Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In the World, but not of it

Looking back on a long life with many acquaintances of many different sorts I notice particularly three kinds of people:

1. The most common and numerous might be called 'this-worldly', with a purely materialistic outlook. We might call them secular humanists. (In Walking Through Egypt a frightened old woman shares with her friend the preacher's message about the secular humanists who prowl about, and may wind up in your bedroom doing their bad secular things to you. [But that's a terrible digression!])

2. Other-worldly! Their conversation is in Heaven, and they have little interest in the mundane.

3. A handful of people "go both ways". They combine a keen interest in politics and in heaven (those two forbidden subjects for polite conversation). For them Heaven is not a place where nothing ever happens.

Who are some of these people who "go both ways":

Most notably (in my world of thought) Jesus. He turned over the tables of the money changers and got himself crucified, but he also had direct (continuous) access to what really matters.

Buddha? Well he was certainly a good man, but I haven't heard about any soup kitchens he started. The impression I have of my young American Buddhist friends is that their primary motive was the desire to escape, or dissociate themselves from the false Jesus of the politico-religious hard right. A way out, so to speak.

Blake! for him politics and Heaven were interchangeable, simultaneous (much like Jesus in that respect). According to Kathleen Raine Boehme and Paracelsus, Socrates, Milton, and the Hebrew prophets sometimes "dined with him on the bread of sweet thought and the wine of delight". In the Marriage of Heaven and Hell he reported on dinners with Isaiah and Ezekiel.

The ability to go back and forth at will is the Christian ideal as I understand it. Plato might have called it the golden mean.

Dialogue is welcome. Opposition is true friendship. Let's engage in the "fierce contentions of Eternity".


SinnaLuvva said...

This in the world but not of it has always been a little difficult; perhaps it could be better understood as in the world but transforming it!

I've always liked to have it both ways; living as if ... kingdom values in a degenerate world.

Zach Young said...

Ah Larry, you're wisdom is always great and always inspires me!

The Buddha may have not started any soup kitchens, but he did seem to accept anyone who wanted to join his fold whatever their caste or background. I wouldn't say he was very interested in politics, but I would say he was interested enough to go against what he knew to be confused (such as the caste system.)

Jon said...

Prepare to be thus engaged, my friend!
Actually, the idea of the Bodhisattva, the one dedicating to saving the entire world, began in India about two centuries before Christ.

Jesus, of course manifested the bodhisattva life as no one before him. Yes, Eastern spirituality does sadly seem like an escape as many people use it... but for some of us, it's to help us be more like Christ and serve the world better.

But Buddhists and Hindus do have their soup kitchens as well--the movie "Naked in Ashes" brings home the sadhus motivation of saving the world, as well as the practical ministry many of them give through traditional medicine, etc.

But I loved your post, and that bit about "bad secular things" in the bedroom!

Larry said...

Mal, thanks ole buddy; your correction is well taken.

Zach, yes Buddha was very (totally) inclusive. Would to God that all the Lord's people could do likewise.

Jon, it's grateful I am to find a friend willing to respond as you have.

I have nothing but admiration for your pursuit and interest in Eastern religion. As you say, you put it at the service of the kingdom of God.

Thanks for the well taken correction re soup kitchens. Mine was probably inappropriate, but I do feel the need to provoke those, Buddhists as well as Christians, who express a faith of "good feelings". Our Christ told us above all to do!

BTW my blogging has become pretty sparse, primarily because I've made my top priority to bring up to date the"book" I wrote about 30 years ago. It's an adventure!

Zach Young said...

Larry, I was just reading the Diamond Sutra last night and thought of you and this conversation we were having. A lot of it focuses on helping others and what our motives should and should not be. You would probably find it interesting.

You can find translations online or in books. I've been reading it out of "The Buddhist Bible."

david said...

On going both ways.

Back on the cusp of the Reformation, one of my favourite Christians, Erasmus, tried desparately to hold the Catholic Church together, to get Lutheran reforms going within the church and avoid the split.

Way back then he spoke of something called Christian Humanism.

Lorcan said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorcanotway/219492715/ Hi Larry, here is a link to a photo I took a little while ago and gave it the same name! What timing!