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.

TRANSFORMING GLOBALIZATION AND THE UNIVERSE

The Interspiritual Age believes the spreading

of world religions as an offshoot of globalization

will create a global spirituality.

 

People need to remember how

the ancient religions of the East

thru the deepest longings/joys/sorrows of civilizations

strengthened and expressed the nobility of humans

how their temples have been home to

contemplation and prayer

how they shaped Eastern history and culture

and have been doorways to God

thru the Universal Christ –

the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 

All people become contemplative

whenever God discovers God thru them.

Contemplation is God contemplating God thru us.

 

When people of any religion abandon themselves to God

God takes away everything they have

and returns it to them in a new form –

God takes away all natural objects

and returns them all as supernatural gifts.

 

In a previous generation ‘supernatural’

was a banned word in theology

but Baron Friedrich von Hugel recovered it

because humans need both the Transcendent Wholly Other

as well as the Immanent Wholly Here and Now –

but monism and pantheism both leave one or the other out.

 

The Universal Christ as exemplar/model of the universe

teaches us two things about created reality:

Divine Love is integrated into the Creation

and the destiny of the universe is not destruction

but resurrection/transformation/glorification

in God.

 

 

 

DIVESTING DOMINANT PARADIGMS

Gospel love means divesting oneself for God

of all that is not God – all earthly attachments –

particularly to the self, but even to the Church.

 

Conservative Christians believe the Church

is the Kingdom of God in the world.

Liberal Christians believe the Queendom/Kingdom of God

is to be built outside the Church in the World.

However, one needs humility and detachment to see

that both are transient. The Church and the World are not God.

If one arrogantly makes the Church or the World eternal

one ends in idolatry. Like everything, the Church and the World

had a beginning and so will have an end.

 

Theology is an attempt to integrate God/Church/World

without reducing one to the others.

When theologians stop asking questions

and start making dogmatic statements

the spiritual search ends.

 

Artists can break through the captivity

of our dominant paradigm – idolatry

by exposing the dysfunction/pain/terror

covered up and denied.

Then healing may begin.

 

A similar dominant paradigm is insularism –

self-protection, like idolatry, takes many forms:

individualism (me first)

tribalism (my family or tribe first)

nationalism (my country before other countries/the planet)

historicism (ignoring human history – 1000s of years

or the history of the universe – billions of years).

Insularism loves sexism/racism/ageism/ablism –

people with disabilities are often terribly lonely

and show us our own loneliness

and how we all have a deep need to break out of insularism

and find community/friends/love.

 

A Christian woman and man, who thru the marriage covenant

of conjugal love are one flesh, render mutual service

to one another through this intimate union

and show us how the Church and the World ought to be –

united in Christ and reaching out to help everyone.

THE PURPOSE OF ALL THINGS

The only purpose of God in creating the universe

was that it be a communion of souls in love.

Christ is the center/goal/perfection/paradigm of communion

so the meaning of Christ extends to

all people/all civilizations/all planets/all universes.

 

The only purpose of all spiritual practice

is to help you become an awakened human being –

a loving/contemplative sage full of God here and now –

which is the true nature of who you already are anyway –

so the end of the journey is its beginning.

 

Discovering your True Self can be a great relief –

you no longer have to protect/project/promote

an ideal self-image – your False Self.

Your True Self was always there and always will be

so you can relax and be yourself – flaws and all.

 

Awareness that life is flawed is the beginning of wisdom

and the beginning of anxiety is when a flawed being

becomes aware of its future non-being.

 

Today, the “Way of the Cross” involves

becoming aware of our flaws/limitations/sins

abandoning perfectionism/pursuing wholeness/

dying to our ego and finding our True Self

which may be exquisitely painful

but it focuses on growth not transient happiness.

 

Today we are blessed with tools like the Enneagram

which helps us understand

the depths of our darkness

and paradoxically allows us to grasp

the heights of our True Self

the divine image and likeness of God within

which longs to go without

and join others in forming

a communion of souls in love.

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!

THINKING OF OTHERS

The First Axial Period was about individual consciousness

whereas the Second Axial Period, which we have just entered

is about global consciousness.

 

Western philosophy reached its lowest point, its nadir

with Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.”

We know now that we are more than rationality

and thinking is the primary place we hide

from the humiliating collapse into naked ‘being.’

More accurate would be: “I think therefore I am not.”

 

We need both self/other/subjective/objective thinking:

First Person ‘I’ is about the Beauty of self-expression

Second Person ‘You’ is about Goodness in relation to others

Third Person ‘It’ is about objective Truth.

Beauty/Goodness/Truth – this is all we need.

 

Since all is a seamless whole

you can give up your isolation, be naked

and enter into union with all that is.

Thus, you go

from separation to oneness

from selfishness to love

from ego to God.

 

When things are delightful

think of others

and pray that delight for them.

When things are hard

think of others

in similar suffering

and let your heart feel compassion

as you pray for them.

 

And practice contemplative eating:

when you eat

contemplate the 40,000 children who die everyday

for lack of food

feel compassion

and think what you can do for them.

BEING ONE YET MANY

Christ’s fiery touch at Pentecost

brought our souls and the Church alive.

Christ’s touch separates us from others

and yet binds us to them

so that at the same time each Christian

is a hermit and the whole Church.

 

The challenge for us is to be one and many

as symbolized in the three-in-one Trinity:

Father/Son/Holy Spirit are all distinct yet one –

so we must be united to all and yet our self.

Nature can help us imagine this –

since it is a ‘process’ – a flowing whole movement

of interconnected organisms

not a series of independent mechanisms.

 

In Zen, spirit and matter are one not separate

and so it flumoxed Francis Xavier

that Zen Master Minsitshu

was not convinced he had a ‘soul’

as an object one can ‘have’ and ‘save.’

 

Xavier’s goal was to save Minsitshu

but we should have goals only for our self

not expectations for others, since this means

asking them to live up to our own self-centered ideals.

 

Being one yet many and having no goals/expectations

for others – loving them as they are

not as we want them to be – challenges us in relationships

particularly marriage, the most intimate of all relationships –

where we are called to be one with our partner yet our self.

 

Being one yet many also challenges us spiritually:

to be one with God yet not God –

wisdom has two basic tenets:

there is a God and

you are not God.

 

“Spiritual challenges can be overcome

by more prayer/meditation/self-examination/

penance/patience in desolation/

and humility in consolation.”

– Ignatius of Loyola

SOLIDARITY

 The modern-day Apostle Paul Tillich warned

that a culture dominated by religion

stagnates/becomes monolithic uniformity/

loses the dynamism of pluralism/

degenerates morally into legalistic conformity/

ironically loses its inner Spirit.

 

Most nation-states form their solidarity around a religion

but America has always been religiously pluralistic –

therefore, the Founding Fathers

wisely built solidarity not on religion

but on self-evident truths.

 

Humanists are always concerned

that belief in God limits human freedom

and creates apathy to life on Earth.

However, this is misguided thinking:

belief in God does not block freedom and dignity

because God is the Source

of freedom and dignity.

 

Also, believing in our future union with God

does not block our discharging present responsibilities –

God wants us rooted and perfected in God

which provides both stability and motivation to act now.

 

Theism naturally gives birth to the idea of resurrection

and a spiritualized and transcendent view of the self

which humanism completely misses

making humanists ironically unable to really help humans

since real humanness involves divinization –

being filled to overflowing with God and God’s love

so your love flows out to all sentient beings.

 

Mystics always find a God who does not

judge/compare/differentiate/compete – since all these block love.

Our minds are meant to be like God’s:

all-embracing, all-loving receptors and givers.

 

The Apostle John spoke of Jesus as the revelation

of our solidarity with God/ourselves/others on a local scale.

The Apostle Paul spoke of Christ revealing unity on a cosmic scale:

“Through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile all things

to God whether in Heaven or on Earth” (Colossians 1:20)

so that “God may be All in All” (I Corinthians 5:28).

THE DRAGON, HUMAN NATURE, AND NEW HOPE

The dragon – a mythological creature of chaos and destruction 

swirls all around us – but the Lord of All Creation is there too

dancing in the dragon’s jaws.

We want to rise above cruel nature – jaw-red/claw-red –

to find a Universal Compassion we name ‘God’

but Ego restrains both our lower and higher nature –

the Id and Superego Sigmund Freud tried to integrate.

.

Integrating soul and body, John Macquarrie,

a Scottish philosopher/Anglican theologian/priest

developed an anthropology of finite freedom:

we are free but not totally free –

therefore, humans are a perpetual problem to themselves –

our finitude: circumstances/genetic makeup/

socioeconomic status/past decisions/sinful tendencies

restrain our grandiose visions.

 

New hope about human nature came from

the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

when it declared a universal call to holiness –

a holiness no longer out of reach of ordinary humans –

all are called to be holy – even the simplest peasant

can be as holy as great saints like Anthony of Egypt.

 

More hope came from the renewal of ancient pilgrimages

like the Camino de Santiago – average citizens making

the hero-saint’s journey of separation/initiation/return:

on the Camino across northern Spain

you follow the Way of St. James – the Camino de San Tiago

you are separated from your ordinary life

supernatural forces are at play and recounted

around campfires lit by pilgrims/peregrinos

and a decisive victory is won if, after 800 kilometres, you reach

the Cathedral of Santiago with its swinging botafumero

a giant censor fuming incense swung to the rafters by six men.

Then you return to your former life

with boons – new life insights – to offer others.

 

The greatest hope always comes from our Ever-Forgiving God:

“These people do not trust me even though

I want nothing but their sanctification – their holiness –

and I bear with them in great patience

because I loved them without them ever loving me.”

– God speaking to Catherine of Sienna