the z-theory and Santa Claus

(*** spoiler alert…) I think I can safely assume that as children we all believed in a Santa Claus who lived at the North Pole and delivered gifts to good people on Christmas Day faithfully every year. And then we got the news that Santa Claus isn’t a real person. That fairy tale no longer served. We had to learn that it represented the “spirit of Christmas”, and that anyone who gave was, in a sense, Santa Claus.

At one point we believed that God is an all-powerful being who sits in Heaven on a huge throne ruling the earth and our affairs. We believed that Jesus is a person who shows up in our hearts or in our rooms to bring comfort or instruction or discipline. We believed that the Holy Spirit was a power that could inspire us or make a worship service work.

For many of us, that rendition no longer serves us well.

The imagery of the waterfalls that I had in a dream provided me with a way of understanding the structure of reality. It was like I was standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, as I have actually done several times, looking up at the infinite deluge of water coming over the rim. This is not a picture of reality. It is reality!

God: Theologians say that God is the all-powerful creator, sovereign, independent and eternal. What is over the rim, beyond my sight, is the Infinite Source, forever gushing forth a never-ending stream. Standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, I am always struck by the thought, “It never ends! Where does all this water come from?” While continually emptying itself, it never sacrifices its own identity. It never surrenders its essence. It remains. So while what we call creation is a separation from the Source, it is at the same time an emanation of the Source which never decreases or reduces or changes. Scientifically, we now know where it all comes from. There is a water cycle, and it all returns to the Infinite Source to start all over again. As theologians put it, all things come from the Father and return to the Father.

Jesus: Theologians say that Jesus is God and the perfect picture of who God is. Put simply, they say “If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.” What we see pouring over the rim is the obvious manifestation of the Infinite Source. We have a clue of what the source is by the revelation of itself in the waterfalls. It is wild, uncontrollable, and immeasurable. But it is a faithful representation… no, it is more than a representation!… it is a faithful declaration of the Infinite Source. The Mystery is now made plain for all to see. It’s purpose is beginning to be made known.

Spirit: Theologians say that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus present in the collective of believers. Jesus promised that when he left his disciples he would send the Holy Spirit in his stead to abide with them, comfort them and instruct them forever. Standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, I am always impressed with all that spreads throughout the land, providing water for the earth and all that is in it. It is actually overwhelming. No one is exempt. It floods over everyone and everything, encompassing all in its magnificent deluge.

Eventually, when this water reaches the very end of its journey, to the last drop that stretches over the soil and dries on a heated stone, we know that every bit of it has been absorbed into all things and even eventually finds its way in the cycle back to the Infinite Source above the rim to resume its impressively vast emanation, revelation and application all over again.

This is how I see Niagara Falls. This is reality. Again, it isn’t just a picture of reality. It is actually reality. This is indeed what is happening. This provides for me a way of understanding That Which We Call God, Jesus and the Spirit. I no longer see them as “people”, but I do definitely feel this as “personal”. I do feel, when I am my sanest self, a connection and even a compassionate grace at the center of it all. The words “God”, “Jesus” and “Spirit”, have become, for me, burdened with baggage and limiting. I know what they mean. I know what they attempt to describe. But the language is archaic, loaded with cultic significance, exclusionary, colonized and ghettoized. Religious. I use them at times, but only as pointers to what they are pointing to. They are signs. Symbols. The word is not the thing.

I will admit that it isn’t easy letting go of overused categories and their words. There is great emotional investment, sentimentality and nostalgia clinging to these. But I just remind myself that forsaking the word is not forsaking the thing. While this model, which I have called the z-theory, has given me a way to understand my reality from a Christian perspective, it has also opened up all the doors of access to all other religions, philosophies and world-views. It has offered my mind a great measure of peace. I am now connected to all things, and I know it.

It is not an accident that I am looking out over the Kennebecasis River right now as I write this to you. It is 95 kilometers long, about 2 kilometers wide where I live, and very, very deep. It is constantly flowing. The sun is shining on it now. Boats are racing along the surface. And birds. It flows with fish, including our modern-day dinosaurs of the deep, the sturgeon. Lisa and I are thinking of going down to the beach to read and relax in a bit. We might sneak some wine in a thermos so we look like innocent coffee drinkers.

I hope you all have a good day!

the z-theory in a simple diagram and explanation

z theory diagram by nakedpastor david hayward

I posted this for my other site, the online community The Lasting Supper, but I thought I would share it with you as well.

Hopefully this will help some of you understand the z-theory better. It is based on a waterfall dream I had a few years ago that left me the impression it graphically depicted the structure of reality. I suggest this diagram can be used by all religions and world-views.

So as I try to explain to my Christian friends, this is why I rarely, if ever, use the word “God”, or demand that people believe in the man “Jesus” and the bible as sole source of truth, or that the “Holy Spirit” of Christianity hold dominion over how we talk about the human collective, including the church. I always try to avoid exclusivity and the presumption of privilege that comes with that.

Therefore, a Buddhist could say the All is Nirvana or the Buddha nature; the Appearance is the Buddha, Siddhartha, including the Sutras; and the Application is the Sangha, or the community.

An Atheist could say the All is undiscovered scientific realities; the Appearance is human discoveries of these realities; and the Application is the use of these discoveries for the better of the human collective and the earth.

On and on we could go.

So at the same time, even though the All, like water over the falls, fills all things, somehow it is at the same time separate, an infinite source, so that we are at once full of “God” or the All, while at the same time the All does not lose itself, its objectivity, its “Wholly Otherness”.

I’m offering this paradigm as a way to understand how, even though we are very diverse in our beliefs and world-views, we can all find ourselves within this construct.

the z-theory in one page

In 2009 I had a dream that relieved my theological anxiety and brought peace:

“There is a huge waterfall. Oceans of water pour over the rim of the cliff. The water tumbles down and explodes at the bottom. The deluge spreads over the land covering and consuming everything.”

“There is a huge waterfall. Oceans of water pour over the rim of the cliff.”

We can’t see above the rim, but we can guess that it is an infinite source. There is no proof. Only evidence. We can’t even say it exists. We just know it must be. It is.

This is That-Which-We-Call-God, the Absolute, the Source, Wholly Other, Nirvana, Allah, Yahweh, the Unknowable, the Frontier, the closeted, the Undiscovered.

“The water tumbles down and explodes at the bottom.”

This is the evidence we have of what is above the rim. The infinite and invisible is now finite and visible. This is the revelation of the Wholly Other, the exposure, the incarnation of the mystery, the transmission of truth, the manifestation of the unknown, the discoveries of science. It is the encounter and reception of the unknown now known, the mysterious now perceived.

This is what we call the Christ, the Torah, the Buddha, scientific discovery, revelation, the condescension, the incarnation, the transmission, the embodiment, the coming down and the coming out.

“The deluge spreads out over the land covering and consuming everything.”

This is the realm of time, history and culture. This is where spirit and nature meet. It is the manifestation of the good in the muck of the human story. It is forgiveness, reconciliation and love that find expression in community. Where truth, justice and love abide, this is the working of spirit in the turmoil of history.

This is what we call the spirit, the application of the revelation, the discovery, and the made-known. This is the historical impact in the mess and beauty of this world. This is community, unity, peace and justice in the midst of suffering. Here scriptures are written that try to point to what’s been revealed and seen. It spreads throughout the earth filling and fulfilling all living things, binding all together as one.

This trinitarian structure describes reality that everyone shares. No one has exclusive rights. Though our language articulates our own vantage points, they all describe the same thing from a superficial to a complex level.

z-theory #22: categories

I want to further develop the z-theory (<– click there to read about it).

I remind you of the waterfalls dream that initiated this whole process for me. The top of the falls is beyond our vision. It is the Mystery, the Wholly Other. Then there is the actual falls. This is the incarnation, condescension and manifestation of the Other. Then there is the flood plain, the ramification, the effect, the universal appropriation of the Other.

Here are a few developments in describing the categories:

  1. The top of the waterfalls I will call the mystical/ metaphysical.
  2. The falls I will call the theological/ philosophical.
  3. The flood plain I will call the sociological/ universal.

I am wondering if these more focused descriptions will help me articulate the z-theory.

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z-theory, spirit & unity

I’ve had several requests for me to write a book on my z-theory (click on “z-theory” and it will take you to most of my posts on the idea).

I’m spending a great deal of time thinking about it and cautiously beginning to put stuff down. I am hoping it might be an important contribution to the theological discussion taking place these days. I believe it will provide a paradigm, a matrix, through which we may understand our reality and make sense of our spirituality, theology and religion within it.

One of the most important and practical components of the trinitarian construction of the z-theory is the third one. But first let me summarize:

We observe the waterfall from the bottom: the first is the top of the waterfalls that we cannot see but can only guess at, receive reports of, or accept revelations of… that which some call “God”. The second is the waterfall itself which we can see, gives clues as to the nature of the top of the falls, and which incarnates the unseen, making it manifest to our eyes and experience… that which some call “Jesus”. The third is the flood plain, the spreading of the water over the earth and all that is in it, connecting all within the All… that which some call the “Spirit”.

The third one is my concern lately because it is the most practical of the three. It is the application of the infinite Unseen manifesting itself incarnationally and finally covering and consuming everything in the plain. This means that there is no “spirit” out there, separate from us. It is in actuality our union together, our connectedness to each other and cooperation one with another. The union itself is actually the Spirit. The Spirit is actually the union. Our participation in this union through forgiveness, reconciliation and love for all is the manifestation of this union, our only appropriate posture before this reality.

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Z-theory #21: church

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about church.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about the Z-theory. Someone just reminded me of it again this morning.

The two are related. (I remind you that the Z-theory is based on a dream I had of a waterfall.) The top is the Ultimate Source. The falls is the Incarnating act of that Source. Finally, the flood plain is the Experiential Manifestation of the Ultimate Source, because of the Incarnate Act, into our every day life.

Let me quote from something I wrote:

The “spirit” is not a separate entity “out there”. It is actually experienced in love. This is how it is known. As we work together for justice, peace and love, the unfolded extends and spreads throughout the earth. When we recognize that we are all one from the One, this is the spirit… not the spirit at work, but the spirit really. I hesitate to speak of spirit apart from matter. It is becoming more evident, for instance, that consciousness cannot be separated from the brain organism. This watershed, which we are and are in, is the complete and total incarnation, the investment, the pouring out of the Ultimate Source into the everyday mundane life of every one of us.

Is it possible that the church is really without walls, no longer in temples made with hands, but permeated throughout human life and experience? Is it possible that since The All is now really In All that we all are the church? Is it possible that it is impossible to go to church, for it is impossible to escape it? Unless we deny the reality of unity we share with all others! I suggest that where there is a community of even two or three with the intention of forgiveness, reconciliation, love and ultimately unity, with expressions of justice and peace, there is the spirit.

Where there is the spirit, it can be nothing other than church… that is, the people of the Infinite Ultimate. There is no building. There is no liturgy. There is no separation or division. But there is the incarnational manifested in unity.

Z-Theory #20: Apostles’ Creed

I want to take a moment to examine the Z-theory’s relationship to the Apostles’ Creed. Of course this is not comprehensive. This is a verbal sketch.

We can see along the top: I believe in God. It expands upon what this means: the Father (compassion, love, concern, care); Almighty (the Ultimate, all-powerful, over all, in all, through all things, the Supreme); creator of heaven and earth (the source, the infinite unfathomable ground zero).

We see the downward section: I believe in Jesus Christ. The creed expands upon what this means: the incarnation of the Ultimate; the manifestation of the Source; the Timeless revealed in Time; the unhistorical substantiated in history; the humble condescension of the All-Powerful to weakness and flesh.

Then the bottom line: I believe in the Holy Spirit. Then it expands upon what this means. It is the church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins. This is what the Spirit is. It is the incarnational condescension of the All into the all, manifesting itself in unity and harmony, love and compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation, which is in actuality the Spirit. It is not, as I have said before, something “out there”. The Spirit is love.

This is the All (top line) in (downward line) all (bottom line).

z-theory #19: otherness

This is installment 19 of the z-theory. If you want to read more, just type “z theory” in the search box at the top of this nakedpastor site and it will give you all the previous entries.

Again, I am only thinking out loud, exploring and trying my poor best to articulate my tentative discoveries. If you disagree or take offense, then simply ignore what I write. I do not claim this to be truth. However, I do claim that it has helped me understand what think is true, provided a more thorough and global insight into reality, and provided a peacefulness of mind hitherto unknown to me. So here goes another venture into this thought:

There is the reconciliation of all things into One. The All in all. There is a continuous flow where all manifestations emerge and submerge, moving in and out of what is called reality. We are all connected and all are one, and that we’ve all come from the one and being taken back into the one. It is all a continuous and timeless flow. This is echoed in much of eastern philosophy and religion, as well as mystical streams of thought in western religions and philosophies, including quantum physics.

However, a crucial and distinguishing feature of Christian theology is also the idea of separateness, or the Other. The creation story and the rest of scripture articulates the idea of God creating things separate from himself. Here is where separation, disintegration, and alienation play their part. Then it is where love, grace and forgiveness play their part. Then it is where restoration and reconciliation play their part. There is truly the other, not a phantom or imagining, but another separate being.

Although we come from one and are going to one in a continuous flow, at the same time we are the other, separate, but capable of love and being loved. This is not what I would call the action of the Spirit, for the action of the Spirit and the Spirit are one and the same. So where there is love, forgiveness and reconciliation and the manifest union of separates, the union of Others, this is in actuality the Spirit.

Z-Theory #18:

The Z-Theory continues to provide some insights. To catch up on the Z-Theory, just type it into the search box on nakedpastor and you should get all of the posts… all 17 of them! Again, I am only offering this to the discussion. I am in process with this. But I want to share this with you as it develops in my mind. So, this is what I’m gleaning from it these days:

There is a Trinitarian structure to reality. The dream that initiated all this goes as follows: First, there is the source above the rim that we cannot see but can only speculate on. Second, there is the falls, the outpouring of the source. Third, there is the rivers and tributaries from the falls. So, in keeping with this: First, there is the Unknown. Secondly there is the Made Known. Third, there is the Knowing and Being Known. I suggest that this is a basic structure of reality which gives some insight into all things. Even love: First there is the Desire. Second, there is the Consummation. Third, there is the Relationship. The same with thought. First there is the Idea. Second, there is the Articulation of the Idea. Third, there is the Appropriation of the Idea. All religions are congruent with this structure. First, there is God(s) (YHWH, Allah, Divine, Sacred, etc.). Second, the Revelation (usually deposited in a Sacred Texts). Third, the Religion. I would suggest that Christianity falls within this Trinitarian structure. So to be more specific about Christianity then: First, there is God (the mystery, the Unknown, the Wholly Other, etc.). Second, there is Christ (the revelation, incarnation, reception, etc.). Third, there is the Spirit (the community of faith, the spiritual life, the church, etc.).

I find this helpful for many reasons. But one of the main ones is how this can provide a kind of matrix for dialog between people of all kinds of faiths and non-faiths. For we can see from this Trinitarian structure that although the manifestations and all expressions are very different, they unite within a similar kind of structure.

Wine & Cheese and Z-theory




This is a picture of the wine and cheese party that John and Judith Brennan held at their house last night. We took a while just getting to know each other. Then suddenly the conversation around nakedpastor, community and the z-theory started. What a lively discussion! I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with these people who aren’t afraid to think outside the prescribed box. I was a little anxious about talking about the z-theory because I’d only written about it so far. But it was fine. We went late into the night. This morning we are heading to an art studio to do something. I’m not quite sure yet. A surprise.