Sunday, 6 July 2014

Striving for simplicity

One of my closest and beloved friends has been on a program to simplify her home, to take away the superfluous and the unnecessary and to find satisfaction in a simple home. I think it's very cool because the notion of accumulation seems to be our default setting while the taking away seems a torturous task of sacrifice and self-denial.

In the Taoist philosophy the concept of the "uncarved block" goes hand-in-hand with the concept of "non-action" (simplicity and humility). And, along with these, Lao Tsu says that to attain wisdom one has to subtract things everyday.

The distillation of these spiritual truths—believe it or not—achieve a personal perfection in the Christ who had not even a pillow to lie on (Matthew 8:20).

Like most people who grew up being forced to go to church I was really put off by the presentation of the Christ as an arbitrarily judgmental, petty and spiteful figure, and for many years I wanted nothing to do with religion: some people were going to heaven and some people were going to hell, and I had a natural affinity for the latter. Why even try...said I.

Then I kind of lost my mind and shrank into Jewish mysticism called the Kabbalah. This is where I found the notion of "divine simplicity" that holds the transcendence of G*d from His creation is because He is absolutely simple with no element, no part, not structure that should be attributed to Him even—and especially—for the purposes of worship. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7)

A literal, concrete reading suggests that we should not worship idols (very little chance of that in the modern world), but a more nuanced (esoteric) reading says that:

He who obeys his inclination is like an idolator. "There shall be no strange god in thee" [psalm 81:10] means, Make not the stranger in you your ruler! (Yannai. Talmud J: nedarim 9.1)

The surrounding commentaries say that without the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) no illumination is possible: In every evil thought there is a spark of divinity, which has sunk to a very low degree, and begs to be elevated (Joseph Opatoshu, In Polish Woods, 1921)

This is in line with the Book of Genesis: The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1:12)

In essence and fact, the Yetzer Hara (vanity and pride) is a superfluous addition to what is already perfected and deemed "good" by our Creator. "The lamb of G*d who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us sinners" There is no trick, no secret divulged only to the privileged few, there is only the taking away. Our duty and responsibility as disciples is only to strive for simplicity.

Andrew Murray was given to me by a fellow Christian at the beginning of my re-animation:

There are three things that should motivate me to be humble. Humility is the only normal way for me to live as a man. This healthy desire to take a rightful place under God moves the angels in heaven, just as it did Adam and Eve when they were freshly created and Jesus when he lived as the carpenter from Galilee. Humility also gives me hope as a sinner. It appeals to us humans in our fallen condition and points out the only way to return to our right place in God’s creation. Finally, humility strengthens me as a saint. Grace teaches us that as we lose ourselves in the overwhelming greatness of God’s love, humility before Him is caught up in everlasting blessedness and worship. (

I freely give as am encouraged by the author and the publishers of his divinely-inspired commentary on the Humility of Christ.

I close with a series of quotes from Lao Tsu (which I maintain are also in correspondence with the best of spiritual insights of Inuit Knowledge):

"When goodness is lost, it is replaced by morality."

"The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness."

"The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them. It stays in lowly places that others reject. This is why it is so similar to the Way."

"When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad."

“Try to change it and you will ruin it. Try to hold it and you will lose it.”

"The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be."


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