Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Divine Center and the Human Margin

The other day, a friendly commenter mentioned that I am not a Christian, which is not entirely fair. Nor is it unfair, however. It all depends on your point of view. Not to say that "it's all relative.” However, it is to say that revelation, while it emanates from the divine center, is not to be confused with the divine center, as many modern evangelicals are in the habit of doing. The Bible cannot be "the" Word of God, but rather “words of God” addressed to a human subject who is necessarily relative and contingent.

In other words, while language reflects the substance of the speaker, it is nevertheless separate from him. Furthermore, our own understanding is not going to conform perfectly with the Divine Mind, any more than our understanding of a great work of art will conform perfectly with the mind that created it. While we must take the revealed message very seriously, it is still critical to bear in mind that religion is not about religion, but about that which transcends religion. The most sublime religious ritual is nevertheless at the “human margin” compared to the uncontainable radiance it is designed to capture and transmit.

I hesitate even to venture down this path, because it invites a certain type of misunderstanding, and opens the doorway to human pride and willfulness. Everything I am about to say is actually intended to help the person move away from the human margin -- which is more or less relative -- and toward the Divine center, which is subjectively objective. So while it may at times seem as if I am “eclectic” or “ecumenical,” that is neither my desire nor my intent. Rather, I am always trying to get at the core or center of the divine message, not to somehow synthesize various religious points of view that only exist at the human margin.

Thus, there are two errors that must be avoided. The first is adhering to a dogma that, while technically “true,” is nevertheless a human variation on this or that central point of the divine message. In other words, there is “pure dogma,” which is a good thing. You might say that it comes directly from God. However, the undeniable existence of various factions and denominations proves that dogma radiates, as it were, from the center to the periphery, to the point that we end up with groups that have entirely divergent points of view, but still calling themselves “Christian.” For example, I believe I am much more Christian than the National Council of Churches, which exists almost entirely at the all-too-human marxgin.

I hope this is not too esoteric and that I am being clear. Perhaps an analogy would be helpful. On the political/secular plane, the American Constitution is the equivalent of divine revelation, the “word of God.” Having said that, the Constitution nevertheless leaves open much room for interpretation “at the margins.” Thus we have denominations -- Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Progressives, Conservatives, etc. -- all claiming to be the One True Church.

But interpretation can only go so far before it becomes completely detached from the center, and exists only at the human margin. In so doing, the Word of God becomes nothing more than the legalistic word of man, but stills tries to gain prestige by claiming to be the Word of God. Roe vs. Wade is a perfect example of something wholly manmade that exists only at the human margin, but nevertheless claims to be “from the center.” It is a new peripheral dogma that is absolutely indefensible from the standpoint of the constitutional center.

And this is the problem with “progressives” in general, whether political or religious. You might think that Christian fundamentalists are “conservative,” but you would be very wrong. Rather, this is a thoroughly modern movement that has detached itself from oral tradition, inspired commentary, and the testimony of various superhuman saints and sages, to produce a largely manmade, exteriorized version of Christianity. It is no different than political progressives who twist a part of the Constitution in order to create a new political religion that finds justification for their own desires. Roe vs. Wade is just one example, but one could cite dozens more, most notably, the belief that the Constitution somehow sanctions racial discrimination or is hostile to religion. These leftist ideas are human inventions that have nothing to do with the message of the founders.

The other great spiritual danger is that of the “new agers,” who would take what I am saying and turn it on its head, so as to give themselves permission to borrow freely from this or that religious tradition in order to create their own cafeteria-style spirituality. If it ever looks as if this is what I am doing, just disregard that thought. I am not. Although at various times I may speak the language or Christianity, Judaism, Vedanta, or Taoism, this is generally for two purposes. One reason is that it can often deepen understanding of one’s own framework to see it in terms of another tradition. Another reason is that there are certain things that are implicit in one religion but explicit in another. Furthermore, there are certain inevitable “gaps” or interstices that can only be filled out by adopting a more totalistic view of reality.

Here again, perhaps an analogy will be useful. Sigmund Freud made one Great Big Discovery, called ”the unconscious.” For our purposes, think of the unconscious as “God” and Freud as “his prophet.” Freud laid down the dogma, spread the gospel, chose the disciples, formed the early church, named his Pope, and defined heresy.

But the unconscious, like God, cannot actually be contained by any dogma. You might say that it mocks our attempts to do so. Like God, it seems to almost take pleasure in shattering our brittle containers that try to channel the roaring torrent of divinity into the little pridepool of the human ego.

Therefore, no sooner had Freud laid down the dogma for all time, than he had a bunch of heretics splintering off and forming their own churches, each in its turn embodying the One True Faith: Jung, Adler, Reich, and later Klein, Kohut, and others, including complete heretics such as N.O. Brown, Erich Fromm and Fritz Perls.

Now, as I have mentioned before, my biggest psychological influence was a bona fide genius of a fellow named W.R. Bion, who was sent to this earth to clean up this psychoanalytic Tower of Babel. In this regard, he performed a similar function as did Jesus to ancient Judaism or Buddha to ancient Hinduism. In both of the latter cases, these traditions had become so reified and legalistic that they were in danger of losing contact with the divine message it was their purpose to propagate. (For our Jewish friends, please don’t misunderstand the point; clearly, Judaism also responded “within itself” to this impasse, and became a very different, far more interiorized approach, after the destruction of the second temple.)

Bion even used the word “messiah” as a term of art to describe the individual who shatters the manmade container of the “establishment” in order to accomplish two things, 1) re-establishent of the possiblity of a direct encounter with psychic reality (which he called "O"), and 2) evolution within that reality (I adopted the symbol O for my book, only as applied explicitly to God instead of the unconscious).

To greatly oversimplify, genuine psychological insight must proceed from O-->k (or knowledge), not from k-->O (which will simply superimpose a grid of more or less superficial knowledge on O). The same goes for spiritual knowledge, which must be realized knowledge if it is to be efficacious. In fact, to realize it is to render it effective. To not realize it is to render religious language sterile. It is then not “the Word,” but merely words: pneumababble, or just plain blah blah.

Again, I hope I haven’t lost anyone, but O is God. While it has various names -- God being one of them -- it is actually omninameable, which is another of God’s names. O can be thought of as the divine center that radiates out to the periphery of various concentric circles of manifestation. Or it can be imagined as an eternal spring at the peak of a sacred mountain that eternally pours forth its glory into various temporal rivers and streams that cascade down the mountain. Eventually they reach all the way down to the valley below, where the inhabitants have no idea that the water comes from the same source, or even that there is a real experiential source in the here and now, "anterior" to the stream.

Having said that, I do not necessarily recommend my understanding to others, because it has its pitfalls and dangers. As I explain in the book, the trick is to abide in O, while at the same time recognizing that the closer one approaches the center, the more one’s own understanding is replaced by a certain objectivity that is embodied in dogma and tradition. As such, my approach is simultaneously fluid and rigid, if you know what I mean. This is a dialectic that must be maintained, for veering too far in either direction eclipses O and prevents its unfolding evolution through the luxury corps of the lumin being.

All clear?


Bro. Bartleby said...


Petey said...


remy said...

I am interested in how you define "the center". Is that simply O as defined by man?

fergus the cat said...

. . and God said, you can do what you want, Abe, but . . .

Gagdad Bob said...


No, it is that infinite shoreline in man where God's periphery meets our own divine center, the "heart mind" or higher intellect, which metabolizes the theologoumena to expand being.

Anonymous said...

...but the
next time you see me comin' you better bring food.

Booger th'Cat

Petey said...

Abe says, "Where you want your food dish, son?" Booger says, "Out on Highway 61."

Tin Foil Hat Guy said...

A comment on your clarification...


No really, when I first encountered your blog I thought you were a "New Ager" flirting with the "Total Truth" (As in Nancy Pearcey Total Truth). As I read more of your communications from the "close as you can get to the center" the better I understand you, not that that is important to you or to the truth of which you speak. That said, my hero and virtual mentor to the one true truth is the artist formerly known as Saul... and he said it best I think...
"And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up... if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, our faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen form the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. "

This is my center my friend...

In Christ...


Anonymous said...

Christ is a fictional zombie. Worshiping Jesus is no different to worshipping daffy duck.

And Paul was nothing more than a manipulative politician who used ignorance to consolidate personal power. That the ignorant still follow him is testament only to how good he was, and how stupid modern day christians remain.

Gagdad Bob said...

tin foil--

But isn't the whole point that Jesus represented the center taking on the appearance of the periphery?" For it is written, "the Center became peripheral so that the peripheral might become Center."

Dymphna said...

I wish you'd talk some about Bion's encounter with O, which at times seemed to leave him temporarily mute. As it left Paul--that bossy old tent maker -- temporarily blind.

When Bion describes the different groups, I think of what you're trying to do here: establish a working group.

In the end are there any words for the ineffable experience or are we just stumbling around in the cave?

Oh, yeah...and Bion's linking, too. That's central..

And about those mind boogers: turns out that ain't none of them friends with each other so what you have sometimes is infernal war amongst the parasites to see who gets to be Top Booger.

Tin Foil Hat Guy said...


I hang my head in ignorant shame... I feel so duped... I see the brilliance of your indisputable arguement... I gotta go now, my roast duck is daffyinately ready for palatial consumption. Funny tho, daffy only provides temporary culinary comfort, it seems I always wind up hungry again...


It is the whole point.. and the only point. All truth eminates from the manifestation of the center via the periphery.

How else are we to even to begin to approach the center without a peripheral path to it?

I hope this isn't circular reasoning...Ha!

In Christ,