ENLIGHTENMENT IN ALL WORLD RELIGIONS

“The enlightenment you seek in other religions

has been present in Christianity from the beginning.”

– Richard Rohr

 

The word “mystical” is often equated to “magical”

in secular/scientific contexts and so easily dismissed

but true mysticism – direct experience of God –

is the essence and starting point of all world religions.

And awe in the face of mystery

is the starting point of science.

Our God is an awesome God

who indwells everything – in the lab and in the temple.

 

Jesus lived as the spokesperson for Temple and Torah

the all-powerful symbols that the transcendent God

dwells within Israel and orders Israel’s life

the two most central and never-ending Jewish beliefs.

 

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) –

a meeting of 2500 Catholic bishops for four years –

the largest and longest meeting of Church leaders ever –

had only one goal – to carry forward the work

of the Jewish man/God, Jesus the Christ

who came to rescue not judge

to give witness to the Truth

to serve and not be served

to give his life as a ransom for many.

When your little “I am” becomes “We are”

you know instinctively: life is not about you

you are about life. You are here to serve like Jesus:

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

– St. Paul in Galatians 2:20.

 

“To dare to do what is right,

to not float about in the realm of possibilities

but to seize what is real and to take action,

this is true freedom.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

and this is the true fulfillment of religion whether

Christianity/Judaism/Islam/Hinduism/Buddhism –

to not be so heavenly bound

you are no earthly good.

If there are no charitable works

there is no enlightenment in any religion whether

Christianity/Judaism/Islam/Hinduism/or Buddhism.

THE DRAGON, HUMAN NATURE, AND NEW HOPE

The dragon – a mythological creature of chaos and destruction 

swirls all around us – but the Lord of All Creation is there too

dancing in the dragon’s jaws.

We want to rise above cruel nature – jaw-red/claw-red –

to find a Universal Compassion we name ‘God’

but Ego restrains both our lower and higher nature –

the Id and Superego Sigmund Freud tried to integrate.

.

Integrating soul and body, John Macquarrie,

a Scottish philosopher/Anglican theologian/priest

developed an anthropology of finite freedom:

we are free but not totally free –

therefore, humans are a perpetual problem to themselves –

our finitude: circumstances/genetic makeup/

socioeconomic status/past decisions/sinful tendencies

restrain our grandiose visions.

 

New hope about human nature came from

the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

when it declared a universal call to holiness –

a holiness no longer out of reach of ordinary humans –

all are called to be holy – even the simplest peasant

can be as holy as great saints like Anthony of Egypt.

 

More hope came from the renewal of ancient pilgrimages

like the Camino de Santiago – average citizens making

the hero-saint’s journey of separation/initiation/return:

on the Camino across northern Spain

you follow the Way of St. James – the Camino de San Tiago

you are separated from your ordinary life

supernatural forces are at play and recounted

around campfires lit by pilgrims/peregrinos

and a decisive victory is won if, after 800 kilometres, you reach

the Cathedral of Santiago with its swinging botafumero

a giant censor fuming incense swung to the rafters by six men.

Then you return to your former life

with boons – new life insights – to offer others.

 

The greatest hope always comes from our Ever-Forgiving God:

“These people do not trust me even though

I want nothing but their sanctification – their holiness –

and I bear with them in great patience

because I loved them without them ever loving me.”

– God speaking to Catherine of Sienna

BABY BOOMER AGING

There is a huge shift going on: the Boomer Generation is moving into old age, so this is a big issue for them.

Aging can be approached positively or negatively: as harvest not winter, fulfillment not loss, freedom from work not limitation of income, soul-time not more self-time.

If you have aged well you are now an elder and have some wisdom to share with the younger generation. You know that life is about service, not just more winning. In this regard, Jesus said “I came to serve not be served” and the Twelfth Step from Alcoholics Anonymous is “I give my life away.”

If you have aged well you know that the first half of life is your “survival dance” and the second half is your “sacred dance.” You had a lot to prove in the first half. Now that you have done it, as Frank Sinatra sang “It all seems so amusing.” You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, including yourself, anymore.

A good book on the second half of life is Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.

www. brucetallman.com, Facebook: “Bruce Tallman – Spiritual Director and Marriage Coach”

HOW THINGS WORK

HOW GOD, THE UNIVERSE, AND YOUR LIFE WORKS

    Order, disorder, reorder. You can detect this universal pattern on a macro, micro, and personal level.

    If there was only order, there would never be any change, creativity and growth. If there was only disorder, things would be total chaos. 

    The universe goes through periods of order, followed by disorder, and then reorders everything at a new level over vast time periods. There was God (order) before the Big Bang (disorder) and then giant stars eventually formed (reorder). This new order had limited chemical elements, but the giant stars exploded (disorder) and seeded the universe with all the elements of the periodic table in new smaller, more stable stars (reorder). 

    God created natural laws and then let nature obey those laws. Rather than controlling everything, God wanted to see all the creative new things nature would produce on its own: butterflies, jaguars, whales, etc.

    Theologically, this theory is called “deism” which, although appealing, is  problematic because God is reduced to a kind of detached observer of the universe. The opposite problem, if God is too dictatorial, reduces God to ‘tyrantism.” Then destructive volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, and floods become acts of (a cruel) God.

    The same problem occurs at the human level. If God is not involved, God does not care, and if God is too controlling, we become robots. If there is no human freedom, there is no love. The solution is for God to allow us to be free and also for God to be involved in the form of persuasive love. That desire for greater fulfillment all humans have is God’s persuasive love constantly calling us to new levels of integration.

    According to “process theology,” nature as a whole moves inexorably towards greater consciousness and love because God constantly lures it to new levels of fulfillment.

    Most of the time nature is orderly, but some of the time, in obeying its own laws, nature creates disorder. Sometimes forests burn down but new plants and animals emerge. A giant meteor collided with Earth, ending the dinosaurs but allowing mammals such as humans to eventually exist. 

    Religions also go through order, disorder, and reordering. Conservatives can get stuck at the first stage – they want too much order and fear change and creativity. Religious liberals can get trapped in deconstructing religion and not be able to put their faith back together again, so they end up in chaos or virtual atheism. However, there are always people who seek to reorder their religion at a higher level. Examples in Christianity are Thomas Berry, Marcus Borg, and Brian McLaren.

    In your own life you might experience order for a while. You seem to have it all together and then disorder happens through divorce, illness or unemployment. If you are resilient and follow God’s inner calling, you may be able to reorder your life and make sense of it in a new way. 

    Disorder and suffering are caused by the freedom of nature and humans, not by God. God only allows them so new growth may occur. For example, you might learn to appreciate being single or happily remarry, learn better health care or to cope with your disability, or find more fulfilling work. 

    Hopefully, whatever happens, you can reorder your life with more compassion, gratitude and wisdom. This is God’s desire for you as God’s persuasive love calls forth the best that is in you in each new year.

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