Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Liberating Dance.
The image of the dance seems to be central to all cultures. The dancer in some way breaks free from the gravity that weighs the body down, and makes it inert. The dancer crosses over boundaries, and steps over obstacles. This movement reveals the working of Grace, that which liberates the creature from the inertia of the world and its cares. The image of the dance is closely related to an understanding of what 'liberation' is all about. It is a "pass over" to another world, a stepping across from darkness into light. The Biblical psalmist speaks of leaping forth in joy, of being delivered from the deeps of inner turmoil and suffering. Life emerges from the primal waters, like the lotus stem that comes up from the dark and muddy depths of a pool, to reach for light, and blossom above the waters. In the Christian tradition, the Risen Christ first descends into the underworld, in order to liberate all those who have died. This is called the 'Anastasis', and is represented in Christian iconography as a kind of dance. The Risen Lord steps over the waters of death, he passes over the encircling streams of life to reach the "further shore". These are all poetic images which describe a spiritual process of transformation. In the same way the 'Lord of the Dance' or 'Nataraja' in the Shaivite tradition, is the Creator who is both a giver of life, but also a destroyer of all that stops us from being set free. He carries the fire of destruction and transformation, while at the same time assuring his disciples that they should not fear, and beating the drum of the rhythms of the Cosmos. As he dances he steps across the demon of darkness and blindness, showing the way to a new life.