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eternity

World Machine Dream

David Priilaid hates descriptors, but 5 things that best describe him are:

  • He is an academic working at the University of Cape Town
  • He teaches entrepreneurship with a view that people have lost their voices and with insight can rediscover their “abilities to sing”
  • He is a post-anglican evangelical charismatic christian
  • Has experienced 10 years of Jungian psychotherapy and is a great fan of James Hollis
  • Loves Steely Dan, Bill Evans and a good glass of Cape Red at his right elbow

I had this dream in the early hours of Sunday 29 November.  The vivid and technicolor character of it made me feel that this was some kind of vision.  You as reader can be the judge.

Continue reading “World Machine Dream”

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Four views on Hell (Zondervan, 1996)

John Walvoord (Literal), William Crockett (Metaphorical), Clark Pinnock (Annihilist/Conditional Immortality), Zachary Hayes (Purgatorial)

Reading this book was a fascinating, even refreshing exercise. It is an all out debate between various views on the afterlife, in such a way that each view gets critiqued by all others.

I found it entertaining: Besides its fetching sulphurous red design, it was like watching a round robin boxing match, with one fighter per corner. The patterns and dynamics, tactics and overlaps were fascinating, but Continue reading “Four views on Hell (Zondervan, 1996)”

Eternity, Evolution, and Emergence.

“A mistake about Creation results in a mistake about God.” Thomas Aquinas.

CAMILLE
 
Some words have the dubious distinction of creating instant controversy. This is due to loosing our focus on their original meaning via habit, tradition, and misuse, but mostly to an unwillingness to recycle these words from the bins of cliché. One such word is “Evolution”. Continue reading “Eternity, Evolution, and Emergence.”

from alpha to omega : an adventure

I have written an article for emergentvilliage, called “From Alpha to Omega: an adventure.”

Moving towards worship: Homo Festivus; Man the Celebrant

“I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community” [Augustine]
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” [Deuteronomy 6:5]
“Theres joy, joy, joy in repetition” [Prince, Graffiti Bridge]

This post forms part of the synchroblog “Moving towards worship”, and is part 1 in my series “Myths for our time.”

Rio CarnivalFor some time I have been asking about the shape of things to come. I have wondered about models of community as well as of worship. And in the last month, myself and other venturers have been engaged in various activities, firstly the Afrika Burns festival in the Tankwa Karoo, South Africa, and secondly two NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) movement sessions.

So, in the wake of some exciting, practical experimentation, (and to a lesser extent as the “season” of Christmas looms), I would like to offer a reflection on Festivity.

Celebration, are you quite mad?

Having been immersed in creativity, freedom of expression, dance and music, almost might we say, baptised anew into Celebration, I am compelled to consider the role of this in my and our life. Naturally, I also reflect up the nature of life and of G-d. So I have some questions:

  • Is celebration an aberation from serious life, something to do once, twice a year, at prescribed times like Christmas, on a holiday, or on a birthday?
  • With tragedy and despair all around us, and suffering an ever present reality, is it appropriate to celebrate at all?
  • In Anglocatholic culture, it is said that the Eucharist (Body and blood of Christ) is “celebrated”. I have always liked the sound of that, but sorry Father, I’m afraid your church services just don’t feel very celebratory.
  • Kids get so excited about things, ice cream, horses, swimming, TV, but from adolescence onwards we loose this – is this the proper way to grow up?
  • Is celebration equal to hedonism – for those who simply want to escape reality, or blot it out through indulgence, escape, sex, drugs, and partying?
  • Even if I do intellectually believe in celebrating, why don’t my attempts to do so seem very authentic or powerful?
  • What is the essential nature of the afterlife: solomn, pious and peaceful? Mao Tse Tung-era massed movement? The euphoria of a purple haze? Having all our messy earthy theologies nicely put into order, with a Mr-Bean-style smugness? Having all our needs finally met in the ultimate consumer experience?

I offer these questions from the POV of one who was raised in a Modern, Western, Eurocentric culture in South Africa, and one who has been on a lifelong journey to seek out the truth, a 15 year soujourn through the conventional church, a 10 year period on the via negativa, and in the last year, a freedom to ask and live whatever the hell question I wanted to of anyone, the cosmos, and G-d him-herself.

More importantly perhaps is the fact that I am not a natural party animal, nor am I that hedonistic. I have inherited my mothers Apollonic spirit, preferring the mountaintop, simplicity and asceticism to the ways of my father: he was an arch-Dionysian given to self-gratification, joviality and revelry. But it is his spirit that now calls me down into the valley, towards the sounds of mirth, partying and sheer enjoyment. 

So I am happy to say that I have some ideas, I have some vision about all this. But I wanted to frame these questions to give a context for where I am coming from now.

A Festive G-d

I’ll get to the point: We serve a Festive G-d, and as made in G-ds image, we are “Homo festivus”. It is part of our nature to celebrate, indeed we are called, coaxed and wooed to do so. I am indebted to John Morehead for introducing me to the term Homo Festivus, as well as many of these notions, and he and others have long been involved in this debate.

Now I am not going to say “Thou shalt celebrate”, because that undermines the free hearted giving that is part and parcel of loving response. Only a loving, thankful response can be sustained, and provide the fuel for authentic festivity.

In reality, we don’t always feel like celebrating. We may NEVER feel like it. We may be so caught in despair that we cannot see any reason for joy. I have felt despair. I have lived in loss for many years. I will live in loss in the future, and will feel despair again. But while, by grace, I glimpse the glory of this freedom, I want to live it, share it, write it, and move it, for THIS is a my foretaste of eternity … being one with the Creator, one with each other, one with creation.

Dancing and VJing at Camp Vuvuzela at Afrika Burns was a new experience for me. There was no sense in which “I, performer”, or even “I, reveller”, was present. “I” performed, sure, putting visuals to the DJ’s psytrance/electro offerings; but I never saw that DJ, nothing was announced, and everything just happened … this was the Anarchy of Love. It was for me a confirmation of Advaita – radical non-duality – or put another way, its was the joy of the ego being lost in Oneness. There was no me-you, or us-them. Those that lose their soul shall find it, reports the Gospel.

I’ve been brought up with a view that “Oneness” is an exclusive concept, defined by the orthodoxy of Christendom. This is based on the dualistic view of a future separation of the saved and the unsaved. So, Oneness is OK if it’s Orthodox Christian Oneness, otherwise it’s a pantheistic eastern notion incompatible with the bible, Christ, and salvation.

In case you misunderstand my embrace of Festive Culture, it is not without its dangers. To be consumed by the offerings of the ego – hedonistic self gratification, sexual conquest, shame at ourselves, or debilitating introspection – means that we are imprisoned slaves and, not true members of the Festive Race. I still can’t quite get my head around how this man said this, given his role in the propogation of many of the destructive dualisms that haunt us to this day, but … to further quote Augustine,

“Dancing demands a whole person, one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life, who is not obsessed by lust for people and things and the demon of isolation in his own ego.”

Are we having a good time, yet?

Homo Sapiens, “Knowing” Man, has an inkling that he should rejoice, but is confounded by ego, sin, and systems of injustice that oppress this instinct. How he expresses this instinct to celebrate has in many cases, been substantially reduced.

  • Instead of Holiness of all Being, we have intermittent “Holidays” where what we “celebrate” bears little or no relationship to our lives. What exactly is “Family Day”, or “Heritage Day”?
  • Instead of deep, authentic humour we have jokes – little pills of laughter.
  • Instead of sumptuous, inventive expression through our garments, we have the tyranny of fashion and occasional Fancy Dress opportunities.

Our institutions have let us down. I’m not asking for a Cultural Revolution, I am saying wherever meaning has been lost, we need to refind and reinvent it. For example, primally, we know that the drum calls us to enter in. But layer upon layer of manners, sophistications, domestications, civilisations and barriers have rendered our sense of the Festive quite inane.

  • If a holiday is redundant, then dump it. If an important day is not noted, note it – who celebrates Beltane besides a few neopagans? And yet our connection to the seasons is far more important than artifical notions of nationality.
  • Stop filling up deep sadness with alcohol-fuelled jokes. I like good jokes, but often the “life and soul of the party” is actually a penguin-suited cadaver out of contact with real irony or deep authentic joy.
  • Instead of religeously branding ourselves with Nike, Gucci, or Calvin Klein, assemble your own outfit, one which IS you and comes FROM you. Authenticity is so much more powerful than cloned coolness.

The Isness

There is nothing that inspires me to dance, move and create, like the idea that G-d is present, present in all of creation. This panentheist vision – All is IN G-d, and G-d is IN all – is what drives me to give my body, energetically and wholeheartedly, to the moment, the community, to the Ground of Being. No E’s, no acid, no grass, no mushrooms, no drunken stupor, just a deep appreciation for being alive. No ulterior motive, no one to conquer, to impress, to rebel against, to convert, a simple isness, is a pround act of worship.

  • I am inspired by the the Sweedish movie “As it is in heaven”, reviewed here, in which a dour, fearful Reformed community is transformed by dance and celebration.
  • I am inspired by the River in Tolkein’s Third Earth called the “Celebrant”.
  • I am inspired by Brasilian, African and other cultures who host wild, spectacular carnivals, a celebration of carne (that’s flesh, brothers and sisters), the aroma of which MUST be more pleasing to G-d than all the incense floating up from 10,000 aescetic alters.
  • I am inspired by the trend to expressed, overt rhythm in music over the last decades. Long live Elvis, and his holy, gyrating hips. It’s largely a matter of taste, but I do love trance and other musics which until recently sounded boring to me. I have discovered a profound truth in rhythm, simplicity and repetition.

And in my brief introduction to NIA, I am inspired to combine robust bodily expression, an exploration of the healing arts, moving in community, freedom to express any kind of gesture my imagination might produce, and a profound sense of Festive worship as G-d intented it to be.

Other participants

Psychedelic Apocalypse – Terence McKenna’s Re:Evolution revisited

[Note : This is transcribed verbatim from The Shamen’s “Boss Drum” album (1994), and does not necessarily reflect my actual beliefs. However, it contains significant alternative prophetic content and is well worth noting. Emphases mine.]

Terence McKenna by Robert Venosa (www.venosa.com/terence_mckenna.jpg)If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed. Human history represents such a radical break with the natural systems of biological organization that preceded it, that it must be the response to a kind of attractor, or dwell point that lies ahead in the temporal dimension. Persistently, western religions have integrated into their theologies the notion of a kind of end of the world, and I think that a lot of psychedelic experimentation sort of confirms this intuition, I mean, it isn’t going to happen according to any of the scenarios of orthodox religion,

but the basic intuition, that the universe seeks closure in a kind of omega point of transcendence, is confirmed, it’s almost as though this object in hyperspace, glittering in hyperspace, throws off reflections of itself, which actually ricochet into the past, illuminating this mystic, inspiring that saint or visionary,

and that out of these fragmentary glimpses of eternity we can build a kind of map, of not only the past of the universe, and the evolutionary progression into novelty, but a kind of map of the future, this is what shamanism is always been about, a shaman is someone who has been to the end, it’s someone who knows how the world really works,

and knowing how the world really works means to have risen outside, above, beyond the dimensions of ordinary space, time, and [sic] causality, and actually seen the wiring under the board, stepped outside the confines of learned culture and learned and embedded language, into the domain of what Wittgenstein called “the unspeakable”,

the transcendental presence of the other, which can be absanctioned, in various ways, to yield systems of knowledge which can be brought back into ordinary social space for the good of the community, so in the context of ninety percent of human culture, the shaman has been the agent of evolution, because the shaman learns the techniques to go between ordinary reality and the domain of the ideas,

this higher dimensional continuum that is somehow parallel to us, available to us, and yet ordinarily occluded by cultural convention out of fear of the mystery I believe, and what shamans are, are people who have been able to de-condition themselves from the community’s instinctual distrust of the mystery,

and to go into it, to go into this bewildering higher dimension, and gain knowledge, recover the jewel lost at the beginning of time, to save souls, cure, commune with the ancestors and so forth and so on.

Shamanism is not a religion, it’s a set of techniques, and the principal technique is the use of psychedelic plants. What psychedelics do is they dissolve boundaries, and in the presence of dissolved boundaries, one cannot continue to close one’s eyes to the ruination of the earth, the poisoning of the seas, and the consequences of two thousand years of unchallenged dominator culture, based on monotheism, hatred of nature, suppression of the female, and so forth and so on.

So, what shamans have to do is act as exemplars, by … making this cosmic journey to the domain of the Gaian ideas, and then bringing them back in the form of art to the struggle to save the world. The planet has a kind of intelligence, that it can actually open a channel of communication with an individual human being.

The message that nature sends is, transform your language through a synergy between electronic culture and the psychedelic imagination, a synergy between dance and idea, a synergy between understanding and intuition, and dissolve the boundaries that your culture has sanctioned between you, to become part of this Gaian supermind, I mean I think

it’s fairly profound, it’s fairly apocalyptic. History is ending. I mean, we are to be the generation that witnesses the revelation of the purpose of the cosmos. History is the shock wave of the eschaton. History is the shock wave of eschatology, and what this means for those of us who will live through this transition into hyperspace, is that we will be privileged to see the greatest release of compressed change probably since the birth of the universe.

The twentieth century is the shudder that announces the approaching cataracts of time over which our species and the destiny of this planet is about to be swept.

If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.

The emphasis in house music and rave culture on physiologically compatible rhythms and this sort of thing is really the rediscovery of the art of natural magic with sound, that sound, properly understood, especially percussive sound, can actually change neurological states, and

large groups of people getting together in the presence of this kind of music are creating a telepathic community of bonding that hopefully will be strong enough that it can carry the vision out into the mainstream of society. I think that the youth culture that is emerging in the nineties is an end of the millennium culture that is actually summing up Western civilization and pointing us in an entirely different direction, that

we’re going to arrive in the third millennium, in the middle of an archaic revival, which will mean a revival of these physiologically empowering rhythm signatures, a new art, a new social vision, a new relationship to nature, to feminism, to ego.

All of these things are taking hold, and not a moment too soon.

baptised – a journey

into air 61
into manhood 74
into music 75

into christ son of g-d 79
into spirit and water 80
into fire 82

into justice 85
into matrimony 89

into shadow 94
into mammon 95

into fatherhood 99
into cosmos 06
into jesus son of man 07

baptised
into fullness of life
incarnate, re-incarnate
into a festive g-d
immersed and re-immersed

baptised, rebaptised
towards completeness
towards celebration

towards that abiding joy

towards radical inclusion

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” [Luke 9:50]

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” [Luke 11:23]

Note – this post follows on from another on Emergent Africa

I have been exploring the idea of Inclusion for some months now. My starting point has been the end point: how do I envision life ending up? What is the nature of the hereafter: is it a divided or a united state? Those who have read along will see that I lean towards the idea of Universal Restoration, that is, that Love will in the end “draw all”.

This conviction is based upon :

  1. A particular (my) reading of Scripture, and a particular (my) view of G-d.
  2. A revelation of Grace, and the character of Love.
  3. Tradition, for example that of the Early Church, where the Universalism of Origen held sway.
  4. Logic; the inferences from the above matters of faith.

It’s worth noting once gain the variety of names for an inclusive eschatolgy (i.e. view of the future): Apokatastais, Radical Grace, Gospel of Inclusion, Universal Restoration, Advaita, the Reintegration of beings. I’ve leaned towards the use of “Inclusion” as it for me has the best implications for the present, and brings eschatology into focus in such as way that it affects us here and now.

One crucial assertion along the way has been this: How we act now is almost totally dependant upon what be believe about the future. If you believe in a divided finale (eg. most people are going to “hell”), you will live a divided life. If you believe in NO finale (there is no life after death), you will live a life without ultimate meaning. If you believe in a united finale, you will live an inclusive life. The word radical here denotes an understanding or belief that goes far enough to be relevant for all time, as well as beyond time.

So, my proposition is this: the general tenor of the New Testament, and the Life of Christ, suggests Inclusivity. Exceptions are evident and plentiful (e.g. “I come to bring division and a sword”; “what accord has darkness and light”, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed”) but my current understanding means that when studied, and not taken simply at face value, what is revealed is a radically Inclusive God.

I have been puzzling over the Luke texts. Are they contradictions? It’s certainly a logical disjunct, worthy of any Zen koan. Or do they invite/force us to enter the mysteries of the sacred imagination rather than remain in that typical human mode, of logic and reason severed from feeling and imagination? Let’s go there, shall we?

“He who is not against you is for you”: Here we see the inversion of human categories and hierarchies, the inversion of the old dualism us/them and inclusion as the default state in the Kingdom of G-d.

“He who is not with me is against me”: Here, instead of justifying exclusivity, I see the risks of exclusivity being demonstrated. One can set up a kingdom with walls, but then one stronger than you may take you by force. But if you have no boundaries, you cannot be invaded.

This risk amounts to the risk of rejecting G-ds rule; if one does not take an active part in this Kingdom, he will be subject to the laws of survival, to decay, to the second law of thermodynamics (the law of increasing entropy, or disorder). The closing thought in the passage is “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” The only justifiable exclusion I see is the willing self-exclusion of rejecting this Kingdom.

I’m not saying I hve thie all wrapped up, remember, or that I have a watertight system of Universalism, but I am on a road of discovery. Many things remain unanswered, such as the Anger of God, the mechanism of salvation for the disobedient, or readings suggesting exclusion.

The “Kingdom of God” is not a human category, subject to human reason, limitation and decay, it is preclusive. To “preclude” means having essential nature, is uncreated, has no cause. For example, essential “holiness” precludes sin; essential oneness precludes all that divides. The Kingdom of Satan (whose strength is the law and the accusation) is created, so cannot stand. The law brings death.

The apparent exclusion (“Not with me is against me”) Jesus applies to himself (as Judge), but the implicit Inclusion (“Not against you is for you”) he applies to his followers. Elsewhere, the reaper is explicitly commanded NOT to separate wheat and tares.

So in reponse to the 2 texts from Luke, I see 2 principles at work

  • G-d’s preclusive nature, G-d’s will for ultimate reintegration as demonstrated by Jesus, the gathering of things, Inclusion as default.
  • The tendency of creation to disintegration, death, and the scattering of things. Exclusion is a by-product of the created order, and not, as many would have, a charateristic of G-d.

Punishment

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat”. [Perry Smith, “Capote”]

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  [Book of Hebrews]

“I want to feel that I have lived my life.” [Gabriella, “As it is in heaven”]

In the last week I have seen two contrasting and strangely related movies.

smith-capote.jpgFirstly, “Capote” starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman in which famous American author Truman Capote writes a brilliant novel, “In cold blood”, based on the senseless murder of a Midwestern family. In which he develops a close relationship to the condemned but is unable to transcend his spectacularly selfish motivations, and leads him into a web of deception where the salvation of a man becomes subject to the needs of an authors ego.

Secondly, “As it is in Heaven” depicts the return of a famous conductor to the village of his birth. He is ill and weary, and seeks involvement with music in such a way as to experience its magic in community, rather than on the grand stages of the world. He becomes involved in the Village Church’s choir and soon finds life erupting in the middle of a stale, brittle, protestant religious subculture. This life is accepted to varying degrees; blessing ensues for the majority, but some attempt to remain outside of the circle of grace. Those who come off worst are either deeply damaged victims or deeply pious, and form the distinct minority.

kills2.jpgAll around us, tabloids bay for “justice”. They create an appetite for the consumption of the punitive spectacle. This allows us to place a divide between ourselves and an evil which is “out there”.

There are 2 kinds of justice, retributive justice and distributive justice-compassion. (For extensive treatment of this theme see Sea Raven’s blog) True justice consists not of what man meets out to man either directly in anger, vengeance or vigilante activity, or institutionally via the justice system (law, law enforcement, courts and jails).

Rather this has to do with Love, whereby the blessing of G-d is distributed, rather than the wrath of God re-tributed. “Tribute“, the common aspect of the words, means something given or returned. In our tributes, do we give out blessing or meet out punishment?

Love is the ultimate punishment. Even if we do not find love, or we reject it in this life, Love will find us. It won’t “hunt us down” as though we will be able to hide, it will inexhorably reel us in. 

Our encounter with Love, once the deceptions of this world (vanity, fear, anger, myopia, materialism) are stripped away, and we “know as we are known”, will purge us. The torment described in the Lazarus tale in Luke’s gospel (which many mistake for God’s punitive condemnation to “hell”) is the torment of hard transformation.

The word for torment in this passage comes from the Greek βάσανοσ which talks of a standard, or touchstone. This is the standard of Love and Truth. The transformation which is forced on the rich man is by radical change of circumstances (such a physical death or traumatic loss), rather than a willing and ongoing co-operation with the transformative spirit. Punishment in the Kingdom of God is a by-product of transformation, not the wrath of some insecure, schitzophrenic deity who delights in “Eternal Love” on the one hand and “Endless Punishment” on the other.

In “Capote”, an opportunity to reveal selfless Love to a desperate and deeply damaged criminal, goes to waste because the one given the chance has chosen to “gain the world”, and thus “looses his soul”, as well as that of the one whom he might have helped.

In “As it is in Heaven”, the village pastor is forced by circumstances away from his illusions of pious grandeur, coming close to killing both himself and the one who channeled life into his world, a great depiction of Hard, and yet incomplete Transformation. As for the majority, they were only too happy to be happy…

How do we view punishment? In determining the answer to this question, surely the chief focus needs to be on the models given us which pertain to mans ultimate destiny, not our more base and short term addictions to retribution? And can we apply all our thoughts about punishment to every case, especially that of ourselves?

Most of us will manage to stay on the right side of the law throughout our lives. But can we see that the punishment all of us will encounter will the the purging fire of Love? The quote from the book of Hebrews is not aimed at the criminal, the sinner or the miscreant, although one might think so based on popular preaching.

Don’t do the mistake of coming to this scripture through the filters of a retributive culture or theology. The uncovering is achieved via consummate love, and its painful or “punitive” elements are only the result of our need to be made whole. The entire process is by grace, not a work of our own righteousness.

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