Category Archives: Holy Spirit

“Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God”

John Donne’s famous sonnet, “Batter My Heart, Three Person’d God” reveals the intense spiritual passion of those whose “god-spot” in the brain is over-heated.  Donne’s sonnet vividly conveys his deep desire to know God with complete abandonment though he also realizes that it is his rationality that stands in the way of this experience.  He knows that this reason is itself a gift from God but intuitively knows that it has been “captive’d” by something or someone (i.e. Satan) so that it is useless in the quest for God without Divine intervention, unless his reason be “o’er thrown.”

Donne recognized that our reason is not the primary driving force in our lives, even with religious impulses.  Being a poet he was in tune with depths of the heart which most of us never have any awareness of.  He knew that the phenomena of “god” would come to fullest expression only from these hidden spiritual resources in our heart and never as the result of rationality.  Donne was bringing to our attention that life is much more complicated than we like to think, knowing that our “thinking” when given primacy will always keep us on the surface of life.

But life spent on the surface will always be shallow and sorely lacking, with the absent quality always beckoning for attention.  Some use the term “god” to refer to this driving force but any word choice is not important for words can never capture this experience though our “captive’d” would like us to think so.  Religion was created to address this issue, the word itself meaning to bind together something which is divided.

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
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Trump and the’Awful Grace of God’

“The Lord has raised him up!” Some conservatives made this argument for Trump and I’m beginning to believe they were right, but not in the way they had in mind. Conservatives have the very important responsibility for emphasizing boundaries and restraint in any tribe but when that emphasis becomes extreme, “balance” will be forthcoming from “the gods.”  Now they have Donald Trump who is the poster child for poor boundarys and he is putting fundamental “proprieties” of our country in jeopardy, best illustrated with this egregious connection with Russia.  Conservatives are being “hoisted on their own petard.”   Lord help us.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/flynn-held-multiple-calls-with-russian-envoy_us_58792072e4b09281d0eaaaf1?y4gb5h6z14c7rjm7vi)

Conservatives in America are facing a “come to Jesus moment” as is our entire country.  A “Come to Jesus meeting” is a popular expression of a moment when truth is becoming impossible to hide from, when truth is even about to “bitch slap” somebody.  And like all humans, Conservatives are averse to this invasion of reality and are doing everything in their power to undermine Truth’s insidious, persistent effort to “out” them.  “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” (T. S. Eliot)

But a “Come to Jesus” moment is also relevant to Christians as it is to all spiritual traditions from time to time.  But for evangelical Christians in particular, who have hitched their wagon to Trump, this poses a real problem as in their mind set they have no need to “come to Jesus” because He is already leading them and in fact has led them to back Trump to “Make America Great Again.”  In their mind, there is no need to “come to Jesus” for they already have Him and under his leadership one can make no mistakes.

But this naive belief of evangelicals deserves the scrutiny of meta cognition, alluded to by the Apostle Paul when he told them that the Spirit of God should be allowed to penetrate into the hidden recesses of the heart and is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents the heart.”  Being a Christian does not give one a perfect perspective as it does not eradicate what Paul called the “old man” or “the flesh.”  The Spirit of God, if it is allowed to daunt the tyranny of the ego, can show an individual just how much spiritual impulses are subject to hijacking by this aforementioned “flesh.”  Speaking from experience, it is stunning to suddenly realize just how much one’s spirituality has been “all about me” and in fact has little or nothing to do with spirituality, or in this context, with “God” or “Jesus.”  It is just because we never escape our basic malady of being “human” with an innate tendency to twist everything about life in a self-serving manner.  This always give rise to what Sartre called “bad faith” and then offers the popular press and stand-up comedians plenty of material to ridicule any spiritual enterprise.  The resulting criticism is often over the top  but the tenor of it is well deserved.

Yes, Donald Trump is a god-send but “god-sends” are often painful as they are an assault on the tyranny of this ego and the experience is crushing.  Disillusionment is so painful that we will use any self-deception to avoid this moment described by Aeschylus as “the awful grace of God.”  Or as W. H. Auden worded it, “When Truth met him, and held out her hand, he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”  The evangelical leadership is particularly vulnerable here as if they allow reality to set in, as it must be doing by now, they might have to do the very thing that Donald Trump cannot do, admit that, “I made a mistake.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spirit Battles Form

My wife and I had an interesting discussion this morning about soul.  She was not raised with a definite spiritual tradition like myself and so she often brings a different perspective to “god talk” such as terms like “soul.” As a result of this discussion, another dimension of the soul became apparent to me.  The soul is not a static phenomenon but is dynamic, vibrantly dynamic as it lies at the very core of our being.  The soul is something we are born with and the fact that others would utilize some other term does not bother me in the least.  The soul is “the Christ child” which we are at birth…and even before…which the Chinese describe as “chi.”  This burst of energy that we were, and still are, was flung into being by what in my spiritual tradition is called “the Word.”  It is will, it is “elan vital,” and in some fashion is energy and at birth this “germ of being” that we were, vibrating with the energy that it was/we were, began its task of seeking expression in this world of form.

But the soul-quest, which Carl Jung described as our vocation, is a perilous venture for obstacles are present each step of the way for the duration of our life.  We could even say “Satan” immediately puts barricades up in our way to keep us from unfolding as this “Word” had intended for us.  And our life, being inherently a spiritual enterprise, is the story of the unfolding of this energy (I might say “Spirit of God”), seeking full expression and battling each step of the way the barricades that are necessarily before us.  For, with these “barricades” that the world of form puts before us, we are deterred from staying totally Spirit in which we would never enter the human race.  Though we might have human form, we would be some version of a blob of protoplasm.

And others unfold beyond this “blob,” but are still spiritually driven beyond the pale.  Their neurological “god spot” is over heated.  Those who suffer from this spiritual malady are often addictive personalities and are plagued with the desire to “Break on Through to the Other Side” as Jim Morrison of the Doors put it.  Unmitigated, this drive will accomplish what it did for Morrison who died of an over dose as a result of his psycho-pharmocological attempt to “break on through to the other side.”  This is spirituality run amok, which upon closer scrutiny is merely the ego’s co-opting of the soul’s quest for expression, turning the spiritual hunger into an unmitigated black hole.

But still another example of the ego’s intrusion into our spiritual development (one could even describe it also as a Satanic intervention) is to settle for some static level of development and at some point in the process of unfolding find certainty too intoxicating.  When we sip of this delightful elixir, at some point it becomes too intoxicating and our spirituality will be arrested, sometimes even fatally.  At that point we shut down the dynamic life process and when Life or, to use W. H. Auden’s term “Truth” presents itself, we “cling in panic to our tall beliefs and shrink away like an ill-treated child.”  This is the temptation that fundamentalist Christianity taunted me with.

Forgive me for beating a dead horse, but Donald Trump is relevant to this argument.  He, like all human beings have a soul.  We can see it in his frenetic, desperate quest for power which is ultimately merely a quest for love.  But early on, and certainly in his “terrible two’s” the world of form was not sufficiently present to teach him about limits.  He then became stuck in narcissistic splendor and then the family and environment in which he lived never set adequate limits for him when it was still possible.  By his mid-teens when he was kicked out of a boarding school, he demonstrated that he was not going to submit to the world of form.  What this meant is that the energy that he was/is, that soul-level energy, was closed in upon itself and, to borrow wisdom from my youth, “The person who lives by himself and for himself will be spoiled by the company he keeps.”  In other words, his soul became bound in the anguish of incomplete development but with his wealth and circumstance he was able to bully his way through life to the point that he will shortly be the President of the United States.  Once again, the “world of form” has not set limits for him, have not resolutely told him, “No, Donald.”  Now he is in the position to wreak havoc on our country and the world.  (And here I do not have the time to explore how this developmental phenomenon as relevant to those who put him in power and continue to not hold him responsible for his word and deed, also relevant to our entire culture.)

Who Am I?

This question has haunted humankind for eons.  Most people resolve the issue readily be donning the “suit of clothes” proffered by their family/community but for many of us that necessary “fig leaf” ceases to work at some point and we begin to wrestle with the essential issues of identity inherent in the question.  I realize now that assuming an identity in my youth was challenging, even very early before I was even conscious.  The angst did not really become conscious until pre-adolescence, then it beat the hell out of me for several decades, before I gained the maturity to begin to wrestle with the issue with an increasingly mature spiritual grasp of the matter.

Now let me reassure you, if you get to even middle age and give too much thought to “who am I?” you might go to your physician and seek a pharmacological easy way out!  For the quest to answer that question is a process and the answer will come in realizing that the process…like all things that are “process”…will never be completed.  This involves real work, spiritual work, spiritual work that cannot be resolved by the “well-worn and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness” even if they come from your favorite holy book!

Here I want to share a lovely poem from a lovely soul that I left behind in Fayetteville, Arkansas just over two years when I moved to Taos, New Mexico, Sue Coppernoll.  I did not know her well, but well enough to know she was a fine poet and a keenly sensitive spirit whose spirituality, like mine, had its roots in very conservative fundamentalist Christianity.  Here Sue so eloquently captures the fragility of an identity, particularly in its early formulation, and the resolve she had to “carry on” even when life dealt her hard blows.

MEMORY

Words

Worked out with toothpicks

On the royal blue carpet

On the living room floor.

 

First

My name,

WILLIE FAYE

Biting my lip in concentrated effort

Laboriously arranging wooden sticks

Into recognizable patterns.

 

I’m Real!

I have substance.

See, there I am,

Right there on the floor.

WILLIE FAYE

That’s me, I exist, I AM.

 

My baby sister crawls

Onto and through

My toothpick words.

 

My heart is broken.

 

I gather up the scattered sticks

To begin again

The construction of my self.

 

WILLIE FAYE

 

 

I wish I’d have gotten to know Sue better.  This poignant expression of a child’s heart just past the threshold of coming “on line” into conscious existence is riveting.  And the child at that point is so vulnerable and the mirroring from “momma” and the rest of the family and world is so critical.  But this validation is never perfect and even then Sue recalled having the experience of clinicians call “ego integrity,” allowing her to repair the damage to a particular disappointment.  And though, as noted above, I do not know Sue well, I did get to know her well enough to know that life dealt her more than her share of the Shakespearean “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir too” and that she has continued to employ that “ego integrity” and is today a beautiful soul and a beautiful woman.  In the terms of Judeo-Christian tradition roots that she and I hailed from it is the “Spirit of God” that provides that “ego integrity” which is a Presence described in the New Testament as that “by which all things cohere”

Shakespeare, Jung, and the Unconscious

Hamlet was moping about the castle one day, disgruntled and surly, the very picture of depression to those watching.  Suddenly aware of the object lesson he was providing he declared, “I have within me that which passeth show.  These are but the suits of woe.”  Hamlet was saying, “Hey, you guys think I’m depressed.  Hell, you don’t know the half of it!  You think this is despair, you oughta know what’s raging down inside this ‘foul rag-and-bone shop’ of my heart.”

Shakespeare had a brilliant grasp of the human unconsciousness, that murky domain beneath the surface of life which terrorizes us into this “civilized” behavior that we call reality.   In this scene Hamlet was wallowing in a despair that Shakespeare knew was beyond the grasp of words and deeds, finding faint expression…mercifully for all parties…only through behavior and words.  He knew that without the gift of sublimation, the phenomena known to philosophers as “the thing-in-itself” would violently irrupt and the social body would have more to deal with than a morose malcontent moping through the castle breathing out “threatenings and slaughterings.”

The Bard knew about the terrors…and delights…of the unconscious.  We don’t know the details of how he acquired this knowledge but it was not in school or books but in dealing with the daily grind of a relentless reality.  And, as he went about this “daily grind” he found an ability to look into his own heart and learn what the Universe was trying to teach him then so that he could eloquently and artfully present it to us in his poetry and plays.  Matthew Arnold recognized this hard-earned talent of gifted souls, noting, “The poet, in whose heart heaven hath a quicker pulse imparted, subdues that energy to scan, not his own heart, but that of man.”

But modern life does not want to recognize these subterranean depths and for good reason.  It would be painful.  But we ignore them at our own peril for these demons which we haunt us will always “out” in some fashion.  This is currently glaringly apparent in my own country (the United States) as I watch intelligent and well-educated men and women in our Congress take ridiculous positions without even a doff of the hat to “the pauser reason” which would allow them to be more moderate in their stances.

It is important to note that these subterranean depths offers more than ugliness if we would deign to go there.  Shakespeare knew very well that beauty and joy could be found there as we acknowledge and embrace what Carl Jung called our shadow.  His work presaged what Ranier Rilke would note, “the heart has its beastly little treasures” which, if acknowledged and embraced, can introduce us to the refreshing breath of Wholeness which, in my spiritual tradition is called the Spirit of God.