Thursday, 3 September 2009

Essence and Form

Listening to more of Eckhart Tolle (ET which might be appropo!) I took on board the idea that to appreciate the essence of things we must relinquish 'labels'. I sent a post on a group I belong to thus:
I think sometimes our idea of God is deficient in terms of His greatness, and His Grace. We can never limit him within the finite restrictions of our own minds. And why do we wish to do this? For our own security and Control. If we label something we in some way possess it but we also lose the potential life we would have got from it of we had simply let it be. A walk in the park or in the countryside loses its impact because we look at a flower and say 'That is a flower' ... we have labeled it, boxed it, contained it within our conceptual framework and in so doing we have in a sense 'killed' it (we may even literally do so in order to make it our possession by plucking it and taking it home!). If we could simply like a child look at nature without labeling it - just allowing it to be we connect with it and are stimulated by it - as we do so these things never lose their vitality - we continue in praise and thanks to our creator God. And so with people - when we label them we have contained them within our conceptual framework but also the vitality we would have received otherwise is lost ... and also with our relationship with God - whatever revelations we have of Him (esp. in Centering Prayer) must be held with open hands ... not be used to analyze and contain but to let Him be. Whatever we release to Him in this way will be more than compensated for as He multiplies back to us - even if it is in the form of 'rays of darkness' ...
I shared my ideas with my good friend Ross Kendall and he disagreed and we discussed a bit. When I got home there was a response to the post. Excitedly (asudo) I opened up the mail hoping someone would affirm my erudite contribution but (asithappenz) I got this:

I'm going to pipe up here and offer a counter argument to the one presented here: From earliest times - even in the book of Genesis, God has Adam naming the animals as they are brought before him - we  have had labels of all sorts for our environment. I would like to offer that it is not so much to delimit, or box, or even certainly  'kill', as to recognize that those things are particular to us in some way. When I go out into nature, first I see the beauty before me, the myriad of colors, shapes, textures, patterns, but I also find  myself saying "that's a red oak, that's a swamp white oak, that's a  bobolink, that's a monarch butterfly, there's a tall goldenrod" and  so on. Because I have a special, even intimate, relationship with these things, I have taken the trouble to know their names, perhaps even their preferences, what they say about their habitat and all their other interconnections to other beings in nature. While his point is well taken that we also tend to 'analyze and contain' but that we must also let God (and Nature) be, I would like to assert that the process of becoming intimate with something - whether a plant, animal, person, God, idea or other thing - involves full participation in all our senses and our intellect. Our curiosity drives our interest in finding similarities, distinctions, patterns, and relationships, and this richness contains within it the seeds of letting go of all of that and seeing beyond. 

What's a bobolink thought I? I realise either I'm wrong, misunderstood or ET is wrong and misunderstood .... I looked deeper into this and have given it more thought ...

If by "labeling" we mean an embracing of form without essence (The outward shell rather than the life of the thing) we can see some references in the Bible.

Jesus made the distinction between form and essence in the way we approach the scriptures:
John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.

Through focussing only upon the outward form of words we rob ourselves of the essence. I guess this is what Lectio Divina is all about. Looking beyond the literal towards the deeper essential meaning which brings the words to life? 

Again Paul refers to the outward form of religion:
2 Timothy 3:4ff ... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Here he is comparing religious outward form with the Life of the spirit which does not dismiss the form but gives it life.

Again to the early legalistic Jews whose legalism strengthened their (blind unconscious) sense of self Paul says in Romans 2:2 ... that "they have... in the law the form of knowledge and truth — you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?"

Ideed the idea or existence of form is not a bad thing: Col 2:9 ...For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form ...
Jesus said in the gospel of John "No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.. and He who has seen me has seen the Father"
but (here is the nub) we mustn't hold onto form without embracing the essence.
Paul says: 2 Corinthians 5:16
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

The form of Jesus humanity can only be fully appreciated by looking beyond the form to his deity and as it says in Romans 8 ... The same spirit (essence) that raised Jesus from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies (form).

and again .. 2 Corinthians 4:16 ... For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man (form) perish, yet the inward man (essence) is renewed day by day

This is not to say I hope it makes clear that essence is opposed to form (or names) but that essence gives form its life and power. This I know is going far beyond the original issue of looking at flowers ;o) but I guess we may be permitted to ponder the essence of all created things which will enhance our appreciation and hence our thankfulness without denegrating the tremendous variety and distinctiveness of all things.

What do you think?


No comments:

Post a Comment