Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Johannes Tauler, The World, Idolatry, and The Inner Way

IDOLATRY is the unfortunate default we were born into, yet there is, in the recognition of this fact, the ability to not so much resist as to work in the opposite direction — toward the nirvana of God.  Typically seen as a Buddhist concept, the nirvana simply is that state where an idolater is found free of their idolatry — a halcyon state of Christlike spirituality where God has our fullest attention.
Scholar and mystic, Johannes Tauler (1300–1361), a famous and respected preacher who influenced Martin Luther, said this about humanity’s hopeless state:
“Now poor man, unhappily, because of his fallen nature and his blindness, is attacked by everything on his weakest side.  He rests himself by the way and forgets his true destiny.  His nature clings to everything with which it comes into contact; it clutches at whatever it may be and seeks rest therein — either bodily or spiritual, internal or external.”
This, above, is a picture of discontent in the manner desperate for the very matter of contenting the soul.
There is a sense of hopeless resignation alluded to.  We will be “attacked by everything” on our “weakest side.”  We “clutch at whatever” and in that we seek rest.  Very much is the pity that almost everything other than one thing cannot give us this peace we so richly need and deserve.  Stillness of soul is only found when we’re devoid of ourselves and swept up in that furious reticence into the heart of the Spirit.  To use Jesus’ very words, we must “lose our lives to save them.”
The world would wrest us away, and it does so that readily we hardly know how to live with God alone.  But blessed is that season of loss where every idolatry makes not one iota of sense; when only God, and our reliance, does.  See how God cannot be genuinely ‘got’ until he has ‘got’ us?  (“We love because God loved us first” — 1 John 4:19)
When we’ve reached that place of utter loss, then we’re at a place where idolatry bears far less temptation, its effects are annulled, and we may then enter this Inner Way.
“God made all things that are needful, not for our satisfaction or pleasure, but for Himself alone.”
Everything serves God, and though humanity was to rule over the earth, God rules overall.  As soon as humanity felt it could do as good as God, that it could usurp God, it found out just how warped that reversal is; the apple soured on the tree!
It was never God’s will that we made things the object of our satisfaction or pleasure, and though God made them for our satisfaction and pleasure, no satisfaction or pleasure was found in them until we turned with those things to God, giving him praise.
“Time for us ought to be nothing more than a passage to the end, and eternity should be our aim and our dwelling place.”
Swept up again in that furious reticence into the heart of the Spirit, we find that eternity underpins our very living objective; we dwell there.
Eternity is our dwelling even in the now, and we get there via the Inner Way.  The more we reject the temptations of the world, the more we’ll live in the Land of Eternity Now.  And why would we ever return to our short-sighted ways?
One significant taste of Eternity Now and there is no going back.
We have everything when we depend on absolutely nothing in this life other than God.
Time is of the world, and eternity is of the Spirit.  We best endure the former by enjoying the latter, for its own sake, alone.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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