Hear and Act…

We’ve got something really problematical in [a recent] post on prophets… (1 Kings 20) and then, [a recent] Jesus saying– that his true kin are whoever ‘hears and does’ God’s will– seems to tie in somewhere.

A large chunk of the Bible can be read as Obedience Training for Humans!

It’s that simple? Hardly!

Adam, Eve, every ancient Israelite could have been equipped from birth with an automatic, built-in, heads-up Commandment Display. ‘Thou shall…’ or ‘Thou shalt not, and if you know what’s good for you, you better not…’ and so forth, in bright intercranial LED letters, for any conceivable occasion. God has power enough, but hasn’t used it that way.

“Free Will”? Raymond Smullyan’s ‘God’ [in “Is God a Taoist?”] says that He made people with free will because once you’ve decided to create a sentient being, that’s the only kind possible. Okay, I’d say, rather, that if you’re going to get a whiff of that Divine Breath, if there’s going to be life in a person, there’s going to be the whole Image of God living inside: which will be responding-to events, but not compelled-by.

I’m not sure how this works either. Douglas Hofstadter had a dialogue about a model of how the mind (not ‘the brain’) works… where his characters were arguing that if this model was true, everything they thought about themselves as conscious beings who did things by their own powers and wishes– was an illusion. Really, there were only little sticky balls running through structures that said balls had formed and were constantly reforming by the way those balls were running through those structures. It wasn’t at all a bad model; I think that there’d have to be a direct mapping between it and any other model capable of learning, continuing to do what it had learned, and  learning to do something else instead… capable, that is, of any sort of coherent, ongoing mental process.

What to do about this? Say that our thinking-and-behavior doesn’t follow any such model?– Then we’re logically pushed to say that our thinking-and-behavior is essentially random and effectively senseless. Say instead, that our thinking-and-behavior makes sense, is a coherent and appropriate response to what we experience (internal and external)– And we’re logically pushed to conclude that some such model must exist that would potentially account for it.

But God has no such constraint on divine behavior– and is anything but ‘senseless.’ This seems to imply that while we innately must be able to construct mental models of how our minds operate, capable of ‘explaining’ why we operate as we do– No such model can ever be the truth.

Couldn’t we just have a model that sometimes made sense– but was prey to random glitches? No, that’s just a mechanical model with a limp. The glitches have to come from outside the model, from another category entirely… from whatever ‘spirit’ means.

Wow, long fertile digression! Anyway, God tells a prophet that he has to strike (and wound!) a colleague; he’s really asking for it. Instead of striking– or consulting a shrink, as we might recommend– this prophet refuses. For that, he is eaten by a lion.

First off, this is an echo of Ahab’s fate. Ben-hothead has been asking for it, but Ahab instead cuts a deal for a bazaar concession in Damascus. And that decision is going to cost him. Ahab is trying to do the right, the peaceful and practical thing, but that isn’t what God is asking here; Ahab feels it isn’t fair, and he’s right.

Does this mean we should dash out and obey whatever claims to be a Divine Voice ordering us to smite our neighbor’s loud stereo (and while we’re at it, sacrifice him and marry his widow after a suitable mourning period?) We say we’re supposed to “test” leadings, but our prophet here tries to do that, and he’s lunch!

It isn’t fair; we can’t win? Well, there’s a flaw in the model that poses that question. If God is outside of us making demands, and we are outside of God trying to decide “Are you sure you’re You, God?” and “You say you want me to do what?” then in that model we really can’t win. We have to find out how and why and what it means that God and we are one ‘Thing’.

The Ching says about ‘innocence’: “Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes.” Phew!


8 responses

  1. This is such an excellent post. One worth moving to the foreground from time to time. I’ve re-read this several times. Several streams of thought and feeling brewing inside. More soon. I need to get permission to tell a story. ~ Jim

  2. Jim, you have the same permission we all have. Do you need permission to do God's will?

  3. Something brewing.“… if you're going to get a whiff of that Divine Breath, if there's going to be life in a person, there's going to be the whole Image of God living inside: which will be responding-to events, but not compelled-by ..”Yes. And then,“The Ching says about 'innocence': "Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes." Phew!”Yes! I feel these truths inwardly. Consistent with each other. Harmonious in a smooth felt-flow. Sometimes. Sometimes, dissonance. I’m trying to feel inwardly into the dissonance. To feel what it’s telling me. Slightly artificial starting point. Almost like a safe neutral place. Paul Ricouer spoke with this same feel. And grace – not compelled-by. He would compare command-driven sensibilities in religion with not compelled-by sensibilities. He would touch on dysfunctions of command-driven sensibilities. I know from my own dysfunctions and self-inflicted wounds of rigidness of command-driven feelings that this way isn’t the way of life. Ricouer favored not compelled-by. This wasn’t teaching. It was more like being in the presence of it. You know you’re there. It flowed naturally from him. Integrity between his words and their felt-senses. Not compelled-by. And responding-to. It felt like a deep ocean of calm to hear these words emerge from an ocean of integrity. So too here. A wonderful renewal. The problem begins for me with Ching-innocence and deep levels. Because these deep levels move in inward moments of primordial waves that occasionally coalesce to peak in felt-commands. Command-driven moments. These aren’t inconsistent with moments of peace, that is, there’s no inconsistency with Ching-innocence and deep levels if the Book of Changes is the only guide. Not a legalistic guide now. A help to inward process and change. It’s when I set up artificial expectations for myself by elevating – that expectation – of the ‘not compelled-by’ into a priority – I begin to fight against deeper ‘innocent’ moments of feeling ‘innocently’ compelled-by. This contradiction is in my head. And heart too. But it’s possibly formalized in much Quaker and other pacificist practice. An expectation of a smooth uniform flow of not compelled-by can result in a resistance to genuine inward moments of another real thing – authentic compelled-by. I know from experience my own moments of reflex reaction of jumping over a snake suddenly appearing near my feet on the running trail. Compelled-by. I feel inwardly healthy, if jerky. I know too the quick moments of compelled-by steering wheel action to avoid a car crash. There are also moments in social relations – the society of relations – that present these occasional moments of inward book-of-changes – ‘compelled-by.’ As in that case when the abusive husband walked in unexpectedly and threatened me. I felt something more than a reflex and more than a protective desire – I felt a synthesis of all things emerging into a compelling-feeling-to-stand. Unitary. Necessary. These compelled-by occasions – happen. And feel like commands. They are ‘commands.’ Subject to choice. They too – happen. It’s perhaps not wise to set prior expectations aimed at a ‘not compelled-by’ experience. I’m rambling here. Exploring my own feelings. Not arguing. And arguing. Yes, much inward life is indeed a smooth and gentle flow. Thank God for such Gentle Flow. Yet, to standardize such experience into a prior expectation that this un-compelled flow must always be – can put me at odds with authentic moments of command-driven feeling. And it’s equally an off-center feeling to target an expectation of the command-driven feeling bordering on violence. Not good. Too quick to anger. Doesn’t feel right. Dangerous. Off. (continued)

  4. (continued) I’m curious inwardly and for myself how our covenantal or quasi-agreement relationships tweak us to bias either way. The bias – of command-driven caricatures of much fundamentalism. The bias – of pacifism and focus on continuous smooth flow of the not-compelled peace churches. Yes, these caricature are overdrawn. Some. Not my primary focus right now. But always there – we’re social creatures. Covenant-agreements are a part of life. They affect us. What’s really on my mind is how I would formulate right-felt-words to express what I feel in between my desire for not compelled-by flow and the felt-command-driven moments? What is this? How to say so? What are the words which feel right? What – is – right? I admit, I’m not sure. Something like ‘perfect neutrality’ feels close. A sort of a-ethical zone. Neutral flowing. Or flowing in neutral. Something like that. Flowing in neutral. Maybe Vajrayana Buddhists have a partial point – the assigned gods are only mirrors. There are some predominately peaceful people (assigned a peaceful god). There are some predominately wrathful people (assigned a wrathful god – wrath against ‘ignorance’ – but violently felt wrath inside). And there are some combined peaceful-wrathful people swinging to both sides? Neutrality might not be right for peaceful or wrathful people? Neutrality might work as another ‘command’ against these natural flows of peace and wrath? But for a peaceful-wrathful person? What’s that? Sure, these questions are a bit autobiographical. But it’s possible that many others inhabit traveling points on a continuum in all this. Open rambling questions. Might like to illustrate with some concrete cases (not clients) in time. Explore.Hear? What? Act? How?

  5. Housekeeping – I moved this thread to the top by modifying the time stamp. It will naturally drift back. In time. No need to keep it always on top.

  6. A "peaceful-wrathful" person is generally what we've got, ie everyone has both potentials.We "get-assigned-to" different gods by whichever we happen to worship. 'gods', 'angels', 'demons' being different flavors of a particular sort of "thing" which I blather abt (at length) in a series of posts on my own blog starting here:… William Stringfellow, a Harlem attorney active in the movements for civil rights and against the US/Vietnam war, also found use for this terminology. "There is nothing particularly mysterious, superstitious, or imaginary about principalities… The realities to which the biblical terms 'principalities and powers' refer are quite familiar to modern society, though they may be called by different names. What the Bible calls 'principalities and powers" are called in contemporary language 'ideologies,' 'institutions,' and 'images.'

  7. Hmm, got caught up in mechanics of putting a link in a comment here. Intrigued by your ideas, sort of moving me towards the following scenario:God: "I would like to write/perform my new world 'Dirt' and will be becoming actors & actresses starting at 4004 BC; all of me wanting to participate should let Me know by that date…" [?!!]which would imply that maybe we do 'get assigned', at least given different characters to 'play.'Got to play with a motherboard now; more later.

  8. Helpful. Hear and act, then, only on those innumerable environmental offers of roles that are inwardly confirmed? Focusing inwardly too against the assumption that ‘truth’ derives exclusively as a property of statements about 'roles'? More here for me to chew ..

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