Monday, December 7, 2015

Sermon: “Giving Cosmic Intent: Unpacking the Lord’s Prayer and Other Rituals”

Language. It's all about the word. And yet words are there only to describe the emotional state resulting from a thought package.  An idea.  A concept.  In our minds there are no words really.  Our thoughts come and go much too fast to be worded.  In our minds there are only experiences and concepts.  But how often do words fall short of describing the totality of our experience? What you think of when we think of the word ineffable?  Ineffable is a word we use to describe a concept that is indescribable.  It’s a very forgiving word.  It is a word we use to be accepting of our ignorance.  It’s a word of self-forgiveness in a world where we crave control and comprehension.  And categorization.

I propose that we consider something a bit forward-thinking today regarding the ineffable.  But I'd like to ask you a few questions first.  Do you believe in love?  Do you believe that IT exists?  Do you believe it is something you have experienced?   And do you have the ability to describe it?  What do you say to a child when they ask you what Love is?  We usually leave them with more questions than answers.  And sometimes even a few new questions for ourselves as well.  Because you can't describe love, you can only experience it. You can use adjectives to describe the emotional state of being in love, and of loving.  That you cannot describe the thing that makes you feel so strongly is itself a deep frustration sometimes.  Unless you forgive yourself a little bit for not having all the right words and allow for love to be mysterious, and mystical and, yes, indescribable, you spend all your time trying to conquer the description of love and no time experiencing it.  

A lot of us have a hard time also with loaded phrases like the “Holy Spirit.”  Even those who embrace it as term of their faith and have come to an understanding of what they themselves mean when they refer to it have differing opinions about what it means or the impact it makes on both the world and on them.  To me the term Holy Spirit it is one of several terms that ultimately describes "something that deeply binds us all" and is ineffable, something grand beyond description.  What Christianity names "Holy Spirit" is its term for the unnamable force that connects us all; if that’s not too much of an over-simplification of the theology.  The “interdependent web of all existence” referred to in the UU 7th Principle is, I believe, our attempt to describe the same matter-less substance actually that matters quite a lot.  

But in what other ways have we named this Force?  I believe it is Love.  Love itself is, in my opinion, the most common term for Holy Spirit.  Some might argue that love may infuse the Holy Spirit, but that the Holy Spirit is its own force.  Whatever you choose to name it, I believe that Love has substance.  Love has physics we have yet to learn how to describe or measure.  Love is truly ineffable, but also truly real.  And it is arguably the mayonnaise that binds humanity together.  Why not imagine the term Holy Spirit as an ancient metaphor used to describe this same sacred and powerful bond which occurs between people?  When thought of this way it allows for the term Love to have additional meaning and layers regarding its purpose, its identity, and its role within humanity. Many cultures refer to Love in different ways.  But none come close to accurately describing it.  And in this way, Love is very much just like God.  In fact, there is no distinction between the ineffable qualities of the concepts of God or Love.  They might even be words used to attempt describe the very same thing without our realizing it.  How many other concepts do we believe in together while arguing the ways we each choose to describe them?

We can experience Love, but we cannot wholly describe It.  We can only describe Its physical and emotional effects on us; we can’t actually describe It.  We can’t even perceive Love with any of our five senses and yet we nearly unanimously accept Its existence as self-evident.  We know It’s there. We know It impacts our lives every moment of the day and energetically cradles us as we sleep. Even our perceived lack of Love influences each moment of our lives according to how much Love we are capable for feeling for ourselves.  And biblically, that’s the prime directive: Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself.  

Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself.  But what is really being said here?  Is this a prophetic voice making an assumption that since you love yourself so much, just use that as your guide to how much you should love others, and God?  Sometimes we don’t really love ourselves very much.  Is that how much we are supposed to love others?  Does God think we are fully self-adoring? I don’t think so.

I think the phrase Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself is an admonition.  A caution that says: You can love something else only so far as you are willing or able to love yourself.  You will love God and your neighbor as you love yourself.  And no more.  But no less either.

Regarding the holiness of Love, holy refers to wholeness.  Love is fulfilling.  Love completes us. Love allows us to collaborate, cooperate, associate, and relate to one another.  When we feel It, we are able to accomplish things because of It and in Its name we do them.  When two or more gather in the name of Love, the world changes.  

I don’t say these things to convert anyone to anything, but to acknowledge our mutuality.  To show where we are the same.  We are not so different from one another.  We argue over semantics and details to the degree that they become loaded and ineffective to their purpose.  The responsibility of an examined faith is not only to see other ideas, but to also be brave enough to have a second look at the ones we were first given as well.

Our father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom
And the power,
And the glory forever.

In this age of non-compulsory church participation, we have a hard time with being told what to do regarding Spirit.  We don’t like to be ordered to believe something or to recite something.  And often we are taught the rote repetition of an idea or vow or pledge so early in our childhoods that we become indoctrinated into a practice before we have any say in the matter.  And when we become old enough to question it, we first often resent the fact that we were ever made to believe, made to recite, made to make promises we were not yet developed enough to understand.  And so the very first order of business is to ditch it all.  I know, I did it myself.

But there are little secrets hidden in some of these rituals.  There are clues to who we are as humans as well as who were were when they were first composed.  Not only that, but also of what we hoped to achieve by reciting them.

Our father which art in heaven.

Let’s talk about this whole notion of the Father in this context.  We have seen the effects of misogyny, the contempt for women in the world, the glass ceiling.  The brutally hard-won battles for womens’ right to vote, to have a voice.  We have assumed that much of it stems from having a patriarchal system forced upon us by men and their male deities as a way of maintaining their control.  But that’s not likely how it started, even though that is how it was used.  As unlikely an idea as it may seem, let’s separate the politics of the world from this concept for a moment.  Because we aren’t talking about a man or a male when we speak of the Father.  We are talking about the masculine divine. That’s very different from a man.  

What is the masculine divine?  What are the attributes of the masculine divine?  They are Builder, God, King, Priest, Warrior, Lover, Sage.

The feminine divine contains the complementary attributes to these.  Likewise the feminine divine hold attributes that are in balance with the masculine.  Where the masculine is the builder, the feminine is actually the creator.  To construct something is not the same as to create something. Where the masculine implies warrior in the face of conflict, the feminine encourages dialogue.

We each of us possess both.  Our psyches hold elements of each and inner peace is achieved when they are in balance with one another.  But when we wish to make change for ourselves or our world we tend to lean more heavily on one set of attributes than the other in order to create the balance we feel we need.

These descriptions of male and female are metaphorical, not literal.  God is not a man.  Whatever it is that sparked creation into existence as our legends proclaim was far more often than not viewed as a feminine attribute.  However it’s the masculine divine that whipped creation into shape.  It’s the masculine that took the raw materials of creation and built something with them.  And also that dispensed the discipline.  At a certain point in our human evolution we asked God to be our Father, to guide us in constructive and transformative ways that best reflect the feminine divine’s intention for Its creation.  In the Lord’s Prayer we see the evidence of us asking God to be firm, but loving with us.  

We make a few assumptions about the world of God in this prayer.  To say God which art in heaven, we are not saying that Heaven is God’s address.  We are saying that God exists in a heavenly state of being.   As opposed to a synonym or an antonym, the word heaven is a metonym.  Meaning when we take an attribute of something and call that something by its attribute rather than the thing itself.  
Like when we call a businessman a “suit.”  That’s a metonym.  Or when we call horse racing “the track.”  Heaven is not a thing.  It’s an attribute.  It’s an adjective describing a state of being.  And it’s the state of being that we have ascribed to God.  

In this prayer we are acknowledging that God exists in a state of perpetual love. Heaven.  Our father which art in heaven.  

We are choosing which divine aspects we feel we need to invoke in ourselves, according to our own cultural definitions of both masculinity and femininity, and also invoking the state of being in which they reside in order to accomplish a task.  We are asking to get from Point A to Point B.

We are asking the builder who exists in a state of love to become present in our actions.  Now that the feminine has done her job in creating existence, we are asking the “one who builds” to make something remarkable with the raw materials.  This in no way negates the feminine contribution.  This is asking to build on it.

And we see the Christian dharma, the Christian philosophy, throughout the poetry of the prayer.  In particular is forgiveness.  We know that the Judeo-Christian ethic, one of the five sources of Unitarian Universalism, is one of forgiveness as a life practice, not just a suggestion.  Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Give us the strength we need to break cycles of violence in our worlds.  Help us to stand tall and have courage so that we can tear down the walls we have built to separate us and transform them into storehouses and homes and schools and temples and hospitals.  It’s a prayer that uses the metaphor of physical strength and arduous construction to get our heads around the task we have set for ourselves in this world: Peace on Earth.

It says to the divine masculine within us: Help us to remember what is powerful and transformative in ourselves so that we may take the building blocks of the sacred feminine creation and transform the world with them.  The blessing of family and community are of the feminine divine.  If these are used along with integrity and love and forgiveness as the building materials, what might we build with them?

We are asking, through the voice of the masculine divine, for our world to become transformed by love. That all our needs be met. That we be kind to those who would do us harm.  As well as forgive the harm we have caused also.  It is through these intentions that we can break cycles of violence and create pockets of love in the world.  Islands of peace that expand in fits and starts.  Whose borders touch one another gently at first, but over time envelope the globe. Peace on Earth.

We are asking for courage as we engage with the struggle to tear down walls & make something new. The feminine divine created the bricks.  Human masculinity made the Berlin Wall.  And so we ask the masculine divine to help tear it down.  The feminine divine within us reminds us that the materials were hers first and created with better things in mind.  So we ask the masculine divine to build something better.  These are not necessarily truisms in the ultimate reality.  In my view God is not a separated entity.  Those allegories are ours alone.  But we use them to make sense of the ineffable. To break it down and unpack It so that we can get a sense of how the divine works inside us.  

So how do we do this in other rituals?  How might we extract the formula?  How might we reverse-engineer this ritual so as to better understand other ones?  Or craft our own dialogue with the ineffable?  We're trying to get our heads around asking for something that is beyond ourselves.  We use words that are meant to get us out of our heads for a moment and into the space of true creativity. Where the masculine and the feminine are completely informing and balancing and empowering one another toward the creation of a new world.

Oh great paternal essence,
which exists in an eternal state of love beyond our comprehension
Thank you for your existence and presence within us
May we know the same love on this Earth that we imagine to be your everyday world
May we be strong and sustained throughout or struggle
to transform this world from one of division to one of unity.
Because of all things in which we may believe, we believe in Love most.
And in the name of Love we pray.  Amen.

Given at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Fitchburg, Sunday December 6, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chaos as the Meta-Love of God

The Breath of Life blew Itself across the vast expanse of the Great Potential. And the first solar fractals to respond to the Breath were water.  And behold the waters calmed and knew their roles. They, in an instant knew exactly where they belonged and to Whom.  The birth of Self-awareness.  At the beginning of Light they first recognized themselves and in its glow they acted, in concert, without conflict or error, with perfect understanding and seamless collaboration.  Aligning themselves with the Intent of the One Who Breathes.  The Breath too, knew Its role.  And with joyful abandon portrayed it.  This windy Breath, enriched with life-giving attributes, of which the LIFE to whom it so lovingly and completely gave Itself knew nothing—at least consciously—swirled and buoyed the now coalescing waters into their proper places; their proper satisfactions.  The waters, now embedded with this new self-awareness, sparkled also with the sudden knowledge that this would be the beginning of a new moment, a new time, the newest adventure in a Universe teeming with Love.  Life Itself would now form, almost of its own accord, for Love, once manifest, knows exactly what to do.  It needs no guidance, no king, no hierarchy, no rules.  Love participates in the uniform divinity of all things and as such, once coalesced into action, requires nothing further to inform It.  Life begins.  

And it is much loved.

It could be said that Love creates and Fear destroys.  But Love also can be destructive, even if for a Purpose.  And Fear is adroitly creative.  These two aspects of seemingly chaotic reality exist in a state of sacred tension within our world.  Their duality confuses us and makes us sometimes doubt the notion of a loving Creator.  We struggle to find our place in a world that we feel both supports as well as destroys us.   Nothing is secure.   Even an arrangement of molecules is tenuous.  And life is no less so.  We attempt to align words with the ineffable, but always fall short.  Exactly what is it that makes a creation story?  When we first design our mythologies, to what are we intuitively responding and attempting to describe?  

Inside the earliest tales of the creation of our world exist recurring themes of water and air.  Regarding air, what is in Hebrew termed ruach, or breath of God is repeated over and over in many forms.  It separates the waters in Genesis and then returns Itself as “breath of life” to the earth after 150 days of the destructive flood of the Noah tale.  The breath of Marduk, king of the gods in the ancient Mesopotamian myths, is employed to help finally defeat the chaotic water goddess Tiamat, her body parts then used to fashion into the world.1  The Breath, could be viewed as the atmosphere itself and the winds that it contains.  Within this atmosphere is life-giving oxygen, of course, but even more atmospherically prevalent is nitrogen.2  Nitrogen is one of the most crucial building blocks of our world as we know it, and the most abundant uncombined element in the atmosphere.  From ancient times, nitrogen, before it was ever understood, had divine attributes.  The word for nitrogen has roots in the ancient Egyptian word ntr (also spelled netjeri, netjry, ntrj, or ntry) which originally meant "divine" or "pure."3  But also, as we will eventually explore, nitrogen has additional symbolic and numerological layers to be revealed.  

Evil Spirits Named Bacteria  (Or is it the other way around?)
“Smudging” is an ancient indigenous ritual practiced for untold centuries that involves the burning of sacred herbs and grasses bound together in a thick stalk for the purpose of spiritual cleansing.  The smoke emanating from the glowing embers of the bundle is blown onto a person or throughout a space to clear them of negative energies.  It is an intuitive practice that spans the globe and has no known point of origin.  And while our modern culture may scoff at such esoterics, there is new science to suggest that ancient cultures intuitively knew its earthly benefits, at least in metaphoric terms, though they were not aware of the science behind it.  Or perhaps they knew exactly what they were doing, and the languages of myth happened to be the way the culture chose to describe them.  We should be humbled from thinking that our forebears knew less than we do simply because they are from the past.  Progress is not always a forward continuum.   

A study conducted in 2007 titled, “Medicinal Smoke Reduces Airborne Bacteria,” published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology proved that smudging is an extremely potent form of air purification that removes over 94% of harmful bacteria in the air.4  One could easily imagine how an intuitive experience of the invisible, but highly destructive "germs" could be described as "evil spirits."  And while evil spirits, if they exist, may be repelled by the act of smudging, so are bacteria, we now know.  Or maybe the early shamans intuitively (perhaps even divinely) conceptualized on their own the existence of germs and bacteria, and “evil spirits” is simply how their name for this category of unseen malevolent entity has been handed down to us.  

How did our ancient forbears know this about smudging?  On some level one could reason that they intuited a broader understanding of the benefits of the ritual than they could adequately cognize or describe.  What else might we have described in mythological terms that defied our early understandings, but in hindsight reveal a deeper conceptual awareness of reality than we had previously imagined about ourselves?

Our human mythology has a tendency to fill in the gaps of its understanding with colorful forms and descriptions and characters, which when assembled together as facets of one larger imagining, begin to offer glimpses of what it was that our forebears were really attempting to describe.  There may be more truth to myth than our culture would readily embrace.

The Chaos of Form and Order
Our bodies, like our world, each exist in a state of what might be termed organized chaos.  The delicate balance between oblivion and solidity is achieved by the constant application of forces which are themselves delicately balanced.  The circumstances required for life to begin at all, much less to the level of complexity that we see, explicitly declares that we are a mathematical impossibility, and yet we clearly exist.5  We can infer any number of ideas from this, but one thing is clear: Our highly improbable reality was allowed to manifest and is held in place by something beyond our understanding.  Some force both ongoing and powerful.  One could call that force God, if that is their faith.  Or perhaps they are more comfortable thinking of it in practical, scientific terms like “dark matter.”  Terminology that still manages to retain a degree of mysticism without risking the end user’s skeptical dignity.   And then there is religious but non-specific terminology like “the interdependent web of all things” as the seventh principle of Unitarian Universalism phrases one way of thinking of It.  And we shall spend some time on the divine number seven later.

Regardless of its nomenclature, we are held in awe by the sheer improbability of our existence.  And this fact alone can inspire both humility as well as heresy among us; yet another tension, another chaos.  And when viewed from an objective distance, chaos might appear to have an order of its own.  Perhaps we are attempting to view chaos only in narrow, Newtonian terms rather than from the quantum perspective, where the rules all change from linear to conceptual.  The concept of chaos might be more structured than we imagine.  Perhaps it is Intent that fuels the ordering of the Universe, not rules or forms.  That alone implies a structure that is evident, even if not understood.  And after all, neither water nor air can actually be seen by the human eye.  They can only be inferred by observing the way they affect other things.  Water is not technically visible, only the way it refracts light and color, or moves objects and particulate around.  Likewise air is invisible except for the way we see the evidence of its existence in blowing leaves or the devastation it can wreak.  We may not be able to see God, but we can see what It has wrought in the world and from those observations we may infer either Love or something else.  Only faith can decide which.

The Breath that Controls the Waters
Most of our human creation stories involve water.  This should not be surprising to anyone considering the vast quantities of water we see in the world; even in the composition of our bodies.  Water can exist in three different states, but largely only one of those states—liquid—can create and sustain life.  And yet the liquid state is achieved only with the existence of  pressure, containment.  If pressure is not present, water can exist as a gas only, its most chaotic state.6  In the instance of water here on earth, the oceans, lakes, rivers, even tap water, exist in liquid form only because of the extreme pressure created by our atmosphere.  Our atmosphere, the imaginary dome of which might have been described as the raqia, the Hebrew word used in Genesis for firmament, is held in place by our planet’s gravity and magnetic field working together in their own delicate and improbable balance.  This system is in turn affected and informed by yet another “breath,” the Solar Wind.  These are crucial relationships.  Existence exists because of Relationship.  A balance is struck by a covenant between two entities.  This covenant determines not only the basis for the initial formation of the relationship but informs the parameters for sustaining it as well.  Water exists as a liquid on this planet and gives forth life because of the sacred winds of the atmosphere and radiant energy of the Sun working in tandem.  This too, is a delicate balance that threatens at every minute to implode without the carefully ordered restraint it exhibits.  It is as potentially dangerous and destructive as it it life giving.  Chaos is ordered for a purpose.  

The “God” Number: Seven
As humankind became literate approximately 3,000-3,500 years ago,7 it began to write down the stories of its previously oral traditions.  In doing so, it preserved for posterity a glimpse of the sacred understandings of our earliest cultures.  Embedded within the stories are intuitive understandings of the mechanics behind the balanced tension that must exist for life to flourish.  There are myriad allegorical descriptions of things which science can often now add its two cents to the conversation.  Layers of sacred ideas begin to emanate from amid the numbers and symbols encoded within these myths.  Sociologically, there is much to be inferred from the continued existence of these tales and the enduring facets of their storytelling.  

What appears to be simply the retelling of a lesser fact of a story—a specific number of these, or a recurring theme of that, even the purposeful use and meaning of names—shows itself as a rhetorical tool offering added layers of complexity and meaning once the themes begin to be seen to reappear over and over in other ways and in other tales according to the cultural references they come to represent.  The number seven, for instance, is a significant theme in the Genesis Creation tale.  But not only there.

The number seven has been throughout many cultures associated with the Divine.  Although there are several obvious ones (seven heavens, days of the week, deadly sins, seas, continents, colors of the rainbow, etc.), and myriad appearances in Genesis only some of which we will explore, there are also many lesser known sevens that appear in the pre-Genesis ancient world.  These are a fraction of earlier divine references expressed with the number seven:
  • In the Babylonian story of Atrahasis the earth-destroying flood occurred for seven days8
  • Seven males and seven females were created in the Babylonian creation tale9
  • Persians had the seven horses of Mithra
  • Seven was considered a God number in ancient Egypt. The glyph for gold, which Egyptians believed to be divine and indestructible, as well as associated with the sun god, Ra, had seven spines on its underside.10
  • Egyptians had seven original and higher gods

With the number seven already fixed in the symbolic culture of the era, by 850 BCE when the first documents of what would eventually become the book of Genesis began to emerge, the number seven was a regular character in the sacred stories of the time.  Was this a literary tool, used by choice by the authors of these tales to embed additional layers of meaning and texture?  Or were they circumstances authored by God in order to shed a divine light through the stories; a time capsule to be discovered over the ages by generations of readers?  Perhaps the answer to both of these questions is yes.  We cannot know.  But we can potentially extract meaning from when and where they continue to appear.  If God is speaking to us still, is it in the form of messages left aeons ago that are still waiting to be unearthed?  

Sevens in Genesis: Emphasizing the Hand of God
Now that we have looked at some of the number sevens that appear pre-Genesis, let’s look at the ones in Genesis itself and how they might have influenced the way the first audiences received these tales.  Even the very first line of Bereshit (Genesis 1:1) contains seven words in Hebrew11 (בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:) It is as if God is saying I Am Here from the very first line.  
Even in the unpacking of the “Breath of Life” Itself, if one chooses to understand it as the workings of the atmosphere, is heavily marked with the number seven.  While there are numerous compounds and elements in the atmosphere, as we have said before, Nitrogen is by far the most plentiful.  

  • Nitrogen gas (N2) is the largest constituent of Earth's atmosphere and constitutes an average volume/weight ratio of approximately 77%.12
  • The element of Nitrogen (7N) is number seven in the Periodic Table of Elements owing to its seven protons.  
  • Nitrogen is estimated to be approximately the seventh most abundant chemical element by mass in the universe, the Milky Way, and the Solar System.
  • And as we mentioned earlier, the word for Nitrogen has its roots in the ancient Egyptian word ntr which originally meant "divine" or "pure."

The number seven also occurs in numerous places throughout what could arguably be seen as God’s re-Creation of the world, the Noah story.
  • The number of the day on which the flood begins is numerologically described as a seven.  600th year of Noah’s life + 2nd month + 17th day = 619; 6+1+9= 16; 1+6=7. (Gen 7:11) The “great deep” opens as well as the “heavens” recombining the waters that were separated by the Breath on the second day of creation.13
  • Noah’s flood ends on a seven.  God’s announcement to Noah that the flood would commence in 7 days [day 1], flood begins [day 8], 150 days of flood [ends on day 158], mountain tops visible 2 months, 14 days later [day 232], waters began to dry on the earth exactly 3 months after first mountain tops are visible [day 302], earth was dry and God spoke to Noah 56 days later [day 358, 3+5+8=16; 1+6=7].14  
  • The waters began to dry from the earth on the first day of Noah’s 7th century (601st year) (Gen 8:13), 3 months to the day from when the tops of the mountains became visible.15
  • The drying period is a seven.  From the end of the flood to the day when the tops of the mountains became visible was 2 months, 14 days (figured as the difference between 7th month, 17th day and 10th month, 1st day. Each month has approx 30 days [29.5 average] according to the Jewish calendar).  2 + 14 = 16; 1 + 6 = 7(16)

In these examples (and the myriad others too numerous to mention here), it appears that the numbers are visible in areas where Divinity might wish to be seen as having a hand in the proceedings.  Perhaps this meta-coincidental series is indicative of God’s full participation in the entire creative destruction process, as oxymoronic (and inherently chaotic) as that word pairing may seem.  In this it is an indication that love exists even amid the terror of destruction and loss.  It gives us a glimpse of the notion that God is not absent from Chaos, but ordering it perfectly, even lovingly, according to Its own understanding of what’s best for humanity.  Chaos might even be God Itself in that Chaos, like God, is beyond both our human comprehensions and lexicons.  Interestingly, so is Love.

Does God Regret Its Creation or Not?
The Biblical J source explicitly states God’s regret twice (Gen 6:6 and 6:7), but P source does not necessarily illustrate God’s displeasure as much as God’s decision to perhaps recalibrate the goodness of the earth by “destroying” it with water.  Perhaps God is choosing to undo a bit of creation in the hopes of making it better.  (Similar to the Mesopotamian water god Enki’s reasoning for causing the flood in the Atrahasis myth.17) Noah and his family are the sole representatives of the new humanity, making it possible to infer that God is not displeased with Its creation of Humanity at large as much as recognizing it needs a bit of tweaking to live up to God’s intentions for it.18  Free will is not contravened so much as it is given new parameters to develop in a healthier way.  Humanity is re-created.19

Perhaps chaos is an invitation to faith.  An order so complex and multidimensional yet imbued so fully with love that it short-circuits our comprehension.  We are compelled by our own need to order the chaos—an aspect of being made in the image of God, perhaps?—that we use metaphor and poetry to describe the quantum actions of God in linear, Newtonesque terms that fall short of satisfying us.  It is unfortunate that our western culture has equated the word myth with the word lie.  For a myth is merely a story, not necessarily an outright falsehood.  Myths often contain clues to reality, opportunities for new hermeneutics, new frames of reference.

From Chaos all Life emerges, all lessons are brought to bear, all mutation is borne. Chaos is our infantile descriptive for what we choose to describe as the unsettled, undecided, un-worded, raw potential from which all reality springs forth.  If Chaos were to be viewed as a substance rather than a state of being, through the examinations of the additional layers of meaning we have just described, we might faithfully conclude it would be a substance with both intelligence and intent.  Perhaps one that we could not understand but that loves us nonetheless and is continuously conspiring on our behalf through the mysterious workings of the Universe.

We are the ongoing product of that love and mystery.  Even our tragedies and terrors, so often used as proof of God’s displeasure in us, might in fact be articulated as evidence for the meta-love of God for Humanity.  If we were to choose to see struggle and chaos as merely the birthplace (and birth pangs) of the long ascendancy process toward a better love among humankind and possibly even the manifestation of the Kingdom of God (a.k.a. Peace on) Earth, might we fare better in the face of these types of events?  Might we be better off to practice the Christian principle of nonresistance a bit more mindfully and know, through a faith learned by careful examination of the layers of our own stories, that all is truly well?  For my part, Love is God, not the other way around.  And as I said earlier in my own version of the Creation myth:

Love knows exactly what to do.  It needs no guidance, no king, no hierarchy, no rules.  Love participates in the uniform divinity of all things and as such, once coalesced into action, requires nothing further to inform It.  Life begins.  

And it is much loved.

Bibliography of Sources

1. Collins, John, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014, p 35
2.  Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent, Elements of chemistry, in a new systematic order: containing all the modern discoveries. Courier Dover Publications, 1965 p. 15.
3. Curwin, David, article: “Niter & Nitrogen,”, July 1, 2008  (accessed Oct 2015)
4. (accessed Oct 2015) referring to a 2007 study by Chandra Shekhar Nautiyal, Puneet Singh Chauhan, Yeshwant Laxman Nene, “Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Dec 3;114(3):446-51. Epub 2007 Aug 28. PMID: 17913417
5. Deamer, David, article: “Calculating The Odds That Life Could Begin By Chance,” April 30, 2009, (accessed Oct 2015)
6. online article, “Why Does Water Boil int he Vacuum of Space,” unatributed, May 2011, (accessed Oct 2015)
7.  Mobley, Gregory, The Return of the Chaos Monsters, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012, p 2 (3,500 years); Mobley, Gregory, The River, Newton: Institution Hill, 2012, p 2 (3,000 years)
8. Collins p 33
9. Collins, p 33
10.  (accessed Oct 2015)
11.  (accessed Oct 2015)
12. Emsley, John, Nature’s Building Blocks, Oxford: Oxford Univ Press, 2011,  p. 360.  Average achieved through the fact that Nitrogen in the atmosphere is 78.082% by volume of dry air, 75.3% by weight in dry air.
13.  Collins, p 54
14. Collins, pp 54-56    Note: This is a combination of elements from both J and P Biblical sources.  The J source alone does not specifically mark the length of the entire flood experience from announcement to dry land, nor does P.  J focuses on the days of the beginning of the flood, while P focuses on the end of it. According to J, from the announcement [day 1], to the beginning of the flood [day 8], to the end of the flood  and the sending out of the dove which came back having found no land [day 48], to the day seven days later when he again sent out the dove which returned this time with an olive branch that evening [day 55] and then waited another seven days [day 62] to send forth the dove again which did not return.  J’s numerology is mostly of of 8’s, the number of the eternal, infinity.  (40 days and 40 nights = 8; 62 total days of flood experience, 6+2=8), although J does state that seven pairs of each clean animal and only one pair of unclean animal are invited aboard the ark.  P only states two of each, be they clean or unclean.  P’s flood experience is described as being 351 days, totaling a 9. P does not mention the announcement as being seven days before the flood (Collins, p 54)  However, when combined (using the P flood length of 150 days in place of J’s 40 days/nights), the number seven emerges again.  Is this relevant to the observation of the editing process which might have found value in the new combination of numbers to total 7?  P does name the creation of the world in 7 days, however. (Mobley, The River, p 28)
15.  Collins, p 56
16.  Collins, p 56
17.  Collins, p 34
18.  Interestingly, the Bubonic Plague of the 14th century had a somewhat similar devastating effect, killing nearly half of Europe.  But following the plague, the occurrence of life expectancy over 70 years of age doubled, and the quality of life increased exponentially.  It is postulated that the Bubonic Plague, caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, created a new level of immunity in the human species for those who survived it & their descendants.  So, was the Plague good, or bad?  (Pappas, Stephanie. article: “Black Death Survivors and Their Descendants Went On to Live Longer,” Scientific American, May 8, 2014)
19.  Collins, p 53 Note: This is partially contrary to Mobley’s comment on p 37 in The River that “The flood is a punishment for human wrongdoing.”

NOTE: This academic paper was written as a mid-term for Gregory Mobley's Scripture I class at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA, Fall 2015