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.”

RELIGION OVERCOMES SCIENTISM

The Integral Philosophy of Ken Wilber

overcomes problems that arise

when we dismiss inner or outer worlds.

Outwardly there is energy/matter/objects

inwardly there are feelings/desires/visions.

Both are necessary.

Conscience is the most secret core

and sanctuary of humans

where we are alone with God

and God’s voice echoes in our depths.

“The soul and the true self know

my life is not about me

but I am about life.” – Richard Rohr

We need to include not only God’s voice

but also our shadow’s voice. Integrating our shadow

makes us more fully human and alive.

True self-knowledge grounds and liberates us

and gives us confidence to be our self.

The truth sets us free.

The release of repressed creative energy

makes us less fearful and more enthusiastic.

Enthusiasm = “en theos” = in God.

The Second Vatican Council proclaimed

“be true to your self”

when it advocated primacy of conscience.

Fidelity to conscience unites Catholics

with all people of good will

whether other Christians/world religions/

agnostics/humanists/atheists –

all who are engaged in a search for truth

and solutions to Mother Earth’s problems.

Catholicism welcomes and appreciates

great Protestant and Anglican theologians

like John Macquarrie, a marvellous guide

to the deeper mysteries of human life

with creativity rooted in tradition

balanced theology creating dialogue

Christian anthropology affirming self-transcendence.

Macquarrie believed the living teachings of Jesus

must be practiced in community –

to be manifest the Trinity needs the Church

and the People of God need the Church

the mystical Body of Christ

to touch the Trinity and make it present.

But trying to reason your way to God

is ultimately impossible – God transcends reason

just as humans transcend ants.

But rationalists want to eliminate God altogether

in transcendence and tradition.

Since the mythic God died

and spiritual intelligence froze at its lowest level

the Enlightenment began with science

– and ended with “scientism” –

science as the answer to Ultimate Questions

of life/death/meaning – which are beyond

the ken/reach/pay grade of science.

Fortunately, as always, science progressed:

in Newton’s view, all things are machines

governed by deterministic laws.

But in quantum physics there are no

separate building blocks – everything is

an interconnected Sea of Possibilities.

Atoms are interconnected packets of energy

genetics interconnects all creatures

Internet interconnects the whole globe.

The Second Axial Person

is global/pluralistic/interconnected.

Through science we know

Extinction and Transformation

the evolutionary equivalent of

Crucifixion and Resurrection

are central features of

personal/cosmic/planetary evolution.

Scientism is giving way to interplay

of science and religion:

Buddhists preached “interbeing” forever

now quantum scientists and Buddhists

can talk to, and learn from, each other.

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

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.

THE LIGHT WITHIN

The goal of Confucian philosophy and ethics

is to find the hidden reality of heaven

in the center of your being

and from that center to engage in right action.

Otherwise, you spend your life in

frustration, confusion, and self-seeking.

Confucius held the Universal Christ on tap.

The new mythology is the ancient mythology

but in a subjective sense –

the glorious past or future is no longer

‘out there’ but ‘in here’

in each individual as a center of

‘The Mind at Large Without Limits.’

Centuries ago, atheism emerged as a protest

against the evil in the world. But to combat darkness

they deified human values of reason and science –

they made Reason and Science their Lord and Master.

Subsequently, rationality destroyed our ability

to respond to numinous symbols so that

we are now at the mercy of the psychic underworld –

deep subconscious urges – lust, greed, and hate –

evil spirits – that only religion can contain.

As our spiritual and moral traditions collapse

there is world-wide disorientation –

we have overcome ‘superstition’

but now have no guiding lights.

To the extent you think you can attain to holiness

by your own strength or wisdom

to that extent you have lost the humility of holiness.

Atheists who think they can save themselves –

build the Garden of Eden without God –

are lost before they begin.

In spite of all the world-darkness

the Second Vatican Council approached

human nature positively as made in the image of God

and human dignity as founded on our call

to communion with God within us.

As Ken Wilber notes: often unbelievers and critics of religion

equate the pre-rational and trans-rational believer.

The pre-rational have not yet discovered the power of reason,

the transrational have seen the limits of reason and transcended it.

Pre-rational is immature, spiritual ‘milk’

that makes you oppositional, defensive

and unable to respect and include

those outside your circle.

Only your emotions have been converted.

“Through conversion/transformation

of your intellect, will and emotions

(wisdom, obedience to God, and love)

you become a fully alive and authentic human being.”

– Bernard Lonergan

The fully converted use reason and science

but only as two tools in their toolbox –

they also employ the parables of Jesus as koan-bombs:

subversive memes that blow apart the everyday

rational worldview.

In the Cloud of Unknowing

you feel and know nothing for certain

except your naked intent to love God for God alone

in the nakedness of God’s Being.

When you get soul-naked with God

true love-making happens.

Afterwards, in the afterglow

“The Holy Spirit rests in the soul of the just

like a dove in her nest.

The Spirit hatches good desires in a pure soul

as the dove hatches her young.”

– Jean Vianney

As Jesus said: “I thank you Lord

that you have hidden your truth

from intellectuals, the wise rationalists of the world

and have revealed it to the simple.”

“I don’t say anything when I pray.

I just sit and look at God

and let God look at me.”

– An old peasant