The only way to understand the power of the message of Jesus is by imitating him and actually living the life of a disciple.
The problem for most of us in the spiritual life is that we want to be a saint but we also want to experience all the sensations sinners have. If we become too angelic we can be no earthly good. And if we become too focused on the body alone we can become lower than the animals. It is always difficult to keep spirit and body integrated.
The marriage of eastern and western religion may be necessary not only for the Church but also for the survival of civilization itself. Eastern religion emphasizes contemplation and western religion emphasizes social justice. Together they would keep the transcendence and immanence of God alive. Contemplation counters civilization’s obsession with consumerism and social justice counters it’s obsession with individualism.
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.
Henri Nouwen saw Christian life as in three stages: communion, community, and commission. That is, life apart from others (in solitude with self and in communion with God), life shared with others (with kindred hearts in community), life given for others (in ministry).
The very essence of the New Spirituality (spirituality outside the church) is freedom to follow your own inner light without any pressure from dogma, teachers, leaders or institutions. As Oprah says “You are your own authority.”The only problem with this is that you are putting a lot of pressure on the one short life you have, and ignoringthe accumulated wisdom of centuries of religion and the tried and true experience of millions of people.
Jonathan Edwards, a 19th century Protestant theologian, wrote that “The Holy Scriptures everywhere place religion in the affections: love, hate, fear, joy, sorrow, hope.” Religion in his opinion, is a matter of feeling and emotion not intellect. This may be true, but Holy Scripture also says we should have “reasons for the hope that is in us.” (1Peter 3:15). This is particularly necessary in an age of science and the New Atheism.