I thought this was a funny cartoon in the original. I thought it even funnier when I *modified* the spelling of one word. Reminds me of certain theological types – angels dancing on the head of a nail and all… 🙂 (Yes, I might sometimes resemble said theologians…)
Current Canon for a Contemporary World
“For life to be lived to the full it has to be adventurous. I believe that God calls us to adventure.”
So begins David Adam’s book A Desert in the Ocean – God’s Call to Adventurous Living. * It heads my list of new canon, because virtually every sentence impacts me, makes me want to run out my front door – to act and to be.
Adam posits that adventure does not take us out of the world, but more deeply into it, and not just into the physical world, but into the spiritual as well. For the Celtic view is that there are not two separate worlds – the mystic & the mundane – instead, heaven and earth are inextricably interwoven, so that exploring one leads us naturally into the other.
Adam states “A slight shift in where we stand and the world beyond reveals itself to us.” I’ve found that to be true. I have seen ‘the other side’ – usually only glimpses, but sometimes a clear, if fleeting, view. I can’t describe it, of course, not directly, because human language is inadequate. It’s not about the input of eyes, ears, nose or hands. It’s about what the heart sees. What the soul sees. What that part of us that extrudes beyond the mere physical experiences and explores.
I find myself speaking in metaphor or in parable, trying to describe what I’ve seen. Jesus did the same. Now I understand that he wasn’t trying to be abstruse. He was doing his best to communicate as clearly as he could. Where direct description finds itself mute, poetry and other lyrical language may successfully speak.
Adam’s book is a call to action. It even includes exercises at the end of each chapter to help us to open ourselves to God’s call to life adventurous. It exhorts, it inspires, it pushes us in the direction of the divine. The loopy script of Spirit clearly flows from Adam’s pen. Just like all Scripture, it is inspired and inspiring, current canon for a contemporary world.
* Its American tagline reads: The Spiritual Journey according to Brendan the Navigator. I got my copy at Iona Island in Scotland.
Holy Wanderer – the canon of the Journey
“I’ve been on many journeys.” – Paul of Tarsus, writing to the church at Corinth in autumn 55 CE.
I don’t know how many times I’ve begun my altar time with deep prayer and/or a card reading, then opened my daily reading book (currently Celtic Daily Prayer) to find that the scripture reading affirms and further enlightens the initial whisper of Spirit. It happened again today.
First, I meditated on two cards drawn from Wisdom of the Crone: Magick and Journey. They instructed me that my ‘glimpses’ are true visions of the Divine, and that my life path will include exciting journeys. They further noted me that ‘home’ is within me as I travel grounded in Spirit.
Then I turned to Celtic Daily Prayer and discovered that today’s readings centered around journey: specifically, the physical journeys that lead us to spiritual awakening.
I’ve always considered myself Peregrini – a spiritual wanderer. My life choices haven’t given me opportunity to indulge in much physical wandering, but Spirit assures me this is coming, and soon. So it’s no surprise that as I gathered books from my shelf inspire me, many revolve around travel. They include:
The Sacred Journey, The Art of Pilgrimage, A Desert in the Ocean, The Book of Creation, The Cloister Walk.
I’ll talk about each of these books in subsequent posts, making the case for their inclusion in canon. Then I’ll give you my fiction list. (Fiction? Divinely inspired story telling? Yep. Just like many of the stories in the Bible and other holy writ.)
If you’re feeling the tug of Spirit, read these books. Walk the path of the Peregrini with me.
Sacred Scripture – Inspired Word or Blasphemy?
What makes a written work ‘sacred’, and why are certain works elevated above others?
Please bear with my scholarly tone for the next few paragraphs. Eventually, I’ll make a case for ongoing revelation as opposed to set scripture (see – there’s a payoff coming!) But first, I need to set the ‘sacred’ scene. Here we go!
Most religious traditions have a fixed and unalterable set of written work that is ‘official’ or canon (i.e., sacred.) All subsequent writing is considered supplementary and of lesser authority.
The reason for canon is to unite followers around a common understanding or set of rules, thus reducing the chance of misinterpreting or altering the understanding of their Divine’s communication. It also enables the community to pass on their beliefs to subsequent generations.
For example, the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads are Hindu canon. Called Shruti, meaning ‘heard’, they are understood to be received directly from the Divine. Everything after is called Smriti,’remembered’- contemplations upon Shruti.
Theravada, or Way of the Elders, is Buddhist canon, and Mahayana, or Greater Vehicle, is the inspirational supplement.
Judaism’s canon, the Tanach, is supplemented by the Talmud and the Midraash. Christians accept the Tanach (the Old Testament) as canon, and also include the New Testament. Catholic Christians add writings (Apocrypha) that are considered merely inspirational by Jews and Protestant Christians. These gathered writings are known as The Bible.
Canon, then, is an expression of the conviction that Divinity speaks to a given group only for a discrete time. During this period, revelation is received, and then held as God’s final word. The problem is, this assumes a group’s behaviors and understandings – their culture – does not change through generations.
And this assumption runs contrary to history. Cultural norms DO change, and dramatically. For example, Judeo-Christian ideas about equality, about slavery, about consequences for trangression – even about what constitutes transgression – are markedly different than they were 4000, 2000, 1000 or even 100 years ago. How can a religion remain relevant in the face of canonical rigidity?
Christians today are caught in this dilemma. In light of canon that teaches that men should not shave and women should not speak, that slavery is acceptable and despots are God’s judgement on the faithful, Christians today tend toward one of two perspectives:
1) Evangelicals, who accept canon as the unalterable Word of God, but focus heavily on certain passages and ignore others. This pick-and-choose fundamentalism requires mighty mental machinations to navigate.
2) Mainliners, who consider canon as a reflection of the time in which it is written, but continue to incorporate outmoded interpretations into their worship. (I.e., virgin birth, original sin, human sacrifice.)
Both approaches are problematic – in the exact same way. Because new revelation is not allowed, Christians are forced to shoehorn antiquated perceptions of the Divine into their modern understanding.
It is error to relegate God’s voice to the ancient past. Divine revelation in one moment becomes blasphemy in the next if people hold rigidly to it rather than embracing ever-unfolding epiphanies. Today’s movement of Spirit is not supplementary, it is primary. It is as canonical as were the transcendent whispers in the ears of our ancient mothers and fathers.
In my next post, I’ll talk about candidates for a current canon. Post your ideas here, too!