The Glory in Front of Us

One mark of modernity is dichotomy.  The world was split asunder when the material and the spiritual were thought, one to be here, and the other, out there…somewhere.  From theological and philosophical moves made in the 14th Century, a two-story universe was constructed.  From thereafter, faith and reason, science and religion, the natural and supernatural, and many other areas of thought and life, all began to move further and further away from each other until the divide became, it would seem, an infinity.  The divide would eventually lead to the shipwreck of the 20th Century, its many graveyards, and the modern sensibility. Yes, I know, it was more complicated than that—but still, I think there is some truth to those connections.

After all, once such a division is believed to be true, it doesn’t make room for the material and the spiritual.  All it does is leave the material.  The spiritual becomes so abstract, so apart from anything we can know, all one is left with is deism or agnosticism/atheism.  The ethical becomes something we can’t specify and thus the technological becomes the mean.  There is no basis for asking “should” we do something, but only, “can” we do it.  If we “can” we will.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, we end up with “guided missiles” used by “misguided” men.

We live in the flotsam and jetsam of those moves—moves that led the world at that time, to no longer see the lighthouse of one world and thus the rocks beckoned, like sirens, black, jagged, and hidden just beneath the surface.  And so, here we are, gazing up from the sandy bottom as the shimmering light shines down through the watery expanse.

But what has changed really?  Nothing.  Only our perception of the world.  We simply “see” the world differently now.  No “fact” or fragment of information has changed the nature of the world.  We imagine the world as split, divided.  We do this with such hubris.  We think we are grand cartographers.  Having split the world in two, like atoms, we now set out to map our conquest.  And in our mapping, we miss the glory in front of us.

As an aside, the FG world reads their Bibles this way.  As maps.  This is where the FG world imitates the “scientist” in what they believe will show them as equals, just as serious, just as studious, just as educated, just as modern.  If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be comical.  Imagining the Bible to be a map, they open and follow the directions.  They note the longitude and latitude, north and south, east and west.  They note distance and scale.  There, see, it’s right there and all who follow the map correctly will arrive at the same spot.  And if they don’t, they must have misread or missed an important directional clue or piece of information.  Because, of course, we have our map and north, south, east and west, never change.

The task of our time is to “see” the world anew, to imagine something greater than what we have been told, to re-narrate the world as one world.  As Maximus the Confessor told us:

“The world is one…for the spiritual world in its totality is manifested in the totality of the perceptible world, mystically expressed in symbolic pictures for those who have eyes to see.  And the perceptible world in its entirety is secretly fathomable by the spiritual world in its entirety, when it has been simplified and amalgamated by means of the spiritual realities. The former is embodied in the latter through the realities; the latter in the former through the symbols. The operation of the two is one.”

And this one world doesn’t give easily to being mapped or controlled—because it is not some dead thing.  We are better off with the type of cartography and map spoken of here:


Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw.

And because no nation thrives without capital,

he set a star in this world and drew a circle round.

Though no trace of his print exists, the moon,

hills, and trees all reveal his glory in the garden.

Surveying his heart, unreliable landmarks slept

in shadows as he found himself alone. Doubled down

an angel from heaven attended him and gave him strength

and he pounded his fist against his chest

to ensure everyone spoke the grammar of his love—

his kingdom inaugurated with beads of blood

pouring forth from the power of prayer aglow.

Standing against the threat of the devil’s deception,

when he got up from prayer, he came to them

a map flashing open from his mouth, the way

tumbling forth as a single beam of light sped

toward the chasm where silence bears his name.

-Jae Newman


One thought on “The Glory in Front of Us

  1. beautifully written, both your essay and the poem included.
    raised F/EV and we are taught…trained…conditioned to utterly ignore our own instinct, to disregard all internal warnings that this religion might not be the perfect way, there might be flaws & bad information & poor leadership, instead we are ingrained to follow only that accepted dogma as Absolute Truth, to blame the inevitable disconnect on our own “sin/pride natures”, if we think we see any problems it is only because we are ourselves The Problem… direct connection with Creation is considered pagan idolatry and direct connection with Creator is found mainly in metaphorical church language

    i am just beginning to learn now in middle age, to think again as a child does, that is to see and hear what there is to see and hear right in front of me, to listen to my own inner instincts which Creator gave every one of HIS creatures in order to warn of dangers in the pathway, to view all of Life through a simple lens instead of one that is wrapped in complicated religious layers of “difficult truth”… i am realizing that many things are not difficult at all, its often our religious habits that make simple things complicated by teaching us to replace Truths instinctively understood within our own hearts with convoluted teachings developed over centuries by powerful men… teachings which now appear to me to have often been carefully crafted in order to keep religious adherents in subjection to our dominant leaders…

    Dichotomy. yes you are so right, dichotomous perspective is EVERYTHING in Fundamentalist/Evangelical Xianity. All is Good vs Bad… Right vs Wrong… “Righteous” vs “Sinful”… Either/Or…. One OR Other…Black vs White (and that often the case externally as well as internally!) Truth vs Lies… “Chosen People” vs “Humanism” and so on it goes. Dichotomy is a Weapon wielded against multifaceted philosophical thought which might bring us Together.

    at our very essence, are we not all HUMANS? so why does this religion talk so much about the value of human worth “in the Eyes of GOD” yet work so hard to keep us all at permanent earthly odds with one another?

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