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 INSTITUTIONAL RELIGION

Spirituality is: a critique of institutional religion

a yearning for new gods as the old gods fail

a search for fresh connections to God/others/self.

God can be our Mother/Lover/Friend

representing Agape/Eros/Philia

taking care of others/self/world.

Dante: every scripture passage

for example, the Passion/Resurrection narrative

can be taken literally: Jesus rose bodily from death

morally: we should focus on eternal not temporal things

allegorically: we too will rise from death to eternal life

mystically: eternal life is present right here and right now.

Some see life through stained glass windows:

theirs is a sacramental view of the world –

“The Earth Is bread, the Sun is wine”

all sin/oppression/violence are the Passion of Christ.

Shadow is often falsely equated with sin

but sin is rejection of God

and shadow is rejection of self.

The false self is more bogus than bad

and only bad when it pretends

to be more than it is – a costume we need to shed

so we can see the light of the true self.

Churches can help us find this light

by envisioning the true dignity of human beings:

both male and female are made in God’s image

capable of knowing and loving their Creator

masters of all creatures on Earth

and responsible for stewardship of them

in a way that honors God.

Jesus chased all creatures out of the Temple

in order to end the ritual slaughter of animals

“What God desires is mercy not sacrifice”

Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 9:13.

But institutional religion did not accept

this New God

and slaughtered him instead.

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.

THE INTER-SPIRITUAL GOLD STANDARD

Inter-spirituality – religions getting along

and learning from each other – is an ideal

like the ethical gold standards:

economic egalitarianism

abandonment of militant nationalism

nuclear disarmament

which are promoted by globalism

and multiculturalism.

Conservative spirituality needs to loosen up

its fixation on ethnocentric myth

and learn how the Spirit expresses itself

in worldcentric reason

and postconventional love.

The Church is both human

since it exists within time

and is subject to forces of history and culture

and it is also divine

because it resolutely presses towards

the final Kingdom/Queendom/Kindom of God.

“Christians must resolutely strive towards

justice in the real, ambiguous world

where grace and sin abound.”

– Reinhold Niebuhr

The idea of God/Christ/religion evolving

rests on the notion that humans evolve –

in fact, technology has become so pervasive

we have evolved into a new species –

techno-sapiens.

At the microlevel of subatomic particles

there is an unceasing flow of energy

too vast for our minds to comprehend.

The Universal Christ is this energy incarnate

in every church/religion/all humans/the universe –

the Universal Christ is the inter-spiritual

gold standard.

NEW ADAMS AND NEW EVES

Gandhi’s doctrine of nonviolence

came from his optimistic view of human nature –

truth is the law of our being

nonviolence is more natural for us than violence

love is more of our essence than hate.

The Cloud of Unknowing:

love must receive primacy in prayer

ahead of cogitation.

We must pray out of love

not out of a quest for knowledge.

And we must love God for God’s self

not for what God does for us.

To meditate to feel good is a common mistake –

every time you don’t feel good

you will feel like a failure at meditation.

Even the most experienced meditators

feel pain and frustration.

But non-dual seers hold contraries together

like pain and pleasure

and since they experience everything as One again

they are New Adams and New Eves

in the garden naked and unashamed.

Men in particular need to grow

into spiritual maturity, becoming New Adams

by exploring ancient wisdom

about the spiritual life of men

and relaunching the Sacred Masculine.

The medieval view by men like Aquinas and Eckhart

went beyond intellect and will

to the divine spark in the soul.

The soul is naturally godly

and designed to know ultimate perfection.

This is the true knowledge that transforms:

God made us for perfect holiness, grace and truth.

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.

MYSTERY, MYSTICS, DARKNESS, LOVE

Meister Eckhart: the Divine Mind

is infinite and causeless.

The human mind is finite and caused

and therefore can never fully comprehend God.

Only God fully comprehends God.

Souls that want to grasp God

by intellect/vision/revelation alone

only partially succeed.

You must proceed

toward God by unknowing and in darkness.

God can only be known by love –

“Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”

(I John 4:7). This includes atheists who love

peace and justice (which are what God is made of).

God is also mystery, the Church is mystery

and the universe is mystery:

there is 95% more universe out there

than humans can see:

25% dark matter and 70% dark energy.

But darkness precedes light –

Thomas Merton: “We often forget

that Christian faith is a principle

of questioning and struggle

before it becomes a principle

of certitude and peace.”

Vatican II portrayed the Church

as continuing the work of the Good Shepherd

but also as composed of frail and sinful humans

and thus in constant need of purification/renewal.

Mystics constantly try to renew the Church

but they are rare as hen’s teeth.

Still, loneliness drives mystics to God

and then from experiencing God’s Love

they want to love everyone as God does.

Everyone, everyone, who loves

is born of God.

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE CREATES HUMANITY

It is impossible to prove or disprove

the denial or assertion of religious beliefs.

Religious belief is a choice

but religious symbols and practices

have given people meaning and strength

to cope with troubles down through the ages:

“O God our help in ages past

our hope for years to come

our shelter from the stormy blast

and our eternal home.”

This hymn provides comfort

when humans are more and more de-centered:

in the universe by Copernicus

in life by evolutionary biology

in our inner core by the subconscious.

In Newtonian physics, physical reality

followed rigid causal pathways

but in Chaos Theory, physical reality

is flexible, open to change and new

spontaneously emerging properties.

Things are out of our control and in God’s control.

Spontaneous revival happened in Hinduism:

decline in the 1800s gave birth in the 1900s

to great spiritual teachers:

Aurobindo/Gandhi/Tagore/

Yogananda who claimed unity

with Buddha/Jesus/Mohammed 

and that all religions are one

since they all seek the same goal: God.

Inter-religiosity may be written off

as postmodern/New Age/goofiness

but the fact is that all of religion’s

key dimensions of

belief/behavior/belonging

are being dramatically transformed

by contact with other major world religions.

Vatican II called for recognition

that all humans are interconnected.

Interreligious dialogue creates

the Beloved Community, humanity.

THE ALL-INCLUSIVE CHRIST

God is choosing us now

but we are spiritually starving

in the midst of spiritual plenty

because we guard our material nothings

and we are not adept at prayer

because of distraction and laziness.

The remedy? Vigilance and conversion of heart.

When humans form a church

we open our small individual self

to become a much larger Body

of understanding and love.

Some churches believe

salvation happens in community

when we are one with our sisters and brothers

but sometimes their idea of community is too narrow –

White/straight/male.

Those who are “spiritual but not religious”

protest against churches of any kind

out of anger/sadness/boredom or disconnection –

the feeling of having no voice or control.

Excluded by Church

they in turn exclude Church.

Also, the notion of “God’s Providence” –

“God will provide”

sounds like escapism and irresponsibility –

we, not God, should take care

of the Earth and the poor.

But this notion of Providence

was the basis of thousands of years

of spiritual meaning – that God would

get us through immense difficulties.

Many mystics find that

only through severe struggling

can they move out of introspection

from seeing to acting

but then they become sharp-eyed

spiritual and political visionaries.

Like Thomas Merton they become cosmic lovers

who include everyone – gay/Black/women/

disabled/refugees/criminals/

even White/straight/men – everyone!

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.