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.

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.

TRANSFORMING SELF/CULTURE/RELIGION

Faith is higher and more perfect

than any knowledge or science available on Earth.

Faith has inestimable dignity and greatness

because it is a gift from God.

Religion gives culture its

meaning/seriousness/depth.

And culture gives religion its particular form

which varies from culture to culture.

“Religion is the substance of culture

and culture is the form of religion.” – Paul Tillich

In a healthy “theonomous culture”

religion neither dominates culture

nor withdraws from it:

religion and culture critique and support each other.

Religion saves culture from itself:

if just one-seventh of our life consists of

daily/weekly/yearly choices that are

liminal/Sabbath/sabbatical times

of consciousness/presence/naked ‘being’

the rest of our life will take care of itself

and not just be shallow producing/consuming/doing.

But religions often get stuck

in dualistic/anthropocentric/anti-world thinking:

only humans matter and if you want to be holy

you must not contaminate yourself with ‘the world.’

Carl Jung is the cure for this stuckness:

Jungians argue as Jesus did, not by logic

but by bringing in the big picture:

‘metanoia’ (mistranslated as ‘repent’)

actually means ‘go to your higher mind’

and Jung’s whole philosophy of life is:

individuals become happy and integrated

through ‘individuation:’

the conscious and unconscious minds

balancing and complementing each other.

Everyone has an unconscious shadow

which is not evil. Shadow is self-alienation

and requires reconciliation with your higher Self.

Sin is spiritual alienation

and requires reconciliation with God.

Shadow is like Original Sin

against your Self, not against God.

Shadow comes from repression

of parts of your Self so you are not whole.

Reconciliation with your Self comes from spirituality.

Spirituality is energy/experience/prayer

meditation/doubt/peace

love/creativity/intuition.

Religion is institution/hierarchy/dogma

doctrine/orthodoxy/buildings

rules/authority/certainty.

The religious far right and far left dogmatically

shutter the mind or at least keep faith small

with no openness to the thoughts of others.

But small faith is cured by cosmic hope:

Neo-Darwinian evolution engages

in an ongoing process of greater

complexity/crisis/renewal despite catastrophes

in the three great domains:

  1. Cosmos: exploding supernovae (crisis)

chemically enrich the cosmos (renewal)

  1. Biosphere: mass extinctions (crisis)

result in new, more complex species (renewal)

  1. Culture: human revolutions (crisis)

result in more inclusive living (renewal).

Ongoing hope conquers major catastrophes.

In any case, suffering can bring acceptance.

Buddha’s teaching that existence consists of

egolessness/impermanence/suffering

allows us to accept rather than struggle

against the facts of life and to not blame ourselves

for not being able to cure these facts.

On the other hand, people are fearless who know that

“In all things (even disaster) God works together

for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

They become holy adventurers.

But adventure requires wisdom and community –

those who become hero-adventurers

often find a Wise Person –

an older woman or man – an Elder

gives them aid for their journey

of transforming Self/Culture/Religion.

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.

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

O HAPPY FAULT

All humans are innately spiritual

and if they develop/mature properly

they feel a need to celebrate

with ritual and sacrifice

their participation in Ultimate Mystery.

Confucians (followers of Master Kung Fu)

believed in the goodness of human nature

and encouraged this goodness to come out

through a sacred culture

that elevates humans in love.

“Belief in the goodness of God/humans/life

is not just a choice, it is a Resurrection.

When we believe in the Source of Life

we are raised to a new spiritual level of being.”

– Thomas Merton

But “First we fall, and later we see our fall

as the Mercy of God.” – Julian of Norwich

We live far away from God until we are broken

and return to God.

The Fall is the ‘happy fault’ sung at Easter Vigil –

the Great Mistake that caused our Great Savior

to come and pitch his tent among women and men.

In Confessions Augustine wrestled

with the triple temptation:

“lust of the flesh/lust of the eyes/and pride.”

Spiritual pride leads people to claim

God’s sanction for their own projects –

this can lead to the worst injustice

because any opposition to “my way”

is considered satanic.

All spiritual disciplines have one purpose:

to rid us of the illusions of the flesh and the eyes

so we can see clearly and live in Reality/God

but most cultures are trapped

in the trance of materialism:

“It’s all about the money.”

The grand displacement of culture

happened when materialistic science

replaced religion as the answer

to all questions of ultimate concern

and of what we should trust

and pledge allegiance to.

After medieval times culture was unified

no longer by God

but by the self-thinking individual subject.

Each person had to figure out the world and life

using rational thought alone.

Nietzsche saw this as the death of God.

People want to turn inward

but dualistic, either-or thinking

can lead to the misconception

that inner work is self-centered navel-gazing

out of touch with Reality – the material world.

However, depth psychology teaches

genuine holiness is not just self-abnegation

not just being totally other-centered

with no thought for the self –

rather it is both self-awareness

and self-transformation for others.

If you give in to the temptation to resist transformation

you never become a spiritual adult.

In any case the only place

you can simultaneously

touch Jesus/the Holy Spirit/

and the kingdom/queendom/kindom of God

is within you.

Beyond searching just for comfort

if we want a more full and passionate life

we need the type of curiosity

that does not shy away

from looking at painful things.

And we need the realization

that we can endure a lot of pain

in our search for truth about God/the world/and our self.

If we pursue truth wholeheartedly

we will eventually conclude

only Christ can heal

all our pain/lust/illusions/temptations/and pride.