Monday, January 18, 2016

Field Theory

I have written often enough on my struggle with wanting to know "how things work"; and, Christian theology being replete with explanations of how, and why, prayer is supposed to work, I have sometimes struggled with how such often mechanistic views might mesh with my actual experience of prayer - which is, as far as it goes, anything but mechanistic.

Cynthia Bourgeault comes closer than anyone I've read to offering an explanation which might be both intellectually credible and sufficiently close to anything I've actually encountered in prayer to begin to make sense to me. She writes:
Only recently have we Christians begun to feel even vaguely comfortable talking about things... at the level of spiritual energy. The problem, essentially, as we approach this important issue of contemplative prayer and compassionate action is that we are working with an outgrown metaphysics. You could say that we are still using a Newtonian theology in a quantum universe. While science has long since acclimated to thinking of matter and energy as one continuous field, in out older theological categories we still keep matter and energy rigidly separate - and God the most separate of all. Body and spirit are different. Creator and creature are different. We still do not know, apart from calling it pantheism, how to talk about God being in all things; how to speak of the substance (not merely the image) of divine life coursing through both the visible and the invisible in one continuous revelation of divine love. We keep trying to express a vision of unity within a metaphysics of separateness. What is needed is a "quantum" leap forward into a new way of seeing... so that we no longer focus on the separate things, but stare directly into the energy field that contains them all - that great "electromagnetic field of love" as Kabir Helminski called it...
...I have tried to suggest a new way of picturing hope. In this new positioning, the underlying sense of corporateness is physically real, for that "electromagnetic field of love" is the Mercy - and the Mercy is the body of Christ. Through this body hope circulates as a lifeblood. It warms, it fills, it connects, it directs. It is the heart of our own life and the heart of all that lives.
Hope's home is at the innermost point in us, and in all things. It is a quality of aliveness. It does not come at the end, as the feeling that results from a happy outcome. Rather, it lies at the beginning, as a pulse of truth that sends us forth... It is entered always and only through surrender...

Anything, it seems, that acts within this field has the possibility - perhaps the inevitability - to affect all that lives and moves and has its being within that same field. Our prayer, then, is not a request to some distant, separated ruler for his magical intervention, nor an act of mere self-hypnosis in order to give us the impulse to behave as we believe to be right, but a real and effective ripple in the conjoined skein of all that is, the membrane of "all that is made", as the hazelnut rests at peace in the hand of Christ.

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