Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Whirligig Gospel

It is whirligig season. I am not talking about the annoying "lawn ornaments" that sprout from front lawns each spring. I am referring to the winged maple seeds that people also call "helicopters" or "whirlybirds." They fill the air and cover the ground this time of year. My wife looked out the window the other day and remarked, "It is raining helicopters!"

As I was shoveling them from my driveway yesterday, I paused to examine one. I split it open to look for the core - the seed within the seed, like apple seeds in an apple. There was not one, of course. It was a uniform green pulp all the way through. There was no visible clue to the secret of the tree that lay within. I knew that. I just had to be reminded.

I do the same in my prayer time - looking within my soul for the core. There is none of course. I knew that. I just had to be reminded. It is just soul all the way through.

I have an ongoing discussion with a friend of mine about the biblical teaching of the soul. I go with the tripartite model of man - that a human being has three dimensions: body, soul and spirit - made in the image of God, modeled after the trinity. He goes with the more familiar body and soul dualism.

I am right, of course, biblically speaking. (This is my blog after all.) But ultimately it doesn't really matter how one dissects our spiritual essence. What matters is the experience of that essence.

A while ago I was rereading the Upanishads. It had been years since I had read through these ancient texts. They are the ancient Indian exploration of the nature of man, especially the identity of the soul.

In the Chandogya Upanishad there is a discussion between a boy and his father. The father asked his son to pick a piece of fruit, open it, and examine the seed. He did so. Then he told him to break open one of the tiny seeds. "What do you see?" asked the father. The son replied, "I do not see anything." "That is the soul," said the father. "That is you."

Jesus' favorite image for the Kingdom of God is a growing seed. He posited this as the "mystery of the Kingdom" many times in his teaching. He used different forms of the story - from the mustard seed to the parable of the sower - but the message was the same. The spiritual realm is like a seed that grows.

 As I explore the dimensions of my soul, it is like the whirligig in my backyard. It is the seed within. Yet when I examine it more closely, I do not see anything. The soul is no "thing." But there is life there. There is the spiritual DNA of the kingdom of God in the soul. If it is dissected, it dies. If it is planted, it grows.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

1 comment:

  1. I was just thinking about this and finally got to looking at Hodge's "Outlines of Theology" (rewritten and enlarged) that deals with two verses three parts of human nature (page 299 if you wanted to check it out).
    Just had to mention it. As you say dissecting the essence is not the point unless it helps in appreciation of the experience.
    As always thanks for the post.


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