We are heading to the Heartland Spirituality Center in Great Bend, Kansas for a three day Square Root of God retreat beginning today. The Dominican house is the location of the annual spiritual retreat of the Kansas region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). My co-leader and storyteller Heather Harlan and I are the retreat leaders.
One, Circle, Pi, Shape, Infinity …
We had a wonderful time with the delightful Elders of New Covenant Christian Church, Oklahoma City. You can tell immediately upon meeting them that they are true servants and love one another.
But now, with OK in our rear-view mirror, we turn our minds and hearts to Kansas. Out in the middle of that expansive flatness is a turn in the road, a little berg called Great Bend. The Arkansas river makes a turn there and so did the Santa Fe Trail and later the railroad. Today there is a Dominican retreat center called the Heartland Center for Spirituality. That is where members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kansas will gather for their annual spiritual life retreat, March 13-15. The Square Root of God will be the format and we will join it to many other spiritual practices, discussions, worship and music.
Off we go!
My new favorite recording comes from violinist extraordinaire, Daniel Hope, and his new CD, Spheres. The compilation includes styles classic to modern and he is joined by the best of the best musicians. Most of the pieces are scored for a combination of strings, piano, voices, harp or timpani.
The most compelling aspect of his project for me is the concept that led to it in the first place. His love of music joined his love of astronomy in an exploration of their relationship. In so doing he selected music that reflected that harmony of the spheres.
Hope cited the mathematician Pythagoras and his observation that there is a mathematical relationship to musical pitch. Is there sound affiliated with the rotation of planets? He mentions several composers who were fascinated with exactly these questions, people like Haydn and Josef Strauss. Scholars continue to study numerological patterns within the fugues of J.S. Bach. And on the mystical side we are reminded that Philip Glass has been mystified by the question as to whether music would sound higher or lower if perched on the edge of a black hole.
Whether or not you believe there is a relationship between the hidden patterns of the cosmos and music I know this new offering to the musical cosmos will melt you as it did me.
Heading off to Oklahoma City this weekend to lead an Elder’s retreat with the fine folks of New Covenant Christian Church. How will the spirituality of numbers inspire, unify and equip them to be about their life together?
Let the adventure begin!
Just ask Andres Amador about the shape of the earth. He will tell, show you in his earthscapes that the earth is much more, that it is a web of geometric patterns. If you wander onto the beach near San Francisco where he artistically expresses this truth you will find pattern upon pattern etched into the impermanent sand with his rake, enormous patterns that need to be viewed from the cliffs or the air to be appreciated.
What is this and where does it come from? Does his mind and imagination tap the own patterns of his own nervous system and brain, a selfie of his neural pathways and connections? Does he see beneath the surface to the level of spinning electrons?
Does he glimpse the deep patterns that form everything else? In his mind’s eye does he see the ever self-replicating world of fractals? Has mathematics so infused his art, even intuitively, that he is unknowingly creating a visual of set theory, with multiplying subsets ad infinitum?
Like Escher does he play at the boundary between the finite and infinity leaving the observer quite uncertain as to when one starts and the other leaves off?
To explore more about Andres Amador you might prowl around his web site.
You won’t want to miss the incisive article by Patricia Farmer on Mozart and Whitehead and their common themes of order and beauty here: http://www.jesusjazzbuddhism.org/beauty-can-save-us-mozart-and-whitehead.html
One of the legacies the Enlightenment rupture of mind from body has been a dualistic view of the person; people have heads for thinking and directing the body that reflects that brain/director. We have endured this separation for the past 300 years or so. It is time to restore the unity of the person, the oneness of the person that includes the entire energy field of body/mind.
The restoration of this oneness will impact everything from healing to our understanding of the unconscious. We are one and that oneness extends into infinite variety of which it is a part.
The Nobel Prize Committee has just awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs. These two researchers have discovered and isolated the Higgs particle, part of the explanation of how energy manifests in mass, how other particles slow and clump, how energy transforms into matter.
For Christian theology the Higgs particle becomes analogous to the way the pure energy of God manifests in time and space, including the way in which Christ is a manifestation of the Sacred. From The Square Root of God (45-46):
“In the Christian tradition we speak in terms of the creative wisdom and purpose of God that manifests in the created order. Christians embrace the mystery of the transcendent mind of God, the Word, manifesting in matter, in the flesh, in the personhood of Jesus. The Word becomes flesh. Energy becomes matter.
In the same way that the Higgs particle provides an explanation for how energy and matter relate without disclosing how or why it exists in the first place, so the key of Christ doesn’t disclose everything behind the door…
We cannot get to the bottom of Pi anymore than we can know why the Higgs particle is there in the first place. Neither can we fully plumb the mystery of Christ. But we do have enough to unlock the mystery of the circle, as least as much as any mortal can. The mystery of Christ leads to the hidden God of Christ. The greater our circle of knowledge, the greater the surface of what we don’t know.”
When the early church fathers, especially in the Cappodocian tradition, attempted to defend the integrity of the Trinity, they did so in several ways. To maintain their insistence on three forms indivisible and of one essence they relied on paradox and mystery both.
Basil the Great (38th Epistle): “Do not be amazed if we say that one and the same thing is united and separated, and if we conceive … union separation and separated union.”
Gregory of Nyssa (Great Catechism): “One cannot clarify with words this ineffable depth of mystery: how one and the same thing is both countable and evades counting, is seen as separate and consists in unity.”
It is instructive to observe how these early fathers and mystics both defended and interpreted a doctrine that was wrought in the depths of Greek philosophy and untangled for centuries to come. They did so by insisting on the mystical impenetrability of the concept. It is discernible or explainable only in mystical categories (we assume because God is also).
The answer, in my mind, was identified by Paul Tillich: the Trinity is a concept that acts as a symbol. The concept and its mathematics were hammered on the anvil of 4th century Greek philosophy (with presuppositions we may no longer accept). But the piety of the teachers of the church took the rational concept and viewed it symbolically, irrationally, to speak of something that is unspeakable. The fathers spent the currency of their piety on the later, approaching the concept as high symbol to take them toward the mystery of God.
Rather than untangling the earlier knot they used it to climb the rope. Rationality may have been dealt a death blow, but the death took them, mind and spirit, toward the God they would trust rather than understand.
The Kansas Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hosts an annual spiritual life retreat and they have asked me to bring The Square Root of God to them next March 13-15. Off to see the Wizard!