Atonement= ‘at-one-ment’, after a sundering..
What must be done to reconcile, or reunite, divorced or separated parties?
Atonement= what you do, what has to happen, to reconnect what has been divorced, or separated.
Mystical Oneness does not have to atone because it does not take seriously the consequences of action in this world. It does not seek to redeem, or make good, what has gone wrong in the world, rather, it ‘lets go of’ both the world and its ruination as of no ultimate importance.
Atoning puts final value on the world, history, humanity.
The Mystical Oneness co-exists with the existential reality, but cannot penetrate it, change it, make it come good in the end.. The space where Mystical Oneness works is different to the existential arena of this world into which humanity is ‘thrown.’
St Paul mystically travelled into the seventh heaven, and beheld marvellous things of which ‘it is not permitted to speak’, yet he still had to come back to the world, to complete his mission, to live in a body, to make the impossible choices, to be borne by and bear other people, and to die a criminal convicted of sedition, executed by the ‘lawfully constituted government’ for crimes against the authority of the state and the authority of the state-sponsored religion.
Putting final value on ‘world, history, humanity’ means rejecting the solace of a ‘better place’ where the trade-off in going there is to leave behind, and not finally much care about, what happens in this world, to all the persons, creatures, things, ‘condemned to its freedom’ of radical existential choice. So, if your beloved cat goes missing, and you never find out what happened to her, whether a coyote got her or a car, or if she is alive somewhere having chosen a new family, that loss is denuded of its real blow to your heart because it is dismissed as ‘the way life is.’
From a valuing of world, history, humanity, you get a valuing of everything in its very particularity, and unrepeatable uniqueness. When you say, ‘cats come and go, that is the way the world is’, you dismiss and are in denial towards that specific cat who mattered specifically to you= its specificity of creaturehood mattered to you in your specificity of personhood.
Specific beings, creatures, persons, matter hugely and ultimately in this world.
But then, the relationships between specific beings, creatures, persons, matter hugely and ultimately.
And then, the deeds between specific beings, creatures, persons, matter hugely and ultimately.
Not a feather falls but God knows it..
It all matters, hugely and ultimately, in this world.
Therefore, sin as the world’s ‘failure to hit the mark’ cannot be transcended by ‘moving home’ to a different level, or in effect a different place, where it ceases to matter.
Mystical Oneness consoles the frustrated wife for whom all men have failed, the disillusioned hero for whom all people are unreliable, and at the core of us all, the bewildered assaulted child whose very innocence is a ‘red rag to a bull’ for the wickedness dominating this world.
If any spiritual reality is to enter the existential arena to make a difference there — and to tip the balance of contending forces on the existential edge – then the spiritual question of questions becomes whether this can, realistically, be accomplished.
What spiritual reality can dent this world, to save its possibility for flowering, and where that possibility is tragically gone beyond recall redeem the tragedy such that it becomes the very anvil upon which is forged the second chance, the new beginning, for the world and all in it.
‘It is accomplished’ Christ uttered as he died on the Cross.
The question remains.
Is it accomplished?
Can it be accomplished?
What is accomplished?
It is the people whose hearts are most ‘instinctively’ concerned for this world whose faith in God is most hurt by ‘what happens’ in the here and now.
There are people who ‘believe’ in God but profess to hate God, like Ellie Wiesel who survived the concentration camp. They speak for all of us, crucified on the contradiction of a world that matters, and a God who supposedly cares about what matters in the world, and asks us to be staked to its groundless ground.
Everyone has a point where this contradiction bites into their existence very personally, and this is the deal-breaker, the breaking point where they bail out. Some of these people still profess to believe in an unjust God, or simply a God who does not care what happens to us, or if he cares is never the less powerless to do anything to help us, and despise this God for his inadequacy. Other of these people profess not to believe in such a pointless God.. Either way, the pain is the same. The very profundity of that pain, and its refusal to be consoled, nor rationally dispelled by the supposed ‘non-existence of any divinity’, tells a story that few persons can really look at with undefended gaze.
Yet, the contradiction of the world that matters supremely only because it matters to the God who brought it into existence, and the loss of that God from its ongoing nightmare will not be ironed out..
The paradox is that it is precisely from within the worst case scenario for the contradiction that a change in the ‘run of play’ begins. The story begins its second chance just where it has, by all worldly logic, reached checkmate. Christ’s Cross also says, ‘it is all over.’
When we hate God, or despair of God, we reach the real tipping point.
Those who stop at the checkmate have bailed out on the Daemonic too soon.
Atonement cannot simply magic sin away.. Sin is karma= if you eat poison, you die. If you give poison to your brother, he dies. When he is dead, his wife and children are thrown into the street because they are now too poor to remain in the family house. In the street, the mother and one of the children die, and the other child learns to be a hard case, and he grows up to harm many.. They all ‘pay’ for what you did to his father. And so it goes on. Sin has a ripple effect, engulfing wider and wider circles of destruction and damage.
Atonement has to soberly and realistically face up to the gravity of sin. Yet sin cannot be overcome in a way that nullifies, negates, removes, what is at stake and what is being risked in the human venture. Dehumanising ‘solutions’ that rob humans of freedom and the choice to give their heart or withhold their heart from existence, are the medicines worse than the illness= they are all, in different ways, the cure that removes the sickness by killing off the patient. The cure becomes worse than the illness in so many human answers, including religion itself; all our differing kinds of ‘isms’– Fascism, Communism, Capitalism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Gnosticism, Puritanism, Scientism, Esotericism, Traditionalism, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Militant Pro-Religion, Militant Anti-Religion, and on and on ad infinitum.
Dostoyevsky said that humanity will have to ‘try out’ all the imaginable twists and turns that prove to be errors, blind alleys, cul de sacs, because of our radical freedom. We must explore all kinds of false avenues to learn existentially that they do not work, and so profit from our experience of making mistakes.
But the toll is high..
The Cross lets it all happen, and so we reject the Cross. Yet the Cross meets it, head on, not withholding the heart but giving the heart to everything, and from within that hell, finds the true road, the unimaginable road, that risks everything and because it is too late to ‘save’ it, redeems it in its tragedy.
Atonement overcomes the ‘law’ of sin, the karmic consequences of sin. In doing this, it also overcomes the justice that would keep a strict accounting of those consequences and demand each and all responsible be held to account.
The Atonement in the temple is salvational.
The Atonement in the world is redemptive.
Salvation is good news for those with lingering hope.
Redemption is good news for those in fundamental despair.
Temple Atonement= priestly and salvational, an ‘offering’ for one’s sins.
Worldly Atonement= kingly and redemptive, a ‘sacrifice’ for the sins of others.
The former is a sacrificing, a giving up, of our sins.
The latter sees behind good and evil to something more important, the broken love that, if accepted, can be reversed, becoming the most final love exactly at the point of injury, the point of its real tragedy in the world.
The love broken by the world becomes an unbreakable love for the world.
This is God’s doing, but only on, and through, the Cross of the Messiah.
This world matters not because ‘it is all there is’, but because the God who brought it into existence values it in some final way that is irrational and pained. God insists on the freedom of the world, and therefore love must go to an extreme, irrational and pained, to ‘make it work out in the end.’