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.

THE FOURTH GREAT AWAKENING

Christianity is in its Fourth Great Awakening:

dying in Europe and North America

but exploding in Africa/Latin America/Asia

the rebirth of worldwide Pentecostalism

evangelicalism/pilgrimages/the Emergent Church

Vatican II, interest in mysticism and Eastern religions,

rediscovering ancient ways of prayer and meditation.

“We are discovering God is everything good

in everything. God is not naught –

God is before naught, before nothingness.”

– Meister Eckhart

Life is inherently ordered toward the ultimate victory

of goodness, not the ultimate disaster

predicted by the Second Law of Thermodynamics:

everything gradually dissipating into nothingness.

Science predicts disaster, religion predicts

resurrection and heaven.

No intellectual could detect the problem

of the hyper-growth of rational science

and the downplay of the arts and morals

because intellectuals had left spirituality

and religion behind

because they believed it was all myth.

But myth became history

and lived among us as Jesus the Christ.

In any case, the problem

is not science and technology

but the religious values we project onto them –

we expect them to save us/immortalize us

but that is the job of religion.

“Religion” means “religio”

same root as “ligament” –

healthy religion joins things together again.

But if we are at war with ourselves

because of unhealthy religion

we will soon be at war with others.

Spiritual exercises, according to Ignatius of Loyola,

are any method that rids us 

of all our disordered affections

and opens our soul to God.

Because all humans have been damaged by sin

it is only by God’s grace that,

liberated from all our disorderly passions,

we can freely choose God and the good.

Humans’ life and spiritual affirmation

are inseparable because we are only human

to the extent we shape our world and our self

according to holy meanings and values –

“We don’t think our way into a new way of living,

we live our way into a new way of thinking.”

– Richard Rohr

On the other hand

within each person an awareness exists

that is vast/silent/restful/resourceful –

a ‘riverbed of mercy’

that does not rush to judgement

nor get caught up in narrow ‘right and wrong.’

To grow in Jesus the Christ

one must doubt and reject everything else.

But often this testing is too intolerable

and people flee into comfortable traditions/

outward gestures/conventions.

The Vedic message of Vivekananda in 1893

to the Parliament of World Religions:

“The divinization of the human person

is far more important than

doctrines/rituals/books/churches.”

This appealed to those weary of religions’

legalism/dogmatism/authoritarianism.

But organized religion that is healthy

promotes community not just divinized individuals.

Divinized communities, Beloved Communities

can do so much more than divinized individuals.

The Fourth Great Awakening

promises divinization of both individuals

and Beloved Communities.

COMING FULL-CIRCLE WITH GOD

Teilhard de Chardin wrote that evolution

is a process of convergence

in which new qualitative differences spontaneously emerge

as matter intrinsically evolves from matter toward spirit.

Qualitatively new things emerged

after the fall of the Roman Empire –

the Church unified all things

and preserved civilization from Barbarians.

For centuries civilization fared well under church rule

until the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Then, because of intrareligious wars – Catholics and Protestants

slaughtering each other

and previous interreligious wars – crusading Christians and Muslims

slaughtering each other

the Big Four – science/art/ethics/religion

did not progress together – religion was ridiculed as inherently violent

and left out of the progression to modernity.

But eventually new gods emerged:

divine authority lost control

to the self-determining individual who –

even as ‘master of the universe’ –

found he could not bear the weight of the whole

and so surrendered personal autonomy to the new gods:

science/technology/power/money/violence

and the whole world was at war – twice!

The new gods led many to doubt God.

On the road to total doubt

one tries to keep one’s spiritual life alive

by clinging to traditions and convictions.

But if doubt continues one jettisons traditional religion

without surrendering one’s convictions

and carries on until total doubt/despair of truth

takes over and in a post-truth society

you lose your religion entirely:

in post-Christian countries people are

spiritual-but-not-religious.

In the post-religion/post-truth world

you can still grow spiritually

if you open your heart and mind

to the constantly changing nature

of yourself and reality

which creates never-ending loss/grief/struggle

and a capacity for compassion

love for others and the desire to not water

the seeds of prejudice and aggression.

It is true the old Gods were genuinely giving –

the Father gave his only Son

and Son Jesus gave us his life/death/resurrection.

Therefore, the post-religious need constant analysis

of their motives for giving

because spurious altruism may be egocentric

with hidden unconscious motives for

attention/power/security/praise.

Through pure spirituality people often find God

despite living in a post-God culture.

For Bernard Lonergan conversion of heart and mind

reaches its climax with ‘religious conversion:’

‘being-in-love with Being’

which is the foundation of mystical theology.

Lonergan agrees with Thomas à Kempis:

the Imitation of Christ has one exclusive purpose:

to guide us to a deeper love of Jesus for his own sake

not for desire for heaven or fear of hell.

Being-in-love is being-in-God/union-with-God –

Sacred Marriage – which has been central

to initiation rites in all religions because in it

sacred masculine knowledge (Logos) is united with

sacred feminine relatedness (Eros).

Faith in God understood non-dualistically

as union-with-God/divinization is not

blind assent or even reasoned assent

but rather the subtle work of the Holy Spirit

within our hearts and minds.

And so we eventually come full circle:

faith/loss of faith/doubt

leads to despair/spirituality/conversion –

the love of God at a deeper, broader level –

unity/union-with-God/Sacred Marriage.

SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR A NEW UNIVERSE

The Spirit who hovered over the waters before the Creation

is the same Spirit who created Jesus in Mary’s womb.

Creation and Mary’s womb were both an empty void

out of which a new universe came.

“The new universe’s three greatest principles are

unity/diversity/subjectivity.” – Thomas Berry

Subjectivity comes from ‘auto-poetic’ (self-organizing) systems

forming bodily centers or ‘selves’ in many forms.

The new, self-organizing universe is full of subjects, not objects

and the first principle is unity:

If we see that we are all one,

we naturally become interested in the ‘common good’ –

whatever is good for all is good for me.

Sharing land/wealth/possessions flows from this new worldview

as naturally as feeding our own children.

A fourth great principle is ‘mystery:’

“The most beautiful thing we can experience

is the mysterious. It is the source of all true

art/science/religion.

The one who can no longer pause to wonder

or stand wrapped in awe is as good as dead.”

– Albert Einstein

A fifth principle is ‘peace.’

The goal of early Christians was to conquer

the pagan Romans not by the power of the sword

but by the power of faith and compassion

the essence of the kingdom of God

and of the King/Messiah Jesus.

A sixth principle is ‘love.’

Lovingkindness (‘maitri’ in Buddhism)

needs also to be applied to our self

particularly the painful/shameful/ugly parts

our ‘winning’ society brands as ‘loser.’

The seventh and final principle is ‘trust.’

Ancient pilgrimages were always spiritual exercises

in ascetic homelessness and wandering

seeking solitude/exile/trust in and abandonment to

Providence alone.

The problem for the reign of God  

is that all these spiritual principles were overthrown

by Descartes who wanted to reverse

the displacement of humans from the center of the universe

by Copernicus and his sun-centered cosmos.

So, Descartes centered the certainty of knowledge

on his principle of ‘cogito:’ “I think therefore I am.”

However, this principle split spirit and matter

and replaced God with the individual human –

a major turning point.

The two poles of the so-called Enlightenment –

the ‘Egos’ (self-thinking individuals)

and the ‘Ecos’ (everything is holistic: 

systems/unified fields/implicate orders)

tend to ignore or disparage each other.

As a response to the chaos of Enlightenment

many Christians became rigid thinkers

because they were taught to follow

the ways of God is to create order.

They never learned wisdom/paradox/mystery

as the principles/essence/foundation of faith.

Chaos theory is not about chaos, that is, anti-order –

it focuses on how over time ‘strange attractors’ within systems

draw new order and new emergent properties

out of dynamic fluidity.

All these Enlightenment thought-displacements

caused Christians to re-think Christianity:

the new/old principles of Original Blessing emerged:

befriending darkness, letting go of images/idols of God,

emptying, letting pain/silence/nothingness be

pain/silence/nothingness, discipline not asceticism

befriending our creativity and divinity as co-creators with God.

These new principles are biblical

and there from the beginning.

Christianity as usual is not disappearing

in fact, worldwide it is rapidly growing

and adapting to make mysticism

which previously was only for monastic elites

available for all.

GOD’S TRANSCENDENCE, FAITH AND DREAMS

One of Christ’s favorite visual aids

was a child –

whenever his disciples got into head games

Jesus put a child in front of them –

the only one who can understand God

is the one with a mind like a child

a ‘beginner’s mind,’ a mind that says

“I know nothing.”

A child’s mind is a Zen mind –

empty of deep thought and ego.

“Say to your distracting thoughts

which completely scatter your mind

‘You are powerless to grasp God. Be still.’”

– Cloud of Unknowing

The basis of Confucian philosophy

is concern with the ethical Tao

the ‘way of man’ (‘natural law’ in the west)

but the deepest Taoist concern

is with the metaphysical Tao

the inscrutable ‘way of God.’

“God is qualitatively different from humans.

Although false prophets try to domesticate God

God cannot be identified

with anything we worship as God.”

– Karl Barth

Only when we fully grasp this will we be ready

to receive Jesus as the inscrutable one

the Surprise God who both exposes and bridges

the gap between God and humans.

But fortunately, God is patient and understanding

of our misunderstanding of God.

Unfathomable mystery is where faith comes in.

Experience, no matter how great

is worthless compared to faith.

The only valuable mystical experience

is one that deepens our faith and love –

faith totally transcends experience.

Losing the contemplative tradition

means rationalism/secularism/atheism

on the Left

and fundamentalism/tribal thinking/cognitive rigidity

on the Right

have both triumphed over the contemporary mind.

This has come about due to small religion.

Every major religion claims

suicide/homicide/genocide

to be major ethical transgressions

but those same religions traditionally ignored

the slow killing of the whole human race

by destruction of the planet and all Earth’s life forms

on which we depend.

Sometimes religious people are so heaven-bound

they are no earthly good.

Fascination with extraordinary religious experience

can be a way to escape the problems

of everyday life. A better solution is to find

the riches in the seemingly ordinary.

However, the ordinary and everyday can be painful.

The motive for facing pain and death courageously

is that it is noble to do so.

The courageous person does what is noble

for the aim of virtue is to be noble.

For Carl Jung, the unconscious and dreams are

guides/friends/advisors

and very helpful in alleviating painful spiritual problems.

Dreams are the major route to the unconscious

and to becoming a whole person.

Dreams are symbols common to all people

but personally meaningful to each individual.

“The eternal truths that heal and save us

cannot be transmitted mechanically –

in every epoch they must be born anew

born again

from the human psyche.”

– Carl Jung

OUR MISERY/GOD’S MERCY

There is an awesome and unconquerable

will to life

that underlies all cosmic and planetary evolution.

But we must recognize

in the spirit of all great religious teachers

that every culture

is in a massive life-denying hypnotic trance –

that’s why Jesus and Buddha

constantly say “wake up!”

The trance is to think God is gone –

“We cannot attain the presence of God

because we are already in God’s presence.

What is needed is awareness not attainment.”

– Richard Rohr

“It is by being aware of and confessing

our own miserable state

and acknowledging your mercy towards us

that we open our hearts to you

so that you may free us wholly.

Then we shall no longer be wretched in ourselves

but find true happiness in you.”

–  Augustine

Blessings surround our misery

if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The theology of blessing

and the theology of wisdom

are key themes for Israel

and basic to creation-centered spirituality.

But blessings and wisdom are impossible

if we deny the transcendence of God

and the finitude of human existence.

This is the essence of sin.

People with dualistic minds

cannot get to God’s unconditional love

through scripture

because they focus on the regressive texts

which reinforce violence and fear.

The only true measure of spirituality

is God’s own infinite compassion –

God does not love us because we are good –

God loves us because God is good.

We are made in the image and likeness of God

but although the image is intact

we have lost the likeness.

Carl Jung’s view: the future of Christianity

lies in the realization of Christ within each person

not making us into God

but rather helping us consciously encounter

the True Self within – the Christ within.

Some philosophies teach

the more you encounter your Higher Self

the less you worry about injustices of the world.

But Ken Wilber, Thomas Merton and others say

when you connect with your Higher Self

and therefore with God

you engage the world and all its miseries

as you follow the God of Compassion.

The Cosmic Christ is the Father/Creator

of all religions and all major religious figures –

Moses, Buddha, Mohammed

therefore the gospels symbolize

a more universal narrative of faith and meaning

than mere Christianity.

The Cosmic Christ is bigger than the Church

and tries to alleviate the miseries of all people

within the Church and beyond it

in so-called secular movements

of justice and human rights.

We need a bigger Jesus

than one bound by the Church

if God’s mercy is to heal all peoples’ miseries.

INTEGRAL SALVATION

Our True Self was traditionally called the ‘Soul’

the place where the immortal God

and the mortal human met.

Your Soul/True Self/God-in-you

is spacious awareness-itself, not judgment-itself.

It refuses to get involved in all

the comparisons and judgments

that constitute most of life.

The human soul rebels against death

because she contains within her

the eternal seed of intuition

and longing for, a higher life

which cannot be satisfied

by reducing humans to mere matter

as scientific materialism does.

The absolutization of science created

dissociation of the three main spheres:

science/culture/religion.

But science failed miserably to fulfill

the spiritual longing for ultimate answers.

Science conquered the world

but cannot fulfill it

the way an adult faith can.

Buddha preached an adult faith to Buddhists:

“Look deeply into the nature of suffering

and you will find the causes and a way out.”

Buddha did everyone the ironic favor

of pointing out that whether you are

a saint/sinner/winner/loser

suffering is everyone’s ordinary experience –

life is hard for everyone.

To live more easily and peacefully

sin must be eliminated

but shadow must be reconciled.

“The unconscious is not just the source of evil

it is also the source of the highest good

not just bestial and demonic

but spiritual and divine.” – Carl Jung

There is a dark shadow and a gold shadow

within each one of us.

To live with integrity is to integrate the shadow

not to be perfect in every way

but to have an integral self-image –

you know both your strengths and weaknesses

and where you need to grow.

Despite integral individuals within it

Christianity went down the wrong path

when it became all about the truth or falsity

of doctrines, rather than following a Person –

when it became about faith in ideas

rather than trust that God was in Christ

and cares for us.

In the late nineteenth century and still today

Christians react negatively to attempts

by people like Ramakrishna and Vivekananda

to reduce Jesus to just one of many incarnations of God.

To Christians, Christ is unique –

“For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily.”

– Colossians 2:9

The basic principle of the Spiritual Exercises

of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

is that humans are created to

praise/reverence/serve

God in Christ

individually and communally

and thus save not only their True Self

but also their Collective Soul.