Sunday, March 22, 2009

De-mask Us On the Road to God: How an Appalling Saul became the Apostle Paul

A rewritten post from two years back for your Sunday coontemplation.

***

Reader Brian asks, "You've alluded to this before -- and may have dealt with it in the comments when I wasn't looking -- but I am incredibly interested in your take on Saul of Tarsus becoming Paul. His mindset was quite hostile to Christ, yet he had an almost involuntary conversion. Or was it involuntary? So many who wish to serve their Creator fall short because of internal divisions, etc., but Saul absolutely wanted the opposite, yet he became the man who spread the Gospel more effectively than anybody. Did God reach out to him, or did he reach out to God, or is there even a difference?"

As a matter of fact, I was thinking about this subject just yesterday. For in a certain way, the story of Saul-->Paul is as central to the Bible -- and to the arc of salvation -- as several other scriptural "centers," or "axes," each of which seems to parallel or reflect back and forth upin the others. For example, one obvious center is in Genesis 1:1, with the creation (a Raccoon would say "origin") of the cosmos.

This cosmo-scriptural center is deliberately paralleled in John 1:1, which even begins with the same three words, In The Beginning. In both instances, "beginning" superficially refers to the "horizontal" beginning, as in the beginning of a sequence. But the deeper sense of the word has to do with the "vertical" beginning, which equates to the ontological center.

This center is not in space or time per se; rather, space and time are reflections of the center. "In the beginning was the Word" does not (just) mean "a long time ago," but in the center represented by each now -- the now being the horizontal center of time. This center is the "light that shines in the darkness," since light is precisely that which radiates through the now from the center to the periphery.

Now, a man was sent by God -- i.e., the center -- "to bear witness of the Light" -- i.e., the radiation from the divine center. His name was John. He was required because, although the light shines in the dark, the dorks don't get it, so they need a pretty in-your-face kind of guy to grab them by the tunic and point it out to them. John was just that man. As such, he represents another important center, a sort of "reflected center" who was not the light but who could see the light.

Jesus obviously represents the full embodiment of the center at the periphery. A couple of days ago we spoke of black holes, and how they pull everything into their vortex, so that nothing escapes. In a certain sense, Jesus might be thought of as the opposite, as a sort of "white hole" as it were, that pulls all of creation into its wake. You have heard of the esoteric tenet, "as above, so below," or, to be precise, "That which is below corresponds to that which is above, and that which is above corresponds to that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing."

Another fundamental axiom is the greater the cause, the greater the effect. Thus, if Jesus is who he says he was, then it should be no surprise whatsoever that his effect continues to ripple through existence down through the centuries, like a depth charge dropped from heaven into the ocean of existence. It is not "speaking poetically" to say that we are surfing one of those little waves right now, no? If not, what are we doing? Just sitting here making stuff up at 5:00 in the morning? Er, I don't think so. If that were the case, you wouldn't understand what I'm talking about. It would be perfect nonsense instead of perfect nonsense.

The Mystery of Golgotha represents an exact analogue of the mystery of creation itself. For if creation is God's kenosis, or self-emptying (and spontaneous and unnarcissary self-giving), then Jesus' work on the cross represents a parallel kenosis, a complete self-emptying, even into the "negative existence" of death.

For Jesus does not merely "die," but takes on the mantle of Death in order to join ranks with the great "brotherhood of the dead." As Balthasar has written, when it is said that Jesus descended into hell on Holy Saturday, "descend" (in his opinion; others may disagree) should not be understood in its active sense, but the strictly passive sense. He fell and fell and fell, just like humans, to the very periphery of existence, the furthest point from the light of the radiant cosmic center. Only once he hit bottom could the "fall" be reversed, the rock bottom nihil of dark death being the "relatively absolute" separation from God.

Now this is all well and good for God, Sons of God, Light, Logoi, hand-selected apostles, and the like. Where do we fit in -- regular guys and gals, ordinary stumblebums, rank and foul earthlings?

Here I think that Saul serves as an archetypal illustration of the divine center as it manifests in fallen man. For just as Jesus represents the center crashing into the periphery, Saul ultimately represents the perpiphery making its way back to the center.

In fact, Saul is not just an ordinary peripheral man who is ignorant of the Light, i.e. luciferian. Rather, he is like the ACLU or the MSM or the Democrat party. He is specifically at war with the light. He is "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord," perhaps even threatening petty lawsuits to demoralize the decent. In fact, Saul is the patron shitheel of the ACLU, since he didn't have to be a sneaky weasel with a briefcase, but could directly make "havoc of the church, entering every house and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." If Gitmo were in existence back then, he would be fighting with all his strength for the release of the Christian killers.

Thus, Saul represents another kind of center, a perverse center, even the "center of perversity." He is the "center of (not at) the periphery," so to speak, at war with the true center. Paradoxically, he must obviously be quite full of himself, the opposite of the self-emptying, radiant center. But his fullness does not bring peace but persecution, just like anyone with too much self esteem and time on their hands.

As we have been reading lately, psychologists are finally catching up to the self-evident truth that "self esteem" is neutral at best, but usually destructive. Most of the problems in the world are caused by people with too much self esteem -- dictators, criminals, politicians, newspaper editors, etc. Because they are so full of themselves, there is no space for God, which requires self emptying of one's own (false) center. As Paul would later say -- I'm paraphrasing here from memory, "It is not I who live any longer, but Christ in me" -- i.e., the real center at his center, rather than the bogus center of the hypertrophied ego. One or the other must go.

Since the false center of the ego represents an ontological nothingness, its resultant darkness envies the light. This envy is the dreary joy of the joyless, who simply spend their petty lives grinding away at truth, beauty, and virtue, as do so many lie-roasted academia nuts. Nowadays they might call it "speaking truth to power" in order to elevate themselves in their own eyes. Or they might give each other academy awards, or Pulitzers, or Nobel prizes, or even Daytime Emmys.

These external supports are all necessary to prop up peripheral man and disable his consciousness of guilt. No doubt if Saul were alive today, he would have been given a Nobel Peace Prize for his important work in combating extreme Christianism. He would join the ranks of other recent winners -- men and institutions at war with the center such as Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mohamed El Baradei, the U.N., Al Gore, etc.

But then, on the "road to Damascus," as the cliche goes, Paul has a profound experience that unmasks and violently pulls him from the periphery to the center. In its own way, this event is as principial as its reverse, when the center emptied out to the periphery in Genesis I and on Holy Saturday. For quite suddenly, in an instance of true "quantum change," someone who had been at war with the center snaps like a rubber band into its opposite. If you can imagine the big bang as an infinite point radiating outward to the periphery, this would represent the opposite of that movement: a deusorienting implosion as dramatic as an underwater volcano in Upper Tonga.

The first and last step (and every step in between) on the spiritual path is "repentence," which actually comes from the Greek metanoia which is simply to "turn around." Instead of turning our back to the central sun, we look around and see it face-to-facelessness. Instead of running away from it, or struggling against it, we embrace it, like flowers that naturally orient themselves to the sun and open up or "surrender" in its presence.

Saul "opened up," and in so doing died to himself, in the same way you would die if you opened up your abdomen with a bowie knife. At once he was in the presence of the central light which "shone all around him" (for how could it not, if one's eyes are open?), and fell down like Saul t' the earth. Yes, in such circumstances we all fall what seems like a long distance. But in reality, it's just back to the ground, the same ground you were crawling on to begin with.

"Saul, why are you persecuting me? You're acting like a freaking ACLU goon. What's up with that?"

"Homina-homina-homina.... I was scared about the imminent Christo-fascist takeover, like I read about on dailykos... But w-what do you want with me?

"Before getting into that, why don't you just assimilate what's happened so far? Go have a little clubhouse meeting with yourself. Walking on water wasn't built in a day."

"B-b-but I'm blind. I can't see anything."

"Yes, I know that. This is not in the Book I've been sketching out, so you'll have to read between the lines. The point is not that you are blind. Rather, the point is that you can no longer "see" your previous world. It no longer exists because it never really existed. It is gone. Finished. No more. Ceased to be. You are now in the land of the Real, but you do not yet have the extrasensory organs to see it. You are like unto someone who is snowblind. The problem is not darkness, but too much light. Now get lost for a few days, unplug, chill, relux and call it a deity. And turn off your cell phone! If any Romans call, you're not home, got it?"

We are then told that Saul spent the subsequent three days without sight, without food, and without liquid -- i.e., closed to the horizontal -- and simply shut up in his existential darkness. One cannot help but compare this with Toots' "long weekend" in the drunk tank. While some blasphemers suggest that the visions were a result of delirium tremens, we know better.

This, of course, parallels the Jews' 40 years of wandering in the desert, Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the bewilderness, and ultimately the three days of the passion. In each case, "emptiness" at the periphery (i.e., "wilderness," "desert") is a prelude to "fullness" or "resurrection" at the center. Specifically, Saul's emptiness is filled with the Holy Spirit. He is charged with a vertical mission, for if Jesus took care of the R & D, then surely Paul was the marketing department. He is to spread the good news of the center to the periphery, to "bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel."

Paul has a new name and new vocation (which means "calling"). His earth name is gone, as is his sickular mission. Now he has a divine name and a divine mission. His sight is restored, but it's not like the old sight. Rather, he is granted the gift of 20/∞ cʘʘnvision, as "the scales fall from his eyes." Then he arises and stands in the divine ground as a truly Upright, Tripedal Man, an I-AMissary of the center instead of a bipedal beast of the periphery.

28 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once with my own lil' hands I worked on the cross too!
Still vivid the moment when our classroom teacher told us the crucifix had to be take down, because such was the politically correct thing to do now. (I lived in Eastern Europe then)

Her sad tone, the look on her face stirred such an indignat note in me, that promptly - at first opportunity - I gathered 2 just so perfect sticks from the school's tree-graced property, and with grass tie-fashioned a perfectly handsome crucifix.
Later, when everyone went home I climbed on the top of a desk and hid-hanged it behind a portrait of some political dignitary.

So there!

Theofilia

3/22/2009 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

More Obama war crimes.

3/22/2009 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extreme Disorder unloosed from below
Graceful stand of White Pine
Like Vishnu's arms holding up the Sky
We oppose deception!
Realize, reveal, fulfill
On Earth-plane
Gifts that put man's
Best dreams to shame

Theofilia

3/22/2009 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

A prediction: Hillary quits State after the midterm elections, citing family reasons (perhaps Chelsea will oblige her with a timely grandchild), but lets it be known through subordinates that the real reason is that she can no longer abide the Messiah's demonization of Israel, appeasement of our enemies, and alienation of our closest allies.

A spontaneous groundswell is carefully orchestrated from behind the scenes, and she challenges Obama from the right in the '12 election. Along the way, much talk of why Obama didn't consult closely with Bill Clinton over the economic meltdown.

3/22/2009 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Good imagery, Bob!

Here I think that Saul serves as an archetypal illustration of the divine center as it manifests in fallen man. For just as Jesus represents the center crashing into the periphery, Saul ultimately represents the perpiphery making its way back to the center.

Okay, that's clear enough, but this:

Thus, Saul represents another kind of center ... he must obviously be quite full of himself, the opposite of the self-emptying, radiant center.

That's an image we can all relate to, since we've all known people too full of themselves -- perhaps even intimately! And to juxtapose it immediately with "self-emptying, radiant center" makes the contrast not just clear, but accessible.

Another great re-run! Thanks!

3/22/2009 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wasn't there a Ricky Nelson video up here a couple of weeks ago? Seraphic Secret has one today, which could be said to represent Paul's perspective after the scales came off :)

wv says his conversion was the fastracc from full of shit to full of It

3/22/2009 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Rather, he is granted the gift of 20/∞ cʘʘnvision, as "the scales fall from his eyes." Then he arises and stands in the divine ground as a truly Upright, Tripedal Man, an I-AMissary of the center instead of a bipedal beast of the periphery."

Ho! Tripedal Man, lOve it.

3/22/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Cuz, why is he killing all those freedom fighters?
I’m confused..

3/22/2009 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Petey,
Ah yes…those were supposed to be her “opportunities”.

3/22/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Yeah, you can't just go around murdering terrorists! Next thing you know they'll be torturing them with panties!

3/22/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

From Dupree's link "Panetta, asked about the Predator attacks in a meeting with reporters last month, refused to discuss the program directly, but said, "Nothing has changed our efforts to go after terrorists, and nothing will change those efforts.""

Seems to be channelling Rumsfeld. Fascist.

:-0

Petey said "A prediction: Hillary quits State after the midterm elections, citing family reasons..."

Haven't bothered to check and see if there's truth to this, but it wouldn't surprise me; someone noted the other day that Presidential gifts to dignataries, such as the Prime Minister of Britain, are outsourced to someone from State Dept., to ensure that they are appropriate - it seems as if the only way that a gift of DVD's to a man who is blind in one eye and half blind in the other, and which don't even play on european DVD player's, could possibly be deemed 'appropriate', would be that they were appropriate to make Petey's prediction self fulfilling. Sort of a 'Reset button'... eh... go figure.

3/22/2009 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Cuz,
I just checked my membership brochure…and it says right here “makes more terrorists”.
Uh..oh..no wait…what’s a freedom fighter again? …because freedom fighter sound like a good thing.
I’m confused…

3/22/2009 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Oh…no wait…over here it says, “killing them makes them angrier”. But that’s good because we want angry freedom fighters, right? Angy is tougher.
All set.
Ut.. wait a minut the newspaper says their dead...that can't be right..

3/22/2009 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

This is so confusing... For seven years we've been told by the left that the cause of terror is fighting it. At this rate, they'll soon be saying that Israel has a right to defend itself, or that anything Andrew Sullivan would pay to have done to him is not "torture."

3/22/2009 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One of my Film School Faves is on TCM today at 5:00 PST, A Place in the Sun. I'm going to watch it again and see it it still grabs me...

3/22/2009 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Ut…I figured it out, Cuz.
Over here it sez, “this brochure expires on 20 Jan 2009. You will be issued a new one”
Sheesh, I guess that explains why I can’t find the one from 07 or 06 or..

3/22/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking about that angry is better, and of Place in the Sun?. Can't say I ever saw that film - tho it rings a bell. . . But, in a strange 'round about way I can relate to both ahem. When once upon - oh, to be exact in 1990' according to my pale-faced husband he saw my head light up "like the sun".

I was angry, very angry, 'philosoficaly' angry of course;) hollering on and on about "WHAT IS TRUTH?! WHAT IS REAL BEAUTY!!?".

The only thing my best friend, my best husband in the world wished for me was for me to be at peace, to be happy. But he coudn't stop this face to face dual. He just wanted me to shut up and be normal!

At some point he walked away over to the far end of the room, set on the furthest end of the couch and with quick glances in my direction and shooing away hand-gestures, kept saying "Don't do that, I can't see you."

When the dust settled, he said, "I couldn't see you. Your head was like the sun."

Heck if I knew what that was all about, but resolved to try and find some esoteric book which would explain what's what.
Tried, but not very hard. Raising family, canning and freezing garden grown veggies, house cleaning, decorating and a million other house-tasks kept me plenty busy. Living in the forest was my most urgent wish in those years.

And then years later, one night as my hand reached out for a pillow my head lit up like the sun! Shocking the dickens out of me which made the light 'wobble'... Then in wonder while staying as still as possible, hardly daring to breathe 'watched' it for a a couple of seconds stay 'on'.

I think it was after that incident it occured to me to ask my husband "how long my head stayed lit up for?". To which he responded with irritated, "Why are you always asking me about it? I don't know, three or four minutes."

True, from time to time I did ask to tell me what exactly happened that day, but only because it was such a freaky thing!

By then tho, I KNEW....In the chapter on Enlightenment Experiences in Roshi Kapleau's Three Pillars of Zen, the following quote confirmed all I needed to know.

"Not long after this I went to a zazen meeting at which Yasutani roshi delivered a teisho on the "Three Gates of Oryu," a koan from Mumonkan. At one point he was saying" "How does your hand compare with the hand of a Buddha? Reaching out in your sleep for your dislodged pillow, insinctively you recover it. One's whole being is no different from this timeless hand. When you truly realize this, you will spontaneously burst into laughter."

There it was my 'super-naturaly' confirmed in a synchronistic-like fashion my whatchya call it? - "enlightenment?"

(my hand did reach out for a dislodged pillow in sleep - before I read the above and was still under my head, with right hand next to my face when I woke up.)

I don't even like the word "enlightenment" because it sounds pretentious.
Besides, only those in far away lands, those who shave heads wear robes and do all kinds of rituals, those with followers can call themselves enlightened....

Come to think of it, one very famous, recently deceased "Realizer" f*cked his students, had several wives and girlfriends in his island harem....pppppft!!!!!!

Thanks, but no thanks.

Theofilia

3/22/2009 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Presidential gifts to dignataries, such as the Prime Minister of Britain, are outsourced to someone from State Dept., to ensure that they are appropriate

That should be the Protocol Gift Unit, a division of the Office of the Chief of Protocol which still only has an 'Acting Chief' since 1/20/09. The US has rules & legalities regarding 'gifts', so they're tracked, coming & going, thru the PGU & are classified as Gifts to the Nation, not personal property of the receiver - to cut down on influence-buying & bribery in diplomatic circles.

Not a chance any Career Protocol Officers were actually involved in picking any of that national embarrassment rookie crap - it would be the end of any future for them right there. Normal careers span multiple administrations, so no one would choose to have that history following them around. Those protocol types are stuffed shirts with reps to keep - DC is crawling with them & every diplo mission, to & from every country, has at least one on staff. They're a club internationally & talk to each other, so I don't believe for a minute that the caliber of the UK's gifts was not known before-hand inside that circle.

No doubt Chitown thugs saw no need for formal diplomatic niceties & thought hopiechangie winging it would serve just as well. Nope, Her Thighness & Co. for sure chose that Reset-button gig & B/M (staff?) picked (regifted-region 1) DVDs & (WH gift-shop) plastic models of Marine One.
Cheezie is as cheezie does.

3/22/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ximeze said "Nope, Her Thighness & Co. for sure chose that Reset-button gig & B/M (staff?) picked (regifted-region 1) DVDs & (WH gift-shop) plastic models of Marine One."

Ug. I would have preferred to believe there were Machiavellian conspiracies afoot, rather than sheer boobery.

I've got a bad feeling about this admin. May the force be with us.

3/22/2009 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I like the new quote from Schuon. Too bad the people who most need to see and comprehend it are also the least likely to do so.

3/22/2009 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

I would have preferred to believe there were Machiavellian conspiracies afoot, rather than sheer boobery.

Hee Hee I ain't sayin Career State ain't up to sticking it to rookie administrations on purpose to prove to da newbies who should be listened to & why.

3/22/2009 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Oh goodie, Lord Monckton verbally cleans Algore's clock over AGW on G.Gordon Liddy's radio show MP3 here


Lovely write-up too.

3/22/2009 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
One of my Film School Faves is on TCM today at 5:00 PST, A Place in the Sun. I'm going to watch it again and see it it still grabs me...

Damn, I missed that one, but I did see Sunset.
What a great flick! I was blown away at the visual effects, the lighting, and the shadows, and of course it was enhanced by outstanding music and sound effects. Most notably the timing of the church bells.

There were very few words, and even those few weren't necessary, because the acting was first rate and genuine.

For an 82 year old silent film, it easily blows most other films, especially modern one's, clean out of the water of righteous entertainment and...dare I say, true enlightenment. (I know that's a saturated word, like "liberal,"
but dammit, I'm fed up with those jackasses on the Left highjacking language and twisting it to mean whatever the hell they want, as if doing so would change Reality.
And they do this to get power over others rather than any honest communication as Mtraven demonstrates so well).

This flick, Sunset, ain't just entertainment. It elevates the Beautiful, Good, and True Love above the depths of depravity and evil (for evil's sake).

It clearly shows the transcendent power of repentence, and forgiveness by true love...and grace abounds.

I haven't seen a movie this uplifting in...well, I can't remember the last flick I saw that comes anywhere remotely close in the uplifting department.

Remarkable flick. I highly recoonmend it to everyone. Don't let the fact that it's silent turn you off to this beauty of a gem. :^)

3/23/2009 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The first and last step (and every step in between) on the spiritual path is "repentence," which actually comes from the Greek metanoia which is simply to "turn around." Instead of turning our back to the central sun, we look around and see it face-to-facelessness. Instead of running away from it, or struggling against it, we embrace it, like flowers that naturally orient themselves to the sun and open up or "surrender" in its presence."

Yes indeedy. We all have had the Road To Damascus experience perpetually. Even Ray has.

The reason Ray (and many others) haven't seen nor realized The Road To Damascus, is because they will not repent and surrender (or play to pass the toll bridge over the river why).

Certainly grace is a part, but ultimately we all must choose (and keep on choosing) The Road To Damascus as much as necessary.

Then we can make a Cross-country journey on the Road To Don'taskus-askHim. I mean that from a personal perspective. Nothin' wrong with askin' for wisdom wherever you can find it, but you gotta be certain you don't listen to fools like Deepak who will try to sell you an off-road map with a shortcut to hell, via the river Lie.

Excellent post, Bob! Thanks for the timely repeat. I say, these are better the second timelessness around.

3/23/2009 12:55:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

"I would have preferred to believe there were Machiavellian conspiracies afoot, rather than sheer boobery."

I kind of thought Semantha Power might behind that little bit of theater.

3/23/2009 05:16:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

turning molten liquid powdery gold internally
like stars and the darkness surrounding them
--their joyous otherly faraway energy become
as unpredictably as possible-humanly:
feeling knowing kneeling flowing God...
cellular gratitude spine pop
blank account filled

3/23/2009 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

*ring!*

“Mmm hmm..”

“Mr President?..sorry to wake you at this hour…

“Go ahead, comrade…what is it..”

“Well Mr. Putin…we’ve had our brightest minds on that ‘detonator’ and …well…”

“Go ahead…”

“We’ve tried everything…there are no internal components, power source or integrated circuits that we could find… The thing appears to be made entirely of ordinary plastic.”

“This is good, yes?”

“Well…obviously their technology has advanced well beyond ours. I’m reminded of Area 51…they’ve had some success it seems.”

“Hmmm…you are right. Go ahead and light up one of their cities.”

“And the ‘detonator’?”

“Oh…right…they probably heard that…
Just kiddiiiiiing!

*click*

3/23/2009 05:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob wrote once upon memory

"Real thoughts is the essence of prayer, linking man with what is timeless and eternal."

Theofilia

3/23/2009 07:40:00 AM  

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