Monday, April 14, 2014

Of timeless themes...          

‘Books have always been an important part of my life—from my earliest
 memory, I was always the omnivorous reader, the kid with the
 flashlight under the sheets at night…’                         - Art Katz, 1974

Among his library of thousands of books, essays, pamphlets, etc., are the works of many writers—well-known and obscure—on a variety of timeless themes. They include a choice few with his marginal notes and highlighted phrases and passages made during his years of travels and in quiet moments of study, contemplation…and wonder.


Katz first picked up a used copy of philosopher Blaise Pascal's The Pensees, or Thoughts, apparently when transiting Egypt, Morocco, possibly Tunis, or even London or Paris while on his epic fourteen-month travels during 1963-64 through North Africa and Europe. (A stamped inscription at the bottom of the inside title page shows a brief notation in farsi with "Shady Bookshop" and a five-digit telephone number. Presumably, it is where he bought the book for the listed three shillings and six-pence.)
   The time of purchase can be fixed due to some of his numerous highlight marks and emphases on numerous pages - AND his rhetorical questions and marginal comments about the existence of God, Jesus, etc., in the present tense!
    In a chapter entitled "Proofs of Jesus Christ", is the statement:

    "No one is as happy as a true Christian, nor as reasonable, virtuous, and lovable." Katz wrote in the margin: "Mary, Edwin, Gustaffson, etc." in obvious reference to three people whom he met during two weeks in August while hitchhiking through Switzerland - Mary, the young Methodist co-ed from Kansas, vacationing in Zurich, exhibiting her inspiring, simple faith in God; Edwin, the urbane businessman driving to Schaffhausen who picked him up and spent several hours, guiding him about the city, riveting him with the initial exclamation: "You're Jewish! How marvelous!" Helmut Gutaffson encountered the exhausted Katz at a bus in Locarno and took him to his small flat where he, his wife and their small baby spent the night in a cramped bedroom so that Katz could sleep comfortably in a room by himself. They had fed him profusely that night and the next morning, answering his eager questions about their hospitality and visible yet unpretentious faith to their guest that it is "the Christian way" before he resumed his travels.

Other quotes from Pascal's book with accompanying margin comments by Katz (in italics), include:
"...Jesus tears himself away from His disciples to enter upon His agony; we must tear ourselves fom our closest and most intimate friends to imitate Him."
Let the dead bury the dead, etc.

"...Jesus is alone on earth, with no one to feel or share His pain, or even to know it..."
The human or existentialist condition.

"...True conversion consists in self-annihilation before that Universal Being whom we have so often provoked, and who has reason to destroy us every hour; in recognizing that we can do nothing without Him, and have deserved nothing from Him but His displeasure. It consists in recognizing that there is an invincible opposition between God and ourselves, and that without a mediator we can nave no communion with Him." (AK's underline)
Tough to take.

"...The law imposed what it did not give. Grace gives what it imposes."
? (AK's question mark)

"...This is what I see, and what troubles me. I look around me in all directions, and see nothing but darkness everywhere. Nature offers me nothing that is not a matter of doubt and disquiet. If I saw no sign of a God there, I should decide against Him. If I saw signs of a Creator everywhere, I should believe and be at peace. But seeing too much evidence against, and too little that is favorable, I am in a pitiable state. A hundred times I have wished that, if nature is sustained by a God, she would unequivocally declare it, and that if the signs she gives of him are fallacious she would suppress them altogether. I would have her say all or nothing, so that I might see which side I ought to take. Whereas now, in my present state, not knowing what I am and what I ought to do, I understand neither myself nor my duty. My heart is wholly bent on discovering where the true good lies, so that I may follow it; there is no price that I would not pay for eternity
    "I envy those whom I see living in faith so unconcernedly, and making such poor use of a gift that I believe I should employ so differently."
Might be my own confession.

"...True Christians comply with the world's follies, nevertheless, not because they respect them, but out of compliance with the divine command which, as a punishment for men, has made them subject to these follies: For the creature was made subject to vanity. He shall be delivered. This is how St. Thomas explains the passage in St. James (2.1) on giving a good place to the rich, that if men fail to do this in God's sight, they violate the commandments of religion."
God sanctions the status quo? Revolutions breed worse evils than those they replace?

"...We know ourselves so little that many think they are about to die when they are quite well; and many think they are quite well when, unconscious of the impending fever or the ulcer about to form, they are close to death."

"(Men) imagine that if they were to gain a certain office they would then be glad to rest; they do not understand the insatiable nature of their desires. They believe that they are honestly looking for rest, but all they are really looking for is excitement."
Absolutely contemporary.

"He no longer loves the woman he loved ten years ago I can believe it; she is not the same person, neither is he. He was young, and so was she; now she is quite different. Perhaps he would still love her if she were as she was then."
✓✓ (AK's)

"[What a monster then is man! How strange and chimerical, what a chaos, what a bundle of contradictions, what a prodigy! A judge of all things, a feeble earthworm; a depository of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error, the pride and refuse of the universe.]
"Who will unravel this tangle? Nature confounds the skeptics, and the reason confounds the dogmatists. What will become of you then, you who try to find out by your natural reason what your true condition is? You cannot avoid one of these sects, or adhere to one of them.
"(Acknowledge then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Impotent reason, bow down! Foolish nature, be silent! Learn that man infinitely transcends man, and hear from your master your true condition which is unnown to you. Listen to God...")
AK's large parantheses, brackets and exaggerated asterisk beside the entire passage.

Finally, on a page opposite the inside back-cover, Katz wrote mysteriously if not experimentally:

"I am moving from a horizontal universality to a vertical perpetuity.

"1. Buying a painting-by-the-numbers already completed at the factory.
"2. Buying a painting-by-the-numbers in which you fill it in yourself.
"3. An entirely free, anxiety-ridden, creation painting in which you provide the form."

- Copyright, J.M. Cohen (Penguin Books Inc., Baltimore, Maryland), 1961

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Of timeless themes...          

‘Books have always been an important part of my life—from my earliest
 memory, I was always the omnivorous reader, the kid with the
 flashlight under the sheets at night…’       - Art Katz, 1974

Among his library of thousands of books, essays, pamphlets, etc., are the works of many writers—well-known and obscure—on a variety of timeless themes. They include a choice few with his marginal notes and highlighted phrases and passages made during his years of travels and in quiet moments of study, contemplation…and wonder.

June 26, 1984

Dear Arthur:

   Thank you for your kind letter of June 20. It seems clear that our blessed Lord is stripping down so many of His servants to prepare them for the very difficult times ahead.
   T. Austin-Sparks said, "God permits a crisis in the lives of His servants, so severe, that information will no longer suffice - and only a revelation will do." After revelation comes the hardest part; it is when God puts us to the supreme test, which usually includes an hour of darkness and despair like none other ever experienced. Still, I have never known anyone with true depth who did not come to that place except through suffering and pain.
   I have heard of our Lord's hiding "of your person and ministry in your remote area. All I can say to you is what Ravenhill said to me - "Hide thyself - show thyself."
   I am sending a book by J.B. Stoney. If you like Stoney, I will send you free of charge his entire 13 volumes.

Your servant in Christ,
David Wilkerson

Acquaintance With Christ (1892)*

"I am the good shepherd; and I know those that are mine, and am known of those that are mine..."
- John 10.14 

   '...What kind of knowledge is it? I answer, It is the same kind of knowledge (I do not say the same measure, but the same character of knowledge) that there is between the Father and the Son.'
   '...He (the man born blind who was healed at the pool of Siloam) had received his sight, and everyone knew of it, and as a consequence of his faithfulness in owning the work of Christ, he was cast out; every circle of society refused him - his neighbours, the social circle; the Pharisees, the religious circle; his parents, the domestic circle, disowned him; and the nation eventually put him out; he is outside of the fold. He was once in the solitude of darkness, and we all have known that solitude; but now he is outside everything of man; and would to God that everyone in this room knew of that solitude...' (p.327)

   '...(B)ecause it is always the case, the greater the height, the greater the fall. If an enlightened Christian falls, he has a more grievous fall than an ignorant one. ...(N)othing has contributed more to the present distraction of saints than the lack of personal intercourse with the Lord. There has been a great and an increased zeal to acquire knowledge of the Scriptures, but personal acquaintance with the Lord has not been correspondingly sought after. You will find, I trust, that as you become acquainted with the word, you are better acquainted with the Lord, because you desire to know Himself. Paul writes to the Philippians, thirty years after his conversion (as far as I count); "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." After thirty years, his chief desire and study is to know Christ. It is an important saying, that 'Man's words explain his mind, but you must know God's mind in order to understand his words.' (p.328-329)

   '...(Y)ou will find that you do not really make acquaintance with the Lord, until you are apart from all which He has removed; that is, in reality you have not learned the completeness of his service.' (p.332)

From MINISTRY, Volume 1, by J.B. Stoney (Kingston Bible Trust, Sussex, England)   


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

'Do you see the law of prophetic function?'
From T. Austin Sparks’ Prophetic Ministry: Conference Messages*

‘Prophecy is spiritual interpretation… It is the
interpretation of everything from a spiritual
T. Austin Sparks (right) and
 Ni To-sheng (Watchman Nee)
standpoint; the bringing of the spiritual implications of things past, present and future, before the people of God, and giving them to understand the significance of things in their spiritual value and meaning. That was and is the essence of prophetic ministry.
            ‘…The prophets arose as a reaction from God to the course and drift of things amongst His people; a call back, a re-declaration, a re-pronouncement of God’s mind, a bringing into clear view again of the thoughts of God. The prophets stood in the midst of the stream—usually a fast-rushing stream—like a rock; the course of things broke over them. They challenged and resisted the course, and their presence in the midst of the stream represented God’s mind as against the prevailing course of things…
            ‘Here is the thing to which the prophetic ministry all-inclusively relates—the original and ultimate purpose of God in and through His people; and when you have said that, you have got right to the heart of things. We ask again, What is the prophetic ministry, what is the prophetic function, to what does it relate?—and the answer all-inclusively is that it relates to the full, original and ultimate purpose of God in and through His people. …To interpret the mind of God in all matters concerning the purpose of God, to bring all details into line with the purpose, and to make the purpose govern everything…
            ‘(T)he prophetic ministry is an enlightened ministry, and is that which, under the anointing, is to bring things back to the position of absolute safety and security because it is true to Divine principle…
            ‘Prophets were not men who accommodated themselves to anything that was comparative in its goodness. They never let themselves go wholly if the thing was only comparatively good… The prophet cannot accept as full and final what is only comparative, though he rejoices in the measure of good that there may be anywhere.
            ‘A man is called to represent the thoughts of God, to represent them in what he is, not in something that he takes up as a form or line of ministry, not in something that he does. The vessel itself is the ministry…
            ‘The prophet must bring it home by his own experience. God is working the thing right in. He works it in deep and terrible ways in the life of His servant to produce the ministry.
            ‘The vessel thus wrought upon, is the message. People do not come to hear what you have to teach. They have come to see what you are. To see that thing which has been wrought by God. What a price the prophetic instrument has to pay!...
            ‘He takes that vessel through a deep history, breaking and undoing, disillusioning, revolutionizing the whole mentality, so that the things which were held fiercely, assertively, are no longer so held… Everything that was merely objective as to the work of God, as to Divine truth, as to orthodoxy or fundamentalism; all that was held so strongly, in an objective, legalistic way, as to what is right and wrong in methods—it is all dealt with, all broken. There is a new conception entirely, a new outlook upon things; no longer a formal system, something outside you which you take up, but something wrought in an inward way in the vessel It is what the vessel is that is its ministry…
            ‘Do you see the law of prophetic function? It is that God keeps anointed vessels abreast of the truth by experience. Every bit of truth that they give out in word is something that has had a history. They went down into the depths and they were saved by that truth. It was their life and therefore it is a part of them…
            ‘We are better fitted to serve the Lord’s purpose, we are truer prophets, when we can bear with the things with which we do not agree, than when in our zeal we are iconoclast, and seek only to destroy the offending thing…
            ‘The point is this—that there is a voice in the prophets which may be missed, a meaning which may not be apprehended, and the results may be disastrous for the people concerned. … (M)en who were the eyes of God for a people, and signifying to that people God’s thought and purpose concerning them, their Divine vocation, God’s interpretation of their very existence—these prophets who embodied that are all brought into the New Testament dispensation and into the Church, with this clear implication that that is how the Church is to be if it is to get through. The Church is to be a seeing thing, dominated by a specific object and vision, knowing why it exists, having no doubt about it, and poised in utter abandonment thereto, bringing all other things in life into line with that…’ ”

*Witness and Testimony Publishers, London (1954)