TRANSFORMING SELF/CULTURE/RELIGION

Faith is higher and more perfect

than any knowledge or science available on Earth.

Faith has inestimable dignity and greatness

because it is a gift from God.

Religion gives culture its

meaning/seriousness/depth.

And culture gives religion its particular form

which varies from culture to culture.

“Religion is the substance of culture

and culture is the form of religion.” – Paul Tillich

In a healthy “theonomous culture”

religion neither dominates culture

nor withdraws from it:

religion and culture critique and support each other.

Religion saves culture from itself:

if just one-seventh of our life consists of

daily/weekly/yearly choices that are

liminal/Sabbath/sabbatical times

of consciousness/presence/naked ‘being’

the rest of our life will take care of itself

and not just be shallow producing/consuming/doing.

But religions often get stuck

in dualistic/anthropocentric/anti-world thinking:

only humans matter and if you want to be holy

you must not contaminate yourself with ‘the world.’

Carl Jung is the cure for this stuckness:

Jungians argue as Jesus did, not by logic

but by bringing in the big picture:

‘metanoia’ (mistranslated as ‘repent’)

actually means ‘go to your higher mind’

and Jung’s whole philosophy of life is:

individuals become happy and integrated

through ‘individuation:’

the conscious and unconscious minds

balancing and complementing each other.

Everyone has an unconscious shadow

which is not evil. Shadow is self-alienation

and requires reconciliation with your higher Self.

Sin is spiritual alienation

and requires reconciliation with God.

Shadow is like Original Sin

against your Self, not against God.

Shadow comes from repression

of parts of your Self so you are not whole.

Reconciliation with your Self comes from spirituality.

Spirituality is energy/experience/prayer

meditation/doubt/peace

love/creativity/intuition.

Religion is institution/hierarchy/dogma

doctrine/orthodoxy/buildings

rules/authority/certainty.

The religious far right and far left dogmatically

shutter the mind or at least keep faith small

with no openness to the thoughts of others.

But small faith is cured by cosmic hope:

Neo-Darwinian evolution engages

in an ongoing process of greater

complexity/crisis/renewal despite catastrophes

in the three great domains:

  1. Cosmos: exploding supernovae (crisis)

chemically enrich the cosmos (renewal)

  1. Biosphere: mass extinctions (crisis)

result in new, more complex species (renewal)

  1. Culture: human revolutions (crisis)

result in more inclusive living (renewal).

Ongoing hope conquers major catastrophes.

In any case, suffering can bring acceptance.

Buddha’s teaching that existence consists of

egolessness/impermanence/suffering

allows us to accept rather than struggle

against the facts of life and to not blame ourselves

for not being able to cure these facts.

On the other hand, people are fearless who know that

“In all things (even disaster) God works together

for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

They become holy adventurers.

But adventure requires wisdom and community –

those who become hero-adventurers

often find a Wise Person –

an older woman or man – an Elder

gives them aid for their journey

of transforming Self/Culture/Religion.

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

O HAPPY FAULT

All humans are innately spiritual

and if they develop/mature properly

they feel a need to celebrate

with ritual and sacrifice

their participation in Ultimate Mystery.

Confucians (followers of Master Kung Fu)

believed in the goodness of human nature

and encouraged this goodness to come out

through a sacred culture

that elevates humans in love.

“Belief in the goodness of God/humans/life

is not just a choice, it is a Resurrection.

When we believe in the Source of Life

we are raised to a new spiritual level of being.”

– Thomas Merton

But “First we fall, and later we see our fall

as the Mercy of God.” – Julian of Norwich

We live far away from God until we are broken

and return to God.

The Fall is the ‘happy fault’ sung at Easter Vigil –

the Great Mistake that caused our Great Savior

to come and pitch his tent among women and men.

In Confessions Augustine wrestled

with the triple temptation:

“lust of the flesh/lust of the eyes/and pride.”

Spiritual pride leads people to claim

God’s sanction for their own projects –

this can lead to the worst injustice

because any opposition to “my way”

is considered satanic.

All spiritual disciplines have one purpose:

to rid us of the illusions of the flesh and the eyes

so we can see clearly and live in Reality/God

but most cultures are trapped

in the trance of materialism:

“It’s all about the money.”

The grand displacement of culture

happened when materialistic science

replaced religion as the answer

to all questions of ultimate concern

and of what we should trust

and pledge allegiance to.

After medieval times culture was unified

no longer by God

but by the self-thinking individual subject.

Each person had to figure out the world and life

using rational thought alone.

Nietzsche saw this as the death of God.

People want to turn inward

but dualistic, either-or thinking

can lead to the misconception

that inner work is self-centered navel-gazing

out of touch with Reality – the material world.

However, depth psychology teaches

genuine holiness is not just self-abnegation

not just being totally other-centered

with no thought for the self –

rather it is both self-awareness

and self-transformation for others.

If you give in to the temptation to resist transformation

you never become a spiritual adult.

In any case the only place

you can simultaneously

touch Jesus/the Holy Spirit/

and the kingdom/queendom/kindom of God

is within you.

Beyond searching just for comfort

if we want a more full and passionate life

we need the type of curiosity

that does not shy away

from looking at painful things.

And we need the realization

that we can endure a lot of pain

in our search for truth about God/the world/and our self.

If we pursue truth wholeheartedly

we will eventually conclude

only Christ can heal

all our pain/lust/illusions/temptations/and pride.

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.

REUNITING SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION

God, who is not in time and space

has to do with being not nonbeing

is better than anything we can conceive

and transcends all our heart’s desires.

Sacred marriage, the object of all our desires

is a powerful archetypal symbol

of the union of all women and men in God.

But with Descartes’ dictum “I think therefore I am”

the self-thinking individual

replaced the transcendent self

united to the whole cosmos.

No longer one with the cosmos and God

human beings could now possess the cosmos

and play God.

Likewise, when science displaced religion

(in the Enlightenment mind anyway)

mass and energy were considered

to be the ultimate reality/god

for, never created or destroyed

they are eternal and omnipresent.

God, if considered at all, became

energy, or at most, Spirit

but devoid of religious content.

During the twentieth century

‘spirituality’ came to be identified

with the realm of private thought and experience

‘religion’ came to be identified

with institutions/formal rituals/official doctrines.

Spirituality connoted positivity and authenticity

religion connoted negativity (thou shalt not) and rigidity.

Previously, religion and spirituality were one.

The western world therefore needs wise women and men

and mysticism from the East

to put religion and spirituality back together and

to penetrate more deeply into the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

Otherwise, the west will be devoured by

rationalism/scientism/materialism/pride.

The western world, driven by survival of the fittest

and capitalism, hates compassion, calls it weakness

lets cruelty outweigh mercy and throws off humans

our conscience, Christianity, whatever makes us feel guilty.

But some people, like Thomas Merton, chose conscience

even though it meant living in anguish and constant questioning.

According to Ken Wilber

there are three major stages of consciousness:

ego/ethnic/world

and five major lines of intelligence:

spiritual/moral/interpersonal/cognitive/emotional.

According to Elizabeth Johnson

this consciousness/intelligence is embedded in the universe

and integral to the whole evolutionary process

culminating in the human mind and spirit –

humans perfect the universe.

Franciscans think of themselves as Christian humanists

reflecting the goodness of God.

God can best be understood through our humanity

therefore, anthropology is as important as theology

in understanding the mystery of God.

To alleviate the anguish of doubt and questioning

people prematurely surrender themselves

to Someone ‘larger than life’

some authoritarian who imposes answers

so the questioner no longer has to question

or be in doubt –

thus, they save meaning but lose their soul.

However, the restless pilgrim spirit

is the unstoppable essence of Christianity

right from the beginning:

God calls each of us like Abraham

to leave our family/wealth/comfort zone –

everything for the sake of the Lord.

“God made us for himself

and our hearts are restless

until they rest in God.” – Augustine

Healthy religion includes both peace and spiritual restlessness.

INNER WORK

Endowed with a spiritual soul/free will/intellect

humans from conception are ordered to God

and destined for eternal happiness.

They pursue perfection by seeking and being

that which is true and good.

Celtic mysticism is built on

a charism of pilgrimage

a constant quest for the land of the saints

and a return to Paradise, the great journey

St. Brendan and his monks manifested.

Buddhists also sought the Pure Land

because the Buddha taught

three basics of human existence:

impermanence/no separate ego/suffering.

To accept these three

is to accept reality as it is.

We all seek true transcendence but

since we won’t let go of our separate ego

we cannot find our destiny.

We seek true life in substitutes:

food/knowledge/sex/power

but never find wholeness.

To not settle for substitutes for God

requires inner work which is done

not just for your self

but for the whole Body of Christ.

Inner work makes you aware 

of any self-seeking disguised as Christian service.

Failure to integrate the shadow

causes serious problems in Christianity –

clergy sexual abuse which destroys

the Church’s moral authority and role:

the conscience of culture.

On the other hand, many see inner work and spirituality

as just another form of consumerism

individualistic/lacking commitment to the common good/

devoid of intellectual content

basically, a New Age fad of Oprah religion.

But, to pray is to build your house

then, to realize Someone Else is in your house

then, to discover this Someone Else owns the house

then, to discover there is no house

because everyone shares the same

one and only Home – our True Home – God.

Doubt can grow along with faith –

faith and doubt are co-relative terms –

to grow in faith, you must go through doubt

about your old ways of being and believing

to come to higher and broader levels of faith.

Doubt wrestles with God, like Jacob and the angel –

“Israel” means “one who wrestles with God.”

Just as there is no love of God

without love of neighbor

there is no real conversion to God

without conversion to the world and its problems

caused by wanting/wanting/wanting.

God opposes constant wanting. God only wants

the creation of more complex and conscious beings

but this spiritualization of matter

and how matter leaps to new levels

is always brought about by periods

of great stress/instability/crisis.

The consciousness and dignity of humans

and of the divine image within us

requires authentic freedom

when it comes to religious choices –

freedom from external pressures

and internal compulsions.

Women are under intense pressure

to get caught in the competitive/masculine/hero archetype

which clashes with a deeper archetype within them:

the desire to be a mother – the Mother-Archetype.

Who will deliver us

from this constant human folly of constant wanting?

Beyond inner work we need a Savior

to save us from ourselves.

INNER TRANSFORMATION IS NOT ENOUGH

The starting point of Master Kung Fu’s teaching

is that there is a transcendent/unchanging/objective reality

called ‘heaven’

and there is an immanent/changing/contingent reality

called ‘Earth’

and there is ordered and disordered human life.

Confucius (Kung Fu) knew

the Universal Christ in his own way.

If one does not reach the transcendent God

and a world-centric stage of development

then pluralism and multiculturalism

descends into ethnocentric tribal wars and oppression.

Likewise, the scientific attempt to control all of nature

combined with patriarchal consciousness

which refuses to confront its shadow –

the possible extinction of the human race –

means we will continue to destroy

our Mother, Earth.

What is needed is to face the chaos

and name our collective fears –

once Jesus knew the name of a demon

it lost its power.

But it is possible to overdue

facing the negative –

the great Protestant thinker, Reinhold Niebuhr

as great as he was

focused his Christology too much on Crucifixion –

not enough on Resurrection and Christ the Liberator.

Niebuhr emphasized sinfulness so much

the power of grace was obscured.

But humans are first of all grace-full

made in the image of God

endowed with a conscience which is

“the most secret core and sanctuary

of a human being.” – Vatican II

Still, the denizens of 21st century culture

are goal-oriented consumers, not prayer-full.

The purpose of prayer

is not to get anywhere

nor consume anything

except God

in whose presence we already abide –

God, not culture, is the believer’s center.

We are desire-full

but the Cloud of Unknowing says:

“Gather all your desires into one

simple and short prayer-word

that enables you to focus your love steadily

on God. This sacred word will be your defence

your flaming weapon of war

in conflict or peace.”

But inner transformation of our desires

is not enough – the whole Christian church

has a three-fold outward task:

fellowship/ministry/witness

or in the Greek New Testament:

koinonia/diakonia/martyrdom:

the kingdom/queendom of God

survives by drinking

the blood of martyrs.

Churches need people transformed

inside and out –

transformed people transform people –

conversion happens by attraction

to converted people

rather than self-promotion

of my ideas

over and against

your ideas.

The world will only be saved

if transformed people

live their faith.

CONTEMPLATION/CONVERSION/LIBERATION

Hindus and Muslims revering Jesus

should wake-up theologians –

people outside the institutional church

speaking contemplatively about the gospels

should quell the fear

of those who are different from us

that has fuelled racism into

universal homicidal paranoia.

“The contemplative work of love

by itself will eventually heal you

of all the roots of sin.” – Cloud of Unknowing

As we grow in divine intimacy through contemplation

our heart is liberated from sin and temptation.

“Moral conversion is purification

of your real motives so you seek the

true/objective/common good

with no ego-attachment.

Religious conversion means being possessed

by an otherworldly love for all things –

attending church/believing creeds/reading scripture

are all good, but not the essence

of genuine religious conversion.” – Bernard Lonergan

Men convert less easily than women

because of their toxic view of masculinity –

spirituality is for wimps.

The truth is you do not create

or work your way up to your True Self –

you don’t climb up to it

you fall into it

by the grace of Infinite Mercy.

Spiritual men thus have nothing to brag about

since we humans have only finite freedom –

we are free to make decisions

but limited by existential circumstances

within which we must work out our destiny.

Individualists who believe your Higher Self

makes you totally responsible for everything

that happens to you through your choices –

these “rugged ones” have no awareness

of systemic sin and evil

in state and religion.

State and religion are the two arms of God

and should not be confused –

religion is not meant to be the master or servant

of the state, but its conscience.

Thank God we live in a secular state

where freedom of thought is permitted

even though the state is giving way

to the whole planet through ecological oneness

and ecology is leading the way to heaven

which is paradise on Earth:

earthly goods used only for the attainment

of heavenly goods

for that is their purpose and our destiny.

Spirit underlies the rational denial of mythic gods

because reason has more depth than myth –

reason affirms Spirit’s greater potential shown in

gay/feminist/black/indigenous/ecological movements

that dare to speak truth to

straight/masculine/white/political power.

Many churches do not condemn atheism

but call for respectful dialogue

and only ask atheists to have an open mind

and honor the rights of believers –

and believers to have an open mind

and respect atheists.

Contemplation helps us see our oneness –

our complicity with atheists in evil

and our complicity with atheists in good.

Contemplation converts and liberates us from

our collective/systemic sin

and advances

our collective/systemic good.