1. Hmmm . . .
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    13 Mar '07 18:02
    [Originally from the "Mysti-Schism" thread, with corrective comments offered by Palynka]

    “What is idolatry?”

    Any attempt to turn the ultimately ineffable into a ‘graven image.’

    “What d’you mean by a graven image?”

    Any attempt to fashion the ineffable into a descriptive image or idea or definition that one then insists is adequate and accurate (even if incomplete), and must be believed or adhered to, in order for one to have obtained the truth, or to be saved, etc.—whether this image is graven in stone, on the pages of a book, or in the mind.

    In a sense, idolatry involves, not simply fashioning an image—we all do that, and I have no objections per se to iconography—but insisting upon (i) its adequacy and correctness as an expression the truth (“graving” ), and (ii) that it exclusively represents the truth, rejection of which represents rebellion (“bowing down” ). The fashioning, the graving and the bowing-down can all occur within one’s own mind.

    In other words, it is an attempt to substitute the sign (signifier + signified) for the referent—in this case, the referent being the totality, which is ineffable because it exceeds the capabilities of our “conceptual grammar,” both because (a) the totality as such has no proper analogy or comparative or metaphor, in terms of which we can think/speak; and (b) there is no reason to assume that there are not aspects of the totality that simply transcend our conceptual capacities.

    In shorthand: the opposite of idolatry is the mystery, which can be recognized but not “dogmatized.”

    When one reaches the end of our conceptual grammar, one faces the mystery which is ineffable. Even this language I’m using here is necessarily faulty. Confronted by the ineffable, one can:

    (1) remain silent;

    (2) attempt to use language in paradoxical and poetical ways intended, not to map the ineffable, but to elicit an openness to the simple experience of it.

    All religious language for me (and music and art), whether theistic (Christian, say) or monistic (Taoism, say) should properly be thought of as metaphorical, as aesthetic-responsive or allusive-elicitive, whether it appears to be propositional in form or not—

    “Wait a minute! Isn’t everything you’re saying here ‘propositional?’”

    Yep. On the other hand, none of these propositions are intended to be “believed”—they are not “maps of the territory;” they are merely intended as “maps pointing to the territory.” In fact, they are not even that—they are the best I can do on a written page to attempt to point, to indicate with a nod of my head... I am quite aware that they are inadequate. If you get hooked on my words, it is like staring at a finger pointing to the moon, rather than turning to gaze at the moon itself...

    As I said above, even these statements, though in propositional form, should be thought of as merely allusive. One who reads them may look “within the mirror-moon behind the mind”—or not.

    “Well, do any religionists accept these notions of yours about mystery and idolatry?”

    Oh, yes! Here are a few—

    ______________________________

    “The Tao that can be spoken of is not the real Tao;
    “the name that can be named is not the ultimate name.” (The Tao Te Ching)

    “Every definition of God leads to heresy; definition is spiritual idolatry. Even attributing mind and will to God, even attributing divinity itself, and the name ‘God’—these, too, are definitions. Were it not for the subtle awareness that all these are just sparkling flashes of that which transcends definition—these, too, would engender heresy. ...

    “The greatest impediment to the human spirit results from the fact that the conception of God is fixed in a particular form, due to childish habit and imagination. This is a spark of the defect of idolatry, of which we must always be aware. ...

    “The infinite transcends every particular content of faith.” (Rav Abraham Isaac, quoted in Daniel Matt The Essential Kabbalah)

    “One day you may say, ‘I found God, I know him, he is so and so, he is there and there, he is in me, in creation, in the eucharist ...’ That is a day of disaster for you because you will have found your God, your own projection, so pitiful and small. These gods - these idols - in turn keep us pitiful and small. We would fight for them ... They can be terrible ... Mystery does not require defenders. Idols do. Mystery makes us humble.” (Anthony DeMello, SJ; Some of Father DeMello’s views and writings were condemned by the church posthumously)

    ___________________________________

    “So, how do you fight against idolaters?”

    I don’t. I struggle against idolatry, in myself as much as anyone else. That may be my principal jihad.

    “Do you have any strategic and tactical advice for those who'd like to help?”

    Whenever you identify an idol, turn away. In western theological terms, this might involve what is called practicing an apophatic theology. If you’re into Zen, you might practice the meditation of “clear mind,” or use koans, such as this one:

    Behind the makings of the mind,
    before all images, thoughts or words,
    can you find anything real
    that is not just another concept defined,
    another making of the mind...?

    “That’s very confusing; in fact all of this is...”

    Good! Confusion over concepts might lead you to refrain from idolizing them, and to wander into clear-mind, and an experiential recognition of the ineffable real...

    “Can’t you just tell us what you mean by the ‘ineffable real’?”

    Are you kidding...?
  2. Hmmm . . .
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    13 Mar '07 18:02
    Palynka:

    Actually, I think you were clear about idolatry but not really about mystery.

    “When one reaches the end of our conceptual grammar, one faces the mystery which is ineffable. Even this language I’m using here is necessarily faulty. Confronted by the ineffable, one can:

    (1) remain silent;

    (2) attempt to use language in paradoxical and poetical ways intended, not to map the ineffable, but to elicit an openness to the simple experience of it. “

    At first, I thought I would answer 1, here. But rereading this I stumble into what seems to me a paradox. Can the ineffable even be confronted?
  3. Hmmm . . .
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    13 Mar '07 18:031 edit
    Well put. “Confronted” is not a good word—but then, a lot of the terms we try to use when talking about this stuff ought to be prefaced by “as if”—as is, “It seemed as if...” or “The experience was kind of like...” To use one of my favorite metaphors, the wave cannot really be said to be “confronted by” the ocean.

    EDIT:

    Actually, it is probably improper to speak of “experiencing” the ineffable—as if the ineffable is a “something” or a force or a dimension. What one experiences in the so-called mystical (by which I do not mean supernatural!) experience is our inseparability from the whole. Another metaphor—

    Imagine the totality as an ocean (recognizing that their is no proper analogy for the all-of-all-of-it). My existence is like a stream in the ocean, real but inseparable, transient. One day, the stream that I call “me” will disappear—but, as Ramakrishna put it: “Where could I possibly go?”

    Now, of course, the resurrectionists or the reincarnationists may be right—however those positions are understood (taking my cue here from your warnings about over-generalization). But I don’t go there. Which is not to say that my agreement with Ramakrishna isn’t a kind of metaphysical speculation, too. But part of the “makings of the mind” is the ego-construct, what in the east is sometimes called “the little ego,” and I sometimes call the fabricated somebody-self. Which is good in itself, but—“Behind the makings of the mind...?”

    Okay—I’m really exhausting myself grappling with the language. I really don’t want to “idolize” anything that I might say about the experience. I don’t think I even want to offer assurances—such as it’s coherent and harmonious and ultimately beautiful (which is how things that are coherent and harmonious with our consciousness tend to “feel” )—because, ultimately, turning away from the idols to which we tend to cling, toward the openness of what I call clear-mind, always involves a personal risk. All “spiritual practices” involve personal risk, only one of which is that the powerfulness of the experience one might have itself leads toward an idolization of the conceptual terms into which the mind translates it. People can go crazy. A strong ego is a helpful grounding when “confronting”—“the void of the ineffable.”

    Perhaps “scare quotes” should be placed around all that can be said...

    _____________________________

    Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.

    —Niels Bohr
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    14 Mar '07 03:21
    Originally posted by vistesd
    [b][Originally from the "Mysti-Schism" thread, with corrective comments offered by Palynka]

    “What is idolatry?”

    Any attempt to turn the ultimately ineffable into a ‘graven image.’

    “What d’you mean by a graven image?”

    Any attempt to fashion the ineffable into a descriptive image or idea or definition that one then insists is adequate and accurate ...[text shortened]... r to be saved, etc.—whether this image is graven in stone, on the pages of a book, or in the mind.
    Just out of curiosity, what is your take on Christ saying that, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me."? Do you think Christ to be an idolator, or do you think his words to be innacurate, or do you get a whole differnt interpretation of what he is saying?
  5. Hmmm . . .
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    14 Mar '07 03:48
    Originally posted by whodey
    Just out of curiosity, what is your take on Christ saying that, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me."? Do you think Christ to be an idolator, or do you think his words to be innacurate, or do you get a whole differnt interpretation of what he is saying?
    A whole different interpretation... 🙂
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    14 Mar '07 03:50
    Originally posted by vistesd
    A whole different interpretation... 🙂
    You do not have to expound on this if you do not wish, however, I am curious as to how you interpret it if you are so inclined.
  7. Hmmm . . .
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    14 Mar '07 04:221 edit
    Originally posted by whodey
    You do not have to expound on this if you do not wish, however, I am curious as to how you interpret it if you are so inclined.
    This is one of the “I am” statements in the gospel of John. The phrase ego eimi occurs 47 times in the NT, 22 of them in John, the rest scattered through Mark, Matthew, Acts. 1st Timothy and Revelation.

    Technically, it is a redundancy, since eimi itself is a first-person verb, which occurs 48 times all by itself (10 of them in the gospel of John). ego occurs 24 times without eimi, never in John. (these are quick counts.) The redundancy sometimes may be for emphasis—such as “I myself.”

    However, based on the word analysis and context, some scholars (maybe most of them, I don’t know) think that these statements in John take on a special meaning. In them, Jesus is not referring to his human self, but to the divine “I-AM” of the Hebrew scriptures, the name of God which in the third person verb-construct becomes YHVH (yes, the name of God is a verb...) The first of these is in 4:26—“Jesus said to her, ‘I am (ego eimi), the [one who] speaks to you.’”

    If I get time, I’ll search through some of my commentaries. But this (with else I’ve said in the other thread) might give you a hint...
  8. Earth
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    14 Mar '07 06:18
    Originally posted by vistesd
    This is one of the “I am” statements in the gospel of John. The phrase ego eimi occurs 47 times in the NT, 22 of them in John, the rest scattered through Mark, Matthew, Acts. 1st Timothy and Revelation.

    Technically, it is a redundancy, since eimi itself is a first-person verb, which occurs 48 times all by itself (10 of them in the gospel of ...[text shortened]... of my commentaries. But this (with else I’ve said in the other thread) might give you a hint...
    If we now get beyond the "I am" part, doesn't "the way" "the truth", and "the life" allude to an example to follow?
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    14 Mar '07 12:37
    Originally posted by vistesd
    This is one of the “I am” statements in the gospel of John. The phrase ego eimi occurs 47 times in the NT, 22 of them in John, the rest scattered through Mark, Matthew, Acts. 1st Timothy and Revelation.

    Technically, it is a redundancy, since eimi itself is a first-person verb, which occurs 48 times all by itself (10 of them in the gospel of ...[text shortened]... of my commentaries. But this (with else I’ve said in the other thread) might give you a hint...
    So you view the writings of Peter and Paul eluding to the fact that Christ was divine and is in fact the way, the truth and the life as in error? Also, was not the first Chrsitians movement known as "The Way" in reference to this passage of scripture?
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    14 Mar '07 12:461 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    [b][Originally from the "Mysti-Schism" thread, with corrective comments offered by Palynka]

    “What is idolatry?”

    Any attempt to turn the ultimately ineffable into a ‘graven image.’

    “What d’you mean by a graven image?”

    Any attempt to fashion the ineffable into a descriptive image or idea or definition that one then insists is adequate and accurate ...[text shortened]... r to be saved, etc.—whether this image is graven in stone, on the pages of a book, or in the mind.
    I have yet another question for you. When you say that if one believes a certain belief must be adhered to in order to be saved or thinks that one is saved, would you then say that this is idolatry or would you say it is idolatry to impose those beliefs on someone else?

    What troubles me is where is there room for faith? Can faith in God be dogmatic or must one always be uncertain of trusting God to be benevolent and/or fulfilling his promise to you via his word? However, if you then are in doubt, is it really faith? For example, Christ was confronted by a centurian who asked him if he would heal someone. Christ then said that he would come and they would be healed, however, the centurian said it was not necessary. He told him that all that was needed was to say that it would be done and he was then dogmatic in his belief that healing would come to his loved one. Christ then turned to his disciples and said that he had not encountered so great a faith in all of Israel. So what then is the difference in placing ones faith in healing and placing ones faith in regards to salvation in Christ?
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    14 Mar '07 12:48
    Originally posted by vistesd
    This is one of the “I am” statements in the gospel of John. The phrase ego eimi occurs 47 times in the NT, 22 of them in John, the rest scattered through Mark, Matthew, Acts. 1st Timothy and Revelation.

    Technically, it is a redundancy, since eimi itself is a first-person verb, which occurs 48 times all by itself (10 of them in the gospel of ...[text shortened]... of my commentaries. But this (with else I’ve said in the other thread) might give you a hint...
    I have a small question here:

    As far as I know the language of Jesus was not Greek. So what is written in alll the Gospel are translations of what Jesus realy said. So is it correct to take its meaning literally while they might not reflect the real meaning that was said by Jesus himself?
  12. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    14 Mar '07 12:50
    Originally posted by whodey
    So what then is the difference in placing ones faith in healing and placing ones faith in regards to salvation in Christ?
    If the Lord is within you, and constitutes Reality, then faith in that principle, which Jesus incarnated, will work wonders.

    I am an atheist Christian (amongst other things).
  13. Donationkirksey957
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    14 Mar '07 12:57
    Originally posted by whodey
    I have yet another question for you. When you say that if one believes a certain belief must be adhered to in order to be saved or thinks that one is saved, would you then say that this is idolatry or would you say it is idolatry to impose those beliefs on someone else?

    What troubles me is where is there room for faith? Can faith in God be dogmatic or ...[text shortened]... rence in placing ones faith in healing and placing ones faith in regards to salvation in Christ?
    I come acrosss many people who have faith in healing that is completely unrealistic for the circumstances they are in. I think you have to consider what is the difference between a miracle and magic. What I hear often is that people are looking for magic.

    I think when you look at the life of Christ you will find times of "doubt." Doubt is a good thing. Don't ever let some TV evangelist tell you it is sinful or a sign of a lack of faith. Indeed. people who have never struggled in life have a pretty shallow sense of faith and their well-being. Given a choice of who best represents a life of faith- a person with great doubt and a life of troubles or a "just believe pie in the sky ain't God good" soul molester, I'll go with the doubting Thomas.
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    14 Mar '07 12:58
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    If the Lord is within you, and constitutes Reality, then faith in that principle, which Jesus incarnated, will work wonders.

    I am an atheist Christian (amongst other things).
    So reality is only what you percieve it to be? What then happens to those who go mad? Granted, there reality is what they percieve but not to anyone else other than themselves. So in essence you would be comparing those who go mad to those of faith in this regard, no? For me, my faith is placed in a power I have no control over in which change is effected, not only for myself, but for all others around me.
  15. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    14 Mar '07 13:00
    Originally posted by whodey
    [b]So reality is only what you percieve it to be? b]
    I don't know how you get that from what I said.
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