A CULTURE OF LIES

 

Liberal Protestant theology has its roots

in Friedrich Schleiermacher who spoke of

the basic goodness of humans/the inevitable progress of culture/

the ethical imperative of love, and played down

sin/the judgment of God/the miracles of Jesus/the Resurrection –

Schleiermacher bought into secular beliefs in his landmark book

On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers.

 

But Schleiermacher was naïve:

so much of contemporary politics/advertising/sex

violates the Fourth Buddhist Precept of Mindful Speech –

people lie to start wars/get votes/sell products/have sex –

it’s a culture of lies that bows to the Father of Lies –

Schleiermacher should have titled his book

On Religion: Speeches to Cultural Liars.

 

According to Buddhism:

a Bodhisattva is not contained in the world –

rather she contains the world

and holds it in her jewelled hands.

 

According to Islam:

Mohammed supernaturally received fragments of the Koran

in a trance between 610CE and his death in 622CE –

he was illiterate so he simply recited what Allah taught.

 

According to Christianity:

doctrine saves no one

salvation comes from an existential confession

that for you, personally, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

Christianity based on doctrine alone is dead –

Christians must be involved

in the suffering of the world.

 

To this end Jesus criticized the cultured men of religion –

the Pharisees – for their hypocrisy

and then attacked the cultured men of affairs –

the Sadducees – for their oppression of the poor –

Jesus wanted the leaders to model a spiritual kingdom

whereas the Pharisees and Sadducees

modelled the kingdom of Rome

a culture of lies just like our own.

TAKING THE HARD/EASY ROAD WITH CHRIST

Jesus was a layman with no formal training as a priest

he was at parties and in the streets

far more than at liturgy. Yet the early Church

created elaborate liturgies to worship a man

who never asked to be worshiped

only followed. Worship is easy, following is hard.

So, we took the easy road.

 

Circa 250 AD Christians took the road to the desert

to escape Decian persecution/corruption/decadence

of the Roman Empire. Like Moses/Elijah/Jesus

they were convinced that in the absolute silence of the desert

they could hear God speak again.

In the desert they learned for all time

that God is in the present moment, the NOW.

 

In our NOW, people in both individualist and collectivist societies

feel anxiety about death/non-being.

Capitalist/ego societies encourage individuals

to assert themselves against the threat of non-being

whereas communist/state societies allay anxiety

with massive military parades and rituals

signifying the collective will survive

individual non-being – being part of the collective

saves you from death.

 

But both the capitalist and communist credos

are heresy. In Jesus the Christ one evolves

from fragmentation and alienation

of the individual and the masses

to wholeness and integration

from nihilism and irony

to deep meaning and value

from scarcity to abundance

from self-centeredness to self-transcendence.

 

When capitalism and communism both fail to satisfy the soul

it humbly turns back to God and finds

“Your soul is who you are in God and who God is in you.

Nothing more, nothing less” – Richard Rohr

and taking the hard road is surprisingly easy in Christ

who said “Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy

and my burden is light” – Matthew 11:28-30

 

 

 

 

 

SCIENCE AND THE TRUE SELF

The rise of science in the Renaissance and Enlightenment

freed people from religious authority. Science replaced God –

there was no need for the “God hypothesis”

to explain how things worked.

 

Today, theology and our everyday minds

continue to be challenged by a universe

in which every second millions of tons of matter

convert to light-energy, black holes

empty space bristles with dark matter and dark energy

about which we know nothing.

 

Meanwhile, Christianity back then and today

held that its Lord and Master, Jesus the Christ

is the focal point/key/goal of all human history

and even the history of the universe.

 

In early Christianity, mystical experience

was at the center of all theology –

prayer/theology/catechesis were all one.

But today people want spiritual experience

divorced from religion seen as dogma

because Christianity, challenged by science

focused on doctrine not on experience.

 

Unfortunately, Christianity throughout its history

has been far more interested in the Moral Self

as the measure of everything, and so has lost

the Absolute Measure of the True Self.

The False Self, the Ego, is happy

that believers in God usually deny

we all are already God’s beloved children

which gives the Ego nothing to strive for

and feel superior about

and so, even though God calls all of us

our Egos allow very few to be chosen.

 

A focus on the Moral Self means that

abnormal guilt has become a normal part of life –

fear of what others think drives us

we always want to be seen as pure – the good girl/boy

which is appropriate for childhood

but adults need to integrate their Shadow and stand against

their internalized shoulds/should nots as the voice of God

otherwise the True Self has no voice in our scientific age.

FULL LIFE IN AN “AI” UNIVERSE

We are called to see God in all things

including our astounding science/tech innovations

and use them for the service of God

and everyone’s eternal happiness.

But since love is not part of the knowing process

of artificial intelligence/silicon chips/robots

technology takes over as our guide, not religion

and leads us into a posthuman world.

Edwin Hubble discovered the universe continually expands –

a major revolution in scientific understanding

of a former/fixed/static universe:

the universe will dissipate and end.

Expecting “The Universe” to do things for you –

“Ask the Universe to help you,” or as many say 

“Put your request out there and the Universe will grant it” 

is folly.

It is God who grants things. 

The reason for the Incarnation 

is the excess mercy and love of God.

Incarnation consummates the universe

and is willed by God entirely for itself

not as an afterthought

brought in to deal with sin. 

First of all, God wanted to show us 

how to be fully alive through Jesus the Incarnate Christ.

It is in our ordinary daily lives

where loving like Jesus

and bringing in transforming grace

happens in our relationships 

with spouses/children/friends/parents/coworkers.

When you enter fully into the Present

you alleviate confusion/suffering 

and touch the Prince of Peace and your own Buddhahood –

Buddhists practice Presence through conscious breathing.

Prayer is not primarily thinking and saying holy words –

it is a stance, a way of living continually in Presence

being aware of Presence, and enjoying Presence.

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.

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.

SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR A NEW UNIVERSE

The Spirit who hovered over the waters before the Creation

is the same Spirit who created Jesus in Mary’s womb.

Creation and Mary’s womb were both an empty void

out of which a new universe came.

“The new universe’s three greatest principles are

unity/diversity/subjectivity.” – Thomas Berry

Subjectivity comes from ‘auto-poetic’ (self-organizing) systems

forming bodily centers or ‘selves’ in many forms.

The new, self-organizing universe is full of subjects, not objects

and the first principle is unity:

If we see that we are all one,

we naturally become interested in the ‘common good’ –

whatever is good for all is good for me.

Sharing land/wealth/possessions flows from this new worldview

as naturally as feeding our own children.

A fourth great principle is ‘mystery:’

“The most beautiful thing we can experience

is the mysterious. It is the source of all true

art/science/religion.

The one who can no longer pause to wonder

or stand wrapped in awe is as good as dead.”

– Albert Einstein

A fifth principle is ‘peace.’

The goal of early Christians was to conquer

the pagan Romans not by the power of the sword

but by the power of faith and compassion

the essence of the kingdom of God

and of the King/Messiah Jesus.

A sixth principle is ‘love.’

Lovingkindness (‘maitri’ in Buddhism)

needs also to be applied to our self

particularly the painful/shameful/ugly parts

our ‘winning’ society brands as ‘loser.’

The seventh and final principle is ‘trust.’

Ancient pilgrimages were always spiritual exercises

in ascetic homelessness and wandering

seeking solitude/exile/trust in and abandonment to

Providence alone.

The problem for the reign of God  

is that all these spiritual principles were overthrown

by Descartes who wanted to reverse

the displacement of humans from the center of the universe

by Copernicus and his sun-centered cosmos.

So, Descartes centered the certainty of knowledge

on his principle of ‘cogito:’ “I think therefore I am.”

However, this principle split spirit and matter

and replaced God with the individual human –

a major turning point.

The two poles of the so-called Enlightenment –

the ‘Egos’ (self-thinking individuals)

and the ‘Ecos’ (everything is holistic: 

systems/unified fields/implicate orders)

tend to ignore or disparage each other.

As a response to the chaos of Enlightenment

many Christians became rigid thinkers

because they were taught to follow

the ways of God is to create order.

They never learned wisdom/paradox/mystery

as the principles/essence/foundation of faith.

Chaos theory is not about chaos, that is, anti-order –

it focuses on how over time ‘strange attractors’ within systems

draw new order and new emergent properties

out of dynamic fluidity.

All these Enlightenment thought-displacements

caused Christians to re-think Christianity:

the new/old principles of Original Blessing emerged:

befriending darkness, letting go of images/idols of God,

emptying, letting pain/silence/nothingness be

pain/silence/nothingness, discipline not asceticism

befriending our creativity and divinity as co-creators with God.

These new principles are biblical

and there from the beginning.

Christianity as usual is not disappearing

in fact, worldwide it is rapidly growing

and adapting to make mysticism

which previously was only for monastic elites

available for all.

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

THE GIFT OF CHILD-LIKE FAITH

According to Joseph Campbell

supernatural guides can take many forms:

– in fairy tales: a hermit/elf/shepherd/wizard

– in mythology: a Baboon god

– in classical literature: Virgil and Beatrice

in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Scientists have been our guides for centuries

but Isaac Newton’s mechanistic universe

eventually had no need or place for God

and no definition or place for humans.

We used to be supernaturally defined  

as the image of God.

In the new quantum science and quantum theology

God is not a passive/detached/external ruler –

God is a passionate/relational/internal Presence

embodied in the process of creative evolution.

“God’s providence/compassion/mercy

were there right from the moment of my birth –

for you gave my mother breasts and milk

to feed me, you gave me the desire

for this milk and gave my mother

the desire to share it.” – Augustine

In contemplation we are like a child

sucking on our mother’s breasts – all our faculties:

memory/reason/imagination are suspended

only our will, the will to drink sweet nectar remains.

In the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

the foundational theme is: our will

and all our faculties of memory/reason/imagination

are gifts from God to  be given back to God

and used at God’s discretion.

All we need is the grace to love God above all.

Faith is a gift from God too

since it gives us new eyes –

so you see through God’s eyes.

Faith is self-fulfilling prophecy –

it creates the good world it sees.

Whether we can see Jesus or Buddha or not

depends on our awareness –

a man rushed to see Buddha

and ignored a woman in dire need.

When he got to the monastery

he was incapable of seeing the Buddha

who was in the woman he passed by –

the Good Samaritan knows that

as you do unto the least you do unto God.

Hindus can call on Jesus with faith and devotion –

Mahatma Gandhi wept when he saw the Pieta –

the sculpture of Mary holding her dead son –

and in his tiny room in New Delhi

he had only one picture: Jesus

the Universal Christ who is everywhere.

God unconditionally loves everyone:

after the Resurrection Christ’s love

did not become exclusive or conditional –

he gave his Shalom peace and his breath

to his disciples who had betrayed him.

The community of faith, the Beloved Community

is a community of sinners –

good and evil run through all hearts.

We must acknowledge our sin

since the more we think we are righteous

the less we see our shadow

and the more we project our shadow onto others

causing untold suffering.

Rather than asking “How can I find happiness?”

we could ask “How can I sit with suffering,

yours and mine, and not try to make it go away?

How can I let the pain/loss/dishonor open me up?”

Once you have opened up and experienced

nondual reality, you can return to dualistic reasoning

but in a freer way as you realize

there are greater truths than reason:

“Oh God, I am so glad you revealed your plan

not to the learned and wise

but to the simple and childlike.”

– Jesus (Matthew 11:25).

THE LIMITS OF REASON

In religion, only non-dual seers are the experts

the only ones who can hold contrary/opposites together.

One non-dual seer was Augustine

who perceived that God is

merciful yet just

ancient yet new

hidden yet present.

There is an ambiance of

light/peace/wisdom

around great sages –

even when they are not present

their life and words show us the way.

Similar to Augustine

the author of the Cloud of Unknowing

was not anti-intellectual

but believed reason is limited:

God cannot be known by thought –

only by love.

Reason by itself alone would give us

God as a loveless clock-maker

who winds up the universe like a toy

and lets it run on its own till it runs out

in which case all revelation/ scripture/prophecy

are irrelevant.

The ‘dialectic of progress’ is ongoing

gains and losses – one era sees and solves

the problems of the previous era

but then has its own problems

but there is a net gain

and therefore a direction to evolution.

God is the direction.

If rational people equate holiness

with perfection – for this is what reason dictates –

these ‘perfect people’ would not see

their shadow, and project it onto others.

The more shadow is repressed

the more it grows, becomes autonomous

and dangerous.

If you haven’t worked through

your personal complexes then repressed conflict

between say, sex and religion, prevents you

from getting to the transcendental level.

We need to feel the fear

and make it our companion, not our enemy.

Beyond the shadow

Vedanta Hinduism warns:

If you think your Higher Self is God

and you are not your body

you won’t get out of the way

of a charging elephant –

you will be crushed.

It is important to know your place.

In Islam, beneath Allah

are three created intelligences:

angels made of light

jinn (spirits) made of fire

humans made of dust.

Many jinn have accepted the True Faith

and are good. The bad jinn

work with the fallen angels

particularly Iblis, chief of the fallen angels.

In countering the chief of the fallen angels, Satan

Jesus tried to move everyone to the good

to wake us up

out of our hypnotic cultural trance/collective sleepwalking

by countercultural actions/teachings/parables –

tools for turning the status quo upside down.

Jesus was often abrasive with hypocrites –

his crucifixion was not without cause

nor was it just personal –

it holds global/cosmic implications

which we usually overlook

just as we overlook our present global/cosmic disaster.

The crucifixion of Christ and of the planet

always need serious theological reflection:

the mission of Christianity and all religions now must be

to save the world

from climate change.