THE ROB BELL, OPRAH WINFREY ALLIANCE
In a not entirely surprising move, news is out that pastor Rob Bell of the bestselling Love Wins (2011) which questions and denies belief in damnation, is joining forces with queen of the New Age, Oprah Winfrey. They will work together in Oprah’s new drive to take people to an empathy and gratitude “space” where they will be open to their life potential. The media of 2014’s northern autumn is set to be illumined by their various hopes, encouragements and facilitations of soul life in the course of a “The Life You Want” tour of America.
Rob Bell is more recently author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God (2013). It’s a book Winfrey has praised and in which Bell highlights how images of God among American Christians can be diverse and sometimes even a bit crazy – which they can be. But in turn, and as misleading as those he critiques, Bell also maintains that when we talk about God “we’re talking about something very real and yet beyond our conventional means of analysis and description”. I think he just means our philosophical sense of the Absolute, but Christians of course maintain that God is not “something” but “somebody”. And however hard to encompass and evoke in words, God is not wrongly called “Father” along with certain character-relevant titles the Bible supplies to deity.
While I’m prepared to say that the “evangelical” Bell is, as charged, a bit of a heretic in relation to creedal Christianity, an individual moving perhaps inexorably towards simply the “spiritual not religious” position, to New Age spaceiness with notions of compassion and inclusion Oprah Winfrey style, nevertheless in one thing Bell is more or less correct and maintains something Christians don’t sufficiently realize or admit yet. This is:
“there’s a growing sense that when it comes to God, we’re at the end of one era and the start of another, an entire mode of understanding and talking about God is dying as something new is being birthed.”
SPEAKING A DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH UNRECOGNIZED
Ironically, some sections of the conservative, evangelical and charismatic churches, namely people at one level most keen to affirm traditional biblical beliefs, are open proof of Bell’s claims. They are so when today they transition towards a new vision of God in terms of King, Kingship and Kingdom and speak of Jesus “coming back as a Lion”. With this they merely adhere, if unconsciously, to certain patterns they deny exist or might dismiss, not just as heresy but even occult “abomination”.
The fact is they are reflecting the same era shift with which the birth of Christianity synchronized. Theology and the inter-relation of Old and New Testaments with what can seem like their contradictions are imperfectly understood and insufficiently resolved unless and until the astrology (thrown out by St Augustine who definitely misread the connections of OT and NT), is assimilated to the biblical teaching of “dispensations” as these affect images, vision and understanding of God. Magi didn’t come to Jesus’ birth or the Essenes seek for the Messiah in the stars for nothing. They were witness to an era change that theology badly, and however belatedly, needs to acknowledge.
An era representing an entire mindset and symbol system of huge thematic significance for society, alters in something a bit over approximately two millennia as the sun at the spring equinox rises against the background a different section of sky named for the constellations. We are currently on the cusp of a very major change whose precise moment cannot be measured or known, from Pisces into Aquarius. The age of Pisces was entered around the time Christ was born and there were significant celestial signs within Pisces, a “water” sign of the seas and fish and fisherman. Jesus duly begins teaching beside the Sea of Galilee where he works with disciples who are fishermen he goes tell fish for people.
AWAITING THE AQUARIAN ERA
Strictly speaking there was and is not a Piscean era but rather a Piscean/Virgo one in which an equinoctial sign (currently Pisces) works with its opposite sign. An era’s ideal is realized through its opposite sign. Virgo is the sign of service and perfection and the Piscean era’s ideal is expressed through especially Jesus who comes to serve, who is self-described as “the Bread of Heaven” (Virgo is the sign of wheat and bread) and who is born under Virgo in Bethlehem (house of bread) and preached as model and saviour for humanity.
In the age of Taurus approx 4000-2000 BC, though imagery of the bull or cow was widespread , the ideal was something to do with the opposite Scorpio (death and transformation) hence there was everywhere the cult of death, supremely so in the pyramids of Egypt which also embrace some of the sexual mysticism of Scorpio. In the Age of Aries (2000-0) the fiery ram, an age of combat and super-patriarchy, the ideal was contained in Libra, sign of laws and marriage and peace. Thus Israel, even while it fights for or defends territory and accords women few rights, stresses precisely law, the marriage covenant and dreams of ultimate peace. Jesus as “Lamb of God” dies in effect as the last sacrifice of the Aries dispensation, completing it and its rituals of blood sacrifice to become first Fisherman (or even in the odd discourse of some early church fathers, first fish) of the Piscean era. The Vesica Pisces would determine the shape and pattern of the bishop’s mitre. The nave of a church was so-called because the church was regarded as a boat or Noah’s ark of salvation.
In the Roman empire the gladiatorial combats which pitched a man with a sword against another with a net reflected sensed cusp of era changes. The sword, force and iron of Aries and its ruler Mars was in combat with the fishing net of Pisces, a sign whose rulers, Jupiter and Neptune, embrace elements of luck positively (Jupiter) and the trick or deception that use of the net demanded and which belong with Neptune negatively. So what are we experiencing now on the cusp of Pisces and Aquarius?
Aquarius is the socially orientated individualist/eccentric. Elements of Aquarian symbolism and character are already manifest in the widely expressed, often radical drive of persons to individualism at the same time as groups and social communication networks (Facebook, Twitter etc) join people to realize “difference” through and with group support (though notice “the Net” on which this universal communication floats still evokes Piscean themes!).
Meanwhile, accepted negative expressions of Pisces and Neptune are just everywhere from the addictions, deceptions and pollutions (not least of the sea itself) while the higher values of the Aquarian era are scarcely yet known or manifested. Those ideals are still stored up in Leo, sign of kingship, high order, drama, and of course the Lion. And as said there are those Christians who are talking wildly about Jesus becoming or coming back as a lion. This is clearly not the figure of the folksy, familiar Jesus, itself almost a distortion of Jesus as Emmanuel (God with us) which something in the grace and mercy themes of Pisces/Jupiter have nonetheless allowed American religion to indulge.
AN END OF ERA APOCALYPTIC THEME
A Jesus who returns would indeed need to be Revelation’s “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” who establishes an ideal universal rule from Zion – Aquarius is the sign of any Utopia and the word itself was popularized and derives from an Aquarian writer, Thomas Moore. Certainly the Messiah would not need to be some quirky Aquarian whose individualism, negatively expressed, could be close to that of an anarchist or the kind of eccentric dictators which Aquarians from Kaiser Wilhelm to Kim Jong-Il in North Korea ended by being.
There is at very least a symbolic plausibility in the claim of the late Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon (herself dismissed by conservative Christians for presuming to speak in terms of astrology) that at era’s end the anti-Christ has been born under Aquarius. Obviously this person of her visions may or may not exist, but it would not be too surprising if in the way Dixon envisaged, a confused world ran to the false arms of an Aquarian political guru rather than a genuine Leonine leader. It would simply be a form late Piscean inclusive spacieness joined to an eccentric Aquarian rebellion against the past (something futuristic Aquarius regularly engages).
Although we exist on a cusp where Piscean soul feelings and more socio-political Aquarian urges merge and blend, the fact is that the Aquarian era is unlikely to drift in as a mystery hidden from the world like the birth of Christ associated with anonymous, disappearing Magi. Given the associations of Aquarius and its planetary ruler/symbol Uranus with crisis, surprise, accident, lightning and revolution, Aquarius is likely to arrive with a bang as a shock leaving little doubt that it had finally been inaugurated.
What evangelicals who are so often taken up with “the last things” might need to consider, is whether the Second Advent as forecast by Jesus should be referred to precisely the inception of the Aquarian era and the end of the Piscean one. Consider that the glyph of Aquarius is lightning, and is not the Second Advent described as like the lightning from east to west (Matt 24:27) and the shock of a delayed midnight bridegroom? (Matt 25:6). At the same time, the doctrine of Rapture which precedes the absolute, visible Second Coming, envisages a great disappearance of prepared believers and Neptune’s symbolic rulership includes any mystery and disappearance – with Neptune currently strong in Pisces, sign of disappearance, we have the frustrating disappearance into the seas of flight MH 370 which, with just a little reason, Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Lotz, has compared to the mystery of….sure enough…..the Rapture!
THE INTEGRAL URGE
While all this symbolism can be debated, as regards the original point which concerned images of God which Oprah’s new friend Rob Bell perceives as changing, the main thing is this. I suggest that what is dying at the end of the Piscean era is especially the faith approach to God. Faith is always required (“without faith it is impossible to please God” Heb 11:16) but there’s faith and faith and at the end of the era and in preparation of the new one it needs some renewal and refinement. Some are losing faith completely, that’s the neo-atheism. Others are becoming increasingly confused about it as sects and theories proliferate, others are mixing poetry and science or literalizing poetry and conservatively insisting that six days can trump everything any scientist past or present could ever say about life on earth.
One major species of end-of-era confusion goes the New Age way. The end of the era, like the last degree of a sign, exaggerates or perverts the sign and so a romantic Neptunian veil of holy ignorance and charitable acceptance is thrown over every belief and summarizes all spiritual endeavour mystically in a way that makes God a Something that is Wholeness and seekers from all directions equally enlightened. Nevertheless, so late in time and the era it’s not quite traditional, ascetical “apophatic” mysticism (in which no positive affirmation of an unknowable deity can ever be made) which mindful of Cappodocian Fathers and Meister Eckhart who posited a God beyond God, is the direction Bell will likely develop and take followers… Today, less ascetic and more individualised than these radical, minority expressions of a medieval mysticism , the “spaces” to which life coach Oprah helped by Bell will conduct devotees, is where they can individually fulfil their rich potential, realize they life they want, as individualistic Aquarians (Oprah is one) and anticipate the coming age, at the same time as Virgo Rob Bell sorts out the problems of lost or disappearing Virgoan ideals in religion.
But none of this will hugely satisfy or even succeed unless at worst to facilitate, as Dixon imagined, America contributing to place the world into the hands of a mad political guru. Ultimately of course nothing can or will quite satisfy the rather scientific, futuristic Aquarius than absolute evidence anyway. While absolute evidence of anything can be hard to come by, short of the Aquarian era being the time when “every eye shall see him” (Rev 1:7 ), integral approaches are less elusive. And really it’s a complex ,“integral” approach to God and just about everything in life which is desired – Ken Wilbur, the philosopher of Integralism is an Aquarian.
Jeane Dixon forecast, and Jung piously hoped, the day would come when astrology will get taught in schools. To the extent astrology is traditionally an Aquarian/Uranian subject, something of the sort ought to occur. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt if on the way to a more integral, holistic understanding of things astrology were assimilated and applied to religion. (If you have doubts that could be any useful exercise you need only read the many possible meaningful insights into religion and personal belief patterns one can reach by reading my The Astrology of Beliefs. http://amzn.to/19v1jJf ).
However, I believe one of the more important barriers to cross and which involves correcting past wrong thinking in the light of a lot of new knowledge, is to realize the immanence as well as the transcendence of God and discard what’s preventing it, namely the unmystical, damaging doctrinse of ex nihilo creation which in the first two centuries of Christianity was rightly not taught, creation being thought of as ex materia. All said and done this is only what a plain sense reading of bible teaches. Beyond it and philosophically we may deduce as Jewish mystics would do that the original stuff of life was drawn from or belonged within God even if as a womb-like vacuum he created within himself. If pure nothingness could even exist it would be God’s rival. Everything exists through God as St Paul taught (for that matter we could say even hell does so being as God’s fire without the other elements).
REDISCOVERING DIVINE IMMANENCE
The purely transcendent God is disappearing, faith in God being chased away to the borders of the universe and beyond by an end-of-era science scepticism which cannot and will not perceive God as also working within the universe, an intellectual position which then gives greater scope to these exhausting, largely fruitless and unhelpful arguments over creation and evolution. Only when God is both over and under, outside and within reality and more integrally apprehended can and will the needed doctrine of the Creator be restored. It is almost certainly the next age which will have a “science” of God and things spiritual in which finally nature becomes like another and revealing scripture. And that includes for sex to which religion must restore the sacred and which it can more readily do once the existence of God in and through everything is rightly understood.
My rather original fusion of spiritual and material in Solomon’s Tantric Song, (http://amzn.to/14aa5Qe) is involved with this more integral approach which also has room for a few gay perspectives. (The next age positively must come to terms with homosexuality – Aquarius and Uranus are as profoundly associated with it as the Aries and Mars with their related era basically aren’t. Rob Bell is being again only more change and era sensitive than some fellow clergy in being open by evangelical standards to the gay issue. There is no need to see the increasing toleration as only and intrinsically an end-of-age decadence even if some forms of toleration may be so). Whether or not the reader would endorse my approach to specifically the Song of Solomon (which doesn’t take the either/or one all mystical or all material of nearly all interpretations past and present), it has a better chance than some of being correct to the extent rabbinic tradition places correct understanding of this book of mysteries as an end of times discovery!
I haven’t said a great deal about either Rob Bell or Oprah Winfrey, but to make the present point I don’t especially need to. At one level the article’s title refers to something which is news and a media fact. More broadly I would regard it as symbolic of and name for an entire thought trend which will increasingly overtake society, especially American society, if a critical outlook, an awareness of the times we are living in and celestial symbolism are ignored.