Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wedded Bliss: The Mirrorcles of Love and Slack

The Gospels may be thought of as "holographic," in the sense that the events described therein are signs, signs are teachings, teachings are events, events are parables, etc. Everything in the Gospels is at once "fact, miracle, symbol, and revelation of the truth" (Tomberg).

There are only seven miracles described in the Gospel of John, beginning with the transformation of water into wine at the wedding at Cana, and ending with the raising of Lazarus. At the conclusion of John, he says that if every miracle attributable to Christ were to be recorded, "the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

Therefore, Tomberg suggests that the seven miracles of John are intended to be "archetypal," or to summarize certain categories of the miraculous -- of how humans, unlike any other beings in existence, may surpass themselves in the perpetual ocean of love, wisdom, and action.

Might there also be an implicit parallel between these seven miracles and the seven primordial acts of God described in Genesis 1-2? The Gospel writers were obviously intimately familiar with the Old Testament -- which was still pretty new -- and there are any number of places where they attempt to resonate with it -- for example, in Genesis 1.1 and the prologue of John ("In the beginning...").

Tomberg maintains that there is in fact an inverse relationship between the seven phases of creation in Genesis and the seven miracles of John. Thus, for example, the wedding at Cana somehow mirrors the seventh day of creation. But how?

Tomberg writes that the sabbath is the day on which "created being attains the highest level of inwardness: freedom. The seventh day of creation is the 'day' of the meaning of the world." And since it is only in love that freedom is perfect, ultimately divine-human love "is the foundation, the meaning, and the purpose of the world."

Real love is both the alpha and omega of existence, first God to man, followed by man to God, which completes the OntʘlOgical circle. And what is love of God? Schuon says that it is first "the attachment of the intelligence to the Truth," followed by "attachment of the will to the Good," and only then "attachment of the soul to the peace which is given by Truth and the Good" (emphasis mine).

Thus, slack is a side effect, as it were, of Truth and Virtue. Still, we were made for slack, since it is our proper end.

Love is the highest freedom, according to Tomberg, for "it is the sole element in human existence that cannot and may not be demanded. One can demand effort, veracity, honesty, obedience, the fulfillment of duties, but love may never be demanded. Love is and remains for all time a sanctuary of freedom, inaccessible to all compulsion.

"For this reason, the highest commandment -- 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind... and love your neighbor as yourself' -- is not a command, but a divine-human plea. For love cannot be commanded; it can only be prayed for."

This is also the American secret, for it is the one nation that is founded upon the primacy of spiritual liberty, which is to say, the possibility of genuine vertical (agape) and horizontal (caritas) love. Which is why Americans are patriotic citizens and not matriotic subjects. Half of us, anyway.

If the sabbath represents the conslackration of the free union of God and man, then a sort of cosmic divorce occurred as a consequence of the fall. Man was unfaithful to his vows, so to speak.

Thus, Tomberg writes that the wedding at Cana symbolically speaks to the restoration of this divine-human union, for it seems that marriage often "begins with enthusiasm, with the 'wine' of the honeymoon period, and ends with the 'water' of routine habit" (ibid).

The daily renewal of love is indeed a miracle, even though we rarely think about it in those terms. To put it another way, only love can renew the world, oneself, and one's wedding vows. At the wedding, Jesus not only transforms water into wine, but the second wine is even better than the first.

In other words, not only does the higher love not degenerate, but it is miraculously renewed and increased; as such, this miracle is the "sign" of the healing of marriage -- i.e., "healing in the service of restoring the marriage relationship to correspond to the divine cosmic archetype, which is the seventh day of creation."

Note that John 2:1 says that the wedding took place "on the third day." Why is this seemingly offhand comment inserted into the text? And when they run out of wine, it is specifically Jesus' mother who brings this message to her son. Interestingly, Jesus says something very strange, in that he immediately interprets Mary's news about the wine in symbolic terms, asking her, "what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."

Thus, the wedding on the third day clearly has resonance with the entire mission of Jesus, in which he will restore the marriage between God and man on "the third day" (which is also the Christian sabbath), by pouring out a kind of infinite, inexhaustible love.

Tomberg notes that there are exactly six "waterpots of stone" at the wedding, apparently referencing the other six days of creation and the other six miracles. The reference to "stone" reminds me of something Schuon wrote, that

"When God is removed from the universe, it becomes a desert of rocks or ice; it is deprived of life and warmth, and every man who still has a sense of the integrally real refuses to admit that this should be reality.... Similarly for the soul: remove faith -- including the element of faith that forms part of gnosis -- and the soul becomes impoverished, chilled, rigid, and embittered, or it falls into a hedonism unworthy of the human state."

Skipping ahead a bit, wine once again comes into play when Jesus' "hour has come." In John 19:28, only after he knows that "all things were accomplished," he says "I thirst." He is given some sour -- which is to say, bad -- wine, which is placed to his mouth. After receiving it, he bows his head and says, "it is finished."

What is finished? One of the soldiers pierces his side, and "blood and water come out." At Cana, water is transformed into good wine. Here, as it were, bad and sour wine -- which is to say, the hateful karma of the world -- is transformed into water and blood. In the Bible -- and in antiquity in general -- "blood" always had spiritual connotations, and was regarded as the vehicle of life, while water carries two distinct meanings.

Back to Genesis 1. On the second day of creation, God separates the upper waters -- the waters above the firmament, or heaven -- from the lower waters. In fact, heaven is placed between the upper and lower waters, as a sort of dividing line. As such -- again, curiously -- heaven is not at the "top" of creation, but is a sort of membrane between upper and lower, or superior and inferior, waters.

But clearly, Jesus seems to be able to mediate between the upper and lower waters -- to bring about their harmonious union, in which the lower is transformed into the higher, and the higher descends into and infuses the lower.

Exacly what is the sacrament of marriage? It is the "inseparable bond between a man and a woman, created by human contract and ratified by divine grace. The nature of the covenant requires that the two participants be one man and one woman" and "that they be free to marry."

Marriage is founded upon consent, which "consists in a human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other. Consent must be a free act of the will of the consenting parties, free of coercion or grave external error. If freedom is lacking, the consent is invalid." Interestingly, "it is the spouses who are understood to confer marriage on each other. The spouses, as ministers of grace, naturally confer upon each other the sacrament of matrimony" (Tomberg).

Now, back to the union of God and man. Let's think about some of the constituent components of marriage: freedom to consent to an inseparable bond, absent any coercion; mutual surrender; male (God) and female (the soul); the parties freely choose to confer marriage upon each other, not one upon the other; and the parties become vehicles of grace for one another, through which the regenerative upper waters flow into the world, transforming water into good wine and sour wine into the upper waters of eternal life and love.

32 Comments:

Blogger Alan McCann said...

Beautiful.

12/07/2010 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"Thus, Tomberg writes that the wedding at Cana symbolically speaks to the restoration of this divine-human union, for it seems that marriage often "begins with enthusiasm, with the 'wine' of the honeymoon period, and ends with the 'water' of routine habit" (ibid)."

This applies to life, too.

Exciting at first, then feeling more and more like a prison as you grow older. Routine habit = boredom = pain.

12/07/2010 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger AndreLinoge said...

I read the New Testament totally differently; I see mostly doom and gloom, condemnation and assurances of damnation.

12/07/2010 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That is powerful. I had never thought of aligning the creation sequence with John despite the parallel of John 1 with Genesis 1. Most Christians, I think, recognize that John's non-synoptic Gospel is doing something very different from the Synoptics, and it is a preferred starting point for a new believer -- a new creation himself or herself. This goes a long way to explaining why we get so much out of John.

12/07/2010 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I understand, Andre, as I have read it the same way in the past. We read ourselves in the Scriptures.

12/07/2010 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

Is it not true that marriage, at least between people, has a double action?

One is to increase the sense of peace of well-being, but invariably the union will also produce strife. Not necessarily in that order.

Marriage carries a function intrinsic to warfare: a struggle which produces gains.

Both partners fight to preserve the union against common enemies: ego motives, entrenched notions, unchecked desires, ungoverned appetites, petty vanities, cherished ambitions, fears, doubts, and the like.

In an act of mutual destruction the spouses purge each other and themselves of these gremlins, scorching the earth in interlocked combat.

A functioning marraige causes pain which produces growth which in turn produces increased slack.

So, a relationship with 0 is strengthened by a relationship with another human being.

12/07/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Beautiful, as Alan already noted.

This reminds me, I was thinking last night of the story of Cupid and Psyche, another metaphor for divine-human love.

12/07/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Speaking of turning water into wine... very nice post, and timely for me. I've been plugging around the periphery of this, not really sure whether I was near a 'spring' or not, thanks for the sign post.

"Therefore, Tomberg suggests that the seven miracles of John are intended to be "archetypal," or to summarize certain categories of the miraculous -- of how humans, unlike any other beings in existence, may surpass themselves in the perpetual ocean of love, wisdom, and action.

Might there also be an implicit parallel between these seven miracles and the seven primordial acts of God described in Genesis 1-2? The Gospel writers were obviously intimately familiar with the Old Testament -- which was still pretty new -- and there are any number of places where they attempt to resonate with it -- for example, in Genesis 1.1 and the prologue of John ("In the beginning...")."

Hopefully the train of thought continues to turn up in your mornings, it promises to be as useful a thwack to the head as the posts on the Ten Commandments.

12/07/2010 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "Exciting at first, then feeling more and more like a prison as you grow older. Routine habit = boredom = pain."

I hope it's useful for you to know that there are people out here, everyday sorts, not noticeably successful in any obvious ways, not rich, etc, working everyday (and no end in sight)... who read some of your comments and... blink... and say "Wha...?"

The world you describe is by no means universal... you may want to consider moving.

12/07/2010 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Hey Andre... still raising pigs?

12/07/2010 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Van says:

"I hope it's useful for you to know that there are people out here, everyday sorts, not noticeably successful in any obvious ways, not rich, etc, working everyday (and no end in sight)... who read some of your comments and... blink... and say "Wha...?"

The world you describe is by no means universal... you may want to consider moving."

I can't move back into childhood. The way is blocked.

12/07/2010 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

...marriage often "begins with enthusiasm, with the 'wine' of the honeymoon period, and ends with the 'water' of routine habit"

In keeping with the distinction between upper and lower waters mentioned later in the post, in a marriage in-formed by that sacrament of grace, there's nothing to keep that water of routine habit from being living water, that which feeds and strengthens both partners over time, albeit less dramatically than the wine of the honeymoon period. That is, there's nothing wrong with habit and routine, per se; it's when we cease to see it as a blessing and start to take it for granted that the water starts to stagnate.

12/07/2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

JP, who says it has to be back in childhood?

You have the choice to move forward into grace every minute of every day. The only thing keeping you from it is you.

12/07/2010 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I just miss the lack of responsibility, the freedom to buy whatever I wanted, and basically unlimited free time.

That's a lot more pleasant that working for a living.

12/07/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "I can't move back into childhood. The way is blocked."

Well... I think you missed the point. With what you said yesterday,

"When I was a child, I presumed that world was, in fact, perfect. Then, once I reazlied that there were problems... I realized that the problem was people... people used feelings rather than logic to make decisions...At some point, I also realized that feelings were actually useful to being human. "

It doesn't seem to be a matter of moving back to childhood, but of moving on from.

12/07/2010 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Even so, JP, there is always a choice - either to radically change what you do for a living, or more simply to try to deliberately see and be grateful for the blessings that literally fill your life, every waking moment, right now. It's almost impossible to do, though, when you are looking backwards at what was or what might have been.

12/07/2010 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To: Gagdad
Re: "And what is love of God? Schuon says that it is first "the attachment of the intelligence to the Truth," followed by "attachment of the will to the Good," and only then "attachment of the soul to the peace which is given by Truth and the Good" (emphasis mine). "

Dude, that is some heavy lifting. Could you reference which Schoun book that this is covered. I would like to read it. Thanks

Prophetic WV: emishm

12/07/2010 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tigtog:

That would be Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, which is a collection of brief, gem-like excerpts about the spiritual life, taken from his entire body of work.

12/07/2010 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

The problem that I have with Schuon (as Schuon is presented here) is that he seems particularly severe and austere.

He almost feels mathematical, for lack of a better word. It's not that he's wrong, its that he seems...cold.

Intelligence has to be attached to Truth and Will has to be harnessed to the Good.

12/07/2010 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To: Thanks, will pick it up.

12/07/2010 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger SnoopMurph said...

Loved this post. Following on some of the comments...

I had a crappy childhood and I spent a good portion of my early college years stuck in the past. But my husband was the biggest blessing and loved me enough to coax me out of my shell. And Julie's right-in the end, the only person that kept me from being happy was myself.

I am one of those everyday sorts that Van describes-I'll be working a good, long time and I have two young boys. Responsibilities never end, but when I do have those blessed moments of freedom-I enjoy them much more. Thankfully, I have a job that I really love doing, even though it will never afford me luxuries.

I consciously make the decision to move forward every day because it makes life much more pleasant, for me, my husband and my children.

12/07/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

I would like to know more about slack.

Is it a feeling of centered rightness?

A state of mind free of anxiety?

A feeling of being right with the world and without particular hankerings?

A quiet euphoria?

A sense of expansive wideness and lightness?

A sense of not having to do anything in particular?

A sip of really good whiskey?

These are my conceptions of slack. I may have it wrong.

My thought about slacking is that it should be salted with periods of tension, striving, and ennui, and peppered with moments of sheer terror.

Then the dish of life reaches the acme of flavor.

12/07/2010 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

There is a saying that those who marry, will regret it, and those who don't, will also regret it.

I don't have any experience with marriage, but I do have experience with work. My experience was that work was God's punishment, a major part of being thrown out of paradise. Work sucks, and it is God's will.

And then I had en encounter with the Truth - after decades in this way - and realized that I was actually being paid for giving love to other people, by helping fill some of their needs. Given that I have depended on other people for my very survival since before I was born, being able to give something back is a precious opportunity. Occasionally making life a little easier for someone brings a smile to my face. Getting paid for it makes me almost laugh maniacally: It is hard to see how even divine intervention could have secured me a better deal.

Now, I don't know whether a similar shift in perspective can happen in regards to marriage. You guys just have to find out for yourself, I guess. But if it happens, it is a lot like recognizing that the water was actually wine, and a really good one at that.

12/07/2010 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And then I had en encounter with the Truth - after decades in this way - and realized that I was actually being paid for giving love to other people, by helping fill some of their needs.

I think, with very few exceptions, that is true of pretty much any job one can do - paid or not. Viewed that way, too, there is really no such thing as undignified work, though certainly many jobs feel thankless. It is our selves that dignify our labor, not our labor that dignifies our selves.

Christ washed the feet of his disciples. In so doing, he was not brought low; rather, by serving them he elevated them, and also set an example for every one to follow. In this way, we see that to serve is to love.

12/07/2010 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

O! I was hoping you would continue this series, Bob.

One of my favorite books, Lazarus, Come Forth!, of the many you cover here.

And I do believe in this book that Tomberg compares the 7 miracles to the 7 days of creation.
And once one sees it, one cannot unsee it.

Please continue...

12/07/2010 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

This sounds really familiar, Snoop:

"I had a crappy childhood and I spent a good portion of my early college years stuck in the past. But my husband was the biggest blessing and loved me enough to coax me out of my shell. And Julie's right-in the end, the only person that kept me from being happy was myself."

But Bob both coaxed me out of my shell (the best parts of me) and coaxed me back into my shell (the more annoying parts.)

I've been thinking lately about how there is so much that is mysterious about marriage. Like how you find that person who can be the biggest blessing in your life and turns you toward the good. Is it random? Is it luck? Is it in any way guided by God? It doesn't seem totally random, but between luck and God's will, it is both mysterious and overwhelming, like when you have a moment or more when you feel God's Grace very strongly.

I also agree with Julie that at any time, we can begin to move forward into Grace. And grasp the sacred aspects of our lives and marriage, relationships with close friends, mentors, guardian angels, and children.

12/07/2010 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Great post Bob!

Speaking of mysterious, I think it's a miracle that love can grow so much that even the annoying things a spouse may do becomes endearing.

I became acutely aware of this when my wife was close to death, and again during my brushes with death (not just during those times but it became more integrated and pronounced, as did my gratitude).

Gratitude in the light of marriage (if me allow that light to shine through truth) cuts through the selfishness I had grown accustomed to.
Not only in marriage but in every facet of life.

If one can't see the good during bad times, or beauty past the skin, well, that's only a stones throw from bitterness n' envy, and it's no mystery where that leads.

The mystery of love is a joy to be savored that's for sure. :^)

12/08/2010 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger Pieter said...

For the very first time, I find myself in disagreement with my favorite blogger & psychologist, based on what I have learnt of the gospel of John in the book Madonnas & Monsters by Judith Taylor Gold.

If the author is correct, the Cana wedding passage is one of the most sinister and destructive of all the later insertions to the new testament.

From a review:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/36308130/Monsters-Madonnas-by-Judith-Taylor-Gold-a-review

"Raymond E Brown*3 provides a brief synopsis of a prominent theory on the development of this gospel, identifying three levels in the text: 1. An Original narrative of someone personally acquainted with Jesus/Yeshua;
2. A Structured literary creation by an editor that draws from other sources;
3. An Attempt to harmonize the text with the rest of the New Testament canon.

The teachings and personality of Jesus in the Gospel of John differs so radically from those in the three Synoptic Gospels that prominent theologians have been claiming since the 1800s that only one of the two traditions can be true; it is impossible for both to be true.*4

Back to Cana. Bizarre elements of the text include:
the somber tone in which a wedding is described; the strange lack of detail - whose wedding?
The weird dialogue between Jesus & Mary. The literary style is oneiric.
Verse 1: Third day of what? Dionysian feasts lasted 3 days, concluding with a wedding on the third.
Verse 6: "And according to the purification rituals of the Jews there were six stone jars" ... This is a disguise mechanism. No such Jewish custom ever existed! However, six stone jars filled with wine was characteristic of Dionysian rites.*5
Verses 8 to 10: There was no 'Steward of the Feast' at Jewish weddings but there was one at pagan wedding ceremonies. In the Dionysian ceremony the mother goddess wed her son the sun god in an incestuous marriage. The author provides pages and pages of additional evidence."

MONSTERS & MADONNAS: THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN ANTI-SEMITISM
Revised Edition
Judith Taylor Gold.
Joseph Gold, Editor.
New York, Syracuse University Press, 1999 ISBN 0-8156-0583-8

12/10/2010 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Pieter said...

Please convince me that Judith Taylor Gold is wrong and that I got it wrong. This discovery has caused me much anguish and spiritual exhaustion. The deeper I delved, the worse it got; I now no longer believe that (TETRAGRAMMATON ~ LIFE GIVER) of the so-called "Old Testament" is the same personality as the 'father' of the trinity in the church writings. As Gold points out, it is an abusive triad which resembles the triad of the typical horror story.

"The final chapter on Antisemitism connects all the threads. This plague existed in the ancient pre-Christian world but took a turn for the worse after Constantine Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire in A.D. 394. Quotes from John's gospel, the church fathers, a selection of Popes, Martin Luther, Shakespeare, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, passion plays and 20th century literature expose its similarity of expression down the ages.

So what is the point? In the dialectics of the collective Christian subconscious, Jesus exists as both man and god. The wedding at Cana subtly imprints the incest theme in this subconscious.

Now remember: gods and royalty are exempt of the taboo. So Jesus as god is 'exempt' of the guilt.
But Jesus the man is guilty.

As a god, Jesus, the son of God born of the virgin Mary died and rose from death on the third day. As a human being, Jesus is a Jew. His followers - Christians who share in his divinity - are exempt and free of the guilt of incest.

But his living relatives, his family members that do not believe in him as a god, are guilty on account of their relationship with Jesus the Jewish man."

12/10/2010 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Pieter,

Please convince me that Judith Taylor Gold is wrong and that I got it wrong. This discovery has caused me much anguish and spiritual exhaustion.

I'd like to offer a couple of observations, if I may:

First, I would suggest branching out in your reading. While this one author may have an interesting viewpoint, there are roughly 2000 years' worth of other thinkers who have examined the same texts with just as much scrutiny in the search for Truth as she has, and who managed to come to some very different conclusions. Conclusions which have borne a tremendous amount of fruit, and which have helped bring untold numbers of people closer to a loving relationship with God.

Second, if your faith is being tested, pray and listen. Bob is only a man, and Judith Taylor Gold is only a woman. They cannot and should not be the keepers or arbiters of your faith. If you find that your belief in Christ is shaken, then pray instead to the source of life and truth for guidance.

12/10/2010 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

In addition to what Julie says, this is also what I would do; it is advice which I believe Jesus gives for cases such as this:

"By their fruit you shall know them."

Also similar to what Julie says about the 2000 years, Schuon or maybe Tomberg might wisecrack, that book is but a fissure against a mountain.

Also, most of the evidence the author provides (or at least how you describe it) seems to be a comment more to what was standard practice, rather than what actually happened.

Which is almost like arguing, this Jesus person can't be the messiah because he's not like everybody else.
Sort of how it comes across.

What ever that's worth, I think it is enough to pray and compare the fruit of each author. Is Judith Taylor Gold effectively only "tearing down"? Whereas Bob, Tomberg, have done so much to illuminate the scripture that continues through me and of course others here I know of personal experience.

I'm also one of those who tends to believe you can't hurt the Bible to a certain extent. But mostly when we are talking about text translations.

12/10/2010 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Pieter said...

Thank you Julie & Rick, you have answered me in kindness and wisdom, giving valuable advice.
I appreciate that and yes, I am always reading (as time allows) but as is written somewhere, "to many books there is no end" and something along the lines of 'knowledge sometimes brings sorrow.'
However, this One Cosmos blog provides new perspectives and unusual angles to think about almost every day. I normally cut & paste and read & re-read the week's posts over weekends.
Thanks again for your sensible replies and that you did not attack me.

12/18/2010 09:33:00 PM  

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