Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Sacred Spiral

too proud to submit we commit to complicity
in our existential angst until free to rant
upon a new attitude of voluntary simplicity
when it be a gift to bow and bend we shan't
be ashamed to turn turn will be our delight
'til by turning turning we come round right
to see the shaker song at center and recant

A couple of weeks ago this video on Sacred Spiral crossed my path. It is narrated by Kiesha Crowther the Little Grandmother, who seems too young to be a grandmother, but very ancient in wisdom. Last week she gave this talk in Zurich where she talks about the changes that are to be coming upon us in the next few months and how important it is to navigate these changes by thinking through the heart rather than the head. Spirals are back in the news again with this piece posted on Nov 11th, 2010 on spiral Aurora Borealis which have never been seen before, and we know these have nothing to do with Russian rockets, but since we have no clue what they are about it is mystery.

I have some really interesting things to say about spirals and their relationship to the transcendental numbers of pi, phi and the golden mean. It was a couple of decades ago that I had a short affair with these numbers (more so with the pythagorean theorem BTABP). Pi was rather simple, being a ratio of minimum and maximum between adjacent dimensions; for the circle the minimum length (a first dimension) for the maximum area (a second dimension), or the minimum area (a second dimension) for the maximum volume (a third dimension). Plus the fact that these numbers never ended and never repeated. and you could never define exactly what they were, but that's what makes them transcendental numbers. To me the big question was whether these numbers existed before matter, and thereby defined the spatial component of our universe, or if they only came after and the universe defined what they were.

Phi was a lot more interesting. Phi has a value of 1.6180339..., another transcendental number without end and it creates a number series similar to the Fibonacci series. In both of these the last two numbers add together to create the next number in the series. The phi series works like this but it also has the property that multiplying the last last number by phi gives the next number in the series. So it is the only number that is both additive and multiplicative, which also gives subtraction and division, and hence defines the basic elements of mathematics.

The phi ratio is know as the Golden Mean and is most esthetically pleasing proportions in architecture since first noticed by the Greeks way back when, and prehistoric carvings before that. It is also a pleasing proportion in other aspects as can be seen here.

Fibonacci and the Phi sequences also map out into spirals and here is slide show that shows how this is done. This basic shape is found throughout nature. Another area where this shape occurs is in relation to a math graphing problem. The four color map problem says that you only need four colors to color a map such that no two adjacent countries have the same color; there is an exception to this law which is if the map is drawn on a torus (i.e. doughnut) there is one configuration that would require seven colors, and if you were to lay the map out flat it turns out to have the shape of a series of phi spirals. There are no doubt more curiosities about this fascinating number. Why just today at coffee I was introduced to a phiona though I suspect she spells her name with an F.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Revere Rather Than Fear

residing in the divine kindom here on earth
would be like if we dared to love this life
blessed with an affirmation of sacred worth
which precludes a power over causing strife
so that we worship with gratitude that dear
relation where fear is replaced with revere
and God the groom conjoins with we the wife

magnify your goodness o holy one through us
as through virgin mary simple peasant woman
at conception but then evolved to theotokos
the world worshipped womb of the son of man
the holy whirl descends and plants the seed
in your people conceived to believe in need
of god born in us as we should cause we can

from the face of the deep in time and space
come undulations of the first primal scream
out of holy ground of being source of grace
unfolds in a scheme of the demiurge to deem
a divine hubris of delusions of omniscience
revealed thru consequences of concupiscence
infinitely more than god could ask or dream

That isn't a typo in the first line of the first stanza; the kindom is the official term that we use over at Canadian Memorial United Church. It sounds more like one big happy family rather than a herd of suffering serfs. The first stanza was inspired by the "womb of creation" section of my contemplative wisdom circle theme of the week, which to me is about appreciating nature, the feminine, the here on earth rather than waiting for all rewards in the after life. The other part is from an essay by Thomas Merton on the Power of Love, which I discovered this week. (There are times when I get the urge to go check out the "new arrivals" section of Pulp Fiction, the second hand book store because there is something waiting for me. I never know what it is until I get there. This time it was "Disputed Questions" by Thomas Merton. )

The whole asceticism and corrupted love that permeates the Christian Mysticism is what I want to address. However, that will have to wait for another blog post. I'm stalled at reviewing the number of times fear the lord is used in the Psalms, which is the oldest section of the Hebrew bible, and if this fear and revere difference was in the original or if it entered during translation from the oral to the written. The issue of literacy and left brain dominance is worth a few blog posts. The old testament seems to be centered around fear and obedience, whereas Jesus talked a lot of fearing not, and it wasn't until the later church fathers that Christianity picked up the obedience meme BTABP. As is the issue of the function of religion being a tool by the ruling class to control the masses; I think Marx got this one right, but only in its dysfunctional form and not how it has to be. BTABP.

The second stanza was inspired by a prayer from Bruce's latest book If Darwin Prayed:Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics which was launched today. The prayer is the first one from the section on Advent which starts this week. The first line of the prayer just happened to be forty three characters long, and the second was as well if you add the virgin modifier. The theotokos reference comes from a short discussion at the book autographing and it fits in with the womb of creation theme. The rest of the stanza corresponds to the remainder of the prayer, though a lot is implicitly embedded because you can only fit so much in one box. For example, I originally wanted to have the whole world worshipped but it was too big so I had to suffer the frustration of not having the whole which made the subsequent holy whirl less satisfying than I had originally anticipated. But you have to go with what fits in or you never get anything done. There is a bit of a tempo change making me think there needs to be some more stanzas between the first and second.

The third stanza was written a couple of years ago and I tacked it on the end because it fit with the creative struggle of emergence, back to before there was matter to now when everything matters so much. It was originally supposed to be part of a larger work on the creative spark talked about by Jakob Bohme. My inner muses kept telling me that if I could assimilate the essence of the Aurora and translate it into Ovian stanzas it would be way impressive. it is also quite intimidating and I got overwhelmed into immobility which is a common occurrence with us ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) folks. BTABP. I liked the use of concupiscence as the rhyming end of a line and that at one time it was a highly spiritual term before it was corrupted by the nihilists. I don't think they had high regard for creation, the bringing into existence of something that never was before. Not at all like mere reproduction and manufacture. Creation is a messy process. It requires a dynamic tension and struggle. In the end it is often in the spaces that are between that the final product emerges. Some day the spaces between will get filled in and these three stanzas discarded for something better, or added on to, or perhaps transformed. But this is all I'll say about this now.

[last edited Nov 21]

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My Favourite Saint

Nov 1st is All Saints Day, and it would probably be forgotten by our culture if it didn't follow free candy and dress up like a hooker night. Could the two be any more polarized? All Saints Day is a celebration to honor all saints, known and unknown. The following day, Nov 2nd, is All Souls Day, the day when we commemorate all those that are still in purgatory being purified sufficiently to enter heaven. A fitting day for me to be writing an assignment that is due tomorrow, for a contemplative wisdom school which spirit seems to deem my being in dire need of.

For background information read the Wikipedia on Saints which starts out with the concise definition. "Saints are individuals of exceptional holiness who are important in many religions, particularly Christianity. In some usages, the word saint is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian, or anyone who is in Heaven." The Catholics are the most exclusive when it comes to saints, having only a few thousand, and it is God that makes the saint and the Church merely recognizes and canonizes them. The Eastern Orthodox considers all that make it into heaven as saints. The Anglicans recognize as a saint people that have been elevated by popular opinion as a pious and holy person. The Protestants are even more inclusive where merely being a Christian is sufficient; and this corresponds to how Paul thought with his use of the Greek word hagioi as Bruce mentioned in his latest sermon.

However, to raise the bar on what it actually means to be a Christian/saint the wikipedia lists the following characteristics:
1. exemplary model;
2. extraordinary teacher;
3. wonder worker or source of benevolent power;
4. intercessor;
5. selfless, ascetic behavior; and
6. possessor of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.

The Wisdom Circle assignment was to select a Saint, and it could be one that has had a profound influence on our life, or it could be somebody that we personally know. Since none of the "celebrity" saints have had much impact on me I looked at people I knew that were doing good things and in general put others ahead of themselves. Conrad Schmidt, who gave up a lucrative computer programming career to be a community organizer and founder of the Work Less Party and The World Naked Bike Ride was definitely a contender, but it would be too irreverent. Bruce Sanguin, our minister was another possibility, but that's his job. Same reason I ruled out Cynthia Bourgeault. There were many many others and I didn't want to pick one above the other.

My favourite saint is St. Pelagius, even though I don't know much about him, or haven't known about him for that long. Pelagius isn't even a saint, which to me is one of the most significant factors seeing as how he should have been. In the same way that there are a few that never should have been saints in the first place, namely Augustine of Hippo and Jerome the Misogynist. Most of what is known about Pelagius has to be deduced from the hateful reaction that Augustine and Jerome conducted against Pelagius in an attempt to expunge his existence from the evolution of our spiritual education. They did not succeed and the best they could manage was to have him branded as a heretic. This was an unjust charge since Pelagius was more in line with the thinking of Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the early church fathers, than was Augustine and the dysfunctional novelties that he introduced to corrupt the Christian theology.

This criticism of Augustine arises out of material from a few dozen books I've been reading over the last few years. It is a story of how religion has been created and used by a powerful elite to dominate and exploit the masses primarily through a fear of hell and a hopelessness induced by Manichean predestination. The real tragedy is that this precludes a religion with soul that could be used to achieve heaven on earth. I have material to support this position but I feel like I am taking on fifteen hundred years of apologetics and ideological defense mechanisms and I just don't have the energy for it tonight. So I'll break this down into manageable chunks and save it for future blog posts.