Church of England Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham Ordsall and Retford Saint Michael

Homily for Sunday 18th April - Third Sunday of Easter

Communication Reflection

Tim Pownall-Jones, Healthcare Chaplain

The first volume of the orderly account written by Luke ends with one last burst of intertextual cross-referencing: reinterpreting Hebrew writings according to recent events, and vice versa. How much orderliness is "invented" in the original sense of "discovered", and how much orderliness is "invented" in the modern sense of "created", is for readers to decide - a division of labour that Luke is powerless to override. Almost powerless. "You are witnesses of these things" (Lk 24:48) is even more demanding than it seems.

The gospel continues its existence through gossip, as does every other communication, and through encouraging its reproduction as a renewed focus of devotion. Compared with the arms race between viruses and vaccines, the contest for survival in the marketplace of ideas requires fresh enthusiasm in every generation. Dilution and boredom are homegrown challenges that only ideas most fitted to a changing context can survive. Ideas have a chance of surviving when they clear the hurdles separating what I want to say, what I say, what is audible through media, what you hear, what you think I mean, and you.

The social scientist Hans Speier wrote an article called "The Communication of Hidden Meaning" in which he argued that the purpose of communication "may be not to spread knowledge to a given ignoramus but to maintain his ignorance; not to profess feelings but to hide or feign them; to lead astray rather than guide the perplexed;...not to enlighten but to obscure,...to slant, to popularize, to tell only part of the truth, to mask it, or simply to lie." Concealment might be to protect when disclosure would be painful. One might speak deceptively to avoid persecution, or withhold information to avoid the risk of misunderstanding, or signal the retaining of information for the status that the possession of a secret seems to confer.

Cutting through the complexity of communication can require the active listening skills of spiritual companions or soul friends. Part of their task is to make themselves redundant as we, during and after conversations in their presence, become more precise when articulating exactly what is happening in our inner life. This carries over into communicating or communing with ourselves. A spiritual direction session is a warm up for this ongoing work of self-understanding.

Another way into communicating with ourselves is by reading something we have read before. Noting the changes in our responses is a method of tracking how we have changed and suggesting how we might change in the future.

The Victorian critic John Ruskin noted in The Queen of the Air this necessity of having different experiences of the same object. He argued that the complexities of poetry demonstrate not contempt for the many but deep ethical concern for those trying to improve themselves. All objects that are valued are "didactic [educational] in the purest way, indirectly and occultly, so that, first, you shall only be bettered by them if you are already hard at work in bettering yourself, and when you are bettered by them it shall be partly...by a gift of unexpected truth, which you shall only find by slow mining for it; which is withheld on purpose, and close-locked, that you not get it till you have forged the key of it in a furnace of your own heating." This can be applied to any page of the Bible.

Careful reading has its natural reward not in the discovery of a truth or a meaning but in the quality of attention it achieves. The chief value of reading is the revelation of concentration, of ingenuity, and of absorption. This creates new possibilities for communication. For example, visual communication is much faster than verbal communication although, if we want to get the most out of it, we shall spend time feeling into an image. Registering a range of impressions can be practised through remembering, remembering being an activity that usually involves looking back in time to re-witness. The practice of remembering is as easy as its spatial equivalent: feeling into an image of a distant object. If this is a video playback or a photo, travel through space and backwards through time are practised together. Another exercise is to remember every quality and sensation of an orange until you are salivating and then to imagine giving a different but equally vivid image to someone who is also practising this natural but suppressed ability. Countless third parties, incarnate or discarnate, have developed this skill to the level at which they can intercept, modify or block this communication. Hence the value of checking afterwards. By not taking this type of interference into account, published studies have found weaker evidence for this communication than have private researchers for corporations tasked with communicating instantly over immense distances. An extra complication is that if the recipient has no experience of the image being communicated, her or his brain will compensate by recalling one or more images that the recipient associates with the feelings and the intent experienced by the sender. Hence the importance of feeling into an image, whether sending, receiving, or experiencing remotely with every sense. The most skilled senders can do the same with words which are heard internally by the recipient in the recipient’s own voice. These sound emotionless but can startle (to give the waking brain a chance to remember), just as an image of a sender’s face (or a different face that a skilled sender wants to project) will normally seem expressionless. A clue that the recipient might be receiving a communication is if these words are not usually used by the recipient. Distinguishing between imaginings that are self-generated and communications that use the imaginative faculty of another’s unshielded brain, and can also be inserted into another’s dreams, becomes easier with practice.

It would not have been enough to give only Pontius Pilate a dream warning him of the dangers of putting Jesus to death. By warning two people, such as Pilate and his wife, a communication is more likely to be recognised as a communication and to be acted on. This attempt to add verification is necessary to counter the deniability and dismissiveness that subtle communication allows. The days are numbered for an experiment in which a "civilisation" that is currently limited to one planet carries on struggling without global schooling in subtle communication. The Bible’s promised "end of the age" amounts to the end of this experiment (planet-level) within an experiment (universe-level) within an experiment (creation-level). The disciples were "startled and frightened" when mistaking Jesus’ body for his spirit. Even if he had been discarnate at that moment, this was a response that was enabled by the conditions set for the experiment but was ultimately as narrow minded and ethically questionable as any blinkered response to a fellow being. This prompts another round of questioning: "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts?" (Lk 24:38). Thinking that any being is better or worse than any other being, whether on the basis of being discarnate, or of being incarnate, or of which species one is incarnate among, or any other basis, is the last remaining obstacle to equality in the alliance of life.

Have fun with this visualisation exercise. Breathe through your nose, noticing that the air you breathe in through your nose is slightly cooler than the air you breathe out.

Imagine waking up in the middle of a very dark room. Next to you is a lit candle. Pick up the candle and walk to the corner in front of you. What do you find in the corner?

Turn right and walk to the second corner. What do you find there?

Turn right and walk to the third corner. What do you find there?

Turn right and walk to the fourth corner. What do you find there?

A door opens and someone enters carrying an object. This person gives you the object. What is it? What does this person say to you?

When you are ready to leave the room, the person and the object, breathe deeply and become alert to the physical world around you. Write down everything you can remember about this experience. Try this exercise every day, preferably with your eyes closed. Once you have written down some experiences, notice which things stay the same and which things change.