BEING ONE YET MANY

Christ’s fiery touch at Pentecost

brought our souls and the Church alive.

Christ’s touch separates us from others

and yet binds us to them

so that at the same time each Christian

is a hermit and the whole Church.

 

The challenge for us is to be one and many

as symbolized in the three-in-one Trinity:

Father/Son/Holy Spirit are all distinct yet one –

so we must be united to all and yet our self.

Nature can help us imagine this –

since it is a ‘process’ – a flowing whole movement

of interconnected organisms

not a series of independent mechanisms.

 

In Zen, spirit and matter are one not separate

and so it flumoxed Francis Xavier

that Zen Master Minsitshu

was not convinced he had a ‘soul’

as an object one can ‘have’ and ‘save.’

 

Xavier’s goal was to save Minsitshu

but we should have goals only for our self

not expectations for others, since this means

asking them to live up to our own self-centered ideals.

 

Being one yet many and having no goals/expectations

for others – loving them as they are

not as we want them to be – challenges us in relationships

particularly marriage, the most intimate of all relationships –

where we are called to be one with our partner yet our self.

 

Being one yet many also challenges us spiritually:

to be one with God yet not God –

wisdom has two basic tenets:

there is a God and

you are not God.

 

“Spiritual challenges can be overcome

by more prayer/meditation/self-examination/

penance/patience in desolation/

and humility in consolation.”

– Ignatius of Loyola

SOLIDARITY

 The modern-day Apostle Paul Tillich warned

that a culture dominated by religion

stagnates/becomes monolithic uniformity/

loses the dynamism of pluralism/

degenerates morally into legalistic conformity/

ironically loses its inner Spirit.

 

Most nation-states form their solidarity around a religion

but America has always been religiously pluralistic –

therefore, the Founding Fathers

wisely built solidarity not on religion

but on self-evident truths.

 

Humanists are always concerned

that belief in God limits human freedom

and creates apathy to life on Earth.

However, this is misguided thinking:

belief in God does not block freedom and dignity

because God is the Source

of freedom and dignity.

 

Also, believing in our future union with God

does not block our discharging present responsibilities –

God wants us rooted and perfected in God

which provides both stability and motivation to act now.

 

Theism naturally gives birth to the idea of resurrection

and a spiritualized and transcendent view of the self

which humanism completely misses

making humanists ironically unable to really help humans

since real humanness involves divinization –

being filled to overflowing with God and God’s love

so your love flows out to all sentient beings.

 

Mystics always find a God who does not

judge/compare/differentiate/compete – since all these block love.

Our minds are meant to be like God’s:

all-embracing, all-loving receptors and givers.

 

The Apostle John spoke of Jesus as the revelation

of our solidarity with God/ourselves/others on a local scale.

The Apostle Paul spoke of Christ revealing unity on a cosmic scale:

“Through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile all things

to God whether in Heaven or on Earth” (Colossians 1:20)

so that “God may be All in All” (I Corinthians 5:28).

SCIENCE AND THE TRUE SELF

The rise of science in the Renaissance and Enlightenment

freed people from religious authority. Science replaced God –

there was no need for the “God hypothesis”

to explain how things worked.

 

Today, theology and our everyday minds

continue to be challenged by a universe

in which every second millions of tons of matter

convert to light-energy, black holes

empty space bristles with dark matter and dark energy

about which we know nothing.

 

Meanwhile, Christianity back then and today

held that its Lord and Master, Jesus the Christ

is the focal point/key/goal of all human history

and even the history of the universe.

 

In early Christianity, mystical experience

was at the center of all theology –

prayer/theology/catechesis were all one.

But today people want spiritual experience

divorced from religion seen as dogma

because Christianity, challenged by science

focused on doctrine not on experience.

 

Unfortunately, Christianity throughout its history

has been far more interested in the Moral Self

as the measure of everything, and so has lost

the Absolute Measure of the True Self.

The False Self, the Ego, is happy

that believers in God usually deny

we all are already God’s beloved children

which gives the Ego nothing to strive for

and feel superior about

and so, even though God calls all of us

our Egos allow very few to be chosen.

 

A focus on the Moral Self means that

abnormal guilt has become a normal part of life –

fear of what others think drives us

we always want to be seen as pure – the good girl/boy

which is appropriate for childhood

but adults need to integrate their Shadow and stand against

their internalized shoulds/should nots as the voice of God

otherwise the True Self has no voice in our scientific age.

LEARNING TO TRULY SEE

Science sprang from the heart of the Christian west

not from Greek philosophy or eastern religion –

Judaism always maintained the world was orderly and rational

and patristic writers like Augustine

encouraged study of the natural world.

Since science started, many priests have made

significant scientific discoveries in biology/botany/cosmology.

 

This is because God is fundamentally relational in nature

and interacts with the Creation

as subject to subject

not subject to object.

 

Without God, humans remain a puzzle to themselves

particularly when life’s major events prompt self-questioning like

“Where did I come from?”/ “why am I here?”/ “where am I going?”

Only God can constitute a complete answer.

 

Bede Griffiths, a British priest and Benedictine monk

lived in ashrams he founded across South India

trying to bridge East and West

and integrate Hinduism and Christianity

thru prayer/dialogue/a shared life.

He was deeply influenced by Hindu ascetic practices

but never gave up on the centrality of Christ and the Church.

 

Any major or minor religion can be transformed

by the realization that ‘faith’

is about how we see not what we see

the religious process not the content is where Spirit abides –

so the fruits of the Spirit – joy/peace/love/wisdom

can be found in every sect/denomination/religion

worth its salt.

 

The blind may feel that if they could see

they would be in paradise.

But we who have good eyes are so used to the process of seeing

we take it for granted

and do not realize we are already in paradise –

we need to learn how to truly see.

BIRTHING HEAVEN AND EARTH

“From time immemorial

people have had ideas about a Supreme Being

and the Land of the Hereafter.

Only today do they think

they can do without such ideas.” – Carl Jung

“Sin is to believe the lie

that you are self-created/self-dependent/

self-sustained.” – Augustine

People are bound not free because they sacrifice

their personal integrity/spiritual liberty

for security/money/ambition/pleasure.

Global warming is a global warning

that this self-centeredness is not working –

people dying from flood/drought/fire

is the canary in the coalmine of human extinction.

According to legend, the Buddha’s father

provided his son with 40,000 dancing girls

and all pleasures that material/secular life can offer

but the gods disguised themselves

as an old/then sick/then dead man/

and as a happy monk

and so the Buddha-to-be retired from the world.

Mindfulness is the womb that produces the Buddha

so we are all potential Buddha-mothers.

If we take care through mindfulness

of the baby Buddha latent inside us

eventually Enlightenment will be born.

We all need to see today

in a more holistic/paradoxical/wise way

going beyond mere rational thought

to giving birth to God inside us

not as an external agent

and to Nature as sacred

not as a means to personal gain.

We all need unitive thinking to give birth

to a New Heaven/New Earth

within and without.

GETTING BEYOND FLATLAND

We must get beyond Flatland –

the loss of transcendence –

and build a civilization that integrates

consciousness/culture/nature

morals/art/science

personal values/collective wisdom/tech knowhow.

Science and technology on their own

are not accountable to anything

except their own ethic: expediency and efficiency.

If technology allows us to do something

we feel we must do it

even if we destroy whole civilizations

with chemical/biological/nuclear war.

Normal ethics do not apply

to these autonomous powers.

“Life is always a battleground between opposites:

birth/death, joy/pain, good/evil, science/religion.

If the opposites ceased, life would cease.”

– Carl Jung

If science alone rules, we are in deep trouble:

“Humanity should not be afraid of God,

we should be afraid of losing God.”

– Meister Eckhart

Every civilization is built on mythology

and the most common myth is the hero.

The mythic structure is always the same

whether ancient/medieval/modern

whether Far East/African/Incan:

miraculous birth/early displays  

of superhuman strength/then rise to power/

triumphant struggle with evil/

eventual fall due to pride or death.

Pope John Paul II noted also:

common mythic structures/elements/roots

in the many varieties of religion.

This pope was more on the side of

Vivekananda than Francis Xavier –

John Paul was a pope

who ironically transcended Christianity.

MYSTERY, MYSTICS, DARKNESS, LOVE

Meister Eckhart: the Divine Mind

is infinite and causeless.

The human mind is finite and caused

and therefore can never fully comprehend God.

Only God fully comprehends God.

Souls that want to grasp God

by intellect/vision/revelation alone

only partially succeed.

You must proceed

toward God by unknowing and in darkness.

God can only be known by love –

“Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”

(I John 4:7). This includes atheists who love

peace and justice (which are what God is made of).

God is also mystery, the Church is mystery

and the universe is mystery:

there is 95% more universe out there

than humans can see:

25% dark matter and 70% dark energy.

But darkness precedes light –

Thomas Merton: “We often forget

that Christian faith is a principle

of questioning and struggle

before it becomes a principle

of certitude and peace.”

Vatican II portrayed the Church

as continuing the work of the Good Shepherd

but also as composed of frail and sinful humans

and thus in constant need of purification/renewal.

Mystics constantly try to renew the Church

but they are rare as hen’s teeth.

Still, loneliness drives mystics to God

and then from experiencing God’s Love

they want to love everyone as God does.

Everyone, everyone, who loves

is born of God.

TRANSFORMATION VERSUS VIOLENCE

According to Bernard Lonergan

the new foundation for knowledge is subjectivity.

Only subjectively transformed people

can see things objectively

without all their biases

muddying the water.

Inner work – knowing/healing/harmonizing

our inner life – is the essence of spirituality

and influences all our perceptions/

desires/thoughts/actions.

The False Self is ensnared in craziness –

the lies and constant striving of the world –

‘samsara’ in Hinduism. The True Self knows

it is always here: “I am a child of God” –

nothing left to strive for.

But if you refuse the call of the Divine

the Hound of Heaven pursues you until you either

cling to your False Self in hell

or you let go and let your small self

your ego, annihilate in God.

To get ego out of the way

only one thing is necessary:

stop judging which endlessly divides everything

into your likes and dislikes.

Then you discover fundamental richness –

the holiness of ‘being-itself’ – that is always here

and belongs to everyone like sunshine –

the sun shines on both saint and sinner

but saints see holiness and sinners judge.

Religious fanatics are super-judges:

to overcome doubt they surrender their freedom

to some absolute ideology or religion

then become anxious when confronted

with people who believe differently

and violently attack them as ‘infidels’ –

‘unfaithful ones’ – oblivious to the fact

that their violence makes them unfaithful

to the God of Compassion

they profess to believe in.

THE ALL-INCLUSIVE CHRIST

God is choosing us now

but we are spiritually starving

in the midst of spiritual plenty

because we guard our material nothings

and we are not adept at prayer

because of distraction and laziness.

The remedy? Vigilance and conversion of heart.

When humans form a church

we open our small individual self

to become a much larger Body

of understanding and love.

Some churches believe

salvation happens in community

when we are one with our sisters and brothers

but sometimes their idea of community is too narrow –

White/straight/male.

Those who are “spiritual but not religious”

protest against churches of any kind

out of anger/sadness/boredom or disconnection –

the feeling of having no voice or control.

Excluded by Church

they in turn exclude Church.

Also, the notion of “God’s Providence” –

“God will provide”

sounds like escapism and irresponsibility –

we, not God, should take care

of the Earth and the poor.

But this notion of Providence

was the basis of thousands of years

of spiritual meaning – that God would

get us through immense difficulties.

Many mystics find that

only through severe struggling

can they move out of introspection

from seeing to acting

but then they become sharp-eyed

spiritual and political visionaries.

Like Thomas Merton they become cosmic lovers

who include everyone – gay/Black/women/

disabled/refugees/criminals/

even White/straight/men – everyone!

RELIGION OVERCOMES SCIENTISM

The Integral Philosophy of Ken Wilber

overcomes problems that arise

when we dismiss inner or outer worlds.

Outwardly there is energy/matter/objects

inwardly there are feelings/desires/visions.

Both are necessary.

Conscience is the most secret core

and sanctuary of humans

where we are alone with God

and God’s voice echoes in our depths.

“The soul and the true self know

my life is not about me

but I am about life.” – Richard Rohr

We need to include not only God’s voice

but also our shadow’s voice. Integrating our shadow

makes us more fully human and alive.

True self-knowledge grounds and liberates us

and gives us confidence to be our self.

The truth sets us free.

The release of repressed creative energy

makes us less fearful and more enthusiastic.

Enthusiasm = “en theos” = in God.

The Second Vatican Council proclaimed

“be true to your self”

when it advocated primacy of conscience.

Fidelity to conscience unites Catholics

with all people of good will

whether other Christians/world religions/

agnostics/humanists/atheists –

all who are engaged in a search for truth

and solutions to Mother Earth’s problems.

Catholicism welcomes and appreciates

great Protestant and Anglican theologians

like John Macquarrie, a marvellous guide

to the deeper mysteries of human life

with creativity rooted in tradition

balanced theology creating dialogue

Christian anthropology affirming self-transcendence.

Macquarrie believed the living teachings of Jesus

must be practiced in community –

to be manifest the Trinity needs the Church

and the People of God need the Church

the mystical Body of Christ

to touch the Trinity and make it present.

But trying to reason your way to God

is ultimately impossible – God transcends reason

just as humans transcend ants.

But rationalists want to eliminate God altogether

in transcendence and tradition.

Since the mythic God died

and spiritual intelligence froze at its lowest level

the Enlightenment began with science

– and ended with “scientism” –

science as the answer to Ultimate Questions

of life/death/meaning – which are beyond

the ken/reach/pay grade of science.

Fortunately, as always, science progressed:

in Newton’s view, all things are machines

governed by deterministic laws.

But in quantum physics there are no

separate building blocks – everything is

an interconnected Sea of Possibilities.

Atoms are interconnected packets of energy

genetics interconnects all creatures

Internet interconnects the whole globe.

The Second Axial Person

is global/pluralistic/interconnected.

Through science we know

Extinction and Transformation

the evolutionary equivalent of

Crucifixion and Resurrection

are central features of

personal/cosmic/planetary evolution.

Scientism is giving way to interplay

of science and religion:

Buddhists preached “interbeing” forever

now quantum scientists and Buddhists

can talk to, and learn from, each other.