Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Notes on Ezekiel's Cherub Part Four: Between heaven and earth

Ezekiel stands on the banks of the river Chebar. The river flows as a watery border between freedom and captivity. Babylon lies on one side, along with captivity and chains, while somewhere on the other side of the line shines the memory of Israel, the beloved holy land. Ezekiel will constantly find himself not on one side or the other of anything, but always between. Later, Ezekiel will be lifted up by a lock of his hair, again by God’s own hand, “between the earth and the heaven” in his terrifying visionary tour of sinful Jerusalem. The space between the wheels of the divine chariot will also prove important. Indeed, the word between is used more often in the Book of Ezekiel than in any other book in the Bible, appearing on practically every other page. Visionary experience occurs between heaven and earth, because it is not the same as literal quantifiable experience, nor is it a wholly transcendent "spiritual" otherness, completely foreign to our worldly existence. It is a unification, finding a connection between the mundane and the sublime, breaking a wall and replacing it with a bridge. The ability to flit back and forth between realities like a hummingbird is the special gift of angels, children, and prophets. The spaces between things are as vital a part of reality as the things themselves, and in the connections formed thereby, the most vital expressions of life may be found. As long as things remain unconnected, they remain broken. The dualism between literal experience and spiritual experience is a false dilemma in many ways, perpetuated by the discrete-ism of Enlightenment science. For science and history turn hard literal nuggets called facts into fetishes. A literalist, mechanical view rejects unquantified spiritual experience as subjective and unverifiable. They would contend that Ezekiel’s visions all took place inside his head, and diagnose him with bipolar disorder or some manner of schizophrenia. An equally distorted view would be to reject the literal, ignore contradictory evidence, and only follow whatever one deems as purely “spiritual feelings”, regardless of anything outside oneself. The literal is outside, the spiritual inside.

Encounters with the divine take place between the inside and the outside, on the border between the literal and spiritual, the border between Babylon and Jerusalem, between earth and heaven. It is on this border that true living occurs, all creativity and all acts of Imagination. Ezekiel’s vision was not literal—the other captives on the bank saw nothing—nor was it entirely spiritual—Ezekiel did not have a “feeling” that he should do something. Rather, he had an encounter with divinity. His vision occurred in the realm of Creative Imagination—beyond body or mind or spirit but just as pragmatically real and solid as any or all of them. The visionary realm is located precisely between the literal and spiritual, and contains aspects of both.

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