Sunday, April 14, 2013

2013.04,14 Potentiation Never Ends

“In the beginning . . . “  he began in somber tones.

I wrote it down in my brand new spiral notebook marked Old Testament; “In the beginning  . . . “  Then I waited, through a long pause, for more.

“In the beginning God potentiated life—over and over and over.” 

I loved that word, potentiate. I’m not sure if that is exactly what he said but that’s what I heard and never forgot.

Potentiation is what God, by whatever name, and there are many, is all about—over and over and over.  My time as a seminarian at Yale Divinity began in 1978 with this enormous required basic biblical course in Hebrew scripture.  The professor, Robert Wilson, has been teaching, potentiating, there for 40 years. (I never thought this then, but I bet he’s about my age now:)

I remember when some students nearly went nuts over an exam question which asked us to connect the texts about Sarah and Abraham in their aging process, with its attending issues, to our own lives and ministries. How would we use these texts to inform our pastoral care work, say in a nursing home? 

My recollection was that many students were angry and protested this approach, calling it proof- texting and all kinds of other putative interpretive “abnormalities” they thought were forbidden when working with sacred texts. I guessed they were afraid of aging and death, or other demons too fierce to mention.

But I loved it.  The issues were the same then as they are now, and I got it.  For me this approach made scripture come alive, and its people real. Years later I wrote two book of midrash stories using this connective experiential approach.

Recently I read that Robert Wilson said:”Religious tradition canonized the biblical text but it didn’t canonize an interpretation.  That is the job of each generation. . . .That’s the human condition. It was also an exilic problem.  How did I get where I am? How do I deal with tradition, with what has happened in the past? You have to figure out where you are and how you got there. It’s what being a fully involved adult means.”

It’s what Creator-God is all about: unending potentiation.


Laurie Barnhart said...

potentiate finally a word that works...thanks

Peggy said...

YAY! Always a good day when I get a blogpost from you!!

Susan Richmond said...

So Prof. Wilson was also my first teacher at YDS. In my many interim assignments I thought of hom so often with these churches in wilderness time. What a gift he was that first year and on....

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Obviously we are all still potentiating as is the wont of sane religious geeks:)

Anonymous said...

Just what is the Bhagavad-gita? The purpose of Bhagavad-gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. Every man is in difficulty in so many ways, as Arjuna also was in difficulty in having to fight the Battle of Kuruksetra. Arjuna surrendered unto Sri Krsna, and consequently this Bhagavad-gita was spoken. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. Our very existence is in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. Our existence is eternal. But somehow or other we are put into asat. Asat refers to that which does not exist.

Read the Bhagavad-Gita online for free here:

How to read this book?
First read the Introduction, then start on Chapter 1, read through all the verses, then on to Chapter 2, and so on, until you finish all 18 chapters.

If you have any questions about the Bhagavad-Gita while you are reading it, if there is some part that you don't understand, feel free to email me and I'll try my best to answer your questions.

And in case you are not the philosophical type, a person who likes to read philosophy, then just try chanting the following mantra for just 15 minutes a day and see what the effect of it is in your personal life.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

In the end, what do you have to lose?