THE DRAGON, HUMAN NATURE, AND NEW HOPE

The dragon – a mythological creature of chaos and destruction 

swirls all around us – but the Lord of All Creation is there too

dancing in the dragon’s jaws.

We want to rise above cruel nature – jaw-red/claw-red –

to find a Universal Compassion we name ‘God’

but Ego restrains both our lower and higher nature –

the Id and Superego Sigmund Freud tried to integrate.

.

Integrating soul and body, John Macquarrie,

a Scottish philosopher/Anglican theologian/priest

developed an anthropology of finite freedom:

we are free but not totally free –

therefore, humans are a perpetual problem to themselves –

our finitude: circumstances/genetic makeup/

socioeconomic status/past decisions/sinful tendencies

restrain our grandiose visions.

 

New hope about human nature came from

the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

when it declared a universal call to holiness –

a holiness no longer out of reach of ordinary humans –

all are called to be holy – even the simplest peasant

can be as holy as great saints like Anthony of Egypt.

 

More hope came from the renewal of ancient pilgrimages

like the Camino de Santiago – average citizens making

the hero-saint’s journey of separation/initiation/return:

on the Camino across northern Spain

you follow the Way of St. James – the Camino de San Tiago

you are separated from your ordinary life

supernatural forces are at play and recounted

around campfires lit by pilgrims/peregrinos

and a decisive victory is won if, after 800 kilometres, you reach

the Cathedral of Santiago with its swinging botafumero

a giant censor fuming incense swung to the rafters by six men.

Then you return to your former life

with boons – new life insights – to offer others.

 

The greatest hope always comes from our Ever-Forgiving God:

“These people do not trust me even though

I want nothing but their sanctification – their holiness –

and I bear with them in great patience

because I loved them without them ever loving me.”

– God speaking to Catherine of Sienna

THE KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE

 Nonbeing was used as a concept

by Plato to contrast suffering/existence with pure essence

by Plotinus to describe the loss of the self/soul

by Augustine as an ontological interpretation of sin.

 

It is inevitable that we fall into nonbeing/sin –

the tension between our freedom and our finitude

creates anxiety as we confront

our great responsibility to fulfill our potential

and our limited ability to do so.

 

Our thoughts carry us away like the wind

but if we let them dissipate like mist

we end up in the Present Moment

where there is primordial richness and wisdom.

We need to always return to the Present – the Gift.

 

We also need Community – no matter how flawed.

If the Sangha is having trouble

you first need to transform yourself

into a candle which lights the other candles.

But any Sangha, any Community

Is better than no Community –

Evil/Ego wants to separate and divide us.

 

In the Body/Ego stage I focus only on

my own physical body and its survival.

In the Mind/Us stage I can put myself in others’ shoes

so I focus on relationships.

In the Spirit/All of Us stage I become aware

not only of all our differences

but also our common values –

the common good of all sentient beings.

 

Love at all stages: self/others/all creatures

is the Universal Key – God has given humans

the Keys to the Universe

and “Each of you will be rewarded

according to the measure of your love

not according to the amount of work or time it took.”

– God speaking to Catherine of Siena

COPING WITH UNCERTAINTY

The medieval view: Earth is stable/central/unmoving

and God created the whole Creation

to reflect God’s beauty/wisdom/goodness.

Thru the Creation we can know God:

Creation mirrors Creator.

When the Enlightenment questioned this stability

Christianity became oppositional and rational.

Christianity became rational to oppose rationalism

and in the process lost contemplation and wisdom

the vehicles of authentic enlightenment.

 Western theology split itself off

from prayer and spirituality

whereas Eastern Orthodoxy was always mystical

involving constant prayer/contemplation/sacred icons.

Meister Eckhart bridged west and east

and was consistently misunderstood

because of “ascetic theology” – rational theologians

who could not grasp Eckhart’s love

of nature/the body/music/art

as well as compassion/contemplation/justice.

 In Eckhart’s mind, the purpose of prayer and religion

is to pierce thru to the foundation of Reality

which is always goodness and love.

Therefore, the soul is never satisfied

with surface level/marketplace/buying/selling.

Life is always complex/ambiguous/mysterious

and so Thomas Merton thought a lot of people

followed him because he was not so sure of himself

did not claim to have all the answers

but tried over and over to identify the right questions.

We are all called to be spiritual warriors

and the central question of a warrior’s training

is not “How do I avoid uncertainty and fear?”

but “How do live with discomfort and difficulty

in an unpredictable/unstable/ever-evolving/

non-medieval world?”

LEARNING TO TRULY SEE

Science sprang from the heart of the Christian west

not from Greek philosophy or eastern religion –

Judaism always maintained the world was orderly and rational

and patristic writers like Augustine

encouraged study of the natural world.

Since science started, many priests have made

significant scientific discoveries in biology/botany/cosmology.

 

This is because God is fundamentally relational in nature

and interacts with the Creation

as subject to subject

not subject to object.

 

Without God, humans remain a puzzle to themselves

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

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

Only God can constitute a complete answer.

 

Bede Griffiths, a British priest and Benedictine monk

lived in ashrams he founded across South India

trying to bridge East and West

and integrate Hinduism and Christianity

thru prayer/dialogue/a shared life.

He was deeply influenced by Hindu ascetic practices

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

 

Any major or minor religion can be transformed

by the realization that ‘faith’

is about how we see not what we see

the religious process not the content is where Spirit abides –

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

can be found in every sect/denomination/religion

worth its salt.

 

The blind may feel that if they could see

they would be in paradise.

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

we take it for granted

and do not realize we are already in paradise –

we need to learn how to truly see.

INTEGRATING MATTER/SHADOW/LOVE

The Second Axial Period

(after the First: from 800 to 200 BCE)

developed from the Protestant Reformation to now

(the shift from religion to science)

and is gradually becoming global/communal/ecological/cosmic

and challenging religions to integrate

matter/spirit/secular energy/sacred energy

into one complete human energy.

Wilber’s Four Quadrants accomplish this by including

– self and consciousness (“I:” upper left quadrant)

– brain and neocortex (“It:” upper right)

– culture and worldview (“We:” lower left)

– social systems and environment (“Its:” lower right).

Wilber later concluded even this was incomplete

and the dark side of things needed to be included

so he added “shadow” –

shadow only seems bad because it contains

all the parts of me that society does not accept –

but shadow is in fact a treasure buried in a field

because it also paradoxically contains everything

that can make us whole/holy.

Therefore, if someone asks

“What kind of Christian are you?”

the most honest answer is “A bad one but

I am on a pilgrimage with God

as my guide and destination.”

One of the manifestations of shadow is loneliness

which is essential to human experience –

papered over with busyness/success/money

but never eliminated because

nothing earthly can satisfy the longing of the heart

not even married love because

loneliness is ultimately longing for God.

Authentic married love overcomes loneliness

if caught up into Divine Love

and governed and enriched

by Christ’s redeeming power.

Authentic joining of self/spouse/world/God

unites spirit/matter/secular/sacred.

NEW ADAMS AND NEW EVES

Gandhi’s doctrine of nonviolence

came from his optimistic view of human nature –

truth is the law of our being

nonviolence is more natural for us than violence

love is more of our essence than hate.

The Cloud of Unknowing:

love must receive primacy in prayer

ahead of cogitation.

We must pray out of love

not out of a quest for knowledge.

And we must love God for God’s self

not for what God does for us.

To meditate to feel good is a common mistake –

every time you don’t feel good

you will feel like a failure at meditation.

Even the most experienced meditators

feel pain and frustration.

But non-dual seers hold contraries together

like pain and pleasure

and since they experience everything as One again

they are New Adams and New Eves

in the garden naked and unashamed.

Men in particular need to grow

into spiritual maturity, becoming New Adams

by exploring ancient wisdom

about the spiritual life of men

and relaunching the Sacred Masculine.

The medieval view by men like Aquinas and Eckhart

went beyond intellect and will

to the divine spark in the soul.

The soul is naturally godly

and designed to know ultimate perfection.

This is the true knowledge that transforms:

God made us for perfect holiness, grace and truth.

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.

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE CREATES HUMANITY

It is impossible to prove or disprove

the denial or assertion of religious beliefs.

Religious belief is a choice

but religious symbols and practices

have given people meaning and strength

to cope with troubles down through the ages:

“O God our help in ages past

our hope for years to come

our shelter from the stormy blast

and our eternal home.”

This hymn provides comfort

when humans are more and more de-centered:

in the universe by Copernicus

in life by evolutionary biology

in our inner core by the subconscious.

In Newtonian physics, physical reality

followed rigid causal pathways

but in Chaos Theory, physical reality

is flexible, open to change and new

spontaneously emerging properties.

Things are out of our control and in God’s control.

Spontaneous revival happened in Hinduism:

decline in the 1800s gave birth in the 1900s

to great spiritual teachers:

Aurobindo/Gandhi/Tagore/

Yogananda who claimed unity

with Buddha/Jesus/Mohammed 

and that all religions are one

since they all seek the same goal: God.

Inter-religiosity may be written off

as postmodern/New Age/goofiness

but the fact is that all of religion’s

key dimensions of

belief/behavior/belonging

are being dramatically transformed

by contact with other major world religions.

Vatican II called for recognition

that all humans are interconnected.

Interreligious dialogue creates

the Beloved Community, humanity.

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 EVOLVING SEEKER

All sacred texts and philosophies attempt to articulate

ultimate truths and archetypal values

but they are always approximations of truth

that require fresh interpretations

with each new historical and cultural era.

Karl Rahner saw the limits of the philosophy of

Thomas Aquinas because Immanuel Kant

created a Copernican revolution in philosophy

by putting the human knower in the center

instead of Church authority.

Joseph Marechal, a Jesuit like Rahner

then overcame the limits of Kant’s philosophy

by seeing humans as dynamic seekers of knowledge

which includes Church authority (in part).

Bernard Lonergan, still another Jesuit

made a further breakthrough:

a new foundation for truth-seeking as not

“arguing about airy abstractions

but changing the seeker

by conversion of the intellect and emotions.”

Loving God with all your heart and mind.

The Principle and Foundation

of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

the founder of the Jesuits

is that we are created

to praise/reverence/serve God

and so, save our souls

and everything on Earth is made

to help us attain that end.

In this regard, evolution on Earth

has telos/directionality/purpose:

increasing organization and complexity

which increases differentiation and autonomy

which increases consciousness and love.

The “Cloud of Unknowing” is consciousness

of evolution to “that ultimate spiritual state where

in secret and alone

the believer centers all her/his love on God.”