UNITY SURPASSING MODERNITY

The Perennial Philosophy highlighted

the “Great Nest of Being”

which was the universal worldview of humanity

until modernity reared its methuselah head.

 

Going beyond modernity

since the turn of the millennium has been

a growing awareness of commonality

between religions, and unity of all sciences –

a general visioning of all things as interrelated.

 

However major dualisms still persist:

heaven vs Earth/spirit vs body/human vs animal/

sacred vs secular – all these dualisms

which falsify life/nature/God

since God works thru both/and polarities

not either/or dualisms – God is in and beyond

the Earth/body/nature/culture/life.

 

Photosynthesis, one of the key factors in life

happened when chlorophyll molecules served everything

by capturing solar energy and converting it into

food and energy for others

3,000,000,000 years ago.

 

Nature serves us and Law serves us

and so our will delights in Law

but we cannot fulfill all laws

so the Cosmic Christ emerged from within the universe

as Jesus the Christ who lived under the Law

and experienced all our temptations/compulsions

in order to redeem/liberate us from the Law

with the Divine Love that goes beyond Law.

 

Following Jesus, Christian social action

finds God in politics/work/social programs –

anything that betters human life –

because Christ became human

and every human is another Christ

and we cannot let Christ live

in physical/spiritual squalor –

“As you do to the least, you do to Me”

– Jesus the Unitive Thinker in Matthew 25:40.

A PROPER VIEW OF GOD PROMOTES MENTAL AND SOCIAL PEACE

  The mistaken interpretation of the wrath of God in the Bible, the foundational book of western culture for most of its history, has caused many to live their lives in fear and guilt, moral rigidity, narrowmindedness, and a feverish need to proselytize (force their beliefs on others). In fact, some have used it as a justification for violence – if God is violent, violence against others must be acceptable in God’s sight.

    Is it possible to undo all this harm without simply throwing the baby (the scriptures) out with the bath water (the wrath of God)? An intelligent approach to biblical wrath of God would be a major way to promote mental health and social peace.

    Although many believe the Bible is inspired by God, it is important to understand it did not drop out of heaven. It came to us through human beings who were influenced by their culture, and so there were often two steps forward and one back in understanding what God is like, until we arrive at Jesus, who many believe gives us the best means of understanding God and the Bible.

    Humans have often lived in ego-based, divisive, reward and punishment cultures. There is a movement in the Bible from a vengeful God, which is what the ego wants, to the merciful God of Jesus, which is what the soul hopes for, a God who is gracious, overlooks human foibles, and responds to wrongs not by punishment but by love.

    Much of the wrath of God in the Bible was due to human authors failing to separate God and nature. Floods or poisonous snakes killing people must be from God, the authors believed, since they had no other explanation except that everything that happens must be from God. This mentality is still with us today when insurance companies refer to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes as “acts of God.”

    However, God and nature are not the same. These so-called acts of God are not God’s will, but rather nature obeying natural laws about water, wind, and tectonic plates. The biblical writers knew nothing about science and the laws of nature.

    Despite occasional verses about the wrath of God, there are many biblical examples of God’s desire for restoration not punishment. In Ezekiel 33:11 God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” And the prophet Micah declares “Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity? You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18). Isaiah 53:5-6 prophesied that God would restore us to love, peace, and justice through a Messiah.

    What then do we do with the “hard sayings” of Jesus that seemingly speak of God’s wrath? He says, for example, that it is better to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin, than to end up in hell (Matthew 5: 29-30) and the sheep (who took care of the poor) go to heaven and the goats (who didn’t care for the poor) go to hell (Matthew 25: 31-46).

    Context is important here. Jesus was speaking to Jews, Romans, and Greeks who were masters of rhetoric – the art of dramatic speech to make a point. Jesus knew it was not the hand but the heart that caused sin. He didn’t expect people to actually cut off their hand, as if that would solve anything. He is speaking dramatically here to make the point that sin and not taking care of the poor are extremely serious. They destroy human community and create hell on Earth. He knew people do not change easily, so he had to speak dramatically to make his point.

    Jesus also said other hard, countercultural things such as love your enemies, which is the essence of restorative justice: God conquers his enemies by loving them and making them his friends, not destroying them. This is the essence of wisdom not wrath.

    In conclusion, the proper interpretation of scripture leads us to a God of pure love, not a false god who is a mixture of love, punishment, and wrath. Approaching the Bible this way will eliminate a major source of fear, guilt, and violence and so be a great boon for mental health and social peace.

 

Bruce Tallman is a spiritual director and religious educator of adults. brucetallman.com btallman@rogers.com

THE DRAGON, HUMAN NATURE, AND NEW HOPE

The dragon – a mythological creature of chaos and destruction 

swirls all around us – but the Lord of All Creation is there too

dancing in the dragon’s jaws.

We want to rise above cruel nature – jaw-red/claw-red –

to find a Universal Compassion we name ‘God’

but Ego restrains both our lower and higher nature –

the Id and Superego Sigmund Freud tried to integrate.

.

Integrating soul and body, John Macquarrie,

a Scottish philosopher/Anglican theologian/priest

developed an anthropology of finite freedom:

we are free but not totally free –

therefore, humans are a perpetual problem to themselves –

our finitude: circumstances/genetic makeup/

socioeconomic status/past decisions/sinful tendencies

restrain our grandiose visions.

 

New hope about human nature came from

the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

when it declared a universal call to holiness –

a holiness no longer out of reach of ordinary humans –

all are called to be holy – even the simplest peasant

can be as holy as great saints like Anthony of Egypt.

 

More hope came from the renewal of ancient pilgrimages

like the Camino de Santiago – average citizens making

the hero-saint’s journey of separation/initiation/return:

on the Camino across northern Spain

you follow the Way of St. James – the Camino de San Tiago

you are separated from your ordinary life

supernatural forces are at play and recounted

around campfires lit by pilgrims/peregrinos

and a decisive victory is won if, after 800 kilometres, you reach

the Cathedral of Santiago with its swinging botafumero

a giant censor fuming incense swung to the rafters by six men.

Then you return to your former life

with boons – new life insights – to offer others.

 

The greatest hope always comes from our Ever-Forgiving God:

“These people do not trust me even though

I want nothing but their sanctification – their holiness –

and I bear with them in great patience

because I loved them without them ever loving me.”

– God speaking to Catherine of Sienna

LEARNING TO TRULY SEE

Science sprang from the heart of the Christian west

not from Greek philosophy or eastern religion –

Judaism always maintained the world was orderly and rational

and patristic writers like Augustine

encouraged study of the natural world.

Since science started, many priests have made

significant scientific discoveries in biology/botany/cosmology.

 

This is because God is fundamentally relational in nature

and interacts with the Creation

as subject to subject

not subject to object.

 

Without God, humans remain a puzzle to themselves

particularly when life’s major events prompt self-questioning like

“Where did I come from?”/ “why am I here?”/ “where am I going?”

Only God can constitute a complete answer.

 

Bede Griffiths, a British priest and Benedictine monk

lived in ashrams he founded across South India

trying to bridge East and West

and integrate Hinduism and Christianity

thru prayer/dialogue/a shared life.

He was deeply influenced by Hindu ascetic practices

but never gave up on the centrality of Christ and the Church.

 

Any major or minor religion can be transformed

by the realization that ‘faith’

is about how we see not what we see

the religious process not the content is where Spirit abides –

so the fruits of the Spirit – joy/peace/love/wisdom

can be found in every sect/denomination/religion

worth its salt.

 

The blind may feel that if they could see

they would be in paradise.

But we who have good eyes are so used to the process of seeing

we take it for granted

and do not realize we are already in paradise –

we need to learn how to truly see.

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.

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.