Sunday, August 22, 2010

holy ghost, the friendly ghost

Once in a while I'll sit down and furrow my brow with stoic intensity as we philosophical types are want to do, and think profoundly deep thoughts. And by think, I mean rearrange my prejudices, and by rearrange, I mean leave things ostensibly as they are, and then wax poetic afterward about the resplendent feng shui that I'm able to achieve dealing primarily with mere abstractions. The mind boggles.

Among the scattered deck chairs that adorn the Titanic that is my brain, one is always set aside in honour of my dearly departed imaginary friend the Holy Ghost. That bodyless ephemeral bronze medalist of 'the Trinity' fame. He is one enigmatic character, even after you get to know him. Some of his closest allies can barely make heads or tales of the fellow, but they'll blow his trumpet like a whore auditioning for the world's harmonic orchestra, with nothing but a trouser snake and a dogged (bordering on scary) pay-me-now determination (ladies and gentlemen, we have a new candidate for most outstanding example of a terrible mixed up metaphor for 2010).

What's that sign? Memory lane. Oh... I sit in YSA Sunday school class (did the tense change in here?). Someone asks the second most popular question you're likey to hear at this type of setting (the first being: Eternal marriage, again, really?): "How can I tell the difference between the Holy Ghost and my own emotions?" It's as if young David himself has slung a psychological pebble directly between my eyes. Bullseye. It rouses me from my slumber. I know this one. Umm, we can't. That's it. We can't. I don't actually voice this. The teacher begins with what will inevitably be an entertaining, depending on how you look at it, foray into obfuscation. "Well, through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body, so it cannot be forgotten. So, blah, blah, blah, etc." Strangely in the following weeks and years the same question keeps coming up.

... Back to the present. I see now, again, The Holy Ghost a.k.a Disco Inferno, let's burn baby burn all up and and down in your bosoms baby, is so astonishingly powerful that an experience with him is memorable enough to barely be indistinguishable from everyday emotion. Wow (I've had shits that have left a longer lasting impression than this guy). He's so convincing that people leave the church all the time. Impressive. I shake my head "Still never heard a decent explanation for that one, old friend." I look over at the Holy Ghost's empty deck chair, and then up at the bow. I see a large iceberg approaching on the horizon.


Justin said...

Very Poetic Loren. For some reason, it feels very David Lynch. Or maybe Haruki Murakami... whatever.

Loren said...

I don't know what to say

Justin said...

Actually, now that I've seen the film, it's very "Inception". Very good movie, Imagine having to write or direct a complicated monster like that.

Justin said...

Now in response, time for me to risk obfuscation (learnt a new word there!) on the Holy Ghost.

Based on a real conversation:
Justin: I don't think that behaviour is good.
Penny: Well, I think that behaviour is OK now. I mean...
Justin: Hmm, well lets try an experiment.
Penny: huh?
Justin: Well, we can ask God.
Penny: urgh, mm OK. How?
Justin: Just close you eyes for 1 minute and ask God if that kind of behaviour is OK or not. Just be silent and listen with your mind and heart. See if anything comes, it doesn't have to be a voice.
Penny: mmm, OK.
Justin. ready, go.....
(about a minute later)
Penny: OK, I'm done.
Justin: And?
Penny: I've changed my mind about that behaviour.
Justin: Why have you switched?
Penny: As I sat here 'listening', all the different bad things that can happen from the behaviour started to enter my mind.
Justin: Well, that's interesting...
Penny: Yes, but I'm not sure if it was the voice of God or the voice of Penny.

continued in next post.

Justin said...

With the last line of that conversation I had, lets delve into the Holy Ghost.

Imagine a tree upright in the ground. Now imagine it's branches moving.. What is the cause of the branches moving? Usually the wind, maybe somebody is shaking the tree/branches. But whatever the cause, the effect/symptom is the tree branches moving. A feeling is something a person experiences, the actual feeling itself seems to be only possible with chemical processes. The cause that triggers the feeling however is as separate as the wind is from the tree. And there may be multiple causes fort he same/similar feeling.

Therefore the class question "How can I tell the difference between the Holy Ghost and my own emotions?" can be appreciated, but is probably not asked accurately.
The reason being, a feeling may come from the Holy Ghost, but the same kind of feeling may also come from another source. Multiple causes interacting with a biological system.

It's also important that feelings are not the only faculty we have. Thoughts are included; probably can't do that without a brain. Even the condition of systems that are more recognised with physiology such as the nervous or muscular-skeletal system. All of these can act based on some cause beyond themselves.

So then how do we know what the cause of particular feelings, thoughts etc are? Sometimes we can't.

I'll say this about the Spirit: The spirit is what guides us on many levels when we submit ourselves to God's will. The tricky thing is, often it may not be noticable that we are getting any help at all. While the spirit is us us the thoughts, feelings and physiological experiences we have may not seem out of the ordinary, dramatic or life-changing.

However, occasionally they may be. Our understandings may suddenly be "revealed" that correspond with reality, yet we had no information to make such an understanding/prediction (AKA "revelation"). Inspiration/ideas may flow as if through us rather than out of us. We may experience bizzare physical responses (e.g. "my mind feels calm but why is my leg uncontrollably twitching while I give this blessing?"). Or we may be unexpectedly/reluctantly filled with an overwhelming feeling that gives us abrupt certainty about something (e.g. God lives, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God...).

It seems the force with which the spirit interacts with us can vary wildly, from indetectable to an absolute punch in the face. The reason why it will do so must also vary from individual to individual. God's wisdom dictates whether or how a particular righteous person gets a certain impression from the Spirit.

Alright, so going back to the conversation between Justin and Penny. The unprovable conclusion is that it was God's voice acting through Penny's mind simply because she let go and submitted herself to the will of God.

In summary, when we rely on our own strength, then whatever thoughts, feelings or actions we have are NOT from the Spirit (unless perhaps God decides to make some abrupt intervention). Conversely, when we submit ourselves to God's will then we are subject to the spirits guidance (in it's various forms), however subtle that may be.

Constant submission to God isn't that easy in this world. It this light, the advice to "pray always" is relevant.

Perhaps the most important questio ns to ask ourselves when confused about "whose voice it was" are
1. "was I submitting myself to the will of God at that time of my impression? and
2. when I submit myself to God now, is that impression confirmed or denied.

Well Loren, obfuscation? (I love that word now)

Justin said...

Oops, typos that may confuse:
"While the spirit is us us the thoughts..."
should read,
"While the spirit is with us, the thoughts..."
"It this light"
should read,
"In this light"
Any "spirit" I used with a lower case, should be as "Spirit", to indicate which Spirit I'm talking about.