Time and illusion by Antony Ruhan

October 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm (Catholic Church, Commentary, Jesuits in Australia)

The email that Greg O’Kelly forwarded recalls the colonial, museum mentality of many catholics.  It says: ‘The church is grandiose, magnificent, …,’ and talks of  St.Peter’s basilica, etc.  It also emphasised the exclusivity of catholicism: ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’.  What many catholics still wonder is whether the bishops themselves have managed to rid themselves of the indoctrination that masquerades as philosophy and theology in the catholic church.Our problem as humans is that the world is bigger than we are: it escapes our monkey minds.  And time baffles us, although we catholics talk as though we are familiar with eternity, when we are not.  Time is relative to us.  Schroedinger put Einstein’s insight well: ‘Eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that  has no end.’  Einstein’s theory gives the best account of the universe on the big scale. It also points us toward eternity, which is mysterious.  We don’t have it in our pockets.

We are habituated to think of time as a succession of events, linked or not linked.  But the succession is only of  our separate returns to the present.  The past does not exist: we have memory traces of parts of it in our heads now.  The future does not exist: we have dreams of it in our heads now.  Wittgenstein wrote: “If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration, but timelessness, eternal life is theirs who live in the present.”  Einstein said: “There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

The catholic doctrine of creation needs to be broadly taken.  The Holy Spirit was, is, always active.  After the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of  “The Origin of the Species” in 2009, evolutionists have been verifying dates.  Perhaps homo sapiens came out of Africa seventy thousand years ago – and not one hundred thousand – and settled near Karnatika in south India.  Did the Holy Spirit not inspire the writers of the Veda, the Brahmanas, the Upanishads and … the Bhagavad Gita, when the Vedic peoples came through Punjab three or more thousand years ago?  Did the Holy Spirit not enlighten Sakyamuni when he left his kingdom  more than two thousand years ago to learn the origin of human suffering (and so became the Buddha).  He said: “Dry up the remains of your past and have nothing for your future.  If you do not cling to the present then you can go from place to place in peace.”

Perhaps more than two thousand five hundred years ago the Old Man (Lao Tzu in Chinese, No Ja in Korean) retired to a cave and began his book, which perhaps his followers titled ‘The Book on the Power of the Way’:  ‘The Way (Tao) you can go isn’t  the real way.  The name you can say isn’t the real name.  Heaven and earth begin in the unnamed: name’s the mother of the ten thousand things.  So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.  Two things, one origin, but different in name, whose identity is mystery.  Mystery of all mysteries!  The door to the hidden.’  Master Kung (or Confucius) is said to have visited Lao Tzu in his cave, perhaps to discuss his desire for the union of heaven and earth.

In the 80’s some anthropologists were suggesting that humans populated the highlands of Papua New Guinea forty or so thousand years ago.  Some of the different clans on the coast west of Port Moresby found Congregationalism with its separate communities more congenial to their separate lives than the one form imposed on all clans by the catholic missionaries.  Others anthropologists think they have found human remains from seventy thousand years ago in an Australian lake.  Some missionaries are trying to harmonise the Dream Time and the Song Lines with the catholic doctrine of creation.

All of this and much more has not prevented European catholic missionaries from imposing their beliefs on non-European peoples as their confreres despoiled them.  They might have done well, as Chesterton wrote: ‘to put their heads into the heavens and not try to put the heavens into their heads.’  Some think that the Vatican surpasses the Kremlin as a rigid, backward-looking bureaucracy.

As for Pope Francis – he does well to point out that  what would have worried and does concern the Lord Jesus – if that is the right word – is the poor, the homeless and the persecuted.  He says that we ought to do something about this present evil and not just talk and write about it.

Antony Ruhan SJ

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“Official Blessing & Opening of the Redfern Jarjum College (13 April 2013)”

April 14, 2013 at 5:58 am (Aborigines, Catholic Church, Commentary, Education, Jarjum College, Jesuits in Australia)

On 14/04/2013 8:43 AM, Deborah Wall wrote:

David, Judith Clarke and I were looking for you and Bill yesterday.

Judith did get to meet your daughter, I gather.  But we couldn’t find you. Pity.

Mum Shirl’s figure has found its rightful place.



Deborah, my wife, Judith, my friend, and I were very disappointed to miss seeing Bill Clements and his wife, Barbara.

Overall the  opening was very successful, and I’ll leave others to describe it, but for me, there were  three highlights:

1. Seeing Bill Clements’ bronze statue of Mum Shirl. This is truly a remarkable work, and in the category of a great work of art – Bill, my sincere congratulations!

2. Speaking briefly to Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales and Administrator of the Commonwealth: ” Your Excellency, my family knew your family in Narrandera, my father was Dr Jim Wall of East Street, Narrandera, and I’ve written a book about him, which I’ll send you.” Her Excellency was obviously pleased, and she thanked me.

3. I spoke to Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney: ” Your Eminence, you were the cause of me losing $20. I bet $20 on you being the next Pope.” The Cardinal, with an amused look on his face, told me that it was unwise of me to do so, and he concluded by thanking me nevertheless. In this brief encounter the good Cardinal impressed me!

Everyone at the gathering seemed most impressed with Jarjum College, and there was a large measure of public approval. A little element of concern and disapproval was heard from what I would call the sidelines!

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