Monday, July 2, 2007

Atlantis to Revelation: Godscapes in my luggage

My holiday reading included, by chance, two rather different takes on 'life, the universe and everything'. In Edinburgh, there's a shop in Grassmarket which sells both craft materials and books on the work of Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophy movement. (An odd combination. Once when Danny Baker was presenting 'The Big Breakfast' he did a piece on shops which sell eccentric combinations of things - 'Suits of armour and wool' was one memorable example.) Living as I was in expansive holiday time, I decided to buy some of these books to see what Steiner was all about. I had heard of him vaguely - of the education system he founded still used in a number of schools, and of arts, architecture, and health systems based on his principles. I also associated him in my mind with 'Theosophy' and spiritualism. I wasn't too far off the mark (check out Wikipedia for an overview) but what I picked up on from the books I got was the Christianity that is central to his philosophy. Briefly, he talks of a cosmic Christ, available to all since His resurrection as an inner, higher self. We live in a spiritual universe governed by moral laws, with etheric and astral being as well as physical form. Some will have difficulty with a worldview based on clairvoyance, that includes Atlantis and Lemuria; or the idea that there were two Jesuses (in different Gospels - this explains some anomolies of His ancestry) whose consciousness merged into one prior to the Ministry. (From my comics/SF-reading perspective, all of this seems great - like the Bible adapted by Jack Kirby.) I would imagine that Anthoposophy has some (post)-New-Age adherents, synthesising as it does some pagan-friendly concepts of a living Earth, with reincarnation, karma, inclusion (co-option) of all religions ('Each religion is valid and true for the time and cultural context in which it was born')and (as a marketer might say) much much more. His 'spiritual science' could be seen as a holistic theory of everything; to his credit, Steiner advises people to draw their own conclusions based on experimental knowledge.

The other wide-ranging (well, big) theological work that I purchased was Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson. From a brief look in the shop, I anticipated a book of Bible commentary, which I hoped might help me understand what some of the more baffling/offensive sections could possibly mean. However when I actually read it I discovered a rather different kind of book; explaining indeed but zeroing in on a particular interpretaion (in a way it could be called fixing or 'Locking' the Bible.) Pawson advises reading whole books rather than dipping into chapters and passages, and depicts the Bible as a kind of unified entity with a beginning and end, ie the story-arc (or Ark) of God's plan in the past, present and future. A pretty much literal reading, and one in which the Hebrew Bible foreshadows the NT thoughout. For instance, the reference to Gods in the plural in Genesis demonstrates that the Trinity was already being described... It's hard to imagine a reading that differs more from my own (which if pressed I would say is along the lines of 'it can all be myth and therefore all profoundly true, sacred and at the same time just words on pages, available for endless interpretation, open source rather than Microsoft') - but the detail and effort involved in constructing the model is admirable in a way...

So, two big explanations of everything that is, each of which is, within its own system, whole and self-sufficient. Would any such system (such as the grand 'theory of everything' sought by physicists) be any better? Seductive as they (and others like them) might be, I always end up moving on - trying to be comfortable with doubt and have faith in mystery.

No comments: