Modern scholarship has overlooked many of the historical records that have been unearthed these past years and in so doing they have deprived the followers of The Way from an authentic practice of the faith. In this series I plan to rectify this oversight and help the flock come to a more mature understanding of their faith.
I was granted permission to view the originals, now in safe keeping in a jar at Billy-Bobs University and Barbecue Shack across from the Dew Drop Inn in the college town of Bent Fork, West Virginia. I want to thank Billy-Bob for this honor and also for his help in translating some of the more difficult passages. For I must say that it is all Greek to me and Billy-Bob agreed with this assessment.
The first Father i would like to speak about is the spiritual mystic and author of The Book of Bells known as Tinnitus the Obstreperous. Although we only have fragments of the original, the parts that have been preserved give us valuable insights into early mystical theology which was developing within our faith.
It is postulated that Tinnitus the Obstreperous was born into a poor family of shepherds and that he spent most of his time tending sheep and praying for directions; for his references to the sheep and to the never ending ringing of other-worldly bells seems to echo throughout his manuscript. “The incessant ringing and the never ending journey to find my peace has led me to travel far from my home with my sheep being my only guide. I once was lost and now I am simply going in circles as I think I passed this rock only a moon prior. But the ringing keeps me going and I will follow its sound and my sheep until I find its ultimate source and the blessed rest that only silence can bring. O sweet mother, what I wouldn’t do for a taste of your baklava.”
By this we understand that Tinnitus sees the spiritual journey as a pilgrim who at times seems frustrated by the arduous path and its repetitiveness. The only constant is that we know our sheep are with us and though they think they are following us, it is actually we who are following them which can at times lead to great confusion. But if we listen to that clarion call of the bell we will not go too far astray and we seek the silence and rest that only comes by following this heavenly call. Note that Tinnitus the Obstreperous has found the rock twice during his travels and that this is a sign that he is on the right path and the circle of life corresponds with the circles of his travels. Some have thought that his reference to the moon may have something to do with the fact that his spiritual travels are at night and that he may have been undergoing a radical transformation during his spiritual dark night.
There is also conjecture that this may be the beginning of Marian devotion: note the reference to his Sweet Mother. She is invoked for even a small taste of her sweetness and it is interesting to note that the sweetness that he is begging for is her magnificent baklava. Now as we all know, baklava is made with fine flour dough, nuts and the sweetest honey. There is some thought here that the dough represents the saved people and the nuts are those who think they are already saved while the honey gives sweetness to the whole as we try to incorporate the nuts with the dough without undue violence. In this way the appetites are quenched and a new awareness is acquired among the faithful; as represented in the baklava itself.
As I am trying to keep this short I will only invoke one more passage from Tinnitus that is of particular interest. He goes on to say: “I have put mud in my ear and sheep dung to no avail. But should I come to a cliff and find the Oceans roar below, I feel compelled to throw myself headlong into its vastness and finally find peace from this constant bleating whilst my sorrows turn to joy; for I am eternally reminded of my mothers fish stew. May she find me safe upon the shore lest I dash my head against a stone. Should this fail, my fate is settled; for I once again must gather my sheep together and continue my quest for relief amongst these barren rocks and incessant bells.”
Although early scholarship had attributed the phrase “hell’s bells” to Tinnitus it is now widely believed that this is not the case. The latest thinking is that Tinnitus was trying to fill his ears with mud and dung only to see if these bells were from a divine source or if they came from the powers of evil. Knowing now that it was from God and not from the powers of the evil one, he was sure that the bells were calling him to jump into the vast ocean of God and to merge there with him in peace. This, it is thought, was the message of the bells. This is where all sorrow turns to joy and where he can eternally eat of the Sweet Mother’s fish stew: which is a metaphor for the everlasting food of Christians. But danger is there to the last as Tinnitus the Obstreperous reminds us; as we can still dash our heads against a stone and be transported back onto our earthly journey . . . dazed and confused. But Tinnitus also reminds us that the quest never ends even if we should hit a bump on the road or receive a bump to the head. We must gather our flock and continue until we find that Ocean and find the source of the rocks and the everlasting bells that keep driving us on.
The next time, among several others, we will investigate the teachings of Dyspepsia the Hermit.