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.’

 

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.

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.

COSMOGENESIS: THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE

Science has shown us:

– all life comes from a single event, the Big Bang

– the universe is not a static, fixed event

it is a ‘cosmogenesis’ – ongoing creativity

– all life participates in this birthing

and is deeply connected.

 

Teilhard described evolution as a “biological ascent

towards greater unity and complexity

in which qualitative differences spontaneously arise.”

 

According to Raimundo Panikkar’s ‘cosmotheandrism’

– we cannot say ‘I’ without the divine

– we cannot say ‘Thou’ without consciousness

– we cannot say ‘It’ without the world –

all three are necessary for cosmogenesis.

 

Descartes’ ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’)

arrives at his ‘self’ as an objective reality, a ‘thing’

and then arrives at ‘God’ as another ‘thing’

another finite being

instead of transcendent and infinite.

 

Looking straight at our ‘self’ makes us uncomfortable

so the essence of bravery is to live without self-deception –

the more we get to know our judgmentalism/arrogance/pettiness

– the less they can sink their fangs into us

– the more they lose their power

– the more we can love.

 

“The purpose of spiritual books like Introduction to the Devout Life

is to bring us to the love of God despite

the thousand darts of mockery

worldly people will throw at you.”

– Francis de Sales

 

We need Teilhard/Panikkar/de Sales to overcome the world

and keep cosmogenesis/cosmotheandrism/the evolution of Love/

the galaxies and stars

flowing like a mighty river.

CLEARING UP RELIGIOUS MISUNDERSTANDINGS

 

 Stories move people more than reason

because they transport us right into the living context.

The Jewish and Christian scriptures are full of stories

that bring God into the richness/messiness of life.

 

Meister Eckhart knew that stories promote understanding

more than logic, and he defined ‘understanding’

as ‘deiformity’ – conformity to the mind of God –

when we rightly understand how the world works

we are drawn into/formed in the mystery of God.

 

There have been many misunderstandings in Christian history –

Saint Paul has been grossly misunderstood 

as anti-marriage/pro-patriarchy/anti-Semitic/pro-slavery.

In all this he did not betray Jesus or invent Christianity.

What he did was: challenge Jews to new ways of thinking

and confront Roman patriarchal theology by proclaiming

Jesus not Caesar is Lord.

 

More misunderstandings: some theologians think

the doctrine of original sin is optimistic –

it does not teach humans are evil by nature

but that evil in humans is unnatural/a disorder/a sin.

If evil were natural to humans

we would be perfectly happy in evil

but evil people are not happy

or if they are, it is not natural.

 

Misunderstandings caused his fellow monks

to treat Saint John of the Cross harshly.

After eight long months in prison/a dark closet

and constant beatings by other monks

he escaped in 1585 and wrote his spiritual classic

Ascent of Mount Carmel.

 

Misunderstanding Bible verses such as

“Be perfect as God is perfect”

results in perfectionism/fear/legalism/hypocrisy

but the context is: God exhorting us to love everyone

just as “God makes the sun rise and the rain fall

on the good and the evil” (Matthew 5:45-48).

Perfection therefore consists in 

unconditional love not moral flawlessness.

 

FRESH AND GREAT REVELATIONS

 

 St. Gregory of Nyassa wrote that the contemplative life

cannot be lived in secular society

but St. Basil claimed it is possible while you work

to pray with your mouth/heart/mind.

 

At the monastery, Thomas Merton learned:

– how to pray while working as a laborer

– how to be a member of the human race

– that every other human being is no more crazy

and ridiculous than he claimed to be – than we all are.

 

Merton also learned and contemplated:

– fear is the awareness of one’s own finitude

– the possibility of one’s own nonbeing

– that anxiety is natural for mere mortals.

All these were great revelations to him.

 

Today extreme theological traditionalists

try to overcome anxiety by ignoring the past two centuries

while extreme theological progressives

subordinate Christianity to worldly philosophies.

The former flounder like fish-out-of-water in contemporary culture.

The latter flounder like fish-out-of-water in the church

and, despite their protests, are not Christian –

you have to draw the orthodox line somewhere.

 

The years when the religious right ordains

fundamentalist presidents always result in religious disaster –

alienating all young Americans

who hold completely different values

about women/homosexuality/poverty/climate change.

 

According to the great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel

the problem for both extreme right and left is: no awe.

After all, radical amazement lies in all reality:

not only in amazing things I can see – like the Milky Way –

that filmy white night banner overhead – but also in the fact that:

– I can see

– I can reflect on my ability to see

– I have a self that can reflect on things

– that this self is part and parcel of all that was/is/will be.

 

All these were great revelations to Heschel

and revelations always light up our footsteps on the path to God.

OPENING TO THE GOD WITHIN ALL

If the devout life is the same as true love of God

and the essence of the devout life is prayer

then the essence of the love of God is prayer.

 

Communion/connection with God or another person

involves the security and insecurity of trust

and a constant battle against all the forces

of fear and selfishness within us.

 

But to love is to be on the path of integral wholeness –

to see the ‘other’ not as ‘stranger’ but as ‘brother’

and ‘sister’ as part of one’s self, as belonging to another

and as part of a greater whole.

 

Objective theology may give you the right answers

but it doesn’t help you with prayer/union with God/

compassion for the lost. It excludes subjective experiences

like John of the Cross’s ‘Dark Night’

and Meister Eckhart’s inner freedom/energy/joy.

The result: if you only deal with Eckhart’s external writings

divorced from his inner spirituality

he can seem like a heretic.

 

There are three styles of religiosity:

‘intrinsic’ – religion as an end in itself;

‘extrinsic’ – religion as a means to an end/social justice

‘quest’ – religion as openness to change –

even to changing one’s religious beliefs/values.

 

Going from ethnocentric to worldcentric belief

means changing from a group-based identity –

this is my tribe –

to a person-based identity –

this is what I believe –

Jesus is still your and everyone’s personal Savior

no matter what you believe

but you realize the Holy Spirit speaks to people

in different faiths in different ways

and so others may find different paths to salvation.

 

Yes, the Universal Christ/God is the only way to God

but this is because the Universal Christ/God

is everywhere and depending upon one’s culture

takes many different forms.