Monday, April 20, 2009

(2) The Spirit

After settling in at the Divinity School, I wasted no time moving
fast into my prime academic interest-- the field of Pneumatology.
Many consider this the study of the Holy Spirit, but it actually has
a wider horizon on into the broad approach to "spirits." Since I
was a non-denominational student, I took the wider range when
it came to the Spirit.

The word "Pneuma" was actually the word that the ancient Greek
philosophers employed for the Spirit. Long before Christianity,
educated pagans had considered the Spirit. Generally speaking,
they thought of the Pneuma as a kind of energetic energy or "Fire."
They related the Pneuma to the Logos, which (for them) was the
Godhead, the Plenum or Foundation of the universe--and the
Pneuma (or Spirit) ensued from the Logos, touching everything,
the All of it. The Pneuma of the Logos was even involved in the
molding of the inanimate as well as the animate world. Everything
contained different levels of the Pneuma. And the ancient
philosophers of the Greco-Roman world considered the Pneuma
to be the prime carrier of "Reason," embodied by the concept of
the Logos.

In Judaism there was the idea of the Sophia, "Wisdom" if you will.
Philo Judaeus, a Hellenistic Jew who lived in ancient Alexandria,
adopted some of the early Greek philosophical ideas of the Logos.
However, his idea of the Logos as the "word of God," as in Scripture,
was specifically derived from Jewish Hellenistic wisdom literature
which used the word "wisdom" essentially as the "word of God."
Philo was talking about the Sophia as the Spirit.

Philo likened this wisdom, this Word,this Spirit as to a spring of
water--in that out of reason flowed speech. Especially important
in this analogy is that "reason" is the Source and the "speech"
is the Flow. Philo presents us with a two-fold Logos--a Ground of
Being out of which flows manifested intelligence.

He believed in archetypal ideas that framed our intelligible world.
And what we see manifested--visible objects--are likenesses of
these ideas. So like the macrocosm, man is a microcosm. Like the
Cosmos, man lives in a multidimensional context--there is within
him reason which he utters as thought.

And in the some of the earliest Christian writings, Christ said that
he had to leave the world in order to allow the "Paraclete" to come.
Christians define the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit, especially acting
as a Counselor. There's the Fire of the Holy Spirit that came down
upon the disciples as well as others during the Feast of Pentecost in
ancient Jerusalem, wherein they were able to talk in many different
tongues. In more modern times (as in ancient times) this particular
ability is considered a charism.

All in all, the idea of the Spirit has a long, very ancient history in
the Western World of ideas, in both philosophy and religion. And
in more common parlance, for most people, the concept of Spirit
is expressed by such analogies as Fire, Energy, Flow, Word, Wind,
Breath, and Intelligence.

So, along with my other theological subjects, I studied Pneumatology,
wrote my dissertation that traced the historical trek of the Spirit down
through the ages, and managed to take my advanced degree under
four years. So it was time to consider "what's next."

I probably could have stayed on at Harvard for awhile, likely as a
graduate assistant or instructor; but I realized that it was at that
point where I need decide seriously what my next step would be.
I really didn't want to continue floating at Harvard. I needed to think
through what might my future could hold.

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