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."


The Radical Love Songs for Lent and Easter

This Lent and Easter season at Rutgers we are reading the Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon or The Canticles. It is beautiful, sometimes sublime, sometimes almost racy erotic poetry. (If you have never heard of it and are interested, the Song of Songs can be found in Christian Bibles close to the center of the volume, after Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes and before Isaiah and Jeremiah.)
    Of course the Song of Songs is not a normal Lent and Easter biblical reading for Christian churches. Traditional conservative Jews and Christians have always had a problem with this book. It was one of the last books to be included in the Hebrew Bible and it happened only after extensive rabbinical discussion. The Ancient Synagogue and Early Church accepted this beautiful book only after they “desexed” it by twisting it with a forceful allegorical interpretation where the groom became God (or Christ for the Christians) and the bride was supposed to represent the people of Israel (or the Church).
    In reaction to this emasculating allegorical interpretation, modern theology went all the way in the opposite direction. Modern approach of the twentieth century used an uninhibited fleshy reading and re-asserted and lifted up its erotic and at times XXX rated content. Most recent scholarship influenced by feminist as well as LGBT theology attempts to balance these older approaches and reach beyond them for some beautiful and powerful insights enriching our love, life and faith.
    In this postmodern interpretation, the Song of Songs presents us with a fresh worldview as seen by Ancient Near Eastern love. This world view might be old but it is also surprisingly timeless - the love perceives world in a gender inclusive and balanced manner as both lovers are given almost equal prominence. This love's worldview is also color (or race) blind or even better, actively attracted by the different and the other. Considering its intimate genre it also draws a surprisingly broad geographic circle. The love's worldview also has an intense interest in nature, in flowers, trees and animals both domestic and wild. Ancient love was clearly informed and interested in what we would now call the environment and ecology and the anti-consumerism movement. Ancient love was also realistic, it was exposed to prejudice, bullying, persecution, violence and abuse by the rich and powerful, and it protested and found the strength and means to fight back and to survive or come back.
    Thus the Song of Songs is beautiful erotic love poetry but also deals with race, gender, geography, environment, and abuse and prejudice from the perspective of the biocentric worldview of love, offering deep insights, transformation and encouragement. That is why we are reading these radical love songs during this Lent and Easter.


Diagonal reading

Once I met a person who interpreted everything, or almost everything in the world, from the perspective of political ideology. Anything she commented about was either good or bad, hopeful or unfortunate, depending where it stood on the perceived political spectrum or more precisely, whether she thought it helped or hindered the success of her political party. At first it was refreshing, but soon it became quite tedious. Thus I discovered that some Democrats can be as narrowmindedly dogmatic as many Republicans. Ideological politics was her pervading frame of reference, her dominant context. Although I shared similar political leanings, I soon felt profoundly sorry for her, because life is so much broader, full of colors and infused with vibrant fragrances which all are beyond any political ideology!
    Thankfully our faith presents us with wider and more vibrant alternatives. Just listen and observe the broader context of Jesus’ parables and sayings. Either we can analyze each parable one by one, in the way it is often done in churches, and try to discern what the yeast, or a feast, budding tree, or workers fee can teach us about the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Or we can look at the broader narrative context of these parables together and hear what they tell us about the world in which they were coined and told.
    When we read Jesus’ parables in this diagonal fashion, then we discover not only the bucolic world of Palestinian farmers, deeply rooted in their agricultural life with earthy and rich metaphors of sowing and growing and reaping and animal husbandry. In addition we also discover a world which was familiar with unemployed day laborers, with repossessed fertile land left uncultivated, with robbers waiting around main roads, and with beggars picking in the rich peoples’ trash, with parents forced to beg and borrow food for their hungry children. We are not learning anything directly about the Kingdom of God, but we are introduced into something even more important; we observe Jesus’ world, his audience, their fears, aspirations, challenges and hopes. We see the Kingdom of God in a broader, richer context in which we can identify our own fears, aspirations, challenges and hopes.
    Come this Sunday to apply this diagonal reading and understanding to the biblical love song. Come to search, uncover and celebrate the helpful and hopeful overarching context of the biocentric biblical love.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593)  - Flora.


Color of God

What color is your God?
What a silly question!
But is it really that silly? Deities all around the world are known for different and vibrant colors, most notably the South Indian gods and goddesses. Ancient gods were also colorful. Their sculptures, Greek famous marbles, also Egyptian statues of granite or sandstone, we are told, were originally painted. Most of those colors peeled away, but sometimes we know their hues. The Egyptian god Amon was blue, Osiris green. The Greek goddess Demeter and her Asia Minor equivalent Cybele were black, just like some manifestations of the goddess Isis or the mighty Aphrodite and her Syrian counterpart the goddess Anat.
    It is especially this divine noble blackness that has survived in religion until now. The divine black was taken over and baptized by ancient and medieval Christians in the form of black Madonnas. I vividly remember one Black Madonna from Prague, standing on a corner above a street just a block from the Mozart Theater. The Polish Solidarity movement formed under the patronage and protection of the even more famous Black Madonna of Częstochowa. There are famous black Madonnas in all Catholic countries: There is one in Eisiedel near Zürich, one in Chartres in France, and Die Schwarze Muttergottes ("Black Mother of God") in Altötting, near München or the black Madonna in Loreto, Italy, or Our Black Lady of Guadalupe in Spain. Their shrines are among the most revered and visited pilgrimage locations.
    Protestants, especially Calvinists, could hardly resist sneers over these examples of medieval superstition. But that would be ill informed and itself a form of reverted prejudice. Catholic devotion to black Madonnas preserved something religiously meaningful and deep. The noble black color has elemental divine connections not only in the polytheistic pagan realm but also in the Bible. On the deepest religious levels black is an indicator of something special and archetypal – black is different and beautiful. We only need to take it further, beyond just mere Mariological devotion, all the way back to the center of theology.
    So what color is my God? My God is beyond color, and full of colors, rainbow colored, and without doubt, she is also black and beautiful!
    This Sunday we close the Black History Month and open our "Lent with the Song of Songs." our theme this Sunday will be "I am black and beautiful!" (Sol 1:5) 

The Goddess Isis mourning her brother-lover Osiris.


Knife in mouth

“Don’t ever stick a knife into your mouth! Bring food to your mouth only with a fork!”
These were some of my first lessons in table manners. Early on I internalized continental table manners and I would never ever lick a knife in public or even private.
    This etiquette taboo feels almost like some ancient or perhaps the original part of table manners, but it is not. As an essential eating instrument as a fork is, it happens to be a relatively recent arrival. It spread to Europe from Persia, via Byzantium and Renaissance Italy. A table fork became a commonplace only by the 18th century. Before that most people used just knives and their fingers. But after the fork arrived, the original humble two pronged fork quickly developed into dozens and dozens of shapes and specialized uses with strict customs and rules. The fork nicely represents the evolution and co-evolution of an instrument and cultural customs and norms.
    But the evolution of a fork, like any evolution, is ongoing. First appeared sporks - hybrids between spoons and forks. They were soon followed by even more popular sporves - combinations of spoons, knives and forks into one utensil. In my family we love hiking and backpacking. And when we need to carry everything on our backs for miles and miles, I tell you, these strange space and weight saving eating chimeras make perfect sense. Decades after being told not to do it, I started again to lick knives and even stick them into my mouth - with a sporf there is no other option: it combines spoon, fork and knife. And after I broke both of my wrists last year, I found the sporf especially convenient not only for backpacking but also for daily use at home.
    This Sunday in worship we celebrate Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. This year we will apply the universal principle of evolution to the church table manners and customs. Even Holy Communion has its origins in ancient Jewish rituals and a long history of development in different historical contexts and periods. As we celebrate Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, we will look at how it applies to our religion and how it can broaden and enrich our understanding and appreciation of Holy Communion, this important part of our spiritual life.

Two of our Swedish camping sporves.


The Art of Navigation

How do we navigate stormy oceans of our daily living? Is there any help, any advice from our religion?
     Of course there is possibility, for instance, to observe the flight of strange birds or to count the stars with God (a moon god if possible or at least a god with some astro-selenial attributes)! What other useless advice would you expect from a religion thousands of years old and similarly irrelevant?
     But wait a moment! Don’t  we all know the saying “As the crow flies”? But how does the crow fly? And why did this become a saying? Why does it matter?
     Crows are proverbially clever birds. They find and follow the shortest distance between two points. This trait came especially handy to old sailors and seafarers. Vikings are known to have taken caged crows for their open sea voyages. When they felt they were close to a land or when they got lost at sea, they released a crow. If the crow returned to their longboat they knew they were still far at sea (by the way that is why the top of the mast was called the crow’s nest). But if it took off and flew away, they followed its flight to the nearest firm land.
    Other ancient sailors used other birds. Polynesians sailors, for instance, used frigatebirds in a similar fashion; it is also a clever bird which cannot land on water. Thus these sayings “As the crow flies” and “crow’s nest” confirm that English was a language of seafarers. 
     Strangely, this same use of birds (a raven or a crow) is described in Genesis when Noah is looking for the dry land. It is indeed unexpected to find this ancient navigation practice described in as land-lubbing book as the Bible! It shows surprising curiosity and interest in the real world beyond the limits of everyday lives of the authors and their original audience. And after a raven, a dove was sent, returning with an olive shoot. It was destined to became a globally recognized emblem of peace.
      This arcane augury is not the only example of the ocean navigation in the Bible. This Sunday we will look at several other traces of biblical navigation, this time looking closely at and counting the stars of all different kinds. Traces of ancient astrological myth will help us orient our lives and provide bearings for the safe sailing through our stormy world. Wasn’t it, after all, Immanuel Kant, of blessed memory, who said something about an awe over the starry heavens above and the moral law within?

A drawing of an Iron Age scaraboid from Irbid
depicting a moon god seated on a heavenly barge
bringing out or counting stars.