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.

 

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

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.”