TEST EVERY SPIRIT

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit

but test the spirits to see

if they are from God” – I John 4:11

There are many visionaries/prophets in the world today

but we must discern the rind from the fruit.

Meister Eckhart is no Gnostic

but he emphasized transcendent/ineffable knowing

which the 21st century mind cannot grasp

since it believes all knowledge can be rationally analyzed

or if not, the knowledge-object does not exist.

But God transcends human rationality –

“My thoughts are not your thoughts

and My ways are not your ways –

as the heavens are higher than the earth

so My ways are higher than your ways

and My thoughts higher than your thoughts” – Isaiah 55:8-9.

Limited 21st century rationality proclaims this god must not exist.

Eckhart was under the influence of mystical Judaism

therefore, the Hasidim (Jewish mystics), show up in his writing –

the Baal Shem Tov said “In remembering lies redemption”

and Eckhart called Christ “The Great Reminder.”

Eckhart reminds us the heart ties together God’s triple-c calling:

communion with God/

community with others/

commission – ministry for others.

Eckhart believed salvation must include social justice

but most traditional salvation theories ignored the obvious:

racism/sexism/slavery/poverty/degradation of Earth –

Protestants overlooked the decimation of indigenous Americans

and Catholics overlooked the poverty of social justice in Latin America.

Recognizing the inner beauty of each human being

is at the heart of being human –

when we judge others we deny their inner beauty/

their beauty never gets a chance to shine/

and we block evolution’s flow

to greater love and consciousness.

 

 

 

COSMOGENESIS: THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE

Science has shown us:

– all life comes from a single event, the Big Bang

– the universe is not a static, fixed event

it is a ‘cosmogenesis’ – ongoing creativity

– all life participates in this birthing

and is deeply connected.

 

Teilhard described evolution as a “biological ascent

towards greater unity and complexity

in which qualitative differences spontaneously arise.”

 

According to Raimundo Panikkar’s ‘cosmotheandrism’

– we cannot say ‘I’ without the divine

– we cannot say ‘Thou’ without consciousness

– we cannot say ‘It’ without the world –

all three are necessary for cosmogenesis.

 

Descartes’ ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’)

arrives at his ‘self’ as an objective reality, a ‘thing’

and then arrives at ‘God’ as another ‘thing’

another finite being

instead of transcendent and infinite.

 

Looking straight at our ‘self’ makes us uncomfortable

so the essence of bravery is to live without self-deception –

the more we get to know our judgmentalism/arrogance/pettiness

– the less they can sink their fangs into us

– the more they lose their power

– the more we can love.

 

“The purpose of spiritual books like Introduction to the Devout Life

is to bring us to the love of God despite

the thousand darts of mockery

worldly people will throw at you.”

– Francis de Sales

 

We need Teilhard/Panikkar/de Sales to overcome the world

and keep cosmogenesis/cosmotheandrism/the evolution of Love/

the galaxies and stars

flowing like a mighty river.

CHALLENGING OUR PARADIGMS

The new cosmology revealed by science

like the parables of Jesus

shatters our old paradigms

and challenges us to broader/more inclusive thinking.

 

Irenaeus had a cosmic Christology

largely lost because the Church Fathers

focused on practical/down-to-Earth matters

such as combating Arianism

which claimed Christ is not divine.

The Council of Nicea (325 AD) asserted that

Christ’s incarnation saves us and deifies us –

we become like Christ.

 

Theology has always been otherworldly –

about metaphysics – “What is the nature of God

and God’s Kingdom?” – things ultimately ineffable

instead of teaching us how to live the teachings of Jesus.

 

Teilhard de Chardin’s hyper-physics (union before being)

overthrew metaphysics focused on

stasis/unchangeability/sameness.

Union always searches for ‘moreness’ –

more being/consciousness/love –

it is never satisfied with the status quo.

 

But in the West, religion has done our work

for us: scholars and bishops have told us

what to know not how to know

and what to see not how to see.

The result? People who never had to think

and are unable to comprehend

great and holy things.

 

Still, a spirit of prayer pervaded the Second Vatican Council

and reading the documents of Vatican II

can be a form of ‘lectio divina.’

The Council encouraged all believers to put prayer first

urged people to pray while reading scripture

pray for the conversion of hearts

and begged all of us to follow the ways of

universal love/peace/justice –

it was a fresh take

on an old paradigm.

IDEAS, RELIGIOUS ATHEISTS AND SUFFERING

For Paul Tillich every aspect of culture –

a new law/painting/political movement

is charged with religious meaning

because it is part of the dynamic energy of God.

 

Every culture subsists in ideas –

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris began as an idea

and Meister Eckhart knew what every true intellectual knows:

the importance of ideas for peoples’

freedom/courage/integrity

so, when he was shown Notre Dame he said

“I would trade it all for John Chrysostom’s manuscripts.”

 

However, there are narrow and broad ideas –

ideas can be limiting or fulfilling.

As Kierkegaard wrote: “the cultured despisers of religion”

“The New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, rightfully attack

immature fundamentalist claims of biblical literalism

but mature believers promote the idea

that knowledge born of faith, like poetry, music, theatre or any art

enables us to see reality more deeply than science can.

 

The Church may reject atheism, but does not reject atheists –

it takes them and their profound questions very seriously

and just like religion, atheism can be narrow or broad

limiting or fulfilling – Buddhism is essentially atheistic

or at least indifferent to the “God question.”

According to Theravada Buddhists, Buddha was an atheist

but manifested the highest humanity and helped multitudes –

his only concern was not God but eliminating suffering.

Anyone who eliminates suffering is a Buddhist.

Therefore, Jesus was a Buddhist. But Buddha was just human,

and when Jesus opened his heart at baptism in the Jordan River

the Holy Spirit descended on him like an eagle

and he manifested as not just human

but the Son of God called to redeem all suffering

through carrying his cross out of love for all humans.

Humans are God’s constant Cross.

 

Those who are truly guided see this

and when tried/visited with affliction

they say “Surely to God we belong and to God we return”

and in temptation/trials/suffering they take comfort

in being “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

RETURNING TO RADICAL AMAZEMENT

The sexual/social/self-preservation drives

are the raw material of who we are as humans

and so cannot be killed off

although ascetics try their hardest.

 

According to Rohr/Rolheiser/Fox

these drives are all good and just need to be

harnessed/channeled/integrated not killed off

so they give energy to our spiritual endeavours

and serve us not destroy us – they are good

not evil monsters/dragons/demons.

 

According to Immanuel Kant as you move morally

from being biocentric (sex and survival) to egocentric

to ethnocentric to worldcentric (universal compassion)

you also discover your higher/truer/deeper self.

 

If you expand your heart and mind infinitely

you come to God’s Infinite Love, the “Ultimate Thou”

and to your self as the “Ultimate I”

culminating in the “Ultimate I-Thou Relationship.”

 

But as we take on jobs/get married/join religions

everyone pressures us to do

in order for us to live up to their ideals

and as we shove more and more stuff

into our shadow-bag

by midlife we are a mere slice

of the 360-degree-self we started with.

 

We become fraught with “sins of omission”

including: not living lives of justice/

not being transformed/being ‘born again’

only once instead of many times/

leaving creativity/divinization/original blessing/

the cosmos out of our theology.

 

Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato

invites us back into contemplative awe/awareness

of black holes/supernovas/the wonders of the universe

 which are the key to self-transformation

and transformation of the world.

 

OVERCOMING OUR SHADOW AND OUR SUFFERING

Theologians try to make Christianity relevant

by showing theology follows scientific methods

or correlating it to some current philosophy

or urgent need: racism, nuclear war, climate change

but the problem behind all problems

is dualistic non-unitive thinking in the form of individualism.

 

Individualism, the triumph of the individual

the foundation of American culture, is ironically false freedom:

separation from others and therefore separation from God

who in Jesus exhorted us to “love others as our self”

and “love our enemies.”

 

America is ironically “Land of the free and home of the slave”

according to the artist formerly known as “Prince.”

Ironically too, America will only overcome its shadow history

by embracing it: “Taking up your cross today

means owning your own shadow

which is the essence of ethics/

integrity/spirituality/religion.” – Carl Jung

First recognize the log in your own eye

before trying to take out the speck in your neighbour’s eye.

Otherwise, you project your shadow onto others

and force them to carry your darkness.

 

We can use everything that happens in us

and that happens to us, to wake up:

Buddhism exhorts us to resolve the dualistic struggle

by embracing difficulties (our crosses)

and by meditating day and night.

“Seek in reading and you will find in meditating;

knock in verbal prayer and it will be opened to you

in contemplation” – Guigo the Carthusian.

 

But contemplation is always beyond us:

beyond art/philosophy/theology

even beyond discussion or explanation –

the language of God

is silence.

 

But the language of the blind and deaf Helen Keller is

“Life is full of suffering

and it is also full of the overcoming of suffering.”

REDISCOVERING THE GREAT CHAIN OF BEING

Starting with Copernicus and then Galileo,

heliocentrism – the Sun as the center of things

not the Earth – the new cosmology

totally upset the watermelon cart

displaced God’s immutability/hierarchy/

humans as the center of the universe/

our race as the center of God’s care/

the stable relationship between self/cosmos/God

was completely disrupted.

 

No wonder Alan Watts, who embraced eastern mysticism,

noted that modern culture is peculiar:

every other culture, East and West,

from 6000 years ago to the birth of modern science

believed in the Great Chain of Being.

 

However, we can rediscover this Great Chain

by recognizing our bodies, thru sexual intercourse

have been coming out of each other:

male out of female, female out of male

since day one – the whole human race is one –

one flesh/one body/one blood.

 

And now in addition we recognize

that it took the universe 13.7 billion years

to create YOU – from atoms/molecules/cells/

multicellular organisms/vertebrates/

your thousands of ancestors/to YOU –

YOU are 13.7 billion years old –

think about it – YOU are made of the dust of stars –

stardust – and God chose YOU

before the foundation of the universe.

 

Other scientists further disrupted all things –

besides Darwin, the new physics

changed our view of the cosmos

as dynamic and relational not static.

And new quantum laws incorporated chance

and indeterminism. But chance does not change

the cosmos into a lottery –

it is the way the universe explores

and realizes its potential:

the divinized human being –

YOU filled to the full with GOD.

THE PURPOSE OF ALL THINGS

The only purpose of God in creating the universe

was that it be a communion of souls in love.

Christ is the center/goal/perfection/paradigm of communion

so the meaning of Christ extends to

all people/all civilizations/all planets/all universes.

 

The only purpose of all spiritual practice

is to help you become an awakened human being –

a loving/contemplative sage full of God here and now –

which is the true nature of who you already are anyway –

so the end of the journey is its beginning.

 

Discovering your True Self can be a great relief –

you no longer have to protect/project/promote

an ideal self-image – your False Self.

Your True Self was always there and always will be

so you can relax and be yourself – flaws and all.

 

Awareness that life is flawed is the beginning of wisdom

and the beginning of anxiety is when a flawed being

becomes aware of its future non-being.

 

Today, the “Way of the Cross” involves

becoming aware of our flaws/limitations/sins

abandoning perfectionism/pursuing wholeness/

dying to our ego and finding our True Self

which may be exquisitely painful

but it focuses on growth not transient happiness.

 

Today we are blessed with tools like the Enneagram

which helps us understand

the depths of our darkness

and paradoxically allows us to grasp

the heights of our True Self

the divine image and likeness of God within

which longs to go without

and join others in forming

a communion of souls in love.

THINKING OF OTHERS

The First Axial Period was about individual consciousness

whereas the Second Axial Period, which we have just entered

is about global consciousness.

 

Western philosophy reached its lowest point, its nadir

with Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.”

We know now that we are more than rationality

and thinking is the primary place we hide

from the humiliating collapse into naked ‘being.’

More accurate would be: “I think therefore I am not.”

 

We need both self/other/subjective/objective thinking:

First Person ‘I’ is about the Beauty of self-expression

Second Person ‘You’ is about Goodness in relation to others

Third Person ‘It’ is about objective Truth.

Beauty/Goodness/Truth – this is all we need.

 

Since all is a seamless whole

you can give up your isolation, be naked

and enter into union with all that is.

Thus, you go

from separation to oneness

from selfishness to love

from ego to God.

 

When things are delightful

think of others

and pray that delight for them.

When things are hard

think of others

in similar suffering

and let your heart feel compassion

as you pray for them.

 

And practice contemplative eating:

when you eat

contemplate the 40,000 children who die everyday

for lack of food

feel compassion

and think what you can do for them.

BEING ONE YET MANY

Christ’s fiery touch at Pentecost

brought our souls and the Church alive.

Christ’s touch separates us from others

and yet binds us to them

so that at the same time each Christian

is a hermit and the whole Church.

 

The challenge for us is to be one and many

as symbolized in the three-in-one Trinity:

Father/Son/Holy Spirit are all distinct yet one –

so we must be united to all and yet our self.

Nature can help us imagine this –

since it is a ‘process’ – a flowing whole movement

of interconnected organisms

not a series of independent mechanisms.

 

In Zen, spirit and matter are one not separate

and so it flumoxed Francis Xavier

that Zen Master Minsitshu

was not convinced he had a ‘soul’

as an object one can ‘have’ and ‘save.’

 

Xavier’s goal was to save Minsitshu

but we should have goals only for our self

not expectations for others, since this means

asking them to live up to our own self-centered ideals.

 

Being one yet many and having no goals/expectations

for others – loving them as they are

not as we want them to be – challenges us in relationships

particularly marriage, the most intimate of all relationships –

where we are called to be one with our partner yet our self.

 

Being one yet many also challenges us spiritually:

to be one with God yet not God –

wisdom has two basic tenets:

there is a God and

you are not God.

 

“Spiritual challenges can be overcome

by more prayer/meditation/self-examination/

penance/patience in desolation/

and humility in consolation.”

– Ignatius of Loyola