‘Call No Man Father’

1,

I discovered what passion is, and what the heart — its ‘organ of fire’ — is, through unwittingly, inadvertently, without choosing it, living out Christ’s strange admonition in Mathew 23, 9. It does not matter if we come to this consciously, or unconsciously, if we embrace it willingly or it is, more likely, forced upon us by circumstance.

The secret of Judaism= ‘call no man father.’ We are called in Judaism to lose the human father, to set aside all religious and secular authority, and really lock horns, in the mystery of our heart, with the Mysterious Heart that drives everything..

The first encounter with this father reveals he is hidden, and must be hunted. This keeps it honest. This keeps everyone journeying, battling, on a rocky road. No one can get too comfortable, lazy, sloppy; no one can give themselves airs, look down on other strugglers, or mistakenly assume they have arrived, or left others far behind. Everyone struggles, everyone falls, everyone suffers, on this hard road.

This tough road allows for elder brothers and younger brothers. Thus it allows a certain kind of leadership, but as Lao Tzu said, leaders should exercise their ‘helping hand’ like a small fish is cooked= gently. The helping hand is in any case often mutual, with ostensibly weaker helping ostensibly stronger.

The belief in the unilateral potency of certain supposedly advanced persons is unrealistic. No leader stands without the support of the people. There is no point in comparison. There is a point in respect for the authenticity, the authoritativeness, of where a person has got to on the road, when they have really put their money where their mouth is, really striven.

Everyone recognises someone who has, by genuine practicing the walk every day, on difficult ground, reached a certain standing that other people have not yet attained. But this person realises better than their admirers that they too are still precarious, still in trouble, and can fall down and hit the dust at any moment. We need to respect those who really push it, but we need to respect even more the plight we are all in, and thus respect those who cannot try, wrecked by the predicament, even as we respect the capacity to wrestle with it evidenced in certain ‘stand up’ persons. The weaker is in the stronger, and the stronger is in the weaker.

More ultimately, we are all in the tragedy together. Recognising this is the only basis for the creation of the brotherhood that cannot be broken.

We call no man father because the challenge is to make brothers of all men. We are all brothers and sisters of the only real father. Only God is ‘our father.’

2,

But, once we start to call certain men by this numinous name of the unknown, the hunt for the Holy Mystery rapidly degenerates into mere ‘patriarchy’. Things are named. Things are pinned down. Religious Systems and Religious Structures, with Religious Definitions and Religious Formulae, arise. Hierarchies of Status and Power arise. The human patriarchs lust for power, to keep everyone in line, under their thumb. Tyranny, authoritarianism, oppression, springs up, and takes over from the real hunt for the hidden father, from the heart, wherein faith means trusting the unknown, taking the next step into the existential uncertainty, traveling further into the universal pain. Once we call human men by the terrible and holy name forbidden to them, ‘father’, they seek an authority God does not grant them, or anyone else, male or female, old or young. The temple, the synagogue, the church, ceases to be the tent on wheels, moving over challenging but empowering terrain as we track God’s footsteps in a trackless desert. Instead, it degenerates into a ‘religious organisation’ and then becomes, at its lowest rung, just a ‘religious club’ which is run by authority figures who presume some special ‘possession’ of the unknown, hidden, God= as if they could dole out the Mystery of God in its blessings and warnings as they personally and humanly see fit, according to their personal and human judgement, which is an idol that comes to stand between God’s presence and the people as ‘the necessary criterion.’ It is no longer God speaking to the people, and moving their innerds directly. No more will God move the people’s hearts as, and when, and how, he wants to do so. Now, it is what the ‘venerable patriarchs’ say that God says which counts. People give up, in the heart, their own hunting for the numinous beast burning bright in the forest of the night. Books of laws are written, and placed like handcuffs upon the fiery poetry of actual encounter with God. It is not allowed! God becomes, as a living presence, an embarrassment to the vast, and ever increasing, Systems, Structures, Prison Houses, of patriarchal regulations, rules, strictures.. These human constructions become objects of superstitious fear, and acquire a magical power. People propitiate them, like false gods. There is no love. ‘Obedience’ to patriarchal ‘mysterium tremendum’, with all its pompous trappings, including overblown titles, becomes a way of dodging God.

Kiss the pope’s ring or God will abandon you forever!

This patriarchal take-over of the religion dedicated to seeking the only real fatherhood happened to the Jews when they returned from Exile in Babylon [500 BC]. In such patriarchal take-over, we lose the fatherhood of God, and gain human men, and sometimes human women, as pseudo fathers, insisting that their authority has ‘supreme gravitas’; these idols of patriarchy stand in for God’s fatherhood and render it obscure, even unnecessary. If you have the pope’s ring, and can kiss it, what need of your heart venturing into deep waters or venturing into burning fires. You are fine. The pope’s ring, and your kissing it, guarantees you are safe and secure. There is no risk. There is no gamble. There is no leap of faith..

Mathew 23 is a two fisted prophetic denunciation of patriarchy in the Jewish religion, but its assessment of the spiritual disease in patriarchy would apply equally to secular as well as religious settings.

It is significant that Christ tells the ordinary people that the Scribes and Pharisees ‘occupy the chair of Moses.’ They belong to the secondary stream of Judaism represented by Moses [mind oriented], and have lost the primary stream of Judaism represented by David [heart based]. He proceeds to nuance the status of the Law, telling the people to embrace its disciplines and profit from its teachings, but not fall victim to the way in which the patriarchal religious people abuse it. ‘Listen to what they say, but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach.’ They put heavy burdens on others which they themselves wear lightly. They love to be greeted with respect in the market place and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by other people. They believe that their high status as figures of authority must be recognised and paid due obeisance by those below who command no authority.

Traditionally, Rabbi referred to someone in a position of religious leadership, a teacher, even a master.

Mathew, 23, 8, in different translations=

[1] “But do not be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, and you are all brothers.”

[2] “Don’t let anyone call you Rabbi, for you have one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.”

[3] “Do not be called Rabbi, for one is master, even the Messiah, and you are all brothers.”
This rules out all hierarchies of power, status, ‘esteem’, in religion, wherein a higher ‘lords it over’ a lower. It renders all humans equal as brothers and sisters.

Mathew, 23, 9, in different translations=

[1] “Call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your father, which is in heaven.”

[1] “Do not call anyone on earth your father, for one is your father, he who is in heaven.”

[2] “You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one father, and he is in heaven.”

Mathew, 23, 10, in different translations=

[1] “Do not be called leaders, for one is your leader, that is, the Messiah.”

[2] “Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.”

[3] “Nor are you to be called masters, for you have one master, the Messiah.”

Christ’s message in these three verses is unequivocal. The basis for patriarchy is hammered.

Over the whole of Mathew 23, Christ continues lambasting the entire patriarchal ethos, its attitudes and its practices. These persons in religious authority put widows out of their houses, to grab the money; for pretence they pray at excessive length; they engage in religious proselytizing wherein the ‘converted one’ becomes ‘twice the child of hell’ as the converting one; the difficult matters of the Law — justice, mercy, good faith — are neglected.

Christ calls these patriarchal authority figures ‘blind guides’ and says their tendency is ‘to strain out gnats and swallow camels’; thus they also ‘make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within they are full of extortion and intemperance.’

Indeed, the patriarchal authority figures are like ‘whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every corruption.’ Christ says to them, ‘in the same way you appear to people from the outside like good, honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’

Christ even says of these patriarchal authority figures that they are ‘the children of the people who killed the prophets.’ Such people are against the prophetic fire, for it would expose their religious fatherhood as invalid, and indeed, pushed to an extreme, evil. These religious fakes insisting that they are the only kosher ones are called by Christ ‘a generation of vipers’, and he says they seek to kill off not only the inspiration which is prophetic, but also the wisdom of the ancient sages which is existential. They decorate the tombs of holy persons from long ago, but it is merely an empty gesture, a cover up. These phoney religious potentates have taken over the religious terrain, and that is why ‘your house will be left to you desolate.’

Religious leaders are elder brothers or elder sisters who serve the rest of their brothers and sisters, by humbling themselves. Christ also says in Mathew 23, 12, that ‘those who exalt themselves will be brought low’; whereas ‘those who make themselves lowly will be exalted.’ This is the point of Christ washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Leadership cannot claim ‘authority’ over anyone, it must be under the real authority, like everyone else.

The person of authoritativeness, who eschews authoritarian manouevres, force, bullying, coercion, is nominated by the people to lead them. The leader cannot be appointed from above; they can only emerge from below.

3,

Patriarchy only exists in islands in religion nowadays — though some of these islands have active volcanos boiling away — but it has seeped into secular society, where people find different criteria for justifying one person having authority over another. This encourages in those with authority the same sense of elitist entitlement, and moral superiority, and in those without authority the same sense of disenfranchisement and deferring to the ‘expert’ which means they need not take any responsibility for making their own life and death decisions. Authority inflates those who rule by it, and infantilizes those who allow it to rule them. The former wield ‘power over’ the many, and the latter are ‘in the power of’ the few. Authority eliminates ‘power with.’

The Jungians have detailed the psycho-pathology of the ‘swallowing father’’ [the father who does the swallowing, and the children who are swallowed], illustrating the dynamics of this oppressive and sterile condition using the ancient Greek myths of Uranus [sky], Uranus’ son Cronus [time], and Cronus’ son Zeus [chief of the Olympian gods and goddesses]. A certain Saturnine depression in those ‘crushed in spirit’ by fatherly authority — operative in certain families, in certain social groups, in certain professions, in certain institutions – remains widespread in the modern world [‘Fathers and Mothers’, Spring Publications, 1973]. Murray Stein points out that devouring by the authority of the father results in= “conventional thought, feeling, and behaviour. ..consciousness [is] bound, swallowed in convention and habit, [focusing on] duty as defined by prevailing collective norms.” This is a person who finds their identity in the structure of established power. Anything ‘outside the box’ is heresy. This person is rigid, locked up; as in Leo Tolstoy’s short story about a lawyer dying of a mystery illness, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, the person has put the ‘dead hand of tradition’ over themselves like a blanket, and then it suffocates them= they cease to be able to breathe, and start to die inside, such that their actual death is a mere formality. This is ‘death through excess of order.’

Eric Neumann calls the process of devouring by the father ‘castration by convention’, or ‘patriarchal castration.’ Staying in line, to avoid retribution, becomes the goal. James Hillman says that the patriarchal ‘angry old man in the sky’ kills off the ‘inner child’, who is not the childishness clinging to mother but is the childlikeness wanting to adventure out towards the undiscovered father. Christ rejected the patriarchal god when he said, ‘unless you become as a child again you will in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.’

Between the true child and the real father there is a golden bridge.

4,

Mathew 23 not only says ‘call no man father’, it also says ‘call no man teacher.’ This is not understood in the Christian West or the Christian East. All that is allowed for the human fatherly role, in true religion, is that it exercises a kind of mentoring. This is what Paul means when referring to the Corinthians as his ‘beloved children’ whom ‘he has begotten’ [1 Corinthians, 4, 14-16]. This carries no patriarchal implications, such as are obvious in terms like ‘Fathers of the Church’, monks as ‘father’, or priests as ‘father.’ The papacy as ‘holy father’ is the ultimate in patriarchal idolatry.

But it matters not at all whether we call this patriarchal idol blocking out the real fatherhood of God by the name Pope of Rome, Patriarch of Constantinople, Chief Rabbi of Britain, Moderator of the General Assembly, or any other foolish appellations forbidden by the new road of the Messiah where the paradoxical route direct to God is reopened, once and for all, and for everyone without any exception.

Patriarchy eliminates the human heart, for better and for ill, in its glory and tragedy, its bigness and meanness, its courage and cowardice, its trust and suspicion, its depths and superficiality, from religion. It cramps this divided and conflicted heart, paralyses the heart, causes the heart to hide, to creep round corners, to cower in shadows. The huge pretence begins. The heart starts play acting the good boy and the good girl. It pretends to be won over to the fatherhood of God when it is not; all it is doing is kow towing to the authority of patriarchal institutions, figures, books, all of which are idolatry. If your heart cannot say an honest No to God, your heart will never arrive at a truthful Yes.

Since God chooses the human heart as his vehicle, this inhibiting of the heart is disastrous for humanity’s hunt for the fatherhood of God, our contending with it, our engagement with and commitment to its mysterious reality, our resistance against it and betrayal of it, and arduous returning to it.. We lose all heart for God, we lose all heart for this world. The two are flip sides of one coin. The heart is ‘put away’, put under wraps. We hear from it no more. Its action, so needed in this world, is absent. We fail our heart’s summons to the world by default.

5,

Nor does it work to simply reject patriarchy, in its severity and strictness, and embrace matriarchy, in its permissiveness and ‘tolerant’ indifference to the knife-edge issues of real concern in the heart.

If the hunt for the real fatherhood of God is distorted in patriarchy, because kow towing to patriarchal authority lets us off the hook of the true search for God, in the way we risk our heart in action toward the world, then that hunt is simply given up in matriarchy. We please ourself, and in doing that, become like an athlete refusing to train. Thus we get flabby, and go nowhere. All sorts of pestilences creep in to our laxity.

Neither suppress, nor indulge, the heart.

Joel, 2, 12= “Now it is Yahweh who speaks — turn to me with all your heart.. Let your heart be broken, not your garments torn” [or= ‘rend your heart, not your garments’]. Come back.”

6,

Judaism is the religion of heart= the religion gambling on the human heart. It is not just that linguistically ‘lev’, the Hebrew term for ‘heart’, is predominant in the Jewish Bible. It is that only Judaism runs with the heart in its full risk, existentially. The evil spirit objects fiercely to the faith God puts in the human heart. His game plan is to prove to God that such faith is misplaced, that it cannot work..

As the story of Jacob declares, we have a contention with God, because his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts.. God requires the heart. And so God wrestles with us, where we are.. God accepts our real ambivalence, ambiguity, conflicted state, and encourages the arduous ‘inner warfare’ necessary to come through ‘the two hearts’ to whole-heartedness, but rejects our pretending to be someone we are not. Our No to God is necessary because it tests and authenticates our Yes. If someone says to us, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I really love you’, we need no great empathic intelligence to realise that their heart toward us is the opposite of what they say it is. Piety, if exaggerated, is impious= not real to where we are.

The fatherhood of God is the deep heart pain in all humanity. The Messiah lets this pain reverse him, to reverse it in in humanity. The Messianic Spirit powerfully engages with this pain, to give mankind a new heart.