THE GREAT LOVER

The Great Lover calls all of us

the outsider/sinner/violent

into the Ocean of Mercy called God:

“I did not come to make the virtuous

feel good about themselves,

I came for those who need healing.”

– Jesus

Once in the Ocean you can dive to the depths:

“There are two healing demands

if you take up the contemplative life:

forsaking the world’s evil

and purifying your conscience of all sin

through the sacrament of reconciliation.”

– The Cloud of Unknowing

Both Christianity and Buddhism encourage people

to reject all earthly aspirations.

Instead, people rejected religion

which works well for them

until there is serious suffering.

People losing their religion

may be entering a spiritual wasteland

or travelling into a mythic desert

where they can start a new spiritual search

for the God old, ossified institutions have lost.

Perhaps religion is all made up anyway –

our minds cannot grasp infinity

so we invoke concepts like beginning and end

Alpha and Omega, Incarnation and Resurrection

as dominant myths to help us cope

with our Infinite God and infinite universe

even though God is fully present everywhere

including in your own heart and soul.

Though God is in, over, through, and as us

“We do not see things as they are,

we see them as we are. We hear religious texts

according to our own level of consciousness

which is always developing.” – Richard Rohr

The first worldwide developmental Axial Age

was 500 BCE to 100 CE –

the rise of the great religions, east and west.

The second Axial Age began in 1600 CE

with the labor pains of science –

a massive revolt against Aristotle

and his deductive method of arguing from effect to cause.

Science was inductive/experimental/observational/pragmatic

thus, studying people’s approach to God (religious studies)

began to displace the science of God (theology) –

God became an object of academic study

instead of the Author of Living Faith.

Reason has overcome myth

and been a handmaid of Spirit

in achieving real freedom

rather than mythic freedom.

A person might worship an Egyptian god

but must overlook the great pyramids

were built by slaves.

Like the United States, Egypt was

“The land of the free

and the home of the slave.”

The mythic God – the angry old Sky-Man

brought hierarchical oppression to slaves and Catholics

but the Spirit brings democracy and real liberation.

With real liberation has come

bodily and sexual liberation –

It is not right for a human to act like an angel

denying all desires and pleasures.

God has designed us so that

certain desires and pleasures are natural for us –

to be human is more godly than to be angelic.

The lingam, the giant stone phallus in Hindu temples

represents the mythic god Shiva

and is an all-encompassing symbol

representing a multitude of ideas and emotions

which have little to do with penises and sex.

Other religious symbols like the Cross

represent many ideas and emotions other than

human cruelty and suffering.

The courage to suffer is an affirmation of one’s essential nature

but courage may require the Cross in your own life –

sacrificing other essentials such as pleasure or happiness

or even your life.

When you accept that ‘everything belongs’

you can accept suffering and death –

only the ego fears suffering and death –

whereas your true life, your soul

is hidden with Christ in God

and All things, even death, work for the good

for those who love the Great Lover.

THE INTIMACY OF GOD

Atheists believe we cannot make

any absolute statements about God

so the word ‘God’ is meaningless

and science can explain everything

so God is unnecessary.

Modernity separated the big three:

art, morals, and science

but its big mistake

was leaving out the big fourth:

religion, which draws the big three together –

there was no cohesion

so science dominated art and morals

and became the new religion of intellectuals.

But science and technology have no room

for the human person –

by kicking humans out of world center

into a vast impersonal universe

they kicked God out too –

they not only displaced God

they displaced humans

as God’s image.

What satisfies the soul is not knowing all

scientific knowledge

but doing the purpose

for which we were created: to love God.

The spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola

are thus far more important

than any science textbook.

Catholic theology has always been pro-science

and insisted that faith and reason

are not opposites or enemies –

if you cannot give reasons for your faith

you become extremely devout

but an irrational/dangerous fundamentalist

who loves God

and blows people to Kingdom-Come.

Christians should be pro-science and pro-evolution

since evolution constantly drives toward

spiritual transcendence –

higher/more inclusive/more conscious orders

from atoms to senses to neocortex.

The Hindu Dance of Creation is all around:

clouds streaming, trees swaying, sunlight sparkling

on water and snow.

The Incarnate God shows God’s face everywhere –

God’s passionate embodiment demands

whole new ways of relating to bodies:

healing/sexual tenderness/compassionate justice.

The masculine in us tends toward

agency/rules/individualism/visions.

The feminine in us tends toward

communion/connection/relationships/touch.

Each person needs their whole self

and sexual relations between women and men need

the energies/polarities/excitement

of opposites becoming One.

The truth is: certain desires and pleasures

are willed by God – to not accept pleasure

is to not accept our humanity

and to arrogantly oppose God’s will.

Buddhists, on the other hand

preach detachment from pleasure and pain –

their key is not doctrines

about God/self/no-self

but nonattachment to illusion –

seeing the nature of reality

living according to reality

not words or concepts.

For Celts, reality is not

immediately visible/quantifiable by science

but the invisible world of

symbol/sacrament/myth.

To Celts, you are already holy

through the free gift of the Holy Spirit

the Divine Indwelling.

Authentic religion is about subtraction

letting go of the False Self

not creating a new Holy Self

not addition – with religion less is more –

letting go of the ego

and letting the Flow

carry you.

Surrender to the Great Mystery

is the key that unlocks

all world religions.

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 UNION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH

“Heaven and earth will pass away”

as separate states.

Teilhard helps people 

be in the world

to which they necessarily belong.

He overcame the Church’s contempt

for the world

when he said “Love is 

the fundamental engine

of evolution.”

The litmus test for true vision:

to see the world as a Temple

and your enemies as sacred and beloved.

In the naked now

the best way to intimacy with God

is immediate, unmediated living

in the present, which is a present, a gift.

Living in non-defended, nondual presence

connects you to Real Presence.

The Quantum Theologian’s question is not 

our love for God

but God’s Love for us.

How is it

that from total otherness

comes our ultimate meaning? 

Eastern religion emphasized

the search for spiritual guides,

enlightenment, the True Self.

But western religion buried for centuries

spiritual searching under dogma,

obedience, and no questioning.

All the answers to questions you never asked

are in the Catechism – just read it!

Still, there were rays of pure light:

Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue

offered a systematic process 

for knowing God 

within you 

beginning and ending 

with humility.

If by God’s grace you have

Inner and Outer Authority

like Catherine

you avoid being both 

rebel or conformist.

God and nirvana 

are living realities

beyond all concepts

so Buddhists never talk about nirvana

they merely practice

mindfulness in all things

and so get intimate 

with the Buddha.

This gives a new vision 

for western religion:

include experience/practice/community

not just believing/behaving/belonging.

Heidegger’s Being and Time

was too individualistic. There is no community

but Being-Itself constantly overcomes non-being 

within it

and unceasingly creates

new things:

In intimate communion with Christ

there is always a New Creation.

The Internet as a new creation

and a convergence of Teilhard’s noosphere

could be the servant of global communion

not the conveyor belt

of global fragmentation/anarchy.

What the world needs now is

Bonaventure’s vision 

that predated Teilhard:

a dynamic universe

oriented towards union

with God and human

that finds fulfilment

in Christ.

WAKE UP, WAKE UP TOGETHER

Lonergan: at end of 1600s a great revolution:

constant attacks by Enlightenment 

and Anglicans analyzing

existence 

balancing scripture, tradition, reason 

shifted Catholic method-in-theology

from questions to certainties

theological inquiry to dogmatic theology.

Outer spiritual authority says

“You are special”

Inner spiritual authority says

“Everyone is special”

another revolutionary shift 

from elitism to egalitarianism.

Too much outer authority

creates Authoritarian Institutions

which create religion’s greatest enemy:

indifference: 

loss of divine will-to-be-alive 

loss of heart

loss of passion

atrophying into loveless/hateless

existence.

Upon meeting, Buddhists 

bow and silently acknowledge 

each other as a Buddha-to-be

since all carry within 

seeds of awakening.

In Confucianism, filial piety 

must be practiced from

the Emperor/Empoweror

Son of Heaven

down thru princes, scholars to peasants

or disaster ensues.

Brueggemann: Christian imagination 

numbed, satiated, co-opted, paralyzed by fear

cannot do any serious work.

But depth psychology and existential analysis

separate anxiety, a group phenomenon

from fear, an individual phenomenon.

So, do not fear 

to follow Jesus

because of what others might think.

In fact, others don’t think

of you……………….at all.

Shed fear and become

one of the twin heroes of mythology

two basic sides of human nature:

the mild and acquiescent

the wild and rebellious

the Introvert who powerfully reflects 

the Extrovert who greatly accomplishes

but either way

be humble

not self-deprecating nor self-condemning

and either way

be contemplative

the secret of which is:

life in the Eternal Now

not-Emptiness

full-of-Godness.

Bonaventure: Incarnation is

the Center of Creation:

everything preceding and following 

descent of the Logos

finds its meaning in Christ.

The Universal Christ is 

the Eternal Now and Love Supreme

Love: Alpha and Omega of Life

Alpha: Big Bang to God-consciousness

showing Itself explicitly in Jesus the Christ

Omega: Love drawing the universe

forward thru Christ 

toward 

ever-greater-Unity-in-Love.

The universe’s salvation is

corporate/universal salvation

beyond any individual.

Wake up, wake up together!

DOGMA-KOANS

Catherine of Siena pondered 

two most important 

human states: being and non-being

and thought: God reveals God 

by revealing humans to humans

no one understood that

but she died at 33

Doctor of Church.

In Christ reside

all treasures and wisdom,

primary model of universe’s design

God’s plan: evolutionary unfolding of Cosmic Christ

Divine Love, the heart

of evolutionary universe

constantly giving birth.

Every human relationship a birth, a search

for love, love of self and God

the summum bonum, greatest good

Love the focal energy

giving meaning to all.

With Jesus Law is written 

on hearts not stone tablets 

outer authority: scripture and tradition 

balanced with Inner Authority: True Self.

Each stage: egocentric-ethnocentric-worldcentric 

involving greater care and compassion

hierarchy of love not power.

A Buddhist hierarchy: 

In first watch of night 

Buddha experienced previous incarnations

In second watch 

Buddha received divine eye of omniscient vision

In third watch 

Buddha understood Chain of Causation

At dawn 

Buddha reached perfect enlightenment.

Macquarrie versus Rahner: 

Buddha no “anonymous Christian”

Buddha teaches Christians

everything holy: 

frogs, poison ivy, enemies

so only one God, one truth 

one human and natural community.

Becoming a child

really hearing bird sing 

really seeing blue sky

makes real touch of Holy Spirit.

Splitting things 

spiritual/secular

led Church to “contemptus mundi”

world-contempt.

Church sinned against Truth 

when suppressed 

science as secular

science is search 

for God’s Truth.

Polarity-thinking misses much 

prayer-thinking takes in: 

ownership of my failings 

compassion for others’ failings.

Enneagram Five’s 

greatest gift and sin:

detachment

essence of Buddhism.

Relativists assume 

one interpretation of life 

good as any other.

If true

dogmas become dazzling mysteries

koans 

for pondering 

over and over.

Bruce Tallman

May 20, 2021

ONE COSMIC FAMILY

In Heidegger’s concept of “Being”

God is no concept

no transcendent Creator-God

but Activity in the World

Self-Giving Presence.

All mystics agree

no magical/mythical Being 

totally transcends the world

but Infinite Consciousness 

lives in the world

in community, in peoples’

joys and sorrows.

Augustine sees

the wicked try to flee 

God

who is everywhere –

God the One

who never abandons the wicked

in their sin and sorrow.

Infinite Consciousness

is Being

“I Am” in Church

Beloved Community

born of Spirit, born of humans

Sacrament of Divine Liberation.

Although the anti-Paul 

in Timothy I and II 

wrote women into silence 

in Church

St. Thecla, second century celibate-ascetic 

Church-Leader

was more popular than the Virgin. 

Black-and-White thinking

separating soul (good) from body (bad)

made men uncomfortable

with women’s bodies and sexuality

but feminist theologians see

Wisdom as Co-Creator 

working in female (and male) bodies

creating right relationships.

Womanist theologians see

God and God’s desires

in daily intimacy, daily communion

with God’s Beloved People

the Everlasting Rock of the spiritual life.

Christians and Buddhists

mindlessly practicing rituals 

find little joy 

because human meaning 

is evolution becoming aware of itself,

Infinite Consciousness 

becoming mindful.

Like Hindu and Taoist mystics

scientists now open their eyes

and see the universe for the first time

as a unified web.

Like a spider’s web 

shimmering in the sun after rain

God catches scientists 

in the web of life.

No longer pure observers

scientists now see everything

not as objects or idols

but as icons

of Infinite Consciousness

Brother Sun, Sister Moon 

and all things 

dancing in 

One Cosmic Family.

ETERNAL LOVE

Our True Self is Love.

Christ’s Sermon

the Magna Carta

of Love’s Reign:

where Love rains 

we are soaked

and the False Self washes away.

Early on 

women preached and prophesied Love

in Church!

And Augustine marinated in

Manichean theosophy

Italian scepticism

Neo-Platonic mysticism

until he discovered Love

and conversion.

But when Patriarchs

settled the Canon

of Scripture

and blew everyone away

including Gospels of

Thomas, Magdalene and Philip

the nonviolent Reign of Love 

in Jesus and Paul

subverted into Apocalypse

in Revelation – 

the rain of blood 

up to horses’ saddles.

Things devolved further

until Meister Eckhart

preached Love

to tormented and bewildered 

Peasants.

Following the Crucified 

brooks no romanticizing Love

always a hard workout

Salvation won non-violently

in fear and trembling.

Now salvation of humans

and salvation of nature

inextricably bind each other

and we know

matter flows

the reign of lava

evolving, self-transcending 

into higher and higher

consciousness

until God reaches down 

or emerges up 

into infused contemplation

called by Ignatius of Loyola

“consolation without previous cause” –

a gift we neither cause nor deserve

of God’s all-embracing

Presence.

In Pure Land Buddhism

monks invoke Buddha

till Enlightenment:

the Realization

Pure Land is in us.

But even internal Pure Lands 

flow impermanently

unlike the Rain of Love.

Eternal God:

not ever-lasting but 

ever-Present

“I Am”

NOW

without time.

As Wittgenstein wrote:

“Eternal life belongs 

to those who live in the 

Present.”

Eternal Life is NOW

life in permanent Love of

Presence.

ONE COSMIC FAMILY

According to Heidegger’s

approach to Being

God is not a concept

not a transcendent 

Creator-God

but an activity in the world

a Self-Giving Presence.

All mystics agree

there is no magical/mythical Being 

who transcends the world

but there is Infinite Consciousness 

in the world.

According to Augustine

the wicked try to flee from God

but God is everywhere

God never abandons the wicked.

In particular

God, Infinite Consciousness

is meant to Be

“I Am” in the Church

the Beloved Community

born of Spirit, born of people

a Sacrament of Divine Liberation.

Although the anti-Paul 

author of Timothy I and II

wrote that women 

were to be silent, silenced in church

St. Thecla, second century celibate-ascetic

and Church-Leader

was more popular than the Virgin. 

Dualistic, black-and-white thinking

separating soul (good) from body (bad)

always made men uncomfortable

with women’s bodies and sexuality

but feminist theologians now

have reappropriated Wisdom

as Co-Creator at work in human bodies

to create right relationships

and they see God desires

daily intimacy, daily communion

with God’s Beloved People

and daily intimacy with Beloved God

and Beloved Community

is the foundation of spiritual life.

Christians and Buddhists

mindlessly practicing rituals 

find little joy because

humans are meant to be

evolution becoming aware of itself,

Infinite Consciousness 

becoming mindful.

Like Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist mystics

scientists now see the universe

as a unified web.

Like a spider’s web 

shimmering in the sun after rain

God has caught scientists 

in God’s web of life.

No longer pure observers

they now see everything

not as objects or idols

but as icons

of God’s Infinite Consciousness.

They now can see

Brother Sun and Sister Moon 

and all things as 

One Cosmic Family.

Cosmic Lovemaking

A COSMIC, SPIRITUAL VIEW OF MAKING LOVE

    If God is love, the universe is grounded in love and exists by and for love. Love is the purpose of the universe.

    It was out of wanting to share love that God created the universe in such a way that matter intrinsically evolves towards spirit, and Earth went from rocks and water to human beings. Things have gone from pre-personal to personal and are heading towards the super-personal where all are filled with God and love God in return.

    Humans are at the center of this personalization process, not some accidental branch on the tree of evolution. And the process was furthered when Jesus said the greatest commandments are to “Love God with all your passion, prayer, intelligence and energy, and love others as well as you love yourself” (Luke 10:27 as translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message).

    Ilia Delio, a Franciscan nun, wrote in a chapter titled “Love, Sex and the Cosmos” that sex is basically spiritual. The sacred life-force that drives the evolution of the universe moves us from within with unitive desire. We all want union as intimately as possible with another human being. Sexual intercourse was meant by God to be the apex of the personalization of the cosmos, an integral part of our personal fulfillment with a beloved soulmate we can share life and love with.

    Going even further, sexual intercourse could be thought of as the primordial sacrament, since God’s first words to humans were “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and without sex there would be no human race, religion, church or sacraments. 

    Given the sacredness of sexuality, how did we end up with a widespread culture of sexual abuse and rape, as the “Me Too” movement testifies?

     One explanation was given by Martin Buber, the great Jewish theologian, who wrote in his spiritual classic I and Thou that there are two basic ways of relating to everything: I-Thou and I-It. The I-Thou way sees everything as a sacred “Thou” full of the presence of God, including humans, animals and all of nature. 

    However, in a technological consumer culture we tend to relate to everything as an It, that is, as a soulless object to be used for our own self-centered purposes. 

    A young woman once said “I decided to get married because I am fed-up with the ‘hook-up’ culture where you are expected to have sex on the first date. I want true intimacy not fake ‘intimacy,’ a code word our culture uses for sexual intercourse. It is easy to bare your body and have sex; it is hard to bare your soul and make love.”

    Not everyone can have sexual intercourse, but anyone can make love in the sense of opening up your soul and sharing who you really are with others. Single people, the elderly and even vowed celibates can make love in this sense. William Johnston, a Jesuit writer on Christian mysticism, described in his autobiography Mystical Journey how he and Amy Lim, a Japanese nun, had a decades-long intimate but non-sexual relationship when he taught spirituality and theology in Japan.

    To learn more about making love in the spiritual sense, I would recommend Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening which describes a Buddhist way of intimacy as a “tandem inner journey towards spiritual realization.” Or read Pope John Paul II’s personalist “theology of the body” as popularized by Christopher West.

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage coach and religious educator of adults. brucetallman.com