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Category: Heaven

You’re worth more dead than alive

by Andrea Elizabeth

says Mr. Potter to George Bailey when the latter tries to come up with collateral for a loan. In watching detective shows it seems that this can often be the case. Detectives and the public in general desperately want justice to be served to murdered victims. They will meticulously pour through cold case files for decades to get their man. But what if the victims don’t die? Many rape kits aren’t even tested. Have you seen the names or faces of the 21 wounded victims in the San Bernardino shooting? To some there were only 14 victims. And what about the ones who weren’t wounded but lived through the horror?

I saw a show Sunday about wounded warriors who go on annual pilgrimages to Lourdes for the camaraderie but not so much expecting a miracle. I think many of them believe it would have been easier to have been killed than to face the pain of their injuries, survivor guilt, surgeries, therapy, disfigurement, social stigma, and post traumatic stress.

T’was lovely

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just closed the tabs related to our trip, such as, what is the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow? Where is the Bronte Parsonage Museum? Such sadness to be leaving Britain behind. I’m slowly unpacking and reorganizing my new closet that George shelved up for me while I was gone. Is it that my grand adventure is over, or would I rather live there? The proximity to the stomping grounds of my favourite authors, the heavenly sheep dotted country side, the simple, but eminently satisfying tea and scones, the original Victorian woodwork in the pubs, the modest, cozy tidiness of it all?

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Wales

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Cemetery by the Bronte parsonage. They are buried under the Church, however.

Theological pros and cons to the quantum theory of multi universes

by Andrea Elizabeth

1, Con. If all possibilities are actualized, whose spouse will you be in heaven? Even if people will be like the angels and not married, wont they have memories of their past life? Too many memories?

2, Pro. It could explain how people can possibly know everything and be everywhere in heaven, provided the alternate selves will be integrated.

3, Pro. It could explain how someone is guilty of murder or adultery for just thinking it.

4, Con. It dilutes the importance of this set of actualities, such as the Fall, the Incarnation, and every day decision-making.

5, Pro. It supports being credited for your intentions.

6. Pro. It is a way to see fiction as the gateway to knowing what some of the other worlds are like, thus making fiction real or true, and those who get caught up in it not crazy or delusional.

7. Con. It is an excuse for these people to think they are not crazy or delusional.

8. Con. It makes truth too relativistic, unless certain foundational truths about human, divine, and created natures remain constant.

The pros and cons are equal, therefore I have determined that multi universes both exist and do not exist.  (see related posts on Schrodinger’s cat in the February archives of Sine Nomine, starting with “Quantum Cats”.)

This world is not my home

by Andrea Elizabeth

“I’m just a passin’ through”, as the song goes.

I’ve been thinking (“a dangerous past time, ‘I know'”, as another song goes, [from Beauty and the Beast.]) about the relationship between matter and consciousness. Since I don’t really know the relationship, I’ll just list some observations in the order I remember or think of them.

Imagination and dreams are very compelling. Who can live without literature and now movies?

Stories draw from knowledge of material things.

Death separates us from material things. Resurrection will some day reunite us with an altered form of them.

Meanwhile, we are to strive for a healthy detachment from passions associated with material things. The attachment itself is at first immaterial, but it usually seeks a material consummation.

The Church consecrates material and immaterial things that we can properly attach to. Monastics commit to these being their only attachments. People in the world may attach to a broader number of things, which St. Paul says leads to inevitably being burdened by worldly cares.

Even monastics are encouraged to read stories, like those of Charles Dickens, which are mostly about people in the world. But since they are fiction, Dickens can achieve an immaterial relationship with them. Our relationships with immaterial concepts so depicted undoubtedly influence our relationships with material beings and things in our physical circle. If there is conflict between our conceptualized desires and our immediate circumstance, we seek escape from the latter. Perhaps this is not bad in itself. Perhaps our unfulfilled (meaning not yet materialized) desires are valid, and worthy of being dwelt upon in a desire for harmonic perfection of our inner and outer states. But we should stay open to the process required to bring about such harmony. Our circumstances, and our selves, are rough hewn rocks that require much chiseling. Actual escape is usually a premature burial of what could have been. But I will say that some stones are too unwieldy, and should be scrapped.

What happens if our culture, by becoming less human, makes it more difficult to achieve inner and outer harmony? Isolation occurs, but perhaps it always has. One is never alone who doesn’t seek to be, however.

Out of the Silent Planet

by Andrea Elizabeth

While reading, I cannot switch off my analysis, especially nowadays. I told Jared yesterday that I have 35 pages to go, and he said, “You keep track of the page numbers?” I said, yes, I can’t get lost in a book as I used to. But it was not all work finishing this one.

I feel confident that Lewis had glimpses of heaven in his life and I love how he discounts it as fiction in a way that is not dismissive of what he is telling. The prologue to The Great Divorce was similarly disclaimerish. He seems to know how heavenly beings view earth beings and competently describes how their ways are higher than ours. But he does not set up a dialectical relationship with earthlings. We are still hnau and in the image of Maleldil.

I was first a little offput by the topography and the flaura and fauna of Malacondra, as probably was Ransom, but as he began to identify with the creatures, also hnau, they of course became relatable. Which brings me to one of my overriding thoughts regarding one of the main themes. Encounters with peoples who are not like us. The best thing Lewis did was to discredit our fears of the unknown. He cast out the bogeyman and showed him as a substanceless, baseless fear. The real bogeyman exists in our hearts, but he is not our heart. This is shown in how Oyarsa and then Ransom dealt with Weston and Devine. Even though their cruelty and misconceptions and shallowness was revealed for what it was, we are not incited against them to wish their deaths. Some of their accomplishments are even acknowledged, but are not aggrandized as they themselves viewed them. But there is a certain amount of respect for them.

I think Lewis very admirably sought to appreciate distinctions, but to see the basic organic unity underneath, and that this understanding would stop a lot of destructive behaviors and unhappiness. But though I loved his understanding of the fullness, instead of emptiness of space, and his descriptions of light, and also how, when Ransom’s fear was gone, he described nature, especially Meldilorn (though his descriptions of the three species always felt a little grotesque, even though they were portrayed as superior), I felt this contradicted his descriptions of death. He goes into so much detail about how beautiful it all is and then death, and thus higher existence, is to become “unbodied”. The Malacandrians’ bodies disappear and do not even undergo decay. The afterlife seems like it is to be swallowed up into a higher consciousness only. Which is a bit gnostic and similar to Absolute Divine Simplicity by my current lights. It seems Lewis feels we retain individuality in this higher consciousness, or at least self-awareness, but still. Why go into the glories of creation if it is all going to be annihilated in the end? This shows Lewis’ Protestantism, imo. But I also believe the very educated and intelligent Lewis listens more to his innate, natural, like-God intuition and heart and thus he gets closer to the true nature of things than about any other westerner I’ve ever heard of. And like Ransom, I am more homesick to be among my fellow westerners, despite their errors, than to totally shed my identity as one and to assume another, which is why I don’t want to move to Russia, but I’ll take all the enlightenment I can get from them and try to put it into my own western words and context.

Another observation. Lewis showed his nationality and generation quite clearly to me. I felt on one hand that I was reading a field journal of an Imperial expedition to scope out the natives. He nobly demonstrated the wrongs that have occurred in past expeditions and how the natives have been demeaned by the Europeans delusions of grandeur. Yet, I felt that he came just a tad short in that as I already mentioned, they were still sort of grotesque. I haven’t come to terms exactly with that yet. We will probably always be homesick for our own kind, and view others as less than in that they don’t meet that basic urge of familiarity with our first impressions in this world that we make as infants which form us in a very deep, permanent way. But Ransom did loose sight of the differences as he lived with them. If he separated himself from their essence and paid attention to just their looks he would have felt more distance. It was their common hnau-ness that he ended up paying more attention to.

But the other thing is something I talked about in one of my education posts about how I think people can be too compartmentalized. “I’m a math person”, etc. The three different species lived in different areas from each other, though they got along when they happened to be together at a common place, like the marketplace or gathering close to Oyarsa. But they were a little too much like this species is good at that, this one at this, etc. btw, the females were hardly discussed at all. Everyone lived with their own kind and never the twain shall meet. *more obvious spoiler warning* Ransom was invited to stay, but I get the feeling if he had he would have lived at Meldilorn, talking with Oyarsa, but would have continued expeditions to the three other species’ dwellings as a visitor. This is characteristic of thought in the 30’s and 40’s. Even the previous abolitionists believed in segregation. They thought like belonged with like, and that the distinctions were what defined “like”, not the commonness of creature-hood. btw, His description of why we have pets and the Malacandrians don’t was very interesting. He also had a more defined sense of the hierarchy of functions, though he seemed to try to even it out somewhat. All to say I haven’t exactly decided what to make of distinctions or how much to work at maintaining them when some want to assimilate. I tend to want people to choose for themselves and to tolerate when others choose differently, but then what if the other choice makes my choice less viable, etc.

Besides the above, one of the things that touched me the most was when the hross was describing why they don’t have to keep repeating things, even those things as good as childbearing. That the memory of it is not different than or separate from the experience.

The Great Divorce

by Andrea Elizabeth

While driving and making Pysanki (not at the same time), I listened to C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Despite the disclaimer at the beginning, much of the story rings true to me and fits my understanding of the Orthodox view of heaven and hell. I got a little tired of his descriptions of the people who choose not to move forward to the heights of heaven, but his description of Sarah Smith after her encounter with her earthly husband was very inspiring to me.

I found these clips on another person’s blog,

The Dwarf Ghost argued with the Lady. He talked about being sent back to Hell. “No one sends you back,” she said. “Here is all joy. Everything bids you stay.” Apparently the Dwarf Ghost was the real man, but he was shrinking in size as his countpart, the “Tragedian” was overpowering his personality with negativity and doubt. The Lady begged him, “He is killing you. Let go of that chain. Even now.”

The Lady gets emphatic: “Quick. There is still time. Stop it. Stop it at once.”

“Stop what?”

“Using pity, other people’s pity, in the wrong way. We have all done it on earth, you know. Pity was meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery. But it can be used the wrong way round. It can be used for a kind of blackmailing. Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom, by pity. You see, I know now. Even as a child you did it. Instead of saying you were sorry, you went and sulked in the attic … because you knew that sooner or later one of your sisters would say, ‘I can’t bear to think of him sitting up there alone, crying.’ You used their pity to blackmail them, and they gave in in the end. And afterwards, when we were married … oh, it doesn’t matter, if only you will stop it.”

The Dwarf Ghost disappeared, somehow absorbed by this Tragedian man. She addressed him and told him to come to Love, for she would not step out of this Love she now lived in. He was pretty much completely given over to himself. He would not bend his will and surrender to God. He defied God’s rule. Then he just vanished. I presume he went to Hell.

The Lady was alone, but other Bright Spirits met her and sang songs of joy to her: “The Happy Trinity is her home; nothing can trouble her joy…” Even losing her husband and his stubborn will that opposed His Loving God could steal the joy away from her, for she lived in it. She gave herself over to God and His joy, which buoys her now.

“While it sounds merciful,” he writes, “see what lurks behind it. The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.

“…Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it; or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.”

On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ Pt. 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

cont. from the same chapter,

“Because of Christ-or rather, the whole mystery of Christ-all the ages of time and the beings within those ages have received their beginning and end in Christ. Fr the union between a limit of the ages and limitlessness, between measure and immeasurability, between finitude and infinity, between Creator and creation, between resta nd motion, was conceived before the ages. This union has been manifested in Christ at the end of time, and in itself brings God’s foreknowledge to fulfillment, in order that naturally mobile creatures might secure themselves around God’s total and essential immobility, desisting altogether from their movement toward themselves and toward each other.”

[notes say: “Maximus here refers to the absolute stability which is the goal of all creaturely movement, a notion which he elsewhere (Amb 7) directed against the Origenist cosmology in which true stasis is that original, primordial, spiritual unity, prior to the fall of intellectual beings, to which all creatures are called, amid the instability of history, in a final and complete restoration, literally, the “recovery of stasis.” For Maximus, however, the final end of creaturely movement is an unprecedented new rest in the Divine at the end of the cosmic story, that stability “around the Divine” or around God’s immobility, which brings everything to sabbatical completion. Maximus is sympathetic to Gregory of Nyssa’s image of this ultimate “repose” as secured precisely in “perpetual striving”, an eternal purposive movement around the God whose essence remains impenetrable. On the philosophical and theological ramifications of this notion, see Paul M. Blowers, “Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Concept of ‘Perpetual Progress,'” pp 151-71. On the ascetic implications of this notion, see Ad Thalassium 17)” here and here]

“The union has been manifested so that they might also acquire, by experience, an active knowledge of him in whom they were made worthy to find their stability and to have abiding unchangeably in them the enjoyment of this knowledge.”

It seems to me that the above Ad Thalassium 17 passage is referring to our struggle before entering the rest.

“Silence, or a Vision of Eternal Rest”

by Andrea Elizabeth

A manuscript by Elder Ambrose of Optina reprinted in Death to the World, #6, which I referred to in my last post:

It was a wonderful time in spring… I could not resist its allurement to throw myself into nature’s embrace, and that paradise of spring, which I chose as a place of my daily visits, was the dark, thick forest situated on the high bank of a big, wide river (the Oka) that washes with its milky waters several central Russian provinces.

Giving myself over to this blessed state in the bosom of nature, I drank in its aromatic breath and went deeply into the spiritual apprehension of the Creator, Who is too immense to behold….

The surrounding world from which I came forth then retreated from me to somewhere far away, and disappeared into the realm of concepts foreign to me….

I was alone. Around me there was only the slumbering forest. Its ancient giants stretched far into the skies. They searched for God. I also was in search of Him.

But suddenly, I am outside the forest, somewhere far away, in another world, quite unknown to me, never imagined by me…

Around me there is bright white light! Its transcendence is so pure and enticing that I am submerged, along with my perception, into limitless depths and cannot satisfy myself with my admiration for this realm, cannot completely fill myself with its lofty spirituality. Everything is so full of beauty all around. So endearing this life… so endless the way. I am being swept across the limitless, clear space. My sight is directed upwards, does not descend anymore, does not see anything earthly. The whole of the heavenly firmament has transformed itself before me into one general bright light, pleasing to the sight… But I do not see the sun. I can see only its endless shining and bright light. The whole space in which I glide without hindrance, without end, without fatigue, is filled with white, just as is light and beautiful beings, transparent as a ray of sun. And through them I am admiring this limitless world. The images of all these beings unknown to me are infinitely diverse and full of beauty… I also am white and bright as are they. Over me, as over them, there reigns eternal rest. Not a single thought of mine is any longer enticed by anything earthly, not a single beat of my heart is any longer moving with human cares or earthly passion. I am all peace and rapture. But I am still moving in this infinite light, which surrounds me without change. There is nothing else in the world except for the white, bright light and these equally radiant numberless beings. But all these beings do not resemble me, nor are they similar to each other; they are all endlessly varied, and compellingly attractive. Amidst them, I feel myself incredibly peaceful. They evoke in me neither fear, nor amazement, nor trepidation. All that we see here does not agitate us, does not amaze us. All of us here are as if we have belonged to each other for a long time, are used to each other and are not strangers at all. We do not ask questions, we do not speak to each other about anything. We all feel and understand that there is nothing novel for us here. All our questions are solved with one glance, which sees everything and everyone. There is no trace of the wars of passions in anyone. All move in different directions, opposite to each other, not feeling any limitation, any inequality, or envy, or sorrow, or sadness. One peace reigns in all the images of entities. One light is endless for all. Oneness of life is comprehensible to all.

My rapture at all this superseded everything. I sank into this eternal rest. No longer was my spirit disturbed by anything. And I knew nothing else earthly. None of the tribulations of my heart came to mind, even for a minute. It seemed that everything that I had experienced before on earth never existed. Such was my feeling in this new radiant world of mine. And I was at peace and joyful, and desired nothing better for myself. All my earthly thoughts concerning fleeting happiness in the world died in this beautiful life, new to me, and did not come back to life again. So it seemed to me at least, there, in that better world.

But how I came back here-I do not recall. What transitory state it was, I do not know, I only felt that I was alive, but I did not remember the world in which I lived before on earth. This did not seem at all to be a dream. Actually, about earthy things I no longer had the least notion. I only felt that the present life is mine, and that I was not a stranger in it. In this state of spirit I forgot myself and immersed myself in this light-bearing eternity. And this timelessness lasted without end, without measure, without expectation, without sleep, in this eternal rest. Thus it seemed to me that these would not be any kind of change….

But then suddenly, the thread of my radiant life was cut off and I opened my eyes. Around me was the familiar forest, and a beam of spring sunlight was playing on its meadows. I was seized with terrible sadness. “Why am I here again?” I thought. And that radiant, light – emanating world which I had just experienced with all its host of numberless visionary entities, vividly remained impressed before my mental eyes. But my physical vision did not see it any longer. This terrible and tearful sorrow I could not endure and I began to cry bitterly.

Only after that experience I believed in the concept of the separation of soul from the body, and understood what the special spiritual world was. But the question of what is the meaning of life still remained a mystery for me. And in order to penetrate into this mystery I left this world into which I was born, and embraced the monastic life.

I can retire now, praise God

by Andrea Elizabeth

As I was watering the back yard this evening, Rebecca, who is six, said while swinging in her wooden airplane swing which hangs from a tree, “I know what you should do when you’re mad”. When I’m mad? “No”, in an of-course-not kind of way. Are you mad? “No, when anybody’s mad”. What? “Go outside, look up at the sky and say the Lord’s prayer.”

There ya go.

She’s been asking me when Sunday is for the last couple of weeks and when I ask why, she says she wants to go and see our friends and eat free food. I’m glad it’s her favorite day.

Restlessness

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have grown weary of opposition. I suppose this is partly from thinking it my responsibility to change people’s minds. What folly, pride, and self-idolatry that is. Yet I know that conflict is a motivator to strengthen one’s position and so I have dug deeper as a result than I probably would have done. But now conflict isn’t pushing me. I avoid it. I am so weary of debates that only cause the opposition to strengthen their side or to insult and condemn when it doesn’t work. I’m probably doing the same. So I let them go. If I’m right and they’re wrong, then I’m causing them to sin by strengthening themselves in error. If vice versa, then if I do have some influence on them, better not lead them astray. So I’ll just stay on my side of the fence and mind my own business. How does that poem go, better fences make better neighbors?

So what does this have to do with St. Maximus’ Cosmic Transfiguration? As with many of the writings and statements of the Church Fathers, the Ambigua is largely a defense of the truth against opposition, namely the incorrect teachings of Origen (or more kindly, he provided a “critical rehabilitation of Origen’s masterful insight”). Maximus is considered very steeped in Patrisitic teaching, drawing from the Bible, the Alexandrians, and the Cappadocians, and from the beginning was sought after for appointments and answers, though some of them got him into ultimately life threatening trouble. I will leave it to him to defeat the opposers and I will not concentrate on them as it gives me stress. So if you don’t mind, (or if you do, you may purchase your own copy of this book, which I heartily recommend anyway) I will skip over the sometimes wrong propositions of Origen and the monothelites and focus mainly on joining the cosmos in Christ’s Recapitulative work by God’s mercy and grace.

Back to Restlessness. From Ambigua 7,

[1069B] But they do not realize how untenable their views and how improbable their conjectures, as a more reasonable argument will surely demonstrate (!). For if the divine is unmoved, since it fills all things, and everything that was brought from non-being to being is moved (because it tends toward some end), then nothing that moves is yet at rest. For movement driven by desire has not yet come to rest in that which is ultimately desirable. Unless that which is ultimately desirable is possessed, nothing else is of such a nature as to bring to rest what is being driven by desire. Therefore if something moves it has not come to rest, for it has not yet attained the ultimately desirable. Those who are tending toward that which is ultimately desirable have not yet reached the end, since they have not yet come to rest.

[ 1069C] But if it is the case, as some hold, that rational beings had in fact reached this end, and afterward were moved from their secure abode in what is ultimately desirable, with the result that they were scattered…, if reasonable beings are thus to be carried about and have no place to rest and cannot hope to have any abiding steadfastness in the good, what could be greater reason to despair?

Oh this is getting deep. I must pause. In one sense I can see Origen as being right about the fall in the Garden, but of course not in his preexistent soul in the monolith. But Maximus is saying, contrary to my understanding of Protestant thought, that man had not achieved rest in the Garden before he fell or else he would not have moved from it. He did move from the uncreated Object of our ultimate desire, but before he united fully to Him, by accepting a quick fix, devastating substitute.

I said a while back on Energetic Procession (I think it was on A Good Question) that perhaps evil is necessary to show us what God is not. St. Maximus takes me in hand on that!

On the other hand, if our opponents should say that intellects could have adhered to the divine goodness, but did not, because theywanted to experience something different, then the beautiful would of necessity be loved not for itself, but because of what had been learned of it from its opposite. That would mean the beautiful is loved for some other reason than that it is itself lovable by nature. What is not good and lovable in itself, and does not draw all movement toward it simply because it is good and lovable, cannot properly be the beautiful.[1069D] Such beauty would be incapable of satisfying the desire of those who find delight in it. In fact those who hold this view would have to be grateful to evil, because it taught them what is right and how to hold firmly to the beautiful. [1072A] If our opponents are consistent, they would say that evil brought things into being and is more useful than nature itself, because in their view evil teaches what is fitting and allows one to attain the most precious possession, I mean love, by which all things made by God are brought back to abide in God forever.

I look forward to finding out his stance on universalism. And was Lucifer not fully in God? Do angels move toward or away? When does one reach eternal security?

I used to think I was eternally secure because I could not and cannot imagine turning my back on God. Yet every sin and neglect is movement away from Him. Lord have mercy and help it to at least always be three steps forward and only two steps back.