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."

2017/08/09

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.