Friday, January 14, 2005

HEALING POWER of Stories: Online Seminar

Healing Power of Stories, online course
Part Two: February 7-25, 2005
Facilitator: Rev. Canon Marlin Whitmer12.0 contact hours

This is a two part online seminar led by the Rev. Canon Marlin Whitmer that will take the stories you hear as a basis for reflecting on metaphors and metaphorical patterns. Also through the metaphors and metaphorical patterns, connections will be identified between the Biblical stories and one's own stories. This learning experience will relate these fundamentals of language and Word to pastoral care and health care. Both are grounded on listening, language, and metaphor as health care moves out into the community with chronic illness overshadowing acute care.This seminar provides the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary collaborative learning experience. Using email, members of the seminar group explore the issues of common language by reflecting on presented material in light of their own experience and context. Through this process the group benefits by learning from one another as well as from the presentations.

Learning Objectives

Note from Paschal: I have taken this course and recommend it. 4 1/2 stars. ****+

STORY TELLING Resurgence of interest among Business leaders

Storytelling: Passport to Success in the 21st Century
Why is there a resurgence of interest among today's business and organizational leaders in the ancient art of storytelling at a time when electronic communications might seem to make it obsolete? Human beings have been communicating with each other through storytelling since we lived in caves and sat around campfires exchanging tales. What is new today about the art of telling stories is the purposeful use of narrative to achieve a practical outcome with an individual, a community, or an organization. Four of the world's leading thinkers on knowledge management explore how storytelling will become the key ingredient to managing communications, education, training, and innovation in the 21st century.
Continue at

see also there
The Story Teller as the Agent for Change (more)
Subject areas:
Springboard stories that enable individuals to make a leap in understanding how an organization, a community, or a complex system can change. How and why storytelling works, what sort of stories work, and what is involved in being a storyteller. Seminar coordinator Steve Denning, former program director, Knowledge Management, at the World Bank, author of The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations. Storytelling: The art of the springboard story. Springboard stories that enable individuals to make a leap in understanding how an organization, a community, or a complex system can change. How and why storytelling works, what sort of stories work, and what is involved in being a storyteller. Seminar coordinator Stephen Denning, program director, Knowledge Management, at the World Bank, author of
The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations
So there is a whole set of materials on storytelling on my website at which explains some of the background and points to other resources on storytelling
More see

Monday, January 10, 2005

A THEOLOGY OF STORY. Dark Interval, by John Dominic Crossen, notes

People are fond of discussing two types of religion, historical and mythical, and of asserting that Judaism and Christianity are in the former category because they link their claims to the objective reality of certain key events.

Maybe the time has come to retire this distinction as irrelevant and replace it with another.
The more useful distinction might be between mythical religion that gives the final word about "reality" and thereby excludes the authentic experience of mystery, and parabolic religion, a religion that continually and deliberately subverts final words about ‘reality’ and thereby introduces the possibility of transcendence.
From The Dark Interval. A Theology of Story, by John Dominic Crossen. p. 105.
Question: Which do we prefer, comfort or courage? It may be necessary to make a choice for our faith journey. Do we prefer certainty or adventure?

My response is that this may not be a free choice. Those whose temperament prefers security and predictability want answers. They are un-nerved by ambiguity and non-finality. Those whose temperament prefer adventure and seeking are drawn and those willing to be wondrous in the presence of the Indeterminant, the Hidden, the Unspeakable. I have two articles on these types, relating them to 1) temperament differences that are inherent and stable and 2) to preferred images of God and psychological maturity. Both of these articles can be found at the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky website, under Articles by Paschal Baute.

Discussion: What kind of religion do you prefer? Which of the two kinds are from man and which from God?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Prince and the Magician. . .

Once upon a time there was a young prince who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father, the king, told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father's domains, and no sign of God, the prince believed his father.

But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace and came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore.

"Are those real islands?" asked the young prince.
"Of course they are real islands," said the man in evening dress.
"And those strange and troubling creatures?"
"They are all genuine and authentic princesses."
"Then God must also exist!" cried the prince.
"I am God," replied the man in evening dress, with a bow.
The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.
"So, you are back," said his father, the king.
"I have seen islands, I have seen princesses, I have seen God,"said the prince reproachfully.

The king was unmoved.
"Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God exist."
"I saw them!"
"Tell me how God was dressed."
"God was in full evening dress."
"Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?"
The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled.
"That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived."

At this, the prince returned to the next land and went to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.

"My father, the king, has told me who you are,," said the prince indignantly. "You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands or real princesses, because you are a magician."

The man on the shore smiled.

"It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father's kingdom, there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father's spell, so you cannot see them."
The prince pensively returned home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eye.
"Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but only a magician?"
The king smiled and rolled back his sleeves.
"Yes, my son, I'm only a magician.
"Then the man on the other shore was God."
"The man on the other shore was another magician."
"I must know the truth, the truth beyond magic.

"There is no truth beyond magic," said the king.
The prince was full of sadness, He said, "I will kill myself,"
The king by magic caused death to appear.
Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered, He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.

"Very well." he said, "I can bear it."'
"You see, my son" said the king, "you, too, now begin to be a magician."

From The Magus, by John Fowles,
Dell Publishing Co., Inc pp. 499-500.

Meditation: Pick only one of these questions, possibly the most challenging to you today:

1. What kind of trances are we still under from being raised the way we were? E.g. Denial about the nature of real relationship? (princesses, the divine poetry of the erotic, how love can create or destroy, the power of friendships and sharing, the importance of feelings, etc.)

Possibly some illusions about the real world (islands, our faith, country or church or
way of life being superior, when we hardly know how others live at all, and
nothing of their values), myths about the mystery we call God, (all those creeds
and truths we were expected to believe in order to be saved or simply "good"
Christians. . .which seldom relate to our real lives. . .?

2. Is there "magic" that blinds and the magic that enables vision? How shall we discover our own souls, our own "magic"? Instead of someone else’s magic for us?

3. Are both princes and princesses limited by the "previous" magic? Can we recognize more fully the "old magic" as magic, let go of it, and begin to create a new magic?

4. Have some "blinders" already come off your eyes? Any from your life
or work so far?

5. Take another long thoughtful walk today or tomorrow thinking about all the blinders we have all received, and how it would be to be free of these to discover a new and fuller life and self.

6. Is the possible that this mystery we call God invites us to break all molds and discover something very original about ourselves?

7. Have we yet decided to become our own magician, hopefully with the help of this mystery we call "God."

Namaste. Paschal Baute, 10/21/99

"Inquiry is fatal to certainty."
- Will Durant (1885-1981)

It is the Story that Counts

One of our problems today is that our theology has become so focussed on words, that it has largely betrayed the power of the Word (in its original Aramaic, dabbar, meaning creative energy), as Matthew Fox noted.

In our attempts to reach a rational understanding of mystery, we have often lost sight of the story which sustains and nourishes theological discourse. We have neglected the story as story with the result that over centuries we have turned stories into ideological statements, giving literal meaning to something that was never meant to be taken literally. We have forgotten that story is the most dynamic and versatile tool available to us humans for the discovery of meaning and mystery.

Norman O. Brown once claimed that meaning is not in things but in between, It’s not in the events, nor in objects, nor even in proven discoveries that ultimate truth lies, but in the process of searching, seeking, experimenting, and discovering.

Over time, teachings taken from stories, parables and lives have assumed the ideological proportions of dogma and Right Teaching. Then stories that invited wonder and awe and insight, initially offering hope, new life and liberation became millstones, burdens that no longer inspire but instead stifle and stultify.

All the major religions today, --and theology in general -- suffer from narrative starvation and privation. Even when the original myths are still narrated, they are so couched in rationalistic, legalistic or devotional framings that inhibit and even prevent the story from being dynamically retold in today’s context.

The entire bible , as well as the sacred texts of other wisdom traditions, is primarily a story, and not a record of facts and events. In a faith context, what brings meaning and integration to experience, facts are secondary, always secondary. . "It is the story (and not the facts) tha grips the imagination, impregnates the heart, and animates the spirit from within, empowering. Jesus did not preach in any formal sense, nor did he theologize, nor attempt to establish anything like what we have today as church.

Jesus told stories, the best remembered of these being parables, some 39. These have an archetypal, primordial significance: They are not just ordinary stories. In fact, there is no such thing as an "ordinary" story, because none of us are ordinary. The parables belong to a vein of prophetic discourse aiming to disturb and challenge the hearers, and to motivate them to move into a very different way of envisioning the world and themselves.

Bausch (1984) delineates the marks of the New Testament parables. They uncover:

Our competitiveness and envy & invite us to brotherhood and sisterhood instead.
Our wrong centering and invite us to a right centering
Our need to hoard and exclude and invite us to share and include.
Our assumptions and challenge us to turn them around
Our timidity and invite us to risk all for the sake of God’s Reign
Our self-centered despair and distrust and invite us to hope.

What is the role of Church in all of this? Jesus showed little concern for church and no concern whatever for its organization, as "church" is mentioned only once in the four Gospels, in a single text whose historicity is doubtful. Church is meant, we suggest, to be the community that continues the stories, both the servant and the herald of the exciting news of the New Reign of God in the world now. The main function of church is create and nourish disciples who are empowered to renew the world. We do that by gathering the people and telling the stories that proclaim the Good News. All else is secondary. That includes ritual, tradition, orthodoxy, and canon law.

Most Christian churches today have betrayed the reason for their existence. The major crisis facing many churches is not the drop in numbers, failure to organize, insufficient programs, shortage of ordained clergy, or lack of financial support. The major problem is that they have lost touch with the Reign of God agenda, that is, they no longer tell the stories in a way that speaks to the modern heart and mind, in a way that can create disciples. Churches, I suggest, have lost their souls. They have forgotten that the Spirit calls each one from within, singularly, usually by a story or sharing often through some personal crisis. The institutional churches instead try to fit people into ideologies, rituals, programs, traditions, or literal interpretations with no understanding that context influences everything. Most churches today are inward looking, concerned with what is deemed necessary for their survival, and sometimes or too frequently what is necessary for the survival of the current power structures.

So far astray are most churches that any group that meets in order to tell the stories, even to tell their own stories, in a setting where personal faith is valued, is likely to be more engaged spiritually, more encouraged, more accepted, more deeply moved, more vulnerable, with more incentive to personal change than in an hour of preaching or Eucharistic celebration. For example, there is often more spirituality in a 12th step AA meeting than occurs in most religious services. (Note: This is what we have been doing in The Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky for 15+ years, see web site

Without vulnerability, personal change is unlikely. "Church" or the realization of the Reign of God already amongst us, happens whenever there is this kind of vulnerable sharing, this kind of listening to the uniqueness of Another’s journey. Whenever we respond to each other in a caring way, "ministry" happens, inadvertent ministry, the priestliness of us all is affirmed, and the Story of this mystery we call Emmanuel is implicitly recognized and welcomed. And we are continuing the stories...Note here that hospitality to the Stranger is one of the most common threads of all Wisdom traditions.

In order for people to authenticate their journey, they need a sacred and safe space in which to tell their stories, and to ask all sorts of questions concerning their journeys. We introduce you today to a method or technique that allows each to do this, at their own pace, with respect for the individual and in a manner that helps create community among the participants. Story, or parable, as Jesus used it, allows each person to respond from within. It is also a way of hiding the truth from those who are not ready for it.

Now I will tell you a story, perhaps even some stories . . .
Give you some questions about it,
and ask you to share in small groups.
You will learn this process,
and can lead it elsewhere
when you are ready.

"When the student is ready
the teacher will appear."
Zen saying.

Presentation to a church conference in 2000, by Paschal Baute