Darwin, Doubt and Unicorns!
If I were to say there is a Unicorn standing out in the courtyard, what would be your reaction?
Raise your hand if you’d ‘believe’ me?
Raise you hand if you’d ‘doubt’ me?
Raise your hand if you ‘doubt’ the existence of unicorns?
Now say I brought it into the sanctuary…
Raise you hand if you’d you ask to touch its horn?
Now what if I told you that the Unicorn I’d brought into worship was the only begotten child of an omnipotent deity who was nailed to a wooden cross until life left his body…
then buried in a tomb, of which he proceeded to wander out of some three days later…
only to become the source of a holiday themed around dyed eggs hidden by a huge bunny rabbit and marshmallow candy some 2000 years to follow.
Doubt? or acceptance?…Or did you take offense that I compared Jesus to a Unicorn and stop listening some time ago?
Well that comparison is not unique.
It is actually popular topic of Carl Jung’s discourses on imagination and Christology…
and prior to that, a foundational element of a genre of medieval art and philosophy…
but I digress:
It amazes me that we criticize Thomas’ doubt during the easter season.
Switch that wording… that we critic Thomas’ excitement to TOUCH the divine.
Thus I’d like to spend the next 9 minutes looking at three interconnected topics of dialogue that will carry us through our April adventures…
Darwin, Doubt, and Unicorns!
Three bullet points that would only be found in a Santa Cruz Unitarian Pulpit on a Sunday Morning!
I was standing on West Cliff rd. contemplating a sunset surf Monday evening when the cutest little boy ever wandered out in playful pursuit of all things springtime.
Kite in tow, he chased butterflies in circles before shifting attention to the animals that were taking shape in the clouds.
Pause: When did you last break from your busy schedule, stare off into the sky, and allow you imagination to explore the clouds?
Well lucky for you, its a cloudy day and you have all afternoon…
Then enter Mom into the scene.
Holding one phone to her ear, she typed away on a second while pacing the sidewalk —Oblivious to the beauty of her child, the setting sun, the waves on the rocks, and any unicorn shaped clouds above.
The stressed mannerisms and movements of this ‘evolved & mature’ Mom, when juxtaposed by those of her curious child, exemplified a variety of contrasting themes related to today’s topic:
- • Of faith and doubt
- • Of frolicking in the moment versus stressing about tomorrow
- • Of simplistic kites versus evolved smartphones
- • Of Clouds and well, clouds! The puffy white kind in the sky versus digital storage banks hidden over the hill in silicon valley.
I then watched this sophisticated screen-staring lady stumble off the sidewalk and nearly get hit by a swerving sedan… leading me to ponder two Darwinian theories.
1. If Darwin was correct, how has this lady and others of the walk-and-text mentality escaped natural selection?
2. Having ‘smart’ gadgets doesn’t qualify us as more evolved…
Peter Beagle wrote, in The Last Unicorn,
“I suppose I could understand it if evolved men had simply forgotten unicorns,
or if they simply decided they hated all unicorns now and tried to kill them when they saw them.
But not to see them at all? To look at them and see something else…”
Oh when did stop progressing and start regressing?
‘Evolved’ adults haven’t stopped seeing unicorns.
Actually, the unicorn is a popular theme in this region.
Much like the contrasted puffy white and digital storage cloud allusion earlier; an ‘evolved’ understanding of Unicorn now describes a billion dollar tech startup…
no longer the magical creature of fairytales.
When… and why did we mature?
Rev Russ just finished speaking on ‘doubting Thomas’… via Biblical Gospels, however, let’s switch things up and look at ‘the rest of the story.’
Ten minutes is not enough time to explain the ‘Gnostic gospels,’ but track me down during lunch for a more thorough discourse.
For now, know them to be a supplementary collection of writings from the time of — and following — Jesus found in Egypt in the 1950’s.
These texts are known for their metaphoric, imaginative, and wisdom-styled account of the events around early Christianity, Christian mysticism and the famed Rabbi Yeshua.
The introduction of the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ reads: “These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Thomas wrote.”
Whats in a name?
Didymus Thomas… literally, ‘Twin’- ‘Twin’ (Thaom in Hebrew and Didymus in Greek.)
The twin of Jesus — twice over!
As Twin of man and twin of divine, Thomas exemplifies two dueling views of the ‘doubt’ we ascribe to him!
Jesus is depicted as fully human and fully divine throughout creeds and writings in the Christian tradition….
Timely enough, the upcoming Easter holiday recounting his death and resurrection accounts for the crossover between the two.
Thomas as the twin of man is defined by Doubt in the skeptic sense.
But as the Twin of divine, his doubt depicts an excited seeking.
Written into the Gospel’s intro we see the spirit of that little lad from earlier: ‘These are the Hidden words!”
‘Hidden’ highlights the difference between doubt of man and divine, skeptic and seeker.
Who doesn’t love a game of hide and seek??
It is easy to read Thomas’ doubt as a negative… as a lack of faith or skepticism of miracles and eternal life.
Notice though Jesus never condemned the doubting (questioning) of Thomas. He invited him closer!
Katie Byron writes, “when inquiry is alive inside you, every thought you think ends with a question mark and not a period… This,” she says, “is the end of suffering,”
but I would redefine it as ‘the start of living.’ Of Eternal living.
This second type of doubt, the type exemplified by Thomas — twin of the divine — was that with which the child bearing the kite approached the world.
With excitement and imagination!
It is what Jesus spoke of when he, in verse 4 of the gnostic text of Thomas said:
“Let the matured man, heavy with days, hesitate not to ask the little child of seven days about the Place of Life, and he will live!”
We should yearn to reach out and touch Jesus, to dive into the divine…
to Har Kirsna, to ponder with the profits and meander with the mystics.
We are called to doubt, not as downers, but as dreamers. Excited to engage!
Later in the gnostic text the disciples, of which Thomas is just one, said to Jesus,
“Tell us who You are so that we may believe in You.”
“You read the face of the sky and of the earth,” he replied, ‘but you have not recognized the one who is before you, and thus know not how to read this moment.”
Darwin might say that a horse is an evolved Unicorn.
However, as I researched the mythological, metaphorical, physiological and spiritual implications of all things unicorn this past week
(yes, again Rev. Ryan is a nerd)
I came to an understanding of the unicorn’s horn as the placeholder for the ‘third eye’ of eastern faith philosophy.
The eye of which sees the divine aspects of the world…
Through evolution the unicorn shed its uni-horn to make way for this third eye, an evolved/enlightened means of sight!
However, the world (all that stuff that was cluttering the schedule and mind of that woman from earlier) filled in the hole!
Thus the eye that allows us to look into an otherwise doubt-layden and dismal world through a rainbow lens has been covered up!
In other words, the divine doubt that defines our imaginative youth has ‘evolved’ into human hesitation.
A need to prove, or disprove, the miracles all around and within us.
When you leave worship today, close your eyes and look at the world through the remnants of your uni-horn…
and when you do you might find that, as Kailin Gow writes, that though the grass ‘may be greener on the other side, it’s rainbows and gold on yours.’