About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."

2017/09/21

Grammar of Happiness

In Hawaii there is a running joke about their two systems of time. There is a Haole (American) time and Hawaiian time. While Haole time is about plus minus five minutes, Hawaiian time is only suggestive and can mean almost anytime. These different concepts of time reflect different cultures, but they are in fact growing from the deeper and more profound linguistic roots.
   English sentence is unthinkable without indicating its temporal position - past, present or future. Any time we open our mouth, our sentences are chained to a definite position in time. Hawaiian language on the other hand is virtually tenseless. Hawaiian is rich in nominative clauses (sentences without verbs) and even verbal sentences communicate primarily the flow of action (grammatical aspects). Thus, while our European languages value punctuality, the tenseless languages highlight validity and fullness of time.
   Why am I writing all of this? Because the Biblical Hebrew is also one such starkly different and almost magical language. It is hardly ever mentioned and difficult to convey in translations. In the Biblical Hebrew tenses are almost an afterthought – time is relative, but aspects are important.
   This Sunday we will let the ancient Hebrew teach us a new grammar of happiness, or at least we will let Hebrew open our minds to a spiritual reality beyond and above our modern dictate of time.

 

2017/09/14

Church Familia

The word for family came to English from the Latin FAMILIA. It originally meant the entire household. It denoted several generations and even servants living together under one roof. Similarly, the Greek word for family is οἶκος - OIKOS. The original and most common meaning of OIKOS is a house, but soon it metonymically started to mean also the family as all those who live in that house.
    From a slightly different angle the Hebrew word for family מִשׁפָּחָה - MISHPACHAH or for instance Hawaiian ‘OHANA both describe larger kin groups connected by common ancestry. However, both names were naturally expanded to include even a larger circle of relatives by blood but also by marriage, adoption even friendship.
    This Sunday at Rutgers we will celebrate homecoming - the coming together of our Rutgers Church Family. In the center of a large vibrant cosmopolitan city where we can often feel lonely and alienated in the middle of crowds, we form our intentional community, our MISHPACHAH, our OIKOS, our ‘OHANA our FAMILIA, our adoptive family of faith.

 

2017/09/06

REFUTATIO

The Nashville Statement is built on erroneous theological, hermeneutical, and epistemological premises. Thus, this statement is unfair to people and communities whom it is singling out, insulting and abusing. But it is also intrinsically unfair to the treasured religious texts and customs which it is misrepresenting and abusing. In a very blurred and foggy way it is referencing Biblical tradition and divine authority of the Creator to promote likes and dislikes of the authors of the Statement.

     In 1906, in the opening part of the epochal study “Quest of the Historical Jesus”,  Dr. Albert Schweitzer clearly demonstrated the limits of all our human hermeneutic endeavor (particularly our attempts to understand and interpret ancient texts or historical figures). He showed that, absent stringent scholarly approach, we always have tendency to project into the Bible our own biases, prejudices and desires.
    The end of the Nashville preamble “...witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials” is the prime example of what I have just stated as it calls upon the authority of the Scripture, in a foggy way as it does, to support the personal prejudices and resentments of the authors.
     Thus, this whole document is unfair to the Bible and Jesus Christ to use their message and authority without humble yet thorough and thoughtful consideration. It is doubly unfair to use them as absolute prescriptive and proscriptive answers for human culture and behavior thousands of years later.

     We do not use the Bible and divine authority, as much as we value them, to inform our understanding of physics, mathematics, biology, geology, astronomy or any other science. In the same way it would have been futile to use the Bible as direct model for our social structures such as the forms of government, jurisprudence, racial or international relationships, organization of work, healthcare, or as the statement does, to model for us our gender identities or family structures. To do such things (albeit selectively) betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the function and the role of religion and religious texts in our faith and the life of society. The Nashville Statement does not reveal anything about divine will, it only betrays prejudices of its authors.  

2017/08/30

ORA ET LABORA

“ORA ET LABORA” - or in English, “Pray and work” is the old Benedictine maxim combining spirituality and work. In fact, it is a common principle in many religions and especially in their monastic orders. True spirituality and productive, creative life cannot be separated, they belong together. I found the strongest expression of this principle while learning Hawaiian language and studying its original culture.
    Hawai‘ian word KAHUNA (abbreviated KAHU) means “a priest”. Thus a church minister would be called Kahuna pule - a priest of prayers. But based on common language designations many occupations were also viewed as priestly. Here are some of them: a boatbuilder was Kahuna kalai wa‘a - a priest canoe builder. An architect was Kahuna kuhikuhi pu‘uone - a priest drawing (plans) in sand. A chief farmer, perhaps an agronomist, was Kahuna ho‘oulu‘ai - a priest who is making food to grow. A physician is called Kahuna lapa‘au - a priest of cures, a school principal was Kahu kula nuia priest of high school. Even a person taking care of refuse, perhaps sanitation engineer in our idiom, was Kahu moka - a priest of excrement.
I like this cultural and linguistic insight. Truly any form and any kind of work, when done properly, with dedication and as a service to others or God indeed is a priestly occupation.
    Come this Sunday, on labour day weekend, as we continue searching for new or rediscovered spirituality -- in three New Testament parables we will witness how Jesus combined and fused spirituality and work.

2017/08/24

Spiritual time

This Monday early afternoon I stood in the open farmland on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee anxiously waiting for an event which I wanted to see for as long as I can remember. I tried to observe this event three times before, once in Hungary, once in Easter Island and most recently in Australia, each time something came up and I could not go. Now, after years of waiting, and many months of studying, planning, training and rehearsing, it was for real! We were waiting for the total solar eclipse! In our family we prepared three different major projects and several smaller observations and tasks. Partial phase took an hour and half, but then totality came. In the place where we were it was just a brief two minutes and thirty-three seconds, 2' 33" short or long. This “short or long” is the point of our perception of time, it felt as fast as lightning and at the same time as significant and long as almost nothing else. Physically it was short but spiritually that moment changed my perspective of time. In biblical times, and in ancient times in general, the Sun and Moon were the only way of telling time. It certainly worked for me this week; the Sun and Moon together opened my mind for the spiritual dimension of time. Come this Sunday as we regard and celebrate the mystery of time.

Andrew's project - solar eclipse photography
Solar eclipse on August 21 in southern Kentucky, ten minutes before totality.
A sunspot AR2672 is still clearly visible.

George's project - solar eclipse projection through binocular
Results were surprising, we could observe even faint solar spots.

Martina's project - solar eclipse pinhole projections
Projecting a message from heavens.












2017/08/09

Scripture Fetish

The fetishisation of the scriptures is an interesting and dominant feature of monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism). And please, understand that I am using here the word FETISH not in its later sexual meaning but in its original religious significance. FETISH is defined as “an object worshiped by an individual or a group because it is believed to possess special spiritual powers and is often used to exercise spiritual power or control.”
    Phenomenologically, the holy scriptures of these religions fit quite neatly this definition of fetish. The Guru Granth Sahib in Sikhism has its own throne under baldachin and is treated as royalty up to being kept comfortable with a special feathery fan (Chaur Sahib). Before Al Qur'an is touched and read, a ritual hand washing is in place. Every written or printed copy of Al Qur'an and any of its parts are protected against desecration by severe cultural and legal penalties up to executions. The Bible in churches is brought in special processions, often adorned and sometimes kissed and in many protestant homes the Bible was never to be put under any other book or object. The Jewish scrolls of Torah are kept in special places, dressed and adorned like priests, are not to be touched by the naked hand only with pointer (Yad in Hebrew or Hanat in Yiddish). The disposing of the holy scriptures, especially in Islam and Judaism, is to be done by proper burial.
    Even small parts, quotations, from the holy texts are treated as fetishes. Many Muslims (especially in Africa) wear protecting amulets with scrolls inscribed with Quranic verses. Jewish Mezuzot, small boxes on the frames with a quotation of the Shema resemble house protecting talismans. Prayer tefillin/phylacteries, containing Torah quotation, are by their very name and definition amulets. And as for Christianity, I would never forget when I first saw a John 3:16 tattoo in the NYC subway.
    The holy scriptures are treated and they function as religious fetishes. It just might be an interesting and colorful folklore and cultural peculiarity. Unfortunately, it has profound religious and spiritual consequences. It certainly helped the spread and depth of literacy in the given societies. But it also led to a strong tendency towards literalism, fundamentalism and religious legalism. Theologically we can speak about a strong tendency to worship a book rather than God.
    Please, understand me well, I have nothing against Holy Scriptures of any religion. I also deeply respect our own Judeo-Christian scriptural tradition. In fact, I earned my doctorate in the area of the study of ancient religious texts and Biblical theology. But for that very reason I also know how scriptures could be misquoted - torn from their historical, geographic and cultural context and their original intentions.
    As much as we respect the Scriptures, it is also good to remember, that human religiosity predates our ability to write by thousands of years. There were devout religions long before we learned to write and also many current religions never embraced a notion of normative religious texts.  Furthermore, all the religions of the Book, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, predate their own scriptures, being first expressed and passed on orally, only later they were recorded and codified in written form. Come this Sunday as we continue our quest for new or rediscovered spirituality. This time seeking the surprising riches and spiritual wealth of oral, narrative, unscripted religion.  

2017/08/03

Neighborhood Geology

This is a picture from Riverside Park. It is a rocky outcrop called Mount Tom next to W83rd Str. Somewhere I read that Edgar Allan Poe liked to come here and observe the Hudson River.
    Yet this rocky knob itself has an even older and more interesting history to tell. It is made of rock called Manhattan Schist. It formed 270 million years ago under the mountains which were at that time taller than today’s Himalayas. Those mountains are long gone; only their roots remain in the form of this rounded rock and bedrock under half of Manhattan.
    This Manhattan Schist is composed of nicely folded layers with occasional intruding veins of quartz. Yet here, and in a few other places, you can clearly see some straight grooves going perpendicular to the natural layers and folds in the rock. These groves are called glacial striation and are in fact about twenty five thousand years old wounds and scars left behind by the Wisconsin glacier. These scars were made by stones embedded at the bottom of glacier as it slid towards the ocean.
    This is just one rock from our neighborhood relating ancient stories. This Sunday we will open the Bible and let it speak to us about Geology. We will initiate a trialogue between Bible, geology and spirituality hoping it will open and deepen our faith and also our understanding of ourselves and of us in the world.