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."


Scary Theater

The original illustration from Descartes' Treatise on Man
This Sunday I would like to take you to a special and and also somehow scary place. It is called Cartesian Theater after René Descartes (Renatus Carteius in Latin). Yes, it is that french philosopher famous for postulating Cogito ergo sum - "I think, therefore I am."
    Cartesian Theater is a modern name for an important part of Descartes’ philosophy just as Plato’s Cave is important part of his. The Cartesian Theater was supposed to be a place of interaction between the immaterial, intelligent soul and the physical body. Senses were picking up perceptions and transmitting them along the nerves to a place in the brain where they were presented to the soul. The immaterial intelligent soul then analyzed these inputs, made freewill decisions and sent neural commands back to the body. The Cartesian Theater was supposed to be an essential function of a brain mediating between these two realms, spiritual and physical.
    This radical body-mind dualism had major and far reaching consequences. It demisticized, secularized, even desecrated the world. The only mystical and sacred element in existence (beside God) was the intelligent human soul. Anything and everything else in the world was just secular “stuff” fully available for rational, scientific study. This worldview greatly accelerated the development of the modern science and modern technology.
    But this radical body-mind dualism also led to an alienation of the mind from the body and alienation of reason from emotions. Most importantly it led to the alienation of humans from the rest of nature. Inevitably, the human intelligent mind (often quite narrowminded) became the measure of everything. This secular worldview greatly contributed to our modern ecological crisis. The Cartesian Theater morphed into a scary haunted castle of human hubris.
     This Sunday and all the following summer Sundays in a special worship series we will seek to heal our alienation and modern self-centeredness. Come this Sunday to be assured from the fountains of our faith that we are more than thinking machines. Come this Sunday to rejoice in the spiritual wholeness growing up from the deep roots of our faith tradition.

And for those who read this far:
René Descartes situated the interface between a soul and a body to the pineal gland. Of course, it is not its true physiological function. But even if we take the soul-body interface not anatomically, but instead metaphorically, there is a remaining logical problem. In this picture a person fries an egg and every new inner observer creates a new need for a next and deeper interface - ad infinitum et ad nauseam. This was most clearly pointed out by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett.


Rat Party

We are pleased to report a new and exciting discovery of another fragment of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers. The discovery was made yesterday by a small yet brave group of archeologists from Rutgers Church who undertook an expedition to Columbus Circle. Right behind the southwestern gate of Central Park they unearthed another lost story from this forgotten Gospel. Here is our attempt at a translation to modern English:

After crossing the sea they arrived to the country of NewYorkeenes. And as Jesus stepped from the boat, right beneath those tall buildings, they were met by a man who suffered greatly, tormented by unclean spirits.
    That man often slept half-collapsed on subway benches, was seen pushing a shopping cart full of smelly stuff, and was heard screaming and screeching in the parks. Many times they tried to help him in hospital emergency rooms around the city. Nurses bathed him, civilized him and he started to receive a proper medical care. But just as he was on the mend, the demons would return with vengeance, depriving him of proper medical care and driving him out of hospitals against any medical advice. It seemed no one had control over this situation.
    And this man, when he saw Jesus from a distance, ran to him, bowed to him, and said, “Why do you even bother with me, Most Holy One?”  Jesus immediately knew that the man was tormented by a serious demon and asked for identity, “What is your name, you demon, who torments this man?” And the demon answered: “Our name is Grand Old Party, for we are many.” And they begged Jesus not to send them out and away from their high-rise towers, seaside manors, golf courses and other possessions.  
    Enlightened by divine wisdom, Jesus immediately saw one fitting solution how they could stay close to their petty earthly possessions - he sent them to the ubiquitous rats. And although normal rats are quite clever to avoid plain traps and baits, now, as soon as this party of greedy demons entered into the rats, in their greed they started to stuff themselves with piles of poison. That was the end of them and the man was finally happy and free.
    But you probably know how it goes... Many people in that country also loved their possessions more than they loved their neighbors. They were uneasy about this outcome; some were offended, some were even frightened. They asked Jesus to leave them alone and shortly afterwards they had an even grander, even older demon party going. But the healed man stood behind and kept reminding everyone that greed kills while divine compassion heals.

     Of course the authenticity of the discovered fragment is seriously disputed, there are many indications of this text being a late forgery. Nevertheless, some progressive scholars are convinced that this newly discovered fragment can help illuminate certain, often misunderstood, aspects of an authentic Gospel story (Mark 5:1-19 and Synoptic parallels).
     Some of the insights can include, for instance: that the afflicted person could be a personification of a broader population; that the demonism and the name of demon(s) could have a biting political implication; and that different manifestations of demonism could correspond to reality and hardships of daily lives of common people. Be it as it may, we found this story worth sharing. 

Re. Laura Jervis talking at the Health Care Vigil


Visit Paradise

South and North Rivers
Do you know that there is a true Paradise just north of the New York City limits, only a few minutes away from where you live?
     “Paradise” is a loanword through classical languages from the old Iranian expression Paridayda which literally means “a walled enclosure/garden”. From the ancient of times Iranians were planting famous and beautiful gardens, their palaces were unthinkable without them. Persian gardens were so famous, that they inspired description of the biblical garden of Eden. Persian gardens also featured four axial rivers with a confluence and springs at the center of each side. Persian emperors were known to personally garden and their gardens were a training ground and model for the care for their lands. What a meaningful metaphor for those in political power. If only those in power today learned their sense of diligence, wisdom and responsibility from gardening!
East Spring with East and West Rivers
the Temple of Sky behind them.
  As New Yorkers you can visit a delightful recreation of Paradise (an old formal Persian garden) any weekend. It was planted in Yonkers in the early XX century by the famous NYC lawyer, philanthropist and horticulturist Samuel Untermyer. Thanks to his vision and generosity, you can visit Paradise, stroll by axial rivers, rest in the shade of trees, arcades, porticoes and pergolas, visit with plants, flowers and trees and wonder which one might be the one of life and which one proffers knowledge. Perhaps all of them offer insight in some way and form.
     On this Trinity Sunday we will rejoice in the story of the Garden of Eden and seek inspiration for our individual and communal living, what it means to live in the divine garden and to receive a charge to till it and guard it.


Born of Divine Breath

In the Gospel of Philip Jesus is said to tell his audience:
    Glass carafes and earthenware jugs are both made by means of fire.
    But if glass carafes break they are done over,
        for they came into being through a breath.
    If earthenware jugs break, however, they are destroyed,
        for they came into being without breath.

This is clearly not an authentic Jesus’ saying, he could not be familiar with blown glass. At his time blown glass was the most recent technological advancement and luxury items reserved for very few aristocrats. But within a few generations, in the second, third century such glass items became more common and the author of the Gospel of Philip could use this image to modernize old biblical metaphor.
    In Jeremiah (chapter 18) we hear about God as a master potter shaping humans; apostle Paul (2Cor 4:7) describes himself as a clay pot shaped by God to carry and deliver a treasure of good news to nations. Here we have a similar image updated with the new technology of blowing glass.
    This saying, in its final version, was quite likely aimed against Paul and was a part of heated arguments among early Christians going along the line “we are those glass jugs while you are just those clay pots!”
      Yet I am convinced that we can still take this captivating image seriously and in a positive manner. We can seek in this enigmatic saying new insights into the beauty, diversity and perpetuity of life. Pentecost Sunday is indeed a celebration of the creative and creating power in the breath of God. Come this Pentecost Sunday to rejoice in being born of divine breath.