Tag Archive: learn


Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now?

 

May the Source of All Life nourish us and bind us together,
May the Wisdom of the Holy One enlighten us and enable our sharing,
And may the Courage of Holy Fire inspire is as a network of love and freedom
today and always…

And we the people say: Amen

New Testament Keynotes – Chair: Kylie Crabbe


Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Mark 7 greek NRSV literal

Clean and Unclean: Multiple Readings of Mark 7:24-30/31 – Dorothy Lee

 

1. MISSIONAL READING

  • Gentile mission
  • Priority of Israel
  • Postcolonialism
  • Inclusion

 

2. PEDAGOGICAL READING

  • who is teacher?
  • woman as teacher, Jesus as student
  • peirastic iroy
  • Jesus and woman as co-teachers

 

3. PARADIGMATIC READING

  • discipleship
  • spirituality
  • courage
  • women and outsiders
  • communtiy of faith
  • clean and unclean

 

4. CHRISTOLOGICAL READING

  • God and suppliant
  • Identity of Markan Jesus
  • subversive authority
  • shame and suffering
  • divine guardian and protector
  • Eucharist

 

CONCLUSION

These four ways of reading the text overlap and invite us to take the story seriously. especially in our thinking around inclusive table, diversity, cleansing and expanding borders.

‘The text is not out to get me.
There’s a radical inversion of power.
I’m not trying to rescue Jesus or the woman –
but see them through Mark’s eyes.
Dorothy Lee

 

 

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Adela Yarbro Collins

The Leadership of Women in Early Christianity – Adela Yarbro Collins

Referencing mention of females in literature and inscriptions it is evident women have held positions of leadership since the very earliest days of Christianity: House churches (leadership, hosting), Apostles (commissioned by risen Christ or local community), Episkopoi (head of house churches, financial and administrative organisers), Diakonoi (messengers, envoys, mouthpieces, delegates), Presbuteroi (elders, presenters and priests)…

‘Evidence is so rare…
but indicates there would have been more’

‘Women in the early church ministered in a variety of functions, including as apostles. The literature and inscriptions only serve as evidence of what they were trying to suppress. Female leadership was approved of and recognised by both male leaders and those communities whom they served’

‘It would be great to see the Catholic church restore women to the diaconate and then to priestliness… I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime but I’m willing to be surprised.’

– Adela Yarbro Collins

 

 

Three short papers – Chair: Stephen Burns


Desolate, devastated, redeemed, restored: Feminist visions of Daughter Zion reframed in Deutero-Isaiah and the conversation around domestic violence in Australia today – Angela Sawyer

Key passages: Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? zion domestic violence in Australia

  • Isaiah 49:14-26; 50:1-3; 51:17-52:6; and 54
  • Zion’s personification – what is her identity? her role?
  • Dealing with metaphors
  • Zion, violence and trauma theories

Responses:

  • raising the profile of a poetic character such as Zion
  • Zion’s voice and Zion’s silence
  • Cognitive approaches to metaphor theory, trauma theories and biblical studies
  • the benefit of this combination when reading with those in contexts of violence and trauma
  • Contextual Bible Study, creativity of expression – Zion’s metaphorical image can offer something to women experiencing domestic violence in Australia.

‘We need to reappraise texts of violence.
When we “make nice” these texts. We “make nice” the issues’
[domestic violence]

‘There is distorted and false teaching speaking to issues of family violence, male authority, divorce… we need biblical criticism not literalism to reinterpret, reframe or reject these passages.’

– Angela Sawyer

 

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now?

Are You Shaved? A Hermeneutic of Hair Removal – Caroline Alsen

“equality feminism”, “radical (justice) feminism”, “biblical feminism”…

‘The Bible might offer answers to questions
but it’s not a women’s liberation document’
– Caroline Alsen

 

  • engaging critique of asymmetric power structures
  • move from authority to function
  • awareness, not author-ity
  • key to power = key to feminist reading

Bible talks a lot about piercing, circumcision, purification rituals… and the idea that when you lose hair you lose strength. Enemies were shaved to feminise and shame them (2 Samuel 10:4) … also ritual liminality, social humility for priests, Israel elite male gaze.

For Egyptians and Assyrians shaving was normal – when Joseph decides to shave is it an imperative of Israelite survival? assimilation? participating in the colonising? being “civilised”?

Father (Jacob) and son (Joseph) alter their hair at moments of transition of power but at the same time are feminising their Israelite identity.

 

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Tamar Rachelle Gilmour

“But he would not listen to her”: Revisiting the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 – Rachelle Gilmour

Does Absolom kill Amnon as revenge for the rape of Tamar or for his own ends?

The rape of Tamar is an act against David, challenging his position as King. Absolom kills Amnon for the threat to his father and protection of his inheritance and to assert his masculinity (strength). Absolom is presented as hero and avenger but is really serving his own ends.  Tamar is silenced and has no comforter.

Parallels between 2 Samuel 13 and the concubines of 2 Samuel 16 are broken by God intervention in the latter.  But God’s intervention comes too late for Tamar or the concubines. Is God listening to Tamar? In these passages whose voice do we hear? Who is voiceless? Who has a voice but is silenced?

‘Rape is more to do with men’s power over other men
than men’s power over women’
[if the husband or father were “strong” it wouldn’t happen]

‘It’s our role to critique society then and now’

– Rachelle Gilmour

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now?We sit in silence – holding space for brief moments to acknowledge all the complexity arising from these topics and texts…

 

Old Testament Keynotes – Chair: Katharine Massam


Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Gerald West

Rape, Royal Power and Resistance in 2 Samuel: Intersecting gender and class in biblical text and South African context – Gerald West

African feminist women’s theologies ‘struggle’ to emerge fro within African ‘father’ theologies: African Theology, Ujamaa Theology, SOuth African Black Theology, South African Contextual Theology.

Culture, Economics and Race are the core systems of these African liberation theologies (it’s difficult to get gender in as a point of intersectionality).

African Feminist/Women’s Theology adds ‘Patriarchy’ as a core and intersecting system.

African women tracking intersections… between gender and economics (Makhosazana Nzimande and Musa Dube)

Letters Longing for Intersection

  • From Bathsheba to her grandfather Ahithophel
  • From Tamar to Ahithophel
  • From the Pilegeshim (wives of David) to Ahithophel
  • Graffiti on the wall of Jerusalem

David has taken,
Amnon has taken,
Absolom has taken,
Ahithophel was taken…
your daughters!
Vuka!

The narrative builds tension, waiting for Ahithophel to speak.

“What shall we do?”
“Rape your father’s wives.”

Locating Ahithophel socio-historically and narratively and looking at the advice he offers what can we understand of his motivations and intentions? There are intersecting injustices… are there intersecting resistances?

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? Jione Havea

Terror of texts: Talanoa on three letters around Numbers 27:1-11 and 36:1-12 – Jione Havea

 

“If we save the planet and have a society of inequality,
we wouldn’t have saved much” – James H. Cone

Talanoa – story, telling, conversation

LETTER ONE

Somewhere at the meeting place of the Kulin nations:

Wurundjeri
Boonwurrung
Taungurong
Dja dua Wurrung
Wathurung

May 04, 2018
Just passed midnight

Dear Ana Loiloi…

A story is told of five named sisters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.

They raise 6 things and the Lord answers… 1.

Talanoa has the capacity to create history and truth.
Talanoa ridicules the private-public divide.

 

LETTER TWO

Dear Sela Kakala…

We hear your name and we remember you. I’m wandering and wondering tonight how your children lives will be different without you.

Where is the mother of these 5 sisters? Their mother is nowhere in their story.

  • do they share the same Mum?
  • would the story be different if she was alive?
  • are they making this claim for their rights at their mothers’ urging?

We give her a name.  That name is: Kulin.
We resist by reclaiming her, giving her a name, and putting her back into the story.

Talanoa is not about telling everything

  • talanoa is particular
  • talanoa is partial
  • talanoa holds back

 

LETTER THREE

Dear Diya Lakai…

If the sisters are married into mother Israelite tribe, then their inheritance will go with them.  Moses adjusts the rules so that the sisters must marry one of their own tribe, keeping the wealth within their tribe.

  1. See, judge, act for yourself and your company
  2. Resistance is good. Find company. Solidarity is empowering.
  3. Challenge the written [laws].  Don’t limit yourself to those causes which affect only humans.  See islands lost. Grieve. Try and save others.
  4. Beware of materiality.  Read Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise
  5. Find more mother’s for Kulin’s daughters.
  6. Marry who you want when you grow up. See, judge, act for yourself. Live beyond the shadows of your father.

P.s. read your Bible carefully.

“I like letters – you can tear, hold, keep, read, share them…
but they can be a resistance too.”

– Monica Melanchthon

“Reading texts and doing bible study with marginalised
people brings their voice, that of ordinary women,
and brings them to the conference.
We need to run bible study that
ordinary people can access.”

– Gerald West

Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship 11 May 2018 where are we now? candle and pine table pieces

war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018

This ANZAC day as we remember those who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 we also acknowledge all of those who lost their lives in the Frontier Wars.

We acknowledge people of the Kulin Nation stalked game, collected food and fished along the river junctions, estuaries, oceans, swamps and lagoons of this place since time immemorial. They met, raised families, shared songs and stories.  We acknowledge this way of life was interrupted during white settlement and that this country was the scene of conflicts between the Kulin Nation people and the European colonisers.

You won’t see any war memorials depicting the Frontier Wars. When Aboriginal people mourn the loss of a family member they follow Aboriginal death ceremonies, or ‘sorry business’. It is believed that when a person dies, their spirit goes back to the Dreaming Ancestors in the land if the correct ceremonies rituals are conducted.  The tradition not to depict dead people or voice their (first) names is very old  – traditional law across Australia said that a dead person’s name could not be said because you would recall and disturb their spirit. After the invasion this law was adapted to images as well.

Aunty Margaret Parker from the Punjima people in north-west Western Australia describes what happens in an Aboriginal community when someone dies.

“…when we have someone passed away in our families and not even our own close families, the family belongs to us all, you know. The whole community gets together and shares that sorrow within the whole communityWe have to cry, in sorrow, share our grief by crying and that’s how we break that [grief], by sharing together as a community.

If you are interested in thinking further on this subject more you might visit NGV’s “Colony: Frontier Wars” exhibition on until 15 July 2018 or  read Richard Flanagan’s recent Press Club speech online. As we remember the grief of those lives lost in wars today the following poem by indigenous artist Zelda Quakaroot, from Mackay, Queensland might be a way to share our grief as a community. This poem was inspired by AFL player Adam Goodes, on the subject of war it may not be that “our voices have been heard” yet but we can be grateful for the space to hold grief as a community today for the fallen in war – named and unnamed.

 

STAND STRONG

Our ancestors spirits
Are here…
Respect never retires
Stand up
We’ve marched
Our voices have been heard;
Stand here
Where we belong
Stand altogether
With our passionate hearts
For respect
We all stand strong.

Sources: Wikipedia and Creative Spirits


 

I know nothing about anything.  I just need to get that out there. I make some presumptive connections above about why there might not be indigenous war memorials and sort of appropriate the “unnamed soldier” for my own poetic ends… The most I have heard about the Frontier Wars was on Monday at the Indigenous Hospitality House‘s Learning Circle.  I’m a you-have-to-start-somewhere kind of person and the second step in acknowledging you know nothing about something is to say: Why don’t I know about this? How can I find out more?  The above is a very hastily cobbled together poster I made very late last night… it didn’t arise out of any wisdom or stakeholder consultation (I’m sorry for that), it didn’t even get spell checked (crap!) it arose out of a deep sense of conviction that I should know more about what I know nothing about and wanting to give hands and feet to that commitment urgently.  Richard Flanagan’s Press Club speech is so pertinent to our times I wish everyone in Australia would read it.

In the meantime… I did a little morning vigil of my own putting these up in Footscray’s Memorial Park and on the Avenue of Honour plinth because I want to see Frontier Wars become part of the conversation… I want to have the conversation… and I can’t get to Canberra for the Frontier Wars March.

 

Squatter Henry Meyrick wrote in a letter home to his relatives in England in 1846:
The blacks are very quiet here now, poor wretches. No wild beast of the forest was ever hunted down with such unsparing perseverance as they are. Men, women and children are shot whenever they can be met with … I have protested against it at every station I have been in Gippsland, in the strongest language, but these things are kept very secret as the penalty would certainly be hanging … For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog, but no consideration on earth would induce me to ride into a camp and fire on them indiscriminately, as is the custom whenever the smoke is seen. They [the Aborigines] will very shortly be extinct. It is impossible to say how many have been shot, but I am convinced that not less than 450 have been murdered altogether.[2]     Source

Please see also Lyndall Ryan‘s interactive (partially completed) massacre map for violence near you…

 

What are war memorials for by the way… Remembering? Honouring? Celebrating? Prayer? Prevention? Cure? Should they be educational so that understanding the horror of war we might be dissuaded from ever participating in them by being transparent about the cost of war and violence – personal and political? Should they advocate for alternate and non-violent approaches? Make connections to waves of migration and refugees?

Ironically, the only one at Footscray’s war memorials this morning was me.  There are no flowers or wreaths, no events, no mourners although I saw a few folks in uniform heading for the local RSL.  The memorial has had a revamp recently, the Australian Government is commiting a lot to doing them up in upcoming years on top of the $100 million spent on a new museum in France, apparently there are a total 5-6 Frontier War memorials in all of Australia, maybe we could get a new museum here on country?

I confess I don’t feel as much as I think I should, I have ringing in my head the chorus “Lest We Forget” but we cannot remember what we do not know, how selective are the stories we’re being taught? And I wonder… have I forgotten what I’m supposed to remember?

What are we forgetting?
What are we remembering?

war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018

I read some of the plaques at the memorial garden overlooking the Maribyrnong river and the racecourse.  The catch-cry of the funding appeal for planting the Avenue of Honour back in the day was that the memorial would be “…dedicated to citizens who fell in ANY war in which Australia has been engaged.” Could this language create space for remembering lives lost in the Frontier Wars?  One plaque quotes the widow of Private GF Blake of Footscray from an In Memoriam message in The Age ‘Each day I miss his footsteps/As I walk through life alone‘.  Walking is evocative language in this country, what learned wisdom about following in our elders first footprints and following songlines have to teach us about grief? What symbolism might we share of trails that end unexpectedly, or songs that are lost before they can be passed on, can we learn from?

Don’t forget to remember.   Let’s keep talking about what that means.

 

poster australian collaborators in feminist theologies the state of feminist biblical scholarship

The title of the upcoming Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies network event poses this exact question and I wonder… less postgrads, less promotion, less published – where are the female-centric stories and who is telling them?

I want to get to hear about the Nuns (Adorers of the Blood of Christ, environmental protectors and activists) blocking the Standing Rock gas pipeline development. I want to hear more about Teresa Lee, Emily Wood, Leonnie Wickenden, and Abigail Benham-Bannon – Christian women getting arrested for Love Makes a Way for their belief in, and support of, the rights of asylum seekers arriving by sea. I want to hear more about Aunty Sharyn, an Indigenous Christian leader from Brisbane, called to a vocation rising out of her personal experience who has started up B’ira Women’s Ministry – a significant community ministry addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse in Indigenous communities. I want to hear more because I do not doubt that there is a strong biblical theology that underpins the choices of these women to put themselves in the way and turn out fear for their faith.

Bir’a is Wakka Wakka Language for ‘High Spirit’ and is all about when ‘Women meet Jesus’. Bir’a run yarning circles – providing a safe space to talk through grief, trauma, healing and relationships and do art therapy for when women can’t find, or just don’t have, the words to describe what has happened to them.

Hearing about this ministry I was put in mind of the women in Mark (5:21-43).  Jesus is walking along with his disciples and a leader of the Synagogue comes along asking for healing for his daughter who is unwell. Jesus agrees to come, yet along the way a bleeding woman who, against all purity codes, reaches out to touch a Jewish man in the desperation and hope of being healed. This woman reaches out for and takes what will heal her.  v.29 “Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” but v.33-34 goes on to say  “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth”.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  She had already been healed of the physical symptoms (v.29), this second healing aims to address the mental stress of what the disease had cost: exclusion from temple which was a central part of life; if she had a husband perhaps he left – not being able to touch what she had touched or share intimacy; perhaps people worried they might catch the disease; or perhaps the priests tried various means and methods of cleansing or praying out demons… what isolation and exclusion had this woman known over these 12 years?  How long does it take to pour out this tale of grief, fear and loneliness?  Long enough for the Synagogue leaders daughter to die – does one persons healing come at the cost of another’s? No.  Jesus goes on to ‘wake’ her.

What part do women’s truth and storytelling have to play in our healing – personal, family, community, political…? We need times and spaces to hear truth, we need to be willing to tell our whole truth, we need to be willing to listen to others’.

Lydia Wylie-Kellerman reminds us “Telling stories is an act of resistance. It is part of discipleship. It is movement work. Stories are provocative and powerful while at the same time nourishing. They hold us. They remind us who we are. They help us know who we want to become.”

We need learn from the wisdom of women’s ways of knowing. We need to learn from the wisdom of women’s encounters with Spirit, Christ, God and what calls them to move. The powerful experiences, perspectives and stories of women have much to teach us and we need to pay attention. Thirty years on from Phyllis Trible’s pioneering Christian feminist perspective to biblical scholarship (Texts of terror, 1984), the upcoming conference pauses to reflect on the current state of feminist scholarship, mythological issues and texts that continue to terrorise.  Issues worth thinking about for all those students, researchers, ministers, faithful, knowing women contributing now, and emerging, to remind us who we are and who we want to become.

You are invited.


The State of Feminist Biblical Scholarship – Where are we now?

Friday 11 May, 2018
9.30am–5.00pm

Location:
Centre for Theology and Ministry
29 College Crescent, Parkville VIC 3052

Cost:
$40.00 waged / $20.00 unwaged
includes a catered lunch and snacks

Bookings:
www.trybooking.com/366028

20180113_141052

‘I would like to go, stupidly, towards the bodies that my anxiety has kept me from.’
– Guy Hocquenghem, ‘The Screwball Asses’

I will be content with nothing less that the total and complete destruct-
tion of my body. Now is not the time to be flippant, now is the time to be
sincere, and helpful, but I still say, ‘I like to sleep with people who could
break my ribs id they chose to’. It’s stupid because couldn’t anyone, phys-
ically? And wouldn’t they?

Smashed ceramic chips are like fingernails, kept clipped short
and ragged, scraping over your legs. No two chips are identical. Rough
snaggles, little knives. Obsessively clipped every day. I love forms that
take a long time to set. I love thinking about waiting for the grout to dry.
Thin cylinders, almost meeting in the corner of the room. At the same
time smooth, especially aesthetically, and rough, like a secret. I feel like
I’m visiting the clinic, and I’m into it.

I was clearing away the cups from tea and coffee after group.
There was a tea bag bound to a stirring stick, the string wound tightly
around. In sharing time he said, ‘If you can’t be a faggot, why be a man at
all?’ and honked, a nervous burst of laughter. When he was not speaking
I looked at him. His shoulders hung forward with many years of habit,
the same as mine. The things I love looking at are the things that are the
same as me, or spaces where I can see that I could be too; there but for
the grace of God go I. When he was speaking, I looked away. It’s just a
wrapper. A vessel.

I like to think about bending steel. To make something look like it
flutters but allow it to be still. Allow something so precious to evaporate
into the air. Less death wish, more stability. It’s good to have a role, you
whispered, handing me a tray of raw meat, not looking at me. ‘everybody
treats you like a boy until you say you are one’. The bruise becomes the
unmistakable centre of the long neck. The neck becomes negative and
the bruise positive. Like the neck exists only o support the bruise. Like
this vessel exists only to support what’s inside of it. To see your pulse in
light blue. To feel your heart beating in your skin. ‘These things we do,’
he says. ‘they never used to come naturally to me,’ Nothing even really
happens, but the interiority is so overpowering, so strong. The blood is
at the surface.

An excerpt from the stunning work of Spence Messih with Vincent Silk and many other artists are now on display as part of the UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Perspectives on art and feminism exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 15 Dec 2018-25 March 2018. Free entry. Check it out!

 

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you put yourself out there

footscray graffiti orange black white house with a couch and cat on the porch

You put yourself out there.
You put yourself out.
You put your Self out.
Here I am.

Housesitting and off the shelf of an extraordinary library I discover the poetry of Stevie Smith… I think she and I have become friends and I just may have to visit again…

img_9980

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IMG_8197

Take off that cloak of fear,
the divine strength you seek is here,
and you know you are dying to live.
You know you are dying to live.

We seek to live a more contemplative life so that we will not have to wait until we are dying to learn to live.

Teach us the grace of listening.
Reveal to us the art of dying.
Show us the face of God.

 

p.25, Seven Sacred Pauses – Macrina Wiederkehr

Ithaka

225

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
By C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

IMG_5684

 

Only I would tear pages out of a book, draw on them, paint them, then decide I wanted to read it… not sure whether to laugh or sigh – perhaps a little of both is in order… already fascinating…

p.7-8  If we would appeal to science at all, we must use her methods – not methods of our own choosing.  Now it is a generally accepted principle in science that it is only through the study of the unusual, the odd and the seemingly inexplicable, that man can be led onwards towards new knowledge.  The scientist whose mind revolves only in the grooves of well recognised theory has little chance of discovering important new principles.  In fact, an important element in the scientific method consists in the focusing of attention upon the things that science cannot explain, or has difficulty in explaining.  In this way only can it be discovered whether known principles will cover all the facts, or whether new remain to be discovered.

We must apply the same method if we wish to build a reliable philosophy of nature.  If we consider only the recognised laws of science we shall never discover whether they are adequate to explain everything in the universe – we shall never even discover whether they are the most important factors of which we ought to take cognisance.  To reach a sane judgement, we must turn to the odd and the peculiar.  We must think about things which, in the light of present scientific knowledge, seem inexplicable.  We must ask if they really are inexplicable, or only apparently so.  And should the first possibility seem the more likely, we must ask whether the inexplicable facts can be explained – explained, not of course, in a fundamental sense, but in the scientific sense of co-ordinated or grouped together by a new hypothesis or theory which would make them inexplicable no longer.  Finally, if we are able to do so we must test our theory – we must see whether it can help us to understand yet other facts, which we have overlooked hitherto, whether it will stimulate our minds to research in new directions and so forth.  And, as the past history of science has shown on repeated occasions, it will often happen that the good theory, based upon phenomena that once seemed queer and out of the ordinary, will help us to understand the ordinary and commonplace.

This is the scientific method of discovery of truth – the method upon which the scientific edifice of our day has been built.  And it is also the way of common sense – a codification of the rules that are always used in establishing evidence.  For the scientific method is only a glorified version of the ways of common sense.  The detective, like the scientist, focuses his attention upon the details that seem queer and inconsistent with the knowledge he already possesses;  like the scientist he frames his theories upon those parts of the picture that at first seem odd and inexplicable; like the scientist again he seeks to discover whether his theories are adequate.  The economist, the historian, the archaeologist, the linguist – every one, in fact, whose business it is to discover facts adapts the same procedure.  The scientific method is the method of human reason.

p.9 Instead of examining the inexplicable. The modern writer only too often examines the explicable: instead of showing interest in the extraordinary, he revels in the ordinary.  And his reply to those who adopt a more orthodox procedure is to the effect that they are inventing a “God of the gaps” who will be doomed to extinction as soon as all-conquering science has discovered how the gaps may be filled in.

p.10

Instead of avoiding the difficulties, instead of begging the question by pretending that every difficulty is mere gap, we must boldly explore the suppose gaps with all the care we can muster.  Nor need we apologise for doing so.

The Mystery of the Zohar (The Book of Radiance)

The Zohar is the most important work of the Kabbalah.  It emerged/appeared in the 13th century in Spain and was associated with Rabbi Moses de-Leon.  According to de-Leon, the Zohar was an ancient book (composed by a famous 2nd century Jewish sage) which was found in a cave in Israel and was brought to Spain and into his house.  De Leon sold portions of the work and claimed he was copying from the ancient book.  Even so, during his life ad after his death some didn’t believe de Leon’s version and believed him to be the real author of the work.  Those who thought de-Leon was the author believed that that book was written by means of a mystical technique, namely employing one of the names of God to enter a trance like state whereby the book was channeled to him and written through “automatic writing”.  Today, most of all scholars think that the book was written in Spain in the late 13th century and that De Leon is connected to it either as a sole author or as one of the authors but it is still an unsolved mystery.

The Zohar is a very long and magnificent book:

  1. It tells a story of a great teacher – Rabi Shimon Bar-Yochai – and his 10 students who are travelling around Israel.
  2. If tells the story of how the Divine Powers – (the Sefirot) – emanated from the infinite God (Ein Sof). Something mysterious happened (a little bit like the big bang) and this event generated the ten divine powers which have different personalities and aspects – some masculine and some feminine in their nature (the infinite God is i a way similar to out soul or to the unconscious and the Sefirot to our body).  The last power is feminine and is known as Malkhut (kingdom) or Shekhinah.  Our world was born from Shekhina and therefore is always feminine is nature –  there are cycles and there are death in it.  Since the Shekhinah is not always connected to the other 9 powers – like her, we sometimes feel full and part of something bigger but often times not.
  3. It is structured as a commentary on the Five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) – the commentary shows how the bible stories actually hide the stories of the divine powers – their creation and their relationships with one another.
  4. It was written in Aramaic and in a special coded language.  Different words are actually symbols of the divine powers.
  5. The book was written in a way that can affect the readers as a drug.  The images that arouse the senses and feeling expand the reader’s mind and allow them to learn about the true and deep meaning of themselves, of their bodies, of their relationships, their sexuality etc.
  6. There is a similarity and maybe identification between the Divine and the Human.
  7. The kabbalists can affect the divine world in different ways and they can bring the divine female and the divine male together – this is usually described in sexual terms.  When the male and the female come together in a sexual union the beautiful divine flow comes into the world.
  8. The Shekhinah is the first and only gate into the divine realm and she is the main hero of the Zohar.

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I will confess that when I heard the topic of the week was the Zohar/Kabbalah, I came to the conversation with little beyond “wasn’t Madonna into that at some point”?  I have made a point here of including the words that were on Merav’s handout and not my own notes and reflections because to be honest I found some of what I was hearing very strange to my (admittedly) limited understanding despite Merav doing an admirable job of trying to explain it!

What I DID do, by way of response, was immediately pick up a bible and flicked randomly to various sections of the Old Testament, trying to engage it as if I had never heard of Christianity before and recording my first impressions, I found myself in:

Exodus 30:11-16 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them…”

> ransom/kidnapping/buy back language?

> rich people should pay the same amount of tax/tithe as the poor people

> pay up or you’ll get the plague

Judges 19:7-13 ” …saw the people who were there, how they dwelt in security… quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth, and possessing wealth… ‘Arise, and let us go up against them… Do not be slow to go, and enter in and possess the land… God has given it to your hands…’ And six hundred men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set forth…”

> invade others countries, it’s a God-given right, especially when you out-number them

> especially where there’s material wealth (ahem, OIL)

> invade them while they’re unarmed and unsuspecting without warning or negotiation

2 Samuel 13:23-29 “But Absolom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.  Then Absolom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon’, then kill him.  Fear not, have I not commanded you?” 

> arranging to kill the guy that rapes your sister is ok

> lie to get near the target, offer them lavish hospitality and then
when they’re blind drunk (unarmed and unsuspecting) take them out

Say what you like about my methodology here, my point is merely that I would certainly struggle to describe my beliefs on the basis of a few readings to anyone who had never heard of it before, or to relate well how I choose to live and act on those beliefs in a way that bears any relation to these passages.

  • it is good to visit familiar places as if we are arriving for the first time and know how that might be experienced for people
  • the mystery of the Zohar might remain mysterious to me, but what I do not understand still has something to teach me