Thursday, December 19, 2002

It turns out that I am "The Horse and His Boy"

The fifth book written, you're the third book chronologically and take place during The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You tell the story of the humans Shasta and Aravis and the talking horses Bree and Hwin, all trying to escape from unhappy lives in Calormen to go to Narnia.

Find out which Chronicles of Narnia book you are.

Somehow that doesn't surprise me. That, and The Silver Chair, were always my favorite Narnia books.


William Blake
an expression of Apothatic theology

by William Blake

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Reflections on Apothatic Theology from St. John of Damascus

This is from the first two chapters of his "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith"

The full text of this marvelous work is available for free on the internet at:

That the Deity is incomprehensible, and that we ought not to pry into and meddle with tire things which have not been delivered to us by the holy Prophets, and Apostles, and Evangelists.
No one hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. The Deity, therefore, is ineffable and incomprehensible. For no one knoweth the Father, save the Son, nor the Son, save the Father. And the Holy Spirit, too, so knows the things of God as the spirit of the man knows the things that are in him. Moreover, after the first and blessed nature no one, not of men only, but even of supramundane powers, and the Cherubim, I say, and Seraphim themselves, has ever known God, save he to whom He revealed Himself.

God, however, did not leave us in absolute ignorance. For the knowledge of God’s existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature. This creation, too, and its maintenance, and its government, proclaim the majesty of the Divine nature.

Concerning things utterable and things unutterable, and things knowable and thinks unknowable.

It is necessary, therefore, that one who wishes to speak or to hear of God should understand clearly that alike in the doctrine of Deity and in that of the Incarnation, neither are all things unutterable nor all utterable; neither all unknowable nor all knowable. But the knowable belongs to one order, and the utterable to another; just as it is one thing to speak and another thing to know. Many of the things relating to God, therefore, that are dimly understood cannot be put into fitting terms, but on things above us we cannot do else than express ourselves according to our limited capacity; as, for instance, when we speak of God we use the terms sleep, and wrath, and regardlessness, hands, too, and feet, land such like expressions.

We, therefore, both know and confess that God is without beginning, without end, eternal and everlasting, uncreate, unchangeable, invariable, simple, uncompound, incorporeal, invisible, impalpable, uncircumscribed, infinite, incognisable, indefinable, incomprehensible, good, just, maker of all things created, almighty, all-ruling, all-surveying, of all overseer, sovereign, judge; and that God is One, that is to say, one essence; and that He is known, and has His being in three subsistences, in Father, I say, and Son and Holy Spirit; and that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in all respects, except in that of not being begotten, that of being begotten, and that of procession; and that the Only-begotten Son and Word of God and God, in His bowels of mercy, for our salvation, by the good pleasure of God and the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, being conceived without seed, was born uncorruptedly of the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, Mary, by the Holy Spirit, and became of her perfect Man; and that the Same is at once perfect God and perfect Man, of two natures, Godhead and Manhood, and in two natures possessing intelligence, will and energy, and freedom, and, in a word, perfect according to the measure and proportion proper to each, at once to the divinity, I say, and to the humanity, yet to one composite persons; and that He suffered hunger and thirst and weariness, and was crucified, and for three days submitted to the experience of death and burial, and ascended to heaven, from which also He came to us, and shall come again. And the Holy Scripture is witness to this and the whole choir of the Saints.

But neither do we know, nor can we tell, what the essence of God is, or how it is in all, or how the Only-begotten Son and God, having emptied Himself, became Man of virgin blood, made by another law contrary to nature, or how He walked with dry feet upon the waters. It is not within our capacity, therefore, to say anything about God or even to think of Him, beyond the things which have been divinely revealed to us, whether by word or by manifestation, by the divine oracles at once of the Old Testament and of the New.

Holy St. John of Damascus, pray to God for us!


A Reflection on Apothatic Theology from Terry Scott Taylor
(From "Darn floor - big bite")

In not-quite earth, in not-quite heaven
I'll imitate love like lovers do
In not-quite art, in not-quite living
I'll pray that writing it down is part of loving you

Darn floor - big bite
You are twilight, dark and bright
Darn floor - big bite
You are beautiful, terrible terrible sight!

I especially love that "I'll pray that writing it down is part of loving you" part.

The mystical theology of Terry Scott Taylor (Daniel had a profound influence on my ultimately becoming an Orthodox Christian.

Another good example is from the "Unattainable Earth"

In the unattainable earth
Amazed in these half-light days
In the unattainable earth
Language is weak, but I keep on speaking
Of the unattainable earth

I love that stuff!!!


Monday, December 16, 2002

Theistic Existentialism and Orthodox Christianity
some thoughts on Orthodoxy Christianity and Budism

Some time ago I started subscribing to little daily sayings from various religions at "Belief Net". I am using this stuff as food for thought while I am busy creating a universe filled with culture, history, dozens of fantastic creatures, a tradition of ancient philosophy and religion, in a novel I've been working on. Those who eventually read my novel (and who are familiar with Orthodox Christianity) will ultimately notice some similarities between many of the beings who populate the history of my world, and many of the strange, essentric and wonderful saints of Russian history, holy fools, and wonder working vagrants...

However, I wanted to get some glimps of other religions and their little sayings, so I subscribed to all these newsletters. I have discovered that, when it comes to the little sayings of saints, you could pretty much exchange one saying from somone in one religion with one saying from someone in another, and nobody would notice. Of course when it comes to theological, philosophical, and doctrinal differences that would not be the case. (The only real exception would be the muslim religion - where almost all the sayings of the "wise" are very legalistic and militant.)

Meanwhile, in the rest of my life I have a new friend who is a Budist priest. I began asking him questions about Budism several weeks ago, but something that he explained to me this weekend really made a light go on in my head. In fact, what he explained to me helped me further refine my own philosophical statement that Orthodox Christianity is existential.

He mentioned to me, quite simply, that while Western religions are often preoccupied with "being" (and "beings") Budism is, quite the contrary, preoccupied with processes instead. It is the processes that are both the means to an end and the end itself. In fact the concept of "being" is utterly unimportant to Budists - to such a degree that really to master Budism your goal is to divorce yourself from any conception of "being."

That really made sense to me, and a little light went on in my thinking on existentialism and Orthodox Christianity.

Quite the opposite from Budism, Orthodox Christianity is centered around "Being" - and not the "being" of each of us individually, but the "Being" of God. A basic understanding of existentialism can be found in the statement: "Existence preceds essense." What that means is that Existence is of prime importance, and the essence of that existence is of secondary importance - coming after the importance of Existence itself.

In Orthodox theology the Existence of God is the begining of our contemplation of God. The Existence of God is at the center of the cosmos and prevades every molecule that exists - giving it meaning and purpose. How do we "understand" that existence? How can we comprehend it?

In fact, we cannot. And that's what makes Orthodox Christianity existential. The "Existence" of God is fundamental to his "Essence" - or better put, His Being is fundamental to His Revelation. The "Existence" of God is explained by the Orthodox mystic as Divine Darkness, and unapproachable Holy Darkness in which we can see nothing, understand nothing, perceive nothing. This is known in Orthodox theology as "apothatic theology". It is the comprehension of God through what He is not. Meanwhile, the "Essence" of God is explained by the Orthodox mystic as Divine Light. The Light of God is his "essence" - His revelation of Himself to the world. All of what God reveals of Himself (His Esssence) to this world is based upon what He truly is within (His Being, or His Existence). And most importantly all of Christianity is based upon this fundamental concept of God's Existence. We perceive of His Existence because of His interaction in the world, but we must never lose sight that He cannot be boiled down to nothing but His interaction with the world. He Exists - and that makes our religion different from all others. The priest concludes the Liturgy (in the more accurate translations) with: "Christ Our God, the Existing One, is Blessed, Always now and ever and unto ages of ages amen." This parallels the title God has given himself in the Old Testament to Moses: "I AM THAT I AM." This is because all of our comprehension of Him, all of our hope of salvation, all of our every possibility of attaining His Glory, comes from the fact of His Existence.

Who is Blessed, now and forever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

~ Fly ~