LOVING OUR DIFFERENCES

The core challenge of spiritual maturity

is integrity and differentiation:

being rooted in your own spirituality

while respecting the different spirituality of others.

Accepting differences gets the ego out of the way

and points to self-transcendence – a dynamic force

operative in all human nature/experience/activity:

God’s Mercy frees us from our self.

But most religions play both sides:

throughout the Qur’an God is

All-Merciful/All-Compassionate/All-Loving

but also the Master of the Day of Doom.

God is the Only One to pray to and serve

the Only One to guide us to be blessed

and not subject to God’s Wrath.

But we cut our self off from God:

“Disobedience and thanklessness

are the source of all evil.”

– Saint Catherine of Sienna

Some think humans are saints

others think we are “totally depraved” (John Calvin)/

“piles of dung covered over by the snow of Christ” (Martin Luther).

However, churches also have the capability of creating unity –

bringing in the light of God unites human beings

by showing we are simultaneously

defective and dignified/broken and blessed.

But churches are also flawed/divided/broken –

the Church thought of itself as universal and united

during the first one thousand years

till the Great Schism in 1054

between Catholic and Orthodox –

when churches became obsessed

with being ‘right’ about what separates them.

Life always involves conflict

but “The journey of the mythological hero

is to move through a devastated landscape

and suffuse it with imperishable love” (Joseph Campbell).

It always gets back to:

love/love of those who are different/

love of our enemies

the teachings of Jesus.

LIFE IS A GOOD TEACHER

Life is a good teacher and a good friend

because it is always in transition

and therefore open-ended and non-aggressive.

The astronomer’s telescope, through Copernicus

pushed over God’s throne –

the stable center of planet Earth.

Religion was not ready for this shift

from Earth as Center of All

to the Universe as Center.

If each star in the Milky Way Galaxy was a grain of sand

you would need a colossal dump truck

to contain the two hundred billion stars.

Western religion has been challenged

by science and other world religions

particularly the power of Islam.

Certain themes run through the Qur’an

and create strong motives of desire and fear:

the power and glory of God/the terrors of the Fire/

the joys of Paradise.

In Buddhism and Christianity, the sutras and gospels

are not the living teachings of Buddha and Christ –

the living teaching can only be had

by living/practicing/acting upon what was taught –

then you do not just believe the teachings

you know them to be true.

Then living unlimited love/

meaningful human work/interreligious dialogue

help all things evolve to the fullness

of the Universal Christ

as the Lamb or the G.O.A.T. –

the Greatest Of All Time –

the Center of the Universe.

GETTING BEYOND FLATLAND

We must get beyond Flatland –

the loss of transcendence –

and build a civilization that integrates

consciousness/culture/nature

morals/art/science

personal values/collective wisdom/tech knowhow.

Science and technology on their own

are not accountable to anything

except their own ethic: expediency and efficiency.

If technology allows us to do something

we feel we must do it

even if we destroy whole civilizations

with chemical/biological/nuclear war.

Normal ethics do not apply

to these autonomous powers.

“Life is always a battleground between opposites:

birth/death, joy/pain, good/evil, science/religion.

If the opposites ceased, life would cease.”

– Carl Jung

If science alone rules, we are in deep trouble:

“Humanity should not be afraid of God,

we should be afraid of losing God.”

– Meister Eckhart

Every civilization is built on mythology

and the most common myth is the hero.

The mythic structure is always the same

whether ancient/medieval/modern

whether Far East/African/Incan:

miraculous birth/early displays  

of superhuman strength/then rise to power/

triumphant struggle with evil/

eventual fall due to pride or death.

Pope John Paul II noted also:

common mythic structures/elements/roots

in the many varieties of religion.

This pope was more on the side of

Vivekananda than Francis Xavier –

John Paul was a pope

who ironically transcended Christianity.

BEYOND SELF-COMPASSION

Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants:

the ‘I’ (the inside of the individual)

the ‘It’ (the outside of the individual)

the ‘We’ (the inside of the collective)

the ‘Its’ (the outside of the collective)

can contain all: philosophy/religion/politics

psychology/business/art/science.

God-in-you (the interior of your soul)

is your True Self – spacious

awareness/patience/contemplation.

God-in-you does not operate by judgment

and the dualistic push-pull of ordinary life.

God-in-you is vast/silent/restful – a riverbed of mercy.

To be compassionate to others

we first must be compassionate

to our True Self –

in Buddhism this is called ‘emptying’ –

‘kenosis’ in Christianity – to feel what we feel –

positive or negative – and to not cling

to any thing.

We also need someone to show compassion to us.

The sacrament of marriage fills spouses

with the Spirit of faith/hope/love

and fortifies them to carry out

their parenting/family responsibilities

and mutual sanctification/glorification of God.

But charity must go beyond the home fires:

Second Axial Consciousness must develop in two ways:

horizontally, in cultures and religions meeting

which creates a ‘complexified/collective/consciousness’

vertically, in cultures and religions plunging their roots

deep into Earth for ecological sustainability.

Wilber: since 70% of any population belongs to a religion

and lives out of a pre-rational/ethnocentric/

mythological/absolutistic worldview

it is up to religion to move people

to a higher level: a transrational/worldcentric/

post-conventional worldview.

THE FOURTH GREAT AWAKENING

Christianity is in its Fourth Great Awakening:

dying in Europe and North America

but exploding in Africa/Latin America/Asia

the rebirth of worldwide Pentecostalism

evangelicalism/pilgrimages/the Emergent Church

Vatican II, interest in mysticism and Eastern religions,

rediscovering ancient ways of prayer and meditation.

“We are discovering God is everything good

in everything. God is not naught –

God is before naught, before nothingness.”

– Meister Eckhart

Life is inherently ordered toward the ultimate victory

of goodness, not the ultimate disaster

predicted by the Second Law of Thermodynamics:

everything gradually dissipating into nothingness.

Science predicts disaster, religion predicts

resurrection and heaven.

No intellectual could detect the problem

of the hyper-growth of rational science

and the downplay of the arts and morals

because intellectuals had left spirituality

and religion behind

because they believed it was all myth.

But myth became history

and lived among us as Jesus the Christ.

In any case, the problem

is not science and technology

but the religious values we project onto them –

we expect them to save us/immortalize us

but that is the job of religion.

“Religion” means “religio”

same root as “ligament” –

healthy religion joins things together again.

But if we are at war with ourselves

because of unhealthy religion

we will soon be at war with others.

Spiritual exercises, according to Ignatius of Loyola,

are any method that rids us 

of all our disordered affections

and opens our soul to God.

Because all humans have been damaged by sin

it is only by God’s grace that,

liberated from all our disorderly passions,

we can freely choose God and the good.

Humans’ life and spiritual affirmation

are inseparable because we are only human

to the extent we shape our world and our self

according to holy meanings and values –

“We don’t think our way into a new way of living,

we live our way into a new way of thinking.”

– Richard Rohr

On the other hand

within each person an awareness exists

that is vast/silent/restful/resourceful –

a ‘riverbed of mercy’

that does not rush to judgement

nor get caught up in narrow ‘right and wrong.’

To grow in Jesus the Christ

one must doubt and reject everything else.

But often this testing is too intolerable

and people flee into comfortable traditions/

outward gestures/conventions.

The Vedic message of Vivekananda in 1893

to the Parliament of World Religions:

“The divinization of the human person

is far more important than

doctrines/rituals/books/churches.”

This appealed to those weary of religions’

legalism/dogmatism/authoritarianism.

But organized religion that is healthy

promotes community not just divinized individuals.

Divinized communities, Beloved Communities

can do so much more than divinized individuals.

The Fourth Great Awakening

promises divinization of both individuals

and Beloved Communities.

PERFECTIONISM,HYPOCRISY, COMMUNITY AND PRAYER

Many great souls live on the margins of society

so they don’t get hoovered up by it.

This can take hard forms:

monks/nuns/hermits/

poverty/chastity/obedience

or soft forms:

everyday believers

fasting from television/shopping/violence/

flaunting wealth/lust/rebellion.

This is not perfectionism –

religion that tells you that you must be perfect

for God to love you

forces people to deny and repress their sin

and so become hypocrites and inhuman.

Empty churches/mosques/synagogues come from

hypocrisy not secularization.

Dualistic thinking creates hypocrites

because it totally separates

good from evil/saint from sinner/soul from body:

an ongoing disaster for Christians.

I am my body – the body is no add-on

or afterthought to who I really am.

Not handling the body and sexuality well

results in the hypocrisy of sexual abuse.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Buddhists do not talk

about Original Sin but about negative seeds:

hatred/lust/racism that exist in us all

overcome by developing Buddha seeds

that also exist in us all:

love/purity/inclusion.

The key for any human, whether religious or not

is to be true to one’s

self/inner guiding light/conscience.

But no one can open and surrender to truth

unless they first feel heard and loved –

loving a person in all their sin/delusion/wrongness

is the only thing that opens their door to Truth.

And the self is always embedded in a community

hopefully a community of love, the Beloved Community

so life is not just self-realization

but also community-and-world-realization.

The Beloved Community is created by prayer:

true prayer is the Holy Spirit praying to God in us

often with a love too deep for comprehension

so our spirit becomes one with the Holy Spirit

one living Flame of Love.

Sitting quietly in prayer is practicing

under-doing and under-achieving

which gradually forms us into a human being

rather than a human doing –

prayer thus saves the world from itself.

But there can be politics to prayer:

the truly spiritual are always a threat to politicians

because what politicians tell us is real

the devout see as ephemeral and unreal –

wealth means nothing to those who come back

from near-death-experiences

who see the Big Picture

through God’s Picture-Window.

Neither politics nor science has all the answers –

science must be silent

on ultimate questions

because it must always be open to disproof

but our hearts and spirits still want

ultimate answers

and honesty means honoring this universal longing.

There are strong empirical reasons for believing

in things that cannot be proven

such as love and friendship

that give our lives meaning

and help us endure incredible hardships –

we are destroyed if we think “no one loves me”

and life is just

Shakespeare’s “tale

told by an idiot.”

EVERYDAY MYSTICS AND MARTYRS

Internal morality expands from

biocentric (my only concern is my bodily needs)

to egocentric (my only concern is my ego)

to sociocentric (my only concern is my group)

to worldcentric (my only concern is all humans)

to World Soul (my only concern is all sentient beings).

Circles of love expand too

from self-love to loving others

to being aware of God’s Love

to loving God.

“Being loved by God and loving God

can only be experienced on the basis

of self-acceptance” – Otto Rank

You first have to accept yourself

with all your flaws

before you can accept that God accepts you

with all your flaws.

By this spirituality of imperfection

and by applying what the mystics know

to your everyday mind and heart

you may discover your ordinary life

can be a ‘way of the mystic’ –

it’s all a matter of perception with the eyes

and integration of the heart.

The ways of one ordinary monk

became the ‘Rule of St. Benedict’

which governed the life of all monasteries

from 516 AD till now.

The Rule is based on Christian non-dualism:

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.

No one claimed their possessions were their own

but they shared everything and there were

no needy persons among them.” – Acts 4:32-34

Communal sharing of all things

gradually waned in Christianity

but the ideal was kept alive

in convents/monasteries/religious orders.

In organized religion, the leaders

whether priests/ministers/imams/rabbis

tend to be dualistic, either/or thinkers

because to lead they need

clarity – if someone blows a muted trumpet

no one responds – religious leaders need

clear authority – which black and white thinking

easily lends itself to – you are with us

or against us – in or out.

In any case, any ‘no’ must be preceded by ‘yes.’

The ‘no’ of the biblical prophets

to militarism/animal sacrifice/self-serving priests

came from a previous foundational ‘yes’

to God/life/the Beloved Community.

However, the rituals of organized religion

can be life-giving – the Tea Ceremony

in Zen Buddhism like the Eucharist

is about oneness – no longer any class distinction

between noble and commoner – all are one.

The goal of Zen – not that Zen has goals

is the knowledge and perfection of Original Being.

The Original Being of a woman

is to be a mother – an unconditional lover.

In women’s initiation from girlhood to womanhood

that is, childbirth

women become more independent

a person in themselves

and someone more important in the eyes of society

that is, a mother.

Men’s initiation makes them more dependent –

they lose their independence from women –

they realize their true purpose

is self-sacrifice for women and children

to keep humanity going – the most noble calling

along with motherhood.

On a higher level both women and men

sacrifice themselves for God.

The Jews were always incredibly brave

many were martyred for God’s Law –

the Zealots submitted to torture

rather than call Caesar ‘Lord’

on top of Masada Mountain

both women and men committed mass suicide

rather than submit to the pagan Romans –

they became everyday martyrs.

COMING FULL-CIRCLE WITH GOD

Teilhard de Chardin wrote that evolution

is a process of convergence

in which new qualitative differences spontaneously emerge

as matter intrinsically evolves from matter toward spirit.

Qualitatively new things emerged

after the fall of the Roman Empire –

the Church unified all things

and preserved civilization from Barbarians.

For centuries civilization fared well under church rule

until the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Then, because of intrareligious wars – Catholics and Protestants

slaughtering each other

and previous interreligious wars – crusading Christians and Muslims

slaughtering each other

the Big Four – science/art/ethics/religion

did not progress together – religion was ridiculed as inherently violent

and left out of the progression to modernity.

But eventually new gods emerged:

divine authority lost control

to the self-determining individual who –

even as ‘master of the universe’ –

found he could not bear the weight of the whole

and so surrendered personal autonomy to the new gods:

science/technology/power/money/violence

and the whole world was at war – twice!

The new gods led many to doubt God.

On the road to total doubt

one tries to keep one’s spiritual life alive

by clinging to traditions and convictions.

But if doubt continues one jettisons traditional religion

without surrendering one’s convictions

and carries on until total doubt/despair of truth

takes over and in a post-truth society

you lose your religion entirely:

in post-Christian countries people are

spiritual-but-not-religious.

In the post-religion/post-truth world

you can still grow spiritually

if you open your heart and mind

to the constantly changing nature

of yourself and reality

which creates never-ending loss/grief/struggle

and a capacity for compassion

love for others and the desire to not water

the seeds of prejudice and aggression.

It is true the old Gods were genuinely giving –

the Father gave his only Son

and Son Jesus gave us his life/death/resurrection.

Therefore, the post-religious need constant analysis

of their motives for giving

because spurious altruism may be egocentric

with hidden unconscious motives for

attention/power/security/praise.

Through pure spirituality people often find God

despite living in a post-God culture.

For Bernard Lonergan conversion of heart and mind

reaches its climax with ‘religious conversion:’

‘being-in-love with Being’

which is the foundation of mystical theology.

Lonergan agrees with Thomas à Kempis:

the Imitation of Christ has one exclusive purpose:

to guide us to a deeper love of Jesus for his own sake

not for desire for heaven or fear of hell.

Being-in-love is being-in-God/union-with-God –

Sacred Marriage – which has been central

to initiation rites in all religions because in it

sacred masculine knowledge (Logos) is united with

sacred feminine relatedness (Eros).

Faith in God understood non-dualistically

as union-with-God/divinization is not

blind assent or even reasoned assent

but rather the subtle work of the Holy Spirit

within our hearts and minds.

And so we eventually come full circle:

faith/loss of faith/doubt

leads to despair/spirituality/conversion –

the love of God at a deeper, broader level –

unity/union-with-God/Sacred Marriage.

SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR A NEW UNIVERSE

The Spirit who hovered over the waters before the Creation

is the same Spirit who created Jesus in Mary’s womb.

Creation and Mary’s womb were both an empty void

out of which a new universe came.

“The new universe’s three greatest principles are

unity/diversity/subjectivity.” – Thomas Berry

Subjectivity comes from ‘auto-poetic’ (self-organizing) systems

forming bodily centers or ‘selves’ in many forms.

The new, self-organizing universe is full of subjects, not objects

and the first principle is unity:

If we see that we are all one,

we naturally become interested in the ‘common good’ –

whatever is good for all is good for me.

Sharing land/wealth/possessions flows from this new worldview

as naturally as feeding our own children.

A fourth great principle is ‘mystery:’

“The most beautiful thing we can experience

is the mysterious. It is the source of all true

art/science/religion.

The one who can no longer pause to wonder

or stand wrapped in awe is as good as dead.”

– Albert Einstein

A fifth principle is ‘peace.’

The goal of early Christians was to conquer

the pagan Romans not by the power of the sword

but by the power of faith and compassion

the essence of the kingdom of God

and of the King/Messiah Jesus.

A sixth principle is ‘love.’

Lovingkindness (‘maitri’ in Buddhism)

needs also to be applied to our self

particularly the painful/shameful/ugly parts

our ‘winning’ society brands as ‘loser.’

The seventh and final principle is ‘trust.’

Ancient pilgrimages were always spiritual exercises

in ascetic homelessness and wandering

seeking solitude/exile/trust in and abandonment to

Providence alone.

The problem for the reign of God  

is that all these spiritual principles were overthrown

by Descartes who wanted to reverse

the displacement of humans from the center of the universe

by Copernicus and his sun-centered cosmos.

So, Descartes centered the certainty of knowledge

on his principle of ‘cogito:’ “I think therefore I am.”

However, this principle split spirit and matter

and replaced God with the individual human –

a major turning point.

The two poles of the so-called Enlightenment –

the ‘Egos’ (self-thinking individuals)

and the ‘Ecos’ (everything is holistic: 

systems/unified fields/implicate orders)

tend to ignore or disparage each other.

As a response to the chaos of Enlightenment

many Christians became rigid thinkers

because they were taught to follow

the ways of God is to create order.

They never learned wisdom/paradox/mystery

as the principles/essence/foundation of faith.

Chaos theory is not about chaos, that is, anti-order –

it focuses on how over time ‘strange attractors’ within systems

draw new order and new emergent properties

out of dynamic fluidity.

All these Enlightenment thought-displacements

caused Christians to re-think Christianity:

the new/old principles of Original Blessing emerged:

befriending darkness, letting go of images/idols of God,

emptying, letting pain/silence/nothingness be

pain/silence/nothingness, discipline not asceticism

befriending our creativity and divinity as co-creators with God.

These new principles are biblical

and there from the beginning.

Christianity as usual is not disappearing

in fact, worldwide it is rapidly growing

and adapting to make mysticism

which previously was only for monastic elites

available for all.

GOD’S TRANSCENDENCE, FAITH AND DREAMS

One of Christ’s favorite visual aids

was a child –

whenever his disciples got into head games

Jesus put a child in front of them –

the only one who can understand God

is the one with a mind like a child

a ‘beginner’s mind,’ a mind that says

“I know nothing.”

A child’s mind is a Zen mind –

empty of deep thought and ego.

“Say to your distracting thoughts

which completely scatter your mind

‘You are powerless to grasp God. Be still.’”

– Cloud of Unknowing

The basis of Confucian philosophy

is concern with the ethical Tao

the ‘way of man’ (‘natural law’ in the west)

but the deepest Taoist concern

is with the metaphysical Tao

the inscrutable ‘way of God.’

“God is qualitatively different from humans.

Although false prophets try to domesticate God

God cannot be identified

with anything we worship as God.”

– Karl Barth

Only when we fully grasp this will we be ready

to receive Jesus as the inscrutable one

the Surprise God who both exposes and bridges

the gap between God and humans.

But fortunately, God is patient and understanding

of our misunderstanding of God.

Unfathomable mystery is where faith comes in.

Experience, no matter how great

is worthless compared to faith.

The only valuable mystical experience

is one that deepens our faith and love –

faith totally transcends experience.

Losing the contemplative tradition

means rationalism/secularism/atheism

on the Left

and fundamentalism/tribal thinking/cognitive rigidity

on the Right

have both triumphed over the contemporary mind.

This has come about due to small religion.

Every major religion claims

suicide/homicide/genocide

to be major ethical transgressions

but those same religions traditionally ignored

the slow killing of the whole human race

by destruction of the planet and all Earth’s life forms

on which we depend.

Sometimes religious people are so heaven-bound

they are no earthly good.

Fascination with extraordinary religious experience

can be a way to escape the problems

of everyday life. A better solution is to find

the riches in the seemingly ordinary.

However, the ordinary and everyday can be painful.

The motive for facing pain and death courageously

is that it is noble to do so.

The courageous person does what is noble

for the aim of virtue is to be noble.

For Carl Jung, the unconscious and dreams are

guides/friends/advisors

and very helpful in alleviating painful spiritual problems.

Dreams are the major route to the unconscious

and to becoming a whole person.

Dreams are symbols common to all people

but personally meaningful to each individual.

“The eternal truths that heal and save us

cannot be transmitted mechanically –

in every epoch they must be born anew

born again

from the human psyche.”

– Carl Jung