamland bike ride I was thinking about the nature of salvation. When I awoke I wrote down my nocturnal thoughts:

When we make salvation mostly postmortem, all about the afterlife, we create a barrier — a wall of separation between redemption and the land of the living. No wonder so many shrug their shoulders in disinterest. But when we locate salvation here and now we achieve a stunning relevance.

Salvation is about being human. This is why the Logic (Logos) of God became human flesh. Jesus came to give us back the life we lost ever since we stumbled out of the garden to wander in the violent land east of Eden.

When Adam and Eve were banished from Eden Creation lost its gardener. Is it any surprise that the faster our technology has advanced the more rapacious we have become in the pillage and plunder of our planet? When we lost our vocation as gardeners, the planet lost its God-ordained caretakers. From the stone age to the dawn of the industrial age the planet has been able to muddle by without its caretakers, but now human civilization, divorced from its original vocation, threatens to imperil the earth.

Mary Magdalene’s Easter “mistake” of thinking Jesus was the gardener is a poetic hint of how the Last Adam leads us back to our first vocation. Any understanding of salvation that doesn’t lead us to love God’s creation is far more Gnostic than Christian. Or perhaps it’s just voracious capitalism dressed up in Christian garb — a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If we cannot love the primeval forest I’m not sure we can love either God or neighbor. The wise Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov gives this counsel to the novice monk Alyosha:

“Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

If you say that sounds like tree hugger theology,
I say a theologian can do worse than to hug a tree.

When Karl Rahner famously predicted that “the devout Christian of the future will either be a mystic or he will cease to be anything at all,” he was keenly prescient. Indeed, the hope for a vibrant Christianity in the West lies, in part, in a recovery of mysticism. The tyranny of empiricism so characteristic of modernity is at last coming to an end. A Christianity that has no room for the mystics can expect to be increasingly ignored, left to molder in its own arrogant assumptions.

The rise of global Pentecostalism in the 20th century is just one portent of the type of spirituality that is capable of addressing the spiritual hunger of the postmodern world. This is a return to our ancient roots. There was a time when mysticism was not tangential to Christianity but an integral aspect of Christian experience. After all, we Christians claim it is possible to communicate with God, that miracles are credible, and that the rightful ruler of our planet is a crucified man who was raised from the dead two thousand years ago. Mysticism is no outlier to orthodox Christianity.

Which is why I have increasing interest in what might be described as aboriginal spirituality. From the point of view of Christian theology, aboriginal spirituality is not heterodox, but simply a spirituality rooted in something other than the European Enlightenment — a spirituality not of the ivory tower, but of the moss covered forest.

Today most of us have enough good sense to lament that Christianity arrived in the “new” world as a stowaway in the company of gold-crazed Spanish conquistadors and English pilgrims driven to cruelty by the lie of Manifest Destiny. What if Europe and America had met in another way? What if there had been a genuine exchange of ideas, a gracious cultural cross-pollination? How much richer might Western spirituality be today if this had occurred? Or do we still cling to the lie of a European hegemony in all things, including spirituality?

Because of a twist of geographical fate Europeans had the advantage of an earlier reception of the gospel and access to the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. But by the time Columbus made his blundering “discovery,” Europeans had also lost much of their aboriginal wisdom — which is to say, they had forgotten that humans belong to the earth. Europeans had learned how to dominate nature, but not how to live with and care for nature.

Half a millennium of that trajectory has left our planet in peril. Perhaps, while there is still time, we should become humble enough to consult the wisdom of those who knew how to live in respectful relationship with the rest of God’s creation. This was the instinct of Saint Francis, the spiritual savant who spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and Sister Water. It’s this type of integrated spirituality — Christian theology and aboriginal wisdom — that compels me to read both the Swiss theologian Karl Barth and the Native American poet John Trudell. I benefit from both.

With Western culture exhibiting so clearly the symptoms of a deep spiritual malaise, a poverty of soul that is harming both people and planet, we need to bring an end to European hubris. Maybe with chastened humility we can ask if cultures that have lived in close harmony with creation for thousands of years can teach us how to become custodians instead of conquistadors, participants instead of plunderers. For in plundering the planet we have pillaged our souls, leaving us with an emptiness that systematic theology alone cannot fill.

So mysticism beckons. We have our scriptures, we have our creeds. These are sufficient to keep us safely within Christian orthodoxy. But can we also learn to listen to the wise poets and sages of aboriginal spirituality who can teach us much that has been forgotten? I hope so. Because secularism, which appears to be the only other alternative, leads to nothing but a spiritual dead end. Either we become mystics or it won’t be long before we are nothing at all.

BZ

(The artwork is The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rosseau, 1897)

  • I still don’t understand how we are “plundering” what’s ours, or how Israel has been accused of “occupying” its own land.
    I thought both were God-given.

  • Indeed, you appear not to understand.

    The earth is the Lord’s. We are to care for it, not abuse it; we are to cultivate it, not capitalize on it; we are to be gardeners, not vandals.

    Israel’s high calling was not to occupy, but to bring forth the fruit of justice. (See Isaiah 5, etc., etc., etc.)

    In Christ the chosen people is the human race and the holy land is the whole earth. (See Ephesians 2 & 3, etc., etc., etc.)

  • Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

    Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? …” (Acts 5:1-4)

  • John

    If you believe that Gnosticism is just a matter of disregarding the creation then you are mistaken. I would encourage you to find a copy of Harold Bloom’s American Religious Poems and read his introduction. America has always been far more Gnostic than traditionally Christian, and it is unlikely to change any time soon. Better still, if you’re truly interested in understanding the American religious temperament read deeply in Emerson. Why be afraid of heterodoxy? All original speculation is heterodox when compared to what preceded it. What we need are powerful original religious consciousnesses, like yourself, to step beyond their polarizing religious beliefs and venture forth out into the open, prophesied by Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson.

  • Patrick

    I have maligned you on twitter for that I apologize. This article is really hitting home to me. I have been discontent and heart sick with what passes for Christianity and have felt a definite tug toward two things: Orthodox Christianity and Mysticism. I really need a starting point to for this road…..Any suggestions? Thanks

  • Is Theopedia mistaken about Gnosticism as well?

    “God is wholly transcendent, that is, he is far removed from his creation. He did not create the material universe because it was instead created by an evil or lesser God, sometimes called a ‘demiurge’. God is thus too perfect and pure to have much to do with the evilness of the material universe.”

    http://www.theopedia.com/Gnosticism

  • What a great post Brian, full of evocative and pregnant ideas that necessitate a return to ‘a spirituality not of the ivory tower, but of the moss covered forest.’ Beautiful!

  • Jefferson W. Slinkard

    I just commented today on Michael Hardin’s FB about “To celebrate Columbus day or not”. It goes along with your story somewhat Brian. Here is the excerpt; Well…being an 1/8 blood plains native and mixed in with German and Irish, I would like to put my two cents into this.My Grandmother on dads side was a half breed and treated as such! Dad was a 1/4 breed and was angry that his mother was treated as such! Speaking from a “white” colonial perspective, having not the memory of racists remarks, seems to me to be standing on ones soapbox of America’s nationalism.
    White folks, (and I have much in me) really can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to racial inequality. We all hear the comments, “Oh really, I just don’t see why the blacks are up in arms over this or that situation” and there it is…”they just don’t see”!
    I have mentioned before on here how the millions upon millions of “our” buffalo were destroyed, by an act of congress to “bring the heathen natives to their knees”. Or, the Great forest denuded for…what? Money, wealth, fortune? I’m not against the cutting of trees, I’m against the denuding of them and my ancestors buffalo! And the polluting of our waterways.
    I lived with a father that remembered his “full blood” grandmother. It seemed, his anger was never quenched! At 86 now, he will still rant about that “dam” Columbus!
    You know…what really disturbs me? Those that say, ” we are a christian nation because of the vast wealth given us”! I’m sorry…the wealth was here long before the Euro’s came!
    Yes, we fought against each other sometimes, we are human too! Our Christ came and did what He did for everybody! Even me, a blue eyed native. Peace brothers and sisters!

  • Terri Carroll

    I am simple and never made the simple correlation of Mary Magdalene mistaking Jesus for the gardener. Wow how profound that seems! I love every grain of sand and my favorite line is, I hear the ancient footsteps. I envision those ancient feet and their is no form it is a presence that has an established place. Your teaching has spurred what is underlying and needed. After experiencing great loss and horrific suffering the acquaintance with death has made life and its authentic expression more precious. My life is much improved because I opened my clenched fists and my creator God elevated them. Mostly I wanted to say thank you for putting into words what some of us want to say and definitely need to hear. Seeker to be the genuine article!

  • Guest

    I’m reminded of a book by Amos Smith called “Healing the Divide” that speaks of the early Alexandrian mystics, and their discipleship, understanding of Christ’s nature. Their paradoxical view of God and Christ as inextricably human and divine (i.e. one cannot be described without the other – as is true for the trough of a wave to the wave itself). That speaks so much about paradoxes that I begin to see that concurrency all around us. In my understanding of the Word made flesh and Son of Man, and the concurrency of sinner and saint in us all.

    This goes in helping me with possible insights to passages that have always bothered me – conflicting stories that didn’t make sense. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”- a very human expression of despair, or the even more problematic statement spoken to the Phoenician woman of means, seeking healing for her daughter (the “dogs” comment). These compared to tales and acts more emblematic of His divinity (i.e. “I could call an army of angels…”, the healing of the sick, raising of the dead, etc.).

    I understand that mysticism, listening for God’s message, contemplation… and seeking some peace with paradoxes that befuddled, was key to the Myaphisite disciples in the earliest days, and survives in their latter day Orthodox descendants. Their understanding of paradoxes was intrinsic to the parables left behind, questions answered by more questions, uncertainty, and the like. A mystic’s seeking was requisite to this (and continues at present). Perhaps a good approach to healing the world is to do more listening for that voice in contemplative, meditative prayer, and doing a little less talking at God.

    Just thoughts, sparked by this very good piece. Thank you, and brightest blessings and peace.

  • JK

    Why not say “greed” instead of “voracious capitalism”? That’s the biblical language, though it may make some of your anti-capitalist friends squirm, appropriately so because it doesn’t let them off the hook.

    Frankly, capitalism, with its respect for property rights etc., is the best secular system we have to achieve the very ends you desire here.

  • randywoodley7

    Very well stated Brian. I agree fully with Rahner’s quote. I speak as a Native in the Ivory Tower and I tell you the future for the Church must be different. I think most of the comments get that-so thanks. Obviously, some refuse to see. We all have a lot to learn. Many Christians with European ancestry have much still to learn but one can’t learn what they think they already know. The Christianity brought to this country did not represent Jesus but rather a form of White superiority gleaning White male privilege and White male normalcy. That’s why we are still having discussions over God’s place in creation and Columbus. That’s why genocide and slavery among so many other terrible attributes, follow Christians as they walk with their crooked crosses on stolen land. Our land was stolen, our homes destroyed, our children raped, our people murdered all in Jesus name but the real culprit was and still is (as some of these terrible things continue) White Supremacy. The fact that people are still arguing over this should tell us how far removed from Christ we really are. Thanks for writing this Brian!
    RANDY WOODLEY, author of Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision.

  • Herm

    What must I do to inherit eternal life beginning now?

    But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

    Pastor Zahnd, you are given 45 plus hours of air time alone with the oneness of spouse and God to experience the land where naked aboriginal spirituality is practiced today in one of the harshest of God’s Earth bound gardens and you think to bring back this red meat for us to savor, thank you.

    I met God physically, socially and spiritually for the first time when sitting in a high school Sunday school class; looking out the window. I saw God’s hand tending the orchards, clearing the creek, manicuring the chaos of “undeveloped” Mount Diablo, guiding the local traffic, nurturing the broken hearts, laughing with those in suffering the pains of a good old belly laugh, crying with those crying, …, and coordinating all that we thought we could do without Their constant support and vision … on our own without Their love. That was when my relationship left the mystical and became as real as is my relationship with my wife today whom I love with all my heart, soul, strength and mind (I find in her the depth of an eternal mystery I want to get to know even better). There is no marriage in Heaven but there is found the entire Family of God to get to know even better eternally beginning today in my heart and mind through the direct connection of the Holy Spirit.

    Anthropologically the picture you paint has truth but might be a bit too simplistically fundamental to be a full and real image of the Truth we could know. A child does not know how to tend any farm/ranch/garden necessary for an eternally balanced diet. Children, from their limited experience and perspective, often think they have it now and can do it all for the sake of their aging parents who have provided all up and until the child separates from family and says, “I’ll do it better now myself, thank you very much.”

    The Australian aborigine has been described as like a child lost out in the wilderness by the educated elite in Western and Eastern “civilization”. The Australian aborigine is a hunter/forager living off the garden managed by God much like anthropology tells us we all were 25,000,000 years prior to the last 10,000 years of increased farming and ranching for ourselves. I truly do not believe we left the garden tended by God because we ate the forbidden fruit not yet in season as much as we decided that we could do a better job of growing and sharing the fruit without God’s constant intervention. We still believe we know best when to harvest the fruit and are very often having to face a lesson enhancing our knowledge of good (productive) and evil (destructive) when we pollute by over use or pay the farmer to leave his/her field go fallow indefinitely for economic purposes of our own foresight.

    I know God today as an infant child, comparatively speaking, who is totally dependent upon Them for life. I know I could study and practice horticulture and parenthood for the maximum of 120 years of cognizant life allowed and still not be able to grow and nourish life anywhere near as perfectly as my God does for me and mine. By Jesus’ example I trust my Father in Heaven to provide and by Jesus’ example I have learned to share in the oneness of the Family of God through the Holy Spirit given to me that I not be an orphan separate from the protection and nurture of family.

    This may seem mystical to many who read what I have just written. Most who argue will do so out of the insecurity of feeling like they have to develop the truth for themselves (plant, nourish and harvest their own seeds) rather than accept the Truth available to their heart and mind according to their needs forever right now. For many years now I have known that the limited carnal is like a temporary tool loaned to our exceedingly immature spiritual hearts, souls, strengths and minds that we might be able to mature into the infinite and eternal dimensions of God’s kingdom. Children, especially infants, too often think their unique ghetto of birth, even if only a crib from an adult’s perspective, is the whole of life and what they know today that gets them fed, housed and clothed is what will work forever. Children always think their adult given chores earn their subsistence in the family when the chores were only gifts to develop their uncoordinated heart, soul, strength and mind. Children by definition cannot earn and provide for themselves.

    I have written too much for any to digest in one sitting. I do so not to be hailed as a brilliant and prophetic mystic but only that those who ask, seek and knock may find from the only true and ever continuing source for prophecy and brilliance that will dispel the cloud of mystery just as we need to see in the most perfect season of harvest. I am a child who recognizes so much of what my Family of God gives me that my cup overflows and I want to share it all with all my friends and neighbors … as well as those who choose to be my enemy. In fact, I have been asked and commissioned to share it all as have you Pastor Zahned, thank you very much! It’s good to have you back.

  • Thank you, Randy.

    I’ve admired your work from afar. Someday we will meet.

    Blessings to you!

    BZ

  • Rod Tucker

    I love this. It is beautiful. It is well written and it causes me to pause and notice my place of stewardship. I am a caretaker, not a bully. Gentle.

  • Patrick

    Anyone have a suggestion for a couple of must read books on Orthodox Christianity or Mysticism?
    Thanks

  • Herm

    JK, patriotically I know this is what we are to believe, honoring the exceptional foresight of our fore-fathers and God’s gift to us to institute such a beneficial system of economics for all of mankind. Capitalism isn’t mentioned in the declaration of independence, bill of rights, preamble or the entire founding logic of the constitution of the United States of America where all of man is created equal. I know the pure socialist, Marxist and communist based secular systems of economy and governance don’t have any better track record when administered by the ruling class of mankind. Pure capitalism controls and administers its nation’s needs by profit motive alone and only works for as long as the profit is ever increasing by additional sales, higher fees or cutting costs by cheaper labor or introducing less quality into the production process.

    A disciple and/or believer of Jesus the Christ has the model of economic governing according to Acts 4:32-5:11 which survived for 300 years prior to the governing of the Christian membership by Constantine and his church alive in its own spirit today throughout Christendom. The most productive for all of governing that I can put my entire faith in today is accepting Jesus as my Lord and Brother in the Family of God. If I am hungry, cold, injured and ignorant would I not gladly accept the salvation of someone whose cup is running over offer me food, clothe, shelter, healthcare and truth? As you do unto the least of these you do unto me. The most descriptive definition I can think of today for that form of governing would be a benevolent dictatorship administered by Jesus the Son of God/Son of Man under the full knowledge and authority of our Father in Heaven. That is where the King walks slowly in His dusty sandals and robe to administer to my needs exactly where I’m at rather than I have to climb up to the lofty levels of my Governing law and economic rulers who don’t have a clue what’s in my heart and mind as God does. Jesus as our sole/soul Ruler is available and working today throughout this world secular and religious, carnal and spiritual. I gladly accept my citizenship in the Family of God and will do unto all others as I would have them do unto me throughout the entire Kingdom. Love you!!!

  • physics guy

    Mary didn’t mistake Jesus as the gardener, she identified him as THE gardener. Humanity fell in the Garden, and Jesus redeemed humanity in a garden.

  • Herm

    Patrick, I can only offer this that I know from my journey. In all that you do and every where that you go be completely open to the Holy Spirit available to your heart and mind as Counselor and your bond to the united heart and mind of our Lord and Brother Jesus and the love and authority of our Father in Heaven. To those who do not know this relationship I know it sounds too lofty to be true for them much less me who they do not know. To those who know this eternally growing relationship this is what it means to them to be called a mystic or charismatic. The Guide leads (tugs) us all open to Him to all the reads, relationships, struggles, joys, peace and understanding we need for that moment to grow stronger and more enlightened on the path to the end of eternity. As Pastor Zahnd so well described in his above offering we find God in ALL that is around us. Only the Holy Spirit can direct you to that which you need most now. Walk with Him in all that you do and there is never any need to close out or lie to Him. Ask, seek and knock and it will be open unto you. Love your quest!!!

  • JK

    “benevolent dictatorship administered by Jesus” Yes, this is our faith and hope. In our already/not yet age, are you arguing for theocracy? Doesn’t seem so. In that case, what secular system are you advocating?

    “Pure capitalism controls and administers its nation’s needs by profit motive alone and only works for as long as the profit is ever increasing by additional sales, higher fees or cutting costs by cheaper labor or introducing less quality into the production process.” No. It harnesses our own self-interest to create value for others.

    Interesting to observe how often Jesus appeals to our own self interest, e.g Do you want abundant life? Water so good you’ll never be thirsty again?

  • Herm

    I agree with what you are trying to say but believe Jesus referred to Himself as the vine of which His Father would prune the branches. Jesus always referred to His Father as the authority in all things and required the Holy Spirit from the Father to perform His ministry.

  • Herm

    Are you arguing that we’re on our own here until the return of Jesus? I am not advocating a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

    I am trying to share that there is a perfectly good working system of governance in which the only priest is our High Priest and the the only Lord is Jesus, now, today. We only have to accept it. If we continue to fight and destroy others for the survival of capitalism as our salvation we really don’t have a clue what we were saved for in the name of Jesus our Christ.

  • Terri Carroll

    Makes it even more profound in its subtlety.

  • Deborah Henry

    Contemplating the beauty of God’s creation is harmonious, transforming, and healing to the soul. The busy life creates a web of uncertainties, arrogance, and assumptions. The spiritual nature of universal (global) historic cultures has always been to return to the foundational roots to discover the way back home in the circle of life. Within the madness and burnout; one finds it necessary to slow down, stop and reflect, and find the heart of God in all things. We are mystical in nature. We are defined by the mystery of God. It is breathtaking, peaceful, transforming, and beautiful. This is not a new movement or new discovery or new flow of the Spirit. This has always been the river of life; in our innermost being, for healing and preserving and restoration; for one another, for our planet. The chaotic times render the need for harmony. (The artwork, The Sleeping Gypsy, the wandering runaway soul, she finds peaceful rest. She has come home.)

  • Jordan

    As a flaming libertarian, I think aboriginal economics warrants our admiration as well. Although my knowledge of indigenous culture is limited, I can think of no culture that is a finer example of people caring for the environment and caring for each other without a state while respecting and honoring the worth and will of the individual than pre-European invasion North America.

  • Jordan

    I just bought “Christ the Eternal Tao” and “Orthodox Dogmatic Theology”. Since I haven’t read them yet, I can’t say anything about them, but you might find them worth looking into. I’m pretty excited to read them, but I need to finish a few others first.

  • I have read a few (or some close to those themes):

    Anam Cara (http://amzn.to/1F0hCQP)
    Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (http://amzn.to/1xTZ9kf)
    Oneing (http://amzn.to/1w9CWxh)

    and one more…

    The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (http://amzn.to/1w9CTS1)

  • John

    Gnosticism is the religion of the deep self or spark which is itself part of God. Of formulated religions it is closest to that unammed yet prevailing religion of the poets or even of poetry in general. Christians like to sneer, but only because they know that they share (or would like to share) in this Gnosis. Unfortunately many Christians are dominated by a sense of guilt. Gnosticism asks you to forgive yourself, and this is hard. It does away completely with what James Joyce called the “hang-man God.” For Gnosticism, the creation and fall were one and the same (William Blake’s poetry can help in understanding this). It celebrates what preceded the fall: the original Fulness, or Pleroma as it was sometimes called, which Gnosics (and so many poets) claim can be rediscovered in this life, in the here and now. Another great source for Gnostic wisdom is The Gospel of Thomas.

  • JK

    Herm, thought you might enjoy this, lyrics by Woodie Guthrie:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cO5yUzWAu8&list=RD9cO5yUzWAu8

  • JK

    Much to affirm here. I’m wading well out of my comfort zone, but I’m wrestling with whether we can & should repent of our own sins while resisting the temptation to romanticize the victims of our sins. My concern is that both victimizing and romanticizing are ultimately dehumanizing.

  • Herm

    JK, thanks! :-0

  • So-called Gnostic “wisdom” is nothing more than Christian heresy.

    According to Theopedia, Gnostics reject the idea of God becoming incarnate, dying and resurrecting bodily, which are the very cornerstones of the Christian faith and the foundation for our salvation.

    But for Gnostics, “salvation is to escape from the bondage of the material existence and travel back to the home from which souls/spirits have fallen,” which sounds like something out of Scientology.

    So much for salvation by self-knowledge.

  • Herm

    Indigenous carnal/spiritual cultures with choice and walking on two legs just like us fully populated a balanced ecosystem we know as Earth for 25 million years hunting and foraging. Farming, ranching, doling out food in exchange for money and civilization as we know it today over populated the same Earth in a mere 10 thousand years. If we see ourselves as one specie of mankind then we victimized ourselves by what I deem as childish choices in 10K years of providing for ourselves what God had maturely provided prior. If we see ourselves as all winning or losing self supporting individuals (or even separate tribes of responsibility) then we are romanticizing the ebb and flow of our self imposed victimization. Jesus is the only single Child of Man chronicled in our time to have emphasized the necessity of divine intervention bound by love (tied all together as one through all sentient hearts and minds that know and share sympathy, empathy, tolerance, mercy and responsibility for all) to our survival as mankind. It is because we have the opportunity, whether it be by our parent’s choice or our God’s choice, to learn to think and feel that we can struggle with the concepts of victimizing and romanticizing. This is not saying you are wrong but that my concern is without our minds defining a recognition of victimizing we cannot choose to do otherwise and without the valuing feelings found only from romanticizing we have no inspiration to choose at all. Each is a part of the essence of being human that separates us dramatically from our domesticated, loved and loving pets. According to Jesus we as children of God have the potential of an eternity to affirm all truth if only we abide in the uniting and affectionate bond of love for all. We who keep any from that good news are victimizers and we who share the Gospel of Jesus the Christ are romantics. Love you!

  • Practicing the Presence of God – Brother Lawrence
    Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ – Madame Jeanne Guyon
    The Ecstasy of Loving God – John Crowder
    Mystical Union – John Crowder

  • John

    Perhaps orthodoxy is only a fetish of a mind desperate for certitude?

  • Desperation is the absurd gnostic claim that it wasn’t Jesus who was crucified, but Simon of Cyrene.
    BTW, that’s the same bogus claim made by many Muslims whose “religion” is an attempt to repudiate Judeo-Christianity.

  • Herm

    Joe, I love you brother, but Jesus’ “wisdom” was deemed by the most renowned and studied authorities of His time on Earth as Jewish heresy. Maybe, those authorities could be forgiven because they knew not what they did. Maybe, we who know the Holy Spirit as our source and Councillor for all authority might leave salvation by self or group certainty up to His guidance. Just maybe because I know so little of what there is yet to know regarding all.

  • Herm

    John, I wish I could do one liners with as much impact as “Perhaps orthodoxy is only a fetish of a mind desperate for certitude?”!!! My hope is that everyone who prays on just why they find your question as objectionable heresy might be because they are subject in allegiance to group think, riot fever, family tradition, religious leadership, and the many forms of socially fragmenting/isolating patriotism created by man rather than accepting to be subject to the Creator God’s uniting call heard in each of our hearts and minds through the same Holy Spirit who kept Jesus in direct touch with the Father in Heaven on our Earth. See, that is an example of my one liner if the page was really, really wide. Thanks John, I agree with you that perhaps it is so as you say. Perhaps is it because we instinctively resist dying to our child of man status which we had to begin from in fear that we won’t immediately be born into the promised child of God status offered? I love your daring!

  • Herm

    Joe, I understand the mechanics and metallurgy necessary to build a working electrical or combustion engine car from the scratch elements gifted me in the earth. I don’t understand the particles that must be to make up an electron but I’ve harnessed its unique and consistent charge to build a generator of electricity utilizing Ohm’s Law. I don’t understand at all what is on the other side of our Universe. I am not privy to a full incontestable knowledge of Heaven or Hell. I do understand how to utilize our predictable Earth’s revolutions to store firewood or buffalo dung before the freezing over of winter. I have grown to understand the value of being prepared to die to save the life of my enemies who know not what they do but given the extra time might understand the value of loving God, me and mine. History as chronicled by man is grossly tainted by ghetto like justifications/allegiances but the available counsel of the Holy Spirit is pure and is meted out exactly in abundance as we each need to continue to grow in life. I very rarely, if you have noticed, use another person of man’s words to validate my own with only one exception and that is Jesus the Christ’s because only the charge found in His spoken law applied have actually worked consistently to generate life for all that I’m aware of. Jesus pointed by example and word to His relationship with the Holy Spirit to connect Him as the Son of God to one heart and one mind with the Father. Childhood in the Family of God is available to us all. Jesus quoted the Jewish law only to establish to the world the credentials of the Alpha and the Omega He spoke for subject to the inherent limitations of His Jewish born tongue. All the infinite resources of the Alpha and the Omega are available to us each through the Holy Spirit as we are ready as He has said. I hurt, God hurts, and mankind hurts for the religions all who seek their own understanding and validation rather than accepting the freely offered understanding and validation directly from the heart and mind of their creator God who loves them dearly. Today we have religions founded upon the family of Abraham who would murder their own, much less understandable than their enemies, because their logic came to the conclusion that God is too impotent to handle blasphemy without their intervention. All of our human logic is immature to the level of infancy when related to the knowledge of those who we were created in the image of. Jesus never once told us to go and figure it all out so then we would be prepared to share the love of the Father and Son with the world. The school that Jesus teaches is eternal and has that much for us to learn all the way to the end. Jesus told us to go forth right now and that the Holy Spirit would tell us what to say before all the individual and group courts of human judgment regarding the inexhaustible love of God immediately available to them subject only to their acceptance in all love, not knowledge. It is up to you to understand why I feel lovingly prompted to share this with you in this public forum. I am not arguing in debate. I am testifying that you, I and everyone reading this are equally loved and capable of loving without the security of knowing any more than the Holy Spirit of God. God bless your tenacity in so vulnerably questioning through this class of learning!

  • Herm, the only “wisdom” that saves is knowing Jesus.

  • “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6).

  • Herm

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-28

  • Herm

    Joe, and how in all the laws of physics you trust daily and the laws of God that Jesus commands might you know the “wisdom” of Jesus as you need it? More importantly how do you know and are prepared for the needs of the hearts and minds you love to direct and share with?

  • Herm

    “saves” for what exactly?

  • Realize that “to hate” in Hebrew means “to love less”.

  • Well, it’s not “to escape from the bondage of the material existence and travel back to the home from which souls/spirits have fallen.”

  • John

    Religion, like poetry, is based on metaphor and figurative language. This is inescapable; the truth of religion can only be intimated within the silence of the heart, beyond words. The danger of orthodoxy is that it attempts to circumvent this slipperiness of language by somehow instituting certain figures of speech. This is where religious warfare comes from, is it not? So long as we persist in literalizing and legalizing metaphor (and making idols out of them) we will never get beyond the polarities which are condemning our world.

  • Although your Gnostic religion is “based on metaphor and figurative language,” Christianity is based on Jesus called the Christ.
    And the only danger orthodoxy poses is to heterodoxy.

  • John

    Religions that fail to understand their metaphors as metaphors always lead to war eventually. You cannot conceive of anything without language. Belief, of whatever variety, is always belief in a metaphor. The poet Wallace Stevens urges us to embrace the “nicer knowledge” of knowing that what we believe in is not true—the image points to truth, but is not truth itself. You may say that Christ transcends language, but whenever we conceive of Christ we do so through the medium of figurative speech.

  • Herm

    Meaning of the word “hate” found in Luke 14:26 :

    Transliteration – miseō

    Pronunciation – mē-se’-ō

    Part of Speech – verb

    Root Word (Etymology) – From a primary misos (hatred)

    Outline of Biblical Usage – to hate, pursue with hatred, detest (or) to be hated, detested

    Joe, to me this is considerably loving less. Let’s agree to each taking a focused moment to pray in counsel with the Holy Spirit to understand the Truth apropos to our and our neighbor’s needs. Happy Sabbath!

  • Herm

    Okay, so I’m weak and childlike in enthusiasm. I just have to interject here, now. Because I trust in the counsel of the Holy Spirit i have no fear in reading from, listening to and gleaning understanding from from any source of communication including but not limited to what Joe DeCaro writes according to his belief. Most of what has been derided as Gnostic is only what was discounted according to the council under the authority of Constantine because the writings didn’t fit what they believed. Under that precedent I can deride most of what I hear from you as Gnostic, I don’t.

  • The logos of God transcends Gnostic metaphors and similes.

  • “Many of the early Church fathers who extensively cite portions of the New Testament show no awareness of the Gospel of Thomas in the early second century. There are no quotations or allusions from early Christian writers like Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, or Justin Martyr … another reason why the Gospel of Thomas does not belong in the New Testament is due to its heretical nature which disagrees with the undoubtedly authentic New Testament books. The Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas teaches many things which are contrary to the Jesus of the canonical Gospels. For example, in the Gospel of Thomas saying 114, ‘Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ This quote is in striking contrast to the New Testament where Jesus affirmed the value of women, and the fact that Paul taught that we are all one in Christ …”

    http://carm.org/does-the-gospel-of-thomas-belong-in-the-new-testament

  • “miseō” is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew.

  • Herm

    Come on Joe, Dr. Luke wrote the his Gospel in Greek and knew exactly the meaning of the word of which the exact word is used 43 times in the New Testament. Ask God directly, you can!

  • Luke wrote in Greek because Jesus and the disciples all spoke Greek?
    (This was meant as a rhetorical question as perhaps only Phillip spoke Greek.)

  • Herm

    Okay Joe, Paul taught many things different from the teachings of Jesus. Only one example was alluding to himself as the father of the churches he planted when Jesus by example only spoke of one Father and told His disciples not to call anyone father. If we want to get down to knowing the unknowable past before we find a relationship with our Creator God of whom only Jesus is said to be the Word who was at the beginning we will never recognize the Holy Spirit as our only faithful, sufficient and perfect Councilor. You’re arguing the letter (without the “Q”) without pointing to the Spirit. The entire Bible is made up of stories from the heart originating first as songs and stories shared over fires that covered less than 7 thousand years of the 25 million years of sentient human beings in our image of which must then resemble the image of God both spiritually and carnally as we best can know. Our Creator God is very real and is best understood from what we know of Jesus the Christ through written history and from the relationship we know with the very same Holy Spirit that tied the heart and mind of the Son to the Father. Genesis is only developing a metaphoric picture in our heart and mind of the beginning ten thousand years ago when mankind first separated from God as sole provider. Jesus spoke to all we have to do to come back into the Family of God as siblings of Jesus the Son of God/Son of man. The poorest and most ignorant of mankind can more easily fit through the eye of the needle than those who worship more their wealth of material goods and knowledge than God. I am saved to love eternally my God, neighbor, my self and my enemy for an eternity if I choose to accept my birth of spiritual (the realm of God) baptism (not immersion or sprinkling by a priest) through the Holy Spirit into the Family of God with the only authority and provider being our Father. Does this sound Gnostic to you because it does not harmonize with the spirit of your mortal studies?

  • Herm

    “If anyone comes to me and does not detest father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-28

  • Unlike the Gospel of Thomas, Paul never taught anything contrary to the Jesus of the canonical Gospels, to include saying 114: “Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
    Anyone who believes this heretical nonsense needs to examine more than his Christianity.

  • If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] … (Amplified Bible, G. Abbott-Smith, Manual Greek Lexicon).

  • Herm

    While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50

    Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. Matthew 15:3-9

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28

    Heterodoxy: Heterodoxy is also an ecclesiastical term of art, defined in various ways by different religions and churches. For example, in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches heterodoxy may describe beliefs that differ from strictly orthodox views but that fall short of heresy

    Orthodoxy: authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice.

    Invite the Holy Spirit to take you alone through a heart with mind study of Matthew 23 separated from any past self-defensive teachings of and allegiances to carnal family, community of birth and religious clergy. Then you might understand why my heart whispers in painful love the following:

    Woe to the snakes and vipers of orthodoxy. If anyone of mankind authorizes theory, doctrine or practice contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit they are usurping God’s authority. Those who found their beliefs on generally accepted theory outside the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they become the group think/riot fevered crowd screaming crucify Jesus of Nazareth. Do we not know that Jesus could have called for and received infinitely overpowering legions of angels to fight and win that He may not die, ever? Do we not understand that the Holy Spirit was symbolically freed from the containment of the Holy of Holies when the veil was rent at the moment of Jesus’ demise? For what purpose did Jesus die but that we all could be saved to accept His presence in our hearts and minds as the living covenant today, right now?

    I cannot separate the snake and viper influences of my past actions of my choice from all those metaphorically pictured in Matthew 23. I lived up to the teachings presented me from my regional orthodoxy of birth. I did my parents proud. In too many ways I was no different than the Taliban of Pakistan murdering their own for blasphemy of their god. I went to war to defend my god. I was prepared to die to kill the body of a soul whose words and actions defiled my god so that my orthodoxy of birth might live. I did kill commie gooks in the name of my country and my god, forgive me, please. Many of my friends died to this world for the very same reason. Happy Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day for in my life they are celebrated everyday but differently now I celebrate the value and life of my enemy as well as my friends. Today I know that except in the heart and mind of the Family of God none of us will be remembered a mere thousand years from now and neither will our orthodoxy.

    Today I am defined best in religious terms as a devout mystic and/or charismatic. Today I have no charisma without the Holy Spirit of God working with me in my infant heart and in my infant mind. Today what comes out of my mouth often seems too mystical for most of my neighbors whom I love as I do myself because the essence of the picture God is developing in my heart and mind defies my verbal language skills and certainly defies theories, doctrines and practices generally accepted today. I feel like an inept child of God with so very much enthusiasm for life (temporal and eternal) I stumble over to share who empathizes with the prophets from all spiritual walks of life still chronicled today. I don’t feel greater than or less than any of mankind who shares this Earth. I know God as much as an infant child can know its family from the crib and my Family knows me in all aspects. I no longer have any modesty of nakedness before my God in any way.

    My Family of God can fight their own wars and defend their own name without any of my efforts. On the playground you can get me aside and call my God a bitch or a bastard and I no longer find those fighting words in defense of my Father/Mother/Sister/Brother of God except to fight to introduce you to my Family to let you judge in person Those you clearly do not know love you.

  • I do know that “Father/Mother/Sister/Brother” all don’t turn into one another.

  • Herm

    They do as one Family of God. See all those “/”s? Think of them as the Holy Spirit.

  • Only in Gnosticism does the family of God morph into a spiritual, unisex free for all.

  • Herm

    Indeed you appear not to understand.

    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

  • I understand the difference between male and female and the reason members of the opposite sex marry.

  • Herm

    Joe, sincere as you might be, you do not understand if you ignore Genesis 1:27 in context and taken as literally as you can understand. You understand what your father has told you but not what your Father in Heaven wants to teach you in the Truth. Every religious and secular group/family/nation of mankind that takes a name to separate themselves from the rest of mankind demands allegiance that their name alone might survive above all others. Jesus did not designate His disciples as Christians but as brothers/sisters united in the Family of God bound by love and allegiance to the authority of our Father in Heaven. The Holy Spirit keeps that love and authority alive in our minds and hearts that we not become orphans without a family to support us.

    This is an alter call for this Sunday. Go with all childlike humility alone directly to God and beseech Him to protect you from spirits that keep you from His unifying truth. Ask Him in all sincerity to teach you the reality that you can understand to be able love all that is His creation. Ask Him, not me, how He could be both male and female. Ask Him if you are both male and female in His image and how that might or might not pertain to loving all your merciful neighbors as your self. Ask Him why there is no marriages in Heaven and yet there is male and female. If He cannot answer you go back to your separate church of mankind for you then will know there is no Family of God to support you otherwise as does your special religious group.

    I have accepted that alter call and prostrated myself before the High Priest ordained by the Father in the church sanctuary of my Messiah, not King Jame’s or Constantine’s church. You too can do the same but you first must be fed up and humbled from all the internal family of mankind’s bickering to despise all the varying self centered teachings and influences of families and members of those families who demand allegiance that their family name might survive beyond the name of the Family of God. I am no longer a member of any other family separate from that of my Father’s in Heaven for otherwise that is sin against the Family of God. I truly do love, as does my Father, all children of man and Children of God. Love is painful when we watch siblings of free choice acting upon their shared playground facts while not knowing that they do not know enough not to be destructive. I truly love members from all of mankind’s defined religions, nations, families, genders, sexes, normality and abnormality.

    I end here by asking if you are so sure in your understanding of male and female functions in God’s creation how is it that God would allow perfectly functional inter-sexed persons in His image to be born to man? Ask Him! Love you!

  • Herm, “functional inter-sexed person” is a contradiction in terms.

    And I am not ignoring Gens 1:27, but rejecting the Gnostic trans-sexual reinterpretation of it.

  • Herm

    NO, Joe it is not but someone has told you it is. You dismiss so quickly without reading or praying on what is being shared based only on your infant ability to discern what you have been fed by men and women in your life no greater in experience and age than a possible 120 years of cognizant life. God has so much more to offer!

  • Herb, I didn’t have to pray to quickly dismiss this “saying” from the Gospel of Thomas:

    “Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

  • Herm

    Joe, I have you exasperated and you are repeating defensively what I have not even begun to discuss, forgive me. I leave you for today, so that you may regain your composer, repeating only that you can talk to God directly. He will tell you where you must go to share that you may grow in His Family. The Guide directs the light of Jesus specially for your heart and mind to see the will of your Father in Heaven. Verse 114 of the Gospel according to Thomas may not be understood by either of us and the Holy Spirit knows that. God is found to relate to each of us in all there is and the Holy Spirit translates all according to each of our unique abilities of experience and readiness. That is ALL that I testify to relative to Joe DeCaro and in no way am I defending what you may not be ready to understand the significance of. This is not a debate between Joe and Herm that one must lose for the other to win. This seems to be one of us pointing only to God for the source of truth and one of us seeming to only defend what is acceptable or unacceptable to him. Go to God to argue for only He is knowledgeable enough of your needs and can argue in love with you that you may grow into eternal life. Please, really, forgive me for not helping us both to grow and apparently have instead caused you consternation and frustration. My weakness, not yours! Thank you for staying with me that I may have even more time to relate with the Holy Spirit for my edification wishing all along that it was for ours. Peace! amen

  • An exasperated “amen”.

  • Jo Shu

    Y’know, I’m becoming more open to the idea of holistic salvation. I mean, not just redemption of the soul in eternity, but redemption of the whole person in this life. I’m also becoming more open to the idea of mysticism–not a hopelessly subjective mysticism, but renewed delight in the true, the good, the beautiful mystery of Christian faith. Part of it comes from reading patristic sources. Part of it comes from reading you, Mr. Zahnd. I’m not sure where I’m going, exactly, but somehow I think we’re on similar journeys.

  • Herm

    Jo Shu, you correctly unite early church fathers and Pastor Zahnd as worthy inspirations to the Truth. Once you have realized all love of dependence upon God the Father and Son for life you can surrender fully in eternal union with the Holy Spirit as your Guide. The tool of intellectual patrology then becomes only necessary to help bring others throughout this world into our Father’s fold.

    I searched our world’s foremost intellects for decades only to realize that we did not know anything relative to what God must know but somehow had access to all we would ever need to know when we needed to know. I could sense kindred souls in more those referred to as mystics than those defining my carnal and spiritual life as reigning intellectuals. I heretically, in defiance of my family’s loving upbringing, sensed more reliable truth from the feelings and thoughts gleaned from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Buddhism, Confucianism, and shamanism than I did the seminary instructors and theologians I formally studied under. I could not, although, shake the sensed power, authority and truth of Jesus the Christ that I have come to trust as a mystic.

    Yes, I was a sincere teenager in the early sixties raised in the San Francisco Bay Area with the influences of most of our world’s cultures available to learn from. I spent much time in the military in the Far East sharing first hand in many different cultures there. In my travels around the world it became obvious that the culture of my youth was different and no more right or wrong than any of our world’s long standing cultures. The culture of my carnal childhood, having just followed the depression and WWII, became understood in my heart and mind as unfortunately “Ugly American” in nature because it predominately taught us all within that we were exceptionally right and all others were just plain wrong.

    Jesus the Christ, Lord, Son of Man, Son of God, Brother, Teacher and divine Friend is very real. We are not orphaned by His physical absence from this Earth because I, also, testify that the Holy Spirit is very real and immediately available with one heart and one mind with Jesus and our Father.

    Jesus, without any training in intellectualism, taught us as a mystic when mysticism is defined as a “belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender” (Googled definition one). He spoke clearly of the “union with or absorption into the Deity” when teaching of becoming children of God with His Father as reigning authority eternally.

    Jesus was crucified fully justified by the best fundamental judgment of intellectual logic that defined Him as a mystic with a “belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies” (Googled definition two).

    I love the path your journey is taking. I am on it and it is working today. Once you accept the Family of God as real, available and spiritually cogent for your life forever beginning today on this Earth and ending at the end of eternity it becomes solely the council of the Holy Spirit and not those patristic sources you will depend upon to receive, give and live in each moment. Jesus was dependent upon the Holy Spirit that He was baptized by to be of one heart and one mind with the Father in the three years of His formal ministry. The Holy Spirit can certainly be relied upon to tell you what to say if you ask and to guide you in all you seek. Jesus did not speak of our physical brains, eyes, ears and feet inheriting eternal life but did our heart, soul, strength, and mind which is our spiritual self. To the physical fundamentalist and intellectual then and today this is just too mystical to be believed. The mysticism of Jesus the Teacher has survived for over two thousand years even with the editing of carnal intellectual scribes and judges found in the New Testament of the “Christian” Bible we glean from today. It is a mystery to me how pointing to the Holy Spirit for entry into the Family of God to inherit eternal life is not understood by all as mystic in nature and pertinent to divine life and allegiance beginning right now and right here.

    This I testify to because this I live and it works. I am not any more specially loved than you. I am doing unto you that which I would have you do unto me. Love you! I wish you an abundance of peace and joy though all your heart, soul, strength and mind building struggles toward truth and health.

  • Herm

    The Voice by Don Nori Sr.