Thursday, December 6, 2018

102. The Divine Nature - Till We Have Faces

Michaelangelo was responsible for creating some of the most beautiful artwork and sculpture ever produced by man. Not only was he a masterful artist, but the layers of meaning and symbolism that he embedded within his works are nothing short of genius, demonstrating an understanding of deep and concealed mysteries. As one writer explained, "Michelangelo believed the sculptor was a tool of God, not creating but simply revealing the powerful figures already contained in the marble. Michelangelo’s task was only to chip away the excess, to reveal. He worked often for days on end without sleep... One can clearly recognize the grooves from mallet and pointed chisel on the marble surface used in this initial stage. Unlike most sculptors, who prepared a plaster cast model and then marked up their block of marble to know where to chip, Michelangelo mostly worked free hand, starting from the front and working back."

Atlas Prisoner, by Michaelangelo

One series of four sculptures by Michaelangelo is known as the "Slaves" or the "Prisoners", which are half-finished sculptures of male figures. They are examples of Michaelangelo's practice of "non-finito" (or incomplete). Symbolically, these sculptures portray the eternal struggle of man, developing into his true self, or of the spirit, becoming unfettered from the material bonds that hold it imprisoned.

One of these sculptures is known as the “Atlas Slave” or "Atlas Prisoner". The head and most of the face of this male figure have not yet emerged from the marble, nor his feet. He appears to be carrying a huge load or weight on his head and right shoulder. It seems as though the weight of the stone could easily crush him if he were to give up the struggle. In fact, the sculpture seems to convey a battle of both internal and external forces pushing and pulling the figure, both holding him back and pushing him forward simultaneously. As a result there is no sense of balance, stasis, or equilibrium in the figure, only change, transformation, metamorphosis, and emergence. There is a fierce struggle to remove from the figure that which is extraneous and of the physical world in which it is encased, fighting to break free in order to become a complete, whole, or perfect figure, or for it to fall back into the stone entirely and remain without form and void.

How similar are we, our spirits of great potential and eternal worth, yet now encased in the physical matter of this world? In our current (e)state, perhaps only a portion of our Divine Nature is manifest, the rest hidden or trapped, imprisoned or a slave in some way or another. Invisible to all except for the Master Artisan, who sees beyond the physical appearance and knows the potential within. He uses no mold to guide His work as each figure is unique and requires individual attention. He hammers and chisels, sometimes flaking off little bits delicately, almost dust, and at other times He sloughs off huge chunks of un-needed stone and lets them smash into pieces on the floor. Sometimes these blows are indeed surprising, "I thought that piece was to be my hand," and the figure turns out to be quite different than what was imagined. Ultimately, the figure cannot release himself from the stone as he is forever trapped and limited by the prison in which he finds himself. "You are from a lower estate. I am from the heavens. You are stuck in this world, and I am not of this world. Because of this I said to you that you will die burdened with sins. If you do not believe that I am sent by the Most High God, bringing light and life with me, you will die burdened with sins" (Testimony of St. John, p.14).

Full freedom and perfection require the Master Artisan to perform his labor, to reveal what lies within. Only a Master Artisan can work so perfectly so as to bring about the perfection or perfecting of His subjects, and thus reveal their Divine Nature. And what are these hammerstrokes? He respects and honors our agency and will not interfere, we are not forced. However, this world allows for the manifestation of illness, pain, loss, relationships, consequences, trials, tests, conundrums, deceit, and temptation. How we respond to these manifestations determines what is revealed about us. We respond in love, faith, charity, kindness, humility, submission...our Divine nature is manifest....we respond in fear, despair, cowardice, pride, anger, resentment, blame, rebellion...our raw and fallen nature is made more manifest and we remain encased in the stone which binds us.  

There are no two figures alike, and the labor He performs is thus different for each of His masterpieces (which you are becoming). However, this work of the Master Artisan can at times seem unfair, bizarre, and even cruel. It can hurt and there can be great loss. It can lead to anger, pain, resentment, and even fear of the Master Himself. Orual, the veiled Queen of Glome and lead protagonist of CS Lewis' book, Till We Have Faces, had for most of her life turned against the gods because of her self-perceived ugliness, the horrible experiences she had endured at the hands of her family and caretakers, and the punishment and cruelty she believed the gods continued to heap upon her, which included the loss of her beautiful sister, who was Orual's whole world. Orual recorded in the book she kept, which documented her grievances against the gods: "Now mark yet again the cruelty of the gods. There is no escape from them into sleep or madness, for they can pursue you into them with dreams. Indeed you are then most at their mercy. The nearest thing we have to a defence against them (but there is no real defence) is to be very wide awake and sober and hard at work, to hear no music, never to look at earth or sky, and (above all) to love no one." And at another time lashing out at the gods "But to hint and hover, to draw near us in dream and oracles, or in a waking vision that vanishes as soon as seen, to be dead silent when we question them and then glide back and whisper (words we cannot understand) in our ears when we most wish them to be free of them, and to show to one what they hide from another; what is all this but cat-and-mouse play, blindman's bluff, and mere jugglery? Why must holy places be dark places?

However, after a series of visions depicting key moments in her life, rather than being punishments and abandonment, she learns to see the divine purpose in those experiences, as designed by the gods to bring about change, understanding, new perspective, love, and even true beauty (quotations re-arranged by me, with some commentary): "The Divine Nature wounds and perhaps destroys us merely by being what it is. We call it the wrath of the gods... And mother and wife and child and friend will all be in league to keep a soul from being united with the Divine Nature...(me: He comes to divide) This age of ours will one day be the distant past. And the Divine Nature can change the past (me: new perspective). Nothing is yet in its true form... When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face-to-face, until we have faces?" Until we, like Atlas the Prisoner, have been transformed and reshaped by the Master Artisan, our true face revealed, then we can see face to face. He is working to bring us to that point. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

101. Peaks and Troughs

I have many friends and loved ones who have and are going through incredibly difficult challenges. It can be perplexing to understand the nature and purpose of such difficulties, especially when prolonged or when the outcome is unhappy. It can be disorienting and discouraging. The darkness and despair can last a long time without relief.

Yesterday was CS Lewis' birthday, he would have been 120 years old. In 1941 he published the Screwtape Letters, which are a series of letters written by a senior devil to his nephew, a junior devil in training. Screwtape seeks to educate his nephew concerning the designs of "the Enemy" so that he can learn how to successfully entrap the souls of men. This book was dedicated to J. R. R. Tolkien. In one of the "letters", Screwtape gives some insight into the peaks and troughs that mankind experiences and their purposes:
So you “have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away”, have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?
Humans are amphibians — half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation — the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life — his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dulness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it. 
To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself — creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.
And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little over-riding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs — to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

100. The Great Sin

The following is an excerpt from Mere Christianity (1952) by CS Lewis:

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Does this seem to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, "How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?" The point is that each person's pride is in competition with every one else's pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive — is competitive by its very nature — while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident, Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If every one else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not...

...Pride always means enmity — it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God. In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that — and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison — you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you...

...It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices can smuggle itself into the very centre of our religious life. But you can see why. The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from Hell. It is purely spiritual; consequently, it is far more subtle and deadly. For the same reason, Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity — that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride — just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains (ie, skin sores or bumps) cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

Friday, October 26, 2018

099. Obedience

"Whatever you do. He will make good of it. 
But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. 
That is lost for ever. 
The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing, and He brought good of it in the end. 
But what they did was not good, and what they lost we have not seen."

CS Lewis (1943) Perelandra, p. 98

Saturday, August 18, 2018

098. Online Merchant Sabbath Observance

I returned to the website of a small farm supply company that I frequent to find the notification below. I was impressed that these people are taking their personal commitment to keeping the sabbath day holy to such an extent that their website is suspended every Saturday (when they keep the Sabbath). I was touched by the authentic way in which they are honoring the God they claim to follow.

Monday, May 7, 2018

097. God's Love

"By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness — the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, “What does it matter so long as they are contented?” We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven — a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all”. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless; that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction."
"The relation between Creator and creature is, of course, unique, and cannot be paralleled by any relations between one creature and another. God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other being. He is further from us because the sheer difference between that which has Its principle of being in Itself and that to which being is communicated, is one compared with which the difference between an archangel and a worm is quite insignificant. He makes, we are made: He is original, we derivative. But at the same time, and for the same reason, the intimacy between God and even the meanest creature is closer than any that creatures can attain with one another. Our life is, at every moment, supplied by Him: our tiny, miraculous power of free will only operates on bodies which His continual energy keeps in existence — our very power to think is His power communicated to us. Such a unique relation can be apprehended only by analogies: from the various types of love known among creatures we reach an inadequate, but useful, conception of God’s love for man."

From C.S. Lewis (1940) The Problem of Pain, Chapter III - Divine Goodness.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

096. Sun Halo

A huge circular rainbow appeared around the sun over the skies of Northern Utah this afternoon for about 30 minutes. A pair of soaring turkey vultures or hawks passed through the center from our vantage point. 

The cirrus clouds that veiled this phenomenon were like a semi-transparent curtain in the sky. 

This phenomenon is known as a Sun-bowSun Halo or, more formerly, a 22-degree Halo. As sunlight passes through ice crystals in the clouds, light is projected into different directions, and a halo or rainbow around the sun can be seen at 22-degrees.

Some Native American tribes refer to this phenomenon as the whirling rainbow, which is a good omen indicating moisture in the air and abundance on the Earth.

The dot inside of a circle is also an ancient sacred symbol used in many religions, known as the circumpunct. It can represent God, the monad/unity/oneness, the Egyptian sun god Ra, the atomic structure of hydrogen (which makes up most of the sun's mass), the alchemists' symbol for gold, the point of the beginning of creation and eternity, or the universe (universe translates to uni verses or one-turn). It is the mark left by the compass after stepping out a certain distance from the centerpoint and making a circle. From the circle, all geometric shapes and polygons can be derived by further use of a compass/divider and the additional application of a rule or square. The circle is a feminine symbol, representing eternity or creation, wholeness, original perfection, the infinite, and all cyclic movement.   

I was grateful to have witnessed such a beautiful event in the sky as this Sun Halo today and to contemplate the meaning of this symbol.

Monday, March 26, 2018

095. Holy Week

A timeline with scriptures of the week before Christ's resurrection :

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

094. Unto Others

One of the best aspects of my professional career is the opportunity to work with others collaboratively on various projects. I enjoy working on a diversity of projects with a diversity of people because I am enriched by the process. There is always something to learn from every interaction or from the way someone else does, thinks, or says about something. Good things can be gained from even the most boring of situations if you're on the lookout. 

This doesn’t mean it’s always easy to work with others. It can be extremely challenging and frustrating to collaborate with other people or work on a group project. Every person is different, with different backgrounds, experiences, viewpoints, knowledge, levels of motivation, etc. My work would probably be a lot simpler and more effective if I just went off alone and did my own thing by myself. I’ve done that and have found that my life is much less interesting and boring without others being involved; and I think in the long run, my creative potential is less fulfilled without the input of others. 

More to the point, I think my own work is much, much better as I’ve listened to and incorporated the influences of others. I’ve noticed that when I pay special attention to those who are also willing to listen to others, I often gain the most from them as they have spent considerable time gleaning the “best of” from those around them in terms of whatever it is they do. Of course, you need to sift through whatever someone is sharing or preaching, and determine if it’s worth keeping. But even going through that process has helped me become better in my work and more informed. I’ve tried some things others have shared with me that sounded like great ideas, but turned out to be disasters. I’ve learned from these experiences too. I’m grateful for those who have made sacrifices to share the work that they have done with others, and to share their perspectives, instead of just keeping it to themselves and ignoring the rest of the world. I am better for it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

092. satan, the great orator: Part IV - "There is No Other Way"

...continuing the conversation between Weston and the Green Lady. This is long, but well worth the read, especially if you have or are facing something that is causing you confusion. Weston continues to degrade into a non-human entity during the conversation. Ransom cannot contain himself any longer...
“Do not listen to him,” broke in Ransom; “send him away. Do not hear what he says, do not think of it."
[Ransom has the right idea. Do not listen to satan, or his emissaries. Send them away. They have no power over you save what you give them. How do you know that someone is a true messenger? Be careful who you listen to and obey.]
“I do not want you to hear him at all,” said Ransom. “He is—” and then he hesitated. ‘Bad’, ‘liar’, ‘enemy’, none of these words would, as yet, have any meaning for her. Racking his brains he thought of their previous conversation about the great eldil who had held on to the old good and refused the new one. Yes; that would be her only approach to the idea of badness. He was just about to speak but it was too late. Weston’s voice anticipated him. 
[Interesting insight into satan's (the "great eldil's" or great angel's) fall..."he held on to the old good and refused the new one"] 
“This Piebald [Ransom],” it [Weston] said, “does not want you to hear me, because he wants to keep you young. He does not want you to go on to the new fruits that you have never tasted before.”
[satan continually uses the concept that God wants us to progress to infer that we need to become independent from Him even if that means breaking a commandment. he lies that that God's commandments are meant to be broken as we ascend, that "lower" commandments no longer apply to us as "higher" commandments and concepts come to the fore. he lies to us that the scriptures are dead and no longer apply, that there are 'higher ways' to access God-like knowledge that require behavior that is contrary to God's laws. It is all a lie.]
“He is what in my world we call Bad,” said Weston’s body. “One who rejects the fruit he is given for the sake of the fruit he expected or the fruit he found last time.”
[satan is able to turn things around, calling good, evil, and evil, good.] 
“And will you teach us Death?” said the Lady to Weston’s shape, where it stood above her. 
“Yes,” it said, “it is for this that I came here, that you may have Death in abundance. But you must be very courageous.”
[satan brings death, in abundance. he ultimately inspires murder and destruction among those that hearken to him.]
“Courageous. What is that?”
“It is what makes you to swim on a day when the waves are so great and swift that something inside you bids you to stay on land.”
“I know. And those are the best days of all for swimming.”
“Yes. But to find Death, and with Death the real oldness and the strong beauty and the uttermost branching out, you must plunge into things greater than waves.”
“Go on. Your words are like no other words that I have ever heard. They are like the bubble breaking on the tree. They make me think of — of — I do not know what they make me think of.”
[Have you ever experienced this? Deep wisdom from a source you thought was of God, but was not? Words that fill you with awe and delight, but also lack light? That bring confusion? "I do not know what they make me think of" -- exactly, because they are spiritually novel, cut-off from God, and appeal to a baser-self. They often foment desire and vainglory.]
“I will speak greater words than these; but I must wait till you are older.”
“Make me older.”
[She is drawn in, hooked. The Lady has tasted something new. She has hearkened and is seduced by his vast knowledge and wisdom. he is now teaching her things she had never before contemplated and it is becoming "delicious to the taste and very desirable." She is under his spell and fading into trance.] 
“Lady, Lady,” broke in Ransom, “will not Maleldil make you older in His own time and His own way, and will not that be far better?”
[In the knick of time. Many believe that Adam and Eve were destined to partake of the fruit, thus believing in satan's ruse that "there was no other way". The current President of the LDS church teaches such a false thing..."the fortunate Fall" as he calls it, which is paramount to teaching that satan's lie in the Garden was true. It is not. The post-2014 temple films depict Eve as understanding she must engage in sin in order to realize God's will. It is false doctrine depicted as truth. If Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit the outcome for this world would have differed considerably. They could have continued to learn from God directly, from His own voice, rather than being cast out of His presence. More on this later.]
Weston’s face did not turn in his direction either at this point or at any other time during the conversation, but his voice, addressed wholly to the Lady, answered Ransom’s interruption.
[The adversary is focused on his prey, locked in, studying its every move for any sign of weakness or vulnerability.]
“You see?” it said. “He himself, though he did not mean nor wish to do so, made you see a few days ago that Maleldil is beginning to teach you to walk by yourself, without holding you by the hand. That was the first branching out. When you came to know that, you were becoming really old. And since then Maleldil has let you learn much — not from His own voice, but from mine. You arc becoming your own. That is what Maleldil wants you to do. That is why He has let you be separated from the King and even, in a way, from Himself. His way of making you older is to make you make yourself older. And yet this Piebald would have you sit still and wait for Maleldil to do it all.” 
[satan deceives those that listen to him that God wants us to be separate from Him so that we grow and advance to be like Him. he lies and portrays himself as God's instrument, doing God's bidding.] 
“Go on,” said the Lady.
“Then listen,” said Weston’s body. “Have you understood that to wait for Maleldil’s voice when Maleldil wishes you to walk on your own is a kind of disobedience?”
[satan uses twisted logic to try to separate us from God. he lies and tells us that waiting for God's voice instead of acting on our own is disobedience to God.]
“I think I have.”
“The wrong kind of obeying itself can be a disobeying.”
The Lady thought for a few moments and then clapped her hands. “I see,” she said, “I see! Oh, how old you make me. Before now I have chased a beast for mirth. And it has understood and run away from me. If it had stood still and let me catch it, that would have been a sort of obeying — but not the best sort.”
“You understand very well. When you are fully grown you will be even wiser and more beautiful than the women of my own world. And you see that it might be so with Maleldil’s biddings.”
“I think I do not see quite clearly.”
“Are you certain that He really wishes to be always obeyed?”
“How can we not obey what we love?”
“The beast that ran away loved you.”
“I wonder,” said the Lady, “if that is the same. The beast knows very well when I mean it to run away and when I want it to come to me. But Maleldil has never said to us that any word or work of His was a jest. How could our Beloved need to jest or frolic as we do? He is all a burning joy and a strength. It is like thinking that He needed sleep or food.”
“No, it would not be a jest. That is only a thing like it, not the thing itself. But could the taking away of your hand from His — the full growing up — the walking in your own way — could that ever be perfect unless you had, if only once, seemed to disobey Him?”
[satan still driving at the importance of independence from God to be like Him or to fully love Him] 
“How could one seem to disobey?”
“By doing what He only seemed to forbid. There might be a commanding which He wished you to break.”
["Seem". satan tries to diminish the ramifications of disobeying God. You cannot "seemingly" break a commandment. Breaking a commandment is breaking a commandment. No matter how you justify it or twist it to seem like a noble act. It is not. It is sin.] 
“But if He told us we were to break it, then it would be no command. And if He did not, how should we know?”
“How wise you are growing, beautiful one,” said Weston’s mouth.
“No. If He told you to break what He commanded, it would be no true command, as you have seen. For you are right. He makes no jests. A real disobeying, a real branching out, this is what He secretly longs for: secretly, because to tell you would spoil all.”
[satan and his followers pretend what they teach is part of some deeper secret, underlying the truth of God's plan.]
“I begin to wonder,” said the Lady after a pause, “whether you are so much older than I. Surely what you are saying is like fruit with no taste! How can I step out of His will save into something that cannot be wished? Shall I start trying not to love Him — or the King — or the beasts? It would be like trying to walk on water or swim through islands. Shall I try not to sleep or to drink or to laugh? I thought your words had a meaning. But now it seems they have none. To walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere.”
[The Lady correctly equates obedience to God's commandments with love of God. It is obedience to God's commandments that brings peace, joy, understanding, knowledge, and wisdom....not breaking them.] 
“That is true of all His commands except one.”
[satan does not relent. Like gradually increasing the gas on the stove to slowly raise the heat, the web he weaves begins to expand in complexity. The more we listen and try to argue with him, the more he twists and draws us in. He has vast knowledge of this and other worlds, the arguments and discussions of high and holy councils, the plan of God, etc. He uses all of that knowledge against us.]
“But can that one be different?”
“Nay, you see of yourself that it is different. These other commands of His — to love, to sleep, to fill this world with your children — you see for yourself that they are good. And they are the same in all worlds. But the command against living on the Fixed Island is not so. You have already learned that He gave no such command to my world. And you cannot see where the goodness of it is. No wonder. If it were really good, must He not have commanded it to all worlds alike? For how could Maleldil not command what was good? There is no good in it. Maleldil Himself is showing you that, this moment, through your own reason. It is mere command. It is forbidding for the mere sake of forbidding.”
“But why…?”
“In order that you may break it. What other reason can there be? It is not good. It is not the same for other worlds. It stands between you and all settled life, all command of your own days. Is not Maleldil showing you as plainly as He can that it was set up as a test — as a great wave you have to go over, that you may become really old, really separate from Him.”
[satan uses the true concepts of sacrifice and Abrahamic tests to deceive us into disobeying God's commandments. When we do so, we are really obeying satan and not God.] 
“But if this concerns me so deeply, why does He put none of this into my mind? It is all coming from you. Stranger. There is no whisper, even, of the Voice saying Yes to your words.”
[She holds to the truth and true ways of discerning truth. But satan always, always has a greater counter argument.]
“But do you not see that there cannot be? He longs — oh, how greatly He longs to see His creature become fully itself, to stand up in its own reason and its own courage even against Him. But how can He tell it to do this? That would spoil all. Whatever it did after that would only be one more step taken with Him. This is the one thing of all the things He desires in which He must have no finger. Do you think He is not weary of seeing nothing but Himself in all that He has made? If that contented Him, why should He create at all? To find the Other — the thing whose will is no longer His — that is Maleldil’s desire.”
[satan deceives by saying that others must be sent to teach us that we often must break God's commandments in order to grow and ascend, because God cannot ask us to break them, but that this is what God longs for in order for us to be like Him.]
“If I could but know this—”
“He must not tell you. He cannot tell you. The nearest He can come to telling you is to let some other creature tell it for Him. And behold. He has done so. Is it for nothing, or without His will, that I have journeyed through Deep Heaven to teach you what He would have you know but must not teach you Himself?” 
[satan and his servants, even unwitting ones, claim or pretend that they are true messengers, teaching something on God's errand in a way that is unique to his/satan's relationship to you - that only he alone can convey because of his position. This is a lie.]
Lady,” said Ransom, “if I speak, will you hear me?”
“Gladly, Piebald.”
“This man has said that the law against living on the Fixed Island is different from the other Laws, because it is not the same for all worlds and because we cannot see the goodness in it. And so far he says well. But then he says that it is thus different in order that you may disobey it. But there might be another reason.”
“Say it. Piebald.”
“I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are His will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason? When we spoke last you said that if you told the beasts to walk on their heads, they would delight to do so. So I know that you understand well what I am saying.”
“Oh, brave Piebald,” said the Green Lady, “this is the best you have said yet. This makes me older far: yet it does not feel like the oldness this other is giving me. Oh, how well I see it! We cannot walk out of Maleldil’s will: but He has given us a way to walk out of our will. And there could be no such way except a command like this. Out of our own will. It is like passing out through the world’s roof into Deep Heaven. All beyond is Love Himself. I knew there was joy in looking upon the Fixed Island and laying down all thought of ever living there, but I did not till now understand.”
[She returns to peace from of confusion. For now, she is holding on to the understanding that only by operating within God's will, keeping His commandments, will we have joy and peace.]  
Her face was radiant as she spoke, but then a shade of bewilderment crossed it. “Piebald,” she said, “if you are so young, as this other says, how do you know these things?”
“He says I am young, but I say not.”
The voice of Weston’s face spoke suddenly, and it was louder and deeper than before and less like Weston’s voice. “I am older than he,” it said, “and he dare not deny it. Before the mothers of the mothers of his mother were conceived, I was already older than he could reckon. I have been with Maleldil in Deep Heaven where he never came and heard the eternal councils. And in the order of creation I am greater than he, and before me he is of no account. Is it not so?”
[satan shows his hand a bit.] 
The corpse-like face did not even now turn towards him, but the speaker and the Lady both seemed to wait for Ransom to reply. The falsehood which sprang to his mind died on his lips. In that air, even when truth seemed fatal,
only truth would serve. Licking his lips and choking down a feeling of nausea, he answered: “In our world to be older is not always to be wiser.”
“Look on him,” said Weston’s body to the Lady; “consider how white his cheeks have turned and how his forehead is wet. You have not seen such things before: you will see them more often hereafter. It is what happens — it is the beginning of what happens — to little creatures when they set themselves against great ones.”
[satan points to his greatness, his status, and his "rights", which have been denied due to his rebellion.] 
An exquisite thrill of fear travelled along Ransom’s spine. What saved him was the face of the Lady. Untouched by the evil so close to her, removed as it were ten years’ journey deep within the region of her own innocence, and by that innocence at once so protected and so endangered, she looked up at the standing Death above her, puzzled indeed, but not beyond the bounds of cheerful curiosity, and said: “But he was right. Stranger, about this forbidding. It is you who need to be made older. Can you not see?”
“I have always seen the whole whereof he sees but the half. It is most true that Maleldil has given you a way of walking out of your own will — but out of your deepest will.” 
“And what is that?”
“Your deepest will, at present, is to obey Him — to be always as you are now, only His beast or His very young child. The way out of that is hard. It was made hard that only the very great, the very wise, the very courageous should dare to walk in it, to go on — on out of this smallness in which you now live through the dark wave of His forbidding, into the real life. Deep Life, with all its joy and splendour and hardness.”
[He turns things around, trying now to raise within the Lady that some injustice has occurred by virtue of God's position relative to our own -- that we are only a beast, a child, acting "small", etc. That we need to overcome the position we find ourselves in to become like Him. It is false. Ransom tries to counter with the truth...]
“Listen, Lady,” said Ransom. “There is something he is not telling you. All this that we are now talking has been talked before. The thing he wants you to try has been tried before. Long ago, when our world began, there was only one man and one woman in it, as you and the King are in this. And there once before he stood, as he stands now, talking to the woman. He had found her alone as he has found you alone. And she listened, and did the thing Maleldil had forbidden her to do. But no joy and splendour came of it. What came of it I
cannot tell you because you have no image of it in your mind. But all love was troubled and made cold, and Maleldil’s voice became hard to hear so that wisdom grew little among them; and the woman was against the man and the mother against the child; and when they looked to eat there was no fruit on their trees, and hunting for food took all their time, so that their life became narrower, not wider.”
“He has hidden the half of what happened,” said Weston’s corpselike mouth. “Hardness came out of it but also splendour. They made with their own hands mountains higher than your Fixed Island. They made for themselves Floating Islands greater than yours which they could move at will through the ocean faster than any bird can fly. Because there was not always food enough, a woman could give the only fruit to her child or her husband and eat death instead — could give them all, as you in your little narrow life of playing and kissing and riding fishes have never done, nor shall do till you break the commandment. Because knowledge was harder to find, those few who found it became beautiful and excelled their fellows as you excel the beasts; and thousands were striving for their love…”
[satan twists the state of our fallen world, its supposed "greatness", as an exemplar to be emulated....making tall mountains (buildings), floating islands (ships)...equating starvation with sacrifice...there is nothing in Babylon to be emulated.]  
“I think I will go to sleep now,” said the Lady quite suddenly. Up to this point she had been listening to Weston’s body with open mouth and wide eyes, but as he spoke of the women with the thousands of lovers she yawned, with the unconcealed and unpremeditated yawn of a young cat.
“Not yet,” said the other. “There is more… He has not told you that it was this breaking of the commandment which brought Maleldil to our world and because of which He was made man. He dare not deny it.”
[he has saved one of the greatest twists for last: that breaking the commandment will bring something better.]
“Do you say this. Piebald?” asked the Lady.
Ransom was sitting with his fingers locked so tightly that his knuckles were white. The unfairness of it all was wounding him like barbed wire. Unfair … . unfair. How could Maleldil expect him to fight against this, to fight with every weapon taken from him, forbidden to lie and yet brought to places where truth seemed fatal? It was unfair! A sudden impulse of hot rebellion arose in him. A second later, doubt, like a huge wave, came breaking over him. How if the enemy were right after all? Felix peccatum Adae. [meaning: "O happy sin of Adam"] Even the Church would tell him that good came of disobedience in the end. Yes, and it was true too that he, Ransom, was a timid creature, a man who shrank back from new and hard things. On which side, after all, did the temptation lie? Progress passed before his eyes in a great momentary vision: cities, armies, tall ships, and libraries and fame, and the grandeur of poetry spurting like a fountain out of the labours and ambitions of men. Who could be certain that Creative Evolution was not the deepest truth? From all sorts of secret crannies in his own mind whose very existence he had never before suspected, something wild and heady and delicious began to rise, to pour itself towards the shape of Weston. ‘It is a spirit, it is a spirit,’ said this inner voice, ‘and you are only a man. It goes on from century to century. You are only a man…
[The battle against satan can seem unfair. That is why I am posting these conversations. So you can understand what you are up against. he has gone on "from century to century"...remember, "it is [only] a spirit", animating whatever host has acquiesced to his possession. Do not surrender one inch to his logic or twisting truths.] 
“Do you say this. Piebald?” asked the Lady a second time. The spell was broken.
“I will tell you what I say,” answered Ransom, jumping to his feet. “Of course good came of it. Is Maleldil a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do. He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever. The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing, and He brought good of it in the end. But what they did was not good, and what they lost we have not seen. And there were some to whom no good came nor ever will come.”
[And therein lies the rub, "Whatever you do. He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever." We will never know what good might have come had we always remained in obedience. There is loss. But thanks be to God that He can make good of our evil IF we turn to Him and seek His presence.]
He turned to the body of Weston. “You,” he said, “tell her all. What good came to you? Do you rejoice that Maleldil became a man? Tell her of your joys, and of what profit you had when you made Maleldil and death acquainted.”
[Ransom, in an inspired counter to all of "Weston's" twisted logic, skewers his opponent with the most damning truth of all -- that satan was defeated because Christ succeeded in His mortal mission to overcome sin and death.]
In the moment that followed this speech two things happened that were utterly unlike terrestrial experience. The body that had been Weston’s threw up its head and opened its mouth and gave a long melancholy howl like a dog; and the Lady lay down, wholly unconcerned, and closed her eyes and was instantly asleep. be continued...

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

091: satan, the great orator: Part III - Subtle Twists of Truth

Continuing from the book Perelandra by CS Lewis...later in the conversion between Ransom and Weston, Weston becomes further possessed, has a meltdown, and collapses. Ransom leaves him and seeks out the Green Lady. After some time searching for her, Ransom hears two voices, which turn out to be Weston and the Green Lady speaking to one another in “earnest conversation”. Ransom listens in.

First, a few names are refenced in this conversation:
  1. Piebald: the Green Lady's nickname for Ransom.
  2. Maleldil: think, Christ, who speaks to the Green Lady in her thoughts.
  3. Eldila: think, angelic messengers.
  4. The King: the male counterpart of the Green Lady; who the Green Lady was separated from and has been searching for.
  5. The Fixed Land: Perelandra is a water world with a series of floating islands that move, however, there is one Fixed Land that does not move, but there is a commandment to not reside upon it. The Green Lady and the King were separated, in part, due to the floating islands, and the Fixed Land is the place where they could ultimately reside together. 
Secondly, light commentary in [brackets] -- the text speaks for itself and likely speaks to individuals differently depending on their experience and circumstance:

“I am wondering,” said the woman’s voice, “whether all the people of your world have the habit of talking about the same thing more than once. I have said already that we are forbidden to dwell on the Fixed Land. Why do you not either talk of something else or stop talking?”
[satan dwells continually on the same topic, speaks for long periods of time, repeating himself over and over again in an effort to wear down the hearer...until the temptation has been thoroughly overcome. On the other hand, God commands and then warns, but ultimately respects, to our blessing or demise, our choices. God is talkative, but He does not dominate and control the conversation...He is responsive.]
“Because this forbidding is such a strange one,” said the man’s [Weston's] voice. “And so unlike the ways of Maleldil in my world. And He has not forbidden you to think about dwelling on the Fixed Land.”
[satan tries to subtly nudge us towards that which will violate God's commands. satan tries to use God (Maleldil) in his calculations to deceive and lead atray]
“That would be a strange thing — to think about what will never happen.”
“Nay, in our world we do it all the time. We put words together to mean things that have never happened and places that never were: beautiful words, well put together. And then tell them to one another. We call it stories or poetry. In that old world you spoke of, Malacandra, they did the same. It is for mirth and wonder and wisdom.”
[satan often uses commonplace concepts or things we already accept and believe in, but miss-applies them in an attempt to deceive. he takes truths from stories and wisdom from myths and legends and uses them as a precedent for violating God's laws.]  
“What is the wisdom in it?” asked the Lady.
“Because the world is made up not only of what is, but of what might be. Maleldil knows both and wants us to know both.”
“This is more than I ever thought of. The other — the Piebald one [Ransom] — has already told me things which made me feel like a tree whose branches were growing wider and wider apart. But this goes beyond all. Stepping out of what is into what might be and talking and making things out there… alongside the world. I will ask the King what he thinks of it.”
“You see, that is what we always come back to. If only you had not been parted from the King.”
“Oh, I see. That also is one of the things that might be. The world might be so made that the King and I were never parted.”
“The world would not have to be different — only the way you live. In a world where people live on the Fixed Lands they do not become suddenly separated.”
"But you remember we are not to live on the Fixed Land.”
“No, but He has never forbidden you to think about it. Might not that be one of the reasons why you are forbidden to do it — so that you may have a Might Be to think about, to make Story about as we call it?”
[satan tries to get us to think about breaking the commandments, to consider the possible outcomes of doing so, so that the possibility of breaking the commandments starts to enter reality. Rather, we should flee temptation, and not contemplate or consider it.]
“I will think more of this. I will get the King to make me older about it.”
["getting older" equates to becoming wise or experienced]
“How greatly I desire to meet this King of yours! But in the matter of Stories he may be no older than you himself.”
“That saying of yours is like a tree with no fruit. The King is always older than I, and about all things.”
“But Piebald and I have already made you older about certain matters which the King never mentioned to you. That is the new good which you never expected. You thought you would always learn all things from the King; but now Maleldil has sent you other men whom it had never entered your mind to think of and they have told you things the King himself could not know.”
[satan twists truth and makes his hearers believe that all knowledge is "new good" and should be believed and lived, regardless of its source or powers.] 
“I begin to see now why the King and I were parted at this time. This is a strange and great good He intended for me.” 
[satan hopes that we will believe that listening to him is good for us, that he is a source of reliable information and truth. he is not.]
“And if you refused to learn things from me and keep on saying you would wait and ask the King, would that not be like turning away from the fruit you had found to the fruit you had expected?”
[satan tries to get us to believe that the knowledge and information he is sharing is what God desires for us to receive, that he is a messenger from God. he is not. Everything he says is a lie.] 
“These are deep questions. Stranger. Maleldil is not putting much into my mind about them” said the Lady.
“Do you not see why?”
“Since Piebald and I have come to your world we have put many things into your mind which Maleldil has not. Do you not see that He is letting go of your hand a little?”
“How could He? He is wherever we go.”
“Yes, but in another way. He is making you older — making you to learn things not straight from Him but by your own meetings with other people and your own questions and thoughts.”
“He is certainly doing that.”
[satan deceives us into believing that God wants us to grow up to be like God by becoming more independent from God. The silence of God that the Green Lady experienced is likely due to many things - one of which may be that a choice is being presented and she is required to use her intelligence and agency to choose for herself. satan tells us he has been sent to teach us truths that God has not or cannot teach for one reason or another. God works in order and by patterns...he sends authorized messengers with an authorized message, which does not point to the messenger as the source of the message (if that makes sense) and His message is consistent with other truths He has given.]
“Yes. He is making you a full woman, for up till now you were only half made — like the beasts who do nothing of themselves. This time, when you meet the King again, it is you who will have things to tell him. It is you who will be older than he and who will make him older.”
[satan tells us we need to become a real man or a real woman, to reach our "full potential" as human beings, according to the standards of the world, which means becoming superior in strength, knowledge, and power to others, whereas God wishes us to become as a little child...submissive, humble, pure, and full of love.]
“Maleldil would not make a thing like that happen. It would be like a fruit with no taste.”
“But it would have a taste for him. Do you not think the King must sometimes be tired of being the older? Would he not love you more if you were wiser than he?”
[satan tries to make us think that God really wants us to break His commandments in order to grow, whether it be out of a fake-sacrifice or for some fake-heroic good, because He wants us to grow up or "become older" (ie, wiser, more powerful or knowledgable), but He cannot suggest it, because He would be telling us to break His own commandment. God did not intend this, He really does not want us to break His commandments, despite how satan twists the truth of it.]
“Is this what you call a Poetry or do you mean that it really is?”
“I mean a thing that really is.”
“But how could anyone love anything more? It is like saying a thing could be bigger than itself.”
“I only meant you could become more like the women of my world.”
["my world" = Earth] 
“What are they like?”
“They are of a great spirit. They always reach out their hands for the new and unexpected good, and see that it is good long before the men understand it. Their minds run ahead of what Maleldil has told them. They do not need to wait for Him to tell them what is good, but know it for themselves as He does. They are, as it were, little Maleldils. And because of their wisdom, their beauty is as much greater than yours as the sweetness of these gourds surpasses the taste of water. And because of their beauty the love which the men have for them is as much greater than the King’s love for you as the naked burning of Deep Heaven seen from my world is more wonderful than the golden roof of yours.”
[satan tries to confuse us into thinking that being independent from God is being like God. It is not. When we are like God we are one with God, not free from Him. We are not "little gods" (ie, "little Maleldils) when we are free from God. satan equates freedom with being like God. satan tries to instill a fear that you will be less than what you are and what your potential portends if you do not break free and become independent like God is. satan has broken free and become independent from God and finds himself in constant misery in his current state.]
“I wish I could see them.”
“I wish you could.”
“How beautiful is Maleldil and how wonderful are all His works! Perhaps He will bring out of me daughters as much greater than I as I am greater than the beasts. It will be better than I thought. I had thought I was to be always Queen and Lady. But I see now that I may be as the eldila. I may be appointed to cherish when they are small and weak children who will grow up and overtop me and at whose feet I shall fall. I see it is not only questions and thoughts that grow out wider and wider like branches. Joy also widens out and comes where we had never thought.”
“It is a great branching out,” it [Weston] was saying. “This making of story or poetry about things that might be but are not. If you shrink back from it, are you not drawing back from the fruit that is offered you?”
“It is not from the making a story that I shrink back, O Stranger,” she answered, “but from this one story that you have put into my head. I can make myself stories about my children or the King. I can make it that the fish fly and the land beasts swim. But if I try to make the story about living on Fixed Land I do not know how to make it about Maleldil. For if I make it that He has changed His command, that will not go. And if I make it that we are living there against His command, that is like making the sky all black and the water so that we cannot drink it and the air so that we cannot breathe it. But also, I do not see what is the pleasure of trying to make these things.”
“To make you wiser, older,” said Weston’s body.
“Do you know for certain that it will do that?” she asked.
“Yes, for certain,” it replied. ‘That is how the women of my world have become so great and so beautiful.”
[satan twists the truth to deceive. he equates the breaking of a commandment, becoming independent, and letting go of God's hand as a necessary ("there is no other way") step in the gaining of wisdom, knowledge, and power. It is a lie.] be continued...