Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Sea of Glass and Fire

A Sea of Glass and Fire

"The Angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; but they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord." -D&C 130:6-7

I first read this verse in high school, and I was dumbfounded by it. Not in a bad way, though: it hit me with all the weight meaning can have, as if meaning itself had momentarily disrobed itself in front of me. In that verse, the "the glory of all things" is laid bare. Reading it, you see the light and life buried beneath all things hesitantly emerge from their hiding place before they, startled, dart back into hiding once again. Truth, after all, is shy. She shows herself cautiously, if at all.

Nevertheless, I want to use this post give you all an "exposé" of the truth this verse conceals beneath its letters. If truth herself is an awkward, reclusive introvert, I want to show you all how fantastic she can be. Don't be shy; I think you'll be great friends.

The Sea of Glass

A sea of glass: what an image! The sea--what separated humankind from one another for thousands of years--is now no longer a barrier but instead a means of connection. All things become present through it. In a way, it's like the Internet: largely invisible (or transparent) in itself but able to show us all things. The sea of glass, as the next verse makes clear, is also "a great Urim and Thummim." Buried beneath soil for millennia, it will one day become unearthed and show us the meaning of what we have forgotten.

If earthy ground is the muladhara or root chakra--the roots of our bodily existence--the earth of the glassy sea is the visuddha or throat chakra. When our earth becomes transfigured into its millennial condition, matter won't mean the same thing; what "matters" will change. The ground beneath our feet will no longer be soil, stone, or sediment but instead the words that issue forth from our throat. Things will no longer be "just things." Their surfaces will become transparent to the meanings shining out from within them. We will realize that "the Word" is not a leather-bound set of pages or an abstract metaphysical concept but a very real earth in itself. The dirt-encrusted edges of things will be wiped clean; the Word, what eighteenth-century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg described as "a mirror in which [we] see God, although each in a different way" will replace soil as the ground, what "grounds" us.

The Sea of Fire

And yet the glassy earth is still only the ground. Regardless of how clean or pure it is, it was "made for walkin'." What treads upon this earth made of glass? The answer, of course, is fire. The sea of glass is a way to contain the fire that would otherwise get out and consume everything. Glass comes from fire: it already knows the fire's tricks and how to take them. Our fiery passions, obsessions, lust, or anger would run rampant if the sea of glass didn't vessel them, and the way today's earth has become a worldwide fire-hazard of desire speaks to how desperately we need the glassy sea that keeps the flame in place.

For the sea of glass vessels the sea of fire. The former envelops, contains, and grounds the latter. Without a glass vessel to contain the desirous flame, it would flare out without limit in a desperate attempt to find itself. But of course, a fire can find itself only in a mirror, something that is not itself fire or desire. The glass sea lets the fiery sea see and know itself; it enables desire to step back from itself enough to know itself clearly.

The New World

But we don't often have this luxury nowadays. The fire is already here: it's what drives our love, our passion, or even our obsessions and lusts. But desire's fire--whether in the loins or the bosom--will run rampant unless it has a vessel. Desire must see and know itself; it must be vesseled; it must undergo reflection. My passion for spirituality will burn itself out in self-righteous fervor if I don't reflect on that desire in itself, and my lust for a woman will petrify me if I don't use a mirror to see it from a safe distance. The desire must begin to see not only what it desires but also itself; desire must see and know its own fire. Desire--whether as love and hope or greed and lust--can avoid frustration if I see not only what I desire but also the desire as desire. The object of my lust must become translucent to the fire within it. The earth scorched by lust must become glass.

To put it another way, the world will change--perhaps even achieve its millennial state--when it no longer serves as a veil to the fire that burns within it and all things. I must take all things not as ends but instead as means. Or in other words, I must take the fire within all things as the end and make their surfaces the transparent medium through which I access the fire. Everything literal becomes a metaphor. Everything will wear everything else as a face. Then the fire at the heart of reality--the hearth-goddess Hestia to whom the Greeks offered sacrifices before any other deity, the sulfur that the alchemists said burned within all things, and the divine sun that Swedenborg said appears continually before the angels' faces--will display itself freely before all of us. No longer shy, the once-reclusive daughter of Zion will arise from the dust and find herself expansive. Love, once buried, will shine freely. The world itself will become endless.

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