In this passage, a man (does he have a name or is he generic?) blind from birth, was given vision through a healing by Jesus. He moved from being born blind, from one who was never able to see, one who was in the dark, so to speak, to one who could see. This particular metaphorical mythology is in every religion – to first be blind and then to be able to see connotes an awakening.
In this scriptural story I wondered about why the clay, spittle, and waters from the pool of Siloam were needed to accomplish this curative transformation. It seemed to me that these were distracters, that these details made it appear that it was this magic that restored the man’s vision rather than the invisible healing force of God. Then I thought about how these physical intermediaries serve to stimulate and become a focus for faith. Actually there have always been a lot of intermediaries in religious culture, for example symbols and rituals, and their function seems to be to rouse one’s receptivity to the presence of God. For example, after the clay and spittle treatment, Jesus sent the man to bathe in the waters of Siloam, which were considered holy waters. This was obviously an essential part of the healing transformation. The water was not only used to wash, but also for drinking, for use on altars, and for feasting and celebrating. This command encouraged the awakening man to immerse himself in holy purification, to be washed by holy waters in quenching spiritual thirst, to rejoice, and to worship to promote his faith.
One thing that drew me to Quakerism was the simplicity of the structure of faith and practice. We have few outward symbols or rituals, other than our Meetings for Worship and Business. And in our Meeting, we also have Meeting for Eating (smile). To encourage our spiritual growth, I guess we just depend on ourselves, our silence in which we wait upon the Spirit, our reading, and our spiritual dialogues and Friendships. Sometimes I wonder if it is enough – is this simple practice enough to sufficiently freshen, deepen and sustain our spiritual lives? This is a question only an individual can answer for themselves.
This transformation from blind to seeing creates quite a predictable commotion amongst the people – the Pharisees were disbelieving, the neighbors were surprised and skeptical, and the parents kept quiet out of fear of excommunication. The awakened man, however, continued to grow in his faith. He was questioned a lot about this experience and treated with disrespect. But still the man remained steadfast in his faith.
In my experience of spiritual sharing I have also received some very negative reactions from others. Fortunately, I have never been cursed and evicted from the Meeting house, or in any way outwardly persecuted. My experience has been much tamer. Sometimes friends are surprised and skeptical. I sense fear in others – maybe it is a fear that Meredith is changing, or as one dear one noted, that I seem to be “in La La land.” Many just don’t want to talk about spiritual matters. Some friends roll their eyes at me when I mention of anything remotely spiritual. I am grateful that I have the freedom I do to express myself. I find the negative reactions sad, but I recognize that I am responsible for how I present myself, and I try to be aware of perceptions, timing, and situation. However, like the blind man, reactions from others have not distracted me from my path.