Certainly I am an Anglican, if for no other reason, in that I wrestle and struggle on the Via Media, the place and journey between faith and reason. Of course, faith (Spirit), and reason don’t exclude each other. The sometimes rough ride in the relationship between Spirit and reason is understandable. However there was a time when Spirit and science did exist in mutual understanding and the two were indistinguishable from the other, in that they were both pursuing the revelation of truth, in the workings of God in creation, and in human experience. Prior to the Enlightenment, it was then natural for reason and Spirit to work towards understanding human experience in the classical disciplines of theology, philosophy and natural philosophy, what we now call science.
It is ironic that “science”, now as some religion of the absolute, was born in the Enlightenment, as the “founding fathers” of Enlightenment were people of faith and even clerics. Science has become a religion unto its own, one only need to visit the Museum of Natural History in London to observe science’s sense of worth. Architecturally, the museum is a cathedral. If not for the sign out front, I would have expected to hear choirs rehearsing as I entered the edifice.
Before the presumed supremacy of science, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton pursued the understanding of what they called natural philosophy. They weren’t setting out to disprove God, but to understand how God set things in motion and how God then sustains these things set in motion. They didn’t view their pursuits as anything more than one part of a whole of understanding. They didn’t hold natural philosophy above theology and philosophy, they considered understanding all three components of knowledge necessary in the whole human development of people.
Do not misunderstand; I am in no shape or way “anti-science”. I love science, rational thought and reason. Nor should it be thought that because I know the spiritual life, that I or any like me should be thought of as “superstitious”. It is a narrow mind which can’t see the difference between superstition and spirituality and it is an equally narrow mind which only sees that spirituality and science must exclude each other.
There are scientists also who presume an absolute, definitive and singular attitude towards science’s ability to establish and maintain the parameters of reality. They believe in this being their realm, and themselves as its sole arbiters. There are scientists who have a holistic view of reality and knowledge, acknowledging the spiritual aspect of persona, and maintain an objectivity regarding the place of science in understanding the mystery implicit in human existence. Reason does cohabitate our existence in Spirit.
There are also those religious who have run presumptively amok, who have placed their religious beliefs ahead of everything. They assert their views as the singular authoritative, and absolute correct interpretation, of all things omniscient. They too have claimed the exclusive right to determine and dictate the parameters of reality within the confines of the God/human relationship as they believe it. This is hubris of the highest order, to attempt to put shackles on the infinite possibilities of infinite being, to restrain the discretion of the Creator in our relationships as given to us, as in loving the Creator and loving creation.
I understand this. I understand the illusion of confidence in certitude. I understand the role this illusion plays in science and religion, which seeks to put doubts to rest, to hold the primal wolves of animosity at bay. Whether one is religious or practices the religion of atheism, many of us search for an ideological anchor to both orbit around and to keep us from flying into the infinite fear of possibilities.
We all at times would be dogs on chains bound to a stake, and at times, we all perceive running in circles around the stake as freedom. It could be freedom in context to the chain’s length, but it’s not the same as running unfettered through the woods or across a field. I’ve seen dogs chained like this, at times running themselves around, winding the chain around the stake until their collar has them pinned to the stake. The smart ones though will use the leverage of the tight chain which pins them to the stake, to slip their collar and take off running, a fantastic sight! Struggles can lead to freedom.
Playing football in high school, after season, we players had a choice for how to spend the winter, make the basketball team, or in my native tongue, wrassilin. There was no other choice, we weren’t going to be allowed to do the do-nothing required to get out of shape. I wasn’t very fond of wrestling, but it did keep me in shape. Wrestling also made me stronger, more flexible and more agile. It was also very close constant contact with the challenger, sweat on sweaty and sometimes bloody grappling, striving not to be pinned between two opposing forces, the opponent and the mat. Wrestling, it turns out, was more than anything else a matching of wits, eye to eye. It was not enough to have skills, but one had to be interpreting and anticipating the opponent’s moves, thinking several moves and feints ahead, in order to gain the necessary leverage on the adversary.
Wrestling is not about the violent trading of blows, no punching, no kicking, no weapons; wrestling is grappling with the opponent and finding leverage as the subduing means. Wrestling is finding the center of mind and body, to find the balance, and leverage on the forces which weigh on you in a given space and time; good skills to have.
These days I’m wrassilin with Media, more specifically, with liturgical language which perpetuates certain non-sustainable properties to the Deity, which is a distraction from my healing relationship with God and from being healed in relationship with God, but that’s another discussion for another time. The point is I’m wrestling with this and in some ways the outcome isn’t the point, a point, but not the point. The point is found in the act of wrestling, facing the challenges, getting out on the mat, sweating, getting beat-up a little, bleeding a little and building some character, as we say. Trusting in the process because of what my intention is, to grow in the life of Spirit.
The history and traditions of spiritual life are recorded as humans struggling to understand their notions of God in context to their particular time and place, to wrestle with what it means to be in relationship with the Spirit and each other. The issues change as we have changed through history in our ancient journey; they become larger in the ever expanding circle of compassion and justice, our meaning in God and each other. It is a tremendous challenge to struggle with the Spirit and to keep-up with the ever expanding circle of God’s love; wherever we are in history, it’s hard for us to meet the challenge of the Spirit in our hearts and minds.
The wrestling mat has a circle painted on it, the ring. The challenges are inside the ring, challenges known and unknown, here and now. I must enter the margins, into the ring of mental and spiritual challenges to find my center, my strength and to accomplish growth. It’s in the ring where the Spirit challenges us to wrestle, to grow in mind, body, spirit and heart, in the ever growing understanding of what it means to love God and creation.