Religion is Spiritual. The Religion Business Isn't. Or, God is a Swingin' Cat
Our discussion of the theological virtue of hope is complete, and so we move on to faith. I hope it goes well!
We had begun discussing faith several weeks ago, but for some reason jumped ahead to hope. Actually, I just checked the arkive, and we began this discussion on June 11. But then on the next day I skipped ahead to hope. So if you want the prequel to today's post, here 'tis.
In rereading it, a few passages stand out. Example:
--"In speaking to men, God does not cause them to know objective facts, but he does throw open to them his own Being" (Pieper; emphasis mine). Do you see the profundity of this statement? When he communicates, God quintessentially communicates his own essence -- which, on our end, is subjectively accompanied by awareness of the sacred. And awareness of the sacred is nothing less than innate consciousness of the presence of God (Schuon).
--This revelation of being is only offered to us, never forced.
--The "content" of revelation is ultimately Revelation as such, which is to say, a loving invitation to "participate in the divine life." Which in turn is why faith is so critical, for faith is essentially the acceptance of God's offer -- or of his self-revelation, to be precise. "Divine revelation is not an announcement of a report on reality but the imparting of that reality itself" (emphasis mine).
--The statement I love you is a direct and intimate revelation of the deepest identity of the one who loves. Thus, there are three elements unified in the one utterance: the "self-witnessing" of the I who loves; the affirmation of the present reality of love; and the revelation that one is beloved.
--Which is why in God, one must not draw an artificial distinction between love and knowledge, for his revelation is a direct transmission of his loving nature, of love, and of our belovedness in God. Divine communication and comm-union are one and the same.
While I'm thinking about it, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion, one of my most important influences, is reminding me that in order to properly conduct psychotherapy, -- or write a post -- one must approach the session with an attitude of faith, by which he means the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding.
The reason for this is that in order for new meaning to emerge, we must try to avoid superimposing our present understanding upon things. This is because it is quite common -- most especially among the tenured -- to unconsciously use knowledge as a defense against being. Being is "void" of knowledge, so to speak. It is simply the state of raw awareness.
Or, better yet, it is O. My use of the symbol O is borrowed from Bion, who applied it to the "ultimate unknowable reality" that exists between two people, in particular, the two people sitting there in the consulting room. Think of all the superficial mechanisms we use to avoid genuine contact during the day. This is not to criticize these mechanisms, for they are necessary. No one expects you to pour your heart out to the bank teller or dry cleaner. Rather, we have ritualized ways of interacting with others.
But in so doing, one must be aware that one is eclipsing O. Problems only arise when one's whole life involves the foreclosure of O, so that there is no genuine openness toward, and contact with, the other -- which is none other than at-one-ment with being, since being is communion (again, we'll be expanding on this idea later, so at this point you'll just have to, er, take it on faith).
I hope this doesn't sound too abstract. To the contrary, when I write, I hope always to keep everything very experience near, so that we never venture too far from O. When I write these posts, I am writing from O, in the sense that they are purely spontaneous -- an exercise in the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding. No technical terms, no evasions, no ulterior motives, no goal, just me here witnessing being.
And I hope this gives the writing an energy and a momentum in which it is possible to "participate." I want to induce the same experience in others, not of what I'm thinking, but of how I'm thinking it (or how it's thinking me, to be exact). If it doesn't work for you, hey, you get what you pay for. All I know for sure is that it works for me.
And as a matter of fact, this touches on some of the subjects discussed in yesterday's musical thread. I am quite sure that Jack will agree with me that there is an infinite difference between simply playing a song one knows, vs. radical improvisation, through which one hopes to have an encounter with music itself.
In order to do that, one must of course "suspend memory, desire, and understanding," something that is very difficult to do, especially when one is performing live in front of paying customers. What if it doesn't happen? Better to just stick with the script and give the people what they want, the same stupid song performed in the same way they heard it on the radio 40 years ago.
One reason why I hesitate to do any live speaking, is that it's one thing to abandon my self to the inanimate google machine, another thing to do so in front of strangers. Again: what if it doesn't happen? Better to stick with a script. Can you imagine being one of those people who go on the "lecture circuit" and deliver the same stupid speech over and over? It doesn't matter who it is. It's just dead language. Why not just get it in a book? I suppose seeing the actual person is a kind of faux-O.
Back to music. Imagine the degree of faith it requires to stand up in front of thousands of people and take a leap into the unknown. Again, it's one thing to do it in one's bedroom, another to do so in public. Of non-jazz artists, Van Morrison is one of the few performers who really does this. But because he does, it is possible that you can spend one or two hundred dollars to see a live performance in which it doesn't happen. Personally, I wouldn't be able to stand the guilt. I'd want to either give a refund or have a do-over.
I just so happen to be reading a new critical study of Morrison, Hymns to the Silence, which, when you think about it, is a marvelous title, since it goes to exactly what we're discussing here: the music, or thought, or God-awareness -- the encounter with Being -- that can only emerge from the silence of O. It must be O --> (n). Again, (k) --> O is just a defense against being.
Here are some passages I've highlighted from the book: "I don't want to just sing a song. Anyone can do that. Something else has got to happen." Elsewhere he says "it's a momentary release... the minute it stops, it's gone." Again, it's very much in the moment. Leave the moment, and you leave O.
Or how about this: "Blues isn't to do with black or white... blues is about the truth, and blues is the truth." Here again, it would be easy for the musical sophisticate to dismiss blues, based upon its simple structure and rudimentary instruments, but this would be to miss the point, precisely. Just as God "throws open his own being," it is possible for a gifted performer to "throw open the being-ness of music," so to speak. I mean, Aretha. James Brown. Ray Charles. C'mon.
Here's another good one: when Morrison was starting out, "I wanted to make my own blues, my own soul music, to do something of my own with it." Not necessarily a new form or style. To the contrary, he wanted to use the existing framework and infuse it with his own musical being in order to impart the present reality -- or real presence -- of music.
This is so far removed from the world of commercial music that it's two different realities. He is not creating a product to be "consumed" by others. In fact, the true artist generally must create his audience, not "find" it; or simultaneously create and find, shape and impart. (One thinks of Jesus, who had to do the same with the disciples, who often didn't get what he was on about, and still don't.)
As Morrison has said, "Music is spiritual. The music business isn't."
O, my little ringtailed ones, how tragic that the same can often be said of religion: "Religion is spiritual. The religion business isn't."
Where does one go to find swingin' jazz theology -- I mean le théologie hot!, not the cerebral and detached cool kind?
Jazz is not a kind of music, it is an approach, and it applies to how one goes about finding their voice, relating to a tradition, stepping into the unknown and swinging. --Ben Sidran