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.

THE INTER-SPIRITUAL GOLD STANDARD

Inter-spirituality – religions getting along

and learning from each other – is an ideal

like the ethical gold standards:

economic egalitarianism

abandonment of militant nationalism

nuclear disarmament

which are promoted by globalism

and multiculturalism.

Conservative spirituality needs to loosen up

its fixation on ethnocentric myth

and learn how the Spirit expresses itself

in worldcentric reason

and postconventional love.

The Church is both human

since it exists within time

and is subject to forces of history and culture

and it is also divine

because it resolutely presses towards

the final Kingdom/Queendom/Kindom of God.

“Christians must resolutely strive towards

justice in the real, ambiguous world

where grace and sin abound.”

– Reinhold Niebuhr

The idea of God/Christ/religion evolving

rests on the notion that humans evolve –

in fact, technology has become so pervasive

we have evolved into a new species –

techno-sapiens.

At the microlevel of subatomic particles

there is an unceasing flow of energy

too vast for our minds to comprehend.

The Universal Christ is this energy incarnate

in every church/religion/all humans/the universe –

the Universal Christ is the inter-spiritual

gold standard.

BEYOND SELF-COMPASSION

Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants:

the ‘I’ (the inside of the individual)

the ‘It’ (the outside of the individual)

the ‘We’ (the inside of the collective)

the ‘Its’ (the outside of the collective)

can contain all: philosophy/religion/politics

psychology/business/art/science.

God-in-you (the interior of your soul)

is your True Self – spacious

awareness/patience/contemplation.

God-in-you does not operate by judgment

and the dualistic push-pull of ordinary life.

God-in-you is vast/silent/restful – a riverbed of mercy.

To be compassionate to others

we first must be compassionate

to our True Self –

in Buddhism this is called ‘emptying’ –

‘kenosis’ in Christianity – to feel what we feel –

positive or negative – and to not cling

to any thing.

We also need someone to show compassion to us.

The sacrament of marriage fills spouses

with the Spirit of faith/hope/love

and fortifies them to carry out

their parenting/family responsibilities

and mutual sanctification/glorification of God.

But charity must go beyond the home fires:

Second Axial Consciousness must develop in two ways:

horizontally, in cultures and religions meeting

which creates a ‘complexified/collective/consciousness’

vertically, in cultures and religions plunging their roots

deep into Earth for ecological sustainability.

Wilber: since 70% of any population belongs to a religion

and lives out of a pre-rational/ethnocentric/

mythological/absolutistic worldview

it is up to religion to move people

to a higher level: a transrational/worldcentric/

post-conventional worldview.

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.

PERFECTIONISM,HYPOCRISY, COMMUNITY AND PRAYER

Many great souls live on the margins of society

so they don’t get hoovered up by it.

This can take hard forms:

monks/nuns/hermits/

poverty/chastity/obedience

or soft forms:

everyday believers

fasting from television/shopping/violence/

flaunting wealth/lust/rebellion.

This is not perfectionism –

religion that tells you that you must be perfect

for God to love you

forces people to deny and repress their sin

and so become hypocrites and inhuman.

Empty churches/mosques/synagogues come from

hypocrisy not secularization.

Dualistic thinking creates hypocrites

because it totally separates

good from evil/saint from sinner/soul from body:

an ongoing disaster for Christians.

I am my body – the body is no add-on

or afterthought to who I really am.

Not handling the body and sexuality well

results in the hypocrisy of sexual abuse.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Buddhists do not talk

about Original Sin but about negative seeds:

hatred/lust/racism that exist in us all

overcome by developing Buddha seeds

that also exist in us all:

love/purity/inclusion.

The key for any human, whether religious or not

is to be true to one’s

self/inner guiding light/conscience.

But no one can open and surrender to truth

unless they first feel heard and loved –

loving a person in all their sin/delusion/wrongness

is the only thing that opens their door to Truth.

And the self is always embedded in a community

hopefully a community of love, the Beloved Community

so life is not just self-realization

but also community-and-world-realization.

The Beloved Community is created by prayer:

true prayer is the Holy Spirit praying to God in us

often with a love too deep for comprehension

so our spirit becomes one with the Holy Spirit

one living Flame of Love.

Sitting quietly in prayer is practicing

under-doing and under-achieving

which gradually forms us into a human being

rather than a human doing –

prayer thus saves the world from itself.

But there can be politics to prayer:

the truly spiritual are always a threat to politicians

because what politicians tell us is real

the devout see as ephemeral and unreal –

wealth means nothing to those who come back

from near-death-experiences

who see the Big Picture

through God’s Picture-Window.

Neither politics nor science has all the answers –

science must be silent

on ultimate questions

because it must always be open to disproof

but our hearts and spirits still want

ultimate answers

and honesty means honoring this universal longing.

There are strong empirical reasons for believing

in things that cannot be proven

such as love and friendship

that give our lives meaning

and help us endure incredible hardships –

we are destroyed if we think “no one loves me”

and life is just

Shakespeare’s “tale

told by an idiot.”

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.