Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Obedience as Principle of Creation

Lately I've been reading the Book of Abraham, and a few verses particularly struck me as I read the fourth chapter this morning:

And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed....

And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good....

And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey....

And the Gods said: We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient. (Abraham 4: 18, 21, 25 & 31)

This all brings me back to a Sunday School lesson taught by a member of our Stake Presidency years back, that made a profound impression on me. He was using D&C 121 as the text, particularly a phrase in verse 46: "and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever."

Unfortunately, the worldly understanding of the principle of obedience has become imbricated with the notion of compulsion, force. Worldly governments coerce or force obedience with armies, police forces, jails, torture and corporal/capital punishment. But that is a satanic principle. (Something that the Book of Moses develops, in chapter 4:1-4.)

The idea of obedience in itself, in its purity, is actually an expression or manifestation of the principle of freedom. The concept of obedience requires the possibility that the one obeying may go a different way than to obey. When we obey, we willingly collaborate out of trust and love. In this account of creation in the Book of Abraham, we see creation as a kind of divine dance. The gods (it's a collective endeavor! one in which we participated!) say, "OK, elements, let's do this!" Then they watch (!), as it's the elements' turn to respond. The elements obey; they join in the dance. They move, they coalesce, they cooperate! And marvelous things happen!

In my practice of yoga, I've learned that a similar principle operates within my body. My mind says, "Move! Hold! Breathe!" And then it watches, to see if my body will obey! Sometimes it does so more perfectly than others. Obedience takes practice.

This life is that wonderful opportunity for us to develop the discipline that enables us to join the divine dance. God calls to us out of a deep hunger to create joy. "This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man [and woman!]" (Moses 1: 39). "Adam [and Eve] fell that men [and women!] might be; and men [and women!] are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2: 25).

Yes, we make mistakes! Yes, we frequently fail miserably and fall flat on our faces! (That's happened to me a couple of times in yoga class!) This life is our chance to get back up and try again! Keep trying until we get it! Until we enter into the dance of joy that the gods -- that our Heavenly Parents -- have invited us into!


Chedner said...

Niels Bohr, a physicist, presented the idea that nothing is real unless it is observed (I believe it's called "The Copenhagen Interpretation" -- although my understandings of theoretical physics is all but a zygote right now).

I find it fascinating how this interpretation of quantum mechanics could be applied to the verses you quoted here and the implications such has on the idea of obedience.

J G-W said...

That is fascinating...

To me it is fascinating as well to reflect on the fact that attention and intention make the same act completely different.

After all... Suppose a person obeys because of external force or coercion... Not at all the same act as obeying out of love and trust and a desire for union..!

The watching and the freely obeying become complementary acts in the perfection of loving union.


Andy said...

I love the Book of Abraham. My favorite story is how Abraham had to come to his own personal understanding of God's plan for him as he promised to sacrifice his son. Of course, we could talk for hours about that...but I think my comment will suffice for now.

J G-W said...

The story of Abraham and Isaac requires a lot of unpacking in my opinion. There are documented instances of parents going kind of wacko and trying to murder their children because they felt God was asking them to do the works of Abraham. One of my favorite books of all time is Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling which is an extended reflection on Abraham's sacrifice and its implications for faith. Mr. Fob has written a very interesting piece on this that I like a lot which represents his own personal efforts to come to terms with it, entitled Abraham's Purgatory.

Of course, there is no account of Abraham's sacrifice in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. I wish there were, because I would love to see another scriptural reflection on it. the Book of Abraham does add a layer of depth to the Abraham-Isaac story, though, by revealing that Abraham's father Terah tried sacrificing Abraham to pagan gods... Which raises the interesting question: In asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, was God forcing Abraham to face his own childhood trauma of nearing being sacrificed by his own father?