The Universal Workshop

This article was inspired by a lovely conversation we had yesterday in The Virtual Chapel. We discussed some readings from Kabir and Eckhart which took us on a marvellous journey. If you would like to join us in Chapel, it is open to anyone and there is no cost to participate. You can find all the information you need, including the link to get onto zoom, by clicking HERE.

In this article I will try to bring together a few of my previous ideas into one overarching picture. If this is your first time reading my articles, you may find it helpful to follow the various links I have scattered throughout the article. I will be quickly passing over teachings which I have explained in more detail in the past.

I want to share some of my ideas relating to cosmology which explore the relationship between the universe and the human being, the restoration of all things, and the role of angels in the unfolding of the cosmos as well as our thoughts. It’s a big picture which I am still trying to understand myself, so I would welcome your insights in the comments on Facebook or by hitting reply if you are receiving this in an email.

Dionysius the Areopagite wrote a book called Celestial Hierarchy where he explores the nature of the angels and their relationship to human consciousness. Eriugena wrote a commentary on Celestial Hierarchy which speaks about the way the oneness of God becomes the diversity of creation. The light of Christ creates and sustains all things. Not only does it create all things but it also unites all things. We are all one, yet, we are all unique. Eriugena said,

“For it (the light of Christ) is a font that does not fail and that flows forth in infinite multiplicity into all things that are. And not only does it flow and come forth into all things so that they subsist, but it also fits the collective whole that subsists ‘from it and in it and through it’ into one ineffable harmony. This it does in such a way both so that it might be multiple in its totality through an infinite multiplicity, and also so that all things might be one through an incomprehensible act of uniting.”

There is infinite diversity in the world even though all things are one in Christ. This diversity comes about through the angels, who are the spiritual aspect of creation. The angels were created on the first day when God said “let there be light” because it is the angels who communicate the light of God to the world. 

God created heaven first because without it earth cannot exist. The diversity of the angels is communicated from heaven to earth. What is material is born out of what is spiritual. The idea of a thing must exist before a thing itself can exist. The angels are the spiritual nature of all things and therefore they orchestrate all things. As in heaven, so below.

You could think of heaven as a prism which receives the unified white light and then projects a rainbow of many colours. The light of Christ is divided into a spectrum. Every colour is contained in the invisible ray of the sun whether or not it goes through a prism. In like manner, all the diversity of the world participates in the one source of all things which is Christ.

Because the human being is a microcosm (a “miniature universe”) our spiritual nature gives structure and cohesion to our physical nature in the same way that the angels give form to the world. We have both an angelic nature and an animal nature. Our angelic nature is a miniature version of the celestial hierarchy and our animal nature is a miniature version of the material universe. 

The light of Christ enters the microcosm in a similar manner to the way it enters the macrocosm. Every aspect of our being exists in complete unity because there is nothing within us which does not participate in Christ. Yet, the same divine light within us also creates the conditions for multiplicity.  The diversity of thoughts within our mind are the angels of our microcosm.

The infinite multiplicity of thoughts within our consciousness is a gift from God. It is what allows us to communicate with one another and to develop opinions about things. The diversity of our inner angels creates beauty in the human soul. It allows us to express creativity and to grow in the virtues. 

Of course, the diversity of the angels also makes it possible to develop vices and bad habits, perhaps even cruel intentions and bigotry. There is a long Christian tradition of understanding demons as habitual patterns of destructive thought. The demons are not like the angels, they are phantoms and illusions. Because all things participate in the light of Christ, even the demons have a share in the Good and the Beautiful. This means that there is always hope for their salvation in Christ.

In Acts 3:21 Peter gives a sermon which speaks about the universal restoration which God promised through the prophets long ago. The restoration of all things is something that is central to Eriugena’s thought. He believed that all created beings, from pebbles on the beach all the way up to angels in heaven, will be counted amongst the saved. He gives this teaching in his magnum opus, Periphyseon, which is written in the form of a Socratic dialogue.

The student asked,

“Shall we say that irrational animals, as well as trees, grasses, and all parts of this world from the highest down, were restored in the incarnate Word of God?”

To which Eriugena replied,

“Didn’t the Word, when assuming humanity, receive all creation, visible and invisible, and save the whole of which He received in humanity? If He received all creation by receiving human nature, surely He saved all creation and will do so for eternity.”

Eriugena taught that the human being is the “universal workshop” because every nature is found within it. The entire chain of being is working together as one within us. We have the minerals of the earth in our bones, the water of the seas in our veins, the colours of flowers in our cheeks, and the faculties of reason, wisdom, and creativity in our minds. Therefore, when Christ took humanity upon himself he assumed the entire cosmos. When he resurrected his humanity from the grave, it was a universal resurrection.

The point I hope I am making in this article is that the salvation of Christ is available to all creatures, both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm. Our anger can be resurrected into mercy, our sadness can be resurrected into joy, and our pride can be resurrected into humility. The power of Christ’s resurrection penetrates all things, including the demons we carry inside of us. When we participate in this eternal resurrection, we restore our inner universe and, by restoring the microcosm we help to restore the macrocosm.

So do the work of healing your souls my friends. Bless whatever demons you may have tucked away in the hidden recesses of your soul and bring them into the light of Christ to be healed. Do not think that your inner condition is irrelevant because, as Peter said in his sermon, when we find a new kind of consciousness and turn towards God times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord. When we live lives of peace and compassion we hasten the arrival of Christ, who will bring about a new heaven and a new earth.

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