‘Consciousness and the Nudging of Sacredness!’

Posted: May 24, 2023 in Uncategorized

‘Consciousness and the Nudging of Sacredness!’

Again, we arrive at the season of Pentecost that starts with the day we call Pentecost Day, Aside from being named as the birthday of the church or the Coming of The Spirit is has been the day Christians traditionally see ‘red’! Every year on Pentecost Day we hear Luke’s story of what he claims happened in Jerusalem 50 days after what we have come to call the Easter event. It’s a playful story full of symbolism and great drama. Like a movie director suggests William Loader, Luke, the one we traditionally claim as the editor of the Acts of the Apostles, scripts a scene with wind and fire, symbols of the present-ness of God, using flamboyant speech. Flamboyant speech it may be but some scholars might suggest it is clever use of Rhetoric as speeches containing words or phrases that engender wide ranging cultural usages of the time. Words like “conspiracy theory” or “violence” or “victim” are used to invoke an audience by drawing on their fears to emphasize an issue and draw sympathy for a cause or the plight of the speaker. This goes alongside the hermeneutics, the art of encouraging interpretation encouraging the hearer to explore the meaning for themselves. The task of this form of communication is similar to the task of Myth, it contains the truth by offering the opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of the claim for a single absolute truth. One might also see it as an entry point into a discussion about the definition or evidence of consciousness.  Current study is discovering consciousness in other than human expressions of creation.

Nikos Kazantzakis wrote in a piece called ‘The Cry’ a creation story that went as follows;

Blowing through heaven and earth,
and in the heart of every living thing,
is a gigantic breath – a great Cry – which we call God.

Plant life wished to continue its motionless sleep next to stagnant waters,
but the Cry leaped up within it and violently shook its roots:
“Away, let go of earth, walk!”

Had the tree been able to think and judge,
it would have cried:
“I don’t want to.
What are you urging me to do?
You are demanding the impossible!”

But the Cry, without pity, kept shaking its roots and shouting,
“Away, let go of the earth, walk!”

It shouted in this way for thousands of eons;
and lo! as a result of desire and struggle,
life escaped the motionless tree and was liberated.

Animals appear – worms – making themselves at home in water and mud.
“We’re just fine here,” they said.
“We have peace and security; we’re not budging!”

But the terrible Cry hammered itself pitilessly into their loins.
“Leave the mud, stand up, give birth to your betters!”
“We don’t want to! We can’t!”
“You can’t, but I can. Stand up!”

And lo! After thousands of eons, humans emerged, trembling on their still unsolid legs.

The human being is a centaur; our equine hoofs are planted in the ground,
but our body from breast to head is worked on and tormented by the merciless Cry.

We have been fighting again for thousands of eons,
to draw ourselves, like a sword,
out of the animalistic scabbard.

Humanity calls in despair,
“Where can I go?
I have reached the pinnacle, beyond is the abyss.”
And the Cry answers,
“I am beyond. Stand up!”

All things are centaurs.
If this were not the case, the world would rot into inertness and sterility.

The story uses common images of nature to provide biological, reasoned and philosophical truths to marry the logical, abstract, literal and reasoned with the aesthetic, metaphorical spiritual in an interplay of beautiful symmetry.

Such speech may on the surface seem to be an inadequate way of addressing the present-ness of God, but I suspect the use of metaphorical images – wind and fire – can be a more helpful way than trying to use abstract theoretical words. Rex Hunt suggested that perhaps  this might be part of the secret behind the popularity of Dan Brown’s fictional novel ‘The Da Vinci code’. What is certain is that it is folly to try and read the script literally, whatever historical events may or may not lie behind our Pentecost story.

And it’s not an original or exclusive script either. We also hear one other revised version
from the storyteller/theologian called John. Yet along with Easter and Christmas, Pentecost is one of the three major Christian festivals. So, what was and is Pentecost? And is it just about a ‘language’ game as many charismatics/fundamentalists and literalists usually argue against the liberal and post liberal view. If truth is not an absolute does that mean that anything goes? I want to claim with Iain McGilchrist that it does not. However, that’s, another 10 sermons of more.

To get a sense of some of the story we need to hear a little bit of historical and cultural background. Because what we commonly remember or know as Pentecost is usually a linking of some stories where that linkage was never intended.  The current debate about the relationship between Acts and Luke is a case in point. Some scholars say Acts and Luke were written as one book whereas others say they weren’t. The difference is a critique of language that could be said to be an interpretation of the difference between Rhetoric (the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.) and the Hermeneutic.(a method or theory of interpretation.)

When revisiting what was and is Pentecost, we see that Pentecost’s roots are in Judaism.  Pentecost was, and still is, a Jewish festival. Occurring 50 days after Passover it links Israel’s much older agricultural cycle to her religious history. That is, it celebrates both the completion of the harvest as well as the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai.

So, to the groups of Jewish ‘revisionists’ – followers of the sage from Nazareth – the groups of followers of the Jesus Way within Judaism and including gentiles were still grappling with their Jewish roots, and struggling to survive in a sometimes hostile ‘orthodox’ religious climate, where ‘new’ could mean death, these images would have spoken to them.

William Loader helpfully suggests:  “Luke is saying that the coming of the Spirit is as epoch making as the giving of the Law, the scripture on Sinai and more.” (W Loader Web site, 2005)

So, it is very possible that this revamped story would have given them a sense of legitimacy and purpose and empowerment. Their world view was rooted in their historical past even though they were liberalizing the so-called truths under the influence of a belief based adherence. And they remembered… as at ‘creation’ and in the harvest, as in the valley of ‘dry bones’ and at the giving of the ‘law’ on Mt Sinai… The spirit or present-ness of God was active: as Ruach, as Breath and as Spirit. Their ‘before’, being, – in the prophets, their, ‘during’, being – in Jesus himself, and their, ‘after’ being – in the subsequent witness of the apostles. The spirit of God was at work creating the new community of the church, resulting in the beginning of the post-Easter mission of the early Christian movement.

So, Is Pentecost just about a ‘language’ game? Luke, as storyteller rather than historian, continues his use of flamboyant language. Rushing wind. Tongues of fire. Other tongues. Often called ‘glossolalia’ and associated with Charismatic and Pentecostal churches Luke’s Pentecost story – speaking in foreign languages and Paul’s ‘gift of spirit’ story – speaking in unintelligible speech, are often linked. But this is to make a link not intended by the storyteller.

Indeed, Luke’s ‘foreign languages’ at Pentecost has the opposite effect. The visitors to Jerusalem marveled: Are not all these who are speaking actually Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? So “rather than being unintelligible speech, it was supremely intelligible” suggests Marcus Borg  (Borg/Beliefnet Web site). If the storyteller is making any links it is more likely to be with the story of the Tower of Babel. From the babble of languages – a symbol of fragmentation… To the inclusion of languages – a symbol of one new humanity, able to bridge differences and to value diversity… A metaphor depicting the diversity among the early movement. This sounds rather contemporary, to our ears but what if we have undervalued metaphor and rhetoric and the Hermeneutical in a search for a so-called limited reasoned absolutist outcome.

So, what might Pentecost be for us, in the 21st century, in our urbanized and globalized culture ? We know that somehow Pentecost is something more than a so-called past event. It is the story of God’s continuing present-ness experienced again and again… even if we have different names for that which many of us name God. It is the “the amazing story of people coming to awareness through reflection on the life of Jesus that the same Spirit that moved in him moved in them.”  (Morwood 2003:84). We progressive Christians might also say that it is a story of coming to awareness through reflection on the life and work of Jesus that it is the same Spirit that moves in all myth and story of human life. Karen Armstrong’s claim that all faiths have compassion as the common endeavour is an example of this order beyond order or common value like that of truth that encompasses all truths. A key point is that this common truth is beyond languages ability to define. It is perhaps like Caputo’s naming of something does not mean it exists but rather insists. It is the organic, the dynamic, the unquantifiable essence of. Not ‘incarnate’ in the individual, but becoming incarnate in the ‘us’. As people dreaming dreams and seeing v isions of justice and compassion in the world. Not in the literal babble of tongues, but in the very gift of tongues – the ability to hear and speak the word, each as we come to know it, understand it, and tell it, in the uniqueness of our own experiences as they unfold as authentic in the mass.

So, while there is much in our daily, ordinary living as urbanized nationalized and globalized and as members of the Church/Institution, and of  our congregations, that can sap our energy and frustrate us no end there is also the possibility that Pentecost in the 21st century might be imagined as “the nudging of Sacredness in our lives which can bring about an expanding  experience of what life is really designed to be about.” Life is not about absolutes and definitions and efficiency and production and profit or being in control or winning.none of these.

So, where and how is that ‘nudging’ now?  That’s the 64-million-dollar question, isn’t it? If the stories from the past are any guide, this nudging of  Sacredness will touch us in such creative ways we’ll be totally surprised. It could be said to be birthed in Consciousness such as the ideas behind mystery and ‘more’ and I would add ‘Almost’ as the naming of Sacredness.

And one of those ‘creative ways’ that could be the surprise, is in the way Christianity could be transformed by an openness to other religions, and its desire to relate to them in the quest for a newer and broader form of spirituality.  (J Killinger, 2008/ http://www.csec.org)

A new Christianity for a new age is a phrase we have heard often and certainly way beyond the current wave of fundamentalism and new neo-orthodoxy in all the religions of ‘the book’, which breeds and lives on fear.

So, is the nudging of Sacredness or Spirit the awareness of consciousness and its persistence beyond language and is Pentecost the celebration of the awareness of the pervasiveness and unfolding of consciousness? What if ‘The Spirit of Pentecost, the Red flames that enter lives and transform them is in fact the consciousness that is a fundamental priori of reality beyond language (pre- creation, and glossolalia)?

Morwood, M. Praying a New Story. Melbourne. Spectrum Books, 2003. 


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