Easter 2019. The Too Small God.

The Cosmic Christ - Toledo Cathedral.
A good man dies in the most horrible way because his father (God) requires his sacrifice in order to atone for human sin.

This is the wholly unsupportable Christian orthodoxy that we have lived with for more than seven hundred years. No wonder people turn away from churches in droves now that it is no longer a community requirement to attend. Only the ego can support such a theory and only the tribe can maintain it.

It is not the point of the crucifixion and it never was. And it's not just me saying that. Great theologians such as John Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure have been saying it for centuries. It has always been part of the Franciscan Orthodoxy and, now, Richard Rohr, says it magnificently in his new book The Universal Christ.

In a nutshell, all this "substitutionary penal atonement" came about because of theories by St. Augustine (354-430 CE) and Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109 CE). It's important to emphasise that these were only theories - but they were gobbled up by Christianity like chocolate eggs at Easter - because they fitted so neatly into the ego's desire for blaming and shaming. If you can make other people wrong, you really don't have to do anything about the plank in your own eye. And you can worship Jesus Christ and thank him while doing diddly-squat about following him, healing and loving as he did. N.B. Jesus never once asked us to worship him. He did ask us to follow him.

St. Augustine came up with the theory of "original sin" — that humanity is born sinful because of Adam and Eve's disobedience and that Jesus died to save us from that. From what I've read, his point appeared to be that Jesus had saved us from that so it was over ... but good old Christianity preferred to pick up the idea and run with it. Blaming people and making them wrong is just so much fun, isn't it?

Incidentally, Judaism has no concept of original sin so it's fairly unlikely that the human known as Jesus did either.

St. Anselm's theory was that "a price had to be paid to restore God's honour and it needed to be paid to God the Father by one who was equally divine." (Cur Deus Homo? 1094-98). The ego is fully programmed to leap onto this kind of idea and promote it - that authority is angry, punative and violent and that we must either fight and resist it (atheism) or appease it even if that means rejecting or killing "unbelievers" (fundamental religion). For both sides this makes the genuine spiritual journey impossible. As Richard Rohr writes, "why would you love or trust or desire to be with such a God?" (The Universal Christ.)

Franciscans, on the other hand (and I would call myself 100% a Franciscan), do not see the incarnation of the Divine in a human body and the crucifixion as a reaction to sin. We see the cross as a freely chosen revelation of God's love. God is spilling Its own blood to reach out to us and tell us that It understands and experiences our pain with us.

Life on Earth is painful. Where there is love there will always be loss and sorrow. Where there is food to find or grow, there will be hard work and sometimes injury. Where there is a child to be born, there will be blood and pain. That is not a punishment; that is just how physical life is. And God is in there with us, living it with us and helping us when we remember to be conscious enough to allow that.

God is not a distant authority figure who could choose to stop our suffering but won't (like our abusive parent/teacher/boss). God is in us, in creatures, in plants, in the land, in the water, in the air, in the fire. The choices WE make are God's choices. That's what free will means. The message of the Hebrew Testament prophets is, again and again, that God may be astonished and even horrified by our choices but that God will love us through everything. Don't believe me, read Samuel and Jeremiah ... and read them as metaphor for your own life because then they will make sense.

The whole Eden story is about teaching humanity about choice - we can choose good or evil - and every day, we do.  What's more, we choose what we (or more accurately, our egos) believe to be what is good and what is evil. And like Adam and Eve we deal with it by blaming others ("The woman gave me the fruit"/"the serpent tricked me" Gen. 3:12) instead of taking responsibility for our own beliefs and actions.

Look at the rage over the donations to restore Notre Dame for example. The energy of blaming and shaming those who choose to give to restore a building rather than to the rainforests or corals or poverty is far more damaging to the life-force of the whole planet than the wealthy's well-intentioned donations. It is entirely possible that our pollution of the planet follows directly on from our culture of blame and hatred — particularly of those who have wealth and whom we deny that we envy so we can feel virtuous for criticising for their choices — and we could heal the Earth simply through the long-term application of love.

Richard Rohr again: "A religion based on necessary or required sacrifices, required primarily of Jesus and later the underclass, is just not glorious enough for, hopeful enough for, or even befitting the marvelous creation that we are a part of. To those who cling to Anselm's understanding, I would say, as J. B. Phillips wrote so many years ago, 'Your God is too small.'

"Far too many evils have been committed in history under the manipulative cry of 'sacrifice,' usually violent and necessary sacrifice for an always 'noble' cause. But I believe Jesus utterly undoes the very notion of sacrificial requirements for God to love us — first in himself and in all of us. 'Go, learn the meaning of the words, what I want is mercy, not sacrifice' (Matt. 9:13, 12:7).

"It is not God who is violent. We are.
It is that God demands suffering of humans. We do." (The Universal Christ.)

So, what is the point of the crucifixion and the resurrection? It is transformational not transactional. We all suffer "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ... and by dying to that suffering, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they are doing"  (allowing it rather than resisting it or fighting people over it or blaming people for not saving us from it), then resurrection is a done deal. How? Because we let go of our own judgement of the situation and allow Grace in.

I can't say it any better than Richard does:

"The cross was the price Jesus paid for living in a 'mixed' world which is both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole. He hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, inside of both humanity and divinity, a male body with a feminine soul, utterly whole and yet utterly disfigured...

"... Jesus the Christ agreed to carry the mystery of universal suffering. He allowed it to change him ('resurrection') and, it is to be hoped, us, so that we would be free from the endless cycle of projecting our pain elsewhere or remaining trapped inside of it...

"...We are indeed saved by the cross — more than we realise. The people who hold contradictions and resolve them in themselves are the saviours of the world. They are the only real agents of transformation, reconciliation and newness.

"Christians are meant to be the visible compassion of God on earth." (The Universal Christ.)

Thank you for reading to the end. Happy Easter.

The Weaving of Life - a response to the shootings in Christchurch.

A woven butterfly on my evening dress which creates new
beauty after the sleeve was damaged by moths.
We must try to understand
the meaning of the age
in which we are called to bear witness.We must accept the factthis is an age in whichthe cloth is being unwoven.It is therefore no good tryingto patch. 
We must, rather,
set up the loom on which

coming generations may
weave new cloth according to
the pattern God provides.

Mother Mary Clare, The Sisters of the Love of God (Anglican community founded in Oxford 1967).

Today we heard about the deaths of 49 people in the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. In a world that seems to become more and more chaotic, we feel sorrow and send love and prayers and healing and yet, it is so tempting to think that it is hopeless, that we can do nothing tangible to help the world to heal.

There's the environment too ... and knife crime ... and (dare I mention it?) Brexit. Seemingly chaos everwhere.

And yet... and yet... Things break so that we can look inside them.

I'm about to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a conference on The Universal Christ - Another Name for Everything, led by Fr. Richard Rohr, John Dominic Crossnan and Jacqui Lewis. About 1800 of us will gather to hear that Christ is not Jesus' surname; that Christ is not limited to Christianity - that Christ is the whole process of creation and that every single one of us is a part of it. Christ began with the creation of the Universe and is one with every rock, plant and being in it. The whole purpose of creation is for God to give birth and all of creation is that baby.

In Jewish mysticism, that baby is called Adam Kadmon, the Primordial Being. Each of us is one cell in the body of this Divine baby. And so are the creatures and so is the land and the sea and the sky and the stars. We will all become perfect, one day. Not for a while yet... And then the baby will be born and the process of creation fulfilled. What happens then? Who knows! Let's deal with now.

This teaching within Christianity is a radical awakening (and much needed) and a shattering of the vessel that has trapped and made exclusive a profound perennial teaching. WE ARE ALL CHRIST. We are called to follow Jesus' teachings and example not to worship him or make a religion out of him. Most of us are damaged, weak, disbelieving Christs who haven't come anywhere near our full potential yet, but we are being called ... and called again ... to pick up that yoke and walk this world as if we were Christ.

As Teresa of Avila put it so beautifully: "Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours”

So what do we do? We WEAVE.

To use a metaphor from the Book of Proverbs and from many teachings of the world's faiths, it is all about weaving.

Dr. Margaret Barker teaches that the early chuch father, Origen, in his Greek translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 1.1 states, 'by means of the net, God created the heavens and the earth.' 

Jewish mysticism also teaches that all of creation is a tapestry, known as the Pargod, woven by all of creation. Each of us is a thread and each of us is vital to that weave. God is the loom and weaves the warp and we weave the weft. We can choose to create holes through anger and fear if we choose, but someone else will always re-weave them to recreate the pattern.

The shooter in Christchurch, other killers and people of cruelty have torn holes in the weft of creation but the Universal Christ - God's weave - remains. It is our work constantly to re-weave that weft. It is what we are here to do.

We weave it through our sorrow and our tears. We re-weave it with our blessings and our hope. We
re-weave it with good works and deeds, with a gentle hand on someone's shoulder; with a listening ear. We also look through the broken pieces to see the complete beauty of the warp still strong, still sound, still open and receptive to our new weaving.

So weave today, please. Weave as the Christ-Consciousness that you are (even if only in potential!). Weave by loving, by creating beauty, by honouring our Mother the Earth. By knitting or crochetting something beautiful, by drawing or writing or painting. By planting a seed, by cooking a delicious meal, by stroking a pet, by smiling at a stranger, by making love rather than having sex, by listening... By doing anything you possibly can do today which is both Universal and creative. It is that simple to be an essence of the Christ Consciousness. It does all count; it does all matter. It is a part of the weave.

Judaic mysticism teaches that humanity as a species is still very young: approximately two years old. We are still having tantrums and breaking our toys and fighting 'the other.' But we are in it for the long haul. We will learn; we will heal. The Universal Christ will be born one day. And every one of us is a part of that great, sacred journey.

She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. Proverbs 31:19.

The View from the Whitehouse no.2. Being An Outsider.

“Ah yes, but do you actually live in a white house,’ enquired the Wag. ‘You see, if it’s the view from the White house...’
There’s always one.
Frequently several.
As it happens, we do live in a white house. As it’s 1000 feet up on Dartmoor, it is white for a given value of seventeen years of howling gales, rain, hail, sleet and snow, not to mention passing sheep trailers, milk lorries and muck trucks — which means grayish, greenish and, in places, frankly, mouldy. But the view, over the gate to Cosden Hill and towards Scorhill is glorious, the common across the lane is a perfect screen between us and the main road and although the cascades of wildflowers has gone from the lanes themselves they are still awash with wild roses, honeysuckle and yarrow as I write.
This time of year, the view generally includes the horses and caravans of our regular summer visitors, the folk who build furniture from trees and beautiful, rounded, gypsy caravans or vardos—from the Iranian word vurdon for cart—to sell or rent out for weddings and parties. Their painted horses (does anyone still use that somewhat ugly word skewbald for horses?) are grazing peacefully on the common in the shade and John has come for the water that we happily let them have from our underground well.
They are not real gypsies, and neither are the young family that also camp here with their daughters and who only travel in school holidays; they are courteous people living lightly on the land, existing, for the most part, as outsiders.
We are outsiders too and we know that. And we understand that wonderful fine line between not being local but being accepted. It is quite enough. They do say that you can’t be a Devonian until you’ve buried your grandparents here. I did enquire of the family about digging mine up and moving them down but nobody seemed keen. It probably wouldn’t count anyway.
I think we knew that we were okay the day that Diana, down the road, asked us to help look for her Dartmoor ponies which had broken out of their field. Or the day that Neil, the postman, left a brace of pheasant hanging on the door knocker. Or there was the first day that we freed a young sheep that had got its horns stuck in our wire fencing. And then another, and then another. Oh, hang on, it’s the same sheep...
But the real day of acceptance was when Neil knocked on the door, handed me a brace of pheasant and asked if I minded plucking and drawing them for him as he was on voluntary fireman night duty and wouldn’t have time to do it before they were to be eaten on Friday.
By then, I was an accomplished pheasant plucker—and had even skinned, drawn and jugged the most beautiful road-kill hare I came upon, still warm, one night as I turned off the A30 on my way home from a comedy gig in Bath.
Wags, though are, unfortunately, currently out of season…

First published in The Moorlander.

The View from the Whitehouse no1: Earthing

My Editor at The Moorlander Newspaper has given me permission to reprint the columns I've been writing for them here, so this is no. 1 from 2017.

Hello, I’m a woman with a thorn in her foot who’s just scared the willies out of the postman by lying naked on the vegetable patch. Our garden is pretty sheltered if you’re not actually coming into the driveway — and I did have enough time to ensure that my important bits were decently covered with a towel — but he probably thought I was a dead body for a moment.
This lying naked on the earth thing is called “Earthing.” I think it’s simultaneously the latest and the oldest thing on the planet. According to the website, “Earthing is a fast-growing movement based upon the major discovery that connecting to the Earth’s natural energy is foundational for vibrant health.”
Major discovery eh? I think our ancestors knew a bit about that. Even my mother knows — she’s survived to 90 very healthily and firmly believes it’s all down to all the gardening she does. She’s probably right; mothers usually are.
It’s all because of electrons. Research from Texas A&M University reveals that when we take our shoes off and touch the earth with our bare flesh, free electrons, powerful antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation, transfer from the ground into our body via the soles of our feet or the palms of our hands.
You’d think, given their contact with nature, that walkers would be the most grounded of people but rubber or plastic-soled shoes prevent us from contacting the earth. Nowadays we rarely walk barefoot except on a summer holiday at the beach. We don’t even lie on the sand—it’s plastic loungers on the beach or by the pool.
I think it’s a bit too much of a challenge to spend half an hour a day lying naked on the vegetable patch so, instead, I’ve started to walk barefoot on the Moor. So much former city-dweller ‘it’ll hurt’ wimpy stuff came up ... and it was jolly cold too until this last month ... but it feels amazing and it certainly makes you focus on where you put your feet. There are tiny, tiny fledgling gorse bushes on the Moor and they hurt.
But I love the feeling of my bare feet splaying out as they were designed to do, adapting to the grass and peat beneath them. That’s not to mention the comfort of socks and shoes when I put them back on my feet afterwards. 
In the meantime, I’m leaving some intriguing footprints in the squelchier places. When just the ball of my foot and toes show up it looks like a very weird mark. Maybe some curious hikers on the way back down to Shilstone Tor are starting to wonder if they have seen the elusive prints of the mythical Beast of Dartmoor?
Mind you, she’s the one racing down the hill behind me, tongue out and leaping for joy. Dogs have all the right ideas and walking in shoes is not one of them.


Esprit d'Escalier Or Some Ramblings About God.

"You seem like an intelligent woman," said the atheist to the vicar when they'd both come off stage. "Why don't you just use your brain and see that there's nothing."

Of course I couldn't think of a reply — at least, not one that wouldn't have been equally as arrogant — but esprit d'escalier has been working on it ever since.

In case you don't know it, esprit d'escalier means 'the inspiration of the staircase' referring to the clever replies we can all come up with once we are leaving the building and it's too late.

I know a lot — a LOT — of people don't believe in God but, trust me, your brain has nothing to do with it. That's because God does not exist. God is beyond existence. God is in the spaces between us and our thoughts.

Can I prove that? No, of course not. The whole point of faith is that it is faith. It is intangible and it lives in just those spaces. Proof lives in the physical world and nowhere else.

Possibly, oddly, I don't give a rap whether you believe me or not. That's because I have experienced God, I have known Grace, I have shared time and space with the Divine and I have waded through cosmic seas of awe adrift in the bliss of union. And I am certain that I will do the same - and more - again.

And if that's all sanctimonious wanky bollox to you, then fair enough. I believe what I believe and I know what I know and what you believe is none of my business. All I want for you is that you are happy and even that is probably grossly presumptive of me.

The trouble with using your brain about God is that what we are generally taught about God simply cannot compute in a world where we are beginning to understand the enormity of the Universe. Any conventional belief in God will seem ludicrous and the non-believer will throw the baby out with the admittedly ghastly bathwater. That's the bathwater that is willing to condemn some super-intelligent furry sound-wave in a distant galaxy to hell because it doesn't believe in some bloke who lived on Earth for 33 years and (in the words of Douglas Adams) whom we nailed to a tree because he went around saying how good it would be to be nice to people for a change.

I believe much the same as many atheists do. I don't believe in the God that they don't believe in. I can't. God is not that old man up in the sky, nor the mean bastard of many religions. God is not small or tribal.

If God Is, then God must be at least as big as the Universe which means that It is the God of every single aspect of that Universe. God can be nothing like the small God of Christianity, Islam, Judaism or any other religion. Those are local interpretations (and sometimes useful, sometimes not) of a much greater Source.

This idea of hell is frankly ridiculous anyway: it's simply not sustainable. Just suppose for a moment that you actually got to heaven but someone you loved went to hell. How could you possibly experience heaven? You couldn't; you would also be in hell because your heart would be breaking.

I may do some more rambling about all that kind of stuff and why people need to believe in the idea that God wants to punish us another time...

I've long believed that Dark Matter is Spirit - and the Holy Spirit is part of God; inexplicable, ineffable, incomprehensible. We are not meant to know with our small and limited brains. But if we are lucky, we can know with our souls and, if we ever want to discover what that's like, then I think we have to learn how to find the space between us and our thoughts.

That's why I attempt to meditate every day. Even after 20 years I sometimes resist it but it is when I stop the thinking, even for a few moments, and find that space, that God can reveal Itself to me. Of course, incredible sunrises or sunsets, the sparkling night sky and moments of terror can do the same but it's nice to show up on a regular basis just to say, "I'm here; what are the miracles today?"

And if the atheist should ask me again, I'm going to have to try and compress all that into just one sentence.

Or, I could just smile and say nothing, like I did the first time.


I Have Resistance...

...the question is, does Resistance have Me?

Here's one I wrote earlier...

I've got 25 days left in which to write my latest, commissioned book. And I won't.

It's not that I can't, it's that part of me simply won't.

It's known as resistance and it's a bitch.

It will lose in the end, of course. As a radio and TV journalist used to tight deadlines, I'll get my head down just in time and work flat out to meet the deadline. Which is 25th November.

How to get round resistance? The world expert on that is Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art which is probably the Bible of all writers. If you're a writer or a potential writer, read it.

Basically, the answer is simple: 1, Give yourself a day off; complete permission not to write the book ... that annoys resistance a lot ... and 2, Just bloody well write! That's why I'm writing this blog - so that my resistance remembers that, whatever it wants to do about it, I am a writer. Just because I won't write that book doesn't mean that it gets away without writing. Resistance is in me, but it doesn't have me. It isn't driving the bus.

And, as I write, I remember why I love writing so much; I find I am enjoying myself and inspiring myself. And, heck, I might even stick my nose into chapter eight just for a moment. Just to look at it, you undestand, not to actually do anything with it.

And as I write, I sense the Muse showing up, just a courtesy call; she won't settle into me again until I've shut the door, wrapped that figurative wet towel around my head, played six games of Freecell, checked Facebook until even my resistance is bored with the same stories in the feed, updated my tunes on Spotify, downloaded another App, and got going.

And then she and I will be in love again; that incredible one-to-one synchronistic love that flows the ideas and the words and never, ever wants to stop.

I am so looking forward to that.

The EasyJet Blog, Part Ten.

Cyprus, October 2018.

We had a lovely holiday, thank you. This was the replacement holiday given to us by EasyJet after our ridiculously stupid (and funny) experiences over Harold, the lost, run-over, bomb-scare suitcase. See here for the start of the story if you missed it.

I've come to realise over the years that every thought or problem is where you last left it. So if you've got an issue with someone or something and you don't clear it up, the next time you come across a similar situation or person, it will repeat itself. That's karma for you.

For example, it looks from the outside as if I had quite a few relationships before I got married - but it was all the same relationship just with different men. I only broke my duck when I met someone on the other side of the world when I was having to live consciously every day and was unable to put up my habitual boundaries and defences. Even then, I'd probably have re-infected the marriage if God/the Universe hadn't had enough of my ridiculousness by then and given me a red-flag event to wake me up for good.

Those red flags can be large or small. When we were given our new holiday and our new suitcase, I thought it was all sorted both inside and out. But then, I managed to damage a wheel on Harriet, the new suitcase, on a weekend trip and that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was very obvious that I had a suitcase problem.

Except, of course, it wasn't about suitcases; as the wonderful Danaan Parry wrote in his Warriors of the Heart  book on conflict resolution: 'the presenting problem is never the real problem.' It just looks like it is.

It took a while to find the root issue, during which I did quite a lot of internal work about loss and betrayal (yet another layer of the onion) ... and not only did the nice man at EasyJet give me his private email address and a 24-hour one for emergencies before we left ... but our suitcases all arrived safely. Phew.

There were some of the usual annoyances: the flight out was three-and-a-half hours late and the one back an hour-and-a-half late but then, if you think about it, flight scheduled times really only mean 'this flight will not be leaving before this time.' It's all a lot more relaxing when you've worked that one out and we both had really good books to read and a picnic so it wasn't really any problem.

Technically, you're allowed a free snack and drink if your flight is delayed more than two hours but they managed to cram us onto the airoplane after an hour and 55 minutes and then we waited the rest of the time on the tarmac. It's really quite clever, that one :-)

There was one glitch when we got to our room at the Helios Bay Hotel in Paphos. Have you ever seen a more ridiculous layout for a kettle and toaster? You simply couldn't use both safely. Even if the cords had been long enough to put them on the top of the hob, it was cleverly programmed to go beep if you did that, even when the cooker was switched off.

Yes, you could push the table up against the cooker and put them both there but then you couldn't sit at it comfortably or use the cooker... We did move the table  but I got annoyed; it was pretty late at night and I was tired.

The trouble is, I'm energetically pretty powerful nowadays, so when we tried to use the toaster for a late night snack, my annoyance transfered and it blew all the electrics, plunging us into darkness.

Luckily for me, I have a Lion who had already noticed where the fuse box was in the room and who had light sorted in a minute and we began to laugh. But the toaster was dead; it wasn't just a fuse in the plug. Obviously I hadn't cleared up all that energy quite as well as I thought I had!

We work pretty well together, Lion and I. He always notes the practical things and I always locate emergency exits. That's because my ego worries in depth (Scorpio moon) and his worries in detail (Virgo moon). Between us, we can worst-case scenario pretty much any potential problem and realise that we are doing it which actually makes it easier to sort stuff out.

The next day, we got a new toaster and an extension lead from reception and proceeded to have a very happy holiday.

(Somewhere in this picture is a Lion ... it's at the amphitheatre at the Kourion Archaeological site which is well worth a visit).

So the moral of the whole EasyJet story, I think, is that when something goes wrong, do point it out politely, consistently and stubbornly until your voice has been heard.

But even more, realise that, if the problem is a repeating one, then you are a part of it. There's some deep self-fulfilling belief inside that will ensure that the situation is repeated and repeated until a true resolution is achieved.

I appear to be sorted on suitcases but I know there's plenty more resistance inside me that needs work.  But it's a joyful kind of work because the results are clear, and lovely and prosperous.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Time For Some Not Fake Food.