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Reading Notes 5.5.18 (The Powers That Be/The Traveler, The Tower, & The Worm)

Resource: The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium by Walter Wink
Section covered: Chapter 1 (Pages 15-22)
Theme(s): A typology of worldviews


On the nature of the ancient worldview:

“This is the worldview reflected in the bible. In this conception, everything earthly has its heavenly counterpart, and everything heavenly has its earthly counterpart. Every event is thus a combination of both dimensions of reality. If war begins on earth, then there must be, at the same time, war in heaven between the angels of the nations in the heavenly council. Likewise, events initiated in heaven are mirrored on earth. This is a symbolic way of saying that every material reality has a spiritual dimension, and every spiritual reality has physical consequences. There can be no event or entity that does not consist, simultaneously, of the visible and the invisible.”

On the nature of the spiritualist worldview:

“In the second century C.E., a new worldview emerged, one that radically challenged the Judeo-Christian notion that the creation is basically good. In this worldview, creation was the fall. Spirit is good, matter is evil. The world is a prison into which spirits have fallen from the good heaven. Having become trapped in bodies, these spirits become subject to the deformed and ignorant powers that rule the world of matter. Consequently, sex, the body, and earthly, life in general were considered evil. The religious task was to rescue one’s spirit from the flesh and these Powers and regain that spiritual realm from which one has fallen….the spiritualist worldview is also reflected in those forms of Christian faith that place all the emphasis on getting to heaven when one leaves this ‘vale of tears.'”

On the nature of the materialist worldview:

“This view became prominent during the Enlightenment, but is as old as Democritus (who died about 370 B.C.E.). In many ways it is the antithesis of the world-rejection of spiritualism. The materialist view claims that there is no heaven, no spiritual world, no God, no soul; nothing but what can be known through the five sense and reason. The spiritual world is an illusion. There is no higher self; we are mere complexes of matter, and when we die we cease to exist except as the chemicals and atoms that once constituted us. Matter is ultimate….This materialistic worldview has penetrated deeply even into many religious persons, causing them to ignore the spiritual dimensions of systems or the spiritual resources of faith.”

On the nature of the theological worldview:

“In reaction to materialism, theologians created or postulated a supernatural realm. Acknowledging that the higher realm could not be known by the sense, they conceded earthly reality to science and preserved a privileged “spiritual” realm immune to confirmation or refutation. The materialists were only too glad to concede to the theologians the “heavenly” realm, since they did not believe it existed anyway. The slogan that many clergy were taught in seminaries was “Science tells us how the world was created, religion tells us why.” This means splitting reality into two and hermetically sealing off theology from the discoveries of science and science from the wisdom of theology.”

On the integral worldview:

“This integral view of reality sees everything as having an outer and an inner aspect: Heaven and earth are seen here as the inner and outer aspects of a single reality. This integral worldview affirms spirit at the core of every created thing. But this inner spiritual reality is inextricably related to an outer form or physical manifestation. This new worldview takes seriously all the aspects of the ancient worldview, but combines them in a different way. Both worldviews use spatial imagery….The integral worldview reconceives that spatial metaphor not as “up” but “within.” In this worldview, soul permeates the universe.”

On panentheistic presence of God:

“God is not just within me, but within everything. The universe is suffused with the divine. This is not pantheism, where everything is God, but panentheism (pan, everything; en, in; theos, God), where everything is in God and God in everything. Spirit is at the heart of everything, and all creatures are potential revealers of God. This integral worldview is no more essentially “religious” than the ancient worldview, but I believe it makes the biblical data more intelligible for people today than any other available worldview, the ancient one included.”

On the power of worldviews and our power to choose:

“Worldviews determine what we are allowed to believe about the world. Most of us have chunks of each of these worldviews in our psyches…we may be the first generation in the history of the world that can make a conscious choice between these worldviews. We can decided which worldview best describes the world as we encounter it, whether we still want to be controlled by the others.”


The ancient worldview is captured by the “as above, so below” occult principle. What is good or true in the heavens is good and true on the earth and vice versa.

The spiritualist view is based on the rejection of matter as evil. The goal of life is to be rise above or be rescued from the body.

The materialist world view is based on the rejection of spirit as nonsensical. Physical things and the laws that govern them are all that exists.

The theological worldview is similar to the ancient worldview except that it’s formed out of a reaction to materialism. Accepting scientific materialism as the proper approach to the physical world, it posits the existence of a separate supernatural world that science doesn’t tell us anything about. The physical world belongs to science while the supernatural world belongs to theology.

The integral worldview is partly a return to the ancient worldview, but instead of placing the realm of spirit above the physical world, it places it at the core of the physical world. The spirit, then, is imminent rather than transcendent. God is manifest through all things. This is called panentheism.”

I’m curious about Wink’s claim that we’re the first generation to be able to choose our worldview. I certaintly get how it’s far more common for our generation to interact with people from other cultures who have different worldviews, but I’d like to hear some sort of elaboration on why he thinks prior generations couldn’t do this. I get why it’s harder, but not why it would be impossible.

Resource: The Traveler, the Tower, and the Worm by Alberto Manguel
Section covered: Chapter 1 (Pages 15-20)
Theme(s): Reading as travel


On reading as travel:

“We advance through the text as we advance through the world, passing from the first page to the last through the unfolding landscape, sometimes starting in midchapter, sometimes not reaching the end. The intellectual experience of crossing the pages as we read becomes a physical experience, calling into action the entire body: hands turning the pages or fingers scrolling the text, legs lending support to the receptive body, eyes scanning for meaning, ears tuned to the sound of the words in our head. The pages to come promise a point of arrival, a glimmer on the horizon; the pages already read allow for the possibility of recollection. And in the present of the text we exist suspended in a constantly changing moment, an island of time shimmering between what we know of the text and what lies ahead. Every reader is an armchair Crusoe.”

“The experience of reading and the experience of journeying through life mirror one another.”


Reading is a physical act that makes use of the entire body.

Traversing a book has many features in common with traversing life.

Perhaps we can learn to be better readers by applying some of the strategies that aid us in our life journey. And perhaps we can become better at living overall by applying some of the approaches that aid us in our reading journey. If the journey through life mirrors the journey through a book, then maybe this is also true of the tools and techniques that help us through those journeys.

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