EAST OF EDEN

The foundation and principle of Introduction to the Devout Life

by Saint Francis de Sales is:

God has drawn us out of nothing

solely out of God’s own goodness

not because of anything we have done.

 

But in the Garden Adam and Eve

rebelled against God’s seemingly oppressive dictum

“You shall not eat the forbidden fruit”

and were expelled from Paradise

which was necessary for deepening their spiritual growth

according to God’s plan.

 

Now we are all east of Eden

and struggle to live like Christ

which is God’s purifying action in us.

All negative experiences can be elements

of the ‘passive dark night’ of John of the Cross

if approached with faith/hope/love.

 

Things are broken

so we need compassion toward others

which starts with compassion toward our self –

being open to whatever you feel – positive or negative –

makes you open to whatever others feel.

Spirituality must be able to handle hard times

as well as easy ones

in order to be deep.

 

In fact, spirituality could impact every aspect of our lives –

when we approach our food with reverence and mindfulness

our daily bread becomes Holy Communion

the Last Supper and the First Supper

since this is the dawn

of a fresh spiritual approach to a basic necessity.

Spirituality could also include sexuality –

in musical legend Bruce Cockburn’s songs

sexuality has spiritual/sacramental meaning –

it is “spirits open to the thrust of grace”

a medium for God’s Divine Presence

even in, or particularly in, our sexual life

so God becomes our All in our all.

EVERGREENING LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

The ever-expanding consciousness of the Israelites:

God is transcendent – available to all –

not just their Hebrew tribe –

and God is personal

all came to a head in Jesus

and a new level of consciousness was born

and continued in the Church.

 

A still higher level of consciousness

came in the 20th century with the discovery

that the human person is not a random accident

but the arrow of evolution – the constant movement

towards greater consciousness/love/freedom/creativity.

 

And a still higher level of consciousness is emerging:

being Christian not only involves taking care of earthly life

it discloses the true meaning of life on Earth

going beyond humanization to divinization –

God divinizes us – we share in God’s divinity.

 

The insights that connect us to the Holy One

do not come from discursive thinking

but from radical awe and wonder

and our awareness of mystery and the ineffable –

this is where great things happen in and to the soul.

 

As Christians we come to truth not just thru our minds

but also thru our bodies when we begin to trust

our own experience/our own intuition/our own heart.

 

This is because the real religion of human beings

is spirituality – indeed we all secretly know this –

that the spirituality of mystics

is the origin of all the world’s religions.

 

And so the beat of Jewish consciousness goes on

and this ever-growing consciousness is ‘tikun olam’ –

the constantly evolving/never-ending/evergreening

‘healing of the world.’

 

FALSE PROPHETS, ATHEISTS, PEACE, AND WHOLENESS

 

Separation from the primal union with the mother,

the Garden of Eden, causes a lot of suffering, but is inevitable.

However, it is crucial to remember that there was

and there still is, a Garden.

 

The suffering of Jews/Blacks/Indigenous

has deepened them and elevated them

above the meaninglessness and triviality of the white man.

This is the secret spiritual heritage

of the United States of America and many other countries.

 

Between 1999 and 2009, the number of people

who identified as ‘religious only’ fell from 54% to 9%

and those who identified as ‘spiritual and religious’

grew from 6% to 48% – a ringing endorsement

of the value of spirituality.

 

Spiritual transformation normally results

in transformed relational virtues –

more honesty/compassion/forgiveness –

or it may mean you become a prophet.

Like any true reformer/prophet today

Jesus critiqued Judaism from inside Judaism

by Judaism’s own criteria and holy values.

 

Today, atheists who attack Christianity do so

based on Christian values, but they do not realize this

because western civilization has marinated in Christian values

for so long these values have become subconscious.

However, false prophets, unlike Jesus,

always attack from the outside – therefore

the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse –

Dawkins/Dennett/Harris/Hitchens –

are false prophets – they have no real understanding

of the depths of the religion they attack.

 

In critiquing Judaism’s over-emphasis on Law/morality

Jesus helped us replace our one-sided emphasis on goodness –

we are good, you are evil –

with a healthier ethic of wholeness –

looking at both our own goodness and brokenness

and seeing both the goodness and brokenness in others.

When Christians do this – take the logjam out of their own eye –

they bring peace to the world.

 

 

LOOKING EAST AND BACK WEST

 

In The Mystic Heart Brother Teasdale pictured a tree

in which the branches are all the religions of the world.

The main branches: Judaism/Christianity/Islam/Buddhism/Hinduism

and the minor ones: Sufism/Shintoism/Confucianism/Bahaism.

and the come-and-gone ones: Greek and Roman gods and goddesses/

Inca/Mayan/Aztec religion.

 

It is possible to learn and grow from all these traditions:

from Buddhism, Anthony de Mello, a Catholic mystic

learned “the fantasy of attending your own funeral”

and “the fantasy of your own corpse.”

 

Many Christians would have become Buddhists

but the tendency of eastern religions

towards world-denial and over-spiritualization

are pitfalls that prevent Christians from embracing the east

and prevent eastern traditions

from discovering the riches of the Incarnation and the Cross.

 

The intrinsic connection between the mystery of Incarnation

and the mystery of Creation means that in Jesus Christ

we discover the divine clue

not only to the structure and meaning of humanity

but also the entire universe.

 

Karl Barth’s massive Church Dogmatics

thoroughly Trinitarian and Christocentric

reminded us not to lose sight

of the central doctrines of the faith

while attempting to live Christianity out in the world.

Our image of God is central to our understanding

of how God acts in the world

and central to our attempts to transform this world

rather than deny/withdraw from it.

 

The question for Catholics at the contemporary crossroads:

do we deny modern theology/cling to old notions of God/

revert to the static medieval worldview

or do we grasp the dynamic evolutionary universe

that constantly raises consciousness

toward integral wholeness:

the unity of God/self/others/the world?

 

THE TRANS-PERSONAL MESSIAH

 

For the past 500 years, the scientific lens

in which everything is rational and testable

has been robbing us of the wonder

of the former magical/mythical era.

We should have integrated science and religion long ago

since they are both foundational to our makeup

of both body and spirit.

 

Immanuel Kant was on the right track –

he refused to let religion be reduced

to objective scientific explanation

because he demonstrated subjectivity

cannot be reduced to objectivity

and he was an enlightened Lutheran who believed

what contemporary theologians believe –

we are in a dynamic/trans-personal relationship with God.

 

Quantum theology today focuses on

‘sin’ as ‘missing the mark’

which implies a dynamic process of seeking

and flexible/multiple ways of arriving at the ‘mark’

rather than rigid/dualistic/mechanistic notions of right/wrong.

 

Scientific research shows three broad arcs

to human psychological growth:

pre-personal/pre-rational/pre-conscious

to personal/rational/conscious

to trans-personal/trans-rational/trans-conscious.

 

Scripture is tran-spersonal in Second Deutero-Isaiah

where we first hear that Yahweh is not just God of the Jews

but of all people, and we first hear of the Messiah

not just as the ideal king of the Jews

but as the Universal Ruler over all people.

 

The only way Buddhists and Christians

can keep Buddha and Christ alive today

is for their followers to live their teachings –

Jesus needs Christians to thoroughly practice

his central teaching, the Beatitudes

for, as Teresa of Avila said:

“The only feet/eyes/hands

God has are our feet/hands/eyes” –

The trans-personal Christ is mediated to the world through us.

 

 

 

THE ENERGY THAT UNITES ALL

Though humans are made of both body and soul

they are one

and through them the material world

reaches its crown

and raises its voice

to praise its Creator.

 

Therefore, the only gift God requires of us

is our being – with all its imperfections.

When we realize we are lovable

because God loves us

despite our weakness/sin/imperfection

it quickens our self-love.

 

For the great Anglican theologian John Macquarrie

even our limitations and death point to transcendence –

death gives structure and perspective to life

and raises the hope of immortal life.

 

Therefore, we should approach our earthly life

not as a problem to be solved

but as an adventure to be lived

with our mind and heart open to whatever arises

until Sister Death welcomes us into life forever

in the glorious presence of our Creator.

 

Spirituality is giving life one’s all.

Therefore, anyone who gives their all

to their family/work/country/justice/art

is a spiritual person – whether they acknowledge God or not.

 

For many men, all-out devotion to their work or their family

is their way of being good/spiritual/a saint –

maybe they are not workaholics

maybe they are addicted to love.

 

After all, deep erotic energy exists at the heart of the cosmos

and becomes manifest in human ministry/family life/marriage/sexuality –

the desire to love and be loved – the One Source of spirituality and sexuality –

this desire is the cosmic energy  

that unites God/humans/the universe.

A CULTURE OF LIES

 

Liberal Protestant theology has its roots

in Friedrich Schleiermacher who spoke of

the basic goodness of humans/the inevitable progress of culture/

the ethical imperative of love, and played down

sin/the judgment of God/the miracles of Jesus/the Resurrection –

Schleiermacher bought into secular beliefs in his landmark book

On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers.

 

But Schleiermacher was naïve:

so much of contemporary politics/advertising/sex

violates the Fourth Buddhist Precept of Mindful Speech –

people lie to start wars/get votes/sell products/have sex –

it’s a culture of lies that bows to the Father of Lies –

Schleiermacher should have titled his book

On Religion: Speeches to Cultural Liars.

 

According to Buddhism:

a Bodhisattva is not contained in the world –

rather she contains the world

and holds it in her jewelled hands.

 

According to Islam:

Mohammed supernaturally received fragments of the Koran

in a trance between 610CE and his death in 622CE –

he was illiterate so he simply recited what Allah taught.

 

According to Christianity:

doctrine saves no one

salvation comes from an existential confession

that for you, personally, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

Christianity based on doctrine alone is dead –

Christians must be involved

in the suffering of the world.

 

To this end Jesus criticized the cultured men of religion –

the Pharisees – for their hypocrisy

and then attacked the cultured men of affairs –

the Sadducees – for their oppression of the poor –

Jesus wanted the leaders to model a spiritual kingdom

whereas the Pharisees and Sadducees

modelled the kingdom of Rome

a culture of lies just like our own.

COSMOLOGY AND GOD’S LOVE

Theology was queen of the sciences for 500 years

science usurped that role for 300 years

now cosmology is the queen:

the study of large-scale properties of the universe as a whole –

its origin/structure/content/laws/development/evolution

including space/time/causality/freedom –

the Big Bang Theory is an example

that all moral/political/social/economic/personal decisions

even our highest mystical concepts of God

must bow to cosmology.

 

David Bohm’s Implicate Order is another example

based on the idea that the whole, not the parts, is primary.

Classical physics focused on the parts, the new physics sees

that all the parts connect to each other

in one indivisible whole system, that is,

All is One –

Cosmology is the new scientific mysticism.

 

But, as Richard Rohr says:

“We are one yet not one.”

We are one with God

and yet we are not God –

the two great encounters: with True God and True Self

are experienced simultaneously

and grow in parallel with each other.

And “Even if we sin, we are God’s.

But we will not sin, knowing we belong to God”

– Wisdom 15:2.

 

Meister Eckhart focused on joy/

relegated penitential practices to the background/

maintained that the more you let God’s love conquer you

the freer you are.

 

“The test of authentic religious experience

is a life well-lived – religion begins

in the affections/emotions and results in

love of God and neighbour.” – Jonathan Edwards

LETTING GOD LOVE YOU

In the Paleolithic period when agriculture first developed

the fertility of the land was imaged

in the pregnant goddess statues

found all over Europe/the Middle East/India.

 

Modern science believes all religious claims

whether ancient/modern/literal/mystical

are a holdover from humanity’s childhood

like Santa Claus – science denies them all

as there is no empirical evidence for any of them.

 

However, religion is not focused on evidence

but on self-transformation – crossing the threshold

of any temple/church is meant to be self-annihilation

a reminder to let go of the small self/ego.

 

This is why entrances to the sacred are commonly guarded

by angels/saints/gargoyles/dragons/lions/bulls –

entering you undergo metamorphosis/

leave your secular/unholy self behind/

and discover the World’s Womb/Navel/Earthly Paradise.

 

The call to grandeur/union with God

and to the depths of misery/separation from God

are both integral parts of human experience

that only receive their ultimate explanation

in God’s revelation.

 

Christian love calls you to transcend your selfishness

to commit your self to the good of others

enabling them to realize their full potential.

 

But, contemporary psychology tells us that to love others

you must first love your self.

But true self-love involves loving your self

the way God loves you.

But none of us is capable of loving the way God loves –

you have to let God do it.

 

True self-love therefore involves letting God love you

the way only God can love you.

 

Then you can love your self and you can love others

the way only God can love them.

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.