Tag Archives: house of God

Narrator – Snow face


Every night a dream carries me away. This icy clear night at the beginning of December a dream led me to another world. At new moon I lied under the starry sky perfectly still in my sleeping bag to avoid heat loss. Every now and then I felt a tingling in my hands and feet and then they were cold again. My breath – a temporal home for the villagers massacred by my fellow militia members and me during the night fire in the forest – watched over me.

It got colder; my body relaxed itself [1] and my eyes blinked no more. The darkness and the firmament sucked me in. I hovered with the galaxies in the universe. No earth, no worries, no sound, completely absorbed in the infinity.

Sterrennacht[2]

From the edge of the universe I heard footsteps approaching. In the corner of my eyes a shadow appeared. The shadow became larger and I heard another breath next to my breath. After an eternity the dark face of my mother bent over me. Her curly hair had turned grey. My mother had come to take me home. In her peaceful face I saw that I was never gone away; within her heaven and earth came together.

In this peaceful state I heard a voice. My mother and my eyesight faded. Someone tried to wake me up. Very slowly my breath returned to everyday world: the firmament and the earth were separated again with the opening of my sleeping bag. I was stone-cold and just barely conscious.

Sterrenstelsels[3]

The voice took me and after an eternal struggle with my stilled body we entered a lit hot room. The voice undressed me and covered itself and me close to each other under a duvet. Slowly I could see again. I saw a woman’s face with curly grey hair. She really shivered from the cold. After a very long time I warmed a little; only halfway through the next day my fingers and feet started to tingle again. I found myself in bed in a caravan.

By evening I could eat and drink a little. She asked me indignantly why I watched outside in this severe frost under the starry sky in a thin sleeping bag. My answer followed a few days later. To my question how she had found me, she replied that during a short evening stroll she saw occasionally vapour from the ground beside the path; this vapour was caused by my exhalation. My breath had guarded me.

One day later we moved together to a winter camping to let me recover. The owner of the camp-site was not happy with my appearance, but my guardian angel took care that we got a place for some nights. The first days she mothered me. She cut my hair, She shaved my beard and she washed my clothes: I was presentable to the world again.

Wintercamping[4]

In the confines of the caravan on the winter camping we told each other the main lines of our life stories. Her name was Carla Drift and she moved through Europe with a tractor–caravan combination. Since autumn her life was empty as the trees in the winter. At the end of the previous summer a man had attacked her honour and life. In self-defence she killed the assailant. Herewith she lost her innocence: a part of her had died.

I told her about my life as a child soldier in a previous incarnation; at the end of one night we had set the forest surrounding a village on fire. Our militia shot on everything and everyone who came out of the forest. I always carried the ghosts of these villagers with me; their breath was my breath and they had guarded me in the bright icy night. In memory of my mother I was on my way “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν”.

We decided to travel to Istanbul together. We alternated driving the tractor; now and then I was again a charioteer in a white winter landscape. The journey of more than 2000 kilometres lasted three months with several resting. The end of winter and the beginning of spring we stayed in Istanbul. During the visits to the many houses of God in this city – including the Hagia Sophia, we admired these buildings with domes as symbol of the bond between earth and firmament.

Hagia Sophia[5]


[1] See also for hypothermia: Stark, Peter, The last breath, the limits of adventure. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001 p. 11 – 24

[2] Each light speck is a galaxy – some of these are as old as 13.2 billion years – the Universe is estimated to contain 200 billion galaxies. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe

[3] Source image: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/iotd.html# – Hubble Watches Star Clusters on a Collision Course

[4] Source image:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camping

[5] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanboel

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Meditation rooms


In previous posts, you and I have visited several houses of God. With churches as “object in the middle” the faithful express a mutual trust between people and God. This confidence is continuously and periodically confirmed through rituals. Besides, the churches often create a bond between people mutual, but sometimes churches cause rejections. Churches are trying to be a timeless reference point from which the environment – air/heaven and earth separately and in combination – is experienced. The churches also provide hope for a transcendence of human life through a resurrection in an afterlife. We will visit all the churches that we encounter on our Odyssey.

We also encounter “objects in the middle” which give room for meditation. These special areas create the possibility for transcending the human scale and/or experiencing a complete oneness. Specific parts of the natural landscape have been used for this purpose for centuries. During our Odyssey we have seen stone circles, caves and stones in the landscape.

Probably with the occupation of homesteads people have created rooms for meditation that resemble their homesteads. Initially, the rooms for meditation are mainly located in or near their residences. Over time these rooms become major sacred places for worship and/or houses of God. Some of these places have been transferred in worldly contemplation places that we now encounter as museums and art galleries. During our Odyssey we visit almost all museums, but we cannot report on these visits.

Let us visit two special rooms for meditation. This first room – the Mark Rothko [1] chapel in Houston from 1967 – is building for religion and for art. The exterior is a monolithic octagon with a small entrance. At first glance it looks like a mausoleum.

 [2]

We enter the chapel. The interior radiates serenity – as monolithic as the exterior. The light comes from above. Internally I sing the first chorus of Cantata 131 by Johann Sebastian Bach:

”Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr[3], zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme, lass deine Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!“
[4]

[9]

The windows to the outside consist of paintings by Mark Rothko from 1964 – 1967, shortly before his death.

[5]

The paintings render all impressions of the World. It seems that he tries to imprint on the panels – in translucent blue/black ink – every word ever written and spoken.” You say.

“That’s right. All glass beads of “Indra’s Net” [6] are included in the paint of the panels, the colours are so dense.” I say.

The sun breaks through. The blood of the earth lights in a purple red glow on the triptych.

[7]

We sit next to a meditating – Zen? – Buddhist. When the Buddhist stands up, we go outside.

Outside you say: “I once read: “A man asks a female Buddhist hermit in contemporary China to calligraphy the essence of Buddhist practise on paper. She puts the paper aside. A few months later, he receives four words by post: goodwill, compassion, joy and detachment. Her calligraphy is strong and clear as her mind.[8] Are these four words applicable to the chapel?”

“Yes.” I say.

“I have hesitated on joy, until the sun broke through.” You say.

In the next post we will watch the last part of the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky from 1986.


[1] For further information on Mark Rothko: Hughes, Robert, The Shock of the New – Art and the Century of Change; and Arnason, H.H., A History of Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979, pages 533 – 534

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Rothko_chapel.jpg

[3] Maybe the German word “Herr” is linked to the verb root “hṛ” meaning “offer, present” and “seize, take away” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. Both meanings of the verb root “hr” express the two roles of the warrior caste within the cattle-cycle: they rob the cattle and give a part of the cattle to the priests for offers to the Gods. A lord has also two roles: offering protection and taking a part of the harvest. Probably the role of Lord coincides with the role of God. In the experiences of many nationals the king and God are closely interwoven.

[4] Translation: “From the deep, Lord [3], I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice, let your ears hear the voice of my doubt!” In German the word “Flehens” means supplication. Here this word is translated with doubt, because doubt is the origin of nearly all supplication to God. See also the book Job from the Old testament.

[5] Source image: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703445904576118063020357484.html

[6] For further information on “Indra’s net”: the post “Introduction: one – Pantheïsm – Indra’s net” of 8th of April 2011.

[7] Source image: http://hayleygilchrist.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/contextual-studies/

[8] Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993. page 109

[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_the_Tower_-_Mark_Rothko.JPG

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Church


In the previous post you and I have met the role of the house as “object in the middle”. The role of the home has changed over the years from the environment where we live to a habitation. This habitation in the form of a house is seen by our ancestors as a safe haven and as a reference point from where the world is experienced. Recently, people started to identify with their home: they give shape to the house and the house expresses who they are. Our society demands of us more and more that we have a nationality and a permanent home and residence. Without these assets, people are not treated as full citizens.

Now you and I are looking into the role of the house of God as “object in the middle”.  The first sacred places, we have already seen. We have encountered sacred stones on our Odyssey. We remember the stone circles as places for ceremonies which we no longer know.

[1]

We also know the golden calf as an image of a (demi-) god [2]. We have read in the Old Testament about Yahweh who is present between the tips of angel wings above the lost Ark of the Covenant,.

Probably the hunter-gatherers have already given shelter to Gods. We have read about rituals performed by the hunter-gatherers to unite the hunters with their prey as redemption for killing of the prey, and to maintain the unique bond between prey and hunter for both their survival. The rituals may be performed at specific times and places. These sites may be seen as a precursor to the house of God. The many caves with paintings of hunting scenes are a next step towards a house of God. Probably, these paintings also had a religious background.

Many nomadic peoples have travelled around with their herds. They may also have known fixed holy sites. And probably they have seen sacred sites of established residents. Have they identified themselves with the gods of the established residents and the hunter-gatherers? Probably not, but maybe they have adopted some elements of the faith of other people. As nomads, they will have carried their sacred objects on the travels with their herds. In their tents special places are reserved for shrines. One example is the Ark of the Covenant that the Jews carried around on the travels and place in a tent during stages. Even in the temple in Jerusalem, the ark is placed with poles on both sides as a reminder and a preparation for a new travel.

The form of Islamic mosques reminds you and me of temporary stays – large tents and outposts to indicate the entrance point – in a desert. These mosques are transferred in imposing houses of Allah with courts and outbuildings around. An example is the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul.

[3]

Farmers with fixed fields are moving into permanent habitations. Also the gods receive their private habitations. The recognition of the house of Gods does not happen overnight. When we visit the oldest stave church at Urnes in Norway, the guide explains that the woodwork of the church is decorated with dragon motifs on the outside to keep the many evil spirits outside. This is necessary in the long dark winters. The Vikings have to leave their swords outside next to the door. Inside the church has only a few small lights from above. In that light a wooden crucifix is seen from which redemption and access to the afterlife may come. The priests at that time do try to change the image of Valhalla – the hall where the honorary fallen soldiers during battle continue eating, drinking and fighting to the end of time – into a longing for deliverance from sin and a Christian view of the afterlife. The blue paint color – lapis lazuli – on the wooden crucifix from around the 12th century AD comes from Afghanistan according to the guide.

During the explanation of the guide I think of Jalāl al-Dīn – also known as Rumi, who is born around the same time in Vaksh in Balkh Province in Afghanistan. Probably Rumi transcends the “object in the middle” in his contact with Allah: “My thoughts are in the heart of Allah, the heart of Allah will be sick without the thoughts of me [4]”. Later on our Odyssey more about this.

When we leave this church, you say: “Those light openings under the roof remind me of a saying by Oscar Wild:” We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars “.

[5]

“Do you remember the first rays of the sun at 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day of spring? [6]” I ask.

“Whenever I visit a church.” You answer.

The next message continues on churches as “object in the middle”.


[1] Source of image: Marieke Grijpink

[2] See the previous post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1” on 5th of May 2011

[3] Source image: http://www.islamleer.nl/islaam/biografie/geleerdenoverigen/758-kanuni-sultan-suleyman-i

[4] See: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[5] Source image: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/urnes-stave-church

[6] See the last post on “Two” on 25th of April 2011