January 14, 2007

Mark 5.1-20

So they came to the other side of the lake, into the country of the Gerasenes. As he stepped ashore, a man possessed by an unclean spirit came up to him from among the tombs where he had been dwelling. He could no longer be controlled; even chains were useless; he had often been fettered and chained up, but he had snapped the chains and broken the fetters. No one was strong enough to master him.

And so unceasingly, day and night, he would cry aloud among the tombs and on the hillsides, and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus in the distance, he ran and flung himself down before him, shouting loudly, "What do you want of me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? In God's name, do not torment me!" (For Jesus was already saying to him, "Out, unclean spirit, come out of the man!"

Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

"My name is Legion," he said. "There are so many of us." And he begged hard that Jesus would not send them out of the country. Now there happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside, and the spirits begged him, "Send us among the piges and let us go into them."

He gave them leave; and the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs; and the herd, of about two thousand, rushed over the edge into the lake and drowned.

The men in charge of them took to their heels and carried the news to the town and countryside; and the people came out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the madman who had been possessed by the legion of devils, sitting there clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. The spectators told them how the madman had been cured and what had happened to the pigs. Then they begged Jesus to leave the district.

As he was stepping into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to go with him.

Jesus would not allow it, but said to him, "Go home to your own folk and tell them what the Lord in His mercy has done for you."

The man went off and spread the news in the Ten Towns of all that Jesus had done for him; and they were all amazed.


At 11:44 a.m., Blogger david said...

"Legion" is the name of the Roman garrison occupying Judea -- a fact that several commentators have traded upon. If this is significant then in some ways demonic possession of this individual represents or reflects the demonic circumstances of his society. Perhasp the fine detail of cutting himself with stones in some way reflects the infighting between various factions such as collaborators and the zealots.

In any event -- his liberation form evil spirits would in some way stand for the liberation of the province of Judea from their Roman overlords The political overtones are played out when the legion bvanish into a heard of pigs and destroy themselves.

And how do I apply this today? This modern world gives us two options: possession as mental illness, or possession with all the trappings of the schlock horror flicks.

Would an exorcism be understood in this politically provocative way today? And if so who would we exorcize? A single parent in bondage to high interest rates? A homeless man who lost everything following a nervous breakdown?

At 3:21 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

William Stringfellow exorcised the Nixon White House; I forget the precise term he used but he considered it to be an act of compassion for a very sick neighbor... Nixon left before his devils, however.

At 7:28 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Legion is everyman-- you, me. We are legion.
Our many selves are capable of the same kind of self destruction.

I studied that course in 1976 with Elizabeth O'Connor at Washington.

Her source was the Russian Humanists, Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, both of whom illluminate that idea very amply. Betty O studied in one of their groups while she worked at the Church of the Savior and wrote her marvelous books, but she gave it up because it was more than she could handle.

We are many selves, and some of them are admirable, but not accepted in polite society.

Quoting the Readers Guide for Middlemarch, "the quickest of us walk about wadded with stupidity."

The stone is an age old symbol of the lower form of consciousness. Look at the stone altar with which Elijah jousted with the prophets of Baal, and the stone urns with which Jesus turned water into wine.

At 2:03 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Nice little site.

But my other selves have stepped out for now so I can't ask them: "Whatever is Larry talking about here?"

While my mind has run a few glitchy subroutines in situations where they weren't making necessarily the best possible responses--Those subroutines and the decision to follow them were all my own.

There's this "Self" which seems to be aware of more, to keep a step or two ahead of whatever I think I'm doing... Then there's this ratty little self which everyone knows is an illusion, which worries about itself and really thinks it is me. And then there are all those "other" selves, people whom I meet out in the world, imagining that they really are different from me. But I don't see the need to imagine a whole menagerie in this head here; there's only one of me at the moment.

At 6:36 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

"only one of me at the moment." Right! but there's lots of moments in each day. You're one person when you eat breatkfast, and somebody else riding the subway or at the office. Somebody else for every person you meet. Do you really believe that you are, and present, the same person wherever you are?

At 8:07 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

If I've got to choose a metaphor, I'll go with one changeable self rather than a committee working in shifts.

Really what there is, is attention focusing on the task of each moment in various different ways--so that whatever is not in focus temporarily shifts out of the picture.

An inept hypnotist, I am told, can easily, even accidentally, persuade a person that he's a whole cast of characters.


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