Tuesday, 12 April 2016

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 674 12 April 16 RAGE YOGA


Is a spirituality of rage possible? An awe-inspiring one, manifesting a fierce, violent anger? Seems counterintuitive, but…

Yoga is a method of physical and spiritual exercises aiming at union with ultimate reality. Harmless enough, eh? Yet The Times writes that Canadian yogi Lindsay Istace has invented a novel brand, Rage Yoga. As practitioners contort their bodies and regulate their breathings in the traditional manner, they also visualise their pet hatreds and scream ‘F…you!’ A metaphorical ‘kicking them in the face’ she says. Apparently it has a liberating effect.

It will shock the liberal mind but rage is of course one of God’s attributes. As much as his love and his mercy. The Bible and the Qur’an are filled with stark passages about God’s wrath. His righteous fury and anger towards transgressors. Some offenses are so grave, so extreme that no other response is appropriate. Sanctimonious persons recoil from it, while at the same time getting themselves very irate at secular sins like racism, sexism and homophobia. The Lord however has good reasons for his rage, just peruse the Holy Scriptures. Idolatry, blasphemy and immoral filth among them.

Does the figure of Jesus in the New Testament contradict that? ‘Turn the other cheek’? That is not rage, surely? No, but neither is ‘hesed’, the steadfast love his Father affirmed towards erring Israel in the Old Testament. The Deity who so loves is the same one who so rages. The mistake is not holding all the divine attributes together. The mystical-sounding Jesus of the sublime Sermon on the Mount is the same fiery Lord who throws the merchants out of the Temple with a whip. Not to mention his vigorous blasting of the barren fig tree in St Matthew 21:18-22. Nor indeed the Lord’s vehement denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees: ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers!’ Nor the stern Christ who teaches there is a sin – that against the Holy Spirit – so enormous that it will never be forgiven. The soppy picture of a ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ only existed in Charles Wesley’s poetic imagination. Never in Gospel reality.

Long ago the philosopher Heraclitus taught that God is all the opposites. He is ‘day, night, winter, summer, peace, war, satiety, hunger…’ God is the One, the supreme unity that binds all those qualities together. Wisdom consists in perceiving that unity. The Book of Revelation is not a philosophical treatise but when St John says that Christ, the Lamb of God, is also the Lion of Judah, he is making a similar point. Hence God’s wrath is an aspect of his love. A violent paradox? Indeed.

Ms Istace’s examples of people to rage at are a bit banal. ‘Ex-boy-friends, bosses and in-laws’. Too subjective – reflect her hurt psychology, perhaps. I’d prefer objective, public nuisances. Like those who drop litter or hog up seats on public transport. That is not to say that I might not enjoy a yoga rage at my personal foes. From certain rotten priests to some disloyal friends. Although, as someone who has himself done yoga in the past, I’d have no need to torture my limbs into the lotus posture to do that.

Scatological language and bodily posture apart, you may wish to draw up a list of people you don’t like, as the Canadian lady suggests, and to fulminate at them inwardly or loudly, take your pick. Aristotle arguably wrote of catharsis. A purification or cleansing of emotions. Supposedly, that was what sight of the terrible destiny of tragic figures like Oedipus – killing his father and sleeping with his mother - or Orestes, murderer of his mother, instilled in the spectator. Still, I doubt the great thinker thought of using the F-word as a way of achieving that. Aristotle would have considered that vulgar. Of course, he was an ancient Greek gentleman, not a modern North-American yogi.

The priest can imagine many public figures he’d like to mystically rage about. At random, here are a few: Stephen Fry, G.W. Bush, Damian Hirst, Tracy Emin, Tony Blair, Melvyn Bragg, Theresa May, Hillary Clinton, Madonna, LBC’s James O’Brien, the BBC, President Hollande, Andrew Marr, Angela Merkel, George Osborne, Matteo Renzi (Italian PM), Bibi Netanyahu, Adele, Justin Trudeau, Kanye West, the Kardashians, Ophrah Winfrey, the Archers, footballers, William and Kate, Hilary Benn, Chloe Moretz, David Beckham and his awful wife, Harry Styles, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aston, Justin Welby - the useless Archbishop of Canterbury - Helen Mirren…enough!

Would it be a deep spiritual experience? No. Just a minor satisfaction, I suppose.

Actually, there is something else to do. As my friend Mohsin suggests, this Saturday’s coming London March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education. Organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity International. The raging slogan is: Cameron Must Go!

Aargh! Outrageously one-sided, left-wing bandwagon? Are there no other causes to rage for? There are. Reflect on existentialist theologian Paul Tillich’s prescription: ‘Find your deepest concern and follow that!’ Because God is not just out there. Or in the beyond. God is also inside. God in the depth. In fact, God is depth. So, if your conscientiously held, deepest passion leads you to the Right, even the radical right (horribile dictu!), or beyond those stale political categories altogether…go for it! And rage away at the inglorious bastards!

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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