THE PURPOSE OF ALL THINGS

The only purpose of God in creating the universe

was that it be a communion of souls in love.

Christ is the center/goal/perfection/paradigm of communion

so the meaning of Christ extends to

all people/all civilizations/all planets/all universes.

 

The only purpose of all spiritual practice

is to help you become an awakened human being –

a loving/contemplative sage full of God here and now –

which is the true nature of who you already are anyway –

so the end of the journey is its beginning.

 

Discovering your True Self can be a great relief –

you no longer have to protect/project/promote

an ideal self-image – your False Self.

Your True Self was always there and always will be

so you can relax and be yourself – flaws and all.

 

Awareness that life is flawed is the beginning of wisdom

and the beginning of anxiety is when a flawed being

becomes aware of its future non-being.

 

Today, the “Way of the Cross” involves

becoming aware of our flaws/limitations/sins

abandoning perfectionism/pursuing wholeness/

dying to our ego and finding our True Self

which may be exquisitely painful

but it focuses on growth not transient happiness.

 

Today we are blessed with tools like the Enneagram

which helps us understand

the depths of our darkness

and paradoxically allows us to grasp

the heights of our True Self

the divine image and likeness of God within

which longs to go without

and join others in forming

a communion of souls in love.

BEING ONE YET MANY

Christ’s fiery touch at Pentecost

brought our souls and the Church alive.

Christ’s touch separates us from others

and yet binds us to them

so that at the same time each Christian

is a hermit and the whole Church.

 

The challenge for us is to be one and many

as symbolized in the three-in-one Trinity:

Father/Son/Holy Spirit are all distinct yet one –

so we must be united to all and yet our self.

Nature can help us imagine this –

since it is a ‘process’ – a flowing whole movement

of interconnected organisms

not a series of independent mechanisms.

 

In Zen, spirit and matter are one not separate

and so it flumoxed Francis Xavier

that Zen Master Minsitshu

was not convinced he had a ‘soul’

as an object one can ‘have’ and ‘save.’

 

Xavier’s goal was to save Minsitshu

but we should have goals only for our self

not expectations for others, since this means

asking them to live up to our own self-centered ideals.

 

Being one yet many and having no goals/expectations

for others – loving them as they are

not as we want them to be – challenges us in relationships

particularly marriage, the most intimate of all relationships –

where we are called to be one with our partner yet our self.

 

Being one yet many also challenges us spiritually:

to be one with God yet not God –

wisdom has two basic tenets:

there is a God and

you are not God.

 

“Spiritual challenges can be overcome

by more prayer/meditation/self-examination/

penance/patience in desolation/

and humility in consolation.”

– Ignatius of Loyola

SOLIDARITY

 The modern-day Apostle Paul Tillich warned

that a culture dominated by religion

stagnates/becomes monolithic uniformity/

loses the dynamism of pluralism/

degenerates morally into legalistic conformity/

ironically loses its inner Spirit.

 

Most nation-states form their solidarity around a religion

but America has always been religiously pluralistic –

therefore, the Founding Fathers

wisely built solidarity not on religion

but on self-evident truths.

 

Humanists are always concerned

that belief in God limits human freedom

and creates apathy to life on Earth.

However, this is misguided thinking:

belief in God does not block freedom and dignity

because God is the Source

of freedom and dignity.

 

Also, believing in our future union with God

does not block our discharging present responsibilities –

God wants us rooted and perfected in God

which provides both stability and motivation to act now.

 

Theism naturally gives birth to the idea of resurrection

and a spiritualized and transcendent view of the self

which humanism completely misses

making humanists ironically unable to really help humans

since real humanness involves divinization –

being filled to overflowing with God and God’s love

so your love flows out to all sentient beings.

 

Mystics always find a God who does not

judge/compare/differentiate/compete – since all these block love.

Our minds are meant to be like God’s:

all-embracing, all-loving receptors and givers.

 

The Apostle John spoke of Jesus as the revelation

of our solidarity with God/ourselves/others on a local scale.

The Apostle Paul spoke of Christ revealing unity on a cosmic scale:

“Through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile all things

to God whether in Heaven or on Earth” (Colossians 1:20)

so that “God may be All in All” (I Corinthians 5:28).

THE KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE

 Nonbeing was used as a concept

by Plato to contrast suffering/existence with pure essence

by Plotinus to describe the loss of the self/soul

by Augustine as an ontological interpretation of sin.

 

It is inevitable that we fall into nonbeing/sin –

the tension between our freedom and our finitude

creates anxiety as we confront

our great responsibility to fulfill our potential

and our limited ability to do so.

 

Our thoughts carry us away like the wind

but if we let them dissipate like mist

we end up in the Present Moment

where there is primordial richness and wisdom.

We need to always return to the Present – the Gift.

 

We also need Community – no matter how flawed.

If the Sangha is having trouble

you first need to transform yourself

into a candle which lights the other candles.

But any Sangha, any Community

Is better than no Community –

Evil/Ego wants to separate and divide us.

 

In the Body/Ego stage I focus only on

my own physical body and its survival.

In the Mind/Us stage I can put myself in others’ shoes

so I focus on relationships.

In the Spirit/All of Us stage I become aware

not only of all our differences

but also our common values –

the common good of all sentient beings.

 

Love at all stages: self/others/all creatures

is the Universal Key – God has given humans

the Keys to the Universe

and “Each of you will be rewarded

according to the measure of your love

not according to the amount of work or time it took.”

– God speaking to Catherine of Siena

HEARTS ON FIRE

If you want to be a real help to your temple/church/

Buddhist sangha first light the fire

of love/tolerance/understanding in yourself

so you can inspire others to do the same.

Otherwise, no matter how beautiful the edifice

it will be a false temple/church/sangha.

 

If you are not on fire for God

it is because your image of God is old school –

God is transcendent/detached from human life.

The theory of evolution forces us

into a new image of God as immanent –

God arises from within everything.

 

Teilhard/Merton/Panikkar/Griffiths

all call for inner renewal as the key to living Christ

in the 21st century. These four deceased

but alive mystics can be our guides

for living in an evolutionary world.

 

Religion is falsely thought of as contentment –

an idealistic escape from the stresses of harsh reality.

However, religious discontent is synonymous

with spiritual renewal – discontent that the world

is not like God’s dream

of peace and justice for all.

Prophetic religion is not about certainty and security.

 

Earthly attachments to comfort/porn/money

control the soul/end the spirit’s freedom/

cut us off from God.

As we value and pursue foolish things,

foolish fears, like losing our comfort, result.

 

“Conversion” according to Bernard Lonergan

is the experience by which one becomes

an “authentic human being.”

And Lonergan affirmed conversion as holistic:

it involves the whole person in all our dimensions:

intellectual – loving God with our mind

ethical – loving God with our body

and religious – loving God with our heart on fire.

LOVE CONQUERS ANXIETY

There are three main sources of anxiety:

death/meaninglessness/condemnation.

These anxieties do not belong to abnormal psychology/neurosis

because they are existential anxieties –

they belong to existence itself –

a product of being alive as a finite, mortal being.

 

Christ knew our anxiety, knows our anxiety now.

The Christian imagination has pictured Christ as a Cosmic Joker

for centuries, but thinking of the Joker as

“dancing in the jaws of the dragon”

opens up new meanings of the Cross and discipleship

in a culture of chaos/war/climate change.

 

We live in chaos, but we are not bereft of dreams –

the Second Vatican Council proclaimed the highest destiny

of humanity is the “sisterhood/brotherhood of all people”

and offered the power of the Church as a champion of this.

 

Catholicism’s positive view of human nature/

liturgical symbolism/philosophical theology/appreciation of mysticism

has attracted many outstanding converts

from Protestantism/atheism/paganism.

But Thomas Merton took the Church Triumphant

with a grain of salt – he caricatured the popular conception

of saints, which puts holiness for the average person

beyond possibility: “saints are always impeccable/

never tempted/will throw themselves into fire

to avoid even the remotest occasion of sin.”

 

It is easy for Christians to forget the heart of Christianity

is that we love one another

and “everyone who loves is born of God.” Everyone.

 

If Christians do not practice love within Christianity

that is, between churches, there is no way

dialogue with non-Christian religions will happen

and without peace between the world’s religions

the sisterhood/brotherhood of all is impossible

and anxiety will never end.

 

 

 

 

LOVING OUR DIFFERENCES

The core challenge of spiritual maturity

is integrity and differentiation:

being rooted in your own spirituality

while respecting the different spirituality of others.

Accepting differences gets the ego out of the way

and points to self-transcendence – a dynamic force

operative in all human nature/experience/activity:

God’s Mercy frees us from our self.

But most religions play both sides:

throughout the Qur’an God is

All-Merciful/All-Compassionate/All-Loving

but also the Master of the Day of Doom.

God is the Only One to pray to and serve

the Only One to guide us to be blessed

and not subject to God’s Wrath.

But we cut our self off from God:

“Disobedience and thanklessness

are the source of all evil.”

– Saint Catherine of Sienna

Some think humans are saints

others think we are “totally depraved” (John Calvin)/

“piles of dung covered over by the snow of Christ” (Martin Luther).

However, churches also have the capability of creating unity –

bringing in the light of God unites human beings

by showing we are simultaneously

defective and dignified/broken and blessed.

But churches are also flawed/divided/broken –

the Church thought of itself as universal and united

during the first one thousand years

till the Great Schism in 1054

between Catholic and Orthodox –

when churches became obsessed

with being ‘right’ about what separates them.

Life always involves conflict

but “The journey of the mythological hero

is to move through a devastated landscape

and suffuse it with imperishable love” (Joseph Campbell).

It always gets back to:

love/love of those who are different/

love of our enemies

the teachings of Jesus.

SOUL’S PURPOSE: BEING/MEANING/PROPHECY

Anxiety about meaninglessness

comes from the loss of an ultimate concern

a spiritual center, an answer to the question

of the meaning of existence, a meaning

which gives meaning to all meanings.

The purpose of the soul is pure being

not doing this specific thing or that.

The soul is thus a master of

non-addiction/non-grasping/non-clinging

to anything – pure non-attachment.

The goal of the spiritual life

is not to get rid of shadow

but to include and integrate it.

Without shadow, we would be flat and dull –

shadow gives us personality/depth/substance.

Our supposed inner adversary – our shadow

which we want to destroy – is our friend

when it points out our errors to us.

If the soul stops feeding

on the pleasure of the senses

it enters a “dark night of the senses”

that eventually leads to a “dark night of the soul”

that depends on faith alone.

These dark nights of sense and soul are voids

that paradoxically give light.

Religious faith is forever a struggle

between darkness and light/good and evil

pastoral and prophetic.

Institutions are always pastoral –

baptizing shared values/giving comfort and stability/

resisting change.

But prophets agitate for change

to get people out of their comfortable pews

thus institutions forever resist prophets.

Poets/artists/mystics/prophets

are often lonely creative individuals

because they do not fit in a competitive society

that spends all its energy on ephemerals.

They need powerful married love leading to Divine Love

which sheds shadow by its shining light.

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.

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.