The cornerstone of spirituality is that God, in a plan of sheer goodness, created humans to share in God’s own blessed life. Love is therefore the principal energy in the universe, and the direction of evolution is towards greater wholeness and consciousness, toward greater love.
Contemplation of God is not ecstasy, trance, enthusiasm, or mystic frenzy. These things are not the work of the “deep self.” They are the flooding into consciousness of the dionysian emotions of the “id” from the subconscious. Spiritual practice is also not about accomplishing, winning, or losing. It is about stopping struggling and relaxing with reality, accepting reality as it is, not making it the enemy.
Henri Nouwen is the Kierkegaard of our generation because like Kierkegaard he has taught us Christian existentialism: how to pray while not knowing how to pray, to rest while being restless, to be at peace while being tempted, to feel safe while still being anxious, to be surrounded by light while still in darkness, to love while still doubting.
The modern worldview is that because our universe is so old and so vast, humans are totally insignificant. A more helpful and meaningful approach is that because of our intelligence and creativity, which it took the universe so long to produce – 13.7 billion years – we can say again, as people did before astrophysics, that humans are not only significant but central to the entire universe.
Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian physicist and priest, first postulated that, as in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, there must have been a beginning to the universe. Then George Isamow, an American-Russian physicist, postulated the Big Bang Theory, the current view among scientists. Since scientists have proven that everything is expanding outward, if you go back in time far enough, it must have all begun from a single point. Science has to be materially based, it can’t start with spirit, and therefore Isamow further theorized that the universe came from a tiny particle. However, this idea that all the matter of the universe as we now know it was somehow packed into an infinitely small particle seems absurd and is an untestable hypothesis. As such it is a myth. I am not anti-science, in fact I think science is an incredible tool that reveals even more of God’s glory. But I also believe it is important to understand that science is based on this myth. It is just as logical, in fact I believe more logical, to say that the whole universe came from an Almighty Creator.
Ignatius of Loyola invented the prayer methodof inserting yourself imaginatively right into scenes from the Bible. For example, you are in a boat with the disciples in a raging sea. You feel the rocking of the boat, the spray of the waves, and then you see someone walking on the water. You feel the fear of the disciples who didn’t recognize it was Jesus and thought they were seeing a ghost. You feel amazement and relief when Jesus calms the wind and sea and gets into the boat with them. Many people have found that this method of imaginative contemplation leads them beyond “head-knowledge” to “heart-knowledge” of God and emotionally transforms them through a direct experience of God.
The codependent person is often a chronic worrier, a compulsive helper, suffers from a wounded inner child, and feels shamed in his or her essence. Surrendering to the grace of God in the intimacy of prayer can heal and transform these four maladies of codependents.
The very firstliberal Protestant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, wrote in the 1800s that “Religion does not come from fear of death or fear of God, as philosophers previously thought. Religion is neither a metaphysic (a grand philosophy of what is beyond the material world) nor a morality. In its essence, religion is an intuition, feeling, or direct experience of God. Even dogmas are not religion. Dogmas derive from religious experiences.” Religions that do not give people direct experiences of God, in spite of being strong on metaphysics, dogmas and morality, will gradually lose followers. This is what has happened most mainline churches.
The Fourth Precept of Buddhism is about mindful speech. Accordingly, when it comes to conversation, we need to avoid four things: lying/exaggeration/’forked tongue’ (telling one person one thing and another person something different about the same event)/and ‘filthy talk’ (insulting or abusing others). Things haven’t changed much: politicians, lawyers, and athletes could learn a lot from Buddhism.