Monday, May 23, 2016

Wisdom Completes the Trinity

“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

I think it is most appropriate that one of the readings for Trinity is about Wisdom; for Eternal Wisdom is the feminine aspect of the Divine. She makes the Trinity complete.

Wisdom is found at the intersection of our existential experience with the mystery of the unseen. Such an experience rocks our world, yet defies explanation. Our mind and words fail miserably to translate what our heart aches to express. Wisdom is found by living an allegorical, metaphorical, mystical life filled with uncertainty and question.

Carl Jung said that wisdom is “a spirit of light…a living spirit that lives in all creatures as the spirit of wisdom.” (Mysterium)

I love hiking in Prescott, especially in the area above Lynx’s Lake. My dad built a small cabin in that area years ago. I’ve been roaming those mountains since I was nine-years-old. The last couple of years I’ve made friends with four ravens who have their rookery just across the ridge from our cabin.

A few years ago I was preparing for my walk across Ireland. So, I spent a lot of time hiking the hills around our cabin. Most mornings, just before sunrise, the ravens would be just outside our cabin, talking. Praak, praak, praak—begging me like children to come outside and play. With their encouragement, I was out the door before dawn. Most every morning the ravens would be at the bottom of the hill below our cabin, picking the ground for bugs. They would let me get just so close and then they would taunt me, hopping, joking, teasing and then they would fly low down the ridge. I knew they were headed to their little morning playground. I followed them down the road a few miles. One morning, the largest raven was sitting on a branch next to the road. For reason, I stopped and I told the raven that in all the years I had walked through the area they had never left me a feather. Of course, he mocked me. Praak, praak, praak. Who am I to ask for such a thing?

So, I kept on walking. I made my way down the road a ways before I reached the usual place I stop for a rest before heading back up the mountain. As I headed back to our cabin I didn’t expected to see the ravens anymore because it was getting later in the morning. But as I got close to their playground the big raven flew behind me and across to the more narrow side of the road. When I got to where he was perched in a tree by the road, there I found a feather lying on the ground. It was a long deep wing feather, with a band of fans missing. The feather was a gift from the leader of the rook.

I was awed and humbled. I bowed to the raven and thanked him for the gift. As I continued moving up the road I kept staring at the aged and beaten feather. Within a few dozen steps the raven passed in right in front of my path. Now he was ahead of me twenty yards in a tree on the wider side of the road. The giant bird was squawking at me. I stopped. He peeked out from behind the trunk of a giant pine. He beckoned again. I started to walk away. He screamed louder. The noise was so startling I stopped dead in my tracks. I made my away across the road. The raven was on the backside of the tree away from the road. As I stared up to see the bird I heard a truck barreling down the road. I turned to see the truck clip the rocks on the blind, narrow side of the road—exactly where I would have been walking. The driver would have struck me head on without ever having seen me.

My heart froze in my throat. My lungs had shut off. I felt like my soul would leave my body. I bent over with my hands on my knees. I wanted to vomit but my stomach was shriveled at the bottom of my bowels. My eyes quivered. I leaned into the tree knowing I was going to faint. Then I heard the raven drop down a few branches and cluck that guttural affection they can share with one another. I held onto the tree and looked up. The bird turned his head to the side to get better look at me. The great raven was making sure I was okay. Convinced I would soon breathe again, the giant bird dropped wing and swung down over me and then glided into the gulley below.

I know you expect me to give you some explanation of what happened. You would like for me to say, “Oh, the Great Creator moved his creature the raven to draw my attention and get me across the road.” Or maybe you would like me to say, “Wow, what an amazing moment of synchronicity.” Possibly you’re saying, “God saved your ass.” And you might be saying, “That’s weird.” Well, you may believe whatever you like—because I don’t know what happened. But I do keep reflecting on that experience. I feel like I heard the spirit of wisdom call me into the weird uncertainty of it all. Eternal Wisdom appears in the cross roads of death and life.

Carl Jung wrote in Mysterium that “Life wants not only the clear but the muddy, not only the bright but also the dark; (life) wants all days to be followed by nights, and wisdom herself to celebrate her carnival.”

Wisdom is born out of our relationships (Joanna Macy). The relationship begins with our with our own Self. Without a relationship with our Self how can we have a relationship with God or anyone else? Wisdom arises from the integration of our muddy relationships, found in the four directions of the four dimensions of our Self (Bill Plotkin). Wisdom calls when we are willing to listen to all our relationships, with our Self, the Divine, each other, and Mother Nature and all her creatures, animals, birds, trees, and the stones.

The sun rises in the east with our innocence. The sun swings south where we find our sensual Self. The sun moves west so that our visionary muse will emerge. And then the sun moves north into the region where our Self becomes a sage; the full integration of our Self brings us into a humble moment of being able to share our wisdom.

To share wisdom we must make our way through our pilgrimage of the four directions. Finally, up in the mountain of the north. There we draw a circle on the face of earth. We sit in that circle and wait for others who seek our wisdom. We wait for them to ask questions. Then, and only then, can we share our own stories—allegorical, metaphorical, mystical stories that are filled with uncertainty and question.
Wisdom is found at the intersection of our existential experience with the mystery of the unseen. Such an experience rocks our world, yet defies explanation. Our mind and words fail miserably to translate what our heart aches to express. Wisdom is found by living an allegorical, metaphorical, mystical life filled with uncertainty and question. Wisdom is found the completeness of the four; Eternal Wisdom completes the Trinity.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Black Sun

I have heard the Spirit speak to me in her fire. The fire that refines is not to destroy us but instead to heal our wounds with spiritual gold. The Hebrew Bible has several references to the Spirit of God being the refiner’s fire—Malachi 3:2, Ezekiel 1:3, Zechariah 13:9, Jeremiah 9:7, and Daniel 12:10 which reads, “Many shall be purified, cleansed, refined…and the wise shall understand.”

The refiner’s fire burns hot. The heat can become so intense that the sun appears black—what Saint John of the Cross described as the Dark Night of the Soul. At those moments we are being prepared for our descent into the unconscious so that we might experience some of the most numinous imaginations of the psychic life. (Stanton Martin, The Black Sun) The Black Sun is a paradox; it is blacker than black while at the same time it shines with dark luminescence that opens the way for us to find a healing path.

In The Acts of the Apostles (2:1-21) we hear Saint Peter quote the Book of Joel (2:28-32); metaphorically, he is making a reference to the resurrection of Jesus as a path to our spiritual healing, our resurrection. For us to be able to see wisely and to understand our psychic resurrection, our salvation, we will have to experience our own metaphoric crucifixion, the Dark Night of the Soul, when the “sun shall be turned to darkness.” (Psalm 22:1)

Some of you may be familiar with the song “Black Sun” by Death Cab for Cutie. The lyrics of the song were inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which recognizes the beauty of broken things. The artist takes broken ceramics and repairs it with gold.

Front man for Death Cab, Ben Gibbard, describes the beauty of broken things, the beauty of suffering in the lyric of his song “Black Sun.”

There is an answer in a question
And there is hope within despair
And there is beauty in a failure
And there are depths beyond compare
There is a role of lifetime
And there’s a song yet to be sung
And there’s a dumpster in the driveway
Of all the plans that came undone
How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When the black sun revolved around you.

It would be nice if our only experience of the Holy Spirit were her gentle breeze that refreshes our soul. Or those times when she comforts us in our despair. Indeed, the Spirit does bring refreshment and comfort to us. But many us have experienced the Dark Night of the Soul when sun turned black. At those times, we can be oddly reassured, that even though we are suffering and feeling abandoned, forsaken, and our dreams may have been dashed on the pavement and thrown in a dumpster, we will be restored with the refiner’s gold of the Spirit, who heals our woundedness with spiritual fire.