Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Unpacking Original Sin ~ Passion Perspective

Let's eavesdrop on the mystics of history again:

"The primary intention of the Song of Sons deals with human sexual love - the experience of it, its delights and its power." (Roland E. Murphy)

"All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother, who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces various fruits and colored flowers and herbs." (Francis of Assisi)

Our sensuality is grounded in Nature, in Compassion and in Grace. In our sensuality, God is. God is the means whereby our Substance and our Sensuality are kept together so as never to be apart." (Julian of Norwich)

"Do not disdain your body. For the soul is just as safe in the body as in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mechtild of Magdeburg)

"You cannot devalue the body and value the soul - or value anything else. Nothing could be more absurd than to despise the body and yet yearn for resurrection." (Wendell Berry)

"This earth is precious to the Creator and to harm the earth is to heap contempt upon its Creator. WE are part of the earth and it is part of us." (Chief Seattle)

"The soul loves the body." (Meister Eckhart)

"Do you have a body? Don't sit on the porch! Go out and walk in the rain!" (Kabir)

What has the fall/redemption theology taught us...? Theologian Tanquerry sums it up in his prayer of humility: "May I know Thee, O Lord, that may love Thee; May I know myself, that I may despise myself."

I once believed that, and lived by that ... and I was the most miserable of women. Out of that foundational belief (that we are to be despised, that we are despised by God) came rampant striving, perfectionism, bulimia, exhaustion, contempt for self and others, and deep, impenetrable depression.

Is this true humility?

The word "humility" comes from the word "humus" or earth. To be humble then is to be "in touch with the earth, with creation." To celebrate our earthiness, our sensuality, and our passions. Denial of our passions, our earthiness, leads to oa repression and oppression ... violence, subject/object relationships, and a perversion of "power over/power/under" others.

Thomas `a Kempis used the word "passion" fourteen times in his "Imitation of Christ" ... but it was always seen as negative -- "fight your passions" and "get rid of passion and desire." In his view, in the majority view of Christianity, passions are seen as evil, a curse ... something to slaughter.

But what if we learned to appreciate our passions, and make them work for us...? What if we used a "bridle of love" with our passions ... we do not kill a majestic stallion, but we learn to steer him with a bridle ... putting all that passionate energy to good use, for blessing and transforming.

The Western mindset of division has done us a great disservice ... in "separating" body from mind, from soul, from spirit, we have concluded that we are at war within ourselves, rather than seeing ourselves as a holistic creation of God.

For instance, Jewish spirituality is so undualistic (nonseparated) that it lacks a word for body, or a word for soul. This is the very spirituality from which Jesus emerged. For Jews, there is no separation between carnal and spiritual... but perceives of the spiritual within the carnal...

What, I wonder, can we learn from that..?

In the Song of Songs (also called Song of Solomon), the whole book is a rhapsodic celebration of all things earthy and bodily ... vine, wine, fertility ... passionate lovemaking (with no reference to procreation, by the way ... as if God can only handle sex if we are "making babies" ... as if He has to turn His holy head away while His animalistic offspring "do the nasty", as long as e gets babies out of the equation). The Western Church has been so horrified and shocked at the erotic and graphic imagery of lovemaking in this book, that they tried to justify it's inclusion in the canon of Scripture by insisting that it is NOT about sex, but is instead an allegory of the relationship of the soul to God.

As if it's either/or..? As if lovemaking isn't indeed an allegory of our Oneness with God, with each other...? When male and female become One in a beautiful symbol of integration ... male and female we are made in His image...?

I love this quote by Matthew Fox in his (must-read!) book, "Original Blessing" - "Augustine was fond of saying that 'God is never disturbed by any passions.' This tells us a lot more about Augustine, it seems to me, than about God... being disturbed by his passions haunted Augustine all his life, and, unfortunately, it has also haunted much of the Western Church that took his fall/redemption theology as gospel."

Julian of Norwich says, "It is when our soul is breathed int our body that we are made sensual." Regarding the relationship between body and soul, she says, "Let each of them take help from the other." The key is mutuality ... not control, not either/or, but both/and.

Let me set the stage for you, in what I read next ... there I was, on the "humble throne", the "mercy seat" that is the porcelain throne in my bathroom ... reading this book ... when the next statement caught my eye:

"The simplest natural functions of our body, such as going to the bathroom are acts of co-creation with God."

I had to laugh outloud, in utter delight ...! Ohhhhh, to find my anal observations shared by a much-revered mystic was just too wonderful! :)

Here's a selection from Julian of Norwich's writings, that is too often edited out:

A person walks upright, and the food in her body is shut in as if in a well-made purse. When the time of her need arrives, the purse is opened and then shut again in the most fitting fashion. And it is God who does this, as it is shown when he says that he comes to us in our humblest needs. For God does not despise what he has made, nor does he disdain to serve us in the simplest natural functions of our body, for the love of the soul which he created in his own likeness. For as the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh is clad in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the chest, so are we, soul and body, clad and enclosed in the goodness of God."

I LOVE it!

I've always deeply appreciated the shortest verse in Scripture, "Jesus wept." For it shows His humanity ... and a part of me has always secretly wished that there had been included yet another short scripture, perhaps, "Jesus pooped." Who knows -- perhaps it was there, and it was edited out ... (and no, lightning has not struck me at my computer after I dared to type that ...).

True humility is an earthiness that celebrates the most basic of life's blessings -- and yes, a healthy bowel movement is among these joys ("I once was constipated, but now I move freely" ... likely another verse that got sanitized out!). I notice that letting go of waste products is a divine act that all creatures share in common. And is this not a metaphor for how we are to let go and shed ALL that we no longer need, spiritually...? Such as religion (a thing which once served us, but which now only festers in the "bowels" of our experience)...?

Yes, indeedy, there is a whole lot of evidence of constipated Christians in this realm...! (Bringing a whole 'nother meaning to the verse, "we are but(t) flesh.")

(I imagine that my mother is enjoying this blog post...!)

Let me rescue this post, and regain some dignity, by quoting again from Matthew Fox's (must-read!) book:

Surely a return to a spiritual tradition that understands humility as earthiness promises a blessed and creative New Creation! Here there is hope that we might come to our senses and let life on earth and in the good earth go on."

Go forth, and celebrate the body-gift that you wear!

Shalom, Dena


Bob Harkema said...

I swear I just sensed masses of Puritans turning over in their graves, but maybe they just were finally getting the revelation that it was really ok to empty their bowels.

Dena said...

Ooooooooh, the imagery!

Ahhh, the fertilizer!!!

(we should plant our crops in cemetaries, no? cemetaries, seminaries ... I get them confused!)

Shalom, Dena

MysticBrit said...

Ah, Sister... It's so Good to be a Fundamentalist (what a rich many-layered word that is). The answer lies in the soil, I allways say.

Never laughed so much at 6 am in my life. Who needs caffeine when Dena's on a roll?:)