REDISCOVERING THE GREAT CHAIN OF BEING

Starting with Copernicus and then Galileo,

heliocentrism – the Sun as the center of things

not the Earth – the new cosmology

totally upset the watermelon cart

displaced God’s immutability/hierarchy/

humans as the center of the universe/

our race as the center of God’s care/

the stable relationship between self/cosmos/God

was completely disrupted.

 

No wonder Alan Watts, who embraced eastern mysticism,

noted that modern culture is peculiar:

every other culture, East and West,

from 6000 years ago to the birth of modern science

believed in the Great Chain of Being.

 

However, we can rediscover this Great Chain

by recognizing our bodies, thru sexual intercourse

have been coming out of each other:

male out of female, female out of male

since day one – the whole human race is one –

one flesh/one body/one blood.

 

And now in addition we recognize

that it took the universe 13.7 billion years

to create YOU – from atoms/molecules/cells/

multicellular organisms/vertebrates/

your thousands of ancestors/to YOU –

YOU are 13.7 billion years old –

think about it – YOU are made of the dust of stars –

stardust – and God chose YOU

before the foundation of the universe.

 

Other scientists further disrupted all things –

besides Darwin, the new physics

changed our view of the cosmos

as dynamic and relational not static.

And new quantum laws incorporated chance

and indeterminism. But chance does not change

the cosmos into a lottery –

it is the way the universe explores

and realizes its potential:

the divinized human being –

YOU filled to the full with GOD.

THE DAWNING INTERSPIRITUAL AGE

Doing theology has become a lot more challenging

because we live in a universe 13.7 billion years old –

science stretches us in mind-boggling ways.

 

But we are discovering the new/old Universal Christ:

Bonaventure’s integral relationship

between Creation and Incarnation

is a key to Cosmic Christology

in an evolving universe.

 

Thru Duns Scotus Teilhard discovered

the primacy of Christ when he realized

Christ is not patterned on Creation

but rather Creation is patterned on Christ –

the Universal Christ provides the blueprint

of the universe.

 

This is why the InterSpiritual Age that is dawning

depends on whether people can make

their theological/doctrinal issues secondary

to the love/service/ethics

underpinning all religions.

 

In Asia and across the world

people want the mysticism of Christ

not Greco-Roman-European theology

with its rationalism and legalism

that supports the institutional Church.

 

Scholars now compare Meister Eckhart to Buddhism

because he integrates the eternal and temporal:

mystical life should impact everyday life –

one’s morals/values/lifestyle.

 

We are starting to realize that despite

the immensity of the universe

the Universal Christ

is not “somewhere out there”

but in the thick of every religion

and in the thick of everyone’s daily life –

the Universal Christ is the blueprint of your life.

 

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.

INNER WORK

Endowed with a spiritual soul/free will/intellect

humans from conception are ordered to God

and destined for eternal happiness.

They pursue perfection by seeking and being

that which is true and good.

Celtic mysticism is built on

a charism of pilgrimage

a constant quest for the land of the saints

and a return to Paradise, the great journey

St. Brendan and his monks manifested.

Buddhists also sought the Pure Land

because the Buddha taught

three basics of human existence:

impermanence/no separate ego/suffering.

To accept these three

is to accept reality as it is.

We all seek true transcendence but

since we won’t let go of our separate ego

we cannot find our destiny.

We seek true life in substitutes:

food/knowledge/sex/power

but never find wholeness.

To not settle for substitutes for God

requires inner work which is done

not just for your self

but for the whole Body of Christ.

Inner work makes you aware 

of any self-seeking disguised as Christian service.

Failure to integrate the shadow

causes serious problems in Christianity –

clergy sexual abuse which destroys

the Church’s moral authority and role:

the conscience of culture.

On the other hand, many see inner work and spirituality

as just another form of consumerism

individualistic/lacking commitment to the common good/

devoid of intellectual content

basically, a New Age fad of Oprah religion.

But, to pray is to build your house

then, to realize Someone Else is in your house

then, to discover this Someone Else owns the house

then, to discover there is no house

because everyone shares the same

one and only Home – our True Home – God.

Doubt can grow along with faith –

faith and doubt are co-relative terms –

to grow in faith, you must go through doubt

about your old ways of being and believing

to come to higher and broader levels of faith.

Doubt wrestles with God, like Jacob and the angel –

“Israel” means “one who wrestles with God.”

Just as there is no love of God

without love of neighbor

there is no real conversion to God

without conversion to the world and its problems

caused by wanting/wanting/wanting.

God opposes constant wanting. God only wants

the creation of more complex and conscious beings

but this spiritualization of matter

and how matter leaps to new levels

is always brought about by periods

of great stress/instability/crisis.

The consciousness and dignity of humans

and of the divine image within us

requires authentic freedom

when it comes to religious choices –

freedom from external pressures

and internal compulsions.

Women are under intense pressure

to get caught in the competitive/masculine/hero archetype

which clashes with a deeper archetype within them:

the desire to be a mother – the Mother-Archetype.

Who will deliver us

from this constant human folly of constant wanting?

Beyond inner work we need a Savior

to save us from ourselves.

THE LIGHT WITHIN

The goal of Confucian philosophy and ethics

is to find the hidden reality of heaven

in the center of your being

and from that center to engage in right action.

Otherwise, you spend your life in

frustration, confusion, and self-seeking.

Confucius held the Universal Christ on tap.

The new mythology is the ancient mythology

but in a subjective sense –

the glorious past or future is no longer

‘out there’ but ‘in here’

in each individual as a center of

‘The Mind at Large Without Limits.’

Centuries ago, atheism emerged as a protest

against the evil in the world. But to combat darkness

they deified human values of reason and science –

they made Reason and Science their Lord and Master.

Subsequently, rationality destroyed our ability

to respond to numinous symbols so that

we are now at the mercy of the psychic underworld –

deep subconscious urges – lust, greed, and hate –

evil spirits – that only religion can contain.

As our spiritual and moral traditions collapse

there is world-wide disorientation –

we have overcome ‘superstition’

but now have no guiding lights.

To the extent you think you can attain to holiness

by your own strength or wisdom

to that extent you have lost the humility of holiness.

Atheists who think they can save themselves –

build the Garden of Eden without God –

are lost before they begin.

In spite of all the world-darkness

the Second Vatican Council approached

human nature positively as made in the image of God

and human dignity as founded on our call

to communion with God within us.

As Ken Wilber notes: often unbelievers and critics of religion

equate the pre-rational and trans-rational believer.

The pre-rational have not yet discovered the power of reason,

the transrational have seen the limits of reason and transcended it.

Pre-rational is immature, spiritual ‘milk’

that makes you oppositional, defensive

and unable to respect and include

those outside your circle.

Only your emotions have been converted.

“Through conversion/transformation

of your intellect, will and emotions

(wisdom, obedience to God, and love)

you become a fully alive and authentic human being.”

– Bernard Lonergan

The fully converted use reason and science

but only as two tools in their toolbox –

they also employ the parables of Jesus as koan-bombs:

subversive memes that blow apart the everyday

rational worldview.

In the Cloud of Unknowing

you feel and know nothing for certain

except your naked intent to love God for God alone

in the nakedness of God’s Being.

When you get soul-naked with God

true love-making happens.

Afterwards, in the afterglow

“The Holy Spirit rests in the soul of the just

like a dove in her nest.

The Spirit hatches good desires in a pure soul

as the dove hatches her young.”

– Jean Vianney

As Jesus said: “I thank you Lord

that you have hidden your truth

from intellectuals, the wise rationalists of the world

and have revealed it to the simple.”

“I don’t say anything when I pray.

I just sit and look at God

and let God look at me.”

– An old peasant

SEEING CLEARLY

First, learn to pray.

Love must be primary in prayer

and God must be loved for God’s own Self.

We need to form a ‘cloud of forgetting’

between us and all things

to block distractions.

The word ‘penance’

has ironically been corrupted

by moralistic and individualistic

meanings – the original meaning was

‘turning away from the world-trance’

so you could see clearly.

All Seers engaged in this life

of penance – clear-seeing.

John of the Cross advocated 

carrying in your heart

an image of Christ

crucified

clearing away the confusion

and fog of living.

Then you can see that 

Planet Earth is in the middle 

of a Calvary-disintegration

thousands of species extinguished

our lungs, the rainforests

destroyed by the pandemic 

of greed and nuclear weapons 

threatening annihilation of everything.

Rather than seeing these facts

we anaesthetize the pain

with addiction:

to computer games, binge-watching, porn.

If there are no names already written in Heaven

no grace, then I have to make my name everyday 

“Its all about the money” 

and I have to out-compete the seven billion 

other dogs gobbling up other dogs.

And so, I anaesthetize, I enter the world- trance.

What is needed is

a return to Nature.

Identifying my self with the universe

is not romanticism or sentimental

it is essential

to Christian mysticism

the salvation of the planet

you cannot discover your True Self

without discovering you are One

with Nature.

But scientists don’t want mysticism –

symbols and emotion bother them because 

– although they are a fact

with undeniably immense impact –

they cannot be precisely 

defined or measured.

New religions are powerless

unless full of the sacred life-force of Eros

which creates powerful

visions – Jesus’ preaching

is full of Eros –

both exciting and disturbing.

The first letter to Timothy

witnesses the Church’s transition 

from a charismatic, democratic movement

into an institution

ruled by a hierarchy.

To get back to the Original Church

we must return to mysticism:

loving God, others, and our True Self

embedded in Nature.

We need to return to nature-mysticism

to grace, names already written in Nature

to see clearly

God in all things

and save our Mother

Earth.

ONLY IN GOD DOES EVERYTHING BELONG

Only in God

does everything belong:

the good and the bad –

all other systems exclude

contaminating elements

for ideological purity.

Both communism and capitalism 

believe in a future paradise/utopia

in which there is no shadow

which makes them ironically open 

to every moral infestation/corruption.

Only by abiding 

in God’s unconditional love

do we find the safety and freedom to be 

who we really are (our True Self)

all that we are (good and bad)

more than we are (saints)

and less than we are (sinners).

People believe 

if they find their True Self

all problems will be solved.

However, this narcissism

ignores social/cultural dimensions

necessary for transformation of civilization. 

Sorry, evangelicals:

converting individuals 

does not convert society

does not create the kingdom/queendom of God

the Beloved Community.

Ego intuits Spirit 

as Higher Self, Soul

Archetype, Enneagramtype

Inner Voice, Witness

Universal Mind, Pure Awareness

Transcendental Consciousness, Gnosticism

but this leaves out 

the We of culture

the It of politics.

Christology must be seen

thru eyes of victims’ oppression

not thru magical conceptions

of victors’ redemption.

When scripture is seen

literally/historically

not spiritually/symbolically

the Perennial Philosophy

mysticism……is lost

which is what the world 

needs most.

We must learn to live with relativity 

of all human ideas

all theological/scientific dogma.

The future is open-ended and inter-connected:

the freedom to flow and connect

are the new survival skills

in this twenty-first of all centuries.

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.

ONE COSMIC FAMILY

According to Heidegger’s

approach to Being

God is not a concept

not a transcendent 

Creator-God

but an activity in the world

a Self-Giving Presence.

All mystics agree

there is no magical/mythical Being 

who transcends the world

but there is Infinite Consciousness 

in the world.

According to Augustine

the wicked try to flee from God

but God is everywhere

God never abandons the wicked.

In particular

God, Infinite Consciousness

is meant to Be

“I Am” in the Church

the Beloved Community

born of Spirit, born of people

a Sacrament of Divine Liberation.

Although the anti-Paul 

author of Timothy I and II

wrote that women 

were to be silent, silenced in church

St. Thecla, second century celibate-ascetic

and Church-Leader

was more popular than the Virgin. 

Dualistic, black-and-white thinking

separating soul (good) from body (bad)

always made men uncomfortable

with women’s bodies and sexuality

but feminist theologians now

have reappropriated Wisdom

as Co-Creator at work in human bodies

to create right relationships

and they see God desires

daily intimacy, daily communion

with God’s Beloved People

and daily intimacy with Beloved God

and Beloved Community

is the foundation of spiritual life.

Christians and Buddhists

mindlessly practicing rituals 

find little joy because

humans are meant to be

evolution becoming aware of itself,

Infinite Consciousness 

becoming mindful.

Like Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist mystics

scientists now see the universe

as a unified web.

Like a spider’s web 

shimmering in the sun after rain

God has caught scientists 

in God’s web of life.

No longer pure observers

they now see everything

not as objects or idols

but as icons

of God’s Infinite Consciousness.

They now can see

Brother Sun and Sister Moon 

and all things as 

One Cosmic Family.

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