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.

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.

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.

INTEGRAL SALVATION

Our True Self was traditionally called the ‘Soul’

the place where the immortal God

and the mortal human met.

Your Soul/True Self/God-in-you

is spacious awareness-itself, not judgment-itself.

It refuses to get involved in all

the comparisons and judgments

that constitute most of life.

The human soul rebels against death

because she contains within her

the eternal seed of intuition

and longing for, a higher life

which cannot be satisfied

by reducing humans to mere matter

as scientific materialism does.

The absolutization of science created

dissociation of the three main spheres:

science/culture/religion.

But science failed miserably to fulfill

the spiritual longing for ultimate answers.

Science conquered the world

but cannot fulfill it

the way an adult faith can.

Buddha preached an adult faith to Buddhists:

“Look deeply into the nature of suffering

and you will find the causes and a way out.”

Buddha did everyone the ironic favor

of pointing out that whether you are

a saint/sinner/winner/loser

suffering is everyone’s ordinary experience –

life is hard for everyone.

To live more easily and peacefully

sin must be eliminated

but shadow must be reconciled.

“The unconscious is not just the source of evil

it is also the source of the highest good

not just bestial and demonic

but spiritual and divine.” – Carl Jung

There is a dark shadow and a gold shadow

within each one of us.

To live with integrity is to integrate the shadow

not to be perfect in every way

but to have an integral self-image –

you know both your strengths and weaknesses

and where you need to grow.

Despite integral individuals within it

Christianity went down the wrong path

when it became all about the truth or falsity

of doctrines, rather than following a Person –

when it became about faith in ideas

rather than trust that God was in Christ

and cares for us.

In the late nineteenth century and still today

Christians react negatively to attempts

by people like Ramakrishna and Vivekananda

to reduce Jesus to just one of many incarnations of God.

To Christians, Christ is unique –

“For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily.”

– Colossians 2:9

The basic principle of the Spiritual Exercises

of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

is that humans are created to

praise/reverence/serve

God in Christ

individually and communally

and thus save not only their True Self

but also their Collective Soul.

THE LIMITS OF REASON

In religion, only non-dual seers are the experts

the only ones who can hold contrary/opposites together.

One non-dual seer was Augustine

who perceived that God is

merciful yet just

ancient yet new

hidden yet present.

There is an ambiance of

light/peace/wisdom

around great sages –

even when they are not present

their life and words show us the way.

Similar to Augustine

the author of the Cloud of Unknowing

was not anti-intellectual

but believed reason is limited:

God cannot be known by thought –

only by love.

Reason by itself alone would give us

God as a loveless clock-maker

who winds up the universe like a toy

and lets it run on its own till it runs out

in which case all revelation/ scripture/prophecy

are irrelevant.

The ‘dialectic of progress’ is ongoing

gains and losses – one era sees and solves

the problems of the previous era

but then has its own problems

but there is a net gain

and therefore a direction to evolution.

God is the direction.

If rational people equate holiness

with perfection – for this is what reason dictates –

these ‘perfect people’ would not see

their shadow, and project it onto others.

The more shadow is repressed

the more it grows, becomes autonomous

and dangerous.

If you haven’t worked through

your personal complexes then repressed conflict

between say, sex and religion, prevents you

from getting to the transcendental level.

We need to feel the fear

and make it our companion, not our enemy.

Beyond the shadow

Vedanta Hinduism warns:

If you think your Higher Self is God

and you are not your body

you won’t get out of the way

of a charging elephant –

you will be crushed.

It is important to know your place.

In Islam, beneath Allah

are three created intelligences:

angels made of light

jinn (spirits) made of fire

humans made of dust.

Many jinn have accepted the True Faith

and are good. The bad jinn

work with the fallen angels

particularly Iblis, chief of the fallen angels.

In countering the chief of the fallen angels, Satan

Jesus tried to move everyone to the good

to wake us up

out of our hypnotic cultural trance/collective sleepwalking

by countercultural actions/teachings/parables –

tools for turning the status quo upside down.

Jesus was often abrasive with hypocrites –

his crucifixion was not without cause

nor was it just personal –

it holds global/cosmic implications

which we usually overlook

just as we overlook our present global/cosmic disaster.

The crucifixion of Christ and of the planet

always need serious theological reflection:

the mission of Christianity and all religions now must be

to save the world

from climate change.

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.

 

GOD, THE SEED OF LOVE WITHIN ALL

A complete mythology serves us in four ways:

metaphysical/mystical, cosmological,

social and psychological.

In Christian mythology, God the Great Mystery 

leads us into 

paradox, darkness, never-ceasing journeys of inner growth.

Simplistic religion without mystery

causes people to leave religion.

Certainty, not doubt, is the opposite of faith.

Seeds need darkness to germinate 

and darkness makes life reach its full potential:

injustice causes us to strive for justice.

As a chaplain in World War One

Paul Tillich saw first-hand

the satanic impulses

unleashed by secular culture.

Demonic injustice was the seed that germinated

Tillich’s method of correlating scripture and reality 

in his systematic theology.

To receive the seed of God’s Word

the soil must be loose not hard-packed.

If we are too opinionated, too sure

we have the whole truth and nothing but the truth

too settled and comfortable, 

the seed falls on shallow ground

and ironically cannot get in.

In process theology, God is the seed

buried in the universe

who participates in All from within

rather than creating from without.

Jesus changed the world by working within

by changing hearts, not by political action.

His big revolution was including the poor

in the kingdom/queendom/kindom of God

and pointing out the corrupting influence

of wealth and power and how hard it is

to thread a camel through the eye of a needle.

Jesus made authentic subjectivity 

the foundation of truth when he said

“I am the Truth.”

Truth is a person, not an abstract concept.

Bernard Lonergan, the great Canadian theologian 

of authentic subjectivity

first exhausted himself 

in writing technical theology

but later immersed himself

in love and mysticism

and the eroticism of the Song of Songs.

Lonergan wrote that 

self-transcendence happens through being-in-love:

“Love is the first principle from which flows one’s

desires and fears

joy and sorrows

decisions and deeds.” 

Karl Rahner wrote that

his greatest religious experience was immersion 

in the incomprehensibility of God 

in daily life and ordinary things

not in prayer and meditation.

True religion is seeing God 

in commonplace things

like Francis of Assisi in his

Sermon to the Birds:

“My little bird sisters

you owe much to your Creator

who you must always praise 

with your song

because God has given you

the freedom to fly

anywhere.”

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.