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.

GOD DRAWS US THROUGH PRAYER

 

 

The way to God that appeals today

is the way of the mystics

the way of love, not metaphysics.

 

Western theologians resisting Asian theology

marginalize themselves

from strong mystical currents

energizing Asia and the world –

many people turning East

to Hinduism/Buddhism/Taoism

for Enlightenment.

 

In Confucian philosophy

the Way of Man is in order

when in harmony with the Way of Heaven –

and out of order when not in harmony –

but humans never achieve total harmony.

The great Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr

castigated secular and Christian liberals

for not recognizing the power

of original/cultural sin to destroy

their utopian visions of human progress.

The best we can hope for, said Niebuhr

is proximate, not total, justice.

 

Good and evil are mixed

in everything – even the best we do –

permeating our very being

morally and spiritually

creating anxiety/guilt/shame

threatening loss of our destiny.

 

Being self-critical is a great threat

to those who rule by might and right –

it prevents destroying their ideological enemies.

Humorlessness is the real enemy –

the inability to not take oneself seriously.

Humorlessness is projected onto God –

most humans would never torture others

but some Christians proclaim God does –

this bad news counters the good news

causing agnosticism and atheism

among highly ethical people.

 

To sort this confusion:

“Use your single prayer-word to beat on

the cloud of darkness above you

and consign all distractions to

the cloud of forgetting below you.”

– The Cloud of Unknowing

 

“Prayer is not primarily saying words – it is a stance

of living in Presence

of being aware of Presence

of delighting in Presence.”

– Richard Rohr

 

God does not move since God is everywhere present –

the foolish think God is distant –

humans move closer to or further from God –

God always stands at our door

no matter our faults/shortcomings/sins

hoping we will let the Universal Christ in.

 

“We start the spiritual life thinking

we are pulling heaven toward us –

later we realize heaven is pulling us toward it –

and the brilliant diamond of our True self

is cut into multi-facets

by God not us.”

– Dionysius the Areopagite

 

It is this pulling that fully converts us.

For Bernard Lonergan full conversion involves

intellectual, moral and religious conversion –

intellectual conversion goes beyond the sensory universe

and sees as the mystics see.

 

Faith is a mystical resurrection –

a belief in and obedience to the Author of Life

who commands us:

“Choose Life!”

 

It is choosing life that leads us

not to utopia

but proximate justice.

Faith begins the journey

towards the full love and justice of God.

 

COSMOLOGY, SCIENCE, SPIRIT AND SUFFERING

Since the birth of science

Christianity no longer has an effective cosmology

and its followers have difficulty 

relating their faith to the world of science.

Meanwhile, secular culture sees its purpose as 

personal fulfillment and social progress

and religion as having little to do with

solving temporal problems.

Peoples’ loss of faith in the institutional church

and their search for meaning outside church

was instigated by God 

the Hound of Heaven who always pursues and finds us.

This is the mysticism of today

an attempt to find and experience the True God

rather than the Lego god constructed piece by piece

through pre-set definitions of churches.

The downside of abandoning religion

is that secularists suffer tremendously

 – always dissatisfied – never able to fill their soul’s God-hole.

To dissolve suffering due to dissatisfaction

with who we are and where we are

we are forced to give up some basic assumptions:

that we can have it all, get it all together

have lasting security, all pleasure and no pain.

In spite of these assumptions

or perhaps because of them

things fall apart.

Crucifixion is symbolic in its universal sense 

of destruction – that is an inevitable part

of evolution unfolding and necessary

for the birth of new life.

Secular people need to embrace poverty like Francis of Assisi:

“Blessed poverty even in this life

gives to souls who love her

the ability to fly to heaven.

Poverty guards the armor of true humility and charity.” 

Even Karl Marx was an anti-materialist 

when he wrote (well before intelligent phones):

“All our technological progress results in 

endowing material things with intellectual life

and stunts human development by materialism.”

Eastern religions share this anti-materialism

but their solution to the suffering caused 

is to desire less

whereas in western religions the solution is

to desire more – desire God –

until you reach God you have not desired enough.

But Christian theology to be relevant must gain a foothold 

in the new science that is replacing spirituality

for so many in Generations X to Z.

We need to see Spirit behind scientific revolution –

Spirit had to, thru Reason, free the Spirit 

trapped in the mythology of a distant heaven

and so break the chains

of the oppressed here on Earth.

Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican who dominated

Christian thought for centuries

was no Platonic contemplative

in love with incorporeal essences

but a Christian who contemplated the divine light

in every created thing here and now.

Heaven is NOW. In YOU.

Fully realizing that you are Spirit/divine

only happens if your Higher Self

takes compassionate action

letting Spirit into your whole life.

Otherwise, you stunt your development

if your Higher Self exists

only in the ivory tower of your intellect 

and never in your emotions, senses and body.

The laws of our mind, emotions and body

are one with the laws of the 

universe, galaxy and planet

that birthed us as its children.

Spirit driving science and evolution

gives us a new Christian cosmology.

TWO AGES

Michel Foucault believed the sciences of man

furthered scientism

the belief science has all the answers

which led to the “Age of Man”

in which humans are studied as

objects of scientific investigation –

B. F. Skinner’s behaviorism

treats humans as “Its”

with no subjectivity.

Science can give us concrete information

about the flow of evolution and our place in it

but not a framework for ultimate meaning –

the purview of theology and religion.

There is a different way of looking at salvation – 

God saves us from ourselves

by giving us meaning.

With meaning, little else is needed

without meaning we are caught up in endless

addictive consumerism, rivalry, competition

endlessly rolling the stone up the mountain

only to watch it roll down again

as others out-compete us.

But there is positive meaning and negative meaning.

Martin Luther’s meaning in the 16th century 

created the perfect storm for anxiety:

focus on sin, the wrath of God, heaven and hell

coupled with new printing press technology

to spread the Message, rats to spread the Bubonic Plague

and the dissolution of ecclesial order

an “Age of Anxiety” blossomed 

whose rotting fruit persists to this day.

Believing, as Luther did, 

that we are a solid, separate self

traps us in self-centeredness

but as we work through the chakras in order

we are liberated from successive prisons:

chakras 1,2,3: egocentric food, sex, power

chakras 4,5: ethnocentric love and communication 

chakras 6,7: world-centric mindfulness and spirituality.

The ‘porous’ non-separated self gives and receives:

as living beings, we are part of the close-knit family 

of living organisms that evolved one from another

over billions of years, products of immensely creative

energy-exchanges of matter and spirit that makes us one with

stars, galaxies, and everything.

Pharisaism symbolizes the self-centered self –

identification with your own self-righteousness

no shadow; no need of conversion

which ironically blocks your path to God

and your compassion for others –

being in touch with shadow means

you know you need, and others need

God’s grace.

To break addiction to yourself 

(the only way to liminal space/transformation)

you must change your usual patterns:

fasting not eating, silence not talking,

anonymity not fame, displacement not status,

poverty not money.

Realizing that all desires are good

and the problem is only selfish misuse of desire

many mystics gave up asceticism:

punishing their bodies, suppressing their desires.

Meister Eckhart for one

replaced asceticism with non-attachment.

Desires are good, but on the other hand

pain burns through illusions

of false pleasures

and shows us what is truly beautiful.

But what you see, the beauty of pain or pleasure

depends on how you choose to see:

positive or negative, blessing or curse.

Why is the Holy Spirit within everyone 

but not everyone realizes it?

Because God does not force anything on anyone

that they didn’t desire and choose – 

human freedom is respected –

and the freedom of the Holy Spirit 

to overcome anxiety

and the limits of science. 

THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL

For Carl Jung, consciousness and archetypes

underlie all religion –

religious symbols are a response 

to power centers in the collective unconscious.

Jesus deserves the claim

of universal salvific significance

because he is the archetype

the paradigm, the living parable 

of humanity, of God’s love for us

the human face of God’s mysterious care.

And for Jesus, no amount of 

learning, authority, tradition, or sacredness

was immune to his challenges.

Even fundamental assumptions and values

like obedience to the Law

could be questioned and changed.

Catholic and Orthodox priests

made the Great Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

depend on membership and sacraments

and Protestant clergy made Spirit

depend on personal decisions.

Both tried to control

the Uncontrollable.

Transformation happens in ‘liminal space’

when we are in-between stages of 

life, relationships, faith

when we are not in control –

transformation does not happen in our comfort zone.

William Blake, Chuang Tzu, and Zen

knew that vision and imagination 

are necessary to counter

a world of rationality – 

both reason and imagination are needed 

for the marriage of heaven and hell.

According to Michel Foucault 

the 18th to 20th century scientific Enlightenment 

resulted in people becoming

“objects of information” 

rather than “subjects of communication”

that is, persons became “its” with no 

depth, intentionality, or personhood.

The spiritual void

in a culture of “its”

intensifies anxiety over 

death, guilt, and meaninglessness –

all “existential threats of non-being.”

Pleasure and pain are inevitable

components of bodily existence.

Happiness is not all pleasure and no pain

but the ability to handle pain

and, when necessary, delay pleasure 

preventing denial, blame, scapegoating and addiction.

All major religions

transform suffering into 

deep connection to salvation. 

Many great religious figures suffered

for others 

or ascetical purification.

But religion was never just

how to handle suffering –

along with lists of sins

there were lists of virtues.

Christians added three theological virtues:

faith, hope, and love

to Aristotle’s list

of four cardinal virtues

justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence.

Seven cardinal virtues

counterbalanced seven cardinal sins.

And beyond positively practicing virtues

there is non-elitist “street spirituality:”

seeking out the stranger

the broken, the prisoner

were part and parcel of the biblical prophets

wisdom literature, and saints

down through the ages.

All this is the opposite

of treating persons as 

“its.”

WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Few of us can run off

to the wilderness or hermitage

so the older religions

to break us out of 

our normal, comfortable, sleepwalking trance

help us get into liminal space

through pilgrimages, fasting, silent retreats

Lent or Ramadan.

You are baptized with the Holy Spirit

not by believing in the Holy Spirit

as a doctrine, but by drawing upon

the Divine Indwelling already within you.

According to Thomas Merton

the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church

so when the Holy Spirit prays within you

whether in public or private 

it is the Soul of the Church 

praying within you.

Bad things happen to good people

but the Holy Spirit is always present

prompting you from within 

to take care of your self

and comforting you from within 

when your health, work, or marriage  fails.

Quantum theology befriends and redeems

the pain, the dark, the chaos

by helping people see the interdependence of

darkness and light

pain and pleasure

sickness and health

death and rebirth.

The Holy Spirit shows us

there is a virtue to be practiced for every sin: 

pride/humility, anger/patience

avarice/compassion, lust/chastity

gluttony/sobriety

all the Enneagram

vices and virtues.

If you are engaging with those

who have not suffered

“rings of fire”

your attempts to explain

the reasonableness of faith

or prove God’s existence

will fail.

Systematic atheism insists

humans must be free

of any kind of God

as their author and goal

in order to be responsible 

for their own life.

Since YOU are your own author, goal and end

you cannot foist off onto God

responsibility for your own life.

Atheism relies upon science

but science believes only 

what can be physically located is real: 

cells, brains, stars.

So science scrubs the universe clean of

values, meaning, consciousness, ethics and depth 

since these things cannot be located in the cosmos

they are unreal fantasies/illusions.

What Alfred North Whitehead called

“the fallacy of simple location”

leaves us with a culture of superficiality.

We are like seed 

that falls upon gravel

and withers because it has no roots.

Merton studied the “archaic wisdom”

of Mayans, Zapotecs, Toltecs

to learn how to counter the efficiency, ambition

and triviality of technocratic society.

Science saps us of passion 

but Eros is the Holy Spirit in action – and passion 

deserves a home among spiritual people 

– passion for pleasure and sharing it

– compassion: awareness of suffering 

– passion for restorative justice

– all these are works of the Holy Spirit.