“..it’s like what happened to the Jews. In the beginning there were men who talked with God. As the power or faculty dried up men began talking ‘about’ God” [Henry Miller, p 176, ‘Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, A Private Correspondence’, ed. George Wicks].
Abraham Heschel [‘The Prophets’, 1962] points out the Jewish prophets had no ‘idea’ of God. “Having an idea of friendship is not the same as having a friend or living with a friend, and the story of a friendship cannot be fully told by what one friend thinks of the being and attributes of the other friend. The process of forming an idea is one of generalization, or arriving at a general notion from individual instances, and one of abstraction, or separating a partial aspect or quality from a total situation. Yet such a process implies a split between situation and idea, a disregard for the fullness of what transpires, and the danger of regarding the part as the whole. An idea or theory of God can easily become a substitute for God, impressive to the mind when God as a living reality is absent from the soul” [p 286].
What the prophets had, instead of an idea or theory, was an ‘understanding’ of God. This was not the result of intellectual inquiry, rational speculation and imaginative envisioning, or even advanced contemplation that is formless= without concepts, without words, without images. It did not stem from any kind or degree of [Western] discursive mental activity or [Oriental] meditative expansion of consciousness. The ‘prophetic God-understanding’ comes only from the heart. “To the prophets, God was overwhelmingly real and shatteringly present. They never spoke of him as from a distance. They lived as witnesses..” [pp 285-286]. The prophets never used the Greek metaphysical language of deity as immutable, impassible, immobile, ‘essence’; rather, they used the language of presence. Not to depict God, but to make God’s presence felt, was their aim.
God was not ‘an object of interest’, to be researched, explored, scrutinised, in order to come to a hypothetical over view about divinity as a nature, a being, a first cause, a matrix. “God is not a point at the horizon of the mind, but is like the air that surrounds one and by which one lives. He is a not a thing, but a happening. The psalmist may ask man to meditate on God’s works; the prophets call upon man to consider God’s inner acts. They not only sense God in history, but.. history in God” [p 354].
Heschel points out that the vivid metaphors used by the prophets, in conveying God, “are attempts to set forth God’s aliveness. One must not forget that all our utterances about him are woefully inadequate. But when taken to be allusions rather than descriptions, understatements rather than adequate accounts, they are aids in evoking our sense of God’s realness” [p 355]. “What does the human mind know about God? His works. Where is his goodness to be found? In his works. There is no greater goodness than that which is already given in the universe. The prophets speak of a mercy that transcends the mercy found in the [creation]. It was not from his works alone that they knew him, but also from his word” [p 356].
From his promises, his vow.
“God is alive in his regard and concern for life, for man, for righteousness. Compassionate is his concern, although the form in which it is expressed may be harsh. Man is callous and deaf to God’s call. It is frequently in moments of distress that he regains ultimate understanding. ..[God’s] wrath can be unbearably dreadful, yet it is but the expression and instrument of his [everlasting] concern. ..mercy and anger are not sporadic reactions, but expressions of a constant care and concern. The divine pathos embraces all life, past, present, and future; all things and all events have a reference to him” [p 356].
“By God’s livingness the prophets did not mean living in a biological or physiological sense. They never thought of God as a thing, or an organism, as a force or a cause. God’s life was.. a unity of ..acts, of creating, demanding, expressing, and responding. He was [understood] in terms of [deeds], in terms of moments, rather than in terms of thinghood. A thing may be thought of as a force or a cause. Personal life is the presence or manifestation of a will, of unity of intention, of a regard and concern for the nonself. [Thus, is] history ..a mere chain of chance? Is the survival of mankind the exclusive concern of man? Is human life to be defined as life that cares for itself? Biblical religion did not.. evolve from a reflection about an ultimate cause. Its premise rather [is] that, just as there is an ultimate origin, there is an ultimate concern. Human life is life that God cares for and that is concerned with him. ‘God is alive’ does not mean he is a [Personality] among [personalities]. ‘It means’, the psalmist or the prophet would say, ‘that more than my own life do I cherish his regard for me.’ ‘For thy love [hesed] is better than life’ [Psalms, 63, 3]” [pp 356-357].
Even the dreadful divine wrath is not retaliation for offenses against divine majesty, or divine authority. “God’s anger is.. a reaction occasioned by the conduct of man. ..the anger of God is not a blind, explosive force, ..but rather voluntary and purposeful, motivated by concern for right and wrong. He has a merciful purpose toward the universe which he has made. The land was his gift, rain his blessing. [Thus the] anger of God must not be treated in isolation, but as an aspect of the divine pathos, as one of the modes of God’s responsiveness to man. It shares the features that are characteristic of the pathos as a whole: it is conditioned by God’s will, it is aroused by man’s sins. It is an instrument rather than a force, transitive rather than spontaneous. It is.. never the ruling passion, disclosing only a part of God’s way with man” [pp 362-363].
Heschel concludes that the anger of God cannot be viewed in the light of the human psychology of [fallen] passions, but must be understood as inherent to God’s divinely passionate love for the human venture, and refusal to give up on it, and simply out of indifference allow it to continue in self-destruction. “God’s relation to man is not an indiscriminate outpouring of goodness, oblivious to the condition.. of the recipient, but an intimate accessibility, manifesting itself in his sensitive and manifold reactions” [p 363].
God’s sensitive and manifold reactions are to humanity’s inner movements and outer deeds of heart. The divine wrath is because humanity matters in some radical and ultimate way to God.
Human history is not ‘man in search of God’ – human history is really ‘God in search of man.’ “Israel did not discover God. Israel was discovered by God. The Bible is a record of God’s approach to man” [p 561].
“Yahweh found him in a desert land,
In the howling waste of the wilderness;
Yahweh encircled him, Yahweh cared for him
Yahweh kept him as the apple of his eye”
[Deuteronomy, 32, 10].
Psalms, 73, 26=
“My flesh and my heart may fail
But God is the rock of my heart.”
What Heschel terms ‘God’s pathos’ is the multiple flames, dispositions, deeds, of God’s passionateness of love, freely aimed in humanity’s direction. The ‘ruling passion of God’s way with man’ is mysterious, always redemptive in final outcome, yet it is more than that. ‘God requires the heart’, but no eye has seen, nor any soul imagined, what God will do with the human heart, once it is wholly won to him.
Humanity’s pathos moves God. This is what moves the prophet. From within the human heart, the prophet apprehends the heart of God.
This passionate love of God, shot like an arrow into humanity, is the Ruach, the Spirit of God.
The Ruach= the Rushing Wind that blows where it will.
The Ruach= the Raging Fire that burns what it will.
The Spirit of God takes the prophet into the Wilderness, to influence him to influence humanity, to inspire him to inspire humanity, by conveying God’s passionate responsiveness – not emotional reactivity — to what is going on in the world, on the ground, through time.
There are three places of divine presence= The Temple, the World, the Wilderness.
Temple= Sacredness. The place of transformation necessary to purify, cleanse, heal, enlighten.
World= Holiness. The place of struggle for what heart directs the world’s historical changing.
Wilderness= Mystery. The place of warfare for what spirit impassions the heart.
The prophet went into the wilderness where there is no fruit and abundant overflowing of Eros, but only the ‘monsters of the spirit’, good and evil. In this ‘wild place’, the prophet ‘discerned spirits.’ Then, filled with the Spirit of God, he returned to the World and returned to the Temple, to rebuke in order to spark change.
The prophet is not a Logos person. The prophet is a Spirit person. The Hebrew for Spirit is used mainly in the Jewish Bible for the prophetic ‘voice crying in the wilderness.’ The prophets wore the shaggy skins of animals, and wandered deserts, and mountains, and lived in caves and ravines of the earth.
Hosea, 2, 14=
“I will lead him into the wilderness and speak to his heart.”
The prophets were the first to openly admonish the arrogance, over-bearing bullying and tyranny, and cruelty toward the weak and dispossessed, the poor and the vulnerable, routinely demonstrated by false kings. The king had to enact the passion of heart, and therefore the prophet was his necessary corrective, advisor, mocker, since the prophet was able, in the Spirit, to search into the heart, discriminating the callous and indifferent motive in the heart of stone from the courageous and generous motive in the heart of flesh. The prophets discerned the difference, in the heart, between true passion and false passions. The ‘singular’ heart directs ‘passion’, the split heart creates ‘passions.’ Passion hits the mark, or is learning the true aim by correcting falls, and repenting of harms done; the passions fail to hit the mark, and resist changing the false aim by refusing to accept mistakes, and denial of harms done. The former process ‘softens’ the heart, and leads it away from judgementalism, or sloppiness; the latter process ‘hardens’ the heart, and leads it ever further into harshness, or laxity.
To kings, the prophets deliver God’s judgement on injustice= the crimes that harm the unique person and the crimes that harm the solidarity of persons as a community.
The prophetic blast is at its fiercest in denouncing the pride of kings and the duplicity of priests.
Hosea, 5, 1=
“Hear this, O priest.
Harken, O house of the king.
For the judgement pertains to you.”
The unrighteous king — the high and mighty ‘over-lord’ of any description who dominates and cheats the low and powerless – evoked God’s righteous indignation.
Yahweh insists on justice for the poor, compassion on the widow and orphan, mercy to the stranger– or disaster will follow.
Exodus, 22, 22-23, 27=
“You will not wrong a stranger, nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You will not afflict the widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will hear their cry.. If he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”
Isaiah, 1, 17=
“Help the oppressed, be just to the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Isaiah, 3, 14-15=
“Yahweh enters into judgement
With the elders and princes of his people:
It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
The spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing the people,
By grinding the face of the poor?”
The prophet’s warning to the priest is more manifold. The wrong deference to king, or priest, by the populace is idolatry. The Spirit of God is ‘running things’, and to attribute too much majesty, autonomy, primacy, potency, either to king or to priest is idolatrous= the worship of an idol instead of God.
The Temple is blasted when used as an escape from loving duty to the World.
Isaiah, 1, 11-15=
“What are your endless [liturgical] sacrifices to me? I am sick of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of calves. I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. Bring no more futile cereal offerings; the smoke from them fills me with disgust. Your new moon and your meetings I utterly detest; to me they are a burden.. You may multiple your prayers. I will not be listening.”
Hosea, 6, 6=
“Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.”
The hypocrisy of priests arises from the abuse of their task of sanctifying the everyday life of humanity, including humanity’s use of the ‘stuff’ of the material world, the ‘pragmata’ of existence. We live in a physical environment, and live in it through a physical body. The priest offers materiality back to God, to signify humanity recognises it as a gift of God and will not exploit it as our possession; key to this is also acknowledging humanity shares the gift among all and sundry= it is offered equally, not preserved for a few and taken away from the many. In a sense, the material creation is already the window, and fountain, conveying God’s down-coming and in-coming energies. Yet if humanity refuses to behold Nature in God, then in effect we try to snatch what we need and desire from Nature as ours alone; this urge to possess for ourselves ‘what does not belong to us’ is always selfish and corrupting of what it steals. We do not eat, we devour; we harm and subtly alter what we greedily consume. Nature is not what it was before we raped and ravaged it.. This is why something fluid and responsive in Nature no longer responds to our touch, our foot fall, our sighing in the wind or song to the rain. Nature flees from us, erecting a hard shell on the outer to protect its inner sanctum. Hence “Nature loves to hide.”
It is precisely because priests must be immersed in the material to perform the calling of ‘making sacred’ that they can sell out to the material. They get too impressed by the worldly status and worldly privilege of rich and powerful people, and collude with the evil they invariably get up to, but justify this as ‘promoting the church.’ Or they think there are ‘princes of the church’ — prelates, popes, patriarchs — who should wield the same iniquitous and idolatrous hierarchic authority within the church as false worldly leaders exercise outside the church. Or, they believe the despotic monarch of the church should also rule over the world.
The basic corruption for the priest, however, is grabbing all the comforts, luxuries, ‘goods’, which ‘money can buy.’ This means the priest is always tempted away from not only Yahweh’s sacrifice of the Daemonic, but also Yahweh’s gift of Eros. The priest becomes sucked into the religion of the Great Mother, and her Son-Lover Baal. Elijah fought king Ahab whose Phoenician wife promoted the worship of Baal. At that early time, 20,000 infants were sacrificed to Baal every year in Carthage.
As Berdyaev rightly pointed out, the priest is the first to sell out to the bourgeois ethos; then the Temple becomes the victim to, and apologist for, Babylon.
Asked what ‘avarice’ is, a monk of the Egyptian Desert tradition replied, “not to trust the promises of God, not to have faith our daily bread is in the care of God, and to hate the brother.”
The prophets looked forward into the future, not only in regard to history, but also in regard to Nature. They were less interested in seasonal, cyclical festivities and rituals that presupposed the Static governed Nature, and more interested in ‘the new heaven and the new earth’ that would come eschatologically, at the climax of all things, when the Dynamic had run its course.. The end of the story of human travail would bring a ‘sea-change’ in Nature. The Paradise lost in the Beginning is not the Sacred Garden and Holy City of the End. The Beginning is not a state of perfection; it is innocent and therefore perfectible. Completeness only comes at the End. Nature is sad, and groans, with humanity, awaiting the Final Parousia.
The prophets were resented by both king and priest, obviously. The only authority they acknowledged was the Ruach, the Spirit of God, and no authority, whether Church or State, could inhibit their forthrightness. Prophets were tortured, flogged, pilloried, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in half, killed by the sword. Jeremiah resisted the calling to become a prophet. He also had to stand alone in fulfilling it.
Of all paths in the Daemonic, this one is among the hardest.
James, 5, 7-10=
“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of Yahweh.”
The Wind of Change challenges the very air we breathe and rely on for life. The Fire of Change challenges the very earth we stand upon and out of which we are made. The inspiration, and influence, of the Ruach moves, and shifts, dynamically; it does not stabilise, and preserve, statically.
Isaiah, 29, 16=
“You turn things upside down.”
This is what the prophet breathes and what the prophet stands on. He is the sail in the Wind that is taking the boat across perilous seas to a new land of heart, he is the torch kindled by the Fire that is taking the caravan across empty zones to a new spirit of heart.
False prophets abound= we should eschew cheap tricksters, unpurified psychic mediums, zealot apocalyptic preachers, who spread fraud, confusion, deception. We need ‘discerning of spirits.’
Paul, 1 Thessalonians, 5, 19-22=
“Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.”
Christ provided the ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s impact= ‘evaluate a tree by its fruit.’
God is not impassible, not immutable, not immobile, and certainly not apathetic or ‘indifferent’, as the Greek Stoics assert. God may be, ‘in a sense’, Aristotle’s unmoved mover, the divinity who can act on the creature but cannot be acted upon by the creature. That simply establishes the necessary gulf between Creator and creation. But, what is not evident in Eros, but is starkly revealed in the Daemonic, is the God who ‘has a heart’, and therefore ‘approaches with passion’ humanity’s victories and setbacks, our vicissitudes, our comings and goings, ins and outs, ups and downs. The De-personalised Deity is not just transcendent, but transcendently stand-offish. By contrast, the God who is unknowable qua God, yet mysteriously and paradoxically moves out of that ultimate beyond, and comes near to humanity, to break in on and find us, is heavily involved.
It is God who crosses the ontological gulf, not erasing it, but making it an open-ended relationship of mutual affecting.
The revelation that “God can be intimately affected, that he possesses not just intelligence and will, but also pathos, basically defines the prophetic consciousness of God” [p 289].
Human events arouse passion in God. The deeds of passion that come from the human heart gladden, anger, trouble, grieve, affect, move, God’s heart. God’s passion is involvement in, and regard for, the fate of humanity. God does not judge the human heart from aloofness, from general standards, from fixed rules, but from commitment to and empathy with our strength and our weakness, our faith and our despair. God is in our corner, willing us to prevail.
Isaiah, 57, 15=
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
And also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit;
to revive the spirit of the humble,
to revive the heart of the contrite.”
“God’s participation in the predicament of man is the elemental fact” [p 291].
‘Though to God belong the heaven of heavens, yet Yahweh set his heart in love upon humanity.’ To the Evil One, this is not a mystery and paradox to be bowed before, and to serve; it is an insult to the high station of angels, or spirits, and therefore something to be coldly repudiated.
Humanity is not simply a creature. Humanity is a partner, a ‘factor in the life of God.’ God has no need. Yet, God, in Eros, desires our love even as we desire his love, and in the Daemonic, God passionately wants our love, even as we passionately want his love. In relating to us, God gives up his self-sufficiency.
God feels and is felt by humanity. God affects and is affected by humanity. Thus God has a soul and a heart=
“I will plant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul” [Jeremiah, 32, 41-42].
In loving humanity, God opens a wound in divinity.
This is the mystery and paradox of what humanity means to God that even the good spirits hide their eyes from, out of respect for the inexplicable and unfathomable.
With the passion of God, ‘all things are possible.’
God’s passion= no distinctions of philosophy, or psychology, however valid in the statically established order of the created vis a vis the Uncreated, can restrain the excessive dynamism of God’s heart.
God’s heart is neither essence nor energies, and defies the distinction. The heart of God is apophatic and cataphatic, and breaks the distinction= the darkness and the poetry equally reveal it.
God is love; not= God is loving. Yahweh’s love is darkness when unrevealed, Yahweh’s love is poetry when it is revealed in movement.
The darkness moves in the poetry, the poetry rejoices, and delights in, the darkness which brings to pass impossible things.
Because of what God’s heart does, God’s soul announces=
“I make all things new.”
Jeremiah, 17, 10=
“I, Yahweh, delve the mind and try the heart,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his doings.”
Jonah, 3, 10=
“God repented of the evil he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.”
Jeremiah, 31, 28; and 1, 10=
“..as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and plant, says Yahweh.”
Jeremiah, 18, 11=
“Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Return everyone from his evil way.”
Jeremiah, 26, 13=
“Amend your ways and doings, and.. Yahweh will repent of the evil which he has pronounced against you.”
The prophet, as a man of heart, is imbued with God’s passion. He understands ‘affliction under Yahweh’s wrath’; he also understands Yahweh’s attachment, which surpasses wrath.
“Yahweh is good to all, and his compassion is over all he has made” [Psalms, 145, 9]. This is Eros.
God is patient, long suffering, forbearing, slow to anger, merciful, tender. This is Daemonic.
Patience is not indifference to circumstances. It is the willingness of God to do things in the time we need.
Our patience is not indifference to conditions, as in the dispassion achieved by mental discipline; it is waiting upon God even in stale mate, and dragging oneself along when the labour seems never ending..
What is calamity for humanity is grief for God.
Jeremiah, 14, 7=
“Though our iniquities testify against us,
Act, O Yahweh, for thy name’s sake.”
Lamentations of Jeremiah, 3, 31-32=
“For Yahweh will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion,
according to the abundance of love.”
The prophet is ‘for’ God, yet the price of this is high, not only in terms of the outside world that is despairing toward and hardened against God, but also in terms of his own inner world that lives wholly given over to the tension within God’s passion for humanity= “a prophet is a person who holds God’s love as well as God’s anger in his heart, enraptured or enfevered” [p 400]. This tension is between God’s justice and mercy, God’s urgency and patience, God’s intensity and gentleness, God’s grieving and fighting.
Even harder to bear is the tension of prophesying itself= for it insists that we be opened up, yet again, to the Daemonic Reversal, and not understand, yet again, what must be uttered, until the heart breaks and the Spirit of God breaks in. If the prophet denies the building tension, tries to relax as escape from it, he will be ‘driven crazy.’ The ‘peace that passes all understanding’ is only after the prophet’s heart has done the deed the passion of God demands of it. Unlike the bliss of Eros which comes and goes, the prophet lives in the unremitting pressure of wrestling with a divinely charged commitment, the experiencing of a summons that will not let go, will not relent.
In his own difficulties with God’s call to action, he understands humanity’s difficulties with God’s call to action.
Yet he cannot get off the hook= he understands that only action will relieve the tension between God and humanity, for simply ‘feeling better’ will not relieve the misery of the world, the injustice of society, the people’s alienation from God.
The heart must go into action, and people must witness the action. The prophet is for God, but God is for the people, and thus even in his castigation of their ways, the prophet is fighting for the people beyond their resistance.
The prophet is gambling on God’s gamble; thus he lives in a contradiction, full of ‘consternation and dismay’, and unyielding ‘sympathy for God.’ “The prophet’s communion with the divine in experience and suffering is of such evident and striking power, that it can evoke surrender and devotion” [p 396]. Indeed, the prophet’s passion cleaves to the divine passion so unreservedly, this “may explain the shifting from the third to the first person in the prophetic utterances” [p 396].
The prophet is the first Fire-Bearer, as distinct from, and in some respects, opposed to the Light-Bringer.
What moves in God’s heart comes to move the human heart. This is through the Ruach, the Spirit of God, the Fire of God.
Yeshua the Mashiach called him ‘the Spirit of the Father’ [Mathew, 10, 20].
The Ruach is Yahweh’s Spirit, Yahweh’s Fire, Yahweh’s Passion.
In the Hebrew of the Jewish Bible, there is no real distinction drawn between ‘spirit’ and ‘passion.’
Moreover, there is not any hard and fast distinction drawn between the spirit which is passionate, and the passion which is spiritual, in God or in humanity. The passion of God is where the passional spirit arises, and yet the passional spirit in humanity is close to it, akin to it, able both to betray it and go cold on it or remain loyal to it and be kindled by it.
This mystery is thanks to the Spirit of God, and in the hands of the Spirit of God.
Thanks to the Ruach, and in the hands of the Ruach, the heart of God is not alien to, nor distant from, the heart of humanity.
Thanks to the Ruach, and in the hands of the Ruach, the heart of God becomes key to the destiny of humanity, but equally, the heart of humanity becomes key to the destiny of God. It was ever thus= leading up to the Messiah, leading on from the Messiah.
Thus Heschel points out that the very term ‘ruach’, in ancient Hebrew usage, denotes ‘the state of the heart’ in its passion, the condition of the heart in its affectedness. The term never means ‘thought’= thus the increasing tendency over three thousand years, from the advent of Greek Hellenism down to the present day, to equate ‘spirit’ with ‘quickness of thought, perceptiveness of mind, mentally significant meaning, expanded consciousness’, and the like, is not Biblical. The ‘spiritual’ is not heightened mind. The spiritual is impassioned heart, stricken and proved, deepened and upright.
Heschel goes on to point out that if you put another term in front of ‘ruach’, like an angry spirit, or a grieving spirit, you arrive at the specific passion you want to invoke.
Heschel gives a few [of countless] examples. Thus, the wives of Esau affected Isaac with ‘bitterness of spirit’, a grief mixed with gall [Genesis, 26, 35]. The inner state of Israel in captivity to Egypt was ‘dejectedness or sorrow’ [Exodus, 6, 9]. Hannah describes herself as a woman of ‘sorrowful or troubled spirit’, speaking out of great anxiety [1 Samuel, 1, 15]. ‘A spirit of jealousy’ comes over a husband whose wife has been unfaithful to him [Numbers, 5, 14]. God dwells with those of a “humble and contrite spirit” [Isaiah, 57, 15]. God is “near to the broken hearted and delivers the crushed in spirit” [Psalms, 34, 18]. The human heart falls into a condition of “a faint spirit” [Isaiah, 61, 3]. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a “broken spirit” [Psalms, 51, 17].
The ‘ruach’ is used in the sense of profound suffering and anguish of heart. “You will cry out for pain of heart, and you will howl for vexation of spirit” [Isaiah, 65, 14]. In the Book of Job there is the urgent utterance, “the spirit within me – or, ‘the spirit of my breast’ — distresses me” [Job, 32, 18; 7, 11, refers to ‘the anguish of my spirit’]. The afflicted David exclaims= “Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me: my heart within me is desolate [Psalms, 143, 4].
Equally, ‘ruach’ can be used to describe the heart seduced away from its Daemonic passional calling by false Eros= “a spirit of harlotry” [Hosea, 4, 12]. It refers to intense inner excitement stirring up the heart [Ezekiel, 3, 14], as well as a “downcast spirit” [Proverbs, 17, 22; 18, 14]. David has times when his spirit becomes languid, losing its zest and intensity, as well as its direction= “when my spirit is faint” [Psalms, 77, 3; 142, 3]. Or, “my spirit fails” [Psalms, 143, 7].
Thus, ‘ruach’ is employed in the sense of vivifying and overpowering passion, especially as it relates to anger; “be not hasty in your spirit to be angry” [Ecclesiastes, 7, 9]. Yet, Ecclesiastes declares that “no man has power over the spirit to retain the spirit” – we cannot ‘control’ passion, suppress passion, repress passion, sublimate passion, deflect passion, oppress passion; it will out. The path from innocent, to fallen, to holy, passion is turbulent and marked by turmoil. Its learning curve is steep. However, it is never a matter of rational dominance of irrational passion. The Stoic Sage, or what Heschel calls ‘homo apathetikos’, is Greek, not Jewish. Our ‘rocky road’ with living and doing the passion of heart is necessary. It is not the way of ‘self-mastery’ in monastic Eros, it is the way of self-giving, self-losing, self-abnegating, in the existentially enworlded Daemonic.
Understanding — the fruit of passing through passion with truth ‘in the inward parts’ — is a “cool spirit” [Proverbs, 17, 27], but this is not mental abstraction away from the heart’s cauldron. Passion is warm but keeps its cool; emotion is cold but blows hot. Coolness means staying focused in the storm, not giving way. You don’t buckle, you are not swept away; you come through the waters, you come through the fires. You make changes as you go, but you keep going. Perseverance, above all else. Thus do you reach understanding.
Mood is also implied by ‘ruach’= “A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken” [Proverbs, 15, 13].
Heschel asserts that in all these cases we are confronted by affected, passionate, states of the heart. They are applied to God= “they rebelled and grieved Yahweh’s Holy Spirit, therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them” [Isaiah, 63, 10].
The Passionless God is not Biblical, not Jewish, not Christian. It is Eros – but an Eros filtered through the lens of Greek Hellenism, a bias in favour of the mind as gateway to the ultimate, a way without heart. Sometimes this way has nous and soul, sometimes it has only mind= nous and reason. What it never has is the heart, in its passion and pathos, its aching vulnerability and its austere honour.
“Only through arbitrary allegorizing was later [Jewish and Christian] religious philosophy able to find an apathetic God in the Bible” [pp 332-333].
God’s heart never falters in passionateness, but without the Ruach to ‘steady our nerves’, the human heart’s passion fails. It is the Ruach who gives us courage, lifts us when on our face in the dust.
“I am filled with power,
With the Ruach of Yahweh,
And justice and might,
To declare to Jacob his transgressions,
And to Israel his sin.”
The prophet is called ISH HA-RUAH, a man filled with divine passion, with Holy Spirit. But the people, sunk in their failure of heart, wedded to their twisted passions and avoidant of the true passion, dismiss a declaration such as Micah, 3, 8, saying= “this inspired fellow is raving mad” [Hosea, 9, 7].
The Ruach reveals, and imparts, the Dynamic of God, coming to the world, and humanity. The Spirit of God is this Dynamic, which announces and conveys the ‘dispositions’ of the divine heart.
The Ruach is God’s Secret Agent, always mysterious and in the background, or below ground, working through the human heart to move it anew and move it differently. He is called an east or west wind – the parallel with the ‘bad, black road’ of Shamanism is clear – because the Ruach can be beneficial or harmful according to God’s will, God’s disposition, in a given situation.
An Eastern Christian commentator points out that by 700 BC, ‘ruach’ implied humanity’s spirit as the seat of passions, and therefore in Jewish anthropology ‘spirit’ and ‘heart’ are virtually inter-changeable.
It makes a huge difference whether human anthropology is built on the Light and Logos of God, or built on the Fire and Spirit of God. All Greeks, pre and post Messianic, Hellenising or Christianised, did the former; the Jews did the latter. The Jews understood that the tears and flames of the human venture are ‘in the hands of’ the Ruach.
It is the Spirit of God who is always probing the heart of humanity ‘hidden away’ in order to flush out its real disposition, true or false.
It is clear that this most ultimate disposition in humanity is not derived from the nous, not latent in the soul, but arises from the heart.
It is not an accident that the term ‘heart’ occurs with much greater frequency than the term ‘soul’ or the term ‘mind’ in the Jewish Bible. The ‘soul’ comes second, and the ‘mind’ comes a distant third.
The Desert Tradition of Eastern Christianity is Jewish when urging= “take the mind down into the heart.”
The Christian Bible [Luke, 2, 35] echoes this for the soul in what the angel says to Mary= “A sword shall pierce your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
The human heart is inescapably affected by existence, as well as by God’s disposition toward existence, and that is why existential crises, worries, concerns, pains, are ‘spiritual’ and profound, not ‘low level stuff’ and illusory. All such Daemonic events ‘really matter.’
These are the ‘troubles of the spirit’= troubles in our spirit because of what they mean for what God’s Spirit is doing with our spirit in its engagement with existence.
All spiritualties, East or West, that transcend these troubles of existence, rising higher to get above them, leave behind the heart, and lose the truest spirituality; they lose the spirituality of Fire.
It hurts and it strengthens.
It tears down and rebuilds.
It hurts unbearably, and yet we are bearing it with every breath, with every step.
Bearing it produces the unanswerable questions.
Where is it going? Where will we go if we go with it?
In the Ruach, we have God’s heart, and the divine passion proving and remaking our passion.
Spirituality= to bear in our spirit the Spirit, to bear in our fire the Fire.
This is Mystery.
Nietzsche= “The dignity of death and a.. consecration of passion has ..never yet been represented more beautifully.. than by certain Jews of the Old Testament; to these even the Greeks could have gone to school” [p 373, ‘Gesammelte Werke’, XVI].
Hegel= “We may affirm absolutely that nothing great has been accomplished without passion” [Introduction, ‘The Philosophy of History’].
It is hard.
It pierces old hiding places and exposes old defeat, old guilt, old shame, stale and sour; its flames painfully burn up the false, but the freeing of the true is the honouring and empowerment the heart always wanted and wants still even in its ruination.
Passion is not a state of passivity, for even its acceptance of what cannot be otherwise, like its acceptance of what it cannot do, is a furnace; the ‘acid in the blood’ is burning away the dross and revealing ‘the fine wirey line of creation.’
Biblically passion is regarded “as a motive power, a spring, and an incentive. Great deeds are done by those who are filled by ruah, with passion” [p 332].
God’s passion is “the great secret; a divine attachment concealed from the eye, ..unnoticed or forgotten, hovers over ..mankind. ..This is the.. precious [thing]: to sense God’s participation in existence” [p 619].
The most precious thing..
The prophet is moved by God’s Passionate Spirit in a depth where the whole of humanity is dead, and in hell. He is the first of those in hell who, unable to stop loving God, receive God’s secret wisdom. The praying of the prophet occurs in anguish of heart, and the entire gamut of feelings that accompany it. He is not a contemplative, not an exponent of noetic prayer or the higher reaches of pure contemplation. His prayer is from the human gutter, a cry from the profound place where the human being has become derelict.
This is ultimate Mystery.
This is where Mystery operates at its most savage and gentle, its most fierce and tender.
The Fire of God wounds and raises again the poor human clay.
Yet, it is just the awareness in the human heart that we matter to God which is so existentially tested, stretched, and broken– by the careless way time presses ahead losing too much that matters; by the crazy destructiveness of the unending nightmares of history; by so much evil making the running and too much innocent suffering in the world.
Psalm 44, 17-19; 22=
“All this has come upon us,
Though we have not forgotten you,
Or been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
Nor have our steps departed from your way.
You have ..broken us in the place of dragons,
..for thy sake we are slain..
Why do you hide your face?”
This is in the hands of Mystery.