Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sunset, Sunrise

Heron Hope sunset; November 2009

"Our destiny, our being's heart and home,
Is with infinitude, and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be."

- William Wordsworth, The Prelude

"Indeed, from within the murkiness of human knowledge and experience, we rightly wonder, is there any room for theology as such - or has it gone the way of all heavenly things? Perhaps all that remains is some mode of natural piety, such as the shudder before the mortal mysteries (with Goethe), or the felt ecstasies of springtime (with Wordsworth). Surely this is a lot, and unsettles the mind from its human habitudes. But is there more?

[...] Like all matters human, theology must be grounded in earthly experience and understood from within its forms. The phenomenal world is all that we have. This is the sphere that lies before us in our everyday existence; it conditions the products of aesthetic perception; and it provides the sphere for theological experience and reflection.

[...] As natural beings we are, in the most elemental sense, coextensive with this realm: our bodies are composed of it, our stomachs take in and digest its matter, and we traffic with this world all our days until we die and are decomposed into its elements. [...] To more properly sense [the] unfolding of the Godhead into world-being, so to speak, or to perceive or intuit its penetrations therein, we must first return to our ordinary experiences."

- Michael Fishbane, Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology

Sunrise at Heron Hope; November 2009

Happy Hanukkah, folks.

Photo credits: Hungry Hyaena, 2009


andrea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
andrea said...

I recently discovered Naturalistic Pantheism. From the outside it looks like an organized way of looking at religion/sprituality that aligns with my own beliefs. Whoda thunk it?

Hungry Hyaena said...


I'm a great admirer of Spinoza, and I proudly identified myself as a naturalistic pantheist for two years or so, but eventually redubbed myself a naturalistic panentheist and, quite recently, a naturalistic panenatheist. That is to say, if I'm rigorous about my word choice, I have to add the "a" because I do not believe in (or worship) a specifically theistic god or gods, the sort that issue divine commands and create man from clay. Those stories are exciting and culturally vital metaphors (I treat them seriously, and study them), but the anthropomorphic god acting in those tales is not, as I see it, the universal G-d that genuine theologians and mystics celebrate. Neither is it the G-d that I celebrate and root myself in. And neither is it the universal wonderment that enthused scientists celebrate and root themselves in.

A good number of our best contemporary theologians start with naturalism for the reason Fishbane offers (in the quotation above). There is a growing acceptance across the religious spectrum of a cosmology in which G-d is every-where and no-where, the Everything and the No-thing, infinite, ineffable, and yet immanent.

As I used to say during my combat-boot wearing, loud-mouthed atheist days, "I'm G-d. You're G-d. This table is G-d, and this carpet is G-d." Funny that I celebrated a universal G-dhead at the time, yet condemned all variety of religious practice or faith. I couldn't fathom other ways of appreciating the same mystery, I suppose. ;)

Donald Frazell said...

i think ritual is important for humans. We have ways to connect to the past, to each other, inot an unknown fututre. I have incorporated multiple religious symbols in my central pane of my Judgment tripty, will get it photographed and online soon, almost done, 7'x17' total. Do they cancel out or conflict? Not for me to say I guess, that is up to each person, but have the star of david, cross of yeshua, a double crescent of islam, yin yang of Tao/Confucious, and lotus petals in the nimbus around the central figures head, for buddhist/hinduism.

All religious stress one thing. Internal peace. Balance. Self knowledge. This must be the basis of spirituality, and perhaps most importantly, and sense of accountability. That we must answer for our lives, and we will be judged. Afterlife? I have no idea, and find it irrelevant. Gratitude, humility, selflessness must be stressed, for we all fail at it, and must try as hard as we can.

This is what keeps us sane, and beneficial, of the good. In balance, with the carnal and self centeredness that we cannot rid ourselves of, and shouldnt, but should work all together as one. Accept ourselves as we are, but look to strengthen each, in balance. Mind, body and soul. And just perhaps then, through Trial and avoiding Doom, we can find Acceptance. And we are being tried as we speak, will we find blance in time? It is up to each to contemplate, and act upon, or Doom awaits. Us all.

art collegia delenda est

andrea said...

Fascinating stuff -- thanks for the links, Christopher. I have trouble with the theistic part, too, and think maybe the need to anthropomorphize is something we've evolved enough to leave behind soon..? (Like Donald above, I have my own tiny collection of favourite religious symbols.)

Donald Frazell said...

Woulda put in Ahura Mazda too, but couldnt hide it, as all are non obtrusive. Zoroastrianism was a huge religion before Islam extinguished it, but a few in Mumbai practice its remnants now. Influenced Christianity and judaism greatly, but unknown to the general populace. After all, Judaism would not exist without Cyrus freeing the tribes with Daniel from the Babylonian captivity. These jews took many ideas with them back to Israel, where other jews still dwelt in a dark age.

Hungry Hyaena said...


I agree; ritual is important, like it or not. It doesn't necessarily need to be traditional ritual, but I feel that relating to what preceded you offers a point of reference.

And, indeed, Zoroastrianism was hugely influential. It's influence on Judaism, particularly with respect to eschatological expectations, paved the way for messianism and, in turn, for Christianity.

One note I'd make on your history (and it's a nit-picky one). Prior to the collapse of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. (or A.D., depending on your preference), Judaism didn't exist. That is to say, the Israelite religion only became Judaism, the rabbinic orthopraxy that continues to inform contemporary Jewish practice, in diaspora, after centralized worship and priestly classes were rendered irrelevant.

Your general point, though, is right on. In fact, the Zoroastrianism of the Persians and the Islam of the Arab countries that for so long hosted Jews (either in exile or diaspora) provided a rich well from which Jewish thinkers drew. Today, Judaism and Islam remain more closely related than Christianity is to either. Sad, then, that so much bad blood is fomented.

Donald Frazell said...

Yeah, got a buncha muslims in my house now, and the key difference is one god. They both see Christianity as corrupted by the followers of Yeshua. Muslims believe he was virgin born and the greatest of prophets, before muhammed, but blasphemous to be called the son of god, for that would make three gods. And that is impossible, there is only one, and that Yeshua rose to heaven from the Temple Mount, that he was not crucified.

Of course muslims are just as funny as christians, unintentionally. Had a mini argument with my sister in law Maryam over a glass of wine and pizza,no swine, how contradictory is that? Though many muslims do drink even in muslim mcountries, if not Islamist. I dont consider a muslim who doesnt follow the five Pillars of Islam to be a muslim, no more than I consider those to be Christian who do not do the three things Christ told his followers to do. Be baptized, recite the Lords Prayer, and take of the Eucharist, the body and blood of the lamb of god. Born againers dont do the second often, and just about never the third.

There must be definitions to all words or they dont exist. If the founder of a religion says to do certain things, how can you not and still consider yourself a follower? I can respect the Roman Catholic Pope, the late one anyway, even if I dont agree, because they must set limits of some sort to belong, or it means nothing. It doesnt mean one must persecute those who dont, though unfortunately often becomes such. Usually over political motives.

Got a question though. How has Judaism survived if no rabbi's, teachers? Dont all synagogues have holy Torahs that they build themselves around, and read, and interpret whether they believe they are or not, by that teacher? Still sounds like Pharisees and Sadducees to me.

art collegia e dogma delenda est

Hungry Hyaena said...


I'm not sure that I understand your question correctly, but, if I do, here's my answer.

Rabbis didn't exist until after the priests of the Temple periods (Israelite religion phase) were irrelevant. Once proto-Judaism entered the prolonged diaspora phase, the position of rabbi (or teacher) evolved. Contemporary Judaism, then, is not without rabbis but without priests. That said, some countries have "Chief Rabbis" or the like, which are official positions that might be likened to Papal authority, though without the same sweeping, centralized power of a Pope.

Synagogues do house holy Torahs in the central ark, as you write, and the holy texts are certainly poured over (and sometimes turned over) by midrashically inclined rabbis and devoted Jews. Moreover, in every Jewish denomination, whether Orthodox or liberal (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, or even Humanist) some rabbis are Pharisee-like gatekeepers of the one right way. Generally, though, this is more common in Orthodoxy, just as it is more common in more conservative Catholic congregations (than in progressive, egalitarian Catholic congregations). Most of the liberal rabbis I've met or corresponded with are inclined toward marrying an individual's dialogue with G-d to the religion's tradition. In other words, it is a collaborative project, and not at all Pharisee or Sadducee-like.

Having said that, too often, in all religions, the framework of communal ritual and doctrine becomes a cage, and those employed by the church or mosque or synagogue or temple become puppets of the institution. Thomas Jefferson's admonition that "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" might be reworked for religion: Eternal vigilance is the price of authentic spiritual-religious experience.

Donald Frazell said...

But ignoring, minimizing, or attacking ritual is counterproductive. Like you said, eternal vigilance is needed, as well as constant understanding. And this means evolving with our current knowledge of Gods creation, of veritas, as well as spirtual truth, which are truly one, inseperable. And artists are key to this, but have failed miserably in thier role in humanity as they are scared of the concept of God. The only true concept. As they want to be gods themselves these days.

We must find embodiments of god as well as the pillars of Truth in exploring nature and defining who we are, they are also one, inseperable. And its auditory being and visual, as well as theatre and architecture, are our jobs. NOT personal aggrandizment career and rank. These were things instructed by the prophets of the people of Israel NOT to do, as well as create kings and high priests, from the books of Judges. When the Hebrew had conquered Canaan, but still lvied in seperate villages and towns from the Canaanites and Philistines. who were actualy Indoeuropean, the Canaanites fellow semites.

There is much to learn from all of the Bible,as terribly archaic and primitive and barbaric as it can also be. These people were primitve in language and thought, if not emotion and passions. It is but the history of the Hebrews, but in it have many valuable lessons. Most of what it recorded did happen, but from a terribly slanted point of view, as all histories are, though lessened as much as possible starting with Thucydides.

Though the questions we ask and how we ask them are always slanted, the limited nature of language and humanity. We certainly have gotten worse over the last few decades, when is the last time you have heard of a news organization confirming stories from independat sources before publishing? Liberal and conservative?

Got a question, why dont you write out god? It is but a description, not a name, To say under god can be any religion. And when it comes down to it, el, YHWH, Jehovah and Allah are all the same god. Simply different words, which as I say, are often mans downfall. They are but symbols, nothing in theselves. Buddha is not a god, but a state of being, or no longer being individual, becoming dissolved as part of the All. And Oriental systems have no god at all. Maybe I will just stick with Ahura Mazda. Like the wings and stuff.

But basically rabbi's are but going back to the stage of Judges, when god had warned not to build a Temple and create Priests as it would become materialistic, through his prophets. And as much about man as god. Much as the Vatican was a corrupt temporal power duirng the middle ages, as with the Papal States it had armies and lands, often using mercenaries which is why they still have Swiss guards to this day. They were unemployed soldiers after the Swiss won their freedom from the Holy Roman Empire. All long wars have this issue as what to do with their now unemployed warriors, from the Romans to the Spanish conquistadors to us with emotionally and physically damaged soldiers after all our wars. But that is another thread.

Anyway, this is why i have created my Judgment Chapel, it is about personal accountability. And can be of any religion, it seeks the fundamentals of each. We artists must get back to our role and purpose in humaity, instead of being like the corrupt priests we have devolved into. The outcome of decadent times, and believe me, we are coming out of one such era. Happened before, and will again, but must be fought. It is time.

Art collegia delenda est
The Temples and Pharisees of art.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Yes, I generally agree with everything that you write.

You write:
"Got a question, why don't you write out god? It is but a description, not a name."

There are several reasons. Firstly, as you probably know, it is Jewish tradition to write the word without the vowel. The logic behind the tradition is two-fold and somewhat contradictory (and I love contradiction).

On the one hand, writing G-d is an acknowledgment that language (like other human modes of communication or expression) can not adequately point to the Ground of All Being, Hashem, YHWH, Allah, Brahman, the Tao, or whatever other name each faith stream or spiritually pluralistic person prefers. Even though I've come to identify emotionally as a Jew, I see no reason why all of those names should not be used interchangeably to describe the same unfathomable phenomenon.

On the other hand, writing G-d is also an acknowledgment that language is intrinsically powerful, that incantation is a summoning. I know that you reject this perspective, Donald, but it is one that I hold dear, no matter whether you're talking religion, art, or any other sphere. When I read poetry, the words invoke experience. Prayer or mystical writing, for me, should be no different. Each letter, and especially each word, is freighted with significance.

You write:
"But basically rabbi's are but going back to the stage of Judges, when god had warned not to build a Temple and create Priests as it would become materialistic, through his prophets. And as much about man as god."

Well, at risk of alienating Orthodox Jews that read this blog (though I very much doubt that there are any), I think the Pharisee-style, Judges approach that you describe is not the business of most American rabbis (including many Orthodox rabbis). They are social activists and leaders in a movement to reconnect institutionalized religion with activism and engaged communal practice. I don't mean to suggest that there aren't some distressingly materialistic practices in contemporary Judaism, but the majority of rabbis are striving to tone down or rid contemporary practice of these mis-steps, misunderstandings, and bastardizations.

In any case, as you state, personal accountability is paramount. Good luck with the ongoing labor on the chapel.

Donald Frazell said...

Poetry has been sadly neglected in our age of instant gratification. As things slow down, perhaps it will make a comeback. And I have commented before, your work would be perfect in collection of poetry. Not illustrating, but giving visual equivilants. Like Max Ernst did in a surrealist way.

But poetry is ancient, primoridial like song, as Psalms are truly songs. And verse is always he first coming of literature. It Evokes images, feelings, desires. The words must be melodic and rhythmic, not a developed harmony but otherwise musical. And as languages mutate and become something other, the words themselves physically dont mean anything, but how they trigger these feelings in us.

One must of course build ones own world to create from, as visual artist write theories, which are truly purely for personal consumption, having little to do with otheers, except in how to create ones own univeerse others can share in. Klee did this, Miro, Kiefer all the powers of images. But the details are irrelevant to the viewer, it is this depth of being, like Tolkiens world, that you know there is more. It is reflective our our world, and so truth can be faced, felt, and for just a moment, held in ones hand. Illusion, yet one that helps us pursue truth constantly, knowing it can never be had. To claim so the ultiamte evil, plasphemy, and corruption of arrogance. The beauty is in the chae, the approach, the felt knowledge of its being. This is poetry, and all art, that of more, as you say, the all.

Anceint Hebrew simply had no vowels, it wasnt by choice, but by organic development, like the zero. Nothing comes all at once, and ancient Hebrew is an archaic lumpy thing as all practically stoneage/bronze age creations are. The Iliad from the same time almost exactly as Moses. But the Hebrews, Egyptian for foreigners, probably did invent the alphabetic form of writing, which helped slowly to develop langauge. Certainly not at once, it was still very crude. But as with all primitives, verse like Beowulf is a powerful thing.

Donald Frazell said...

Just pumped you up on culturemonster of the LA Times here in LA, discussing grants and how only one blogger got one. He deserves it check it out. Hope your hits go up, and get to work, troughs or not. :+)
art collegia delenda est
Save the Towers

Hungry Hyaena said...



Hungry Hyaena said...

On a tangentially related note, I remarked in the comments above that the most specific term for my rational-mystical hybrid belief is, perhaps, panenatheism.

In fact, I've since decided that the more accurate term is panendeism. More information about panendeism can be found here.