We are the people of the Spirit, because all men
are people of the Spirit. Our early fathers wanted to make it
very clear which Spirit we are of, and therefore, they invented
poetry that has warmed the heart of the church through the centuries.
We are the people of the Holy Spirit. We are the
people of the Spirit, that asceticide that finally has no resting
place. We are the people of the Spirit of the Mystery. We are
the people of the Holy Spirit, the awe-filling Spirit, that none
has ever seen. We see only the trembling of the leaves as he passed
by. His way of operating in the world is beyond our ken, but we
can see patterns in the trembling of the leaves. They look something
like this to me: that He begins in the midst of history and, I
am persuaded, always outside the self-conscious church. If it
happens within the self-conscious church, that's coincidental,
at the most. For the church does not occasion the revolutions
in history, it but enables them.
The Holy Spirit begins in history by bleeding humanness
in the deep recesses of lo this one and lo that one, out of which
bleeding, erupts great upheavals in the historical process. What
black man began to bleed his humanness that issued in the mighty
black revolution of our time? What young one experienced the bleeding
of humanness within, that erupted in the world-wide youth revolt
that defines our age? In what female soul did the blood of humanness
begin to seep up to the surface - that issued in the unbelievable
feminine revolution in our time? Where was that non-Western man
who first began to feel, like spring water oozing from the ground,
the blood of humanness - that issued in the world-wide revolt
of the non-Western world against the West in our time? These are
the trembling of the leaves that enables one who has eyes to see
to grasp afresh the bareness, the presence of the Holy Spirit.
But you aren't through. For there's another tremble
of the leaf. And that's when self-conscious people begin to be
aware of the seeping forth of new humanness that is down underneath
the cataclysmic upheaval in the historical hour. These are the
ones who represent the breech in the proud flesh that man has
put over his humanness, and begin to see, shall I say, directly
into the deeps of what it means to be consciousness of consciousness,
or a human being.
And this is the beginning of what I like to call
the Spirit Movement. When this happens, then I think that the
Holy Spirit wills but one thing, and that is to find form for
the spirit that is released. We've often said, all of us, that
no matter where you go in the world today, the presence of the
Spirit is there before you in manifest form in this life, and
that life, and in the other life. And across the world today,
I want to insist, the Spirit that is loose, the awful Spirit that
is loose, the dread-filling, the fascinating Spirit that is loose,
is seeking only for form.
The Spirit Movement, I suppose it's obvious to us
all, has two basic phases, one is to break the armor of society
at large so that they may begin to experience, I mean man at large,
both as individuals - and in any institutionalized form, may begin
to experience the movement of the Spirit. This is difficult, for
it seems always to me like you go around with an ax in your hand,
chopping through twelve foot walls. That's the first stage of
the Spirit Movement. But that's past. You see the black revolution
has been won. Now there are a lot of battles after a war has been
won. I buried a lot of men after the Pacific War was already decided.
I do not mean you have easy times ahead. But the black man has
won, and we pinkies had better understand that. The youth revolt
is victorious, and there's no going back ever. And for you effeminate
males, mark you well, the feminine revolution is set in history
This brings the second phase that many times we've
talked about. No longer are you chopping down. That job is done.
Now you have to build. And it's here that I want to confess that
my detachment, which a man of the Spirit must have, has not been
adequate. For I believed until recently that the trauma of the
negations of life was more traumatic than the trauma of the affirmations
of life. I believed that with a passion, that the sufferings of
the breaking-something-loose were far more severe than the sufferings
of having to build. In Bultmann's "God" paper, he runs
those negations down rather roughly, and it's not until that last
paragraph that he does the flip and talks about the affirmations
without which you do not have the negations. But he did that casually
in just three sentences. That was because when Bultmann wrote,
though he had the detachment to see both poles, what was called
for was the negative pole, and he hit it. If we were to write
it today, I would like to suggest, for pedagogical reasons, we
spend most of those paragraphs dealing with the overwhelming negation
in the affirmation of life. And then the last paragraph, flip
it, and talk about the negations of the affirmations in the midst
What I'm trying to get said is that, at this moment
in the life of the movement, when now we have to create the trauma
that we're going to experience, it's going to be almost, but not
quite, more than we can bear. I have been aware in the last two
or three months that I can hardly speak. My hands shake like Slickers
that shake for ages. Now that wasn't there, not long ago, for
me, and like that I can grind it out. Something's happened. It's
the burden that is on your souls and mine of now having to create,
to bring forth, not tear down. That job is finished.
Now when this stage comes to any group of people, the black man, the Spirit Movement youth, the feminine, there's a kind of wildness. I remember in Hong Kong one day, unbelievable winds come up over night and go through those city streets with hard rain, and I got caught in one of those, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my whole life. Everybody on the street sort of went wild. They would run when they didn't have to run, and they would talk to you out loud. There was real new noise that was created, and you felt in yourself a kind of wildness. As a matter of fact, that old hymn came to my mind - "There's a Wildness in God's Mercy." You look at any of these revolutions and you see the wildness. Take the youth revolt - the moment that you get over the brink and you've won it, you've won it even though you don't know you've won it, or better allow yourself to believe you've won it, - that wildness comes. I don't need to spell that out. There's a wildness now in the black man. Oh, it looks like it's this way. No, it isn't. There is a wildness. The feminine revolution. You know that in the last three or four months, something has happened in that revolution. It's ... out now. As a matter of fact, one sign of this wildness is that the lesbians have taken over. The very neuroses that demanded, that is, that a woman had to become a man in order to become a woman, (that is the neuroses that was behind the feminine revolution) has now occasioned a kind of wildness in the midst of it. And God bless the woman who is able to bring a calm and a peace in the midst of that wildness, that she may indeed become the feminine which is the sign
of what must be. And that's my point.
In the midst of this wildness, which is the manifestation
of raw creative, no, it's a step beneath that, it's the first
awareness that you've got to produce creativity, no, you've got
to be creativity. That's where the wildness comes up. That's
the trauma that trembles you to the bottom of your being. And
what that wildness requires, objectively, is a little order injected
into it. Just a little order. And the subjective side of that
is just a little peace. Now this peace is not a peace you feel.
No, it's a peace you invent down inside of you. If you want to
call it the grace of God, that will be all right with me. But
the way it comes to me I'm uptight up to hereand
I'm constantly having to invent a peace down inside. That is the
subjective flip of the external order that has to be injected
in this. Now you've got to be clear about this peace. It isn't
this asinine peace all of us want. It's invented peace where there
is no peace.
And this external order isn't trying to turn the
clock back and bring the damned establishment back into control.
No, it's order within the revolution. And it's got to be the kind
of order that defends the revolution, that releases the revolutionaries
to pick up their creativity and invent the constructs in society,
which for a period of time in history, will maintain the Spirit
that was let loose in the beginning of the revolution itself.
Now what I mean by the Spirit Movement, in this second phase in
the movement's existence, is that we become the Order Instillers,
and the Peace Inventors, and the calm that is right at the very
heart of the whirlwind. That's our job.
This is why I think that the hour has come in history
for an historical order, which is ordering of ourselves for the
sake of instilling order. Every moment the revolution in history
the time has come when that ordering for the sake of ordering
had to take place. What we've been doing here for two long weeks.
I suppose the last three days seemed like a month, didn't it,
is ordering for the sake of ordering. It's if you
had any peace you damn well admit it it's sheer chaos
inventing the peace that enables you to just stand there. And
as we move forth to occasion, through your efforts here and the
efforts of many across the globe who are not here, as you move
forth to occasion metamorphosis in the local congregation, you'11
be ordering for the sake of ordering.
For a long time I have found myself saying something
like this: that the reason 1y you have to use the structures of
the establishment to change the establishment, to revolutionize
the establishment, is first of all that the effort has to be nothing
1ess than global, And if you don't take existing structures, then
you've got to create global structures to do the revolution. And
everyone in this room, in this complex world, would be dead and
buried a hundred years before you could even hope to have anything
remotely related to a global construct. Now when I speak this
way I look in myself as a hardheaded revolutionary tactician.
For I insist that, if you do not take the existing structures
of the church, hen you have got to capture the International Kiwanis
Club or the Worldwide Volunteer Fire Department. There is no other
But I've always added that also I have theological reasons, and I think the time has come for us to hit that angle. Don't forget the strategy though. There never has been in the whole historylong life of the League, the People of the Spirit, the People of God, a cessation and a beginning. Never. It has always been mutation. It has always been resurrection. It has always been revolution. You see, Christianity wasn't a stopping of Judaism and then beginning something new, Judaism. wasn't a stopping of Hebrewism and then having something new. Buddhism wasn't a stopping of Hinduism and then having something new. Confucianism wasn't a stopping of ancient and radical beginning something new. It has always been/revolution. And the church is going to be
renewed for the sake of building the New Social Vehicle,
participating, occasioning the building of the New Social Vehicle
through radical revolution from within.
Now there's a funny thing about the church, the established
church, It is experiencing this wildness like the other revolutionary
movements. You only see this on the grass roots level, in distinct
form in this place and that place and the other place. But if
you have eyes to see, you even behold it where you cannot behold
it on the local bevel. It takes many forms, such as the hanging
on to what you've got with a new kind of fervor. But where you
can discern it most clearly is in those bureaucratic structures
at the Protestant Vatican, 475 Riverside Drive. I said to some
of you that at Upsala two years ago, I ran into three top, top
leaders of the Presbyterian Church, at different times. `When
I pressed them as to what their task was at this moment in history,
all three of them, in one way or another, said it was to preside
over the dissolution of the Presbyterian denomination. That's
wildness. When we've gone to various boards, mission boards, to
get help with the International Training Institutes, I've had
the sneaky feeling that if you could guarantee them that you were
going to fail in what you were going to do overseas, they would
have funded you immediately. That's wildness. I do not think that's
an exaggerated statement. That's wildness.
Well, you and I, as the Holy Spirit people, have
come to the moment when we have to inject an order that doesn't
destroy that wildness, but enables it to move within the Church,
that the Church can once again begin to become the Church. This
means something like an historical order. And I don't know what
a historica1 order is like, in any external manifestation, but
through the years, I suspect all of us have come to see some things
about it. And the first thing we've seen, that to begin to talk
about it, you have to move into the deeps underneath
the deeps, underneath the deeps of humanness itself. And to begin
any place else is ridiculous.
I want to say three things about it rather quickly.
When you think of a historical order under the rubric of the ontological,
then a historical order is absolute nothingness. And this nothingness
can be concretized. I like to concretize it in terms of doing,
being, and knowing. In terms of being, an order is absolute nothing
in its nothing signality, if I may use such a term. This is to
say that it is nothing but the sign of the depths of humanness.
It is nothing but sheer transparency, relative to the Mystery
that encompasses the whole of mankind. This is why people of the
Spirit Movement are always outside the camp. They are always the
oddballs, for their one function is to be a sign of the Presence.
Secondly, it is nothing under the rubric of doing,
in that i$ is nothing in catalysis, Its only function is to catalyze.
I repeat again, the Spirit Movement does not build the revolution,
it catalyzes the revolution, both in its first phase and in its
second phase. These are the people who do nothing. While other
people do lo this and lo that, these do nothing. This is why they
are always poor, and have to be poor.
Thirdly, a historical order is nothing in its radicality,
and this is under the rubric of knowing. The Spirit People bring
nothing, they bring nothing to humanness. We have to fight, I
think, with more effort than we ever had, any form of a Gnosticism
that suggests that Christianity or the People of the Spirit or
League in history have some kind of secret wisdom that they set
on top of man's wisdom. When I use the radicality, I mean the
foundations of humanness itself. All we have to contribute is
the nothing of pulling back the veil and allowing people to perceive
and experience their own humanness. We have not one thing to add.
This is what you mean by the contentless Christ. But you've got
to understand the flip of that. The contentless Christ is the
most contentful happening that the universe knows anything about
because it delivers a person to his own humanness. And that's
the content of the content.
The second major rubric, and this is the existential
category, is that a historical order is absolute dedication. That
word dedication has offended me for years, I think because we
sang songs about dedication when I was in the Methodist Youth
Fellowship when I was about that high, and I've been sick to my
stomach ever since about it. But the word is having new meaning.
In terms of being, it is dedication relative to a mission. And,
you have to understand, the revolutionary, the Spirit man, is
always a fanatic, That's what Kierkegaard means when he says you
will one thing. To be dedicated to mission means that you literally
become your mission. And I mean that sets you aside as an oddball.
Other people, they have a relation there, and a then they have
some things they've relation there, and got to do here. The man
of the Spirit is. minus nothing. His mission, his calling, his
election within history.
Secondly, under the rubric of doing, his dedication
is corporateness, At this moment in history when that horrible
return of group dynamics called sensitivity training which at
this moment we have got to stomp that with all four feet that
we have at every moment. My God, how that has already infiltrated
a church that has failed in morale, to give that one little more
crutch to hang on to. The approach has not worked, it cannot work,
because it is theologically wrong, and because it goes against
the grain of what it means to be consciousness of consciousness
within history. This corporateness has always got to have the
pole of mission utterly cleat, and the gaze of the group can never
be toward the navel, but only toward the suffering of mankind
in the world. I don't know how to get this said. But you and I
are called to suffer to the end of our days for the sake of relieving
the suffering of mankind.
Finally, under absolute dedication, is what I mean
by inner discipline. And I never mean by discipline getting somewhere
on time. I agree with Lenin, that if you cannot get to a meeting
on time, you are not a revolutionary and never will be. You can
rub shoulders with revolutionaries and you can empathetically
participate in their being' but you can't be a revolutionary.
With his top bracket men, Lenin used to say to them, "Now
supposing you were out bombing a train, and one of your guys who
had the fuse didn't show up." That was his illustration.
And he bounced people on their heads if they were ever late. But
for me, inner discipline is not that, though I repeat again, if
you do not your know how to move/carcass to the appointed place
on time, you are just a cadaver that the rest of the revolutionaries
have to carry. Inner discipline, I like to put it the way my colleague
Wes put it not long ago, is to know what your situation in the
context of your total mission requires of you at a given moment,
and you deliver it. That's inner discipline. That's dedication.
Because nobody ever woke up capable naturally of doing this, this
Lastly, when you think of a histori~ph! order
under the rubric of mission, it is first of all, under being,
the love of God. The mission of the Spirit lAovement is nothing
more, nothing less than love. A few years ago, you and I couldn't
use that term because the demons had captured it and destroyed
it. But it has been retaken. We are to love, and, first of all,
to love God. I haven't time to talk on that. I'd 1,ike to try,
though I'm feeble. But one thing to me it means is that you serve
God, and I don't mean obey Him. I mean that I am literally fulfilling
a need that God has. And His need is to be ever present in the
historical process. This is why I like to say that a man of God
is a guardian of the Mystery in the historical process.
Secondly, it is the love of man. We ale the defenders
of humanity, and by humanity I mean two different things. One
is humanness itself, that it's always over our dead body will
you violate humanness. Secondly, I mean all of humanity. I mean
those who have ever lived, those who ever will live, and those
are our colleagues in this moment in history, all men. Do not
forget for a moment that stalwart black from the shores of Guinea
who was dropped overboard with his chains, whose name you and
I and no one knows. My life has to be in service to him. That's
what love means.
And lastly, it's love of self. And here we have to
be the watchmen of the deeps, for I've had trouble with the love
of self understood in this kind of a context. But it's sort of
getting a little bit clear. The way I love myself is to keep watch,
night and day, over the depths of humanness itself, This is what,
in my opinion, it means to be a prior. If ever once I sit in a
collegium and allow some young squirt to just superficially touch
an issue, it's my responsibility to make a decision as to whether
I take that conversation and shove the bottom out of it. And it
is almost that you have to be on tiptoes every moment to be sure
that in every situation the deeps are guarded. And there is no
love of self, save that role is picked up.
What is our future? I don't know. But it's become
clear that what we're doing at the moment is ordering for the
sake of ordering.
Joseph W. Mathews