Friday, July 26, 2013

The Trinities of Trinidad

The town of Trinidad, California was so named because Spanish explorers on June 11, 1775 discovered, claimed and performed a Mass here on the feast day of the Holy Trinity. Of course, the indigenous Tsurai had dwelled at this location for centuries. As described in the diary of Fray Miguel de la Campa, chaplain  of the Santiago, "After landing we all worshipped the Holy Cross that had been made to be placed at  the top of the mountain...we ascended, but not without difficulty because of the rough, steep, and somewhat dangerous path. Having arrived at the summit, we set up the Holy Cross...I said Mass and preached amid great quiet and calmness, for the Indians were content to observe what we were doing from the rancheria...On descending we met four Indians near the beach, and to the one whom the afternoon before we had judged most intelligent, the captain of the schooner said to say 'Long live Charles III,' and he, very happily, repeated along with our men 'Long live Charles III.'" (Robert Heizer and John Mills, The Four Ages of Tsurai, Trinidad Museum Society: Trinidad, CA, 1991, pg 40). The explorers wrote that the Tsurai were atheists since they found no evidence that they believed in a supreme being.
I am a Unitarian Trinitarian. Unitarian because I believe in the oneness of the Holy One; trinitarian because all good things come in threes. Threeness has a long and regal philosophical history. The Neoplatonic philosopher, Proclus, saw triads everywhere. His fundamental trinity was that of Being, Life, and Intellect, but triads pervaded throughout the structures and processes of the universe. For me, my foundational triad is Rock, Tree  and Water--just like what I see as I watch the noontime scene from a cliff overlooking College Cove. In contrast to the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, my trinity is impersonal, almost pantheist in scope. No Holy Cross, but groves of Holy Trees.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Impressionist Theology

The late 19th century impressionist painters rebelled against the French Art Academy by painting scenes that emphasized the artist's individual perceptions of the visual world over strict artistic conventions. But a person's individual impressions varied over time of day, season and weather conditions. No better example of this shift from artist dogma to individual experience is the series of Monet's paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, now distributed over a dozen of museums across the globe.
The photo above was taken at College Cove near Trinidad, CA, a personal sanctuary where I return to for spiritual sustenance year after year. Yesterday it was shrouded in clouds; other times, the sea glistens under afternoon sun. Each spiritual experience differs from day to day. I cannot help but to muse that liberal religion, like my Unitarian Universalism, spurred the transition from Christian dogmatism to a personal experience of the Divine, close to the time of the Impressionist painters' revolt. The Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau, the nature spiritualism of John Muir, and the influx of  the Yoga philosophy of Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of World Religion's in Chicago in 1893, all fostered the shift from religious creed to lived religious experience.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Arcata California

Islands are more than bodies of land surrounded by water. Any place that is geographically isolated may function like an island with retention of culture brought by immigrants for a long period of time. I am vacationing in Arcata, California for a couple weeks. Arcata is a progressive city in Northern California near the coast. It has retained an environmental consciousness for over forty years. This morning I walked to the nearby Arcata  marshlands. Lovely! The lagoons are ensconced in verdant bushes so removed from the city that I felt transported to another land. Arcata is a city in sympathy with nature.

Everyone is an Island

Last week, Bernard Barryte, the Curator of European Art at Stanford's Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, showed me splendid collection of Bronze Age Cypriot Art housed in the crypt beneath the museum. It was mostly pottery and figurines. Islands are hubs that store up traces of immigrant cultures. With luck, we can decipher each cultural layer and reintegrate them into a historical montage. Each of us, like an island, is a montage of ancestral influences, a kaleidoscope of genetic signals from all over the world. Contrary to John Donne's dictum that "No man is an island", I believe that everyone is an island--islands that form nodes of interpersonal, ancestral and cultural streams of influence.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Welcome to the Mediterranean Wisdom Blog

The regions within and surrounding Mediterranean Sea have been the source of numerous fascinating religions and spiritual practices. These range from Greek philosophy and Roman mystery religions to Judaism and early Christianity. I've always been drawn to these religions and have applied their spiritual gems to my practice as a psychotherapist, a spiritual director and a minister. This blog is dedicated to exploring the interesting nuances of Mediterranean wisdom--both as practical tools for a rich spiritual and ethical life and as a means for understanding the rich interplay of Mediterranean religions throughout history.