For those of you who know the Enneagram, I relate strongly with the type 5, but also with 6 and 7, all of which fall into the head center (the other centers being heart and gut). As such I live most of my life in my own head, a fact that my wife will confirm to be quite true – to which I thank her both for her gracious acceptance and her encouragement to explore the world beyond my own mind. I’m an extreme introvert and struggle immensely with interpersonal interactions.
When I became a Christian I wrestled deeply with the implications of Christ’s message and the challenge it posed to my natural personality. For a long time I felt like just being myself was sinful. I’m naturally so anti-social that most of the ‘community mandate’ of Christianity scares the living daylights out of me. I took some comfort from the fact that history was dotted with mystical hermits who felt quite justified living isolated lives committed to the God of Christianity. But I also realized that in my own life, with a wife, two kids, and a job, I would never be able to adopt the solitary lifestyle of a detached recluse. I also never felt completely comfortable with the hermetic model since I wasn’t sure whether it actually did justice to the relational focus of the Christian Faith.
All of this caused a great deal of internal pressure both to follow my own heart and to conform to the seemingly extroverted character of biblical Christianity. In the end I’ve decided to go with my own heart – and something quite interesting has started to happen.
As I’ve become more and more comfortable with just being me I’ve also felt a shift in my ability to move towards people. It seems as though my introverted psyche felt attacked by my desire to be less introverted and thus expressed itself even more. But once I accepted my introversion as normal and natural it allowed that part of myself to let go a little and allow other elements of my internal world to express themselves again.
A similar struggle and shift seems to be occurring within my mind-body dichotomy. My “headiness” and intellectual pursuits have often been condemned by my ego as un-masculine and weak. The result has been an overwhelmingly single-minded focus on all things mental and intellectual to the absolute disregard for my physical body. From this has come a distrust of gut and heart reactions, which are both quite bodily, and a biased favoring of the powers of the mind and intellect.
Here too I’ve been experiencing a shift towards acceptance of my mind as a wonderful tool through which to engage the universe – and again this acceptance has led to a quieting of my mental voice so as to make room for my body to once again be heard. This in turn has led to a greater freedom to experience embodied reality and embodied spirituality.
This growth has been fruitful in many areas. I’ve found new energy to engage my wife, my kids and God with my whole body instead of just my mind. I’ve started exercising again and doing yoga, and I feel a deeper desire to use my body to encounter the world around me.
My relationship with God has experienced its’ own development through this process as I’m trying to bring my prayer life out of my head and into my body as the temple of God. I’m starting to feel a more consistent move within myself to express my praying through my breath, my body posture or movement, groaning, tongues and listening to the movements of desire and energy within my body. While I’ve experienced similar initiations in my prayer life before it seems as though my internal battle between body and mind kept them from deepening into what they now seem to be becoming – an embodied spirituality.
This embodied spirituality has caused me to reconsider my body both generally as a human body and then also more specifically as a male body. The flip-side of this is that I’ve also realized how dominated the Christian Faith seems to be by male images of God.
While other faiths seem to generally have a well balanced approach to the masculine and feminine aspects of both the human race and of God – I’m thinking here of Taoism, Buddhist and Hindu Tantric spirituality, Kabbalah etc. – this seems less true of Christianity. Partly this can be accounted for by the fact that the relationship between the Father and Son is one of the central realities within Christianity. This can therefore eclipse other more feminine aspects of the Divine. Certainly I don’t think this exclusion of the feminine is a wholesale reality within Christianity – Catholics for example include Mary quite deeply within their understanding of the divine economy – but even here, Mary is still only human and not actually part of the Divine Identity as such. And it is also true that feminine images of God exist in the bible, but they are usually only cited as a defense against feminism and not to encourage any real exploration of the Sacred Feminine.
I think a helpful place to begin looking for the Divine Feminine is in the revealing of the Shekhinah in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit in the new. While both the Old and New Testaments reveal God as Masculine, Father, Son, King, Warrior etc., the mystical traditions of both Judaism and Christianity have looked to the Holy Spirit to provide the necessary balance to the “male” God. That isn’t to say that the Holy Spirit is actually female, but that she provides one of the best opportunities to envision the female characteristics of God. God is pure Spirit and therefore without gender. But perhaps a better way to say it is that God is pure Spirit and therefore contains within God’s self both male and female. Since the Father and Son provide such obviously male images, perhaps the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life and Rebirth, the Helper and Companion, the Sustainer, Giver of Gifts and Producer of Fruit, is a fitting model for the Sacred Feminine.
I find it interesting that even biologically the first life-forms where single-celled, neither male nor female. But that as life developed the creator saw fit to split the unity of the “one” and to create from it both male and female. And then later in the biblical story of Adam and Eve we see this same division of one into two. The original Hebrew should be read in a way that sees God creating a genderless “earthling”, who He later separates into male and female. He does this, not by removing a “rib” (which is an often used yet untenable translation) but rather by removing “one side”, as the Hebrew actually denotes.
I see so much potential in this for both men and women – instead of seeing God only as beyond gender, we can see that the very image of God in us includes both the feminine and masculine. That our very sexuality forms an integral part of our spirituality both as individuals and as couples. That just as there is no separation in God, it is the union of male and female that provides the clearest vision of the whole Godhead.
Through the image of the Sacred Feminine woman can see themselves as absolute equals in sharing with men the image of God. Men have easily seen themselves in this light. Maleness and Godhood stand side by side all over the biblical text. Both in sonship and fatherhood, kingship and priest, men have multiple accounts from which to draw divine likeness. All women have been offered is a rib, and a male rib at that. But in the creation account, understood as the division of One Divine Image into equal parts – Male and Female – we have a truly empowering vision for all women, created in the image of God, to embrace their sexuality as divinely inspired.
Likewise men can also benefit from contemplating the Divine Woman. It is through the Sacred Feminine that men can best understand their own passionate desire for that part of creation that carries with it the potential to realize the fullness of the divine image – male and female united as one. In a world plagued by pornography and the sexual exploitation of woman, we could all stand to gain from a re-emphasis on the image of God in woman. We need to move beyond both shameless exposing of the feminine image, on the one hand, and the complete disregard for the beauty and splendor contained in every female, on the other. The answer is not a prudish renouncement of the power of female sexuality – by hiding the image under a burqua or disfiguring it in business suit and tie so that male and female can no longer be distinguished. No – a far harder task it to celebrate without exploiting, to welcome the passion it evokes without turning that passion into promiscuity or licentiousness. We need to recognize that the passionate male response towards woman does not come from sin, or evil, but from a deep desire for transcendence.
And so begins my own journey towards embodied spirituality and the embrace of the Divine and Sacred Feminine.
A quick lament for distance felt
A quiet prayer for Presence
The Wind is blowing where it wills
none can know its’ way.
Sparking faith to meet the Spirit.
Heart ablaze with Love’s sweet kiss.
By Jacques Rothmann
Today I deleted some posts from my blog. It’s the first time since starting the blog that I’ve removed something I previously wrote. There are many things on this blog that I’ve written and then changed my mind about. I haven’t deleted these, but allowed them to stand as developments in consciousness and thought. However, over the last few months I took a radical stance on some issues that I’d prefer not to identify with and would dislike others to encounter should they randomly come across a blog post.
Let me explain. I encountered some radical forms of charismatic and mystical expression a few months ago that left me concerned. This concern grew into fear and the fear gave rise to suspicion and doubt, which was then directed towards ever growing spheres of reality connected to the initial concern. It was one of those “A is bad, A is connected to B therefore B is bad” kind of things that soon became an “everything is bad” perspective. Unfortunately the “everything is bad” perspective just doesn’t sit well with my soul and eventually I had to go back and reconsider whether everything really is bad.
I don’t think it is!
I could be wrong, but I just don’t feel like having an “everything is bad” perspective represented on this blog is helpful.
“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” Genesis 1:31
I’m keenly aware of God today. Like a warm fire His presence has accompanied me since I left home today. With each breath I feel the joy of Him fill my chest as peace radiates from deep within me. When I stop to feel the fire in my soul it immediately gives rise to praise, and Spirit Songs well up in my gut and like a fountain flow from my throat. It was only during the course of this special morning that I became conscious of the significance of today. And while this makes the experience all the more special, it also reminds me that, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus every day is Good and every day is Holy. God is not beyond us, He is closer than our very breath, and available to all who seek Him. Thank You Jesus.
Above, Beyond, Within.
The Hands of God
Caress my soul.
floods my being,
a peaceful stream –
The Fountain of Life.
Glowing Light Within
Rising to my throat
The Sound of Joy.
By Jacques Rothmann
So, here I sit again. Doubting everything I’ve been reflecting on over the last 3 or 4 months.
Once again returning to the path I’ve been on these last 10 years.
Once again exploring mysticism, because without it I feel disconnected from God.
Once again exploring panentheism, because surely God is in everything he has made.
Once again exploring interfaith and ecumenical spirituality, because surely God’s Love and Salvation reach beyond my narrow view.
Once again trying to connect the dots,
calling out for help and asking,
“Lord, you are truth, help me live in truth.”
Six months ago I wrote a post about feeling like I’m living on a spiritual merry-go-round. Like I just keep encountering the same issues over and over again. Perhaps the problem is that I don’t hear so well and God needs to keep saying the same thing over and over and over.
Well, I’ve actually had some movement again and so I thought I’d post a bit of an update on the 5 issues I was exploring at the time of the original post.
1) Who is Jesus?
Check out my last post for the answer to this one. Suffice it to say that I think Jesus is exactly who the early church claimed he was. The incarnation of the Word of God. The Logos of God, born into the human race, fully God and fully man. Born to redeem mankind out of the hands of the evil one and reestablish humanity in relationship with the Father through the Son’s redeeming death and the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ.
2) What is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of various writings from key members of God’s adopted family. I believe God fully intended for the Bible to exist and to be used by his past, current and future children as they learn about the history of the people of God, the climactic birth, life and death of Israel’s (and the world’s) Messiah and Savior and the New Covenant established by Him.
While there are translation and interpretation issues in all Bible versions I no longer consider this an obstacle to the truth. I believe the Spirit of God can and will help every true seeker after the One and Only God to understand and rightly interpret everything that is vital to our relationship and salvation in Jesus Christ.
I think it is advantageous to read widely on difficult passages (both in terms of Bible translations and scholarly and pastoral interpretation) and seek God earnestly for answers to those issues that we struggle with.
I also think it is wise to always approach our interpretation with humility, as pride can easily blind us to our own faulty beliefs.
3) The Law and the Christian
After much prayer and reflection I am finally starting to let go of the issues raised by Messianic Judaism/Christianity. I still need to process some of this issue through writing but I’m starting to feel released from a legalistic desire to simply return to the letter of the law in the same way Israel lived before the New Covenant.
4) Is there really a Christian Mysticism
This issue has become one of the biggest life changers recently. I continued to question my motivation towards mysticism and began to see a sensate desire for experience that seemed akin to other unhealthy desires to feel a certain way.
In addition to this I encountered some disturbing realities linking various movements within contemporary Christianity that I have serious reservations about. In all these movements, mysticism and experience are the key components and seem to be the ties that bind the whole thing together. This has caused me to reconsider many movements and schools of thought that I had once felt quite at home in.
This issue needs its’ own post and so I will leave it at that for now.
5) Christian Apocalypticism
This one was on the bottom of the list and I’m actually only starting to re-explore it at the moment. In light of my previous issue on Christian Mysticism this last point has suddenly sprung to the front of my mind again.
I’m been very weary of jumping off the deep end with issues and yet I’m constantly finding myself up to my eyes in turbulent waters.
As far as this issue is concerned I find myself looking at it in two distinct ways. One way of looking at it is that we are standing on the precipice of greatness. While the world may look troubling on the surface there are some deep spiritual currents moving over the surface and the Spirit of God is hovering, ready to usher in the kingdom of God. If the church would just fix some of the problems of the past we could truly usher in the Millennium of Christ and establish the kingdom of God on earth.
The second way of looking at it (and the one I’ve usually considered more biblical) is that the world is not going to get any better and that the church is not going to get any better and that it is going to become progressively more difficult to remain true to the kingdom of God is a world that is doing all it can to destroy the gospel and the people of God.
Again in reference to the previous issue on mysticism, I’ve suddenly become very aware of the current trends in Christianity. A couple of years ago I thought mysticism very good and I felt like one of the few who saw the truth and really desired intimacy with God. Now I realize that the mystics are not the isolated visionaries, but rather they are becoming the staple stock of the new/emerging church. I light of this and many other issues I can simply say that I doubt what everybody thinks is the Truth and the Light is in fact going to turn out to be so in the end.
I feel a fire within –
a spark ignites my heart
and floods my soul.
The Burning peace Engulfs my being.
But the flame flitters and fails –
an icy grate drains like a bottomless pit
choking ashes leave me panting.
With Cold and Thirst to swallow the world.
Then it kindles –
heating my heart like an ocean wave
streaming from my chest like a shining star.
The chasm consumed by the Blazing Flow.
The fire is water and the water is life –
a sapling grows in the street of the city
with healing leaves to make me whole.
But the River trickles from the throne of Fire.
My soul is a desert and my heart a wasteland –
blazing river flow within me
feed the sapling.
Let it grow.
By Jacques Rothmann
Over the last few months I’ve spent most of my time investigating the claims and theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Well, that came to an end recently and I’ve begun to see this exploration with some outside clarity again.
Most of the posts on this blog are in praise of Orthodoxy and while doing the research I had been more or less convinced of the Churches arguments for historical credibility. But now, while I’m still pondering somewhat, I’ve begun to sense the holes in some of their claims. An old friend and a new friend have challenged me to reconsider what I know and to spend some time with the bible – both of which have left me doubting many of the Orthodox positions. In addition, I’ve come to some new insights regarding claims to historicity and the ease at which one can use history to support your claims (in the same way one can use the bible to support your particular theology).
I can’t tell you how many times I simply feel like I’m going round in circles. Just when I’m quite confident that I’ve left something in the past and moved on…I hit a wall and realize it’s all too familiar.
My hope is that rather than circles I’m moving in some kind of spiral and every time I re-encounter something I move towards greater depth of clarity regarding each issue. This is my hope…but I’m in no way sure that it’s the case. It’s equally possible that I’m simply stuck on a theological merry-go-round with no way to get off!
Through my recent critique of Orthodoxy I’ve bumped into some familiar “old friends” that I thought I’d laid to rest…but apparently they’d like me to spend some more time with them.
So what are some of these recurring themes that I keep slamming into?
1. Who is Jesus?
Are the ancient councils of the Roman Catholic Church really the only options regarding who Jesus is? If we believe that the Church of Rome corrupted so many apostolic doctrines and practices, why do we simply take it for granted that they were right about Jesus? Who were those early heretics that claimed the churches interpretation of Jesus was wrong – do we just accept that it was the correct one or have we actually given these other interpretations a fair hearing and understood why these men (and woman) disagree/d with the status quo.
2. What is the bible?
The best-selling book of all time! But how many of us really know the issues surrounding the book that we all hold so dear. Like the fact that most contemporary translations of the Old Testament are made using the Greek translation which differs from the Hebrew manuscripts. What does it mean for us that there are a total of 4 different categories of ancient New Testament manuscripts and that nobody agrees which ones actually match the original autographs of the New Testament. Do we really realize how much interpretation goes into translation and that it has serious consequences for our understanding of the bible’s teachings.
3. The Law and the Christian
Mainline Christianity has always taught that Christians don’t need to obey the Old Testament Law. The Catholic Church officially changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (with no scriptural basis for doing so) and removed the second of the 10 commandments from their catechism (splitting the last commandment in two to retain the number 10). In recent years Messianic Christianity and other prophetic movements have claimed that the Catholic Church parted ways with the early church on this issue. They say that realizing that the Law cannot save us and discarding the Law are two very different things. What exactly did Jesus mean when he said that not a single “comma or full stop” would be removed from the law (except those parts that he fulfilled – like the abolishment of the sacrificial system) and that if we break the least commandment or teach others to do so we shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Should we be keeping the Sabbath and all the other Laws in the Old Testament?
4. Is there really a Christian Mysticism?
I loved mysticism and spiritual experience before I loved Jesus. And when I found out that Christianity had a mysticism I was immediately interested. At first it did concern me that the only places I would find this mysticism were in Catholicism or Orthodoxy, but my desire for experiencing God transcended my fears. It just had to be true, otherwise, why would I want it so badly. But recently I’ve been wondering what exactly it is that I’m after with my mysticism. Am I simply wanting to wallow in the energies of God because they make me feel good? Did I simply replace my one time drug addiction for a God addiction? Just what is the relationship between mysticism and my desire to feel good?
5. Christian Apocalypticism
No matter how you read it, the bible is an apocalyptic book. It is full of warnings, signs and prophecies relating to the end of time. I once held a very negative view of the world based on my understanding of the bible and its’ apocalyptic warnings. But the negative outlook became too much for me and I tried hard to see the world with different eyes – to have some hope that maybe the institutional church and the institutions of the world were not all as bad as the bible said they would be. My engagement with the theology of the emergent church and my exploration of Orthodoxy was part of my hope of finding some light in the church. But recently I’ve been challenged once again to stop looking at the world and the church with rose colored glasses and to accept the truth that I saw many years ago. Are we naïve to believe that there is still some hope left or are we just in denial about the true spiritual emptiness of the world around us?
Well, these are my current struggles and I’ll probably be writing more about them in the weeks to come – they’ve veered me quite far off the path of Eastern Orthodoxy and that’s okay. I simply pray for God’s grace to see the truth in a world that hates the truth and tries to extinguish the Light wherever it appears. May Your Word be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.