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Genesis’ Abram, Phillip Pullman, author, Dust ( His Dark Materials ) and CS Lewis’ Narnia, part 1

23 Nov

Phillip Pullman lives in Oxford and in a real sense the opposite of another Oxford resident, CS Lewis. Lewis is champion of Christianity; Pullman is an avowed opponent. Yet, they have more in common than an Oxford life: both have written loved children books in series – ‘His Dark Materials’ and for Lewis, the Narnia narratives. Worlds, alternative lands, ‘dust’ are the settings of each of their series. And they use ‘dust’ to serve as connective tissue in their imaginative universes.

Pullman described ‘Dust’ in a 2017 interview as “an analogy of consciousness, and consciousness is this extraordinary property we have as human beings”.


“Dust came into being when living things became conscious of themselves; but it needed some feedback system to reinforce it and make it safe, as the mulefa had their wheels and the oil from the trees. Without something like that, it would all vanish. Thought, imagination, feeling, would all wither and blow away, leaving nothing but a brutish automatism; and that brief period when life was conscious of itself would flicker out like a candle in every one of the billions of worlds where it had burned brightly.” — The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 34

Dust here is created when we are conscious of we. And we use this dust, along with consciousness of any type, if we don’t create and recreate with it.

CS Lewis has no desire to create a detailed world with Narnia. Lewis wants only to create a brief illusion of some extra dimension. ( or Dust ) And, in at least one reported conversation shows, he was indifferent to breaches of internal consistency in the stories. His good friend, the poet Ruth Pitter, challenged him about how the Beaver family in The Lion manage to produce potatoes for their meal with the children, given the wintry conditions that had prevailed for most of living memory; not to mention oranges, sugar and suet for the marmalade roll.

Yet a world is created, a new garden paradise where sin is overcome by love. Narnia is CS Lewis’ Canaan and Dust is Pullman’s paradise. In one evil and wrong is when consciousness is being stifled and disconnected; in the other awareness of a child’s innocence ( the forgiveness and rescue Edmund ) is is preserved by Aslan’s self-sacrificing love. Sin here is forgiven, then forgotten. In Pullman’s works ‘sin’ is the lost consciousness, forgetting.

Both these series call to mind the journey of Abram from place to place; from being Abram to becoming Abraham. Dust connects Abram from world to worlds. And he walks to get there, growing in consciousness, covering in dust, as he walks. As in here,in Genesis 12,

The Call of Abram

12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”

Abram travels to an unknown land to grow in knowing himself and his God. The God who created the first man, Adam, out of dust is now using this same dark material to reform Abram, and also his descendants, us.

Genesis 13 continues Abram’s story,

‘But the land ( the dust ) could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land ( dust )that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.”

Dust in Abram’s walk parallels his attentive look, his call by his God to see, the uncountable stars. ( Genesis 15 ) Each star, each particle, each seed is a new world. We just have ‘walk’ to see, walk to understand, to grow.

Consciousness in these texts come from dust, stars, and from seeing. And from these new worlds of consciousness come life.

a passing

23 Nov

This week we saw the passing of a loved nephew at 39 years of age, Noah. He struggled in life, yet he was dearly loved in his life. His father shared at Noah’s passing service, his church service, that Noah at family gatherings always sat at the kids’ table. Mike said that now he understood that Noah sat there because he did not feel judged there.

Jesus in Luke 18 days,

Let the Children Come to Me

15 Now they were bringing even infantsto him that he might touch them. And whenthe disciples saw it, they prebuked them.16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and rdo not hinderthem, qfor to such belongs the kingdom ofGod. 17 sTruly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”’

Noah received as a child.

Lord help me to receive like him, like Noah this day, these days.

All days.

19 Nov
Liv, sleeping, Tampa
my b day
a daughter

forty, 40

19 Nov
40 years wed, then
NYC daughters

London, LA friends

Melanie and Eric and Anthony

… and Anthony,

Florida grandkids

Tampa, Florida

advent wonders 2020

10 Nov
an image of the priest, Zaharias

beginning Sunday 15 November my yearly series on Advent will be published here with a prologue.

‘angelic voices’ is the theme of 2020 advent wonders, and, in draft form, their 8 publishing dates are:

Friday, 4 December ‘a soft voice’

Monday, 7 December ‘a clear voice’

Friday 11 December ‘Mary’s voice’

Monday 14 December ‘ancestors’ voices

Friday 18 December ‘manger’s sounds’

Monday 21 December ‘lament’s cry’

Thursday 24 December ‘love’s voice’

Saturday 26 December ‘silence’

Angels are mentioned in only one of the above titles by design. These pieces look, move and, hopefully, will touch very familiar texts in a different form. Angelic voices, as a trope, a metaphor, is embedded in unexpected places throughout the Advent scriptures. From prophets to priests; from Micah to Zaharias; to Mary and Joesph, we hear. We hear sorrows and joy; lies and promises; cries and silences. People here speak as angels speak. Answers, promises, warnings and directions are in these angelic voices. All speak.

And sometimes there are also silences.

Yet, what all these voices have in common is God and his love through, to and within his word. His voice is love, angelic love, and in this Advent we hear, experience, live his love

1 John 4:19 ‘We love because he gets loved us.

We love because his angels always speak to us. They aways speak. Always.

epilogue, Lamentations 5

3 Nov
Hamlet with Yorick, his fool

Jeremiah’s lament is the Lord God’s soft voice. It is soft and personal for me. Just me this day. His voice calls to me, and I call back,

19 “You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
20 Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
22 unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.’

Laments are global, judgemental and overflowing. In their birthings and life nothing else can be. Nothing can be heard or felt; be personal and general; seen or be imagined. Laments exist as ‘whys’ without heard responses,

20 Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?

This is how my, how Jeremiah’s voice speaking as the people in Jerusalem, and how life laments end: with unspoken and unheard and unfelt ‘whys.’ Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ ends with his ‘the rest is silence.”
After speaking all his thoughts, changes, actions and pauses, Hamlet rests in his life, his lament. This is Hamlet’s lament; silence and self- silenced. His overflow has ceased. His rest is silence. He rests.

Chapter 4 Lamentations, a lament, our seventh ( 7th ) study thought

2 Nov

“Lamentations” is the Lord’s songbook. Here, he cries over his creation, This cry is an echo of his talk with Adam and Eve after their fall; a mirror of his dialogue with Cain about sin’s couching at Cain’s heart door, before Abel’s death. It is the Lord God’s voice of weeping over his broken creation,

‘How the gold has lost its luster,
the fine gold become dull!
The sacred gems are scattered
at every street corner.’ (1) God speaks of me, losing. I lose his gold, my trust in his heart loving me. As a Lear, a Gloucester, a father who loses the loving presence of his children, so he longs for me in my lament to surround him, love him. Speak to him. I am dry. Without a sound.

Isaiah, 100 years before Jeremiah, describes the jewelled woman or man as one who sees, eyes, give voice and heart as their children are seen,

‘Lift up round about thine eyes and see, All of them have been gathered, They have come to thee. I live, an affirmation of Jehovah! Surely all of them as an ornament thou puttest on, And thou bindest them on like a bride.’ Isaiah 49: 18. Here, life is jewelled by children. But in one life span, the prophecy is inverted, as God speaks his parent’s heart through Jeremiah, lament,

2 How the precious children of Zion,
once worth their weight in gold,
are now considered as pots of clay,
the work of a potter’s hands!

3 Even jackals offer their breasts
to nurse their young,
but my people have become heartless
like ostriches in the desert.

4 Because of thirst the infant’s tongue
sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread,
but no one gives it to them.

5 Those who once ate delicacies
are destitute in the streets.
Those brought up in royal purple
now lie on ash heaps.

6 The punishment of my people
is greater than that of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment
without a hand turned to help her.

7 Their princes were brighter than snow
and whiter than milk,
their bodies more ruddy than rubies,
their appearance like lapis lazuli.

….10 With their own hands compassionate women
have cooked their own children,
who became their food
when my people were destroyed.

God loves his people so. He loves me. Yet, yet, “compassionate women have cooked their own children, who have become their food…

cooked their own children,
who became their food”…”

parents eat their life jewels, children. Destroyed before the eating, the adults still eat. And…

here, at this lament apogee, the Lord stops his cry. Jeremiah the prophet speaks his own summary reflection,

11 ‘The Lord has given full vent to his wrath;
he has poured out his fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed her foundations.’

This is the Lord’s full lament: his wrath. How does he rage? He leaves his creation to itself.

And my lament, – I, I, ache for the loss of Eden, of love, of children. Without his presence, all is without lustre; without hope. Broken. Even life itself.

All is lament.

‘deaf:’ – our sixth study, reflection, on the book of lamentations begins at the opening chapter three, ( my reflections on individual verse sections will be in italics today )

29 Oct

3:1 ‘I am the man who has seen affliction…’

( three leg operations in a year; alone, alone with pain, I have not really taken a long stroll, a walk, in a year )
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. ( my leg now has a rod inserted; this rod helps me to move with little pain – I walk )
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long. ( again&again&again I am rejected on, in this earth )

4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones. ( again and again )
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead. ( my failures; my failings; those I have betrayed; all appear, as visible ghosts, before my eyes – the long dead live, I pass)

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains. ( like an Ebenezer Scrooge )
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer. ( even when I whisper, no words sound )
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked…’

Every, each ‘paths.’ Alone, rejected, self-silenced, and silenced by others denials, they hear not my falls, cries or calls, I lament.

I lament as mute; deaf,

even to myself.

our fifth study, reflection, on the book of lamentations

27 Oct

I have always loved, memorised, quoted and sung verses from this chapter. Hope filled, I sing of, that His steadfast love never ceases; His mercies never end; they are new, new as pools of His light, every morning. A new moment, a new beginning. Feelings re/ felt; rebuilt, renewed.
Laments are feelings, overwhelming, overflowing emotions,

from, Lamentations 3:7- 30; “I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly;
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young. 28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust(—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.”

I sit alone, in silences, and let my feelings flow over and over, waves of sorrows. ‘This I recall to my mind therefore, for his mercies, his compassions fail not…’

More than my feelings are his compassions; more than my thoughts are his thoughts. I flow; he overflows. This is what I need to think on, recall.

He is my Morning Star. He is new every morning. I must know him. How? Hosea speaks to me on ‘how’ I can feel, recall him, from Hosea 6:6 – in two translations, first the NIV

‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.’ and from Young’s Literal Translation, YLT: ‘For kindness I desired,&not sacrifice, and a knowledge of God above burnt-offerings’

before I lament, I overflow

before I can feel, before I can give mercy to another, i must know Him
before deep pains and sorrows, my silences wait with, in thought, with him
He is my hope in laments.


creation corrupted; paradise, seen

22 Oct

In the narrative of Genesis our Lord, creates, sees, feels and speaks of his creation: it is good. But after Adam and Eve’s disobedience( Genesis 3 ); Abel’s murder and Cain’s banishment ( Genesis 4 ); and Lamech’s boast of vengeance, ( also Genesis 4 ) beauty is polluted, corrupted,

Genesis 6, creation corrupted

The Message Giants in the Land

6 1-2 ‘When the human race began to increase, with more and more daughters being born, the sons of God noticed that the daughters of men were beautiful. They looked them over and picked out wives for themselves. 3 Then God said, “I’m not going to breathe life into men and women endlessly. Eventually they’re going to die; from now on they can expect a life span of 120 years.” 4 This was back in the days (and also later) when there were giants in the land. The giants came from the union of the sons of God and the daughters of men. These were the mighty men of ancient lore, the famous ones. 5- 7 God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I’m sorry I made them.”

A beautiful heart, broken, filled with deep felt, intense sorrow. God, who feels all passionately, cries over the physical brokenness of all the earth. Demonic Sons of God come to Earth and see its beauty; chooses the most beautiful; marries the daughters of men and reproduces physically abhorrent flesh from their own corruption. Losing the beauty of heaven by their fall, they attempt to recapture their paradise lost in the heavens on earth. But their progeny, their efforts, only corrupts. Yet, God is so moved by this brokenness, he moves to remove all from his earth.

This evil is intimately physical: corruption comes from the outside in. To redeem his poem, his earth, our Father crafts a reversal: beauty, salvation of all, will come by the Spirit,

Luke 1: 26 ‘In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “ I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.’

Here, a child is brought forth not my a physical intimacy, but a spiritual one. God sends his Son Jesus by the Spirit to a virgin, a beautiful daughter of men.

God inverses the deep evils of the Nephilim, the fallen sons of God. Creation, corrupted by the physical, is reborn through the Spirit and the servant, Mary.

The Son of God, Jesus, is born of the Spirit.

Our Father heals, saves, redeems the broken.

What was meant for evil, he purposes for beauty.

We are his, we are his beauty from ashes.

Beautifull ashes.