Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Body

Membership: An address to the Society of St. Alban and St. Sergius, C. S. Lewis*

This is captured as an essay in a book of several essays.  I will come back to it in some detail in the future, but wanted to get something out on it today.

No Christian and, indeed, no historian could accept the epigram which defines religion as “what a man does with his solitude”.  …We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together.  Christianity is already institutional in the earliest of its documents.  The Church is the Bride of Christ.  We are members of one another.

Imagine a honeymoon where the bride is separated from the groom.  You can’t, or if you can, please extend my sympathies to your (former?) spouse.

The Christian is called, not to individualism but to membership in the mystical body.

A body is a whole, gathered together physically in one place.  Try to imagine a body otherwise, and what will you have?

A dead body.


*I was made aware of this sermon by Paul VanderKlay.


  1. "The spiritual differs from the religious in being able to endure isolation. The rank of a spiritual person is proportionate to his strength for enduring isolation, whereas we religious people are constantly in need of ‘the others,’ the herd. We religious folks die, or despair, if we are not reassured by being in the assembly, of the same opinion as the congregation, and so on. But the Christianity of the New Testament is precisely related to the isolation of the spiritual man." —Søren Kierkegaard

    1. Assalam alaykum Brother Ahmed,

      It is not good for us to be reliant on the Ummah in a certain way. An Ummah that is composed only of those that "despair when not in assembly" is one that has the strength of a castle built on sand.

      And yet, our Deen calls us to communal congregation as a regular obligation. If one Knows for certain the reason for this, perhaps one can find reasons to ignore this obligation. This is dangerous territory however. Disintegration remains a threat.

      Between the spiritual and the religious, this moment in a talk with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was classic:

      Please remember us in your Duas, May Allah make things Easy for us.

    2. Religion is the gateway to spirituality. In that, it serves a useful function. But religion and spirituality can never mix. This is illustrated in the story of Moses and al-Khidr (Arabic: The Green One) in the 18th Surah of the Qur'an.

      Moses represents the religious while al-Khidr represents the spiritual, i.e., the exoteric and the esoteric. When Moses asks al-Khidr if he can travel with him to learn, al-Khidr replies:

      "And how can you have patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?" —Qur'an 18:67

      After Moses is rebuked three times, al-Khidr parts ways with him. This shows that spirituality is higher than religion.

      Incidentally, al-Khidr (The Green One) appears in his latest incarnation as Yoda in the movie Star Wars. Yoda lives next to the Cave of Dagobah, a reference to the title of the 18th Surah of the Qur'an in which al-Khidr appears, the title of which is "The Cave". Entering the cave is symbolic of the dark night of the soul, well-known to the Christian mystics, which is the prelude to enlightenment.

      The ancient dream of the alchemists was the transmutation of lead into gold. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker represents the lead, i.e. the spiritual neophyte while Obi-Wan Kenobi represents the gold, i.e., the spiritual adept.

      Yoda, who is the Sufi master, represents the philosopher's stone, aka, the red sulfur, which is required to effect the alchemical transmutation.

    3. Very interesting Brother!

      As the Medhabs say of each other, "We stand in certainty that our perspective is the more correct interpretation... but we could be wrong, for only Allah Knows Best." Salaam.

    4. Religion is the spirit acting on the world. Spirituality is the spirit retreating from it. Both are necessary at times. Religion is necessary to keep the forces of evil at bay. Spirituality is necessary when religion fails.

    5. ATL, looked at as you describe, as religion has failed over the last many decades, we have seen people turning to spirituality; more recently, at least some subset seem to be turning back to religion.

      It's unfortunate that the religious leaders have let us down over the last decades, and especially the last few months.

  2. PS. On reflection, I don't disagree with anything you actually wrote there. But to take the analogy further, the danger of going down the path from Luke to Vader (also in many ways "higher" than the religion) is always underestimated. Particularly when there is unexamined junk in one's lineage.

    "Do not underestimate the power of the Dark Side of the Force"... From quoting the Quran to quoting George Lucas, Astahgfurallah :D!

    That's pretty much what Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is saying too in his clip I believe.

  3. Yes, the spiritual path is fraught with danger, this on account of the ego. The protection from that is spiritual poverty.

    "We sought everywhere for Solomon’s ring. We
    found his wisdom far from riches. Abandoning
    wealth we found that beautiful treasure. In poverty
    we took our repose, and our Beloved was
    pleased with nothing so much as this." —Discourses of Rumi