Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ark, Anyone?


That was the word used by the BBC weather forecaster on a prime time news and weather broadcast about our 'spring' day yesterday. Torrential rain, bone-aching temperatures, and death to any small tomato plant that doesn't have a really sturdy stem. Which means I lost about five. I have enough left, if it will only dry out, but still, it's depressing, and more rain is forecast for the weekend. We have had six—count 'em—six cold, wet summers in a row. This morning we received the happy news that the jet stream is 2000 miles south of where it should be at this time of year.
Last summer even the professional gardeners on TV were happy to harvest courgettes that were only five inches long. Everything I harvested—squashes, tomatoes, beans—tasted watery. The tomatoes got blight so almost no-one had any in their gardens; I managed a few because a) I sprayed with a copper solution designed for veggies and b) I picked them green and brought them inside.  I've put all the tomatoes in pots this year, because it takes a year for the blight to get out of the ground.
Amid the gloomy weather, which is all too uncomfortably reminiscent of the violent change in Juneau's weather that began about fifteen years ago, comes the catastrophic—yet somehow grimly appropriate—news that CO2  levels have now reached the 400 ppm mark. Those levels haven't occurred for 4.5 million years, and happened in a world geographically very, very different to ours—not to mention that there weren't any humans. 
Someone has just woken up to the fact that the Thames Barrier will need heightening if London is not to be flooded . . . where have these people been all these years? And do they really think that they can get through the political process to raise it before the floods come? Don't they realise that with this much CO2 in the atmosphere that they can't build a barrier high enough to keep London from flooding? Not to mention New York City and dozens of other megalopolises. Haven't they been reading about whole villages in other countries that have had to be moved, or islands evacuated, because of rising seas? [] About vanishing Arctic sea-ice? About India of all countries, gaining observer status at the circumpolar council?
And here I worry about a few tomato plants. But I did grow them from seed, so they were lives I felt responsible for; and their loss is perhaps a harbinger that not too many years hence we won't be able to grow tomatoes outside at all [Harbinger is one of the varieties I lost]. French viticulturists are looking to the UK to grow wine grapes because some of France's premier wine terroirs will soon be too hot to grow premium varieties. But no grape can survive the soggy, frigid, gale-battered summers we have had recently. Last year's harvest was a write-off for many UK vineyards.
This is only the beginning, and the effects are beginning to cascade. If we think the weather has been weird in the last few years—snow today in parts of the UK, a midwest-style tornado in northern Italy a few days ago—just wait until the chaos really takes hold.
 It is already too late to avoid some of the devastating consequences of famine and displacement. What is it going to require to wake people up?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is going to happen, Maggie?

Last night I had a dream that I was in a great open space and everyone was upset, very upset about something. The chaos and uncertainty were of a magnitude that it could have been fears pertaining to climate change. I tried to scream, to tell everyone that all we had to do was stop and pray and listen to God's guidance. I tried so hard to tell everyone but nobody heard me. And then I woke up.

11:41 pm, May 15, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...

Perhaps there are some who yet believe they can live "upstream" of the filth, the junk, a stylish life accummulates.

This is idiotic.

In a closed system, like the one we all live in here on Earth, we all live downstream from, you will never guess it, ourselves.

Almost everything "civilization" (us) does is on-the-surface exposed activity. That activity depends entirely upon sustained clement and predictable weather.

There is a big train coming and it has no brakes.


11:45 pm, May 15, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

The problem is that no one knows what is going to happen. We are conducting an experiment with the human race, the ecology, the very life of our planet and there is no telling how destructive it will be. My sense is that it natural disasters will start coming hard and fast, far quicker than any of us realises.

And of course we could flip over into another ice age!

12:05 am, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
I recall a gentleman telling me years ago that one has to make friends with the weather. I took this as sage advice and I always think about it when I am about to complain about the weather. Unfortunately that advice no longer seems to ring true. Making friends with the extreme weather conditions that the planet is now experiencing would imply that we turn a blind eye to the evidence that our species is contributing to our ecological crisis.
I'm not sure how we all wake up to the realization that the life of this planet is at stake. I suspect that being disconnected from nature has deafened us the cries of the earth.
It seems to me that ecopsychology has some valuable insights to contribute to this discussion. I found Theodore Roszak's book, The Voice of the Earth, to be a very moving analysis of the realities now facing us. The last line of the book sums up his stance:
"Ecopsychology holds that there is a synergistic interplay between planetary well being and personal well being...the needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of planet."
Good luck with the tomatoes Maggie!

1:44 am, May 16, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...

I listened to a world fisheries report today. Warm water fish have been moving into cooler water, migrating north and south away from the equator for a couple of decades now.

What fish will replace them in the local equatorial ecology?

There are none. meaning no fisheries. With no fish what happens? Not known but fishermen leave if they can.

Where do the northern and southern cold water dependent fish go?


A good model of unsustainability and its lasting consequences is New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Kattrinna. The place is still a mess and it is now unlikely to be further recovered.

In a first world nation ...

What is the highest elevation above sea level in Bangaladesh? Where do those peole go to avoid death by starvation or drowning, which is common enough today?

As the sea level rises does not Mt. Everest of necessity shrink?

The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen should be required reading for anyone holding a credit card or having the right to vote.

It is a very bleak study of the root causes of extinction book.

4:50 am, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

Looking forward to reading this book The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith by Gilbert Rist, a critical analysis on the Western linear model/metaphor called "development" which has caused more global crises than the West/capitalism has imagined or willing to accept. Yet, the model dominates our ecological landscape because “its strength comes of its power to seduce, in every sense of the term: to charm, to please, to fascinate, to set dreaming, but also to abuse, to turn away from the truth, to deceive."

To think of "development" as a serpent may not be a far-fetched idea after all.

6:33 am, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



I would like communicate with you about something that has recently begun to happen in my silent prayer practice. It has taken me by surprise, and I have become confused about what I am doing in silence. Since we tend to find what we are looking for, I need help sorting this out.

I have found something like a description of it in some Hindu and Buddhist sources, but being a Christian I am looking for a Christian interpretation.

Thank you for your time, Maggie. Please contact me at the following email when you can, and I will respond with the issue.

All the best. / Joe

12:44 pm, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie - have you come across the paper by Constance Fitzgerald entitled 'From Impasse to Prophetic hope: Crisis of Memory' ? It's online at - http://ww
If it doesn't work try googling CTSA From Impasse to Hope.

My reading of it alongside your current item on the ecological crisis leads me to wonder if there needs to be a letting go of our own selfish desire for survival (an agenda behind much anxiety about ecology) and to invest ourselves in the evolution of consciousness in the work of silence and beholding - the fruit of which embraces and is embraced by a future full of hope...
peace, Tessa

1:47 pm, May 16, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Yes, Tessa, it's one of the great papers. I referenced it somewhere (!) on this blog, but thanks for giving us the link. You are spot on in your comment.

2:01 pm, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie/Tessa,

I read the whole essay and I think I'm unclear as to the step by step process of how to de-construct my memories? (I understand that one of the steps is reliving some bad things that have happened….)

How do I get started?



2:51 pm, May 16, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...


You go first.

3:10 pm, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

Maggie, may I take a stab at this?

Amber - My sense is that it's like any other silence/beholding exercise in that you just kind of sit there and let God do the work….

5:56 pm, May 16, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

To Nick: Sorry, but could you please rephrase with another image? The one you used is too easily misunderstood. Thanks

6:53 pm, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry Maggie!

My intention was to illustrate the freedom in living outside of 'the mouths of men', as "[Those] who live in the mouths of men will die in the mouths of men."

In keeping with our discussion of Al's diagram, how the L side is not INaccurate but it's distorted because only God knows what's actually happening in 'Reality'. Through silence/beholding God gradually reveals to us some of this Knowledge. (Taking phrases from previous comments.)

The memory de-construction exercise is similar but it also, (1) adds a dimension of time and, (2) removes distortions rather than simply adding Knowledge. When we use memory as a reference point - either good ones or bad ones - our sense of the Now and the Future gets distorted. Our ONLY reference point should be God because God is perfect, the Creator of all things, and exists outside of time.

There may be both historical and societal distortions. Maybe our own 'histories' contain poverty, abuse, and trauma - These experiences can distort our sense of danger/safety. As for societal distortions, there are countless examples in history of greatness that went unnoticed to contemporary audiences. (My understanding is that Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime.)

As for another image: What if we bounced along and our only reference point was God's love for us? (Which is infinite and unconditional.) Would we then have the courage the rise above, to be free?


7:22 pm, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amber - it seems to me that we can do nothing but be willingly before God - it is God who does all the work - what is required is our willingness and openness - and that can be a struggle in itself!
Peace, Tessa

9:00 pm, May 16, 2013  
Anonymous Al Mozol said...

To Tessa, thank you for the link to the article. Quite a sophisticated one! I read her discussion on "MEMORY" (i don't know if Nick had this article in mind when he posted his last comment?) and it seems she missed one fundamental text (she quoted Paul's Letter to the Romans only on hope), St. Paul's line in Philippians 3:13-14: "Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, FORGETTING what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Before this, Paul talked about "counting everything as LOSS because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

Maggie incorporated this fundamental text in her Contemplative Liturgy under Forgetfulness and Creation:

4:13 am, May 17, 2013  
Anonymous Al Mozol said...

To Nick, language appears too negative in your last comment. How about this quotation from Augustine's Confessions: "Language can redeem as well as destroy; it redeems when the Word itself speaks in the silence of our words." (quote from Karmen MacKendrick's Immemorial Silence)

4:29 am, May 17, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

Re Al's discussion on Paul:

FORGETTING seems more appropriate than counting things as a LOSS because God had a part in molding the past. People in our past are divine, as we are. The memory de-construction exercise puts the burden on God to distinguish the stuff that opens our hearts from that which closes them.

In Phil 3:8

More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ

It just doesn't seem appropriate for Paul to deem what is rubbish and what isn't.

2:21 pm, May 17, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

The Greek is a comparison, e.g. in comparison to knowing Christ, everything else is is dross, not enough, drags me in the wrong direction. Great Treasures uses the definition 'damage'; perhaps we can understand it to mean that putting anything put Christ first (idolatry), or putting faith in, or valuing anything above Christ, is going to damage us?

2:58 pm, May 17, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

Yeah, that seems like a good way of looking at it.

3:47 pm, May 17, 2013  
Anonymous Al said...

To MS: good point/question you raise there - how do we "know" (i have healthy suspicion nowadays about "knowing" and "knowledge" because of its Western baggages) what's rubbish and what's not?

12:42 am, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

Al -

Right. In bible study a earlier this spring we talked about Genesis 2:16,17

The Lord God gave man this order: "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely to die."

My comment to the group was that perhaps the cause and effect could be reversed, maybe it's when we die THEN we can see good and evil?

10:06 am, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Al said...

To MS: I've been pondering on Paul's usage of FORGETTING and LOSS, trying to understand it through the lens of 'beholding'. What was it that Paul tried to relegate into the bin of forgetfulness? And was this 'thing' somehow connected to the things he considered as "rubbish" or "losses" or "damaging"? Again, biblical interpretation can employ different models. Maggie's "beholding model" to my view is a far more fertile parameter for an "honest interrogation," "holding more open the space of questioning between the human and the divine" (MacKendrick)than other models spawned by the linearity and dialectics of the "religion of rationalism" (of which "epistemology" is a subset) of the West.

Back to the couple of questions I raised. James Dunn, paraphrasing W.D. Davies argues that Paul can only be best understood with Judaism as the main backdrop. This is new perspective on Paul according to Dunn because Christianity has been so busy in its prejudices, consciously or subconsciously, against Judaism. The "loss" mentioned by Paul for example could be a used for denigrating Judaism being a "second-rate" religion. But the beholding model could render a different take: what seems "forgetful" for Paul, being a rabid implementor of the strictures of the Law, were the statics of the same Law. What Paul may have considered as "rubbish" or "damaging" was how the observance of the Law turned into an idolatry, becoming the basis of exclusion rather than pointing to the infinite space of the Holy or potential icons for beholding the way the book of Deuteronomy was during the time of exile from the beholding in the First Temple.

This tendency for religious statics is not exclusive of course to Judaism. They are multiplying in Christianity and a few consider them as "rubbish" worth our forgetting. It is not Martian to think of Christianity being in exile and it takes a few priests only to remind us of the exiled vision and what's damaging within our institutional self-referentiality,'priests' writing stories, scribbling visions resembling the "creation stories and its vision" written during the period of Babylonian exile.

10:51 am, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

If I may step in for a moment, we need to remember in the beholding process that what we seem to 'forget' is in fact submitted to deep mind where it is transfigured. So all our losses become gain...

12:00 pm, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

...Nothing is wasted...

12:01 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

"The will of God is not a railway track but the weaving of all our choices - good and bad - into the fabric of paradise."

There has to be a reason that God wants us to experience life on Earth, even though we humans often perceive it as painful. Maybe this exercise helps us to no longer perceive these things as painful. I'm learning that beholding is a consistent way to access that 'something greater'. There is no pain in the 'something greater', but there is also no pressure to be perfect. We can just be how we are.

1:46 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
I find MS's comment about Paul very interesting. It would seem that Paul looks in his rear view mirror and considers everything he has lost as rubbish.
Upon reflecting on this I was reminded of your "Behold" posting in April/2013 when you talk about experience as " the interpretation our self-conscious mind gives to what happens to us. It's inevitably distorted and refined because it is a function of the left hemisphere."
Would this imply that Paul's reflections on his losses are in some way distorted and refined? Or are Paul's reflections the fruits of the beholding process and in a different realm altogether?
These concepts of "experience" and "beholding" are difficult for me to grasp and they lead one down many side roads.
Kevin n

2:18 pm, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Kevin, I think the latter: that after beholding, Paul realises the things that he valued before (the law) were from the point of view of what we would call the self-conscious mind (left hemisphere). So he has to discard his previous interpretation, because the beholding has transfigured his perception, and now he sees the reality. Let me know if you need further clarification

2:25 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Can you post this link about the first Saudi woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest?

**Coming from Saudi Arabia - a conservative Muslim country where women's rights are very restricted - she had to break a lot of barriers to achieve her goal, her climb team said.

A biography on the expedition website said convincing Ms Moharrak's family to agree to her climb "was as great a challenge as the mountain itself", though they fully support her now.

"I really don't care about being the first," she is quoted as saying. "So long as it inspires someone else to be second."**



3:04 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
Thanks for the response. After Paul's "Damascus Road Experience" he seems to have taken a number of years to work out what it all meant while the apostles battled it out in the trenches! I suspect that he had ample opportunity to find the silence that would allow him to be transformed by the experience. I admire Paul for the time he took to integrate his vision and when he finally stepped out his guns were blazing.

4:14 pm, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

According to Barker he may have gone to Arabia to consult with the surviving keepers of the First Temple tradition, which would have taught him something about the atonement ritual which is an acting-out of the work of silence and this transfiguring of perspective.

4:38 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...

Sounds similar to John the Baptist:

"Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel." Mk 13:33

4:52 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So fun talking about biblical mysteries!

"Enoch walked with God. Then he vanished because God took him." Genesis 5:24

Do we know anything else about what happened to Enoch?

4:57 pm, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

There's a lot written, both in old texts and new. Margaret Barker has a lot in her books Temple Mysticism and Temple Theology

5:35 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Al said...

An article i keep coming back as a learner of "beholding": "Apophatic Prayer as a Theological Model: Seeking Coordinates in the Ineffable Notes for a Quantum Theology by Maggie Ross (Journal of Literature and Theology Vol. 7, No. 4, December 1993 - Oxford University Press). My institution has a superb access/subscription to online journals so if you need a pdf copy of the article, please let me know via Maggie. Also, Maggie's article on the Space of Prayer is downloadable online. So far, I have hard copies of the 3 books by Maggie - profound play between the praxis of beholding and its "fruits". Writing the Icons of the Heart has the theme on Practical Adoration, which for me gets to the heart of what we normally struggle on the cognitive level when it comes to beholding. Though this theme can be read in this blog, having a book to read over and over makes a difference i suppose.

10:57 pm, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is a very interesting conversation about Paul's solitude following the "Road to Damascus Experience".

Maggie, have we talked about the atonement ritual? (Should I know what that is?)

I can only imagine what Paul must have felt during this time. Surely he was eager to get started in his ministry, but I'm learning that he was already making a difference by just opening his heart to God even if he was physically far from the 'trenches'.

As for my own journey, each day I try to be braver, stronger, and more loving than I was the day before. Also, I include in my prayers, "God, I am eager to do your will."


10:22 am, May 19, 2013  
Anonymous Tessa said...

Maggie - regarding beholding and its transfiguring power in relation to forgetting and knowing and all the comments about Paul, doesn't this all connect with the spiritual practice of detachment as in the willingness to let go of that which prevents growth in Christ ie appetites, addictions and attractions? I'm thinking of the teaching of John of the Cross and the writer of the Cloud of Unknowing. John especially teaches that in being willing to let go/go beyond the intellect (knowing), memory and will, and in waiting on God, they are transfigured in and through faith, hope and love. As you say nothing is lost - all becomes purified and transfigured in Christ. Peace be with you, Tessa

1:05 pm, May 19, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

It doesn't really do justice to Barker's work to try to summarize it; much better to read first-hand. But, in short, the atonement ritual was about theosis and reunification with the environment in which the priest would enter into the holy of holies (which was not at that time empty but had symbols of wisdom and so forth) where he would receive theosis (the language of angels was used, just as Israel is both an angelic name given to a human to signify theosis) and then—this is very important—return to the outer court to share the wisdom and theosis with the people. Ritually it mirrors what happens in the process of the work of silence when the self-conscious mind is submitted to the deep mind for transifiguration, which is returned to the self-conscious mind, and so on.

1:36 pm, May 19, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Beautifully put, Tessa. Thank you.

1:37 pm, May 19, 2013  

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