The only way to understand the power of the message of Jesus is by imitating him and actually living the life of a disciple.
The problem for most of us in the spiritual life is that we want to be a saint but we also want to experience all the sensations sinners have. If we become too angelic we can be no earthly good. And if we become too focused on the body alone we can become lower than the animals. It is always difficult to keep spirit and body integrated.
The marriage of eastern and western religion may be necessary not only for the Church but also for the survival of civilization itself. Eastern religion emphasizes contemplation and western religion emphasizes social justice. Together they would keep the transcendence and immanence of God alive. Contemplation counters civilization’s obsession with consumerism and social justice counters it’s obsession with individualism.
The cornerstone of spirituality is that God, in a plan of sheer goodness, created humans to share in God’s own blessed life. Love is therefore the principal energy in the universe, and the direction of evolution is towards greater wholeness and consciousness, toward greater love.
Contemplation of God is not ecstasy, trance, enthusiasm, or mystic frenzy. These things are not the work of the “deep self.” They are the flooding into consciousness of the dionysian emotions of the “id” from the subconscious. Spiritual practice is also not about accomplishing, winning, or losing. It is about stopping struggling and relaxing with reality, accepting reality as it is, not making it the enemy.
Henri Nouwen is the Kierkegaard of our generation because like Kierkegaard he has taught us Christian existentialism: how to pray while not knowing how to pray, to rest while being restless, to be at peace while being tempted, to feel safe while still being anxious, to be surrounded by light while still in darkness, to love while still doubting.
The reason I am not an atheist: that the universe exists at all, that it obeys laws, that out of those laws come galaxies, stars and planets, that on one planet life and consciousness has evolved (and probably on many others), are all one wonder after another. It requires more gullibility to believe this all just happened by accident than to believe there is a Supreme Omnipotent Intelligence behind it all. Faith in God is not irrational at all.
Contemplation does not free you from conflict, anguish and doubt. Rather it creates serious questions about the whole status quo of everyday injustices we constantly see all around us and accept as if they were unquestionable dogmas. True contemplation leads one to social justice which is the proper distribution of love throughout society.
The Body of Christ is not bound to any one race, nation, tradition, culture or theology but can learn from them all new ways of expressing the truth of the message of Jesus the Christ. Churches can enrich, and be enriched by, many different cultures.
The more one pursues spirituality in the teachings of world religious leaders like Jesus, Mohammed, Lao Tzu and Buddha, the more one experiences oneness, interconnectedness and less separation.
The new cosmology (the story of the origin and development of the universe and our place in it) that science is showing us: – things develop from matter (big bang, galaxies, planets) to life (plants) to sensitivity (animals) to thought (humans) – demonstrates that the whole universe is heading in a spiritual direction – the whole universe is moving inexorably towards more life and consciousness. This new cosmology can heal the former split between science and religion.Matter intrinsically moves toward spirit. The whole universe is bound for enlightenment!
Contemplation does not kill your pain and anguish. In fact it increases your awareness of the false faith in things that most “normal” people put their trust in: money and possessions. Once you start to grasp the folly of this – the cultural trance or sleepwalking that is the status quo – it increases your grief for the all those who are trapped in it. You shed tears of compassion for your fellow human beings. “Compassion” means “to suffer with.” Contemplation leads to suffering with and for others.