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."


Gaia Christology

Can theology (which I would define as thinking of faith) help us to live in harmony with each other and in harmony with nature?
    The Apostle Paul set himself no small goal! In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12) he outlined an image of the church as a body of Christ. There are different members and parts of the body. They have different functions and each its own status, but all should strive for homeostasis (an harmony within organism) and work for the common good. Often this image is interpreted only as a call for harmony within the church.
    I am convinced that Paul had a much greater goal. This image of society as a body was quite popular at that very time. Ancient Greek and Roman politicians and philosophers used this image to advocate for a status quo, to protect privileges of the powerful and keep the oppressed calm, docile, and satisfied with their lot. This image was used to keep and cement the existing social stratification and hierarchy. The Apostle Paul used the popular image, but turned it upside down. He transformed this metaphor into mystical egalitarian image. All members are equally parts of the body of Christ. Christ is not only head, Christ is the entire body. Paul’s church is a model society, it celebrates and cherishes differences, and at the same time is radically, spiritually, divinely! egalitarian. As a whole, together, we are the presence of Christ in the world today.
    Unfortunately in the almost two thousand years since Paul wrote to Corinthians, humankind acquired even greater destructive powers and is dangerous in much wider sense. We gained the uncanny ability to harm and destroy our entire environment, the intricate and complex web of life on our planet. In the Hellenistic period Paul used and radicalized the image of society as a body by comparing it to body of Christ. In our current environmental predicament, I am convinced, that Paul would not hesitate a moment to use the modern holistic image of Gaia hypothesis (a scientific metaphor for a complex interdependence of the entire planet). Just imagine Paul writing in his First letter to New Yorkers that the entire Gaia is Christ!
    It is a mysteriously inspiring and empowering image, but at the same time engaging and encouraging us in meaningful living. Just as Jesus breathed the air, think of entire atmosphere as filling Christ’s lungs. Just as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and drank from Galilean springs and streams, the entire hydrosphere circulates in his veins. Just as he walked on roads and climbed mountains, the entire lithosphere represents his frame. Just as he rode a donkey, ate fish, and drank wine and spoke about mustard seeds and birds, all the biosphere now forms his sinews and muscles.
    New Yorkers, you were given great privileges of access to wealth, power, decision making, freedom, influence...  Do you want to stand by and look at how Christ continues to suffer, is poisoned, drilled, harmed, exploited, cut and torn into pieces? Can't you recognise his presence in a homeless person by the subway station? Can't you recognise his presence in the Hudson River driftwood, in a bunch of snowdrops shivering by your building, in a screeching song of a lonely gull, in a flurry of snowflakes over the Central Park?

2012-12-31 quite early snowdrops on the W. 97th Street.


Spirituals of freedom

Ain't gonna study war no more, 
Ain't gonna study war no more, 
Ain’t gonna study oh war no more....We were singing spiritual at full blast. I still remember that Saturday evening youth group meeting in 1984. One of our good friends was conscripted for two years into the communist army and was being sent to the border with West Germany. This spiritual was our political protest song. We knew that we were being watched by the secret police. They might have bugged our youth room, they might have an undercover agent among us (only later we learned they indeed broke the most vulnerable among us to spy for them; we forgave him). We did not need to worry. We were not discussing politics, we were not discussing our distaste for conscription, militarism, and the bellicose regime or at least not directly. We were just singing, and everyone in the room understood the subtext, it was our coded communication. In a similar way on other occasions we sang about Israel in Egypt’s land. Let my people go! We were singing about toppling the ominous walls of Jericho or promising each other that we shall overcome one day. The totalitarian regime could not stop us, they were trapped by their own ideology. They were supporting anti-imperialist causes around the world; they simply could not stop us from singing the songs of oppressed African Americans (Czech-Canadian author Josef Škvorecký, who died a year ago, wrote about it with his own humor.)
    Thankfully, hope and striving for freedom and justice are not ideological, they are universal. And although biblical scholars and archeologists are almost unanimous that the exodus from Egypt never happened as recorded in the Bible. The exodus continues to inspire and keeps happening all the time. In this respect the Exodus is a myth in the best possible sense as defined millennia ago by the Greek Neoplatonist Sallustius - “Myths are stories which never happened, but always are.” This mythical striving for freedom inspired authors of spirituals under slavery, inspired the struggle against southern racism and segregation, inspired opposition against totalitarian regimes and South African struggle against apartheid. These stories continue to inspire the search for a safe, and more just and peaceful society today.
    Come this Sunday to celebrate this heritage and to step into this ongoing strife. Our guest preacher will be the Rev. Dr. Paul Smith who walked and worked side by side with MLK. He will have more interesting stories to tell.

An illustration from our Youth Hymnal by Zdeněk Šorm.
Hymnal with this graphics was published only after 1989.
Nevertheless it nicely illustrates the content.


Mytho-Political Baptism

Did Jesus sin? All confessions declare that he was without sin! So why was he baptized?
Did Jesus need to repent? All Christians believe not! So why his baptism?
Was baptism the moment of his divine adoption (hence the solemn declaration of his divine son-hood)? The Church declared this teaching a heresy early on!
What should we do with teacher-pupil subordination? John’s statements reversing this order are badly disguised later Christian re-interpretations and insertions into John's mouth!
Christians always have had problems with Jesus’ baptism by John. For that reason it is a rock solid historical fact (or as rock solid as possible, one of very few). There is no way anyone in the early church could have made this story up. Jesus was baptized by John.
    The majority of these problems actually originate a century or so after the events in an utter misunderstanding of the forgotten original meaning of John’s prophetic gesture. I wrote about it some time ago in some of my older messages here and here. Baptism was not primarily a matter of personal piety. John’s baptism was an act of religious and political protest using a powerful religious and mythical idiom. It was criticism of the current social, political and religious status quo and enrollment into the vibrant movement of radical reform. This religious gesture was a complex religious metaphor. It declared, “In Judea and in Jerusalem something went terribly wrong; the entire project of the People of God in the Promised Land is completely broken. Superficial improvements would not help. Complete social overhaul is needed. It urgently needs to be restarted from the beginning. People of faith need to return back to Jordan, to the time of Josiah and start again, anew and fresh!”
    No surprise then, Jesus chose to be baptized. This was indeed the beginning sentiment and substantial part of his ministry and message.
    Baptism was and remains a powerful sacrament. This Sunday we will be talking about its deep mythopoetical roots, about its meaning for Jesus and his contemporaries, and about its radical mythopolitical meaning for us today.


And for those who have read this far here is a little bit of the first century political geography. As mentioned earlier, baptism in the Jordan had great religious symbolic significance. For John it simply could not be just any body of water. This location also had great geographic and political advantage. John was preaching across the border to Judea. (Like the BBC during WWII, Radio Free Europe during the Cold War or, or evangelical radio broadcasting to North from South Korea). John got into trouble only when he started to criticize and diplomatically undermine his host Herod Antipas, lord of Galilee and Perea - I wrote a little more about it in my one of my previous blogs here.


Epiphany gifts from Persia

Iran and Israel, can you imagine stronger antagonists?
The upcoming holiday of Epiphany ties them inseparably together.
    The founding story of the holiday of Epiphany is narrated in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. It is quite evocative and extremely powerful story of the visit of magi. In the most harmonious and tolerant manner this story brings together east and west, foreign and native, astrology and theology, foreign religion and our own faith tradition, Iran and Israel. All of it is done in a very non-judgmental manner. At the end of this story the magi (Zoroastrian Persian priests) were even allowed to go home peacefully and without being converted to the faith of narrator. What a lovely and astonishing example of inter-religious encounter and peaceful multicultural coexistence!
    It can certainly be argued that this is just wishful thinking of the late Christian storyteller and this unhistorical story itself has a complex legendary background (I wrote about it a year ago here). Yet Iran and Israel are bound together even closer and on a more fundamental level. This Sunday we will read about it from the book of Ezra. The Achaemenid Persia (ancient Iran) played important role at the cradle of what we now call Judaism. Persia relaxed ethnic and religious restrictions and persecutions of previous empires and initiated a tolerant cosmopolitan period. There is now a growing academic consensus that the Torah (Five books of Moses) started to be put together under the Persian rule.
    Why does this ancient history matter? Well ..., isn’t truth always better than ignorance, superstition and prejudice? Isn’t it great to embrace a more open-minded, less sectarian, more informed and thus enlightened religion? Isn’t it also interesting to observe influences and connections of other  religious traditions
(in this case Zoroastrian) over our own faith? If nothing else, isn’t it interesting to observe this close connection between Persia and Torah? Israel and Iran? Epiphany is indeed a marvelously exhilarating holiday!

Achaemenid jewelry.
Probably from the period of Dareios the Great (around 500 B.C.E.)