Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seeing with two eyes

Salisbury Cathedral
ROSLYN -- I’ve been away from the parish these last few days on a personal retreat, and naps have definitely been a part of the agenda. I’ve also read a book by John Phillip Newell, a gift of a parishioner.

Newell is best known for his work in Celtic spirituality. This recent book, A New Harmony: The Spirit, The Earth and The Human Soul, is really an essay about his expansive journey through many spiritualities including into India in the 1990s and how he has found a harmony within all of them.

Newell notes, as many have noted, that western Christianity over the centuries had put God “out there” or “up there,” keeping God at a distance while we ourselves go about our daily business. Church architecture, though beautiful, underlines that concept, with spires pointing skyward.

Newell re-discovered the harmony and the balance in God’s presence in creation by traveling to India. God is up there, but God is down here, and God dwells within. To see God is to see God in both places, to see God with two eyes, and not just one. He traveled far to find the balance that was always looking him in the face.

For me, that is not a new concept, but I am one who left the church to seek God before returning to church. I also needed to travel far, though not as far as India, to see what was already in front of me. My moment of harmony, as Newell might put it, came years ago while walking on a road late at night in Mojave Desert. The stars and galaxies, the desert floor and sage brush, and my own body seemed that night to be as one.

I could sense that night how G-d, the One who has no human name, courses through all of existence and time. We are made not merely by G-d, but we are made of G-d because G-d dwells in all things, and all things are knit together with G-d. You might say I have spent the rest of my life, in one way or another, trying to understand that one night in the middle of the desert.

And while we over-educated western Euro-centric folks may find all of this new and foreign, it really isn’t. The ancient Hebrew writers of the Bible lived with that idea daily, and the balance of God’s transcendence and immanence exudes from their writing.

Psalm 85, appointed for today, is a beautiful example:
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Even our church architecture can be made new if we see it new. We can look at the ceiling and the spires with one eye, and look at each other with another eye. When we do, we will be very close to seeing that which knits all together as one. We really don't have to travel far to see with two eyes.


Elizabeth said...

Thank you for the gorgeous photograph of one of my favorite places to be.

Janice Dean said...

Beautiful. If I were an artist, I would try to draw you walking in the desert and blurring, but not disappearing, into the surrounding landscape. What a wonderful image!