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.

REDEEMING TECHNOLOGY

If we are going to save humanity from technology

we need to emphasize the human need for

love/friendship/meaning/freedom.

This is where religion can be extremely valuable –

in humanizing technology.

 

On the positive side of technology,

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest

envisioned technology gathering human energy

deepening love/global consciousness

and an awareness of ‘interbeing’ –

we are all part of an interweaving body

of life/love/motion we call the Uni-verse –

the One Cosmic Poem.

 

The problem with our contemporary world

is dissociating art/morals/technology

from each other and from religion:

not only pre-rational mythic spirituality

was rightly rejected

but also rational postmodern spirituality –

postmodern/liberal/intellectual humans

were left to answer the deepest question

“What is of ultimate concern?”

with only art/morals/technology

allowed to give an answer –

progressive religion was excluded from the debate.

 

In spite of this we have made moral progress –

we now recognize systems of injustice

rather than individuals cause immoral behaviour –

we have lifted the burden of responsibility off each person

and placed it squarely on the shoulders of corrupt systems

the individual is inevitably enmeshed in.

 

In any case, Truth cannot impose itself on our hearts

except by virtue of it being true.

Religions therefore must be free to speak their truth

without trying to coerce civil society.

 

Healthy spirituality could be an anchor for civilization

preventing it from being swept away by the current –

the overwhelming flood of technology.

THE PROTESTANT PRINCIPLE AND PARADOX

Life is always the tension/balance between opposing forces:

dark energy makes up 70% of the universe, dark matter 25% –

the visible universe is only 5% of what we know!

Dark energy keeps the universe expanding

and dark matter is a vast invisible ocean

that causes clustering of galaxies

and keeps the universe together.

 

More tensions of life:

Paradox I: salvation is freely given

but requires effort on our part.

Paradox II: Salvation is absolute liberation and joy

but to get there you normally go thru

absolute chaos/confusion/suffering.

 

Peter, James, John and Paul were saints just like us

who brought their brokenness to Christ

so that God’s strength might be glorified

in the transformation of their weakness.

 

The New Testament word for “heart” – “kardea”

means “our innermost thoughts/feelings/judgements”

that Jesus said must be purified –

he is quite clear – we must go beyond

superficial practice of the Law

to inner purification of our heart.

 

The Protestant Principle of iconoclasm –

the anti-idolatry that smashes idols – purifies things.

Paul Tillich turned the Protestant Principle

on Catholicism for believing it is God

on Karl Barth for his ‘supernaturalism’

and not taking modern culture seriously

on Carl Jung for reducing religion

to a private subjective realm

on himself for absolutizing Christianity

and not dialoguing with world religions

earlier in his theology.

 

Spiritual growth is to get rid of the clutter

to purify your self. The hero’s journey is one of

rediscovery not discovery – you learn that you were

a daughter/son of God all along – the heir of the universe:

the universe, in all its darkness and light, is yours, forever!

SCIENCE AND THE TRUE SELF

The rise of science in the Renaissance and Enlightenment

freed people from religious authority. Science replaced God –

there was no need for the “God hypothesis”

to explain how things worked.

 

Today, theology and our everyday minds

continue to be challenged by a universe

in which every second millions of tons of matter

convert to light-energy, black holes

empty space bristles with dark matter and dark energy

about which we know nothing.

 

Meanwhile, Christianity back then and today

held that its Lord and Master, Jesus the Christ

is the focal point/key/goal of all human history

and even the history of the universe.

 

In early Christianity, mystical experience

was at the center of all theology –

prayer/theology/catechesis were all one.

But today people want spiritual experience

divorced from religion seen as dogma

because Christianity, challenged by science

focused on doctrine not on experience.

 

Unfortunately, Christianity throughout its history

has been far more interested in the Moral Self

as the measure of everything, and so has lost

the Absolute Measure of the True Self.

The False Self, the Ego, is happy

that believers in God usually deny

we all are already God’s beloved children

which gives the Ego nothing to strive for

and feel superior about

and so, even though God calls all of us

our Egos allow very few to be chosen.

 

A focus on the Moral Self means that

abnormal guilt has become a normal part of life –

fear of what others think drives us

we always want to be seen as pure – the good girl/boy

which is appropriate for childhood

but adults need to integrate their Shadow and stand against

their internalized shoulds/should nots as the voice of God

otherwise the True Self has no voice in our scientific age.

THE DAWNING INTERSPIRITUAL AGE

Doing theology has become a lot more challenging

because we live in a universe 13.7 billion years old –

science stretches us in mind-boggling ways.

 

But we are discovering the new/old Universal Christ:

Bonaventure’s integral relationship

between Creation and Incarnation

is a key to Cosmic Christology

in an evolving universe.

 

Thru Duns Scotus Teilhard discovered

the primacy of Christ when he realized

Christ is not patterned on Creation

but rather Creation is patterned on Christ –

the Universal Christ provides the blueprint

of the universe.

 

This is why the InterSpiritual Age that is dawning

depends on whether people can make

their theological/doctrinal issues secondary

to the love/service/ethics

underpinning all religions.

 

In Asia and across the world

people want the mysticism of Christ

not Greco-Roman-European theology

with its rationalism and legalism

that supports the institutional Church.

 

Scholars now compare Meister Eckhart to Buddhism

because he integrates the eternal and temporal:

mystical life should impact everyday life –

one’s morals/values/lifestyle.

 

We are starting to realize that despite

the immensity of the universe

the Universal Christ

is not “somewhere out there”

but in the thick of every religion

and in the thick of everyone’s daily life –

the Universal Christ is the blueprint of your life.

 

HEARTS ON FIRE

If you want to be a real help to your temple/church/

Buddhist sangha first light the fire

of love/tolerance/understanding in yourself

so you can inspire others to do the same.

Otherwise, no matter how beautiful the edifice

it will be a false temple/church/sangha.

 

If you are not on fire for God

it is because your image of God is old school –

God is transcendent/detached from human life.

The theory of evolution forces us

into a new image of God as immanent –

God arises from within everything.

 

Teilhard/Merton/Panikkar/Griffiths

all call for inner renewal as the key to living Christ

in the 21st century. These four deceased

but alive mystics can be our guides

for living in an evolutionary world.

 

Religion is falsely thought of as contentment –

an idealistic escape from the stresses of harsh reality.

However, religious discontent is synonymous

with spiritual renewal – discontent that the world

is not like God’s dream

of peace and justice for all.

Prophetic religion is not about certainty and security.

 

Earthly attachments to comfort/porn/money

control the soul/end the spirit’s freedom/

cut us off from God.

As we value and pursue foolish things,

foolish fears, like losing our comfort, result.

 

“Conversion” according to Bernard Lonergan

is the experience by which one becomes

an “authentic human being.”

And Lonergan affirmed conversion as holistic:

it involves the whole person in all our dimensions:

intellectual – loving God with our mind

ethical – loving God with our body

and religious – loving God with our heart on fire.

EINSTEIN, MARX, AND ‘I AM’

 Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in 1905

swept away Newton’s World

of absolute/empty/space and fixed time.

Space and time are now one continuum and

time is no longer seen as an absolute constant

flowing at the same rate everywhere.

 

Einstein resisted the idea that the universe

is constantly expanding, but this led

the Belgian priest/physicist George Lemaitre

to conclude that the universe must have a beginning

and in 1949 George Gamow proposed the Big Bang Theory

the best explanation so far.

 

The Marxist cult of constant expansion/progress

accused Christianity of leaving humans

divided/alienated/mournful.

But the solution continues to be Christian optimism:

God leads us to the Promised Land

we don’t get there by political revolution.

It is God’s kingdom not Karl Marx’s.

 

For Christians the main discipline is to let the horsepower

of our experiential union with God do the work

to keep the cart (us) behind the horse (God)

and not foolishly take on the harness our self.

 

Led by the Holy Spirit

well-developed individuals and civilizations

go thru archaic/magic/mythic stages

in infancy/childhood/adolescence

but 70% of believers remain stuck there.

Only religion, which contains these stages,

legitimizes/honors/respects people at these stages thus

only religion can lead them out of these stages

to higher consciousness.

 

When you surrender to God

God stops being an ‘object out there’

and becomes your own ‘I Am’.

And since you now know your self

thru/with/in Somebody Else who loves and guides you

your little ‘I Am’ becomes a great ‘We Are.’

 

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.

FULL LIFE IN AN “AI” UNIVERSE

We are called to see God in all things

including our astounding science/tech innovations

and use them for the service of God

and everyone’s eternal happiness.

But since love is not part of the knowing process

of artificial intelligence/silicon chips/robots

technology takes over as our guide, not religion

and leads us into a posthuman world.

Edwin Hubble discovered the universe continually expands –

a major revolution in scientific understanding

of a former/fixed/static universe:

the universe will dissipate and end.

Expecting “The Universe” to do things for you –

“Ask the Universe to help you,” or as many say 

“Put your request out there and the Universe will grant it” 

is folly.

It is God who grants things. 

The reason for the Incarnation 

is the excess mercy and love of God.

Incarnation consummates the universe

and is willed by God entirely for itself

not as an afterthought

brought in to deal with sin. 

First of all, God wanted to show us 

how to be fully alive through Jesus the Incarnate Christ.

It is in our ordinary daily lives

where loving like Jesus

and bringing in transforming grace

happens in our relationships 

with spouses/children/friends/parents/coworkers.

When you enter fully into the Present

you alleviate confusion/suffering 

and touch the Prince of Peace and your own Buddhahood –

Buddhists practice Presence through conscious breathing.

Prayer is not primarily thinking and saying holy words –

it is a stance, a way of living continually in Presence

being aware of Presence, and enjoying Presence.

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.