FINDING UNITY IN SPITE OF PLURALITY

In the inter-spirituality approach of Brother Teasdale

authentic enlightenment/awakening can be had

by deeply following any of the branches of the religious tree

of humanity’s search for the Godhead.

 

However, New Age/Alternative Spirituality’s rejection of dogma/

Joseph Campbell’s injunction to follow your bliss/

Krishnamurti’s radical openness to any spirituality

can lead naïve seekers into dabbling in the occult

and thus vulnerable to dark forces/false prophets.

A sense of the numinous can lead to deep calm/awe

or wild bacchanalian debauchery/dread.

 

Psychoanalysis/depth psychology was rejected

by many religious people because it disturbed

their ‘undisturbed conscience’ by showing them

the depths of their cruelty and hatred

that only the Cross of Christ can handle –

simplistic Christians were ironically afraid

of the depths of their own tradition

of deep Christianity.

 

Thomas Merton revealed western religion had lost

the deep wisdom/unitive tradition Jesus taught –

even in monasticism there are monks and nuns

dualistic in their thoughts/practices.

 

God created the universe with an end in mind:

a Christified cosmos.

Thus, despite the immensity of the universe

which could induce ‘cosmic terror’ in the naïve

the universe is a unity not an unrelated plurality

it is meaningful and purposeful

because it is grounded in the Cosmic Christ.

TEST EVERY SPIRIT

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit

but test the spirits to see

if they are from God” – I John 4:11

There are many visionaries/prophets in the world today

but we must discern the rind from the fruit.

Meister Eckhart is no Gnostic

but he emphasized transcendent/ineffable knowing

which the 21st century mind cannot grasp

since it believes all knowledge can be rationally analyzed

or if not, the knowledge-object does not exist.

But God transcends human rationality –

“My thoughts are not your thoughts

and My ways are not your ways –

as the heavens are higher than the earth

so My ways are higher than your ways

and My thoughts higher than your thoughts” – Isaiah 55:8-9.

Limited 21st century rationality proclaims this god must not exist.

Eckhart was under the influence of mystical Judaism

therefore, the Hasidim (Jewish mystics), show up in his writing –

the Baal Shem Tov said “In remembering lies redemption”

and Eckhart called Christ “The Great Reminder.”

Eckhart reminds us the heart ties together God’s triple-c calling:

communion with God/

community with others/

commission – ministry for others.

Eckhart believed salvation must include social justice

but most traditional salvation theories ignored the obvious:

racism/sexism/slavery/poverty/degradation of Earth –

Protestants overlooked the decimation of indigenous Americans

and Catholics overlooked the poverty of social justice in Latin America.

Recognizing the inner beauty of each human being

is at the heart of being human –

when we judge others we deny their inner beauty/

their beauty never gets a chance to shine/

and we block evolution’s flow

to greater love and consciousness.

 

 

 

COSMOGENESIS: THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE

Science has shown us:

– all life comes from a single event, the Big Bang

– the universe is not a static, fixed event

it is a ‘cosmogenesis’ – ongoing creativity

– all life participates in this birthing

and is deeply connected.

 

Teilhard described evolution as a “biological ascent

towards greater unity and complexity

in which qualitative differences spontaneously arise.”

 

According to Raimundo Panikkar’s ‘cosmotheandrism’

– we cannot say ‘I’ without the divine

– we cannot say ‘Thou’ without consciousness

– we cannot say ‘It’ without the world –

all three are necessary for cosmogenesis.

 

Descartes’ ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’)

arrives at his ‘self’ as an objective reality, a ‘thing’

and then arrives at ‘God’ as another ‘thing’

another finite being

instead of transcendent and infinite.

 

Looking straight at our ‘self’ makes us uncomfortable

so the essence of bravery is to live without self-deception –

the more we get to know our judgmentalism/arrogance/pettiness

– the less they can sink their fangs into us

– the more they lose their power

– the more we can love.

 

“The purpose of spiritual books like Introduction to the Devout Life

is to bring us to the love of God despite

the thousand darts of mockery

worldly people will throw at you.”

– Francis de Sales

 

We need Teilhard/Panikkar/de Sales to overcome the world

and keep cosmogenesis/cosmotheandrism/the evolution of Love/

the galaxies and stars

flowing like a mighty river.

CLEARING UP RELIGIOUS MISUNDERSTANDINGS

 

 Stories move people more than reason

because they transport us right into the living context.

The Jewish and Christian scriptures are full of stories

that bring God into the richness/messiness of life.

 

Meister Eckhart knew that stories promote understanding

more than logic, and he defined ‘understanding’

as ‘deiformity’ – conformity to the mind of God –

when we rightly understand how the world works

we are drawn into/formed in the mystery of God.

 

There have been many misunderstandings in Christian history –

Saint Paul has been grossly misunderstood 

as anti-marriage/pro-patriarchy/anti-Semitic/pro-slavery.

In all this he did not betray Jesus or invent Christianity.

What he did was: challenge Jews to new ways of thinking

and confront Roman patriarchal theology by proclaiming

Jesus not Caesar is Lord.

 

More misunderstandings: some theologians think

the doctrine of original sin is optimistic –

it does not teach humans are evil by nature

but that evil in humans is unnatural/a disorder/a sin.

If evil were natural to humans

we would be perfectly happy in evil

but evil people are not happy

or if they are, it is not natural.

 

Misunderstandings caused his fellow monks

to treat Saint John of the Cross harshly.

After eight long months in prison/a dark closet

and constant beatings by other monks

he escaped in 1585 and wrote his spiritual classic

Ascent of Mount Carmel.

 

Misunderstanding Bible verses such as

“Be perfect as God is perfect”

results in perfectionism/fear/legalism/hypocrisy

but the context is: God exhorting us to love everyone

just as “God makes the sun rise and the rain fall

on the good and the evil” (Matthew 5:45-48).

Perfection therefore consists in 

unconditional love not moral flawlessness.

 

TRUE RELIGION

True religion involves basing our beliefs

on our own direct experience of reality

not on concepts someone else taught us –

after a while those concepts no longer work

and plunge us into darkness.

 

Religions steeped in creeds and doctrines alone

offer people a magic-mythic view of reality:

Abraham asked Allah to show him

how Allah raises from the dead.

Allah said “Slaughter four birds

place their pieces on the hills

in the four directions

then call them

and they will fly to you.”

 

The constant movement towards greater consciousness –

the history of evolution on Planet Earth

from matter to life to thought to spirit – continues

and leads believers beyond magic and myth/

and gives us a rational/spiritual explanation

for the development of the universe.

 

Ramon Panikkar, the Catholic/Hindu scholar

is a worthy guide to the New Axial Era

when he proclaims that our first task

is to discover the Cosmic Christ within us

then also in others

and then in Creation itself.

True religion is to be seized by the Love

at the heart of life/the heart of Creation

and to find ways to let that Love evolve

into a global wholeness – a wholeness

of unity/compassion/justice/peacemaking.

 

FRESH AND GREAT REVELATIONS

 

 St. Gregory of Nyassa wrote that the contemplative life

cannot be lived in secular society

but St. Basil claimed it is possible while you work

to pray with your mouth/heart/mind.

 

At the monastery, Thomas Merton learned:

– how to pray while working as a laborer

– how to be a member of the human race

– that every other human being is no more crazy

and ridiculous than he claimed to be – than we all are.

 

Merton also learned and contemplated:

– fear is the awareness of one’s own finitude

– the possibility of one’s own nonbeing

– that anxiety is natural for mere mortals.

All these were great revelations to him.

 

Today extreme theological traditionalists

try to overcome anxiety by ignoring the past two centuries

while extreme theological progressives

subordinate Christianity to worldly philosophies.

The former flounder like fish-out-of-water in contemporary culture.

The latter flounder like fish-out-of-water in the church

and, despite their protests, are not Christian –

you have to draw the orthodox line somewhere.

 

The years when the religious right ordains

fundamentalist presidents always result in religious disaster –

alienating all young Americans

who hold completely different values

about women/homosexuality/poverty/climate change.

 

According to the great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel

the problem for both extreme right and left is: no awe.

After all, radical amazement lies in all reality:

not only in amazing things I can see – like the Milky Way –

that filmy white night banner overhead – but also in the fact that:

– I can see

– I can reflect on my ability to see

– I have a self that can reflect on things

– that this self is part and parcel of all that was/is/will be.

 

All these were great revelations to Heschel

and revelations always light up our footsteps on the path to God.

OPENING TO THE GOD WITHIN ALL

If the devout life is the same as true love of God

and the essence of the devout life is prayer

then the essence of the love of God is prayer.

 

Communion/connection with God or another person

involves the security and insecurity of trust

and a constant battle against all the forces

of fear and selfishness within us.

 

But to love is to be on the path of integral wholeness –

to see the ‘other’ not as ‘stranger’ but as ‘brother’

and ‘sister’ as part of one’s self, as belonging to another

and as part of a greater whole.

 

Objective theology may give you the right answers

but it doesn’t help you with prayer/union with God/

compassion for the lost. It excludes subjective experiences

like John of the Cross’s ‘Dark Night’

and Meister Eckhart’s inner freedom/energy/joy.

The result: if you only deal with Eckhart’s external writings

divorced from his inner spirituality

he can seem like a heretic.

 

There are three styles of religiosity:

‘intrinsic’ – religion as an end in itself;

‘extrinsic’ – religion as a means to an end/social justice

‘quest’ – religion as openness to change –

even to changing one’s religious beliefs/values.

 

Going from ethnocentric to worldcentric belief

means changing from a group-based identity –

this is my tribe –

to a person-based identity –

this is what I believe –

Jesus is still your and everyone’s personal Savior

no matter what you believe

but you realize the Holy Spirit speaks to people

in different faiths in different ways

and so others may find different paths to salvation.

 

Yes, the Universal Christ/God is the only way to God

but this is because the Universal Christ/God

is everywhere and depending upon one’s culture

takes many different forms.

LIVING CHRIST/LIVING BUDDHA

A cosmic Christology is the only adequate one.

If Christ is “first-born from the dead”

the resurrection is not only for humanity

but the whole Creation.

 

Christ’s resurrection renews the whole universe –

“in Christ all things are made new” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

including other world religions.

 

After all – to reverse engineer things –

Zoroastrian/Persian thought definitely influenced

the writers of the Book of Daniel

and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the last century before Christ, the Essenes

who had roots in Zoroastrianism

expected a World Savior.

God the Holy Spirit influenced Zoroastrians and Essenes

even before Christ appeared.

 

For Plato/Plotinus/Meister Eckhart/Ralph Waldo Emerson

Spirit transcends/includes/gives rise to mind/body.

Similarly, in Buddhism, Spirit (Dharmakaya)

gives rise to mind (Sambogyakaya)

which gives rise to body/form/Nature (Mismanakaya).

 

We can therefore help the Living Christ and the Living Buddha

continue their compassionate work by realizing our body

is first of all a member of the Mystical Body of Christ

but also the body of Buddha.

Therefore, if you are Buddhist, you should love your body

as if it were the Buddha

and if you are Christian, you should love your body

as if it were Jesus the Christ

because Christ is living in you/over you/thru you/as you.

 

“The mystery of Christ within you

is your hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:27).

 

“My deepest me is God!”

– Saint Catherine of Genoa

 

“I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”

– Saint Paul in Galatians 2:20

 

RECONNECTING SEXUALITY AND SPIRITUALITY

 In medieval times the Church made a theoretical separation

of the sacred and the secular which was a brilliant political move

to preserve the Church’s power in the “Investiture Conflict”

that is, the Church wanted priests and bishops chosen by the pope

whereas politicians wanted them chosen by kings and the state.

The state would then have been in control of the Church

with clerics kowtowing to the wishes of whatever politicians wanted.

 

However, this sharp separation meant the last thing seen as sacred

was sexuality. The word “sexual” comes from the root “secare”

which means to “cut off” – we are all cut off from the whole

and so we all have this constant longing for union and communion

with everything, which is the essence of sexual desire.

 

Sexual morality is a key concern of quantum theology

but not in terms of dualistic right and wrong behaviour

but rather how foundational values

like love/justice/freedom/peace/truth/equality

are socially and sexually incarnated.

 

Loneliness for humans is a taste of death

a form of solitary confinement

so no wonder the lonely sometimes lose themselves in violence

as a way to retaliate against the pain:

“No one loves me? I will show them how little I love them.”

 

Our shadow projections can make the world into a mirror

that shows us our own ugly face.

If we project our negative intentions/motives onto others

we will be hostile toward them

and they will be hostile toward us.

What we do to others will be done to us –

the Law of Karma/Consequences/Sowing and Reaping.

 

The only time to be enlightened/wise/kind/loving

is right now. So let us live in the Now

which does not separate the sacred and the secular

the union of body/heart/mind/soul

sexuality and spirituality –

both come from the desire to love and be loved.

 

“God has made us for great things – to love and be loved.”

– Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

LOVE WITHOUT BORDERS

Love knows no boundaries:

from the most elementary particles: quarks and bosons

to the most intense human relationships/sexuality

there exists a lifeforce that lures and attracts –

gravity/attraction/love is the basic driver

of the universe/evolution.

 

Evolution is not just another theory

according to Teilhard de Chardin

it is a dimension of truth to which all theories/disciplines –

physics/chemistry/biology/sociology/history of religions –

must bow, if they are to be credible.

 

Religion as our ultimate concern (Paul Tillich)

is a dimension of spirituality to which all major religions

Judaism/Christianity/Islam/Hinduism/Buddhism

must bow – this means religion is much broader than church:

lawyers can be seized by an ultimate concern for justice

and thus make the legal system more accessible for the poor.

In a ‘theonomous’ (God-based not church-based) culture

many groups can co-operate, including churches,

in transforming society. Is not this all religion too – God acting in the world?

 

Buddhism can transform civilizations, as in Thailand and Vietnam

with its Five Precepts which outlast any war:

cultivate compassion/kindness/oneness of body and mind/

mindful speech/mindful consuming.

 

Christ’s only description of the Final Judgement (Matthew 25: 31-46)

has nothing to do with following the Ten Commandments/

attending church/believing in papal infallibility

it is only about seeing Christ in the marginalized

and reaching out to them in lovingkindness

as the image of God in the least sister/brother.

 

In giving Christian or Buddhist lovingkindness to others

we need to start with unconditional love for ourselves

whether we feel weak/small/incompetent/not good enough

we can still choose to love our true self/

forgive our false self/

be happy.

 

Loving others starts, but never ends, with loving our whole self

without boundaries/limits/conditions.