Table Talk: One Evening In September. [Life, Sex, Faith/Belief And More]

20180916 TABLE TALK ONE EVENING IN SEPTEMBER

A few of us had met and had the most wonderful three-course meal, recently. And now, with the crockery and cutlery cleared away and the dish-washer chugging away in the kitchen, we settled, with full stomachs, in the lounge.

Such post-meal evening discussions like this had happened before – there was no agenda, everyone’s viewpoint was valid, the conversation might be tossed too and fro in a myriad of directions, and Chatham House rules applied (which meant that nothing could be mentioned outside this meeting that identified any member without their consent – and so the following identifies me, Tadhg, but no one else.

What follows is ‘table talk’. [With apologies to Martin Luther].  It may ramble, it might not cover some of the things relevant to you (or it might), but through this I hope that interest is sparked and maybe some questions are raised (and answered), and that you find the article informative.

Someone asked: Tell us about the importance of ritual that you speak so much about on TadhgTalks.

Tadhg replied: Ritual is important to me, and I would encourage it in the daily life of others. In one sense we already live lives that encompass daily rituals, or yearly ones in the form of anniversaries. But, they are important reminders to us, can help us to make time for the essentials in life, and if done with intentionality they can have great meaning and effect.

The flip-slide of that is that they can so easily be done by rote and lose meaning and effect.

’What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it.’ – Ezra Pound

With a ritual there is a ‘surface level’ meaning that observers can see and understand, easily. But, it shouldn’t stay there at that level. There is a deeper meaning, and it is possible, and advantageous, to go ‘inward’ in contemplation. For instance, for the last two months I’ve done an Earth-healing ritual. On the ‘surface level’, anyone watching would have seen my physical actions (and physical actions are important), but there is a ‘deeper level’ of contemplation, the imaginal realm where ‘inwardly’ I am was performing that ritual without physical limitation, and others taking part in the ritual would be encouraged, similarly, to go inward.

’The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’ Albert Einstein

That ‘deeper level’ some might call prayer or meditation.

Someone asked: But, in any group that uses contemplation in a ritual won’t each person ‘see’ something different?

Tadhg replied: Absolutely. That’s to be expected, and in one a very real sense it is to be encouraged. For instance, in leading a ceremony someone might refer to the Fae, another to elementals, others to gods of all descriptions that area meaningful to them, others might refer to the wolf aspect of nature, and I might refer to the Source of All. To me, these are all manifestations of the One in creation.

’A group of blind people heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said ‘This being is like a thick snake’. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. Another blind person who placed his hand upon its side said, ‘the elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

We might each get a glimpse of That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and describe it in out own way, but that can’t mean that any of us know more than others, as the Truth is beyond comprehension. We each get glimpses that are different, and that’s why sharing and listening to each other’s experience and understanding, accepting the different ways to describe things, especially when different to our own, can only be a good thing to enhance our journey. Its a learning curve.

Someone asked: So, what about sex?

There was a little bit of laughter, but the questioner was encouraged to be specific. Refilling the glasses helped everyone here.

Someone asked: Well, one of the reasons I’m A Druid is that I like the way it deals with sex, life and death and rebirth, and isn’t prissy or embarrassed about procreation. And, that’s different from when I was a Christian. The Church then  seemed uptight about even using the word. So, Tadhg, as A Christian-Druid what would you say?

Tadhg replied: It is true, that in many cases churches are hung up on the word, and I know some that flatly refuse to use the word ‘sex’ in any way. The word ‘pregnant’ comes a close second in the tables of banished words in those places, and they prefer to use the phrase ‘with child’. It’s odd.

Right now, I can see two reasons why some, perhaps most, churches are ‘afraid’ of using sex or talking about it. One could be pure ego. It’s a constructed taboo which sets them apart from society, and perhaps they like that. I can’t understand that desire for artificial separation or ‘distancing’ from society, but it could be ‘ego’.

Or, it could be a plain (or wilful) misunderstanding of ancient text and its application. The challenge, and church history, provides proof, is to understand what St Augustine did when he became a Christian. Now, some may say he brought in much good theology, but he brought in more. When Manichaeism was banned, many Manichaeists became Christian almost ‘over night’. And St Augustine was a Manichaeist who converted, and sadly brought in some Manichaeists anti-sex notions which were seized upon by Reformers, and others ever since.

It seems to me to be a false dichotomy, and unnecessary ‘distancing’ from the One who created everything good.

’Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature’. Marilyn Monroe

For me, ancient text provides a healthy understanding of procreation and the God of Procreation and our responsibility, but its interpretation is (still, unknowingly by some churches ‘seen’) through Manichaeist spectacles which have little to do with essential foundational, balanced, responsible beliefs of the early Church.

I apologise for the course in Church history, but sometimes it’s important to divide what is foundational, and what is more recent and which just appears foundational.

Someone asked: Tell us about the standing stone you just visited in Wales, where you did an Earth-healing ritual.

Tadhg replied: Ah, that was Maen Llia, at the very north of the Brecon Beacons national park. And bearing in mind what we’ve mentioned about glimpses of knowledge and wisdom, and misunderstanding things (because of relatively new ideas which weren’t there at the beginning), Maen Llia is a wonderful reminder of how little we do know.

The current view is that our ancestors dragged that stone there some forty-thousand years ago and laid it flat, and about four thousand years ago it was upended (and now stands about twelve feet talk, nine feet wide, and two feet thick), and no one has a clue what its purpose was. I quite like that admission, because we can all share our ideas, tonight, about it, and no one is wrong.

So, what was its use for (when flat and then, later, when stood on its end)?

Various people said:

  • Perhaps it when flat it was used as a raised platform for the Druid to stand on to address the crowd.
  • Maybe it was used as a seat for someone to tell stories to people seated around it, sitting on the ground.
  • And/Or, when flat, maybe it was some kind of throne or seat to dispense judgement from.
  • Maybe it was upended when the crowd grew to big, and then the Druid would conduct rituals in front of it, and it was some kind of ‘backdrop’ to ‘push’ the sound forward to amplify the speaker’s voice
  • Or, perhaps it was used as a marker to show a nearby village, or denote a holy location, rather like Celtic crosses or the many cairns (piled-up stones) throughout the UK

Joshua said…’Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder.  They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ ‘Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan…’’ Joshua 4. 5b-7a, The Book.

And, so it went on. Do you have any thoughts about Maen Llia or standing-stones in general?

Someone asked: So, is ritual enough?

Tadhg replied: That’s good question. Bearing in mind there’s the physical, ‘surface level’ ritual of doing that is important, and there’s the inner ‘deeper level’ aspect of ritual which involves the imagination or mind’s eye. There is more. There is always more.

It’s my belief, and others may disagree, that both aspects of ritual need to be ‘earthed’, and that something (more) needs to be done. For instance, the Earth-healing rituals consisted of words and actions, the imaginal aspect. But then I ‘earthed’ the rituals by burying a Rainforest Jasper stone.

The ‘earthing’ can be varied and roughly associated with the ritual, but it can be a loose connection. So, I think it would be acceptable, in ‘earthing’ that ritual to have planted some seeds in a city plant-box the next day, or by writing to the local council to preserve some city park trees, instead of burying the rock. True, the aforementioned examples don’t accomplish anything in the national parks where I conducted the ritual, but a loose connection is, I think, good enough. And, with all things being inter-connected, maybe the seed-planting and writing to the local council will affect things further afield, in ways we cannot ‘see’.

’I had to decide what I was going to do, and what I was going to be. I was standing there, waiting for someone to do something , till I realised the person I was waiting for was myself.’ Markus Zusak,

There were many more questions  in the lounge that evening, but I think I’ll save them for another time. Meanwhile, drinks were refilled and the evening continued to flow. Maybe next time, you’ll be here. Youre more than welcome.

Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends after that meal, how about you sharing something of your spiritual journey (either here or by email to me), if you wish. Whether you do or don’t, rest assured that I appreciate you taking the time to read this and other articles of mine, and you are in my thoughts as we travel along this Path.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

The Art Of Physicality: Celtic Thought

20170613 THE ART OF PHYSICALITY

‘My name is known: God and King. I am most in majesty, in whom no beginning may be and no end. Highest in potency I am, and have been ever. I have made stars and planets in their courses to go. I have made a moon for the night and a sun to light the day also. I have made earth where trees and grasses spring, beasts and fowl, both great and small, all thrive and have my liking. I have made all of nothing for man’s sustentation. And of this pleasant garden that I have mostly goodly planted I will make him gardener for his own recreation.’ Godspell prologue.

The development company near where I live in London, sponsored by the big banks, felled trees, bulldozed the earth and flattened everything in sight. To watch them skilfully and easily go about their business was thought-provoking to say the least. They had a job to do and they got on with it.

Their ‘theology’ allowed them to do this willy-nilly, and they did so with an ‘evangelical’ fervour.

Why, is this so important?

One of the trees at the far end of my garden at Ty Gwyn was dead. It had started to decay, and was more of a hazard now. It needed felling. Because of its size a tree feller was needed and he skilfully cut it up piece by piece, but not before I had spoken a few words to the tree (before he had arrived). I know to many people, saying a few words to a tree is nonsensical, but there were several reasons for doing so: the tree was alive (at one time) and I wanted to acknowledge that – as a Druid I value trees and what they embody, as a Christian I accept that the Logos is ubiquitous; I also wanted to remind myself that this tree was alive well before I was born and was probably double my age when it died; I also wanted to mark this change in the garden.

‘How dear the woods are! You beautiful trees! I love every one of you as a friend.’ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Why, is this so important?

It is heart-breaking sometimes that the ‘development company’-style of regarding the environment can be embraced by some people (and some of them are people of faith). There are a number of reasons for this, I believe.

Perhaps, some take to heart the imperative in the first book of the Book where humankind is commanded to, ‘…fill the earth, and subdue it…’, Genesis 1:28b. How words are interpreted and make it into print, and how they are defined depends on the reader. And those that subdue the earth have a ‘development company’-like attitude. Rip! Strip! Flatten! Bulldoze!

If we’re commanded to subdue the earth, then why not? Except, that ‘steward’ is a better and more accurate word. If one acts as steward to the earth then one has a responsibility to care for it. And, it is my firm belief, backed up by research, that ‘steward’ is a more appropriate translation of that word in that Genesis verse.

I love my garden. Even in the city, I adore city parks. I saw a tree on a street corner, and a branch had been caught by a high-sided vehicle and ripped off. Not completely, but almost. My heart sank. I had to inform the local borough council. Trees are wonderful. Nature is beautiful. We’d be poorer without them.

But, some prefer ‘subdue’, as it’s easier to rip than plant, easier to flatten than build, easier to be reckless than accept responsibility. And maybe, some have been led to think that that’s the way it’s always been. It hasn’t.

‘A wrong concept misleads the understanding; a wrong deed degrades the whole man, and may eventually demolish the structure of the human ego.’ Muhammad Iqbal

Why, is this so important?

It’s important because the physical world matters. There is no Plan(et) B as an alternative. For Druids, like me, the forest is all important. A place to remind ourselves where we come from, what life in all its green-ness is all about (do check out Revelation 4:3 in the Book), where we are going, and a place to meditate deeply and commune. Nature is important. Ofcourse, this is not the sole preserve of Druids, and those of other faiths have a deep reverence of nature, too. After all, for Christians, like me, it all started in a garden! And, what’s more…it was ‘good’!

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ John Muir

There are some who ‘distance’ themselves from this physicality and the body, too, as though it were inferior. I once had a conversation with a pastor who was shocked by a news broadcast that talked of a political figure who may (or may not) have ‘sexed’ up a document to make it more appealing to the electorate. I agreed with him about the distastefulness of the alleged fact, only to be corrected by him as he said I had misunderstood him. His anger wasn’t at that awful re-writing of facts, but at the word ‘sex’ in the term used by the reporters, who talked about ‘sexxed-up’ document!

Why, is this so important?

Much of some peoples dislike of the word sex being used in a sentence, or perhaps even talking about sex, or the notion of procreation, is based on the understanding that it is ‘dirty’, or base or something inferior. It hasn’t always been this way.

Quick history lesson follows. Please don’t ‘switch off’. Augustine was a Manichaean, and they had some strange ideas about sex and the body, thinking that both were somewhat inferior and distasteful. Over a short period of time the (then) Pope had made it awkward and then dangerous to be anything but a Christian. Setting aside that that may have been a wrong move by the Pope, it had the effect of an over-night transformation by Augustine, who converted to Christianity. Well done Augustine. Just like that. Amazing. He was safe from persecution, and was now zealous in spreading the new faith. I apologise for upsetting some, but not all of what he preached was Christian. Old Manichaean ways die slowly, and sometimes not at all. The low esteem that the body and sex was held in, was what Augustine preached. And those that came after him adopted those Manichaean ways thinking they were, and are Christian views; and many today, think it has always been that way. It hasn’t.

‘Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.’ (Songs of Solomon 4:5). Interestingly, I’m told no part of the Book should be esteemed higher than any other…and yet, I’ve never heard a sermon on anything from the wonderful love poetry of the Songs Of Solomon.

Why, is this so important?

Because nature is good. The physical world is good. Humankind in body-form is good. Genesis and nature inform us of this. And those who demean nature, disregard the physical world and downgrade humanity’s physical form are missing out on what the Incarnation was, and is, all about.

So, I said ‘thank you’ to that faithful tree. It had to go. I know I won’t have convinced many that talking to a tree in this way isn’t a sign of me being feeble-minded, but bear with me. It focussed my attention on nature. It reminded me of Original Blessing. It led me to think of how easy it is to destroy, and that when that is necessary, absolutely necessary, we should do so slowly, considerately and reluctantly. And, it gave me time to pause. It encouraged me to plant.

‘What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. Chris Maser

And so I’ve planted two more trees in its stead, and I feel happier already.