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.

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.

THE GREAT LOVER

The Great Lover calls all of us

the outsider/sinner/violent

into the Ocean of Mercy called God:

“I did not come to make the virtuous

feel good about themselves,

I came for those who need healing.”

– Jesus

Once in the Ocean you can dive to the depths:

“There are two healing demands

if you take up the contemplative life:

forsaking the world’s evil

and purifying your conscience of all sin

through the sacrament of reconciliation.”

– The Cloud of Unknowing

Both Christianity and Buddhism encourage people

to reject all earthly aspirations.

Instead, people rejected religion

which works well for them

until there is serious suffering.

People losing their religion

may be entering a spiritual wasteland

or travelling into a mythic desert

where they can start a new spiritual search

for the God old, ossified institutions have lost.

Perhaps religion is all made up anyway –

our minds cannot grasp infinity

so we invoke concepts like beginning and end

Alpha and Omega, Incarnation and Resurrection

as dominant myths to help us cope

with our Infinite God and infinite universe

even though God is fully present everywhere

including in your own heart and soul.

Though God is in, over, through, and as us

“We do not see things as they are,

we see them as we are. We hear religious texts

according to our own level of consciousness

which is always developing.” – Richard Rohr

The first worldwide developmental Axial Age

was 500 BCE to 100 CE –

the rise of the great religions, east and west.

The second Axial Age began in 1600 CE

with the labor pains of science –

a massive revolt against Aristotle

and his deductive method of arguing from effect to cause.

Science was inductive/experimental/observational/pragmatic

thus, studying people’s approach to God (religious studies)

began to displace the science of God (theology) –

God became an object of academic study

instead of the Author of Living Faith.

Reason has overcome myth

and been a handmaid of Spirit

in achieving real freedom

rather than mythic freedom.

A person might worship an Egyptian god

but must overlook the great pyramids

were built by slaves.

Like the United States, Egypt was

“The land of the free

and the home of the slave.”

The mythic God – the angry old Sky-Man

brought hierarchical oppression to slaves and Catholics

but the Spirit brings democracy and real liberation.

With real liberation has come

bodily and sexual liberation –

It is not right for a human to act like an angel

denying all desires and pleasures.

God has designed us so that

certain desires and pleasures are natural for us –

to be human is more godly than to be angelic.

The lingam, the giant stone phallus in Hindu temples

represents the mythic god Shiva

and is an all-encompassing symbol

representing a multitude of ideas and emotions

which have little to do with penises and sex.

Other religious symbols like the Cross

represent many ideas and emotions other than

human cruelty and suffering.

The courage to suffer is an affirmation of one’s essential nature

but courage may require the Cross in your own life –

sacrificing other essentials such as pleasure or happiness

or even your life.

When you accept that ‘everything belongs’

you can accept suffering and death –

only the ego fears suffering and death –

whereas your true life, your soul

is hidden with Christ in God

and All things, even death, work for the good

for those who love the Great Lover.

GOD, THE SEED OF LOVE WITHIN ALL

A complete mythology serves us in four ways:

metaphysical/mystical, cosmological,

social and psychological.

In Christian mythology, God the Great Mystery 

leads us into 

paradox, darkness, never-ceasing journeys of inner growth.

Simplistic religion without mystery

causes people to leave religion.

Certainty, not doubt, is the opposite of faith.

Seeds need darkness to germinate 

and darkness makes life reach its full potential:

injustice causes us to strive for justice.

As a chaplain in World War One

Paul Tillich saw first-hand

the satanic impulses

unleashed by secular culture.

Demonic injustice was the seed that germinated

Tillich’s method of correlating scripture and reality 

in his systematic theology.

To receive the seed of God’s Word

the soil must be loose not hard-packed.

If we are too opinionated, too sure

we have the whole truth and nothing but the truth

too settled and comfortable, 

the seed falls on shallow ground

and ironically cannot get in.

In process theology, God is the seed

buried in the universe

who participates in All from within

rather than creating from without.

Jesus changed the world by working within

by changing hearts, not by political action.

His big revolution was including the poor

in the kingdom/queendom/kindom of God

and pointing out the corrupting influence

of wealth and power and how hard it is

to thread a camel through the eye of a needle.

Jesus made authentic subjectivity 

the foundation of truth when he said

“I am the Truth.”

Truth is a person, not an abstract concept.

Bernard Lonergan, the great Canadian theologian 

of authentic subjectivity

first exhausted himself 

in writing technical theology

but later immersed himself

in love and mysticism

and the eroticism of the Song of Songs.

Lonergan wrote that 

self-transcendence happens through being-in-love:

“Love is the first principle from which flows one’s

desires and fears

joy and sorrows

decisions and deeds.” 

Karl Rahner wrote that

his greatest religious experience was immersion 

in the incomprehensibility of God 

in daily life and ordinary things

not in prayer and meditation.

True religion is seeing God 

in commonplace things

like Francis of Assisi in his

Sermon to the Birds:

“My little bird sisters

you owe much to your Creator

who you must always praise 

with your song

because God has given you

the freedom to fly

anywhere.”

THE PRIMACY OF CHRIST

The Cosmic Christ is the blueprint

and raison d’être for the Creation.

The First Incarnation was at the Big Bang

when the Cosmic Christ became incarnate 

in the universe.

The Second Incarnation was when 

the Son of God became incarnate 

in Jesus of Nazareth.

Paul, Origen, Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus

testify to this.

In Christo-genesis

which is larger than evolution

the dynamism of the Church’s life 

and the life of the Christian individual

are meant to lead evolution 

to a new level of cosmic life.

As individuals we are meant to progress

from Egocentric basal, genital, gut chakras 1,2, 3:

food, sex, power

to Ethnocentric heart and throat chakras 4 and 5:

authentic relationships and communication

to World-centric mind and soul chakras 6 and 7:

psychological and spiritual fecundity.

As civilizations we are meant to progress

from Premodernity – the great Chain of Being

to Modernity – the differentiation of Science, Culture, and Religion

to Postmodernity – integration of the Big Three.

But the System constantly teaches 

the Calculating Mind

and alas we are only ever momentarily in

the Contemplative Mind

taught by the Spirit.

The System can thwart the progression 

of the Spirit-filled life:

from finding the sacred in one place

to finding the sacred – the Gate of Heaven –

everywhere – so everything is sacred.

Dualistic, either/or, calculating thinking

has blessed us

with scientific and technological revolutions

but can’t access eternal things.

Dualism is not the Tree of Life

it is the Tree of This or That.

Fearlessness and clairvoyance (clear-seeing)

are our fundamental nature 

as images of God

we can see that

the Rational Mind cannot grasp 

what the Religious Mind can.

Heidegger appealed to conscience 

for authentic living

but Macquarrie critiqued conscience 

as impotent

using Paul and Luther’s

bondage of the will.

Rationality cannot grasp

that God loves us

even when we don’t love God.

The devil tries to make us believe

our sins are too great for God

but God constantly leads us 

to internal expanded awareness

of Infinite Mercy.

Constant Love 

never consumes or absorbs us.

This Higher Love lives within us

and our True Self marinates in it.

Discovering this gives us power

to embrace the world

and our Total Self:

our prodigal self (the wayward son)

our self-righteous self (the older brother)

and our merciful self (the father).

Constant Love teaches us to embrace 

God, our Total Self, and the world

that is becoming Christ

who is greater than evolution

and its core, center, and raison d’être. 

THE UNION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH

“Heaven and earth will pass away”

as separate states.

Teilhard helps people 

be in the world

to which they necessarily belong.

He overcame the Church’s contempt

for the world

when he said “Love is 

the fundamental engine

of evolution.”

The litmus test for true vision:

to see the world as a Temple

and your enemies as sacred and beloved.

In the naked now

the best way to intimacy with God

is immediate, unmediated living

in the present, which is a present, a gift.

Living in non-defended, nondual presence

connects you to Real Presence.

The Quantum Theologian’s question is not 

our love for God

but God’s Love for us.

How is it

that from total otherness

comes our ultimate meaning? 

Eastern religion emphasized

the search for spiritual guides,

enlightenment, the True Self.

But western religion buried for centuries

spiritual searching under dogma,

obedience, and no questioning.

All the answers to questions you never asked

are in the Catechism – just read it!

Still, there were rays of pure light:

Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue

offered a systematic process 

for knowing God 

within you 

beginning and ending 

with humility.

If by God’s grace you have

Inner and Outer Authority

like Catherine

you avoid being both 

rebel or conformist.

God and nirvana 

are living realities

beyond all concepts

so Buddhists never talk about nirvana

they merely practice

mindfulness in all things

and so get intimate 

with the Buddha.

This gives a new vision 

for western religion:

include experience/practice/community

not just believing/behaving/belonging.

Heidegger’s Being and Time

was too individualistic. There is no community

but Being-Itself constantly overcomes non-being 

within it

and unceasingly creates

new things:

In intimate communion with Christ

there is always a New Creation.

The Internet as a new creation

and a convergence of Teilhard’s noosphere

could be the servant of global communion

not the conveyor belt

of global fragmentation/anarchy.

What the world needs now is

Bonaventure’s vision 

that predated Teilhard:

a dynamic universe

oriented towards union

with God and human

that finds fulfilment

in Christ.

WAKE UP, WAKE UP TOGETHER

Lonergan: at end of 1600s a great revolution:

constant attacks by Enlightenment 

and Anglicans analyzing

existence 

balancing scripture, tradition, reason 

shifted Catholic method-in-theology

from questions to certainties

theological inquiry to dogmatic theology.

Outer spiritual authority says

“You are special”

Inner spiritual authority says

“Everyone is special”

another revolutionary shift 

from elitism to egalitarianism.

Too much outer authority

creates Authoritarian Institutions

which create religion’s greatest enemy:

indifference: 

loss of divine will-to-be-alive 

loss of heart

loss of passion

atrophying into loveless/hateless

existence.

Upon meeting, Buddhists 

bow and silently acknowledge 

each other as a Buddha-to-be

since all carry within 

seeds of awakening.

In Confucianism, filial piety 

must be practiced from

the Emperor/Empoweror

Son of Heaven

down thru princes, scholars to peasants

or disaster ensues.

Brueggemann: Christian imagination 

numbed, satiated, co-opted, paralyzed by fear

cannot do any serious work.

But depth psychology and existential analysis

separate anxiety, a group phenomenon

from fear, an individual phenomenon.

So, do not fear 

to follow Jesus

because of what others might think.

In fact, others don’t think

of you……………….at all.

Shed fear and become

one of the twin heroes of mythology

two basic sides of human nature:

the mild and acquiescent

the wild and rebellious

the Introvert who powerfully reflects 

the Extrovert who greatly accomplishes

but either way

be humble

not self-deprecating nor self-condemning

and either way

be contemplative

the secret of which is:

life in the Eternal Now

not-Emptiness

full-of-Godness.

Bonaventure: Incarnation is

the Center of Creation:

everything preceding and following 

descent of the Logos

finds its meaning in Christ.

The Universal Christ is 

the Eternal Now and Love Supreme

Love: Alpha and Omega of Life

Alpha: Big Bang to God-consciousness

showing Itself explicitly in Jesus the Christ

Omega: Love drawing the universe

forward thru Christ 

toward 

ever-greater-Unity-in-Love.

The universe’s salvation is

corporate/universal salvation

beyond any individual.

Wake up, wake up together!

ETERNAL LOVE

Our True Self is Love.

Christ’s Sermon

the Magna Carta

of Love’s Reign:

where Love rains 

we are soaked

and the False Self washes away.

Early on 

women preached and prophesied Love

in Church!

And Augustine marinated in

Manichean theosophy

Italian scepticism

Neo-Platonic mysticism

until he discovered Love

and conversion.

But when Patriarchs

settled the Canon

of Scripture

and blew everyone away

including Gospels of

Thomas, Magdalene and Philip

the nonviolent Reign of Love 

in Jesus and Paul

subverted into Apocalypse

in Revelation – 

the rain of blood 

up to horses’ saddles.

Things devolved further

until Meister Eckhart

preached Love

to tormented and bewildered 

Peasants.

Following the Crucified 

brooks no romanticizing Love

always a hard workout

Salvation won non-violently

in fear and trembling.

Now salvation of humans

and salvation of nature

inextricably bind each other

and we know

matter flows

the reign of lava

evolving, self-transcending 

into higher and higher

consciousness

until God reaches down 

or emerges up 

into infused contemplation

called by Ignatius of Loyola

“consolation without previous cause” –

a gift we neither cause nor deserve

of God’s all-embracing

Presence.

In Pure Land Buddhism

monks invoke Buddha

till Enlightenment:

the Realization

Pure Land is in us.

But even internal Pure Lands 

flow impermanently

unlike the Rain of Love.

Eternal God:

not ever-lasting but 

ever-Present

“I Am”

NOW

without time.

As Wittgenstein wrote:

“Eternal life belongs 

to those who live in the 

Present.”

Eternal Life is NOW

life in permanent Love of

Presence.

Cosmic Lovemaking

A COSMIC, SPIRITUAL VIEW OF MAKING LOVE

    If God is love, the universe is grounded in love and exists by and for love. Love is the purpose of the universe.

    It was out of wanting to share love that God created the universe in such a way that matter intrinsically evolves towards spirit, and Earth went from rocks and water to human beings. Things have gone from pre-personal to personal and are heading towards the super-personal where all are filled with God and love God in return.

    Humans are at the center of this personalization process, not some accidental branch on the tree of evolution. And the process was furthered when Jesus said the greatest commandments are to “Love God with all your passion, prayer, intelligence and energy, and love others as well as you love yourself” (Luke 10:27 as translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message).

    Ilia Delio, a Franciscan nun, wrote in a chapter titled “Love, Sex and the Cosmos” that sex is basically spiritual. The sacred life-force that drives the evolution of the universe moves us from within with unitive desire. We all want union as intimately as possible with another human being. Sexual intercourse was meant by God to be the apex of the personalization of the cosmos, an integral part of our personal fulfillment with a beloved soulmate we can share life and love with.

    Going even further, sexual intercourse could be thought of as the primordial sacrament, since God’s first words to humans were “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and without sex there would be no human race, religion, church or sacraments. 

    Given the sacredness of sexuality, how did we end up with a widespread culture of sexual abuse and rape, as the “Me Too” movement testifies?

     One explanation was given by Martin Buber, the great Jewish theologian, who wrote in his spiritual classic I and Thou that there are two basic ways of relating to everything: I-Thou and I-It. The I-Thou way sees everything as a sacred “Thou” full of the presence of God, including humans, animals and all of nature. 

    However, in a technological consumer culture we tend to relate to everything as an It, that is, as a soulless object to be used for our own self-centered purposes. 

    A young woman once said “I decided to get married because I am fed-up with the ‘hook-up’ culture where you are expected to have sex on the first date. I want true intimacy not fake ‘intimacy,’ a code word our culture uses for sexual intercourse. It is easy to bare your body and have sex; it is hard to bare your soul and make love.”

    Not everyone can have sexual intercourse, but anyone can make love in the sense of opening up your soul and sharing who you really are with others. Single people, the elderly and even vowed celibates can make love in this sense. William Johnston, a Jesuit writer on Christian mysticism, described in his autobiography Mystical Journey how he and Amy Lim, a Japanese nun, had a decades-long intimate but non-sexual relationship when he taught spirituality and theology in Japan.

    To learn more about making love in the spiritual sense, I would recommend Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening which describes a Buddhist way of intimacy as a “tandem inner journey towards spiritual realization.” Or read Pope John Paul II’s personalist “theology of the body” as popularized by Christopher West.

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage coach and religious educator of adults. brucetallman.com 

Love, Sex and True Intimacy

If God is love, the universe is grounded in love and exists by and for love. Love is the purpose of the universe.

    It was out of wanting to share love that God created the universe in such a way that matter intrinsically heads towards spirit. Through evolution creatures became more and more capable of love. Four billion years ago, Earth was rocks and water. Now there are human beings. Things have gone from pre-personal to personal and are heading towards the super-personal where all are filled with God and love God in return.

    This fits with Jesus saying the greatest commandments are to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as you love yourself” (Luke 10:27). Or as Eugene Peterson has it in The Message: “Love God with all your passion, prayer, intelligence and energy, and love others as well as you love yourself.”

    Ilia Delio, a Franciscan nun, wrote in The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution and the Power of Love in a chapter titled “Love, Sex and the Cosmos” that sex is basically spiritual. It is the sacred life-force that drives the universe moving us from within with unitive desire. We all want union as intimately as possible with another human being. Sexual intercourse is the zenith of the personalization process of the universe, meant by God to be part of the way we find personal fulfillment.

    Making love, in a broader sense, is the primordial “sacrament” that is the primordial “visible sign of God’s invisible love.” Making love underlies the seven church sacraments: baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation, marriage, holy orders and healing the sick. By “making love” I am not referring here to “sexual intercourse,” although intercourse could also be considered the primordial sacrament as God’s first words to humans were “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Without intercourse there would be no human race, religion, church or sacraments. 

    Given all this, how did we end up with a widespread culture of sexual abuse and rape, as the “Me Too” movement testifies?

     One explanation is that, as Martin Buber, the great Jewish theologian, wrote in his spiritual classic I and Thou, there are two basic ways of relating to everything: I-Thou and I-It. The I-Thou way sees everything as full of the presence of God. Everything is a sacred Thou, including humans, animals and all of nature.

    However, in a technological consumer culture we tend to relate to everything as an It, that is as a thing to be used for our own self-centered purposes. We tend to use nature and humans as if they were things divorced from us.

    A young woman once said “I am getting married because I got fed-up with the ‘hook-up’ culture where you are expected to have impersonal sex on the first date. It is easy to bare your body and have sex; it is hard to bare your soul and make love. I want true intimacy not fake ‘intimacy,’ a code word our culture uses for sexual intercourse.”

    Sexual intercourse is for the few, but anyone can make love in the sense I am using it here, that is, opening up your soul and sharing who you really are with others. Vowed celibates and single people can make love in this sense. William Johnston, a Jesuit and leading writer on Christian mysticism, describes in his autobiography Mystical Journey how he and Amy Lim, a Japanese nun, had a decades-long intimate but non-sexual relationship when he lived and taught spirituality and theology in Japan.

    For more information on how to make love in the spiritual sense, I would recommend Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening which describes a Buddhist way of intimacy as a “tandem inner journey towards spiritual realization.” Or read Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” as popularized by Christopher West.

    At this Valentines/Family Day time of year, may we all learn to make love, that is, love one another as well as we love our self, opening our soul to our partners, family and friends and thus continue the universal personalization process initiated by God.

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage coach and religious educator of adults. brucetallman.com