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. 

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.”

WORLD NEEDS ADULT FAITH

  1. Fundamentalism, in terms of people having a simplistic faith, has become a problem for all of us. As a person’s world view progressively narrows, they become more and more judgmental, intolerant, and even dangerous. In some cases people are willing to kill themselves and others for their religious cause.

    As our world becomes increasingly complex, people seek simple answers in order to cope, and so fundamentalism is spreading everywhere. The solution is for people to develop an adult faith.

    By integrating the thinking of James Hayes, a former Catholic archbishop, Friedrich Von Hugel, a nineteenth century theologian, and Gordon Allport, a Harvard psychologist, we can outline ten characteristics of an adult faith which could apply to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahais, or any other faith-based tradition.

    First of all, a mature faith is open. It honours the basic freedom and autonomy of other adults, knows that our world is complex and ambiguous, and therefore respectfully listens to others and tries to understand their viewpoint. Then it speaks its own truth freely. This “dialogical” rather than argumentative approach represents a middle path between saying nothing and being authoritarian, that is, trying to impose our faith on others. 

    Secondly, an adult faith is searching. The adult believer distinguishes between constructive questioning (the search for truth) and destructive questioning ( the desire to disprove the truth). Constructive questioning is essential to progress in faith and normally produces greater clarity, broader horizons, and deeper ownership of one’s beliefs. The adult believer is wary of anyone who tries to shut down the quest for understanding.

    A mature faith is also informed and comprehensive in its world view. Ideally, adult believers know the scriptures of their tradition well, and supplement this with ancient and modern spiritual classics. Adult believers should also become familiar with at least one science, and scientific methods of investigation, to keep their faith from becoming superstitious and ungrounded.

    An adult faith is humble. It is a pilgrim faith that never believes it has fully arrived. It is open to ongoing learning and conversion, rather than the faith of someone who has all the answers.

    Fifthly, a mature faith is critically evaluative. While it immerses itself in its culture, it critically evaluates the social order in light of the demands of human rights, responsibilities, and justice.

    An adult faith is also decisive. In spite of cultural complexity, the mature faith is not paralyzed. Rather, it is able to make sophisticated judgments and to take appropriate action for the common good.

    Seventh, a mature faith is integrated, that is, it integrates the sacred and the secular, faith and life. It acts the same whether inside or outside the synagogue, church, mosque or temple. It is consistently moral and just.

    Adult believers also have a differentiated faith. That is, they don’t believe that all religious traditions are the same, so that it doesn’t matter which one you belong to. They make critical discernments about the different truth claims between major world religions and also the diverse claims by the various branches within each tradition. At the same time, the adult believer focuses on similarities more than differences and builds bridges between and within traditions.

    Adult faith is also personal. Adult believers struggle to come to their own conclusions rather than just simplistically accepting what is handed to them by religious authorities. They wrestle with whether or not assertions by those in authority make any sense to them based on their own personal life experience.

    Finally, knowing their own limits and the limits of others means that the adult believer’s faith is simultaneously compassionate and communal. They know that they and others cannot do it all alone, they need human support. They know that being a part of, and being accountable to, a supportive religious or spiritual community is essential to maintaining an adult faith.

    What the world needs now is not just love but also adults with an adult faith.

THE PRIMACY OF CHRIST

The Cosmic Christ is the blueprint

and raison d’être for the Creation.

The First Incarnation was at the Big Bang

when the Cosmic Christ became incarnate 

in the universe.

The Second Incarnation was when 

the Son of God became incarnate 

in Jesus of Nazareth.

Paul, Origen, Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus

testify to this.

In Christo-genesis

which is larger than evolution

the dynamism of the Church’s life 

and the life of the Christian individual

are meant to lead evolution 

to a new level of cosmic life.

As individuals we are meant to progress

from Egocentric basal, genital, gut chakras 1,2, 3:

food, sex, power

to Ethnocentric heart and throat chakras 4 and 5:

authentic relationships and communication

to World-centric mind and soul chakras 6 and 7:

psychological and spiritual fecundity.

As civilizations we are meant to progress

from Premodernity – the great Chain of Being

to Modernity – the differentiation of Science, Culture, and Religion

to Postmodernity – integration of the Big Three.

But the System constantly teaches 

the Calculating Mind

and alas we are only ever momentarily in

the Contemplative Mind

taught by the Spirit.

The System can thwart the progression 

of the Spirit-filled life:

from finding the sacred in one place

to finding the sacred – the Gate of Heaven –

everywhere – so everything is sacred.

Dualistic, either/or, calculating thinking

has blessed us

with scientific and technological revolutions

but can’t access eternal things.

Dualism is not the Tree of Life

it is the Tree of This or That.

Fearlessness and clairvoyance (clear-seeing)

are our fundamental nature 

as images of God

we can see that

the Rational Mind cannot grasp 

what the Religious Mind can.

Heidegger appealed to conscience 

for authentic living

but Macquarrie critiqued conscience 

as impotent

using Paul and Luther’s

bondage of the will.

Rationality cannot grasp

that God loves us

even when we don’t love God.

The devil tries to make us believe

our sins are too great for God

but God constantly leads us 

to internal expanded awareness

of Infinite Mercy.

Constant Love 

never consumes or absorbs us.

This Higher Love lives within us

and our True Self marinates in it.

Discovering this gives us power

to embrace the world

and our Total Self:

our prodigal self (the wayward son)

our self-righteous self (the older brother)

and our merciful self (the father).

Constant Love teaches us to embrace 

God, our Total Self, and the world

that is becoming Christ

who is greater than evolution

and its core, center, and raison d’être. 

ONLY IN GOD DOES EVERYTHING BELONG

Only in God

does everything belong:

the good and the bad –

all other systems exclude

contaminating elements

for ideological purity.

Both communism and capitalism 

believe in a future paradise/utopia

in which there is no shadow

which makes them ironically open 

to every moral infestation/corruption.

Only by abiding 

in God’s unconditional love

do we find the safety and freedom to be 

who we really are (our True Self)

all that we are (good and bad)

more than we are (saints)

and less than we are (sinners).

People believe 

if they find their True Self

all problems will be solved.

However, this narcissism

ignores social/cultural dimensions

necessary for transformation of civilization. 

Sorry, evangelicals:

converting individuals 

does not convert society

does not create the kingdom/queendom of God

the Beloved Community.

Ego intuits Spirit 

as Higher Self, Soul

Archetype, Enneagramtype

Inner Voice, Witness

Universal Mind, Pure Awareness

Transcendental Consciousness, Gnosticism

but this leaves out 

the We of culture

the It of politics.

Christology must be seen

thru eyes of victims’ oppression

not thru magical conceptions

of victors’ redemption.

When scripture is seen

literally/historically

not spiritually/symbolically

the Perennial Philosophy

mysticism……is lost

which is what the world 

needs most.

We must learn to live with relativity 

of all human ideas

all theological/scientific dogma.

The future is open-ended and inter-connected:

the freedom to flow and connect

are the new survival skills

in this twenty-first of all centuries.