TAOISM by Huston Smith

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Editor’s Note: Chapter 5 of The World’s Religions.

No civilization is monochrome. In China the classical tones of Confucianism have been balanced not only by the spiritual shades of Buddhism but also by the romantic hues of Taoism.

The Old Master
According to tradition Taoism (pronounced Dowism) originated with a man named Lao Tzu, said to have been born about 604 B.C. He is a shadowy figure. We know nothing for certain about him and scholars wonder if there ever was such a man. We do not even know his name, for Lao Tzu—which can be translated “the Old Boy,” “the Old Fellow,” or “the Grand Old Master”—is obviously a title of endearment and respect. All we really have is a mosaic of legends. Some of these are fantastic; that he was conceived by a shooting star, carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years, and born already a wise old man with white hair. Other parts of the story do not tax our credulity: that he kept the archives in his native western state, and that around this occupation he wove a simple and unassertive life. Inferences concerning his personality derive almost entirely from a single slim volume that is attributed to him. From this some conclude that he was probably a solitary recluse who was absorbed in occult meditations; others picture him as down to earth—a genial neighbor with a lively sense of humor.

The only purportedly contemporary portrait, reported by China’s first historian, Ssu-ma Ch’ien, speaks only of the enigmatic impression he left—the sense that he possessed depths of understanding that defied ready comprehension. According to this account Confucius, intrigued by what he had heard of Lao Tzu, once visited him. His description suggests that the strange man baffled him while leaving him respectful. “I know a bird can fly; I know a fish can swim; I know animals can run. Creatures that run can be caught in nets; those that swim can be caught in wicker traps; those that fly can be hit by arrows. But the dragon is beyond my knowledge; it ascends into heaven on the clouds and the wind. Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and he is like the dragon!”


The traditional portrait concludes with the report that Lao Tzu, saddened by his people’s disinclination to cultivate the natural goodness he advocated and seeking greater personal solitude for his closing years, climbed on a water buffalo and rode westward toward what is now Tibet. At the Hankao Pass a gatekeeper, sensing the unusual character of the truant, tried to persuade him to turn back. Failing this, he asked if the “Old Boy” would not at least leave a record of his beliefs to the civilization he was abandoning. This Lao Tzu consented to do. He retired for three days and returned with a slim volume of five thousand characters titled Tao Te Ching, or The Way and Its Power. A testament to humanity’s at-home-ness in the universe, it can be read in half an hour or a lifetime, and remains to this day the basic text of Taoist thought.

What a curious portrait this is for the supposed founder of a religion. The Old Boy didn’t preach. He didn’t organize or promote. He wrote a few pages on request, rode off on a water buffalo, and that was it as far as he was concerned. How unlike the Buddha, who trudged the dusty roads of India for forty-five years to make his point. How unlike Confucius, who pestered dukes and princes, trying to gain an administrative foothold (or at least a hearing) for his ideas. Here was a man so little concerned with the success of his surmises, to say nothing of fame and fortune, that he didn’t even stay around to answer questions. And yet, whether the story of his life is fact or fiction, it is so true to Taoist attitudes that it will remain a part of Taoism forever. Emperors would claim this shadowy figure as their ancestor, and even scholars—though they do not see the Tao Te Ching as having been written by a single hand and do not think it attained the form in which we have it until the second half of the third century B.C.—concede that its ideas cohere to the point where we must posit the existence of someone under whose influence the book took shape, and have no objection to our calling him Lao Tzu.

The Three Meanings of Tao
On opening Taoism’s bible, the Tao Te Ching, we sense at once that everything revolves around the pivotal concept of Tao itself. Literally, this word means path, or way. There are three senses, however, in which this “way” can be understood.

First, Tao is the way of ultimate reality. This Tao cannot be perceived or even clearly conceived, for it is too vast for human rationality to fathom. The Tao Te Ching announces in its opening line that words are not equal to it: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.” Nevertheless, this ineffable and transcendent Tao is the ground of all that follows. Above all, behind all, beneath all is the Womb from which all life springs and to which it returns. Awed by the thought of it, the author/editor of the Tao Te Ching bursts recurrently into praise, for this primal Tao confronts him with life’s basic mystery, the mystery of all mysteries. “How clear it is! How quiet it is! It must be something eternally existing!” “Of all great things, surely Tao is the greatest.” But its ineffability cannot be denied, so we are taunted, time and again, by Taoism’s teasing epigram: “Those who know don’t say. Those who say don’t know.”1

Though Tao is ultimately transcendent, it is also immanent. In this secondary sense it is the way of the universe, the norm, the rhythm, the driving power in all nature, the ordering principle behind all life. Behind, but also in the midst of all life, for when Tao enters this second mode it “assumes flesh” and informs all things. It “adapts its vivid essence, clarifies its manifold fullness, subdues its resplendent luster, and assumes the likeness of dust.” Basically spirit rather than matter, it cannot be exhausted; the more it is drawn upon, the more it flows, for it is “that fountain ever on,” as Plotinus said of his counterpart to the Tao, his One. There are about it marks of inevitability, for when autumn comes “no leaf is spared because of its beauty, no flower because of its fragrance.” Yet, ultimately, it is benign. Graceful instead of abrupt, flowing rather than hesitant, it is infinitely generous. Giving life to all things, it may be called “the Mother of the World.” As nature’s agent Tao in this second form resembles Bergson’s elan vital, as nature’s orderer, it resembles the lex aeterna of the Classical West, the eternal law that structures the world. Charles Darwin’s colleague, George Romanes, could have been speaking of it when he referred to “the integrating principle of the whole—the Spirit, as it were, of the universe—instinct without contrivance, which flows with purpose.”

In its third sense Tao refers to the way of human life when it meshes with the Tao of the universe as just described. Most of what follows in this chapter will detail what the Taoists propose that this way of life
should be. First, however, it is necessary to point out that there have been in China not one but three Taoisms.

Three Approaches to Power and the Taoisms That Follow
Tao Te Ching, the title of Taoism’s basic text, has been translated The Way and Its Power. We have seen that the first of these substantive terms, the Way, can be taken in three senses. Now we must add that this is also true of the second substantive term, power. Corresponding to the three ways te or power can be approached, there have arisen in China three species of Taoism so dissimilar that initially they seem to have no more in common than homonyms, like blew/blue or sun/ son, that sound alike but have different meanings. We shall find that this is not the case, but first the three species must be distinguished. Two have standard designations, Philosophical Taoism and Religious Taoism respectively; and because many more people were involved with Religious Taoism it is often called Popular Taoism as well. The third school (which will come second in our order of presentation) is too heterogeneous to have acquired a single title. Its population consti- tutes an identifiable cluster, however, by virtue of sharing a common objective. All were engaged in vitalizing programs that were intended to facilitate Tao’s power, its te, as it flows through human beings.

Efficient Power: Philosophical Taoism
Unlike Religious Taoism, which became a full-fledged church, Philosophical Taoism and the “vitalizing Taoisms,” as we shall clumsily refer to the second group, remain relatively unorganized. Philosophical Taoism is reflective and the vitalizing programs active, but no more than the Transcendentalist movement in New England or contemporary physical fitness programs are they formally institutionalized.

They share a second similarity in that both are self-help programs. Teachers are involved, but they are better thought of as coaches who train their students—guiding them in what they should understand, in the case of Philosophical Taoism, and in what they should do in the vitalizing regimens. In decided contrast to Religious Taoists, those in these first two camps work primarily on themselves.

The differences between them have to do with their respective stances toward the power of the Tao on which life feeds. To put the difference pointedly, Philosophical Taoists try to conserve their te by expending it efficiently, whereas “vitality” Taoists work to increase its available supply.

Because Philosophical Taoism is essentially an attitude toward life, it is the most “exportable” Taoism of the three, the one that has the most to say to the world at large, and as such will receive the longest treatment—not until the second half of this chapter, however. Here we shall only identify it to place it in its logical position before proceeding with its two sister Taoisms.

Called School Taoism in China, Philosophical Taoism is associated with the names of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the Tao Te Ching. We can connect it with power by remembering that philosophy seeks knowledge and, as Bacon told the world pointedly, “knowledge is power”; to know how to repair a car is to have power over it. Obviously, the Taoists’ eyes were not on machines; it was life that they wanted to repair. Knowledge that empowers life we call wisdom; and to live wisely, the Taoist philosophers argued, is to live in a way that conserves life’s vitality by not expending it in useless, draining ways, the chief of which are friction and conflict. We shall examine Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu’s prescriptions for avoiding such dissipations in the second half of this chapter, but we can anticipate a single point here. Their recommendations revolve around the concept of wu wei, a phrase that translates literally as inaction but in Taoism means pure effectiveness. Action in the mode of wu wei is action in which friction—in interpersonal relationships, in intra-psychic conflict, and in relation to nature—is reduced to the minimum. We turn now to the vitality cults as our second species of Taoism.

Augmented Power: Taoist Hygiene and Yoga
Taoist “adepts”—as we shall call the practitioners of this second kind of Taoism because all were engaged in training programs of some sort, many of them demanding—were not willing to settle for the philosophers’ goal of managing their allotments of the Tao efficiently. They wanted to go beyond conserving to increasing the quota of the Tao they had to work with. In accounting terms we can say that if Philosophical Taoists worked at increasing net profits by cutting costs (reducing needless energy expenditures), Taoist adepts wanted to increase gross income.

The word ch’i cries out to be recognized as the rightful entry to this second school, for though it literally means breath, it actually means vital energy. The Taoists used it to refer to the power of the Tao that they experienced coursing through them—or not coursing because it was blocked—and their main object was to further its flow. Ch’i fascinated these Taoists. Blake registered their feelings precisely when he exclaimed, “Energy is delight,” for energy is the life force and the Taoists loved life. To be alive is good; to be more alive is better; to be always alive is best, hence the Taoist immortality cults. To accomplish their end of maximizing ch’i, these Taoists worked with three things: matter, movement, and their minds.

Respecting matter, they tried eating things—virtually everything, it would seem—to see if ch’i could be augmented nutritionally. In the course of this experimentation, they developed a remarkable pharmacopia of medicinal herbs,2 but in a way this was incidental. What they really wanted was not cure but increase—increase and extension of the life force, the ultimate guarantor of which would be the much-sought elixir of life that would insure physical immortality.3 Sexual experiments were also performed. In one such experiment men hypothesized that if they retained their semen during intercourse by pressing the ball of the thumb against the base of the penis at the moment of ejaculation, thereby diverting the semen into their own bodies,4 they would absorb the yin of their female partners without dissipating their own yang energy. Breathing exercises were also developed. Working with air, the subtlest form of matter, they sought to draw ch’i from the atmosphere.

These efforts to extract ch’i from matter in its solid, liquid, and gaseous forms were supplemented by programs of bodily movement such as t’ai chi chuan, which gathers calisthenics, dance, meditation, yin/yang philosophy, and martial art into a synthesis that in this case was designed to draw ch’i from the cosmos and dislodge blocks to its internal flow. This last was the object of acupuncture as well.

2 “Any list of the drugs used by the ancient Chinese doctors, for many of which there is ample historical if not laboratory evidence of efficacy, leaves the entire Western world of medicine open to accusations of negligence and haughtiness” (Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987], p. 116).
3 Immortality had both crude and subtle readings in Taoism. Michael Saso writes that “a Taoist is by definition a man who seeks immortality in the present life,” but he goes on to add that for many this immortality “is not so much a longevity whereby man does not die but a state wherein he does not descend to the punishments of a fiery underworld after death” (Taoism and the Rite of Cosmic Renewal [Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1989], p. 3).
4 In actuality the semen then entered the bladder, where it was expelled with the urine, but the Chinese did not know this.


Finally, turning to the mind itself, contemplatives, many of them hermits, developed Taoist meditation. This practice involved shutting out distractions and emptying the mind to the point where the power of the Tao might bypass bodily filters and enter the self directly.

This third way of increasing ch’i is more abstract than the others, so more needs to be said about it. The quickest gateway to understanding meditational Taoism is via Hindu raja yoga, the way to God through psychophysical exercises. Whether or not China borrowed from India on this score, the physical postures and concentration techniques of Taoist meditation are so reminiscent of raja yoga that sinologists import the Sanskrit term and call it Taoist yoga. Still, the Chinese gave their yoga a distinctive twist. Their ubiquitous social concern led them to press the possibility that the ch’i that yogis accumulated through meditation could be transmitted psychically to the community to enhance its vitality and harmonize its affairs. Side by side with the Confucianists, who were working on the socializing te of moral example and ritualized etiquette, Taoist yogis sought to harness the Tao directly, drawing it first into their own heart-minds and then beaming it to others. Yogis who managed this feat would for the most part be unnoticed, but their life-giving enterprise did more for the community than the works of other benefactors.

We border on Philosophical Taoism here because animating this yogic Taoism was a dawning fascination in China with the inner as opposed to the outer self. Children do not separate these two sides of their being, and neither did early peoples. Yogic or meditational Taoism arose as the advancing self-consciousness of the Chinese brought subjective experience to full view. Novel, momentous, exciting, this world of the inner self invited exploration. So enthralling did it appear to its early explorers that matter suffered by comparison; it was mere shell and accretion. Still, the inner world housed a problem. Successive deposits of worry and distraction so silted the soul that their deposits had to be removed until “the self as it was meant to be” could surface. Pure consciousness would then appear, and the individual would see not merely “things perceived” but “that by which we perceive.”

To arrive at this inwardness it was necessary to reverse all self- seeking and cultivate perfect cleanliness of thought and body. Pure spirit can be known only in a life that is “garnished and swept.” Only where all is clean will it reveal itself; therefore “put self aside.” Perturbing emotions must likewise be quelled. Ruffling the surface of the mind, they prevent introspection from seeing past them to the springs of consciousness beneath. (The proximity to Philosophical Taoism is becoming strong.) Desire and revulsion, grief and joy, delight and annoyance—each must subside if the mind is to return to its original purity, for in the end only peace and stillness are good for it. Let anxiety be dispelled and harmony between the mind and its cosmic source will come unsought.

It is close at hand, stands indeed at our very side; yet is intangible, a thing that by reaching for cannot be got. Remote it seems as the furthest limit of the Infinite. Yet it is not far off, every day we use its power. For the Way of the Vital Spirit fills our whole frames, yet man cannot keep track of it. It goes, yet has not departed. It comes, yet is not here. It is muted, makes no note that can be heard, yet of a sudden we find that it is there in the mind. It is dim and dark, showing no outward form, yet in a great stream it flowed into us at our birth.5

Selflessness, cleanliness, and emotional calm are the preliminaries to arriving at full self-knowledge, but they must be climaxed by deep meditation. “Bide in silence, and the radiance of the spirit shall come in and make its home.” For this to happen all outward impressions must be stilled and the senses withdrawn to a completely interior point of focus. Postures paralleling the Indian asanas were recommended, and the breath must be similarly controlled; it must be as soft and light as that of an infant, or even an embryo in the womb. The result will be a condition of alert waiting known as “sitting with a blank mind.”

And when the realization arrives, what then? With it come truth, joy, and power. The climactic insight of meditational Taoism came with the impact of finality, everything at last having fallen into place. The condition could not be described as merely pleasurable. The direct perception of the source of one’s awareness as “serene and immovable, like a monarch on a throne,” brought joy unlike any hitherto known. The social utility of the condition, however, lay in the extraordinary power it provided over people and things, a power in fact which “could shift Heaven and Earth.” “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” We have spoken of India in connection with this psychic power, but St. John of the Cross offers an identical promise: “Without labor you shall subject the peoples, and things shall be subject to you.”

5 Quoted by Arthur Waley, The Way and Its Power, 1934, reprint (London: Allen & Unwin, 1958), pp. 48-49.

Without lifting a finger overtly, a ruler who was adept in “stillness” could order a whole people with his mystical-moral power. A ruler who is desireless himself and has this much psychic power automatically turns his subjects from their unruly desires. He rules without even being known to rule.

The sage relies on actionless activity;
Puts himself in the background; but is always to the fore.
Remains outside; but is always there.
Is it not just because he does not strive for any personal end
That all his personal ends are fulfilled?6

The Taoist yogis recognized that they could not hope for much understanding from the masses, and they made no attempt to publicize their position. When they did write their words tended to be veiled and cryptic, open to one interpretation by initiates and another by the general public. Part of the reason they wrote this way doubtless stemmed from their sensitivity to the lampooning that mysticism attracts from the uncongenial. We find even Chuang Tzu burlesquing their breathing exercises, reporting that these people “expel the used air with great energy and inhale the fresh air. Like bears, they climb trees in order to breathe with greater ease.” Mencius joined in the fun. He likened those who sought psychic short-cuts to social harmony to impatient farmers who tug gently on their crops each night to speed their growth. Despite such satire Taoist yoga had an appreciable core of practitioners. Some sinologists consider it the basic perspective from which the Tao Te Ching was written. If this is true it is a testament to the veiled language of the book, for it is usually read in the philosophical way we shall come to. Before we turn to that way, however, we must introduce the third major branch of Taoism, which is religious.

Vicarious Power: Religious Taoism
Philosophical Taoism sought to manage life’s normal quotient of the Tao efficiently, and energizing Taoism sought to boost its base supply, but something was lacking. Reflection and health programs take time, and the average Chinese lacked that commodity. Yet they too needed help; there were epidemics to be checked, marauding ghosts to be reckoned with, and rains to be induced or stopped as occasions demanded. Taoists responded to such problems. The measures they devised paralleled many of the doings of freelance soothsayers, psy- chics, shamans, and faith healers who came by their powers naturally and constituted the unchanging landscape of Chinese folk religion. Religious Taoism institutionalized such activities. Influenced by Bud- dhism, which entered China around the time of Christ, the Taoist church—in Chinese the Tao Chiao, “Church Taoism” or “Taoist Teachings” took shape in the second century A.D. It was anchored in a pantheon whose three originating deities included Lao Tzu. From these divinities sacred texts derived, which (by virtue of their divinely revealed origin) were accepted as true without reservation. The line of “papal” succession in the Taoist church continues down to the present in Taiwan.

6 Tao Te Ching, chapters 2 and 7, Arthur Waley’s translation. 103

Popular, Religious Taoism is a murky affair. Much of it looks— from the outside, we must always keep in mind—like crude supersti- tion; but we must remember that we have little idea what energy is, how it proceeds, or the means by which (and extent to which) it can be augmented. We do know that faith healing can import or release energies, as does faith itself, including faith in oneself. Placebos likewise have effects. When we add to these the energies that magnetic personalities, rabble-rousers, and even pep rallies can generate, to say nothing of mysterious reserves that hypnotists tap into, concerning which we haven’t an explanatory clue—if all this is borne in mind, it may temper our superciliousness and allow us to give Religious Taoism a fair hearing. In any case its intent is clear. “The Taoist priesthood made cosmic life-power available for ordinary villagers.”7

The texts of this school are crammed with descriptions of rituals that, if exactly performed, have magical effects, and the word magic here holds the key to sacerdotal, specifically religious, Taoism. The word must be freed, however, from the conventional meaning that has encrusted it. In its modern meaning, magic is trickery; it refers to performers who deceive audiences in ways that create the illusion that preternatural powers are at work. Traditionally, by contrast, magic was highly regarded. Jacob Boehme went so far as to assert that “magic is the best theology, for in it true faith is grounded. He is a fool that reviles it, for he knows it not and is more a juggler than a theologian of understanding.” Traditionally, magic was understood as the means by which higher, occult powers are tapped for use in the visible world. Proceeding on the assumption that higher powers exist—the subtle rules the dense; energy rules matter, consciousness rules energy, and superconsciousness rules consciousness—magic made these powers available. When a hypnotist tells a subject that when his shoulder is touched his body will become rigid, and that happens—assistants can then place the subject’s feet on one chair and his head on another without his body slumping—we come close to magic in the traditional sense, for the hypnotist calls into play powers that are not only astonishing but mysterious. Still, hypnotism falls short of magic in that the hypnotist is neither in an exceptional state of consciousness nor belongs to a sacerdotal order that is believed to be divinely empowered. For a genuine instance of magic in its traditional sense, we must turn to something like Peter’s healing of Aeneas as reported in Acts 9:32-34.

7 Daniel Overmyer, Religions of China (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), p. 39. 104

Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydia. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up.

Note that this was not a miracle. It would have been a miracle if Christ had empowered the paralytic Aeneas to climb out of bed without Peter’s help, effecting thereby an instance of what clinicians refer to as spontaneous remission. As it was, Peter had a role in the cure, a necessary role we may assume, and we are confronted with magic; sacred magic, as it happens, for if a demon had been invoked for malevolent purposes, sorcery would have been at work.

It was under the rubric of magic as thus traditionally conceived that the Taoist church—dividing the territory with freelance wizards, exorcists, and shamans—devised ways to harness higher powers for humane ends.

The Mingling of the Powers
Philosophical Taoism, vitalizing programs for increasing one’s indi- vidual ch’i, and the Taoist church: the three branches of Taoism, which at first seemed to have little in common, now show their family resemblances. All have the same concern—how to maximize the Tao’s animating te—and the specifics of their concerns fall on a continuum. The continuum begins with interest in how life’s normal allotment of ch’i can be deployed to best effect (Philosophical Taoism). From there it moves on to ask if that normal quotient can be increased (Taoist vitalizing programs). Finally, it asks if cosmic energies can be gathered, as if by a burning glass, to be deployed vicariously for the welfare of people who need help (popular or Religious Taoism).

The danger in this arrangement is that in the interest of clarity the lines between the three divisions have been drawn too sharply. No solid walls separate them; the three are better regarded as currents in a common river. Throughout history each has interacted with the other two, right down to Taoism in Hong Kong and Taiwan today. John Blofeld, who lived in China for the twenty years preceding the Communist revolution, reported that he had never met a Taoist who was not involved to some degree with all three schools.

We can summarize. To be something, to know something, and to be capable of something is to rise above the superficial. A life has substance to the degree that it incorporates the profundity of mysticism (Taoist yoga), the direct wisdom of gnosis (Philosophical Taoism), and the productive power of magic (Religious Taoism). Where these three things come together there is a “school,” and in China the school this chapter describes is Taoism. It is now time to return to Philosophical Taoism and give it its due hearing.


Creative Quietude
The object of Philosophical Taoism is to align one’s daily life to the Tao, to ride its boundless tide and delight in its flow. The basic way to do this, we earlier noted, is to perfect a life of wu wei. We have seen that wu wei should not be translated as do-nothingness or inaction, for those words suggest a vacant attitude of idleness or abstention. Better renderings are pure effectiveness and creative quietude.

Creative quietude combines within a single individual two seemingly incompatible conditions—supreme activity and supreme relaxation. These seeming incompatibles can coexist because human beings are not self-enclosed entities. They ride an unbounded sea of Tao that sustains them, as we would say, through their subliminal minds. One way to create is through following the calculated directives of the conscious mind. The results of this mode of action, however, are seldom impressive; they tend to smack more of sorting and arranging than of inspiration. Genuine creation, as every artist knows, comes when the more abundant resources of the subliminal self are somehow tapped. But for this to happen a certain dissociation from the surface self is needed. The conscious mind must relax, stop standing in its own light, let go. Only so is it possible to break through the law of reversed effort in which the more we try the more our efforts boomerang.

Wu wei is the supreme action, the precious suppleness, simplicity, and freedom that flows from us, or rather through us, when our private egos and conscious efforts yield to a power not their own. In a way it is virtue approached from a direction diametrically opposite to that of Confucius. Confucius turned every effort to building a pattern of ideal responses that might be consciously imitated. Taoism’s approach is the opposite—to get the foundations of the self in tune with Tao and let behavior flow spontaneously. Action follows being; new action will follow new being, wiser being, stronger being. The Tao Te Ching puts this point without wasting a word. “The way to do,” it says, “is to be.”

How are we to describe the action that flows from a life that is grounded directly in Tao? Nurtured by a force that is infinitely subtle, infinitely intricate, it is a consummate gracefulness born from an abundant vitality that has no need for abruptness or violence. One simply lets the Tao flow in and flow out again until all life becomes a dance in which there is neither feverishness nor imbalance. Wu wei is life lived above tension:

Keep stretching a bow
You repent of the pull,
A whetted saw
Grows thin and dull. (ch. 9)8

Far from inaction, however, it is the embodiment of suppleness, simplicity, and freedom—a kind of pure effectiveness in which no motion is wasted on bickering or outward show.

One may move so well that a footprint never shows,
Speak so well that the tongue never slips,
Reckon so well that no counter is needed. (ch.
27)

8 Unless otherwise specified, quotations in this section and the next are from the Tao Te Ching. Those from chapters 8, 15, 24, 31, and 78 are from Stephen Mitchell’s renderings in his Tao Te Ching (New York: Harper & Row, 1988); those from chapters 9, 12, 17, 23, 27, 29, and 30 are from Witter Bynner’s The Way of Life According to Laotzu, 1944, reprint (New York: Putnam, 1986).

Effectiveness of this order obviously requires an extraordinary skill, a point conveyed in the Taoist story of the fisherman who was able to land enormous fish with a thread because it was so delicately made that it had no weakest point at which to break. But Taoist skill is seldom noticed, for viewed externally wu wei—never forcing, never under strain—seems quite effortless. The secret here lies in the way it seeks out the empty spaces in life and nature and moves through these. Chuang Tzu, the greatest popularizer of Philosophical Taoism, makes this point with his story of Prince Wen Hui’s cook whose cleaver seemed never to lose its edge. When he cut up an ox, out went a hand, down went a shoulder. He planted a foot, he pressed with a knee, and the ox fell apart with a whisper. The bright cleaver murmured like a gentle wind. Rhythm! Timing! Like a sacred dance. Like “The Mulberry Grove,” like ancient harmonies! Pressed for his secret, the cook replied: “There are spaces in the joints; the blade is thin and keen. When this thinness finds that space, there is all the room you need! It goes like a breeze! Hence I have this cleaver nineteen years as if newly sharpened!”9

The natural phenomenon that the Taoists saw as bearing the closest resemblance to Tao was water. They were struck by the way it would support objects and carry them effortlessly on its tide. The Chinese characters for swimmer, deciphered, mean literally “one who knows the nature of water.” Similarly, one who understands the basic life force knows that it will sustain one if one stops thrashing and flailing and trusts oneself to its support.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself? (ch. 15)

Water, then, was the closest parallel to the Tao in the natural world. But it was also the prototype of wu wei. They noticed the way water adapts itself to its surroundings and seeks out the lowest places. So too,

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao. (ch. 8)

9 Adapted from Thomas Merton’s translation in his The Way of Chuang Tzu (New York: New Directions, 1965), pp. 45-47.

Yet despite its accommodation, water holds a power unknown to hard and brittle things. In a stream it follows the stones’ sharp edges, only to turn them into pebbles, rounded to conform to its streamlined flow. It works its way past frontiers and under dividing walls. Its gentle current melts rocks and carries away the proud hills we call eternal.

Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice. (ch. 78)

Infinitely supple, yet incomparably strong—these virtues of water are precisely those of wu wei as well. The person who embodies this condition, says the Tao Te Ching, “works without working.” Such a one acts without strain, persuades without argument, is eloquent without flourish, and achieves results without violence, coercion, or pressure. Though the agent may be scarcely noticed, his or her influence is in fact decisive.

A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists.
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.” (ch. 17)

A final characteristic of water that makes it an appropriate analogue to wu wei is the clarity it attains through being still. “Muddy water let stand,” says the Tao Te Ching, “will clear.” If you want to study the stars after being in a brightly lit room, you must wait twenty minutes for your eyes to dilate for their new assignment. There must be similar periods of waiting if the focal length of the mind is to readjust, withdrawing from the world’s glare to the internal recesses of the soul.

The five colors can blind,
The five tones deafen,
The five tastes cloy.
The race, the hunt, can drive men mad
And their booty leave them no peace. T
herefore a sensible man
Prefers the inner to the outer eye. (ch. 12)

Clarity can come to the inner eye, however, only insofar as life attains a quiet that equals that of a deep and silent pool.

Other Taoist Values
Still following the analogy of water, the Taoists rejected all forms of self-assertiveness and competition. The world is full of people who are determined to be somebody or give trouble. They want to get ahead, to stand out. Taoism has little use for such ambitions. “The ax falls first on the tallest tree.”

He who stands on tiptoe
Doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
Doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light. (ch. 24)

Their almost reverential attitude toward humility led the Taoists to honor hunchbacks and cripples because of the way they typified meekness and self-effacement. They were fond of pointing out that the value of cups, windows, and doorways lies in the parts of them that are not there. “Selfless as melting ice” is one of their descriptive figures. The Taoists’ refusal to clamber for position sprang from a profound disinterest in the things the world prizes. The point comes out in the story of Chuang Tzu’s visit to the minister of a neighboring state. Someone told the minister that Chuang Tzu was coming in the hope of replacing him. The minister was alarmed. But when Chuang Tzu heard of the rumor he said to the minister:

In the South there is a bird. It is called yuan-ch’u. Have you heard of it? This yuan-ch’u starts from the southern ocean and flies to the northern ocean. During its whole journey it perches on no tree save the sacred Wo-tung, eats no fruit save that of the Persian Lilac, drinks only at the Magic Well. It happened that an owl that had got hold of the rotting carcass of a rat looked up as this bird flew by, and terrified lest the yuan-ch’u should stop and snatch at the succulent morsel, it screamed, “Shoo! Shoo!” And now I am told that you are trying to “shoo” me off from this precious Ministry of yours.10

So it is with most of the world’s prides. They are not the true values they are thought to be. What is the point of competition or assertiveness? The Tao seems to get along very well without them.

Nature does not have to insist,
Can blow for only half a morning,
Rain for only half a day. (ch. 23)

People should avoid being strident and aggressive not only toward other people but also toward nature. On the whole, the modern Western attitude has been to regard nature as an antagonist, an object to be squared off against, dominated, controlled, conquered. Taoism’s attitude is the opposite of this. There is a profound naturalism in Taoist thought, but it is the naturalism of a Rousseau, a Wordsworth, a Thoreau, not that of a Galileo or Bacon.

Those who would take over the earth
And shape it to their will
Never, I notice, succeed.
The earth is like a vessel so sacred
That at the mere approach of the profane
It is marred
And when they reach out their fingers it is gone. (ch. 29)

Nature is to be befriended. When the British scaled earth’s highest peak, the exploit was widely hailed as “the conquest of Everest.” D. T. Suzuki remarked: “We orientals would have spoken of befriending Everest.” The Japanese team that scaled Anapurna, the second highest peak, climbed to within fifty feet of the summit and deliberately stopped, provoking a Western mountaineer to exclaim in disbelief, “That’s class!” Taoism seeks attunement with nature, not dominance. Its approach is ecological, a characteristic that led Joseph Needham to point out that despite China’s backwardness in scientific theory she early developed “an organic philosophy of nature closely resembling that which modern science has been forced to adopt after three centuries of mechanical materialism.” The ecological approach of Taoism has inspired many Western architects, most notably Frank Lloyd Wright. Taoist temples do not stand out from their surroundings. They nestle against the hills, back under the trees, blending in with the environment. At best, human beings do likewise. Their highest achievement is to identify themselves with the Tao and let it work its magic through them.
YIN-YANG JPG
10 Burton Watson (tr.), Chuang Tzu: The Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), pp. 109-10

This Taoist approach to nature deeply affected Chinese art. It is no accident that the greatest periods of Chinese art have coincided with upsurges of Taoist influence. Before assuming brush and silk, painters would go out to nature and lose themselves in it, to become, say, the bamboo that they would paint. They would sit for half a day or fourteen years before making a stroke. The Chinese word for landscape painting is composed of the radicals for mountain and water, one of which suggests vastness and solitude, the other pliability, endurance, and continuous movement. The human part in the vastness is small, so we have to look closely for human beings in the paintings if we find them at all. Usually, they are climbing with their bundles, riding a buffalo, or poling a boat—the self with its journey to make, its burden to carry, its hill to climb, but surrounded by beauty on every side. People are not as formidable as mountains; they do not live as long as the pines. Yet they too belong in the scheme of things as surely as do the birds and the clouds. And through them, as through the rest of the world, flows the everlasting Tao.

Taoist naturalism combined with a propensity for naturalness as well. Pomp and extravagance were regarded as silly. When Chuang Tzu’s followers asked permission to give him a grand funeral, he replied: “Heaven and earth are my inner and outer coffins. The sun, moon, and stars are my drapery, and the whole creation my funeral procession. What more do I want?” Civilization was ridiculed and the primitive idealized. “Let us have a small country with few inhabitants,” Lao Tzu proposed. “Let the people return to the use of knotted cords [for keeping records]. Let them obtain their food sweet, their clothing beautiful, their homes comfortable, their rustic tasks pleasurable.” Travel was discouraged as pointless and conducive to idle curiosity. “The neighboring state might be so near at hand that one could hear the cocks crowing in it and dogs barking. But the people would grow old and die without ever having been there.”11

11 Fung Yu-lan’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, chapter 80, in his A Short History of 112

It was this preference for naturalness and simplicity that most separated the Taoist from the Confucian. The basic objectives of the two schools did not differ widely, but the Taoists had small patience with the Confucian approach to them. All formalism, show, and ceremony left them cold. What could be hoped for from punctiliousness or the meticulous observance of propriety? The whole approach was artificial, a lacquered surface that was bound to prove brittle and repressive. Confucianism here was but one instance of the human tendency to approach life in regulated mode. All calculated systems, the very attempt to arrange life in shipshape order, is pointless. As different ways of slicing the same reality, none of them amounts to more than Three in the Morning. And what is Three in the Morning? Once, in the state of Sung, hard times forced a keeper of monkeys to reduce their rations. “From now on,” he announced, “it will be three in the morning and four in the evening.” Faced with howls of rebellion, the keeper agreed to negotiate, and eventually accepted his monkeys’ demand that it be four in the morning and three in the evening. The monkeys gloried in their triumph.

Another feature of Taoism is its notion of the relativity of all values and, as its correlative, the identity of opposites. Here Taoism tied in with the traditional Chinese yin/yang symbol, which is pictured thus:
This polarity sums up all of life’s basic oppositions: good/evil, active/ passive, positive/negative, light/dark, summer/winter, male/female. But though the halves are in tension, they are not flatly opposed; they complement and balance each other. Each invades the other’s hemi- sphere and takes up its abode in the deepest recess of its partner’s domain. And in the end both find themselves resolved by the circle that surrounds them, the Tao in its eternal wholeness. In the context of that wholeness, the opposites appear as no more than phases in an endless cycling process, for each turns incessantly into its opposite, exchanging places with it. Life does not move onward and upward toward a fixed pinnacle or pole. It bends back upon itself to come, full circle, to the realization that all is one and all is well.

Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953), p. 20.

Those who meditate on this profound symbol, Taoists maintain, will find that it affords better access to the world’s secrets than any length of words and discussion. Faithful to its import, Taoism eschews all sharp dichotomies. No perspective in this relative world can be considered as absolute. Who knows when the longest way ’round might not prove to be the shortest way home? Or consider the relativity of dream and wakefulness. Chuang Tzu dreamed that he was a butterfly, and during the dream had no notion that he had ever been anything else. When he awoke, however, he was astonished to find that he was Chuang Tzu. But this left him with a question. Was he really Chuang Tzu who had dreamed that he was a butterfly, or was he a butterfly that was now dreaming that it was Chuang Tzu?

All values and concepts, then, are ultimately relative to the mind that entertains them. When it was suggested to the wren and the cicada that there are birds that fly hundreds of miles without alighting, both quickly agreed that such a thing was impossible. “You and I know very well,” they nodded, “that the furthest one can ever get, even by the most tremendous effort, is to that elm tree over there, and even this one cannot be sure of reaching every time. Often one finds oneself dragged back to earth long before one gets there. All these stories about flying hundreds of miles at a stretch are sheer nonsense.”

In the Taoist perspective even good and evil are not head-on opposites. The West has tended to dichotomize the two, but Taoists are less categorical. They buttress their reserve with the story of a farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbor commiserated, only to be told, “Who knows what’s good or bad?” It was true, for the next day the horse returned, bringing with it a drove of wild horses it had befriended. The neighbor reappeared, this time with congratulations for the windfall. He received the same response: “Who knows what is good or bad?” Again this proved true, for the next day the farmer’s son tried to mount one of the wild horses and fell, breaking his leg. More commiserations from the neighbor, which elicited the question: “Who knows what is good or bad?” And for a fourth time the farmer’s point prevailed, for the following day soldiers came by commandeering for the army, and the son was exempted because of his injury. If this all sounds very much like Zen, it should; for Buddhism processed through Taoism became Zen.

Taoism follows its principle of relativity to its logical limit by positioning life and death as complementing cycles in the Tao’s rhythm. When Chuang Tzu’s wife died, his friend Hui-tzu visited him to express his condolences, only to find Chuang Tzu sitting on the ground with his legs spread wide apart, singing away and whacking out a tune on the back of a wooden bowl. “After all,” said his friend, “she lived with you devotedly all these years, watched your eldest son grow to manhood, and grew old along with you. For you not to have shed a tear over her remains would have been bad enough, but singing and drumming away on a bowl—this is just too much!” “You misjudge,” said Chuang Tzu. “When she died I was in despair, as any man well might be. But then I realized that before she was born she had no body, and it became clear to me that the same process of change that brought her to birth eventually brought her to death. If someone is tired and has gone to lie down, we do not pursue her with hooting and bawling. She whom I have lost has lain down to sleep for a while in the chamber between heaven and earth. To wail and groan while my wife is sleeping would be to deny nature’s sovereign law. So I refrain.”

Elsewhere Chuang Tzu expressed his confidence in the face of death directly:

There is the globe,
The foundation of my bodily existence.
It wears me out with work and duties,
It gives me rest in old age,
It gives me peace in death.
For the one who supplied me with what I needed in life
Will also give me what 1 need in death.12

It is no surprise to find an outlook as averse to violence as Taoism verging on pacifism. There are passages in the Tao Te Ching that read almost like the Sermon on the Mount.

One who would guide a leader of men in the uses of life
Will warn him against the use of arms for conquest.
Even the finest arms are an instrument of evil.
An army’s harvest is a waste of thorns. (ch. 30)
Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is the highest value. . . .
He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral. (ch. 31)

12 Quoted in K. L. Reichelt’s translation of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Tao Te Ching in his Meditation and Piety in the Far East (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954), p. 102.

That in China the scholar ranked at the top of the social scale may have been Confucius’ doing, but Taoism is fully as responsible for placing the soldier at the bottom. “The way for a vital person to go is not the way of a soldier.” Only one “who recognizes all people as members of his or her own body is qualified to guard them. . . . Heaven arms with compassion those whom she would not see destroyed.”

War is a somber matter, and Taoism spoke to life’s solemn, somber issues. Yet it always retained a quality of lightness verging on gaiety. There is a sophistication, an urbanity, a charm about the perspective that is infectious. “He who feels punctured,” notes the Tao Te Ching, “must once have been a bubble.” The economy, directness, and good humor in such a statement is typical of its entire outlook. In its freedom from a heavy-booted approach to life, Taoism is at one with the rest of China; but it is also, as we have seen, free of the Confucian tendency toward rigidity and formalism. Taoist literature is full of dialogues with Confucianists in which the latter come off as stuffy and pompous. An instance is the story of the Taoist Chuang Tzu and the Confucian Hui Tzu, who on an afternoon’s stroll came to a bridge over the Hao River. “Look how the minnows dart hither and thither at will. Such is the pleasure fish enjoy,” Chuang Tzu remarked. “You are not a fish,” responded Hui Tzu. “How do you know what gives pleasure to fish?” “You are not I,” said Chuang Tzu. “How do you know I don’t know what gives pleasure to fish?”

Conclusion
Circling around each other like yin and yang themselves, Taoism and Confucianism represent the two indigenous poles of the Chinese character. Confucius represents the classical, Lao Tzu the romantic. Confucius stresses social responsibility, Lao Tzu praises spontaneity and naturalness. Confucius’ focus is on the human, Lao Tzu’s on what transcends the human. As the Chinese themselves say, Confucius roams within society, Lao Tzu wanders beyond. Something in life reaches out in each of these directions, and Chinese civilization would certainly have been poorer if either had not appeared.
There are books whose first reading casts a spell that is never quite undone, the reason being that they speak to the deepest “me” in the reader. For all who quicken at the thought that anywhere, at every time, the Tao is within us, the Tao Te Ching is such a book. Mostly it has been so for the Chinese, but an American poet can equally find it “the straightest, most logical explanation as yet advanced for the continuance of life, the most logical use yet advised for enjoying it.”13 Though obviously never practiced to perfection, its lessons of simplicity, openness, and wisdom have been for millions of Chinese a joyful guide.

There is a being, wonderful, perfect;
It existed before heaven and earth.
How quiet it is!
How spiritual it is!
It stands alone and it does not change.
It moves around and around, but does not on this account suffer.
All life comes from it.
It wraps everything with its love as in a garment, and
yet it claims no honor, it does not demand to be Lord.
I do not know its name, and so I call it Tao, the Way,
and I rejoice in its power.14


SOURCE
: http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/viewpdf/default.aspx?article-title=Taoism_by_Huston_Smith.pdf

“Taoism” by Huston Smith Features in
Light from the East: Eastern Wisdom for the Modern West
© 2007 World Wisdom, Inc.
Edited by Harry Oldmeadow
All Rights Reserved. For Personal Usage Only www.worldwisdom.com
13 Bynner, The Way of Life, pp. 12-13.
14 Adapted from K. L. Reichelt’s translation of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Tao Te
Ching in his Meditation and Piety, 41.

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"The Law of Attraction: Does It Grant Us an Evolutionary Edge?" by Michael Bernard Beckwith

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Why is it that just by walking into a room some people light up the atmosphere with their presence? Why, when certain individuals speak, do their listeners become spellbound, while someone talking about the same subject is met with yawns? What I’m describing are those individuals whose magnetism is so potent they effortlessly make a dynamic impact. No form of social networking, marketing, or résumé reveals more about us than the vibratory frequency that radiates from our being.

Did you know that you have a magnetic field that draws to you the people, experiences and things that mirror the vibratory equivalent of your thoughts, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, insights — in short, your overall state of consciousness? Consciousness determines most of what unfolds in our life. How we interpret, integrate and respond to that evolutionary process determines the rest. We are all — consciously or unconsciously — evolutionists, constantly co-creating, regenerating, transforming and emerging through application of the laws governing the universe.

Before I describe the evolutionary progression of the law of attraction, let’s pause to consider vibration itself. Vibration is the motion, the movement of energy. Modern science reveals that our universe is made up of electronic vibrations, cosmic currents of invisible, intelligent energy. To understand this at the kitchen sink level of every day life, in the 60s it became commonplace to describe how we did or didn’t vibe with another person. How is such a determination made? When we meet someone there is an energetic exchange that occurs: we receive an energetic current from them, and we send one out to them. How the vibrational blend of our individual energies is interpreted determines the chemistry we sense we do or don’t share with another person (or a group of people). Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly radiating energy into the atmosphere we inhabit.

“Spiritual magnetism,” says Paramahansa Yogananda, “... is the power of the soul to attract or create whatever it needs for all-round happiness and well-being.” He is describing our inherent soul-capacity to consciously operate the law of attraction and draw into our magnetic field whatever is required to support our fundamental life structures as we grow, develop, and expand in consciousness with an “all needs met” awareness and gratitude.

To accelerate your magnetic frequency and manifest your vision for your life, you must enter the laboratory of your own mind and soul and evolve through three domains:

Discovering, activating, expressing and promoting your gifts, talents and skills, which attunes you to the law of divine right action;

Moving into a deeper spiritual understanding and practice of working with the laws governing the universe through affirmative prayer, Life Visioning, and visualization, which attune you to the law of attraction;

Practicing meditation and surrender at such a depth that you no longer need to attract anything because you live in alignment with the law of radiance which automatically provides all that is required to sustain you and cause you to flourish.

Living in the first domain provides an entry into the understanding that you have come on the planet with a purpose, that you are an “on purpose” being endowed with tremendous capacities, powers, and qualities. Living in the second domain provides factual evidence that you can indeed consciously participate in the co-creation of your life in attunement with the law of attraction. The third domain, living in attunement with the law of radiance, causes the emergence of your essential self, which is to say that you live from the inside out.

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake said that a thought held in mind manifests when conditions are right. Now he’s not suggesting that we passively wait for the right conditions to finally, magically show up. It is up to us to actively participate, to consciously contribute to the process of co-creating the right conditions for our inner vision to outwardly manifest. We do this by first cultivating an intention to educate ourselves on the universal laws governing the planet, how they function and how we may consciously apply them to the various aspects of our life.

Next, we begin to experiment with these laws in the laboratory of our consciousness, not in a big serious way, but in a playful, trusting mindset of wonder and appreciation. We then discover that we live in a realm of infinite possibilities, that we have been fully equipped to live our highest potential. We radiate compassion, unconditional love, peace, joy. We begin to consciously realize our oneness with source, our interconnectedness to all life. We no longer consider our life as a problem to be solved but rather as a mystery to be lived and celebrated. We realize that we are spiritual beings having a human incarnation in which we are the writer, actor, producer, and director of the part we play on the stage of life.

Living in harmony with the laws governing the universe fulfills the mandate of your soul-call, not by words, but by proof.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-law-of-attraction-doe_b_783718.html


The Life Visioning Process (LVP), originated and trademarked by Michael Bernard Beckwith, is available in a six-CD set, a Life Visioning Kit, and book to be released in 2011. Please visit www.agapelive.com for these and other Beckwith products.
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"What I Wish People Knew About My Depression" by Emma Rabinowitz

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It is more than sleeping in when you’re not tired.

It is more than turning down plans with friends.

It is more than just a feeling that comes and goes.

It is a constant feeling of your heart in your stomach.

It is being unresponsive to loved ones who reach out to you.

It is staring out the window for hours on end.

It is having every thought imaginable while still having a blank mind.


I wish people knew that, when I turned down trips to farmer’s markets or walks downtown, or dinner in the dining hall, it wasn’t because I’m an antisocial person.

I wish they knew I genuinely wanted to go and had every intention of going, but the second my right foot stepped out the door my 
depression said “today’s not the day” and made me go back inside.

I wish they knew I wasn’t a flaky person and I didn’t mean to snap at them when they questioned me. I wish they knew depression had a harness and leash on me and was yanking me back every time I tried to run away.

I wish people knew that when I don’t have much to say, it isn’t because I don’t enjoy their company.

I wish they knew I had this feeling deep within my gut that felt like an empty hole where laughter and joy should belong, but for some reason, depression kicked them out.

I wish they knew I wanted to speak and have a great, genuine conversation, but I couldn’t find the words and depression was holding my tongue.

I wish people knew I’m not going to let depression win. My story has only begun, and I am ready to take on the battle of my life. With a sword and shield in hand, I plant my feet in the ground and hold my breath.

I wish people knew I can laugh, and love, and live. I can carry on, and care, and cope. I am an individual. I walk my own walk and take on every challenge depression throws at me.

SOURCE:
https://themighty.com/2017/09/what-i-wish-people-knew-about-my-depression/
Comments

"The Practice of Forgiveness" (excerpt from THE WISE HEART) by Jack Kornfield

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Chinese character for "Forgiveness"

Buddhist psychology offers specific teachings and practices for the development of forgiveness.  Like the practice of compassion, forgiveness does not ignore the truth of our suffering.  Forgiveness is not weak.  It demands courage and integrity.  Yet only forgiveness and love can bring about the peace we long for.  As the Indian sage Meher Baba explains, “True love is not for the faint-hearted.”

We have all betrayed and hurt others, just as we have knowingly or unknowingly been harmed by them.  It is inevitable in this human realm. Sometimes our betrayals are small, sometimes terrible.  Extending and receiving forgiveness is essential for redemption from our past.  To forgive does not mean we condone the misdeeds of another. We can dedicate ourselves to make sure they never happen again. But without forgiveness the world can never be released from the sorrows of the past.  Someone quipped, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Forgiveness is a way to move on.

In Buddhist psychology, forgiveness is not presented as a moral commandment; thou shalt forgive. It is understood as a way to end suffering, to bring dignity and harmony to our life. Forgiveness is fundamentally for our own sake, for our own mental health. It is a way to let go of the pain we carry.  This is illustrated by the story of two ex-prisoners of war who meet after many years. When the first one asks, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” the second man answers, “No, never.”  “Well then,” the first man replies, “they still have you in prison.”  For most people, the work of forgiveness is a process. Practicing forgiveness, we may go through stages of grief, rage, sorrow, fear and confusion.  As we let ourself feel the pain we still hold, forgiveness comes as a relief, a release for our heart in the end.  Forgiveness acknowledges that no matter how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart.

The practice of forgiveness grows through generosity and repetition. One of my teachers instructed me to practice five minutes of forgiveness for myself and others, twice a day for six months, which meant 360 times. Practicing with small misdeeds, such as my uncaring treatment of a friend, I repeatedly asked her forgiveness and gradually forgave myself. That experience encouraged me, but when I turned to my father, the process was much more difficult. Forgiveness took many years. It was only when he lay dying that I could look back and reflect on what had released me from our family suffering.  When, at age 75, ten years after his first heart attack, my father was near death from congestive heart failure, frightened and in pain. I sat with him over long days and late nights. He kept asking me to stay. Because I had sat with my own pain and fear in meditation, I was not afraid. Because I had sat in the charnel grounds and with others as they died, I was able to offer the steady presence he needed. By now I also knew enough not to blurt out that I loved him, but I also knew that he could feel that I did.

Years of meditation, therapy and forgiveness practices had come with me into that room. I’d worked with my rage at my father and my sorrow and frustration as a frightened, impotent child. One day I pictured the yellow linoleum floor in the backroom where my father was beating my mother. I wanted to beat him and to rescue her. I felt sorry for and angry at my mother for her weakness, and for her collusion with his brutal arrogance. I struggled to release my father and all his rigid, paranoid violence. I relived the nighttime scenes where his eyes would become glazed and crazed looking, and the old bastard would curse and hit and hurt us, his family.

As I meditated and wept, I felt the pain of my own closed heart and wondered how I could forgive him. I breathed and practiced forgiveness and got inside his own wretched history, and my mother’s paralyzing fear. I saw him as a young teen when his father died. My father and his father were both caught between two women who hated each other. His coldly polished and controlling mother and his tight-fisted and iron-willed grandmother who lived just across the street and ran the family business.  I saw his paranoia and fear and how hard his uncontrollable rage must have been for him. I saw his inexcusable acts and his unmanageable pain. . It helped when I discovered that my own rage was not so different from his. I learned to respect the anger, depression, cynicism and humor that my brothers and I had used to survive.  I saw that we were not alone. I felt connected to a million fathers and estranged sons, to generations of family wounds, many greater than my own.  Then I gradually saw, too, his creative and loving side, along with his capacity to hurt those he loved, and finally his humanity, all our humanity. And in the last days in the hospital, I could sit with him in all his complexity and forgive.

When students come to Buddhist practice, they learn the blessings of the path of forgiveness. Josh’s half brothers had legally cheated him out of part of his inheritance. He knew that through his own inattention he was complicit as well. Over five years he had tried to straighten things out with them, with only a little success. Still he carried the suffering and betrayal like a weight in his body. He had not been a regular meditator but to release his suffering, he undertook a systematic forgiveness practice. He knew that finding compassion and forgiveness were crucial for his well being. At first he struggled, and whenever his bitterness arose, I suggested he pay attention to his body. He could feel a familiar block of rigid tension in his shoulders and upper arms and a constricted pain in his chest.  The clenched hurt and anger were a painful sign. He didn’t want to live this way. Even though he didn’t get the money, he did not want to live hating his brothers. Josh knew he had to release them. Over several months of repeated practice, the spirit of forgiveness came in, and little by little he learned to let go.

Forgiveness was also important for Julie, a college biosciences professor who worked as an ecological activist in Brazil and Guatemala.  On retreat she told me how she had recently seduced a graduate student, and two young women in the field.  She had mixed her love needs with the good work she was doing and her activism became a kind of self justification for these relationships.  It all came up in her meditation. Julie was not sorry for her attempts at love and connection, but she deeply regretted the pain and betrayal she had caused.
I suggested that Julie write the whole set of stories down.  They poured out of her.  Then I asked her permission to read them.  She gave them to me, and when I had done so we met together.  I asked her what she felt we should do next.  Her eyes watered and she said she wanted to ask forgiveness.  I offered her my own, and told her that she had to consciously understand and feel the impact of her actions to commit to not harming.  She thought she would write to these women. Then she had to find a way to forgive herself so she could be released from the past and let it go.

Even in extreme cases, the Buddhist teachings counsel forgiveness. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha gives an instruction that is both fierce and compassionate. “If someone has abused you, beat you, robbed you, abandon your thoughts of anger. Soon you will die. Life is too short to live with hatred.”  With forgiveness we become unwilling to wish harm to another.  Whenever we forgive, in small ways at home, or in great ways between nations, we free ourselves from the past.  This is necessary for the Bosnians and Serbs, the Irish Catholics and Protestants, the Hutus and Tutsis.  It is necessary to us all to find ways to forgive.

Laura grew up with a lot of shame about being poor.  Outwardly she tied to overcome this by hard work.  Laura was the first in her extended family to go to college, struggling with feeling insecure, like an outcast. After she graduated, she worked in the city for the Department of Public Safety. Sixteen years later she transferred to a farming community just in from the coast near Oxnard.  She said, “Now that I’ve lived in the city, when I go into the coffee shop and see the old clothes, the uneducated farmers, it’s so easy to judge them and feel myself as different.  We may be different in education and politics, but these are false ways we separate ourselves.  Then when I really look, I just want to drop my judgments and be with them, with us.”

“My father was like them. He drank too much. He berated us, his daughters.  He was terrible to his sons.  I was desperate to get free of him, of our family.  But my shame, anger and resentment stayed with me.  When I began Buddhist practice, it was hard to sit still.  After awhile I realized how sad I was, how much hurt was in my body.  I was just trying to cope.  I was grateful to be taught the loving-kindness and forgiveness practices. I did them twice a day for two years.  I needed to forgive myself for being so angry and ashamed, as much as to forgive my father.  Practicing forgiveness was like learning to stand and walk and feel good about myself.  Then I was able to go home, to see my family, even my father, without hurting so much.  Seven years later when my father got sick, it wasn’t hard to go back.  I saw his slow decline until finally he was a weak old man on his bed.  I knew that I loved him.  I had forgiven us all.”  With virtue and forgiveness we repair the world.
 
This excerpt is taken from the book, “
The Wise Heart

SOURCE:
Jack_Logo4
https://jackkornfield.com/the-practice-of-forgiveness-2/
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“The Divine Feminine - Reclaiming the Feminine Mystery of Creation” by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Divine Feminine Pic
Then creation recognized its Creator 
in its own forms and appearances. 
For in the beginning, when God said, "Let it be!"
and it came to pass, the means and the Matrix of creation was Love,
because all creation was formed through Her as in the twinkling of an eye.

                                                                                            
—The Holy Spirit as Sapientia St. Hildegard von Bingen
 
THE MATRIX OF CREATION
The feminine is the matrix of creation.  This truth is something profound and elemental, and every woman knows it in the cells of her body, in her instinctual depths.  Out of the substance of her very being life comes forth.  She can conceive and give birth, participate in the greatest mystery of bringing a soul into life.  And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born.  Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love.

What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself.  When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.  We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation.  We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish and transform it.  The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.

Because humanity has a central function in the whole of creation, what we deny to ourself we deny to all of life.  In denying the feminine her sacred power and purpose we have impoverished life in ways we do not understand.  We have denied life its sacred source of meaning and divine purpose, which was understood by the ancient priestesses.  We may think that their fertility rites and other ceremonies belonged only to the need for procreation or a successful harvest.  In our contemporary culture we cannot understand how a deeper mystery was enacted, one that consciously connected life to its source in the inner worlds, a source that held the wholeness of life as an embodiment of the divine, allowing the wonder of the divine to be present in every moment.

The days of the priestesses, their temples and ceremonies are over, and because the wisdom of the feminine was not written down but transmitted orally (logos is a masculine principle), this sacred knowledge is lost.  We cannot reclaim the past, but we can witness a world without her presence, a world which we exploit for greed and power, which we rape and pollute without real concern.  And then we can begin the work of welcoming her back, of reconnecting with the divine that is at the core of creation, and learning once again how to work with the sacred principles of life.  Without the intercession of the divine feminine we will remain in this physical and spiritual wasteland we have created, passing on to our children a diseased and desecrated world.

The choice is simple.  Can we remember the wholeness that is within us, the wholeness that unites spirit and matter?  Or will we continue walking down this road that has abandoned the divine feminine, that has cut women off from their sacred power and knowledge?  If we choose the former we can begin to reclaim the world, not with masculine plans, but with the wisdom of the feminine, the wisdom that belongs to life itself.  If we choose the latter we may attempt some surface solutions with new technology.  We may combat global warming and pollution with scientific plans.  But there will be no real change.  A world that is not connected to its soul cannot heal.  Without the participation of the divine feminine nothing new can be born.

RECLAIMING HER SACRED WISDOM
If the knowledge of the sacred feminine has been lost how can we know what to do?  Part of the wisdom of the feminine is to wait, to listen, to be receptive.  A woman does not consciously know how to bring the light of a soul into her womb and help it to form a body.  And yet this mystery takes place within her.  Nor does she consciously know how to nourish this light with her own light, in the same way that she gives her blood to help the body to grow.  She 
is the mystery of light being born into matter, and her pregnancy is a time of receptivity, waiting, listening and feeling what is happening within her.  She and the Great Mother are one being, and if she listens within she is given the knowledge she needs.

We may have forsaken this simple feminine wisdom of listening, and in this information age awash with so many words it is easy to undervalue an instinctual knowledge that comes from within.  But the sacred principles of life have never been written down: they belong to the heartbeat, to the rhythm of the breath and the flow of blood.  They are alive like the rain and the rivers, the waxing and waning of the moon.  If we learn to listen we will discover that life, the Great Mother, is speaking to us, telling us what we need to know.  We are present at a time when the world is dying and waiting to be reborn, and all the words in our libraries and on the internet will not tell us what to do.  But the sacred feminine can share with us her secrets, tell us how to be, how to midwife her rebirth.  And because we are her children she can speak to each of us, if we have the humility to listen.

How can we listen to what we do not know?  How can we reclaim what we have lost so long ago?  Every moment is new.  The present moment is not just a progression of past moments, but is alive in its own way, complete and perfect.  And it is the moment that demands our attention.  Only in the moment can we be fully awake and respond to the real need.  Only in the present moment can we be fully attentive.  Only in the present moment can the divine come into existence.  Men may make plans, but a mother attentive to her children knows the real need of the moment.  She feels in her being the interconnectedness of all of life in a way that is veiled from the masculine.  She knows one cannot make plans when there are so many variables, but one can respond with the wisdom that includes the whole and all of its connections.  The divine feminine is asking us to be present in life in all of its wholeness, without judgment or plans.  Then she can speak to us, reveal the mystery of her rebirth.

And because this is a birth, the feminine has to be present, not just as an idea but as a living presence within us, within both men and women; because although woman most fully embodies the divine feminine, part of her secret is also shared with men, just as a son carries part of his mother in a way hidden from her daughters.  Yet to live the feminine is something we have almost forgotten: our patriarchal culture has denied her power and real wisdom, has sanitized her as much as it has divorced her from her magic that belongs to the rhythms of creation.  But we need her, more than we dare realize.

However, to fully encounter the divine feminine, the creative principle of life, we must be prepared for her anger, for the pain that has come from her abuse.  For centuries our masculine culture has repressed her natural power, has burnt her temples, killed her priestesses.  Through his drive for mastery, and his fear of the feminine, of what he cannot understand or control, the patriarchy has not just neglected her, but deliberately tortured and destroyed.  He has not just raped her, but torn the very fabric of life, the primal wholeness of which she is always the guardian.  And the feminine is angry, even if her anger has been repressed along with her magic.

To welcome the feminine is to acknowledge and accept her pain and anger, and the part we have played in this desecration.  Women too have often colluded with the masculine, denied their own power and natural magic, instead accepted masculine values, ways of thinking.  They have betrayed their own deepest self.  But we must also be careful not to become caught in this darkness, in the dynamics of abuse, the anger and betrayal.

It is especially easy for women to become identified with the suffering of the feminine, her treatment by the masculine, to project one’s own pain and anger onto men.  Then we are caught even more securely in this web that denies us any transformation.  If we identify with the pain of the feminine we easily become an agent of her anger, rather than going deeper into the mystery of suffering, into the light that is always hidden in the darkness.  Because in the depths of the feminine there is a deep knowledge that the abuse is also part of the cycle of creation.  The Great Mother embodies a wholeness that contains even the denial of herself, and we need her wholeness if we are to survive and be reborn. 

Real transformation, like any birth, needs the darkness as much as the light.  We know that the feminine has been abused, just as the planet continues to be polluted.  But the woman who has experienced the pain of childbirth, who knows the blood that belongs to birth, is always initiated in the darkness; she knows the cycles of creation in ways that are hidden to the masculine.  She needs to give herself and her knowing to this present cycle of death and rebirth, and in so doing honor the pain she has suffered.  Then she will discover that her magic and power is also being reborn in a new way, is being returned to her in ways that can no longer be contaminated by the masculine and its power drive.  But without her full participation there is the danger of a still birth; then this present cycle of creation will not realize its potential.

First we need to acknowledge the suffering of the feminine, of the earth itself, or the light within the feminine will be hidden from us.  We have to pay the price of our desires to dominate nature, of our acts of hubris.  We are not separate from life, from the winds and the weather.  We are a part of creation and we have to ask her forgiveness, to take responsibility for our attitudes and actions.  We need to go consciously into the next era, recognizing our mistakes.  Only then can we fully honor and hear her.  But there is always the possibility that we will not take this step.  That like defiant children we will not acknowledge the pain we have done to our mother, and will not reclaim the wholeness that she embodies.  Then we will remain within the darkness that is beginning to devour our souls: the empty promises of materialism, the fractured world of fanaticism.  To take a step into maturity is always to acknowledge our mistakes, the wrongs we have done.
 
GIVING BIRTH TO OUR OWN WHOLENESS
It is a real challenge to step into this matrix of the feminine, to honor something so sacred and simple as the real wisdom of life.  But as we stand at the edge of our present global abyss we need this wisdom more than we realize.  How many times has this world been brought to the edge of extinction, how many times in its millions of years has it faced disaster?  Now we have created our own disaster with our ignorance and greed, and the first step is to ask for the help of our mother and to listen to her wisdom.  Then we will find ourselves in a very different environment than that which we presently imagine.  We will discover that there are changes happening in the depths of creation of which we are a part, and that the pollution and pain we have caused are part of a cycle of life that involves its own apparent destruction.  We are not isolated, even in our mistakes.  We are part of the whole of creation even as we have denied the whole.  In our hubris we have separated ourselves from life, and yet we can never be separate.  That is just an illusion of masculine thinking.  There is no such thing as separation.  It is just a myth created by the ego.

Everything is part of the whole, even in its mistakes and disasters.  Once we return to this simple awareness we will discover that there are changes taking place that demand our participation, that need us to be present.  We will see that the axis of creation is shifting and something is coming alive in a new way.  We are being reborn, not in any separate sense but as a complete whole.  We do not have images in our masculine consciousness to think what this could be like, but this does not mean it is not happening.  Something within us 
knows that the present era is over, that our time of separation is coming to an end.  At present we sense it most apparently in the negative, knowing that the images of life no longer sustain us, that consumerism is killing our soul as well as the planet.  And yet there is also something just beyond the horizon, like a dawn that we can sense even if we cannot see.

And this dawn carries a light, and this light is calling to us, calling to our souls if not yet to our minds.  And it is asking for us to welcome it, to bring it into being.  And if we dare to do this, to say “yes” to this dawn, we will discover that this light is within us, and that something within each of us is being brought into being.  We are part of a shared mystery: we are the light hidden within matter that is being awakened.

For too many centuries we have been caught in the myth of separation, until we have become isolated from each other and from the energies of creation that sustain us.  But now there is a growing light that carries the knowing of oneness, the oneness that is alive with the imprint of the divine.  This is what is being given back to us.  This is the light that is awakening.  The light of oneness is a reflection of the divine oneness of life, and we are each a direct expression of this oneness.  And this oneness is not a metaphysical idea but something so simple and ordinary.  It is in every breath, in the wing beat of every butterfly, in every piece of garbage left on city streets.  This oneness is life, life no longer experienced solely through the fragmented vision of the ego, but known within the heart, felt in the soul.  This oneness is the heartbeat of life.  It is creation’s recognition of its Creator.  In this oneness life celebrates itself and its divine origin.

The feminine knows this oneness.  She feels it in her body, in her instinctual wisdom.  She knows its interconnectedness just as she knows how to nourish her own children.  And yet until now this knowing has not carried the bright light of masculine consciousness.  It has remained hidden within her, in the darkness of her instinctual self.  And part of her pain has been that she has not known how to use her knowing in the rational and scientific world we inhabit.  Instead of valuing her own knowledge she has played the games of the masculine, imitating his thinking, putting aside her knowledge of relationships and her sense of the patterns that belong to creation.

Now it is time for this wisdom of the feminine to be combined with masculine consciousness, so that a new understanding of the wholeness of life can be used to help us to heal our world.  Our present scientific solutions come from the masculine tools of analysis, the very mind set of separation that has caused the problems.  We cannot afford to isolate ourself from the whole any more, and the fact that our problems are global illustrate this.  Global warming is not just a scientific image but a dramatic reality.  Combining masculine and feminine wisdom we can come to understand the relationships between the parts and the whole, and if we listen we can hear life telling us how to redress this imbalance.

There is a light within life, known to the alchemists as the 
lumen naturae, that can speak to us, speak to the light of our own awareness.  There is a primal dialogue of light to light, which is known to every healer as she listens to the body of her patient and allows it to communicate with her, allows its light to speak to the light within her.  Through this dialogue of light she comes to know where to place her hands, the herbs that are needed, the pressure points to be touched.  This direct communication is combined with the knowledge of healing she has learned, allowing an alchemy to take place that can reawaken energy within the patient, realign the body and soul.  This is how real healing happens, and what is true for the individual is also true for the world, except that we are both the patient and the healer.  The world’s wounds and imbalance are our wounds and imbalance, and we have within us the knowledge and understanding to realign ourselves and the world.  This is part of the mystery of life’s wholeness.

The feminine can give us an understanding of how all the diverse parts of life relate together, their patterns of relationship, the interconnections that nourish life.  She can help us to see consciously what she knows instinctively, that all is part of a living, organic whole, in which all the parts of creation communicate together, and how each cell of creation expresses the whole in a unique way.  An understanding of the organic wholeness of life belongs to the instinctual knowing of the feminine, but combined with masculine consciousness this can be communicated in words, not just feelings.  We can combine the science of the mind and the senses with inner knowing.  We can be given a blueprint of the planet that will enable us to live in creative harmony with all of life.
 
A NEW MAGIC IS PRESENT
What does it mean to reclaim the feminine?  It means to honor our sacred connection to life that is present in every moment.  It means to realize that life is one whole and begin to recognize the interconnections that form the web of life.  It means to realize that 
everything, every act, even every thought, affects the whole.  And it also means to allow life to speak to us.  We are constantly bombarded by so many impressions, by so much media and advertising, that it is not easy to hear the simple voice of life itself.  But it is present, even within the mirage of our fears and desires, our anxieties and expectations.  And life is waiting for us to listen: it just needs us to be present and attentive.  It is trying to communicate to us the secrets of creation so that we can participate in the wonder that is being born.

We have been exiled from our own home, sold a barren landscape full of soulless fantasies.  It is time to return home, to claim what belongs to us, the sacred life of which we are a part.  This is what is waiting for us, and its signs are appearing around us.  They are not just in our discontent, in our sense that we have been exploited and lied to.  They are in a quality of magic that is beginning to appear, like the wing beats of angels we cannot see but can feel.  We are being reminded of what we really are, of the divine presence that is within ourself and within life.  We long for this magic, for a life that unites the inner and outer worlds.  And this other is already with us in ways we would not expect.  We just have to be open and receptive, to say yes to what we cannot see or touch, but can feel and respond to.  And for each of us this meeting of the worlds will be different, unique, because we are each different, unique.  It is the sacred within life speaking to us in our own language.  Maybe for the gardener it speaks in the magic of plants, for the mother in something unexpected in the ways of her children—always it is something glimpsed but not yet known—a promise we know we have been waiting for.  Children themselves feel it first, but for them it is not so unusual; it is part of the air they breathe, the light they live in.  They have not yet been completely banished, and maybe they will grow into a world in which this magic remains.

The mystery of the divine feminine speaks to us from within her creation.  She is not a distant god in heaven, but a presence that is here with us, needing our response.  She is the divine returning to claim her creation, the real wonder of what it means to be alive.  We have forgotten her, just as we have forgotten so much of what is sacred, and yet she is always part of us.  But now she needs to be known again, not just as a myth, as a spiritual image, but as something that belongs to the blood and the breath.  She can awaken us to an expectancy in the air, to an ancient memory coming alive in a new way.  She can help us to give birth to the divine that is within us, to the oneness that is all around us.  She can help us to remember our real nature.

© 2007 The Golden Sufi Center
 
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher and author. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness (see www.workingwithoneness.org). He has also specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The Golden Sufi Center (http://www.goldensufi.org/). His most recent books are Alchemy of Light, Working with the Primal Energies of Life, and Spiritual Power, How It Works.
For further writings about the divine feminine by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee please visit:
Teachings on the Feminine and the World Soul

SOURCE:
AWNE-header
http://whenthesoulawakens.org/the-divine-feminine_275.html
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"The Divine Feminine" by Sunyata Satchitananda

laurore
Art by Adolphe Bouguereau “L’Aurore”

The Divine Feminine is experiencing a re-emergence—a rebirth into the collective consciousness. For centuries she has been downplayed, demeaned, removed from her place of honor and reverence by the dominant patriarchal culture. We are now in a time when the Divine Feminine is the subject of intense interest and many conversations and she is beginning to receive the veneration and devotion she deserves. The Divine Feminine represents the supreme level of feminine expression and manifestation in the universe. She comprises the best of the feminine in all its measure.

Women subjugated to male thinking and ideals can lack examples and models to nurture their inherent connection to the divine. By considering the stellar qualities of positive, “divine,” archetypes women will find models of thinking and behavior that nurtures spiritual and psychological advancement.

As multifaceted, spirit-embodied beings, we each have a complex psychological and emotional constitution that produces one’s inner health and outer reality. Each one of us, male and female, carries within our psyche both
Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine archetype energies. From these archetypes come our conscious thoughts, plans, desires, goals and agendas.

These archetype energies intertwine and cooperate to produce a uniquely personal expression and experience of life. Sexuality is just one expression in which this confluence of energies distinctly manifests. A female gendered person does not mean that only feminine energy is present. Also, a person’s sex (chromosomes) and the archetypal energies present in the psyche are not dependent on each other.

Developing a harmonious relationship of “inner” masculine and feminine is humanity’s evolutionary challenge and a process of spiritual advancement. It is through the integration and harmonization of one’s inner masculine and feminine that we reach higher, integrated, holistic consciousness.
For Men: it is advantageous to contemplate and integrate the “feminine” archetype qualities listed here into their inner feminine —or “anima.”

By developing healthy, integrated aspects of the divine masculine and feminine within the psyche real progress can be made in gender reconciliation and establishing an egalitarian society.

Goddess, Queen, Priestess, Warrioress, Lover, Wise Woman
The Divine Feminine comprises a group of archetypal energies that drive and inspire one’s consciousness and felt sense of being. SHE is “anima,” the spark of inspiration, catalyst of change, siren of desire. There are many “feminine” archetypes present in the psyche—six have been chosen to represent those with the strongest influence on conducive psychological functioning and one’s psycho-spiritual evolution. By regular conscious feeding of these archetypal energies—weaker aspects are nurtured to fullness.

A Suggested Practice
Those seeking to discover and nurture their expression of the Divine Feminine will want to:
1 Contemplate what the “fullness” of each archetype expression means to you.
2 How do these archetypes currently show up in your life. Look for areas and ways you are already embodying #1. Don’t look for the places you are deficient or lack in the fullness of the archetype. Only look for what you ARE doing.

As you acknowledge and accept what you are already doing, you will notice more places where you already are, or are beginning to, embody the fullness of the archetype. Its like seeing in a dark room, after some time your sight “adjusts,” or expands, and you see more of what was already there. As you contemplate each archetype, you will notice more and more areas where it already exists in your awareness and behavior. This is due to radiation of the archetype energy spreading out in a “blossoming” or unfolding effect within the psyche and happens whenever archetype energy is accessed and stimulated.

Contemplation also strengthens the awareness. Two things are accomplished—you see what is already there, reinforcing what is presently integrated, and you strengthen what is beginning to emerge in your awareness, behavior, and ability.

Any aspects of the archetype that seem “new” can be integrated by imagining:
“what it would feel like?” —to think or behave in this new way and see what shifts of thinking and behaving that produces. As you do, look for circumstances or opportunities that could be positively affected by adopting these higher concepts, principles and motivations and seek to enable their presence.
The Archetypes
 
Goddess
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Artist: Zeng Hao “Kuan Yin”

The Goddess is the archetype that provides transcendent experience, a re-connecting with source, and nurturing of divine essence. Here is a mystery, an incalculable delving into the void—out of which all things come—the unknowable deep abyss that is Love.

The Goddess is the spark of life, the inspirational, dynamic, flowing energy of creation and evolution. She is the primordial first cause, originator, progenitor -Creatrix. Her wisdom is unfathomable, intuitive, untraceable and ever-evolving. Representing the mystery of the unknown and unknowable she ignites Eros, desire and vital force seeking new experience, new associations, new possibilities, new connection out of stagnating, old, technologies and processes.

The Goddess connects one to a constantly elevating transcendent flow of possibility and newness. She inspires one’s soul to new heights of expression and connection with life in its magnitude and fullness. SHE resonates transpersonal, harmonious love for everyone and all beings. The Goddess archetype is the domain of spirituality, mystical experience and intuition.
ParamaShakti-BrahmaVishnuShiva
A woman in the fullness of her Goddess archetype feels like this: She emanates dynamic energy, flowing, ever changing with boundless intuitive wisdom and creativity. Her presence is inspiring and causes one to feel renewed—stimulated and revitalized. She is “immanence” (divine presence) personified, spiritually balanced, transcendentally driven, and emanates love to all without distinction or prejudice. While she is the originator of ideas and solutions she seeks collaboration and consensus in their outworking and manifestation.

Queen (Mother)
Divine-Mother
Perhaps the strongest archetype, yet most overwhelmed with expectation and duty is the Queen (Mother). It is she who is the authority and stewardess of the “living space” and primary care-giver of progeny. To give birth is the most profound accomplishment one may experience, life giving life, nurturing and guiding this life into self-sufficiency and fullness of being is the selfless goal of the mother. The most significant relationship one has is with the mother of one’s birth. No other bond experiences such connection, attachment, and enmeshment.
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It is the Queen who brings order and blessing, benevolence, fertility, balance, compassion, fairness and unconditional love. While the Goddess archetype is the Creatrix -inspiring vision and imagination, the Queen births these into being and actively looks to their growth and prospering. The Queen archetype is the domain of material manifestation, family, “kingdom” (sphere of life influence), also material wealth and abundance.

A woman expressing the fullness of the Queen archetype feels like this: She is concerned with the well-being and happiness of her “household,” and all in her domain of benevolent loving care.


She is a nurturing, stabilizing and calming influence in all circumstances and supports the highest good and soul aligned fulfillment of those in her “household.”
Mother-Mary-11-246x300
Her demeanor is “seasoned” and carries wisdom with it, not adolescent, fickle impulsiveness. She is compassionate, benevolent, deeply caring, expansively loving, evenhanded, calm, persistent, caring, present, and rejoices in the success and happiness of those who enjoy her care and selfless loving.

Priestess
The-Priestess-of-Delphi-John-Collier_jpg
The Priestess archetype is possibly the least known and understood, especially in the present patriarchal culture which dominates and subjugates women‘s spirituality. The Priestess archetype is the domain of intuitive awareness and insight, of secret or “occult” (that which is hidden) knowledge of the unknown, spirit realm.

The Priestess has a magical connection to the great mystery, the pregnant void, mother of all creation, source energy. She is a connector, a facilitator between the material and the spiritual, a mediator of powerful spiritual, psychological and emotional energies that make up who we are. The Priestess calls forth and directs energies between unconscious and conscious awareness, affecting our material and spiritual sense of well being.

A woman in the fullness of the Priestess archetype feels like this: She is the master of her spiritual and material realities showing a confidence of bearing that knows how to call forth from spiritual storehouses what is needed to transmute, transduce, and transform energies that would overtake or topple other women not in this fullness.

She is thoughtful and reflective having depth to her presence and intellect. She knows how to detach from inner and outer storms and how to connect deep inner truths and resources with her grounded experience of life. She sees a higher possibility and attunes to its resonance. She is not easily influenced by faddish impulses and brings power and confidence to difficult situations requiring change or shifting - with grace and insight.
 
Warrioress
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Pallas Athene by Klimt

The Warrioress archetype is the least represented and understood archetype for women—distorted and misunderstood by the dominant patriarchal culture. Any expression of warrioress is met with condemnation and judgment—belittled by immature males.

Warrioress qualities are: decisiveness and clarity of thought, selfless service, genuine humility, strength of experiential “knowing,” courage to do what is “right” even when it is a personal challenge to do so, maintaining and supporting established systems and forms without rigidity, loyal to a greater good beyond personal gain.
She is selfless and maintains a warm, compassionate, appreciative and generous connection to whom she serves. She fights “the good fight” in favor of benefiting the greater good and making life more fulfilling for everyone.

A woman in the fullness of her Warrioress feels like this:

Her grounded confidence, calm demeanor, and strength of stature is evident and unheralded. She contributes without fanfare or directing—or requiring attention. She promptly responds to requests of service showing respect to all, especially to those “elder” to her, as well as other men, women, and children, animals and the earth.

She “knows herself” and finds her place in collaborative projects, finding fulfillment and contentment participating without ambition and competition. The woman in the fullness of the Warrioress makes you feel “safe” while not being oppressed by her support. She is decisive, easily responding from the heart without Ego-personality selfishness.
 
Lover
ichingdao
© Art by Richard Stodart

The Divine Feminine Lover archetype is perhaps the most polarized and distorted by modern society. There is a “Madonna/Whore” dyadic opposition associated with the feminine expression of Eros Love. She is either idealized and set beyond the reach of men in worshipful ignorance or is debased and exploited as wanton in her lust and salaciousness. And yet, the fullness of the Divine Feminine Lover archetype can encompass and surmount both of these immature distinctions.

The Lover archetype has been contorted into a selfish and dense expression that lacks breadth or spirit. Yet the Lover is the meeting and combining of sex and spirit, Eros, the universal urge to bond and unite.

Woman naturally, organically, comprise the alchemy that infuses spirit into flesh with desire—prompting sensual engagement and erotic expression. While most commonly expressed in romantic and sexual form, the Lover archetype also contains a much fuller, divine, expression.

The Lover archetype in its fullness is the primal energy of passion, exquisite engagement with life and ecstatic being: an alive and vivid world view. The domain of the Lover archetype are the primal urges of being: sex, food, well-being, procreation—and is manifested in creative adaptation and initiatory experience.

The Lover is the epitome of Sensual. She exudes sensuality in her mood, look, walk, bearing, and engagement. She is intimately interested in all forms of sensory contact, experiencing the world in all its splendor. She is the archetype of play and healthy erotic embodiment without shame.

A woman in the fullness of the Lover archetype feels like this:
She is sensual. She is open and invites you to touch—her mind, body and soul. She relishes connection with others, specifically the connecting aspect—beyond Ego’s fulfillment needs. She appreciates beauty in all its forms, seeing and feeling beauty in herself, realizing her intrinsic connection and possession of such. She is “in her body” animating it with vital energy through dance, or yoga, or movement. She brings, eros and sensuality and a “joy of life” to any engagement or conversation.
 
Wise Woman
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The Wise Woman elicits visions of the Shaman, one who not only accesses the spiritual realms but brings practical “technology” to those in her “household.” She mines her fathomless intuitive wisdom and miraculously produces solutions and applications that forward advancement and resolution of opposites, challenges, and disparate circumstances. The Wise Woman has been an essential archetype for the survival of her “clan,” community, family and our human species.

The Wise Woman brings an aspect of advocating “right action,” dharma. She is the expression of the Ego in service to, and “right-relationship” with, the higher Self’s power. The Wise Woman observes, tracks, scans, monitors data from all sources (within and without) and channels wisdom leading to “right action.”

The Wise Woman archetype in her fullness feels like this:

She quietly and deftly orchestrates and imparts wise counsel and intuitive direction that shifts the receiver into new possibilities and pathways that reflect “right action” for their life path. She unobtrusively supports the wisdom of others, not seeking acclaim or notice for her contribution. She is thoughtful and reflective and rests in her felt connection with spirit and grounded connection with the earth, Gaia, the source of her wisdom and intuition.

The Wise Woman’s importance of contribution comes to the fore during crisis and intense need. Through the uniquely formed conduit that the Wise Woman embodies, wisdom and “right action” become clear. With the Wise Woman’s contribution we feel confident and assured that our path is the “right” one for us, we respond to life with a calm easefulness that transitions crisis and change with grace and wisdom.
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"Living From the Heart: Demoting Your Brain as CEO" by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

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We all have a thought that can slip in and become our one worst enemy. Sometimes it’s “I can’t,” and other times it’s “I tried.” Either way, these simple thoughts can sabotage our best intentions. I see the “I can’t” and “I tried” people in my office often. They start a diet, and fail; begin an exercise program, then quit; make a vow to do something positive for themselves, but get deterred in one way or another and get off course. We all have a little bit of this in us, but the truth is that there is nothing more powerful than knowing exactly who you are, and that includes getting to know those dark little voices in your head.

And where do they come from? Your overactive brain, that’s where. And guess where they don’t stand a chance? Your under-utilized heart.

Is it time to demote your brain as CEO of your life?
As women, multi-tasking and doing it all, we have allowed our brains to take over and run the show. In many ways, this has been necessary to get us where we are today, but at some point, our brains got a little bit power-happy. We’ve got checklists for our checklists. Our phones and other devices are constantly beeping and dinging and vibrating to remind us that we are continuously consumed with obligations and many of us have the idea that we need to take care of everyone and do everything perfectly.
It’s simply not true. It’s also not worth the price.

I see women in their 30s, 40s, 50s — women in the prime of their lives — in my office with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and dizziness all stemming from the stress hormones released in the body due to overactive perseverating brains that so often can sabotage success and happiness.

After seeing these patterns repeatedly, I decided it was time to share what I’ve learned about how to help women stop living entirely from their heads and remember how to live from their hearts. I want to help women understand their hearts, prioritize their hearts, and know exactly what it means to care for their hearts on every level, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious, from direct physical heart health to managing the emotional repercussions of life in the 21st century. I want you know how your heart works, and how your heart can work for you.

Coming out January 24, 2013, is Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Women’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life. With this book, every woman can come into my office and let herself be transformed. Learn what it really means to live from the heart. Here’s an excerpt:

Living from the heart feels much different than living from the head. When you live from your heart, you feel at peace, at ease, and in control of yourself because of a deep inner knowing. You lead with love. You learn how to care for yourself and love yourself. You relax because you know that everything is going to be okay. Living from the heart coaxes your body back into balance. When the heart is in control, your body finds optimum health and starts acting like a well-oiled machine instead of a broken-down car.

We are so used to letting our heads be in charge of our lives that when we start reacting with our hearts instead, it feels like a miracle, like a whole new existence. And it is! The heart is the center of our body’s universe and the center of our feelings. This is as it should be. Your head is way off at the edge of your body. You can’t balance when you are living from there. Your head isn’t grounded in the reality of your body. Let your heart be the center and watch your whole life transform.

When we compartmentalize our lives and forget what matters most to us, we tend to listen to those critical voices in our heads — those nefarious “I can’ts” and “I trieds,” and suddenly we are less than we could be. Every aspect of your life can and will influence your heart, and it is simply a matter of meticulously figuring out exactly who you are.

For example, is “I can’t exercise” true? Or is the truth actually, “I can’t exercise in the morning because I’m not a morning person.” If that’s you, then that’s you — and that’s okay. But there is a way exercise can work in your life. Is “I tried to be an artist but I’ll have to settle for a job I don’t like” the truth? Or is the real truth, “My previous attempts at making a living as an artist didn’t work, but I can still find a way to channel that part of me and call myself an artist”? Both “I can’t” and “I tried” statements are actually indicators of behavior patterns that you can observe and change. When you see them this way, then you can make different choices. When you empower yourself with your own personal handbook for your heart, your own personal Heart Book, then suddenly you have taken over the wheel of your life. You will be the one in the driver’s seat.

Living from the heart means really knowing who you are, knowing what makes you happy, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing what makes you tick, and understanding that while you are not perfect, you can be as perfect as possible. That is my wish and challenge for you: Live truthfully, authentically, and honestly, drawing strength and consolation from work, family, love, and health. Cultivate and nurture those things, not from your head, where logic always rules, but from your heart, where you can feel what is right and real for you. Live that way, and chances are things are going to be just fine.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-suzanne-steinbaum/living-from-the-heart_b_2528372.html
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"The Sacred Feminine Today" by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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Artwork: Shiloh Sophia McCloud, visionary artist,
—-http://www.shilohsophiastudios.com

Published online on The Huffington Post

Today there is a resurgence of interest in the sacred feminine. The immense popularity a few years ago of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code spoke not just to our enjoyment of a good thriller but also to the mystery of the divine feminine in Western culture, which is the real thread of the book’s chase, from the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa to the search for the grail and the heritage of Mary Magdalene. We know now how the feminine mysteries were present in Greek culture and myth, as imaged in the story of Persephone, and enacted for more than 2,000 years in the initiations at Eleusis. In the early Christianity women had spiritual equality, and the significance of Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved more than others, being the first to see the risen Christ, points to the esoteric significance of the feminine. We have also learned how the power of the sacred feminine was repressed by the Church fathers, and Mary Magdalene purposely misidentified as a prostitute.

As we awaken from the repressions of the patriarchy we need to reclaim the sacred feminine both for our individual spirituality and for the well being of the planet. Our ecological devastation points to a culture that has forgotten the sacredness of the earth and the divine mother, as well as denied the feminine’s deep understanding of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all of life. And our individual life, so often caught in addictions and starved of real meaning, has a hunger to reconnect with the soul, which has always had a feminine quality. And linking our own journey and that of the world is the ancient feminine figure of the World Soul, the Anima Mundi, the spiritual presence within creation.

So what does it mean to reclaim the sacred feminine? How can we feel it in our bodies and in our daily life? Every woman knows this mystery in the cycles of her body, which are linked to the greater rhythms of life, the cycles of the moon. And she feels it in a calling to reconnect with the power and wisdom she carries within her, a deep knowing that is not found in books but belongs to her very nature.

The feminine carries a natural understanding of the interconnectedness of life, how all the parts belong together. She instinctively knows how to respond to the needs of her children, how she feels for their well being even when they are not physically present. And in her body she carries the greatest mystery, the potential to give birth: to bring the light of a soul into this world.

The feminine is the matrix of creation. And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born. Regardless of whether an individual woman has the physical experience of giving birth, she shares in this primal mystery and is empowered by it. Yet our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love.

What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself. When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.

We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation. We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish, and transform it. The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and return us to a relationship with the wholeness of life.

Of course men also have a need to relate to the sacred feminine, to be nourished by her inner and outer presence. Without the sacred feminine nothing new can be born, and we see around us the sad plight of a masculine culture destroying its own ecosystem, unable to even agree on the steps needed to limit global warming. We all need to reclaim the living power and transformative potential of the sacred feminine, to feel her connection to the soul and the earth. And we desperately need the ancient wisdom of the soul of the world to help us at this time of global crisis. Many times before the world has been through an ecological crisis, and the world soul carries within her the memories and wisdom we need. But if we remain cut off in a mindset that sees this a problem that we need to fix with the same masculine attitude that has caused the problem, we will just compound the crisis. Only through working together with the sacred feminine can we heal and transform the world. And this means to honor her presence within our bodies and our soul, in the ground we walk on and the air we breathe.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/llewellyn-vaughanlee/international-womens-day_b_1327637.html


Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has written about the feminine and the role of women in our present time in The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has written about the feminine and the role of women in our present time in “The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul.”
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"Divine Feminine" by Jeannie Zandi

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Longing, Piercing and the Dark
“You cut me open and I keep on bleeding love.”
–Leona Lewis, Bleeding Love (modern pop song)
 
Not long ago I dreamed friends wanted me to come upstairs from a dark basement to meet some people. I ascended, realizing as I climbed that my pupils were fully dilated as if still in the dark. Reaching the people, my pupils had not changed and I could not see. Moreover, I had no active principle in me, receptively present to the depth of my being, which was bottomless night. At their mercy, I was unprotected even by the veil of a social face. Blind to the lit world and ecstatic, I turned toward them as an ambassador of the gorgeous dark, entirely open and given.

We are afraid of the dark. We are afraid of death, sickness, need, longing, grief, rotting, decaying and the void. What is hidden within us in darkness, and what we have grown to fear and loathe, is the realm of the Divine Feminine. To understand Her through linear methods is impossible: only through experience, through initiation, are we allowed to come close. Many are now being called to Her, through illness, tragedy or the draining of meaning from our lives, because her wisdom is critical to the healing and wholeness of our souls and our world.

The Divine Feminine doesn’t oppose the masculine, but embraces and blesses the whole of everything. Qualities of the Divine Feminine are present in both women and men, and are needed to draw us into our depths and thus our full spiritual potential. Speaking of the feminine clearly and freshly is challenging: she is hidden, many of her aspects have been so denigrated we believe they are valueless, and many concepts surrounding her have become cliches and linked with a wounding fury. Yes, there is pain where the feminine has been desecrated, burned and tortured, where her wisdom has been buried under derision and fear. This must be honored. Yet we cannot afford to splinter into dualistic battles when reclaiming these energies is so critical to the healing of the whole. We have all lost from her banishment and we all stand to gain when the energies of the Divine Feminine are rewoven into our lives.

Reclaiming this ground is not easy, much of it gunked up with dismissal, devaluation, and contempt, especially the pathways to Her transformative powers. The way is dark, guides are few and the harpies are loud and convincing — they live inside and outside us and therefore sound real. When we travel into these lands within ourselves, the conditioned negativity rises and we feel terrible about ourselves, which feels like a sure sign to turn back. However, the deep space of feminine receptivity and unknowing, her understanding of the interrelatedness of life, and her nourishing waters and sheltering dark are so vital for the healing of our world that it is worth traveling back through the territory of thou shalt not throw like a girl, cry like a girl, need like a girl or love like a girl.

Softening and opening is a big part of where we go when we journey to the feminine — what is softer and more open than an accepting vagina or the warm inside of a fluidfilled womb? We are meant to live open, and we must reclaim our way there. So many beautiful faces are hardened in stress, over-mentality, protection and separation. It is possible, without the world changing a bit, for us to re-inhabit these sacred waters and hold this shelter and healing out to each other as sanctuary.

I can hear the protests of all who carry the wounds of rape, abuse and humiliation. Soften, are you nuts??? It’s true we are vulnerable to forces that don’t know what to do with an open soft place other than colonize, plunder, poke and humiliate it. And it is possible to learn the ways of the warrior alongside the ways of the flower and restore what has been scared into hiding its rightful throne, manifested on this planet. The focus of reclamation seems to dance of its own accord back and forth between the poles of heart and warrior, reweaving a tapestry of wholeness — the stronger and clearer I get, the softer and more open I can be. As I explore the strength of my physicality and groundedness, the clarity of seeing what is true, and a right to my voice, I witness a shift then to softening, receptivity, and the ability to open to interdependence.

Denying the soft depth of the feminine mystery affects all of life – when we separate life from its holy essence we cut the world off from energy that can nourish, heal and transform it. A disembodied god and a world in which matter is unholy is devastating to the feminine. It is injurious to cast a whole realm of human experience, much of which is native to women, into a dark cavern of banishment. We are so confused about reality that we see our instinctive wisdom as pathology, attack ourselves for it and try to rid ourselves of it, leaving us with a deep mistrust of ourselves that makes us vulnerable to manipulation and control.

Here I will describe a couple vital initiatory aspects of the Divine Feminine as they have been coming to consciousness in my experience: longing (opening to a burning ache for something it seems we need) and piercing (meeting an experience wholly and allowing it to penetrate us to the core). These are aspects that have been somewhat vilified in a culture obsessed with mastery. To reclaim wholeness is not only to reclaim the sword of clarity and strength, it is also then to use what we have learned to set a throne for a kind of vulnerable softening and opening that replenishes our souls, relationships and world from within.

Longing
In an auditorium, face wet with tears, I watch my friend Ty passionately play tablas, and listen to Krishna Das sing from his heart devoted to God. A burning ache in my heart, for Man, for Masculine, for God, opens a well inside that I have grown to adore in its bittersweet mindless black depth. I have experienced it many times: as a child trying to kiss my brother’s coat fast enough to avoid his punch, longing to be invited into the mysterious world of his boy room, games, and friends; lying in bed, my mother ironing in the hall, wanting her without a way to reach in my emotionally distant family; sobbing when the distance between my heart and my boyfriend’s seemed impossible to cross; home from college locked in an embrace with my soon-to-leave father who was divorcing my mom; and on mushrooms facing a terrifying darkness no one else seemed to notice that filled the bar.

Our culture calls this something to get over. We keep ourselves from these doorways to the dark, and with derision born of fear or in the name of “helping,” encourage others not to go either. Discomfort (the first sign of impending transformation) is seen as something to control: figure it out, fix it and thereby eliminate it. Mind and will partner in brutalizing this soft underbelly, hardening to keep it away, making ourselves less affect-able and above reproach from the wandering police of the hyper-masculine within us and without.
Anything but soften, open and allow it.

But we are affect-able. The web of wedded creation uses us to long through for itself. Women are wired for this softening and opening and it has everything to do with our longing for the Holy. We don’t need more therapy to eradicate this. No matter how many sessions we have on our dads, brothers or boyfriends, the Feminine will ALWAYS long for the Masculine, and we are not wounded or whacked or missing something because of it. Just as the iron filing is drawn to the magnet, the electron is drawn to the proton and the gravity of the earth holds our sweet bodies to her, we were born to long. Longing is the Feminine expression of divine love.

In all this pining I found why Hafiz wrote: “Let your loneliness cut more deeply.” In early experiences of burning for what I could not have, a fullness rose out of my emptied cup to fill it to the brim. Out of the fertile void, shaky young places would become sturdy. What worked on a small scale might be magnificent if I were completely denied satisfaction! So I prayed arrogantly, “Give me nothing that I want.” An unimaginable dark night ensued. Surrounded by and filled with desolation, I felt separate from God and was forced to plumb my own bottomless well. Longing is a guide that leads us into a potent purification for the heart wanting to be emptied of all but gold.

Through longing, the interconnected web of life expresses relatedness. Not only are there young places to burn off and a divine alchemy that fills the empty heart, but longing has a vital role in our relationships. We ARE inextricably related. Where we know this, we relate in an interlaced and interdependent way. When one acts as though he or she is separate, the whole web feels it, and we feel it in our bodies as longing. We are wired to call each other back into connectedness. We might not know how yet, but we have the wiring.

Piercing
Pain (emotional, physical or spiritual) is a piercing for those of us willing to open to being divinely mastered. We have been taught the opposite — that we are to master with mind and will. Granted this can be useful when a greater need is present, such as saving a life, or defending a village. After the battle though, returning to a tender human heartfulness serves the return to the community. We have overdone this hardening to our detriment and forgotten the rituals of a softening return. A valuable skill during times of great challenge has become a way of life. We harden and cut off the energetic exchange with the matrix of life, sealing ourselves into cells of separateness as our unhealed pain throbs inside, creating illness, violence, dullness and misery.

To be pierced is to allow the shell of protection to break, exposing and drinking the elixir of our innermost. Last year I had some work done on a frozen shoulder which entailed the doctor sticking a 5″ needle into the joint, poking around and injecting fluid. I had witnessed the progress in my shoulder and was committed to the process. Yet as I lay on her table during the final treatment, tears streaming down my face from the pain, I considered for a moment clocking her and running out of the room. Instead I yielded beyond my concept of an ability to do so, allowing this piercing to have me. I let it take and tenderize me until I was powdered. Never had I felt so given, so crushed, and so filled with Beauty.

After I told this story during a talk, someone brought me a copy of a photograph of Bernini’s sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.” St. Teresa reclines in a totally blissful swoon, mouth open, head back, eyelids half-mast, hands and feet limp while a curlyheaded young angel with a loving smile stands above her, holding the spear of God. Divinity piercing the human body, heaven piercing earth, spirit piercing matter. St. Teresa describes her experience as follows:

“I
saw in his hand a long spear of gold and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails. When he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God that I pray God of his goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.”

This was the experience of that hour on the table and the same experience during the birth of my daughter, when the pain of contraction came minutes apart, and I crouched howling like a dog. Arrogant about my ability to handle pain, I yielded to the contractions. However, I was unprepared for the final moment when Sophia’s head dropped and a force like the muzzle-loading of a musket moved through my body from the top down. Until then there had been some illusion of control. Feeling the power of the force that would birth my child, I instinctively bowed the lowest internal bow I could imagine, knowing I had come in contact with the terrible power of the Lady (I was going to write “Lord” but it’s fun to play in here — we have stripped ladies of this terrible power, though anyone who has been in relationship with one surely knows it.). Pierced and mastered, I was a portal through which delicious clouds of revitalizing, nourishing feminine energy bathed the room.

To long and to be pierced, to open to the dark and be mastered, to take the doors offered to Her mysteries and to fling them wide open in a passionate embrace with the Holy, spilling divine healing juicy energy to the four corners of the earth. We can bring this wisdom back if we are willing.
——–
(c) Copyright 2010, Jeannie Zandi, all rights reserved.
Originally published in The Sun Monthly, May, 2010.

Click Here for more of Ms. Zandi's writings:
Jeannie Zandi
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"Turning the World right side up: The Feminine Remedy" by Marilyn Nyborg

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YIN SYMBOL

The concept of the Sacred Feminine begins with the obvious but neglected truth that everything on Earth is born of the Feminine. The Feminine Principle of life is characterized by qualities that have been identified culturally as the domain of women, but in truth are an aspect of wholeness, in humanity and in life.

These qualities of the Feminine Principle are typically described as interconnection, unconditional love, nurturing, heart, inclusion, cooperation, receptivity, being, allowing, relatedness, intuition, oneness, and compassion. These qualities of wholeness have been at risk, being undervalued and nearly lost, under centuries of culture characterized by the unbalanced masculine love of power.

The qualities of the Feminine Principle have increasingly been recognized as urgently needed to address the imbalances and global crises threatening our survival on the planet at this time in history. But this cannot be done by women alone. Men must also revalue, reclaim and integrate the Feminine qualities of wholeness within themselves. Many men of heart have already done so.

Why call the Feminine “sacred?” Many are choosing to call the Feminine Principle “sacred”– i.e., the “Sacred Feminine”– to indicate the multiple life-affirming dimensions of the Feminine and its inherent essence of seeing all life as sacred, as interconnected and as unique expressions of one vast wholeness. The essence of the sacred feminine is about birthing and nurturing life. If we are to survive on the planet, this essence must be given fuller respect expression, and integration.

Daughters of the Patriarch and the daughters of evolution.
A patriarch is a man who exercises autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. This is a Greek word, a composition of πατήρ (pater) meaning “father” and ρχων (archon) meaning “leader”, “chief”, “ruler”, “king”, etc.

Feminism comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies concerned with gender inequalities and equal rights for women. How do we define ourselves as women? I think the Sarah Palin phenomenon has really brought this into question!!

Men and women cannot be simply defined by their assigned gender apparatus. We know for example, that men and women DO think and act differently. Viva le difference!!

The psychological and emotional differences are at a deeper level than the physical. We are all or most of us, born as either the son or daughter of the patriarch.

What does that mean? It means we have either taken on the roles assigned to us by eons of male domination OR we have through self introspection chosen to identify ourselves with values outside of those handed down though cultural and religious doctrine.

Both son’s and daughters of the dominator model have been restricted in their emotional and social responses to life. Following rigid traditions, rules AND roles men will be men…..and women have their place. Even as our culture has progressed we find daughters of the patriarch still play within the lines of what is expected of a woman and or, we see really powerful women, strong bright women like Sarah Palin following the male model for success. First rule: play like one of the boys.

Then there are the evolved men and women, who play outside the lines that were drawn for them. They are not confined to developing only one side or the other of their brains, personalities and emotions.

But have explored and begun to honor the fullness of their beings. What does that look like? They are not locked in to roles….like “my better half” which implies we are only living from half of ourselves.

Instead they have explored and embraced a sense of wholeness. For men it is the freedom to explore and express their sensitivities and feelings. Often teased or beaten out of them growing up in a man’s world, or being sent off to war where the sensitive is replaced by insensitivity causing them to close down anything at the feeling level.

A recent study showed in corporations that men ARE embracing feminine responses in their management styles quite successfully. While at the same time women continue to be seen as weak when they come from their innate modes of operating.

Women who break from the mole they were expected to live value their emotions and do not hold them as a sign of weakness. They trust their intuition and by embracing their inner masculine bring these qualities into action. Oprah demonstrates this integration in which her deepest feminine qualities are powered by her masculine thrust and manifestation.

There are extremes on both sides: Those who live only by rules from outside of themselves and those who have thrown out all tradition putting themselves first in everything. Somewhere in moderation we can respectfully connect and grow in our wholeness while maintaining the best of both.

In doing so, we can come together in partnership and can contribute so much more to building a world of peace.

HER STORY
From Thom Hartmann’s book The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

“We have now traced the history of women from Paradise to the nineteenth century and have heard nothing through the long roll of the ages but the clink of their fetters.” – Lady Jane Wilde l821 to l896

A friend who’s a psychiatrist with training in neutrochemistry once joked to me, “The most dangerous drug in the world is testosterone.” History suggests he is right.

Exhaustive analysis of “pre-historic” cultures, such as done by Riane Eisler and others, indicates that in virtually all Older Cultures the women were of equal status with the men, and in a few they were even in charge. One theory for why this was is that women uniquely bring life into the world, and it may not have been until humans moved from hunting//gathering to herding/agriculture that they began to understand genetics. The women ran the show because they controlled life itself, producing life from their bodies.

When everybody figured out that the men had a role to play in the process, however, during the early herding times, some of the men pulled off a power grab, converting the gods that were worshipped from female to male, and asserting control over the fertility of women the same way they controlled the fertility of a field or a flock of sheep. The men took over.

At the same time, testosterone-driven behaviors came to dominate the beginnings of our Younger Culture: aggression, competition, domination, warfare.

When European missionaries taught Australia Aborigine hunter/gatherers how to play “football” back in the early 1900’s , the Aboriginal children played until both sides had equal scores; that was when the game was over, in their mind, and it boggled the British missionaries who taught them the game. The missionaries worked for over a year to convince the children that there should be winners and losers. The children lived in a matrilineal society that valued cooperation; the Englishmen came from a patriarchal
society, which valued domination.

The Iroquois had figured this out a thousand years or more ago; only women in the tribe could vote on most issues. As a result, decisions regarding relations with other tribes were more often made in the context of “what will work for our children?” rather than “who wins/” or considerations of pride, power or conquest.

Similarly, we find that populations are exploding in virtually every nation of the world where women are dominated, treated like cattle or goods, or exploited and controlled. The men in such countries are making the decisions, and one of the male values is “have many sons to build the biggest army” [and, of course, another common one is “have sex whenever you want, with whomever you want”].

On the other hand, in those nations where women have relatively equal position and power with men, there are lower birth rates, often even to the point of zero population growth, as has been achieved in many of the countries of Northern Europe. In virtually every country of the world we can see this equation demonstrated: male domination equals population explosion; relative male-female equality equals sustainable populations.

In this regard, you could say that the women’s rights movement is truly a HUMAN rights movement.

So another solution to this mess we find ourselves in is to give power back to women in all realms, including the social, familial, religious, military and business worlds.”

SOURCE:
Wwtw3

ABOUT MARILYN NYBORG
http://womenwakingtheworld.com/marilyn-rosenbrock-nyborg-bio/
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“You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” by Galen Pearl

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Game of Thrones fans will recognize this line, spoken to Jon Snow repeatedly by the wildling woman he fell in love with, and who died in his arms with these words on her lips.

The universe has conspired lately to remind me that, like Jon Snow, everything I think I know ... I don’t. No matter where I turn – to family, to friends old and new, to martial arts, to life in general – I am confronted by my absolute ignorance of, well, everything. It is disorienting and decidedly uncomfortable. Sometimes scary. At the same time, it is intriguing, exciting, and occasionally even fun.

It is, spiritually speaking, where the action is. Outside of my comfort zone, on the razor’s edge. It is where I see most clearly, if I’m willing to look, my habitual patterns, my stories, my insecurities and fear. It is where I’m given the opportunity to experience the raw beauty and fierce grace of reality, to taste the nectar of truth, to be stripped of all my defenses and emerge pure and powerful. If only for a moment....

It sounds sublime, and it is, but it is also messy, like diving beneath the lotus blossom to its roots in the muck. The muck is where the flower grows. And so it is with us. When we embrace all life offers, excluding nothing, seeing the sacred in every moment, no matter what, then our true nature grows rooted in the depths of darkness to bloom brilliant in the light.

The following poem was written a couple of years ago to support a friend going through a hard time. But today, it speaks to me to give me courage to step into the mystery.

The ground beneath our feet
That we think strong
Is but an icy crust
Lightning cracks race
Pop and thunder
We dare not move
It matters not
We will fall through into our destiny
And remember once again
That what dies 
Was never real
And we are 
                    laughing
                                     free

SOURCE:
http://galenpearl.blogspot.com
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"On This New Thanksgiving Day" by Matt Licata

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On this new Thanksgiving day, it is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come – that another opportunity will be given to witness a sunrise, to spend a moment with those we love, to be astonished at the crystals in the newly fallen snow, to truly behold the majesty of the deer on our morning walk.

But another part of us knows it is so fragile here, so precarious, so outrageously precious and at times so heartbreaking, and that this opening into life will not be here for much longer. Recognizing this, let us give thanks on this new day by no longer postponing our time here, by not waiting any longer. By remembering what's most important to us and what it is that truly matters. By doing whatever we can to help others, by listening to them so that they feel felt, by holding them as we enter into the mystery together.

At the end of this life, it is unlikely we'll be asking if we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, manifested all the things we dreamed we wanted, played it safe, perfected ourselves, spent more time at work, or achieved all our inner and outer goals.

In that moment, there may be only one burning question left: how well did I love?

Did I pause each day to behold the utter miracle of just one unfolding here and now moment? Was I willing to take a risk, to feel more, to care deeply about this life, to allow another to truly matter to me, and to allow myself to feel awe at what is here? Did I stay close with the untamed, unresolvable movement of sweet and fierce grace as it took form as the others in my life, and as the wisdom flow of imagination, emotion, and sensation as it surged out of the stars and into my experience? Was I willing to fall in love, to truly fall in love with this life, and equally participate in the breaking of this one wild heart?

Did I spend my time here wisely, wandering with my fellow travelers as a humble servant of the mystery, open to the parting of the veil and the revelation of the temple that this place truly is?

What is it that remains unlived… for you? And what will you give to know this? To break the trance of postponement, to once and for all end the spell of unworthiness, and the dream that there is some love coming tomorrow. To remember what is most important and to organize your life around that.

The bounty and the harvest of thanksgiving is upon you, always already here, the true Kingdom, erupting in the here and now as the cells and the beating of your very own heart.

I hope I make it all the way through this sweetest of ever thanksgiving days, but if for some reason I do not, this would have been enough. I have been given so much more than enough.
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"What Is the Sacred Feminine? An excerpt from Voices of the Sacred Feminine" edited by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate by Amy Peck

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The Sacred Feminine is a concept that recognizes that “God” ultimately is neither anthropomorphically male or female but a Divine Essence (Goddessence) beyond form and duality – an essence that is in balance and unification of masculine and feminine principles – a dynamic interdependent  “Immanence”  that pervades all life. The Asian Yin Yang icon is a good representation of this idea.

However, seeing the divine as an abstract concept of omnipresent consciousness, or immanence, is a challenge for most humans. We all have a basic human need to put the inexplicable into a tangible form in order to explore our relationship to it. Thus we tend to anthropomorphize or attribute human characteristics to the unknowable. In other words, we name and assign form to an abstract concept in order to relate to it at our level of ability. So the Divine Essence or Absolute has become a “Father” God figure that we were taught to visualize, pray to and imagine having a personal relationship with.

Unfortunately, seeing the vast, infinite, absolute and indescribable Goddessence only in the form of masculine metaphor and symbol has severely limited our human spiritual potential and greatly hindered our ability to live in peace and balance on this earth.

For the last several thousand years the dominant religious belief systems of our world have been patriarchal which sanctioned societal ethics that elevated God the Father over Mother Earth, and man over woman.

But it hasn’t always been this way! It is vital to remember that for eons before patriarchy, throughout the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages of pre “his-story,”  there were worldwide “Mother/Female and Earth” honoring societies that lived in a more egalitarian, sustainable and peaceful culture that thrived without war for thousands of years. It is urgent to rediscover and exhume the lost memory of those cultures to inform us and inspire us to construct a more stable foundation for society’s future.

Remembering these lost matrifocal civilizations authenticates and validates the significance of the Sacred Feminine and the importance of women and female values as we rebuild a healthier global unity.

It is time to balance the masculine and feminine principles within our belief systems, our religious doctrines, our cultural ethos, and within ourselves. To gain this equilibrium, we must shift our focus for a while to the idea of Universal Motherhood – we need to explore the metaphor of the Mother, the symbol of the Goddess and the model of Priestess. We need to bring to light the archaeological evidence of ancient Goddesses and their stories. We need to emphasize “Motherly” love, wisdom, compassion and creativity as well as respect sexuality as natural and sacred. We must empower women and celebrate their contribution to spirituality, culture and society. And we must awaken ourselves, teach our children and educate our men.

Awareness of the Sacred Feminine will aid us to appreciate the feminine nature in women and men. Awareness of a Universal Motherhood will help us to respect the earth and Mother Nature. Awareness of the Feminine Principle will help us honor women’s bio-physical and emotional passages through life, and to help all people (women particularly) to attain healthy self-esteem. And this awareness will encourage all persons to find inner balance and peace, thereby increasing respect and tolerance of each other – which ultimately will promote greater world harmony.

It is time to honor the Sacred Feminine. “Honoring the Sacred Feminine”, in the spiritual sense, means valuing the feminine principle, along with the masculine principle, as equal and fundamental aspects of the Divine. From a planetary level, it means respecting and healing our Mother Earth. From a cultural standpoint, it means revivifying the archetype of the Goddess through entertainment and the arts and using language that gives equal emphasis to the pronouns “she” and “her”. In the societal sense, it means re-creating the role of Priestess, and respecting the contribution of women in business, science, art and politics, as well as the home and community. In a religious view, it means offering ceremony and service that reaffirms our connection to the divine, the Goddess, the earth and each other. In the human sense, honoring the Sacred Feminine means especially valuing the innate worth of woman’s mind, body and soul, as well as appreciating the “feminine” qualities in the male character.

SOURCE:
https://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/2014/12/07/what-sacred-feminine
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Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate is being published by Changemakers Books in November 2014. ISBN: 978-1-78279-510-0 (Paperback) £13.99 $24.95, EISBN: 978-1-78279-509-4 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99.
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"Bishop John Shelby Spong On: The Resurrection"

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The Christian Faith was born in the experience that we have come to call Easter. It was this Easter experience that invested Jesus with a sense of ultimacy. It caused his followers to regard his teaching as worthy of being preserved. It was the reason that Saint Paul could write, “if Christ has not been raised then your faith is in vain.” Clearly without Easter there would be no Christianity. That assertion hardly seems debatable. At this point I discover that I am at one with the most literal fundamentalists.

What is debatable, however, is the question of what the experience of Easter really was. Here the distance between the Christianity of biblical scholarship and the Christianity of the fundamentalists opens and begins to widen. Fundamentalists are quite sure of their truth. On Easter the crucified Jesus, who was laid in the grave as a deceased man on Good Friday, was by the mighty act of God, restored to life on Easter. He had thus broken the power of death for all people. If the body of Jesus was not physically restored to life, the fundamentalists claim, then Easter is fraudulent. There can be no compromise here. Those who waver on this foundational truth of Christianity have, according to this perspective, abandoned the essential core of their faith tradition. Well, my only comment on this would be to borrow the words from an old song and say, “It ain’t necessarily so!”

When one reads the New Testament in the order in which these books were written, a fascinating progression is revealed. Paul, for example, writing between the years 50 and 64 or some 20 to 34 years after the earthly life of Jesus came to an end, never describes the resurrection of Jesus as a physical body resuscitated after death. There is no hint in the Pauline corpus that one, who had died, later walked out of his grave clothes, emerged from the tomb and was seen by his disciples.

What Paul does suggest is that Easter meant that God had acted to reverse the verdict that the world had pronounced on Jesus by raising Jesus from death into God. It was, therefore, out of God in a transforming kind of heavenly vision that this Jesus then appeared to certain chosen witnesses. Paul enumerates these witnesses and, in a telling detail, says that this was the same Jesus that Paul himself had seen. No one suggests that Paul ever saw a resuscitated body. The Pauline corpus later says, “If you then have been raised with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Please note that the story of the Ascension had not been written when these Pauline words were formed. Paul did not envision the Resurrection as Jesus being restored to life in this world but as Jesus being raised into God. It was not an event in time but a transcendent and transforming truth.

Paul died, according to our best estimates, around the year 64 C.E. The first Gospel was not written until the early 70’s. Paul never had a chance to read the Easter story in any Gospel. The tragedy of later Christian history is that we read Paul through the lens of the Gospels. Thus we have both distorted Paul and also confused theology.

When Mark, the first Gospel, was written the Risen Christ never appears. The last time Jesus is seen comes when his deceased body is taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. Mark’s account of the Resurrection presents us with the narrative of mourning women confronting an empty tomb, meeting a messenger who tells them that Jesus has been raised and asking these women to convey to the disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Mark then concludes his Gospel with a picture of these women fleeing in fear, saying nothing to anyone (16:1-8). So abrupt was this ending that people began to write new endings to what they thought was Mark’s incomplete story. Two of those endings are actually reproduced in the King James Version of the Bible as verses 9-20. But thankfully, these later creations have been removed from the text of Mark in recent Bibles and placed into footnotes. The sure fact of New Testament scholarship is that Mark’s Gospel ended without the Risen Christ ever being seen by anyone.

Both Matthew, who wrote between 80-85, and Luke, who wrote between 88-92, had Mark to guide their compositions. Both changed, heightened and expanded Mark. It is fascinating to lift those changes into consciousness and to ask what was it that motivated Matthew and Luke to transform Mark’s narrative. Did they have new sources of information? Had the story grown over the years in the retelling?

The first thing to note is that Matthew changes Mark’s story about the women at the tomb. First, the messenger in Mark becomes a supernatural angel in Matthew’s story. Next Matthew says the women do see Jesus in the garden. They grasp him by the feet and worship him. This is the first time in Christian history that the Resurrection is presented as physical resuscitation. It occurs in the 9th decade of the Christian era. It should be noted that it took more than 50 years to begin to interpret the Easter experience as the resuscitated body of the deceased Jesus. When Matthew presents the story of the risen Jesus to the disciples, it is on a mountaintop in Galilee where he appears out of the sky armed with heavenly power. Recall once again that when Matthew wrote this narrative the story of Jesus’ ascension had not yet entered the tradition.
Luke follows Mark’s story line about the women at the tomb, stating that they do not see Jesus in the garden on Easter morning. Luke, however, has turned Mark’s messenger into two angelic beings. He has also transferred the locale of Easter to Jerusalem specifically denying Mark’s words spoken through the messenger that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Luke has heightened dramatically the physicality of Jesus’ resuscitated body. In Luke, the resuscitated Jesus walks, talks, eats, teaches and interprets. He also appears and disappears at will. He invites the disciples to handle his flesh. He asserts that he is not a ghost. Finally in order to remove this physically resuscitated Jesus from the earth, Luke develops the story of Jesus’ Ascension.

Even in the Ascension narrative, however, Luke is not consistent. In the last chapter of his Gospel the Ascension takes place on Easter Sunday afternoon. In the first chapter of Acts, which Luke also writes, the Ascension takes place 40 days after Easter. Whereas the messenger in Mark, who becomes an angel in Matthew, directs the disciples to Galilee for a meeting with the risen Christ, Luke specifically denies any Galilean resurrection tradition. He orders the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are endowed with power from on high. The narrative is clearly growing.

In John, the Fourth Gospel (95-100), the physicality of the Resurrection is even more enhanced. In the 20th chapter of this Gospel Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene in the garden and says to her, “Mary do not cling to me.” One cannot cling to something that is non-physical. Then John suggests that Jesus ascends immediately into heaven before appearing, presumably out of heaven, that night to the disciples, who are missing Thomas. Though Jesus appears able to enter an upper room in which the windows have been closed and the doors locked, he is once again portrayed as being quite physical. This physical quality is further enhanced a week later when Jesus makes a second appearance to the disciples, this time with Thomas present. It is in this narrative that Thomas is invited to touch the nail prints and to examine the place in his side into which the spear had been hurled. All of these appearances take place in Jerusalem.

Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel portrays a Galilean appearance much later in time after the disciples have actually returned to their fishing trade. Here Jesus directs them to a great catch of fish, 153 of them to be specific. Then he eats with them. Finally he restores Peter after his three-fold denial.

The Easter story appears to have grown rather dramatically over the years. Something happened after the crucifixion of Jesus that convinced the disciples that Jesus shared in the eternal life of God and was thus available to them as a living presence. This experience was so profound that the disciples, who at his arrest had fled in fear, were now reconstituted and empowered even to die for the truth of their vision. This experience had the power to force the Jewish disciples to redefine the God of the Jews so that Jesus could be seen as part of who God is. Finally this experience was so profound that it ultimately created, on the first day of the week, a new holy day that was quite different from the Sabbath, to enable Christians to mark this transforming moment with a liturgical act called “the breaking of bread.”

When these biblical data are assembled and examined closely, two things become clear. First something of enormous power gripped the disciples following the crucifixion that transformed their lives. Second, it was some fifty years before that transforming experience was interpreted as the resuscitation of a three days dead Jesus to the life of the world. Our conversation about the meaning of Easter must begin where these two realities meet.

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"Sweep Out the Chamber of Your Heart" by Jeannie Zandi

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--Sacred Heart by Cristie Henry

Go sweep out the chamber of your heart.
Make it ready to be the dwelling place of the Beloved.
— Mahmud Shabistari, 13th-century Sufi

When I was 10, I was in love with Miss Walker. After a series of wrinkly and stern grandma types who had been teaching for decades, in fourth grade there was twenty-something Miss Walker. Miss Walker at the chalkboard. Miss Walker in short skirts that showed her beautiful legs, Miss Walker with her electric-curler-created brown curls bouncing as she walked briskly down the hall. I would sign her name as if it was mine: Miss Nancy J. Walker. It was the first year I got straight As, and that was out of my deep adoration which demanded expression — I wanted to give something to she who seemed to lack nothing.

According to the dictionary, to adore is to “worship as God or a god” from the Latin
adorare, which means “to pray to.” It is a deep, often rapturous regard that pours from the heart without concern for social custom or convention and, in its pure form, looks for nothing for itself but to love and pay homage to the beloved.

For the 13th-century mystic and poet Rumi, the adoration of his beloved teacher Shams of Tabriz led him into the wilderness of his heart, taking him through the depths of its dark pockets of longing and pain, and ultimately opening into the wide vista of his love for God and for all that is. The human heart, hung heavy with disappointments and sorrows, complete with sealed-off passages and hidden lonely caverns, longs to be known, to express itself fully in this world. It desires to bring the love that we are, beneath our accumulated pain and confusion, to this earthly plane through our eyes and our hands. For some, the yearning to live as love is so acute that there is no other choice but to travel this seemingly dangerous road of Rumi.

Traveling this road may mean wholeheartedly devoting one’s life to knowing the oneness of God. For others, it may mean a simple practice of allowing what we feel to be experienced and touched, without distraction or minimization so that we may come to know the depths of who we are. The shining truth and beauty of our hearts leaping at the sights or sounds that touch us can act as a tractor beam, drawing us onward as we explore and touch every desolate corner that stands between us and our inner beloved, and therefore also between us and all of creation.

In India, ashrams exist where a pilgrim can fall completely in love with an embodiment of God and seek shelter and solace in the haven of regular food, regular lodging and regular contact with the beloved while undertaking the heart’s journey. Given that the teacher is one of integrity and clarity, he/she can hold a space for temporarily allowing the devotee to see the teacher as God on the way to knowing him- or herself as God. The guru holds the space for the exploration of the longing, desperation, self-loathing, doubt and sorrow that come from living a human life. This way is revered in India, so a God-crazed love dog is generally treated by others within and without the ashram with tenderness and understanding.
The following poem by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, sheds light on the idea of a love dog:

Love Dogs
One night a man was crying,
Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
”So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of the souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
”Why did you stop praising?”
”Because I never heard anything back.”
”This longing you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of the dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.

In our country, it is rare to find a circle where this tenderness and understanding are extended to one who deeply hungers for God and expresses it through great devotion, nor are there many socially accepted containers for traveling the path of adoration all the way to its end. We Americans tend to sexualize all adoration (that is, assume that it must be sexual), becoming suspicious of the man who adores the girl, the woman who adores the woman, the man who adores the man, etc. Gurus are widely suspected, seen as megalomaniacs or manipulators, and their followers are viewed as naive sheep. (This is not to say that there aren’t examples of men who adore girls that we should be suspicious of or gurus who are megalomaniacs.) The only widely accepted forms for expressing adoration are within a heterosexual couple or between parents/grandparents and children. The therapist/client relationship can also be an accepted container for this adoration to flourish and find its true home in the client’s own heart.

I remember the first teacher I met who allowed others to praise him and it felt clean. He came from a tradition in India, though he was American, and devotees were encouraged to write him poetry, to extol his virtues, and as far as I could tell, he was simply standing in for the Holy while we sang the reverence that was in our hearts. How wonderful to let loose the devotion I had felt for so many, but had held inside out of fear of being laughed at, rejected or rushed to bed, or used to fill someone else’s bottomless pit. For most, our egos are so hungry for validation that we can’t hold space for another to adore us — we are too interested in it, too starved for it ourselves to invite and hold space for its expression. We think it means something, and something about us, rather than seeing it as the natural expression of the holy through a human being.

The heart ideally needs a laboratory, in a sense, in its rocky course toward freedom, where many conditions are held consistent, such as (a) the adored and the one who is adoring are mutually aware of the holy context — in other words, that this is about God, and the adored holds that container if the adoring one gets confused; (b) the adored is willing to stay with the process (as opposed to lovers who sometimes leave); (c) the adored does not contaminate the container with his or her own personal needs; (d) the adoration doesn’t lead to anything concrete happening in the everyday world (such as dating, marriage, etc.); and (e) the adored is able (because he/she knows the territory) and willing (because he/she loves attending the birth of light) to witness and offer company through the gnarly parts of the journey without freaking out. Then the longing heart is free to adore, drool, blither, blather, be foolish; try its hand at poetry, at praising, at singing; descend into deep sorrow, feel jealous, try its wings.

Most of us know what it’s like to adore the average human and how much space he or she has for all of this. We have a certain amount of adoration we can tolerate before our “stuff” comes up, and we want to shoo the loving fan away, make fun of them, be mean to them, assume they are lying, assume they don’t know us, assume it’s all about us, assume perhaps the person is not “right” for us, etc. The task requires someone who has carved out her/his own heart to have space for another to play, and for that someone to create and maintain a clear laboratory for the exploration to proceed untainted.

Though we may not be aware of it at the time, when we are adoring another human being we are seeing God reflected in an earthly face, and our hearts call to plumb their depths. What we adore is the reflection of our own divine inner beauty — in a landscape, a flower, a serene face, a gentle manner. When we allow ourselves to adore, we become acquainted with the depths of our own hearts, allow ourselves to approach the grandeur within our own selves, and realize ourselves as love. When our hearts are still cluttered with old pain and fear, love moves only where it seems safe to move, only under certain conditions. The swept-clean heart is an indiscriminate lover: its nature is to love. It loves in every direction; it is love. It knows itself as love, and its joy is to love. It no longer is seeking fulfillment from the outside, looking with hungry eyes toward the false gods through which it was promised fulfillment. Instead, it has burrowed down through the rubble to the fresh wellspring of the Source and drinks there, overflowing outward.

What if we let ourselves love what we love? What if, at least within the privacy of our own solitude, we let ourselves notice what we adore? We have deadened ourselves out of not knowing what to do with the wealth of feelings inside. I recently met with a man in my travels who realized he unconsciously had stopped noticing that half the human race was made up of women. For him, acknowledging the presence of females almost always had ended in disappointment, discouragement, desperation and longing, and so on a subconscious level he had given it up. No wonder so many men gaze at images of women in the privacy of their own solitude: exposing that vulnerability to another human being even in the best of conditions can feel daunting, never mind the possibility of freshly eliciting scorn, fear or the unloading of years of a woman’s pain.

The simple invitation I gave this man was to walk around and notice that some people are women and to feel whatever was there. The point was not for him to get a woman, which is what men are taught will bring them salvation. The point was for him to reclaim the wilds of his own heart, to touch and explore them, and to return to a place where no woman could rival the internal love affair between him and his Source. Then we drink from our own inner spring, and relationship becomes a celebration of that rather than yet another attempt to squeeze a drop of love out of an external source that never will satisfy like the inner one.

When we adore, we tend to measure ourselves against our projected deity and we come up short. We are human, wanting, full of flaws, life-size, and the adored one seems larger than life. If we take the whole journey to reclaim our divinity, this is a temporary condition: painting our own holiness on another. Often, instead of honoring this opportunity to feel reverence and experience what is touched in our hearts, many of us use this flooding of insecurity to flee. Until the last decade, if I was attracted to someone, my strategy was to look at that person as little as possible and bury any sign of my attraction. What if the intensity of my adoration was seen, and right alongside, the squirming and writhing intensity of my self-loathing? What if the person decided it was something in particular — sexual attraction or an interest in dating or a supply to fill the black hole within — before I myself had the opportunity and space to explore it? It was better to stay safe and below the radar, doing damage control on those feelings, right?

Yet the key to plumbing the whole depth of the heart is precisely to dare to walk through this uncharted territory of squirmy things that rise when our hearts are drawn out beyond where we can maintain our cool. For many of us, that territory is gnarly enough to hobble us to the point of hiding forever, resulting in crowds of people walking around trying not to notice the beauty of their neighbors — throngs of hearts in hiding. However, the journey through this wild land is precisely what lets our hearts sing on this sweet Earth.

We can notice where we are drawn, where we love, consenting to have whatever feelings that come with it flood our bodies as we sit with them and let them sift and work themselves out. This willingness washes our hearts little by little until the full blaze that knows no fear is reclaimed, and we walk this Earth as love instead of looking for it. As Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky) writes, “Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?”
——–
(c) Copyright 2007, Jeannie Zandi, all rights reserved.
Originally published in The Eldorado Sun, November, 2007.

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"The Way of the Heart" by Cynthia Bourgeault

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From the Christian esoteric tradition, a path beyond the mind

Put the mind in the heart…. Put the mind in the heart…. Stand before the Lord with the mind in the heart.” From page after page in the Philokalia, that hallowed collection of spiritual writings from the Christian East, this same refrain emerges. It is striking in both its insistence and its specificity. Whatever that exalted level of spiritual attainment is conceived to be—whether you call it “salvation,” “enlightenment,” “contemplation,” or “divine union”—this is the inner configuration in which it is found. This and no other.

It leaves one wondering what these old spiritual masters actually knew and—if it’s even remotely as precise and anatomically grounded as it sounds—why this knowledge has not factored more prominently in contemporary typologies of consciousness.

Part of the problem as this ancient teaching falls on contemporary ears is that we will inevitably be hearing it through a modern filter that does not serve it well. In our own times the word “heart” has come to be associated primarily with the emotions (as opposed to the mental operations of the mind), and so the instruction will be inevitably heard as “get out of your mind and into your emotions”—which is, alas, pretty close to 180 degrees from what the instruction is actually saying.

Yes, it is certainly true that the heart’s native language is affectivity—perception through deep feelingness. But it may come as a shock to contemporary seekers to learn that the things we nowadays identify with the feeling life—passion, drama, intensity, compelling emotion—are qualities that in the ancient anatomical treatises were associated not with the heart but with the liver! They are signs of agitation and turbidity (an excess of bile!) rather than authentic feelingness. In fact, they are traditionally seen as the roadblocks to the authentic feeling life, the saboteurs that steal its energy and distort its true nature.

And so before we can even begin to unlock the wisdom of these ancient texts, we need to gently set aside our contemporary fascination with emotivity as the royal road to spiritual authenticity and return to the classic understanding from which these teachings emerge, which features the heart in a far more spacious and luminous role.

According to the great wisdom traditions of the West (Christian, Jewish, Islamic), the heart is first and foremost an organ of spiritual perception. Its primary function is to look beyond the obvious, the boundaried surface of things, and see into a deeper reality, emerging from some unknown profundity, which plays lightly upon the surface of this life without being caught there: a world where meaning, insight, and clarity come together in a whole different way. Saint Paul talked about this other kind of perceptivity with the term “faith” (“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen&rdquoWinking, but the word “faith” is itself often misunderstood by the linear mind. What it really designates is not a leaping into the dark (as so often misconstrued) but a subtle seeing in the dark, a kind of spiritual night vision that allows one to see with inner certainty that the elusive golden thread glimpsed from within actually does lead somewhere.

Perhaps the most comprehensive definition of this wider spiritual perceptivity is from Kabir Helminski, a modern Sufi master. I realize that I quote it in nearly every book I have written, but I do so because it is so fundamental to the wisdom tradition that I have come to know as the authentic heart of Christianity. Here it is yet again:

We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using. Beyond the limited analytic intellect is a vast realm of mind that includes psychic and extrasensory abilities; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative and creative faculties; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name with some justification for they are working best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection to the cosmic mind. This total mind we call “heart.”1

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The purification of Muhammad’s heart by three Divine messengers. Bal’ami. Early fourteenth century

“The heart,” Helminski continues, is the antenna that receives the emanations of subtler levels of existence. The human heart has its proper field of function beyond the limits of the superficial, reactive ego-self. Awakening the heart, or the spiritualized mind, is an unlimited process of making the mind more sensitive, focused, energized, subtle, and refined, of joining it to its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love.2
Now it may concern some of you that you’re hearing Islamic teaching here, not Christian. And it may well be true that this understanding of the heart as “spiritualized mind”— “the organ prepared by God for contemplation”3—has been brought to its subtlest and most comprehensive articulation in the great Islamic Sufi masters. As early as the tenth century, Al-Hakîm al Tirmidhî’s masterful Treatise on the Heart laid the foundations for an elaborate Sufi understanding of the heart as a tripartite physical, emotional, and spiritual organ.4 On this foundation would gradually rise an expansive repertory of spiritual practices supporting this increasingly “sensitive, focused, energized, subtle, and refined” heart attunement.

But it’s right there in Christianity as well. Aside from the incomparable Orthodox teachings on Prayer of the Heart collected in the Philokalia, it’s completely scriptural. Simply open your Bible to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:8) and read the words straight from Jesus himself: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

We will return to what “pure in heart” means in due course. But clearly Jesus had a foundational grasp on the heart as an organ of spiritual perception, and he had his own highly specific method for catalyzing this quantum leap in human consciousness. I have written extensively about this in my book The Wisdom Jesus, in which I lay out the principles of his kenotic [“letting go”] spirituality as a pathway of conscious transformation leading to nondual awakening. You will see there how this goal formed the core of his teaching, hidden in plain sight for twenty centuries now. I will be drawing on this material from time to time as it becomes pertinent to our present exploration. For now, the essential point is simply to realize that the teaching on the heart is not intrinsically an “Islamic” revelation, any more than it is a “Christian” one. If anything, its headwaters lie in that great evolutionary incubator of Judaism, in which more and more in those final centuries before the Common Era, the great Israelite prophets begin to sense a new evolutionary star rising on the horizon of consciousness. Yahweh is about to do something new, about to up the ante in the continuing journey of mutual self-disclosure that has formed the basis of the covenant with Israel. The prophet Ezekiel gets it the most directly, as the following words of revelation tumble from his mouth, directly from the heart of God:

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land I gave to your ancestors, and you shall be my people and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24–28)

A new interiority is dawning on the horizon, a new capacity to read the pattern from within: to live the covenant without a need for external forms and regulations, simply by living it from an inner integrity. And for the first time in Western history, this capacity to see from within is explicitly linked to the heart, and specifically to a “heart of flesh.”

Without any attempt to end-run the massive theological and historical parameters that have grown up around this issue, my bare-bones take on Jesus is that he comes as the “master cardiologist,” the next in the great succession of Hebrew prophets, to do that “heart surgery” first announced by Ezekiel. And his powerfully original (at least in terms of anything heretofore seen in the Semitic lands) method of awakening heart perceptivity—through a radical nonclinging or “letting go”—will in fact reveal itself as the tie rod connecting everything I am talking about in this book.

Do I Really Mean the Physical Heart?
Not to be naive here, but yes. We are indeed talking about the physical heart, at least insofar as it furnishes our bodily anchor for all those wondrous voyages into far-flung spiritual realms.

Again, the Eastern Orthodox tradition is not in the least equivocal on this point. Lest there be any tendency to hear the word as merely symbolic of some “innermost essence” of a person, the texts direct us immediately to the chest, where the sign that prayer is progressing will be a palpable physical warmth:

To stand guard over the heart, to stand with the mind in the heart, to descend from the head to the heart—all these are one and the same thing. The core of the work lies in concentrating the attention and the standing before the invisible Lord, not in the head but in the chest, close to the heart and in the heart. When the divine warmth comes, all this will be clear.5

The following instruction is even more specific:

When we read in the writings of the Fathers about the place of the heart which the mind finds by way of prayer, we must understand by this the spiritual faculty that exists in the heart. Placed by the creator in the upper part of the heart, this spiritual faculty distinguishes the human heart from the heart of animals…. The intellectual faculty in man’s soul, though spiritual, dwells in the brain, that is to say in the head: in the same way, the spiritual faculty which we term the spirit of man, though spiritual, dwells in the upper part of the heart, close to the left nipple of the chest and a little above it.6
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Mosaic, Jungholz, Austria

While the sheer physicality of this may make some readers squirm, the contemporary phenomenologist Robert Sardello is another strong advocate for a full inclusion of the physical heart in any serious consideration of the spirituality of the heart. When he speaks of the heart, as he makes clear in his remarkable book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, he is always referring to “the physical organ of the heart,” which merits this special consideration precisely because “it functions simultaneously as a physical, psychic, and spiritual organ.”7 It is this seamlessly tripartite nature of the heart’s field of activity that bestows its unusual transformative powers. While there are many spiritual traditions that focus on “the heart as the instrument through which religious practices take place,” Sardello feels that “these traditions do not focus on the inherent activity of the heart, which is already an act of a spiritual nature.”8

To demonstrate what this “inherently spiritual nature” of the heart might feel like, Sardello leads his readers on a profound voyage of discovery into the inner chambers of their own heart. Wielding those two classic tools of inner work, attention and sensation, he teaches us how to access the heart through concentrated sensation (rather than visualization or emotion) and there discover its inherent vibrational signature as “pure intimacy…intimacy without something or someone attached to that intimacy.”9

I have to say I followed that exercise several times and was astonished by the results. I had experienced something of that “pure intimacy” before, as that sort of golden tenderness that sometimes surrounds a period of Centering Prayer. But never had I experienced it with such force or clarity, as a distinct inner bandwidth resonating in perfect synchrony with (in Kabir Helminski’s words) “its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love.” No wonder the embodied aspect of heart spirituality is so important! For it is only through sensation—that is, “attention concentrated in the heart”—that this experience of utter fullness and belonging becomes accessible.10

Sardello is not the only voice in the field. There is now a substantial and growing body of “bridge literature” linking classic spiritual teachings on the heart with emerging discoveries in the field of neurobiology. I have already mentioned the pioneering work of the HeartMath Institute, but I want to call attention to two other fascinating and useful books for the spiritually adventurous nonspecialist: The Biology of Transcendence by Joseph Chilton Pearce11 and The Secret Teaching of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner.12 Marshaling considerable scientific data in a format easily accessible to a lay reader, each of these books demonstrates how contemporary science has taken us far beyond the notion of the heart as a mechanical pump to revision it as “an electromagnetic generator,”13 working simultaneously across a range of vibrational frequencies to perform its various tasks of internal and external self-regulation and information exchange. (An “organ of spiritual perception,” after all, can be understood in this context as simply an electromagnetic generator picking up information at far subtler vibrational bandwidths.) Both books call attention, as does the HeartMath Institute, to the intricate feedback loops between heart and brain—almost as if the human being were expressly wired to facilitate this exchange, which Pearce sees as fundamentally between the universal (carried in the heart) and the particular (carried in the brain). As he expresses it, “The heart takes on the subtle individual colors of a person without losing its essential universality. It seems to mediate between our individual self and a universal process while being representative of that universal process.”14 While such bold statements may make hard-core scientists writhe, from the spiritual side of the bridge it is easily comprehensible and brings additional confirmation that “putting the mind in the heart” is not merely a quaint spiritual metaphor but contains precise and essential information on the physiological undergirding of conscious transformation.
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The Weighing of the Heart from the Book of the Dead of Ani. c. 1300 B.C. British Museum

What Gets in the Way?
According to Western understanding, the heart does not need to be “grown” or “evolved.” Every heart is already a perfect holograph of the divine heart, carrying within itself full access to the information of the whole. But it does need to be purified, as Jesus himself observed. In its spiritual capacity, the heart is fundamentally a homing beacon, allowing us to stay aligned with those “emanations from more subtle levels of existence” Helminski refers to, and hence to follow the authentic path of our own unfolding. But when the signals get jammed by the interference of lower-level noise, then it is no longer able to do its beaconing work.

Unanimously, the Christian wisdom tradition proclaims that the source of this lower-level noise is “the passions.” As the Philokalia repeatedly emphasizes, the problem with the passions is that they divide the heart.15 A heart that is divided, pulled this way and that by competing inner agendas, is like a wind-tossed sea: unable to reflect on its surface the clear image of the moon.

Here again is a teaching that tends to set contemporary people’s teeth on edge. I know this from personal experience, because the issue comes up at nearly every workshop I give. To our modern Western way of hearing, “passion” is a good thing: something akin to élan vital, the source of our aliveness and motivation. It is to be encouraged, not discouraged. At a recent workshop I led, a bishop approached me with some concern and explained that in his diocese, following the recommendations of a church consultant, he had managed to boost morale and productivity by significant percentages simply by encouraging his clergy “to follow their passions.”

Well-nigh universally today, the notion of “passionlessness” (a quality eagerly sought after in the ancient teachings of the desert fathers and mothers) equates to “emotionally brain dead.” If you take away passion, what is left?
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Madonna and child. Saint Augustinus Church, Miguel Hidalgo, Federal District, Mexico

So once again we have to begin with some decoding.

If you consult any English dictionary, you will discover that the word “passion” comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer” (passio is the first-person singular). But this still doesn’t get us all the way, because the literal, now largely archaic, meaning of the verb “to suffer” (to “undergo or experience&rdquoWinking is literally to be acted upon. The chief operative here is the involuntary and mechanical aspect of the transaction. And according to the traditional wisdom teachings, it is precisely that involuntary and mechanical aspect of being “grabbed” that leads to suffering in the sense of how we use the term today. Thus, in the ancient insights on which this spiritual teaching rests, passion did not mean élan vital, energy, or aliveness. It designated being stuck, grabbed, and blindly reactive.

This original meaning is clearly uppermost in the powerful teaching of the fourth-century desert father Evagrius Ponticus. Sometimes credited with being the first spiritual psychologist in the Christian West, Evagrius developed a marvelously subtle teaching on the progressive nature of emotional entanglement, a teaching that would eventually bear fruit in the fully articulated doctrine of the seven deadly sins. His core realization was that when the first stirrings of what will eventually become full-fledged passionate outbursts appear on the screen of consciousness, they begin as “thoughts”—logismoi, in his words—streams of associative logic following well-conditioned inner tracks. At first they are merely that—“thought-loops,” mere flotsam on the endlessly moving river of the mind. But at some point a thought-loop will entrain with one’s sense of identity—an emotional value or point of view is suddenly at stake—and then one is hooked. A passion is born, and the emotions spew forth. Thomas Keating has marvelously repackaged this ancient teaching in his diagram of the life cycle of an emotion,16 a core part of his Centering Prayer teaching. This diagram makes clear that once the emotion is engaged, once that sense of “I” locks in, what follows is a full-scale emotional uproar—which then, as Father Keating points out, simply drives the syndrome deeper and deeper into the unconscious, where it becomes even more involuntary and mechanically triggered.

What breaks the syndrome? For Evagrius, liberation lies in an increasingly developed inner capacity to notice when a thought is beginning to take on emotional coloration and to nip it in the bud before it becomes a passion by dis-identifying or disengaging from it. This is the essence of the teaching that has held sway in our tradition for more than a thousand years.

Now, of course, there are various ways of going about this disengaging. Contemporary psychology has added the important qualifier that disengaging is not the same thing as repressing (which is simply sweeping the issue under the psychological rug) and has developed important methodologies for allowing people to become consciously present to and “own” the stew fermenting within them. But it must also be stated that “owning” does not automatically entail either “acting out” or verbally “expressing” that emotional uproar. Rather, the genius of the earlier tradition has been to insist that if one can merely back the identification out—that sense of “me,” stuck to a fixed frame of reference or value—then the energy being co-opted and squandered in useless emotional turmoil can be recaptured at a higher level to strengthen the intensity and clarity of heart perceptivity. Rather than fueling the “reactive ego-self,” the energy can be “rejoined to its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love.” And that, essentially, constitutes the goal of purification—at least as it has been understood in service of conscious transformation.
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Gravestone, Jewish Cemetery, Olesno, Poland

Emotion versus Feeling
Here again, we have an important clarification contributed by Robert Sardello. Echoing the classic understanding of the Christian Inner tradition (I first encountered this teaching in the Gurdjieff Work), Sardello points out that most of us use the terms “feeling” and “emotion” interchangeably, as if they are synonyms. They are not. Emotion is technically “stuck” feeling, feeling bound to a fixed point of view or fixed reference point. “We are not free in our emotional life,” he points out, since emotion always “occurs quite automatically as a reaction to something that happens to us.”17 It would correspond to what Helminski calls “the heart in service to the reactive ego-self.”

Beyond this limited sphere opens up a vast reservoir of feelingness. Here the currents run hard and strong, always tinged with a kind of multivalence in which the hard-and-fast boundaries distinguishing one emotion from another begin to blend together. Happiness is tinged with sadness, grief touches at its bottomless depths the mysterious upwelling of comfort, loneliness is suffused with intimacy, and the deep ache of yearning for the absent beloved becomes the paradoxical sacrament of presence. “For beauty is only the beginning of a terror we can just scarcely bear,” observes Rilke, “and the reason we adore it so is that it serenely disdains to destroy us.”18

Such is the sensation of the heart beginning to swim in those deeper waters, awakening to its birthright as an organ of spiritual perception. And it would stand to reason, of course, that the experience is feeling-ful because that is the heart’s modus operandi; it gains information by entering the inside of things and coming into resonance with them. But this is feeling of an entirely different order, no longer affixed to a personal self-center, but flowing in holographic union with that which can always and only flow, the great dynamism of love. “Feeling as a form of knowing”19 becomes the pathway of this other mode of perceptivity, more intense, but strangely familiar and effortless.

The great wager around which the Western Inner tradition has encamped is that as one is able to release the heart from its enslavement to the passions, this other heart emerges: this “organ of contemplation,” of luminous sight and compassionate action. For what one “sees” and entrains with is none other than this higher order of divine coherence and compassion, which can be verified as objectively real, but becomes accessible only when the heart is able to rise to this highest level and assume its cosmically appointed function. Then grace upon grace flows through this vibrating reed and on out into a transfigured world: transfigured by the very grace of being bathed in this undivided light.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In this one sentence, the whole of the teaching is conveyed. What remains is for us to come to a greater understanding of how this purification is actually accomplished: a critical issue on which Christian tradition is by no means unanimous. This will be the subject of our next chapter. ♦
 
1 Kabir Helminski, Living Presence: A Sufi Guide to Mindfulness and the Essential Self (New York: Tarcher/Perigree Books, 1992), 157.
2 Ibid., 158.
3 Sidney H. Griffith, “Merton, Massignon, and the Challenge of Islam,” in Rob Barker and Gray Henry, eds., Merton and Sufism: The Untold Story (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), 65.
4 For extensive bibliographical information on this work, see “A Treatise on the Heart,” trans. Nicholas Heer, (ibid., 79–88).
5 E. Kadloubovsky and E. M. Palmer, eds., The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology (London: Faber and Faber, 1966), 194.
6 Ibid., 190.
7 Robert Sardello, Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness (Benson, NC: Goldenstone Press, 2006), 82.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid., 86.
10 No wonder the embodied aspect of heart spirituality is so important! For if Sardello is right here (and my own work confirms that he is), then the stunning conclusion is that there is no lack. That primordial hunger for intimacy and belonging we so frantically project onto others in our attempt to find fulfillment is fulfilled already, there in the “infinity of love” already residing holographically in our own hearts, once we have truly learned to attune to its frequency and trust that with which it reverberates. In this sense, our physical heart is the quintessential “treasure buried in the field.”
11 Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence:A Blueprint of the Human Spirit (Rochester, VT: Park Street Place, 2002).
12 Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature (Rochester, VT: Bear and Company, 2004).
13 Ibid., 71.
14 Pearce, 64–65.
15 For a particularly clear and forceful discussion of this point, see E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, trans., Unseen Warfare, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987), 241–44.
16 Reproduced in Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2004), 136.
17 Sardello, 72.
18 Rainer Maria Rilke,  Duino Elegies, trans. J. B. Leishman and Stephen Spender (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1939), 21.
19 Sardello, 72.
From The Heart of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault © 2016.  Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.
From our current issue Parabola Volume 42, No. 1, “The Search for Meaning,” Spring 2017. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.
 
About the Author

Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat leader. Among her many books are The Meaning of Mary Magdalene and The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three.

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"Yin: Beloved Dark" by Jeannie Zandi

YIN Space
While your eyes are closed, I want to invite you to let your whole body soften. Let your attention sink into your felt experience. You might take a few long breaths. Focusing on the exhale, just to let the whole body settle. And gentle. Noticing the weight of the body sinking into your chair, into the earth. Letting your root soften open to the earth, as much as it can. Letting your belly be fat. Inviting the solar plexus to soften with breath. The heart to soften. The hands. The face. Let every expression just droop off of your face. Just here. Softy. Letting breath travel around your body. Softening as it goes. Softening all around the things that are tight, letting them be here. Letting them float along in our soft pool of being. Little nuggets of tenseness floating in this soup of being. And this is the voice of yin. The voice that invites softening, the voice that invites sinking, the voice that invites receptivity, availability. The voice that calls us to soften and dissolve. Give into gravity.

In that dark privacy of having your eyes closed, I want to invite you to imagine that you are surrounded by the walls of a womb, so this darkness is a fluid inside of a womb and you float there. Nothing you have to do. Held in every direction by warmth, by protection, by space, receptive, love-filled space. And I invite you to imagine that you aren’t formed yet, that you are tiny. A tiny cord of light from your bellybutton to the heart of Holy yin at the center of everything, tracking you, tethering you. As you float in sweet, warm, dark. No harm, no harshness. Nothing to protect from. Nothing to do. And softening open.

When I first put my new baby into a bath in a candlelit room, she unfurled herself in the water. And so that’s my invitation: an unfurling, an uncurling, an unwinding. Like a fern unwinding. Like a flower blooming open, falling open, sinking open, softening. And whatever it is that you are experiencing in response to my words is just perfect. The words are meant to evoke your experience, not for you to have to completely mimic what I’m saying. Because the call to yin, the call to soften, the call to open, the call to melt into the unity of all things will potentially bring up arguments with that. And they are welcome. Fear is welcome. Tightening is welcome. Holding on is welcome. Numbness is welcome. These are all love’s children. All blessedly welcome to float in the same womb of being held.

I would invite you as you float there, to notice your weightlessness. To imagine warmth. To imagine a kind of attentive holding, not a left-alone holding, but an embracing holding. By an intelligent heart that knows you, blesses you. Stands sentry for you while you float and unfurl. Really letting every struggle be given over to this water. Everything you carry, for the moment allowing it to float. And I want to invite you to imagine that every cell in your tiny floating body has its mouth open, its heart open, its arms open, soaking up the ions of love in the fluid. You are in a brine, marinating in a brine of love pickling. Let the aliveness you feel in the flesh of your body be that charged water coming into your cells, blessing you. Just soaked. I invite you to soak. To even let the gentleness in my voice into your cells. Softening, softening, softening, softening, open.

Receiving. Like the ground receives the rain. Soaking. Like the open flower receives the sunlight. Soaking, absorbing, filling. Uncurling your tiny fingers.

Space. Water. Darkness. Dissolving, yielding, softening, gentling. Taking in Nourishment. Protected by this womb that surrounds you from anything that is not utterly nourishing and made just for you. Just for you, the temperature, the weightlessness, the size of the womb, the love that you are soaking in. For you. Tailored to you. So that there’s nothing you have to do, but absorb. And you might consider in your posture as you sit there or lie there to open your hands or tip back your face. Like let the body be as an open cup. And please be so tender, so patient with yourself, whatever experience you’re having. Slowness. Patience. Space. Abiding. Merging.

We lose touch with yin to the extent that our environment doesn’t nourish and feed us in just the right way. When we have to protect against things, when we have to lean out our effort further than what’s easy as young beings to get something that we need. We leave the yin rest. And we learn not to trust yin. When there’s no company to soften open again in our tears, in our trusting, we forget yin and we harden. And we create a kind of rigid strength, shielding ourselves, and pushing ourselves.

Yin is healing, deep, deep healing. The waters of yin, of rest, of death, of gravity, call us down and call us open. To be rocked, to be renewed, to rest. For some of us the closest we get to yin is exhaustion, and we will finally stop, and we will finally soften when we have run the active aspect of ourselves, until we run ourselves into the ground. And if you notice any exhaustion in your body right now, I want to invite you to really tune into it, the feel of heaviness. Let yourself not hold anything up. Let yourself really just float. A core part of what I teach is the restoration of yin, of being, of softening, of sinking to zero, to inactivity, to receptivity. And as much as I can talk about it, to talk to you from it, to talk to you from tenderness, to talk to you from stillness, to talk to you from resting, from dissolution, to me is far more instructive than anything we could read. That you could feel in your body a softening, a mercy, a warm touch of loving company, an invitation out of alienation into a sweet welcoming embrace that needs nothing from you. And that you could be energetically rocked in that.

We need to know that someone has our back, that someone has the door, that someone has the yang aspect covered so that we can soften open. We need to be able to lean into another being’s energy, whether it’s a tree or a human being, and feel that place where we feel weak, feel soft, feel like a flower petal, like a slender waif, to lean into something solid. And I would invite you to feel the walls of this womb solid, solid for you. So that you are not going to be dropped, you are not going to be poked, you are not going to be left, you are not going to be forgotten, but held in such conscious, deep, tender regard. Love it.

There is a sweetness to softening, to tenderizing. A relaxation, this is in a way, the first level of coming out of a grip, coming out of an over-yang position of rigidity and over-activity. And just to ease the system to soften is no small thing in this culture. Sometimes we need help: massage, cranial-sacral, being floated in a hot spring, a cozy bed, a heavy fuzzy cat, someone to hold us, a conscious, sinking our felt experience into every inch of our bodies. Tears soften, shaking the fear out of the body softens. And this act, that is bodily, to soften, can be reflected inside, and the physical act of softening is just a metaphor for the entire apparatus of the human doing to soften open into being. To soften and dissolve in unity, in our mother so to speak. And as we soften, deeper and deeper, I invite you to soften your organs. Invite your organs to soften, your heart, your liver, your stomach, your intestines, your kidneys. Let them all soften. Our body becomes energetically porous. And then the exchange with the energies we are surrounded by can resume. The Holy can find us and soak our bodies in Love. You can even picture each of your organs being rocked in the arms of a Beloved. Your heart rocked and sung to, your belly, to soften out of the grip of fear and harshness into a reflection of Beloved-ness, of preciousness.

We need yang, we need strength, we need the capacity to act and to move. To stand for things. But we need that to grow out of this yin base, the ground of being. So that when yang is gathered up, it’s gathered up like sparkling energies from the roots of a tree, rising from this great ground of being, tiny roots through the whole body collecting Divine energy, so that it might travel up the roots into our bodies and express itself as clear, zeroed action. And I hesitate to even talk much about that because we have so much overdue yin homework. So much softening to do, so much uncurling to do. So much finding the ground, finding safety, finding what’s dependable, finding what’s simple, finding zero. Reclaiming being.

Yin by nature is utterly present. The minute that our attention moves ahead of just here, the body starts to tighten. Something starts to assert itself and tighten. And so in this softening, in this call to return here, soft, open, I am calling you to yin. I am calling you to dissolve in this amniotic fluid of the Beloved that you are surrounded by. To give yourself back, to return whatever you have built, whatever you think you are, whatever has formed, to the dissolving sweetness of this darkness.

Some of you have heard this story and some of you have not. It’s a yin dream that I had, and it was clearly for all of us. I was in the basement of, some of you know Tecumseh, in the dream I was in the basement of her house where I have given some events. I was in a room that was black, pitch black. And I was meditating so to speak. I was dissolved in this blackness. I was sitting in stillness with my eyes open just dissolved in this luminous beautiful darkness, floating, no thought to any action, just dissolved and blissful. And I heard Tecumseh up on the landing. There was a landing halfway up to the upstairs in this dream, and she was there with a professor and his wife, who were very dear to her. They were old and wise, very dear to her. And my love for her had me leave the darkness to meet these people. She wanted me to meet these people and so I started to ascend the stairs, my eyes still focused as though in the dark. And so I couldn’t see, all I could see was darkness. My pupils were so dilated and I was still looking into that beautiful dark as I walked.

And as I walked up the stairs I thought, “Well, surely my eyes will become accustomed to the light, so that when I meet them, there is someone-ness here to meet them. I will be able to see them. I will have enough of an active principle to meet them.” But as I went up the stairs, my pupils didn’t narrow. They stayed absolutely widely dilated. I stayed absolutely blind, just looking into the darkness. Utterly receptive. Not even the yang of a personhood, not even the yang of sight. I couldn’t see outward. Just this huge, my eyes were like a huge threshold into the dark, and this is how I met these people at the landing. I met them, I held their hands. They could look into me. I was darkness, I could not look out. I was looking into darkness.

And there was a sense in the dream, and it is my experience that, it’s time for this level of receptivity, of blissful dissolution in the dark Beloved. It is time for it to re-enter from the basement up to the landing where the front door is, to meet people as no one, as nothing, as darkness, as utter receptivity.

And the only thing that helps us to feel strong enough, protected enough, safe enough to show ourselves in this yin, is the Holy, is the embodiment of the Holy, is the reclaiming of Holy ground, of Holy breath, of Holy love infiltrating every cell of the body, to return to the places that are crying out in us, and to bring the Holy’s tenderness there. Whether we borrow another being or a tree to seek out every tight fist that lives inside of us and let it feel ground and let it feel warmth and let it feel a regard that lets it know it’s precious, it’s safe, it’s wanted, it’s lovely, it’s alright. It’s alright to come out.

And yin has this beautiful capacity to tailor itself to the needs of a particular moment, a particular creature in a particular moment. And so this is the beauty of the healing property of yin is that it will leave nothing behind. It will require nothing to leap over or out of its developmental cocoon or womb until it’s fully formed and drops out on its own accord. This deep, deep, organic wisdom is the domain of yin. So that everything is seen without judgment, whether it’s just born on wobbly legs, learning and loud, and extra awkward in its teenagerhood, fully formed, aging, rotting, falling to the ground, or utterly still as a seed.

Yin and yang are meant to be dancing, like they are in that beautiful Asian image of the black Yin and the white Yang, with an eye of each other’s color, spinning. But first yin. First Yin. When a being is born, it’s first yin. For nine months, it rests in dark liquid, resting, resting, being. Not a single active thing required of it. First yin. And for any of the places that we want to reclaim our strength or our capacities, first yin. We fall to the ground, we find our ground there, our no-one-ness there. We’re rocked and dissolved, and allowed simply to be. So that things can be birthed through us and strengthened through us.

Yin absolutely needs her partner yang in a human being. Because we have not had a balance or been held in a balance, our beautiful receptivity feels like something that we can’t show. And instead of an active, empowered, charged, alive and nourished receptivity, instead we have passivity or we have exhaustion. And then instead of a beautiful strength that serves this deep knowing and this deep being and this deep surrender and connectedness, we have fear-based action, we have action that preempts this beautiful organic flow of things. And we have a rigidity inside of our bodies in the place of strength. I want to invite you as you soften here to keep sinking and if you notice any place that’s numb, any place that’s held tightly, I want to invite you to surround it with an imaginary womb. Surround it with tender, dark, holding embrace. Let it float there as it is. No harm.

I had a meeting today with someone who wants me to take on a certain role in relation to a conference and co-facilitate with someone who I don’t know, who’s a man. I am percolating on this invitation. But in speaking what rose for me there, there was this beautiful exposition about how yin requires protection and authority granted to her for her gifts to be given. And part of the maturing of yin, because at first yin is something that has no words, it’s something that we are barely aware of because in our culture it’s largely, we’re largely encouraged away from it and so we can have gut feelings, we can hear someone else speak something and say, “Yes, that’s it!” But when yin is newborn or young, it doesn’t have words yet. And this way that words come to yin and it starts to become conscious and able to be expressed, is a really vital part of stepping into an integrated being here.

And in most situations, I notice in the yin aspect of my role, a container is set. A yang container is set for the yin to appear, and the yin to open, and the yin to download its energy from a kind of open portal to the whole. So if you could imagine the pupil of an eye or the heart of a flower opening, opening, opening, being this utter soft portal and sweetness pouring through there. That power, it’s a raw power, the raw power of life. It’s the raw power of love. It’s deeply Transformational. It’s deeply challenging for beings who are frightened of the gap. If it is not carried with a kind of an awareness and a respect and a wisdom, imbalances, harm, disruptions can occur. To open the high beams in an environment where that hasn’t been invited, either explicitly or energetically, is potentially to drop a catalyst into an unpredictable wilderness. So I notice that the way that yin moves here is that it has a certain requirement of containment in order to even bother. And many of you can see the various aspects of containment that are involved in this work. The way that we quiet ourselves at the beginning of things, the way that there’s a guided meditation to invite people to soften. The way that these things aren’t drop-in, and they aren’t open to anyone, and they have a certain start time —this is all to create a cup within which yin can be glorified for all of us, to come through all of us as portals.

And so it was very sweet to be of this age…when I was 25, I didn’t really know what yin was. When I was 35 I had some ideas. In my younger life, I might not have been able to say, “If you would like me to show up in this kind of role, I need to know that I have the authority, the respect, the support, to lead from the heart of softness.” Because the heart of softness does not compete with loud things. It does not argue with arguments. It simply will fold up its circus tent and go where it’s invited. And this is why the heart of spirituality is a heart of surrendering, not a heart of accomplishing. That in its essence, being is yin.

(Pause.) It wanted me to pause for itself there so it could assert its yin-ness. You see if we don’t have a bit of awareness about the beauty of yin, we will miss the way that it peeks out of the cave and spills its light. If we are looking for objects, if we are looking for discrete things, for actions, for content, for stuff, for reference points, we will miss the energetic, quiet revealing of yin in a child’s face, in a loved one who is about to tell us something vulnerable. In a quiet moment.

I remember my daughter when she was young, her most wise utterances would be preceded by a kind of a yin silence. You could feel the energy of it. She got very quiet, she got very sparkly and deep in her eyes, and there would be this quiet. Like you would want to whisper. You would know that church was starting. And then she would say something from that depth, as though it was just born from the depths. And the earth needs beings who can feel, see, know, and embody yin, being, the vibration of things, the sea of things. Even before things are born they arrive as energies. And when we are softened open, we can feel these energies and we can step into them, step away from them, direct them, redirect them for the good of the whole.

The whole way that I teach, I should say the whole way that I speak because there are yang aspects to this teaching. But the whole way that I speak, that I deliver through this portal of my being something for us, is yin. I have no preconceived thought. I give everything that I am to the dissolving waters of the moment, allow it to reclaim every cell of this body. Turn it into a soft, open, downloading station and if it has nothing for me, if it has no words, so be it, no words. If it has outrageous words, so be it, outrageous words. If it takes an hour to give birth to the beauty that it has prepared, so be it. And what’s beautiful is that in between the bits of content and actually sewn throughout, but in between when there is a pause, the dark looks out. The dark invites you into your own depth. The dark invites the things that are scared of the dark to talk to it, to cry to it, to be seen, and embraced and welcomed back.

I would invite you, if you like, to gaze at me with your eyes looking into my eyes. But I want to invite you to have your felt experience be paramount so that your eyes are soft and relaxed and your attention is buried in your felt experience. What happens then is that it invites the eyes to be receptive, to receive. So you can feel your breath, your weight, the vibration in the body. And let the eyes be soft, let them not be focused hard, but just kind of receiving. Imagine the world falling into your eyes, falling into your heart, and let my words fall into your heart. Let this energy fall into you. This way we meet each other as being, as emissaries, wide, open portals of the Beloved’s love. This is to me the most beautiful thing about yin. The dark, yielding openness charged with love. Anything that’s brought before it is blessed. And you can play with grounding, feeling weight, feeling your feet on the floor, opening your root. Softening the body. It’s sweet here because I’m just on a screen, and so it’s all the more safe. For just simply being in the privacy of your own nest there where you are, letting the body soften and if it’s numb or if it’s tight, just bring some womb to it. Soften all around it. Let it be here. We have been terrorized, many of us have been brutalized and terrorized in this softest of places. Softening. Being here together. No harm. Warmth. Embrace. Invitation. Goodness. Love. Quiet.

What if our planet, and the planets of our solar system, and all of the stars and the planets that we can see, are held in a dark womb? I would invite you again to picture every cell in your body like a mouth or an open hand, drinking, drinking the quiet, drinking the tenderness. And I would invite you to use my eyes with anything in you that has forgotten that it’s precious. Let it look at me. Let it look at me in the safety of your own nest. Let it show itself with only tenderness to greet it. And feel free if you are just rocking the dark yin right now to just join me here. That we would be a single field of invitation and embrace to whatever has hidden, whatever has been banished. Among us and among anyone who is called to utilize this energy, this energy of loving emptiness to reveal itself, welcome. Welcome to the dark, deep, womb heart of the Beloved: travelers, aliens, derelicts, homeless, desperate, in pain, terrified, agonized, stalked, raw, helpless.

From the heart of the universe, there, there, precious children. We are all her children.

SOURCE:
http://jeanniezandi.com/yin-beloved-dark/

Jeannie Zandi
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"False Hope and Beauty in an Anthropomorphic God" by Sam Alexander

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We speak of a conscious god, one with feelings like sorrow, anger, and joy. We speak of a just god, one who demands moral behavior and forgives moral breaches, one who speaks and gets His way. But is that true? Is there really a god like that or do we simply want that to be true?

Is there for instance, a god who has established justice, one who balances the cosmic scales of justice? Let me quote scripture to answer that one. Qoheleth says, “In my own vaporous life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evil doing” [Ecclesiastes 7:15].

Is there a god with consciousness, one who has feelings like anger, sorrow, and joy? We are talking about the creator of the universe, and who knows, maybe multiple universes. We are talking about the driving force that has guided creation’s evolutionary story from hydrogen atoms to Shakespeare. Is this god a Father, Judge, or Healer? Of course not. I believe I have support from the mother’s milk of reformed theology, the Westminster Confession of Faith. “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him, as their blessedness and reward . . . ,” [Book of Confessions: 6.037]. The starting point of theology is necessarily a god that stretches beyond human categories and concepts.

Why is that important now, in this day and age? It is important, because an anthropomorphic god inevitably disappoints. There is enough disease, war, injustice and loneliness in the world to warrant such a claim. To suggest that such a god is ontologically real is a lie, one that violates the second commandment to boot. Let’s face it, we desire a god who is just and so we project that god onto our imagination. We desire a god who forgives, creates peace and heals and so we project such a god onto our imagination. This god, as Feuerbach so famously said is, “humanity writ large across the cosmos.” The scriptures will have none of it. “What is your name?” Moses asked. Is it father, mother, warrior, judge, Lord, peacemaker, or perhaps even non-dual presence? No, “I AM, I will be what I will be, I have caused what I have caused and I will cause to be what I cause to be.” We cannot know God in God’s being.

Such is the false hope garnered from an anthropomorphic god and yet here I stand, a believer, one who stakes his life on a God who “by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, is pleased to [offer some fruition of God’s self,] by way of covenant” [Book of Confessions: 6.037]. God, the God who for 13.7 billion years has guided creation’s evolutionary story, makes God’s self known through the very projections that obscure the being of God. How do I know? I don’t. I believe and bear witness to the reality that, in the living of a life of faith, the truth of that statement becomes crystal clear.

Living such a life of faith, does
not begin with an intellectual assent to ideas and constructs which are but a distorted reflection of what is real. Rather it involves a commitment to critically engage what is real . . . to you.

And for the modern mind that cannot begin with the ancient picture of a Lord up in a place called heaven from where He rules the cosmos according to His inscrutable purpose; it cannot begin with a God who has His Son killed because the magical life force imbued in blood must be released to correct a moral imbalance; it cannot begin with a God who has the kind of control over the process of creation that allows or disallows suffering and evil to exist. The cognitive dissonance between that view of God and our modern understanding of creation’s evolutionary process makes we Christians sound ridiculous when we talk about what we know to be real.

It is a travesty to do so when a life of faith, formed by the 4000 year old conversation of Scripture is pointing us even now, towards an astonishingly beautiful truth permeating creation. Without trying to lay hold of an exclusive claim on truth we can tell the world that we have come to know God who moves from death to new life. Cross and resurrection are realities whether or not the physical resurrection happened. We can tell of a God we have come to know in three ways.

I have come to know God in the third person. For when I stare into the night sky, or watch my surrogate grandson trying to walk, the immensity and complexity of this bewildering universe. looms before me and I begin to see Spirit shimmering behind and within it. I see a river of grace with all its eddies and currents, turmoil and twists carrying us into the future.

As I contemplate this extraordinary beauty I begin to encounter that shimmer as “other,” and a mystical, I-Thou, second person relationship begins to emerge. In that “relationship” I come to know something of God’s character; I come to know that I am an expression of the love of God, an integral part of God’s creative purpose. In that sense I can speak of God
metaphorically as having human like emotions and motivations. But we can never let those metaphors domesticate and obscure the reality that stretches beyond human apprehension.

Then there are those moments, moments I myself have barely glimpsed, when we have an experiential dawning, when we know that God has “brought all things together in perfect harmony” and we glimpse God in first person. I AM.

I am so very tired of a church that hangs onto its mythic , anthropomorphic language of God so tightly, a church so myopically focused on how truth
was expressed that we fail to call people into covenant relationship with the creative love now driving creation forward.

Change is on the horizon – seismic change. It is being met by fear; the resulting violence threatens to overtake us. Most of us are asleep, anesthetized with everything from TV to Bud Light. Growth is required of us at a time when more and more of us are turning our collective back on the presence of God. And why? Because when we say the word “God” people think of that anthropomorphic god who inevitably lets us down.

We have one thing to offer and that is our belief that a life of faith, one that engages what is real, enables us to live into the future, knowing that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God. We can no longer afford to obscure that message with fairy tales.

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"Kiss Everything" by Jeannie Zandi

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The more aware we become, the more sensitized and softened we get, the more we see how harsh we are, and it kills us. We don’t want to look at it, nor the pain underneath. And if we’re lucky, this slowing down crucifies us on our humanness, and we have to howl and open, open to the love that we are.

Nobody wants to go into these places where things are gristly, unkempt, unresolved, bedsprings sticking out all over, you know, where gum sticks to our shoe. You’ll notice that everything inside says “Get out, solve it, quick hide, do something!” And if it’s a really good one, everything outside is saying that too, where the walls themselves are reverberating with “Danger, danger Will Robinson! Don’t feel THAT! Get outta there!”
I love to sail in there and have us all take one long slow breath, and let the sunshine of Presence in. If we slow it all down, this is the place where we have to feel the very thing that the spiritual path was supposed to eliminate, the very heart of separation: something here deserves to be banished.

These places are not places to get away from. That’s just what’s in there from the moment we got overwhelmed and instead of staying open and breathing, we had to shut down and start to cope in separation. We had to flee. And this whole emphasis on getting perfect and getting better and on “some day when all my shit is gone” is not where it’s at–it’s a fantasy. Freedom doesn’t happen because we get perfect; freedom happens because we so utterly embrace what’s here, exactly as it is.

I don’t care if we call it my shit, your shit, their shit–it’s OUR shit. As long as any one of us believes we’re shit, that’s OUR shit. And the most hilarious part is that every one of these ones that appears to be locked in a jail cell is just another face of God. Here’s God, pretending she’s locked in a jail cell–feels really real, can’t get out of it with just that insight. We have to climb down the stairs, get on our knees into the black gook with that face of God like she is our very own self and kiss her on the mouth or we’re not free there. It’s the embodied part of the paradox. You either kiss everything or you don’t, and you can’t fake it.
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Re-imagining God in the 21st Century by Jeffery Small

Unlike the age of the Biblical writers, we live in a world ruled by science, technology and secular thought — a world that is interconnected in ways that a few decades ago was unimagined. Today we understand that our world is governed by physical laws from the subatomic realm to the cosmic, so where do we find room for God to act? Is God still relevant? How can we conceive of God today in a way that is honest to our intellects while satisfying to our hearts?

In my previous post,
Moving Beyond a Human Image of God, I set forth the problems of the classical picture of God as a supernatural being. God as the potter, the watchmaker or the chess master has lost its relevance for many in our post-modern world. The response to this critique by some is to close their eyes to science and the realities of existence. Such a strategy is not sustainable in a society in which almost everything we touch and encounter during our daily lives depends on the laws of physics, chemistry and biology working. Others take the atheistic approach, one I also do not find satisfying because I sense in the core of my being that there is meaning to existence and that the daily physical reality of our world is not the end of the story.

In this post, however, I will not debate the existence of God because I do not think that the argument is winnable by either side. Instead, I will outline ways in which we can start to understand God in the modern world. For me, God must not just be consistent with scientific and rational thought but must embrace it.

I have come to understand God, not as a transcendent Zeus-like figure, but instead as the infinite creative source of existence.

By “creative source” here, I do not mean to say that I think of God as creating existence by waving a magic wand from afar, but rather that all of existence — matter, energy, the physical laws which govern the universe, even our consciousness — comes out of God. This understanding of God is rooted not in Creationism, Intelligent Design or a desire for a father figure, but rather comes from this simple question posed first by the ancient Greek philosopher Parminedes (b. 510 BCE): Why is there existence in the first place, instead of nothing?

I do not see this “coming from” God as just happening at one particular time in history, whether this was 6,000 years ago according to Genesis or 13.7 billion years ago according to the Big Bang theory, but it happens continually. I do not see God as a separate being, but rather God is the center of being within me and everything around me. God did not form my distant ancestors out of clay as mythological tales might suggest if taken literally; rather, God is what gives me life and gives existence its very structure. This power is infinite and indescribable because it lies behind all that is. God is not to be found “out there” but deep within existence.

My conception of God is not new but is derived from 20th-century Christian theologian Paul Tillich’s description of God as “the ground of being.” Tillich himself was influenced by centuries of theologians and philosophers before him who thought of God in similar existential terms: Friedrich Schelling (b. 1775) considered God as “the Power of Being”; Georg Hegel (b.1770 ) referred to God simply as “Being”; Meister Eckhart (b. 1260) “being itself”; Francis of Assisi (b. 1182) “the ground of all reality”; and Plotinus (b. 205), drawing on Plato, described God as “the One” — the source out of which all being emanates, including the human soul.

My view of God was also influenced by another 20th century philosopher-theologian, Alfred North Whitehead, the founder of process theology. For Whitehead, God is not a static supernatural creature but is the essence of the creative process of the universe. God does not sit in a different dimensional heaven and watch us go about our daily lives, occasionally intervening for good measure. But God is immanent within the universe as its creative power.

Whitehead insists that the traditional image of God as unchanging must be reconsidered. A God truly immanent within existence means that as the universe expands and evolves, so does God. This view of God also does not mean that God is directing and determining every creative act, but only that the power for existence comes out of God. Essential to the creative power that God bestows on the universe is the ability of its constituent parts (including us) to self-create. The scientific laws that govern the universe — the randomness and uncertainty inherent in both quantum mechanics and evolution, for example — are then not contrary to God but become crucial elements of the divine creative process.

How does one even conceive of such a God that is not an exalted deity? Here, I will leave you with one example. This metaphor for God as the creative source of being does not come from a Christian theologian or a philosopher, but from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who imagined the relationship between God and human as that between the ocean and the wave.

The ocean and the wave are related in two important ways. The ocean is the “ground” of the wave in the sense that the water molecules of the ocean make up the essence of the wave. From a creative and dynamic perspective, the power of the ocean creates the individual existence of the wave. The wave (like us) has its own individuality, but its lifespan is relatively short. The wave emanates from the infinite ocean, and at the end of its existence, it returns to the ocean. Each individual wave is connected to all other waves because they share the ocean as their ground. Existence is finite, individualized and unique, yet underlying existence is a connection to the infinite.

To me, this understanding of God can not only work within the confines of modern science (since all scientific laws come from God as part of the creative existence of the universe), but it also provides a powerful direction for how we experience God. What I may have lost from the illusory “comfort” of believing in a supernatural father figure who may or may not intervene on my behalf, I have more than made up for with a new realization: I can touch and experience a God that is the ground of my being (though I’ll never fully understand or see God) at a much more intimate level, because God is the spark of light within me. This view of God also leads to a more embracing view of morality because I share this power of being with each of my fellow humans in true brother and sisterhood, and I share it with the natural world as well.

One challenge we face when thinking about God in this way is how do we talk about, much less worship, such a philosophical sounding God? It is easy to picture Michelangelo’s God as the grandfatherly figure on the Sistine Chapel, but how do we relate to the God of Tillich and Whitehead? In a future post, I will examine how we can rethink our traditional symbols of God as Father or Lord, but for now I’ll pose the question to you:
What symbols or metaphors might we use to open our minds to a new way of thinking about God that works in the 21st century?

SOURCE:
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-small/reimagining-god-in-the-21_b_822776.html


Follow Jeffrey Small on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffreysmalljr
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"Mercy to the Body of God" by Jeannie Zandi

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I invite you to bring mercy to your body, to this interesting vehicle of embodiment, this amazing instrument of openness that’s been so harshed on.  First by the outside and then we take over and mimic it.  When we rest our hand on a place in our body that is in pain or tense, we put our hand on the whole of humanity.  The whole body of humanity needs to hear the message from Presence, “It’s all right, it’s all right.”  The message that is delivered in the moment, through the air, through the feel, through weight of your body in the chair, this benevolence here, right now.  Not a fancy benevolence, a very basic, simple, is-ness.

There isn’t anything in creation that is not the body of the holy.  There isn’t any difference between putting your hands on your flesh and putting your hands into God’s heart.  There is nothing here but this, and there is nothing to hate or love but this.  It’s not there’s the body and there’s the spirit and there’s this and there’s that.  It is just one collage of holiness.  Anything you hate or turn away from becomes your jail cell of separation.  And so that hate and the feel of it has to be directly met, the feel of the killer in yourself, the feel of the curser in yourself.  We’re so conditioned not even to notice it in our tones as we curse ourselves, as we curse objects, people.  The feel of separation is one of tremendous harshness, tremendous casting out, and we’ve gotten used to that as a culture–that’s how we converse with each other, that’s how we treat each other on the road, that’s how we treat our bodies.  We are all looking for a justifiable place to land this hate rather than actually turning around and feeling the harsh edge of it as it lives in us.

It’s like when Jesus said, “Forgive them father they know not what they do.”  Our conditioning has it so that we are absolutely unaware of what we carry and what we perpetrate because we don’t know what we carry and we’re not conscious when we’re perpetrating.  Those guys nailing Jesus to the cross had no idea they were doing wrong.  So numb, and so appropriate an enemy—they probably felt like they were doing good, every hammer strike, sending the bad person away.  And there’s probably no where that we are so harsh as on our own flesh, driving ourselves, denying ourselves, denying ourselves breath, pause, rest, time outside the incessant wheel of the mind.  And it’s not like we can be blamed for it, we’ve been trained well.  So first we just get to notice that we have a pet, a very dear loyal pet, that cries out in various ways we call suffering.  Let our attention go to its cries, let it move the way it wants to, be kind to it.  Just to notice that and drop out of the mind in this culture is revolutionary.

SOURCE:
http://jeanniezandi.com
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The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi - Summary from Arunachala Ashrama

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Happiness
All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one. Further that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry, 'Who am I?' is the chief means. 1

Consciousness 
Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it. 2

Mind 
Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self.
That which arises in this body as 'I' is the mind.
When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart names and forms disappear... If the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I' or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal 'I' alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self. 3

"Who Am I?" - Enquiry 
For all thoughts the source is the 'I' thought.
The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry 'Who am I?' The thought 'Who am l?' will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be 'to me'. If you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased. 4

Surrender 
There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling 'I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful and except throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me', and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone. exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation. 5

The Three States: Waking,Dream and Sleep 
There is no difference between the dream and the waking state except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states, called turiya. 6

GRACE AND GURU
I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him 'That God is within yourself. Dive within and realize'. God, Guru and the Self are the same. 7

Self-Realization 
The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course we loosely talk of self-realization for want of a better term.

That which 'Is' is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet. Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it. 8

Heart 
In the centre of the cavity of the Heart the sole Brahman shines by itself as the atman (Self) in the feeling of 'I'-'I'. Reach the Heart by diving within yourself, either with control of breath, or with thought concentrated on the quest of Self. You will thus get fixed in the Self. 9

Renunciation 
Asked 'How does a grihastha (householder) fare in the scheme of Moksha (liberation)?' Bhagavan said, 'Why do you think you are a grihastha? If you go out as sanyasi (ascetic), a similar thought that you are a sanyasi will haunt you. Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind goes with you. The ego is the source of all thought. It creates the body and the world and makes you think you are a grihastha . If you renounce the world it will only substitute the thought sanyasi for grihastha and the environments in the forest for those of the household. But the mental obstacles will still be there. They even increase in the new surroundings. There is no help in change of environment. The obstacle is the mind. It must be got over whether at home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not at home? Therefore, why change your environment? Your efforts can be made even now - in whatever environment you are now. The environment will never change according to your desire'. 10

Fate and Freewill
Freewill and destiny are ever existent. Destiny is the result of past action; it concerns the body. Let the body act as may suit it. Why are you concerned about it? Why do you pay attention to it. Freewill and destiny last as long as the body lasts. But jnana transcends both. The Self is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Whatever happens, happens as the result of one's past actions, of divine will and of other factors.

There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self and that the ego is non-existent.

The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one's helplessness and saying all the time, 'Not I, but Thou oh Lord' and giving up all sense of 'I' and mine, and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through self-enquiry or bhakti marga (Path). 11

Jnani 
A jnani has attained Liberation even while alive, here and now. It is immaterial to him as to how, where and when he leaves the body. Some jnanis may appear to suffer, others may be in samadhi; still others may disappear from sight before death. But that makes no difference to their jnana. Such suffering is apparent, seems real to the onlooker, but not felt by the jnani, for he has already transcended the mistaken identity of the Self with the body.
The jnani does not think he is the body. He does not even see the body. He sees only the Self in the body.  If the body is not there, but only the Self, the question of its disappearing in any form does not arise. 12
 
Practice, Dedication and Devotion
In the light of the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the devotees of Arunachala Ashrama believe that spiritual practice (sadhana) is essential. Peace, joy and immortality are available to those aspirants who dedicate themselves to the practice of meditation and Self-enquiry, devotion and dedication. The Grace of the Guru is always present, but this Grace is only fully experienced by those few sincere sadhakas (spiritual aspirants) who devote their lives to the practice of the teachings.

We believe that Sri Ramana Maharshi did not live for his time alone. His presence and guidance can be experienced now just as when he was physically present. Those who turn to him with sincere aspiration and longing, those who try their best to apply his teachings, will feel his Grace and guidance. There is no doubt about this.

In Arunachala Ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi remains the teacher and Guru. Lectures and discussions may have a place in an aspirant's life, but Arunachala Ashrama is maintained in a manner that allows visitors and residents to absorb the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi through silence.  His teachings are always being disseminated in Silence, and to hear them we must silence our mind. Lectures and discussions can obscure His silent teaching in the Heart.

"Silence is the ocean in which all the rivers of all the religions discharge themselves."
— Thayumanavar
 
Guru
Sri Maharshi did say that a Guru was necessary. He also said that the Guru may not be external, as in his case. Again, upon his physical demise he said that he was not leaving, as he was never identified with the body; meaning, he is present even now.

The truth is that no one can give us liberation. The way can be pointed out, directions can be given. Our intense earnestness and total dedication to the goal is the most essential factor. If we become obsessed with this one thing - realizing Truth Truth, a physical Guru (if necessary) and all else will be drawn to us automatically. The Guru will come to us when we are ready. We simply need to attend to making ourselves ready and the rest is automatic. For those with faith in the Maharshi's living presence there are no doubts in this matter.

Footnotes:
1   Gems from Bhagavan by Devaraja Mudaliar,
     from Chapter 1
2   idem; from Chapter 2
3   idem; from Chapter 3
4   idem; from Chapter 4
5   idem; from Chapter 5
6   idem; from Chapter 6
7   idem; from Chapter 7
8   idem; from Chapter 8
9   idem; from Chapter 9
10  idem; from Chapter 10
11  idem; from Chapter 11
12  idem; from Chapter 12

VISIT theBOOKSTORE:
http://bookstore.arunachala.org
Bookstore-Sri Ramana Maharshi
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"Nothing Between You and I" by Jeannie Zandi

threegraces
There is nothing between you and I. My heart is tenderized to the extent that when your pain rises, I feel it in my chest, and there’s simply this love that doesn’t have a two. Because that extra one, that ‘me’ and ‘mine’, is over, it went when the will was broken by life’s refusal to do it ‘my’ way. So there’s no longer anything between us.

In that, this love rises that knows the beauty and the heartbreak of our shared humanness, the heights we can soar to, the depths we can sink to, the heartbreak that we must bear because we often cannot embody what our hearts wish to embody in all its beauty and perfection, the love that we are and have the potential to express. We long to be love in every cell and we fail so miserably, and it hurts us to the core. We’re so beautiful, and so brave, and so screwed. We can’t get away from the unconscious aspects of ourselves and we can’t commit ourselves entirely to the dungeon. We are all crucified on that cross of humanness.

And for this there is such a rising of compassion and mercy in the empty heart that has taken that crucifixion to the end, such a sweetness and a desire to give whatever kindness or assistance one can to these brave and beautiful creatures – you as a servant are born. And then God moves us deeply to see that everyone is not only Her creation for me to give myself to, everyone is actually Her. The feeling rises that says anything I have I will give you, oh brave children of God, oh sweet faces of Her.

I could never repay the debt I have to the Beloved for the gift of being allowed to see Her face, to see that everyone has always been Her, and that I’ve spent years treating them and myself, which is Her, as objects or enemies, or merely walked by so many in need or failed to look upon Her face with the love that is so obviously due Her. What was I doing? What was I thinking? As Donovan sang in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, ‘preoccupied with selfish misery’. That’s what I was doing.

And an awareness of every moment of this selfish obliviousness is there, alongside the clear sight that all are so worthy of our love and kindness. We know there just aren’t enough years to praise Her name, to love Her tender face in the faces of our brothers and sisters. There is no bad guy! There is only the embodiment of Her, on the cross of heaven and earth, angel and creature, struggling to live up to Her heavenly gift under the weight of this unconscious conflict and self-hate. There is nothing so compelling as that and to offer whatever we have to that.

This is something that rises when you get broken. There’s this wealth of gratitude, this feeling that the debt can never be repaid for the beauty of Her in every being. I couldn’t possibly give any of you enough to serve the liberation of the love that is hidden in your heart. Ammachi says I want to die comforting someone – she’s hugging herself to death and it’s her joy, because everything in her says I am here to be given to You who I am as well. That is the feeling when we’re emptied out. It’s what we are underneath the conflict.
And it keeps getting deeper. We keep getting more sensitive, more transparent. Pretty soon we might as well sit inside everybody’s pants, it’s so intimate. You have a feeling across the room and I feel you. And it’s my joy to have you guys fill my body with your angst. I’m dying to help you with that. I’ll meet anything you have. You have a cold? Give it to me. I can’t even imagine the joy Christ must have felt to die for his God in the form of his brothers and sisters. What else can I give? All I’ve got is my life, sure. What a joy it is to love you, to be this love, to know you as love, to break the bread of love with each other, to give you, my most precious, whatever it is I have to give, which is never enough to glorify your beauty and Her name, and to liberate the dove of gorgeous tender love that lives in your heart.

And guess what? All the while She is loving Herself through you. THROUGH you. So you get loved as it moves through your body. Your entire body is radiated by God’s love as you apparently love. There’s only Her radiant love.

So, yes, that’s the only thing worth longing for. If you have the longing for this love, yeah! Stoke that fire, burn in that place where you want it so bad. Don’t calm that down! It’s worth it.
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"A Rendering by Mooji

zmar_2016_08_3

These words are rendered from the transcript of a dialogue with Mooji that occurred in the spring of 2011.

There are clearly some people whose intellect can readily grasp Advaita Vedanta teachings, and even though the grasping is merely at an intellectual level, behind that there will already have been a subconscious search for something deeper. When this search first opens up through the intellect so that there is a looking for oneself as a separate, private, autonomous entity, and then nothing is found, that seeing or discovery can be the first taste liberating at some level, it's not enough, it's not quite there.

It will maybe be the first perforation through the screen or personal facade, but it has to continue deepening and refining itself in the heart. It must do this. Otherwise, you find people who are quite content to push Advaita about with words - the 'talk school' folks. Conversation with them will not feel in harmony with what is actually present in your heart. You may even find such an interaction irritating, because it doesn't feel like it is coming from authentic seeing; but rather it appears like a boasting or a kind of subtle superiority.

There are many banana skins on this way, you know, because it's not like a snap of the fingers - one day I am like this and then suddenly, I am the Buddha, absolutely perfect! It's not like that. It takes time for the mind to stabilize, to settle into this final understanding. There will continue to be a pushing up of 'weeds' because most often, after the impact of real seeing occurs, what are called i/asanas come up to the surface of mind. Vasanas are deep rooted tendencies that have been dormant, or at least lay hidden from our conscious knowing. Through the power of enquiring into the Self, these tendencies are brought to the surface so they can by grace be expelled.

Very often there arises in the personalized consciousness, or ego, fierce resistance to feeling the force and presence of these vasanas, for they arise with much emotional charge and personal discomfort. Because of this, it is not uncommon for many seekers to suppress, create distractions from or cynically dismiss them as the mere play of consciousness/mind stuff, rather than bringing them fully into the light of enquiry. Subsequently, at a deeper level, identity often remains in the form of a personal self, and the chance to move beyond ego fixation is missed. In such cases, the 'person' will
continue to seem more real than ‘Presence-Self'

Initially, if one steps fully into all of this, there is a breaking open, a liberation from the influence and grip of the mindset, the mind state or mind culture. Now, even the body-mind is felt as a phenomenon that is observable; it's no longer the mind-self that is witnessing me, it is the 'formless', the 'V/hat Is', that is witnessing the mind.

We are troubled mostly by thoughts that are personal. Many thought movements happen that don't register, they don't linger, because we don't have any real interest in them. And if you don't have any interest in a thing, you don't need to transcend it. It's only if something is 'biting-in' that a struggle ensues and the question 'who am / and what is this?' can come to life for a genuine seeker of truth. Only then will the process of transcendence begin and be experienced.

So mostly we are not troubled by thoughts we have no interest in; it is only when there is interest and desire that we become troubled. So therein lies the secret: finding the one to whom the thoughts are occurring, who has some relationship with those thoughts, a belief that there is some reality to them. Such cannot be said of the pure observer, who must be impersonal, beyond all content. So if and when that is seen, it will be a very important point of seeing because it releases one from the sense that there is a 'me' as an actual, tangible entity being attacked by life, memory, thought, or emotion.

That 'me', although it feels intimate, is now recognized to be a phenomenon because it is observable. When this is recognized profoundly, what remains as the observing is non-personal, a sort of impersonal beingness/state. And it's that place of the impersonal observing that is called the state of liberation.

However, even after a state of awakening occurs, there often continues to linger the habit of identifying oneself as a person. If this delusion is not checked it will tend to sprout seeds that distract or hypnotize the beingness back into the state of mortality. The only way out of that is to abide as the witness-Self rather than the 'I-me'. Like this, those seeds will reduce in power for lack of fuel and will wither and pass way.

So, after the first stage where one comes to an understanding that I am not this phenomenal body, the vasana energies are released with heightened power. Prior to that, it is almost as if the vasanas themselves don't need to release their power, because we are already co-operating nicely under a spell, the sleep-waking state. It is as if the conditioning, the belief that I am a person, I am this body-mind, is sufficient to keep us unaware of the Self, and in a state of sludge-like delusion. It is only when you are waking up out of the sleep of the body-mind identity that you begin to feel the glue and contractions of the body-mind state in its play as vasanas.

So when we are coming out of that sleep state (ignorance), through the grace and power of satsang, we start to feel, discern and recognize the dormant, egoic energies and impressions that were hidden while we remained identified as persons. As they come into the light of recognition, they will create the sense of a tsunami inside the body mind.

But even then, there is the power within you to keep observing them, to know that they too are phenomenal. It will not be easy, initially, because here is where the stored power of identity has fermented and they will arise with much force.

It will take some effort In the beginning to observe them with detachment, without being pulled into the spell of identity with them. But that season also passes.

At a certain point everything comes and goes in the field of perception. Their apparent presence is dependent on your being able to witness them. All of them are reporting to you at some level and are only in accordance with what your consciousness accepts.

There is a sense of the seeing or perceiving of the phenomenal world - both the personal and the outer world - which is being reported to some intelligence that is right here, which is synonymous with the feeling 7 am'. So the information can keep on appearing, from one to ten thousand sensations a day, but the perceiver is still only one.

If I am the perceiver of all this, then ask another question: can this perceiver itself be perceived? This is really the question we want to arrive at, genuinely: VZho i am? Who is perceiving this sense I am,' this storyteller of the world that is 'having' experiences and reporting them. With this question, 'Who is perceiving even this?', something may occur.

This question when it is put merely in a verbal or mental way will be seen immediately to be insufficient, that it is just having the effect of another concept. So if the question cannot be answered by a mental or intellectual answer to any satisfaction, what is the purpose of the question? The question must be to trigger a genuine introspection that brings you to seeing/being, if you actually clarify, verify and grasp its intention. You must become fully inside your seeing and trust your observing and discerning power.


So that is the question. In fact, this is putting Self-Enquiry in a nutshell. To find out if the seer is seeable - is it only another phenomenon and if it is another phenomenon, what is witnessing that phenomenon? This is not an endless riddle or an infinite regress, which is one way the mind may present it in order to avoid the impact of real finding, real discovery.

When you know who you are, you are no longer full of desires; you begin to see that without personal intention, there is an order, there is a spontaneous and benevolent power behind the unfolding play of the world. There is a recognition of the Supreme power that cares for life and is life.

You will see that whatever you were pushing against flows in an effortless harmony, a harmony unrecognized by most, who, out of fear and ignorance pull their ‘parachute' cords too soon. You begin to see: 'My God, look at that!' It's still the same Earth - the sky, the flowers, the trees, the cars, the people - and that the perceiver who was reacting from a personal standpoint was getting in the way of a deeper seeing, which is full of grace, full of beauty, and full of harmony and peace.

The very nature of the person/personal is full of angst, impatience, desire, and a compulsion to acquire things to suit their projections. But it just doesn't work. It never really worked.

Having a teacher is vital. It's only arrogance to feel one is not needed. Make use of a teacher until you go beyond the need for help, until you are helpfulness itself. A true teacher doesn't want anything from you, even your devotion. They are just satisfied that you come with an authentic attitude or approach and are searching only for what is true.

In that way, they have power and are fully available because there is sheer joy in imparting true guidance to an authentic seeker. To believe a teacher is not necessary is a mistake a lot of people in the West make, because they have so many ill-conceived ideas about teachers and gurus. But this is often the posing of arrogance.
There is a lot of 'non-genuineness' on the part of some teachers just as there is a lot of 'non-genuineness' on the part of some students. If you want to have a great answer you need to have a great question. People have a lot of hidden agendas. They come very sheepishly, appear very humbly, but in many there is a wolf behind such appearances. So life will take them to that guru who reflects a little bit of 'who' they are, until they eventually step onto the true path of recognition.

It's perfect, actually. One gets the exact guru you need in that moment. If there's a lot of funny business going on in your ego mind, you're going to find a guru with at least little funny business going on in them too.

Papaji was so great, his presence and dharma, so unsparing. Many Westerners would come with full-on egos and somehow, in his presence, they got crushed, vaporized. I don't think he saw egos. Beings with the clean, clear eyes do not see impurity, they just see that you are the Self. But in their light, because there is a sense of impurity in your own mind, that impurity is pulled out into view, and this exposure can make you feel very vulnerable.

In the presence of a true teacher the process of healing is enabled by the sheer power and presence of their clarity, which will allow what is hidden to be brought into the light and burnt. A true teacher has real love for you; not a personal love, but an impersonal intimacy because he knows you are the Self.

—Mooji

SOURCE:
http://www.spiritawake.net/mooji-non-dual/
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"Names of God" by Matthew Fox

Barker_Davi_Hands
Ancient Buddhist texts claim that "God has a million faces." This perspective is just one of many among different religions and cultures that describe a diverse array of names given to God.
Credit: Davi Barker sell1234.wix.com/eccentric-circle and Tikkun Daily Gallery.

Fourteenth-century mystic and activist Meister Eckhart says
“all the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves.” If he is correct, then as humanity’s self-understanding and understanding of the cosmos evolve, then clearly our God-names will evolve in response.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow reminds us that the Book of Exodus is also known as the Book of Names because God goes through two name changes within its pages. Why is this? In his article “When the World Turns Upside-Down, Do We Need to Rename God,” Waskow suggests it is because “the old Name cannot inspire a new sense of reality … God
is different when the world is different.”

So where do we go for new names for God? The ancient texts of Buddhism say: “God has a million faces,” and ancient Hindu texts discuss “the one Being the wise call by many names.” Thirteenth-century Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas is much wilder—he says that every creature is a name for God—and no creature is. He observes that apostles and prophets praise God in the Scriptures in this way:

As the Cause of all things, as good, as beautiful; as wise; as beloved; as God of gods; as holy of holies; as eternal; as wisdom; as reason; as justice; as virtue; as in spirits, as in bodies, as in heaven and on earth, at the same time in the same place, in the world, involved in the world, above the world, supercelestial or above the heavens, supersubstantial; as the sun, as a star; fire; water; air; and dew; as cloud; stone; rock and all the other beings attributed to God as cause. And the Divine One is none of these beings insofar as God surpasses all things.

Is Aquinas in this passage revealing himself to be an unabashed polytheist? Or has he merged polytheism with monotheism like no one ever has, urging us to find the One God in all things? The Jewish and Muslim mantra of the One God finds a radical application in this powerful and unprecedented passage. It opens us to a new practice: Find God in one being, any being—a leaf, a flower, a star, a galaxy, a person, an animal, a musical piece, a poem, a bridge. Here lies a challenge for the ages.

Crosby-99-Names-of-God
The author writes, "People of all faiths can draw inspiration from the Muslim practice of reciting the '99 most beautiful names' for God," and thus be encouraged to seek their own names or build upon those from Islam. 99 Names of God - Al Wadud (Most Loving) by Kelly Crosby. Credit: Kelly Crosby (izzymo.myshopify.com).

I recommend that we each pray on this profoundly meditative passage and let it pass through our open hearts. If every creature is a name for God, then all of us need to loosen up and breathe in multiple names for the Divine and be stuck on none.
People of all faiths can draw inspiration from the Muslim practice of reciting the “99 most beautiful names for God”—we can seek our own names or we can build upon the list of ninety-nine names from Islam.

The practice of seeking to rename God is not for dilettantes or pious preachers. This is serious stuff. The names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves and our world. It is our responsibility at this critical time in human and planetary history, this tipping time, this turning time, to rename God. We cannot sit around idly living off the fumes of worn out, trite names and images of God that are failing to move anyone to save our species and the planet. Time is running out for us. We cannot hide in our comfortable religious (or anti-religious) boxes anymore.

When Eckhart dares to pray, “I pray God to rid me of God,” he is warning that we do not take on the new and necessary names of God without a sacrifice, without a letting go of the old. Clearly we have our inner work to do. And from that work “God” by whatever name will be reborn.

In what follows I wish to touch on six areas where I feel God-talk emerging freshly in our time: discussions of the Divine Feminine, science, light, dark matter, transformative action, and the idea of God as life.

The Divine Feminine
The recovery (rather than discovery) of the Divine Feminine in our time opens up multiple avenues for inspiring our God-talk. To name and image God as Gaia, Goddess, Kuan Yin, Shechinah, Ochun, Tara, the Black Madonna, or Kali puts the Divine into a whole larger context with tremendous implications for ourselves and the institutions we give birth to whether of law, politics, education, economics or religion. Consider for example the ecological implications of what anthropologist Marija Gimbutas says of the Goddess: She is “in all her manifestations a symbol of the unity of all life in Nature. Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hills, trees, and flowers. Hence the holistic and mythopoeic perception of the sacredness and mystery of all there is on Earth.” The Goddess calls us back to the sacredness of creation all about us.

Consider the virtues that are extolled in this ancient Tibetan prayer to Tara: “Homage to Tara our mother: great compassion! Homage to Tara our mother: queen of physicians! Homage to Tara our mother: conquering disease like medicine! Homage to Tara our mother: knowing the means of compassion! Homage to Tara our mother: Spreading like the wind! Homage to Tara our mother: pervading like space!” Consider this commentary on the Tao who is called “The Great Mother, Mother of the universe” who “gives birth to all beings, / nourishes them, maintains them, / cares for them, comforts them, protects them, / takes them back to herself.”

Medieval Christian mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Mechtild of Magdeburg and Julian of Norwich also explored the Divine Feminine in their writings. According to Hildegard, we are “surrounded with the roundness of divine compassion” and we are “encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.” For Mechtild, “God is not only fatherly. God is also mother who lifts her beloved child from the ground to her knee” and the Trinity is “like a mother’s cloak wherein the child finds a home and lays its head on the maternal breast.” Julian says: “God is delighted to be our Mother.”

Naming of the feminine side of Divinity gives inspiration and support to women struggling with their womanhood and sisterhood while simultaneously challenging men to get more in touch with their maternal and compassionate capacities.

The Divine Feminine is not at all about softness or passivity but about a passion
with instead of a passion over. Feminist theologian Dorothee Soelle has argued that we need mysticism to access this Divine Feminine. “Mysticism comes closest to overcoming the hierarchical masculine concept of God,” she writes. “In feminist theology therefore, the issue is not about exchanging pronouns, but about another way of thinking of transcendence … as being bound up in the web of life…. We move from God-above-us to God-within-us and overcome false transcendence hierarchically conceived.”
The return of the Divine Feminine is a sign of our times. It assists profoundly in renaming Divinity and in the process, ourselves.

Names Drawn from Science
The second realm that inspires new forms of God-talk and offers important insights about names for God is science. Science has exploded into human consciousness in a special way within the last 100 years, during which so much of our view of the world and our knowledge of the history of our planet and the universe, its age and scope, has emerged. Science’s new creation story tells us that our universe began 13.8 billion years ago with the “big bang” (which was in fact utterly silent). Science has also unleashed powers of technology in our midst that like everything else can be used for constructive or destructive purposes since they carry both light and shadow.
God_the_Geometer
As scientific discoveries continue to shape our view of the world, new names for God emerge corresponding to these shifts. Credit: Creative Commons.

Where is God in all this? Are new names for God emerging from science? Thomas Aquinas says, “A mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.” Mistaken science of the past has surely distorted our God talk and God imaging. But let us turn Aquinas’s words around: insight about creation results in insight about Divinity.
I would like to offer a few names for God that derive from today’s science and that seem germane to our time. One new name—offered by physicist Erich Jantsch in
The Self-Organizing Universe—describes God as “the mind of the universe.” Jantsch defines “mind” as “self-organization dynamics at many levels, as a dynamics which itself evolves.” He compares the paradigm of self-organization in science with the experience of the mystics over the ages, writing, “This connectedness of our own life processes with the dynamics of an all embracing universe has so far been accessible only to mystic experience.” He goes on to describe natural history as the evolution of consciousness.

Where is God in all this? Jantsch argues that the divine “becomes manifest … in the total evolutionary dynamics of a multilevel reality…. The God-idea does not stand above and outside of evolution as an ethical norm, but in true mysticism is placed into the unfolding and self-realization of evolution.” In other words, God evolves and “God
is evolution.”

Astrophysicist Arne A. Wyller takes a similar approach to science and God, describing God as a “Planetary Mind Field” that “is itself evolving in its creativity” and is restrained to conform to existing physical laws in its biological creations. Wyller also argues that there is a biological aspect of evil in human behavior and that this evil derives from the imperfect coupling between the rational part of the human brain and the emotive and reptilian parts. The Mind Field itself is all about love. In his book
The Planetary Mind he writes:

The idea that humans create evil by their imperfect mastery of the evolutionary gifts of the Mind Field, the rational brains, the emotive brain, and the reptilian brain, one on top of the other, in no way needs to reflect on the attributes of the Mind Field. In contrast, Nature around us bespeaks of its love.

Wyller predicts that our evolution will move us toward a community based wholly on the principle of love in a new unstructured religion that is “more global, less ritualistic, and less dogmatic.”

Light and Matter
A third area in which contemporary God-talk is flourishing is in the area of light. As I pointed out in my study One River, Many Wells, I find that light is the most universal image of God among the known religions of the planet. Whether one considers African or Celtic religions, or the Buddha saying “become a light unto yourself,” or Christ saying “I am the light of the world,” or Judaism teaching about Shechinah, the name of God as Light is found most everywhere. It is also found in contemporary science. Light is far more present than matter in the universe. As Wyller points out, “No matter what scenario we envision for the details of the creation of the Universe, we are left with the incontrovertible observations that a flood of light dominates our Universe…. For every particle of matter there are 1 billion particles of light.”

With the discovery that, in David Bohm’s words, “matter is frozen light,” science allows us to put to rest the horrific dualisms of spirit vs. matter that have haunted western consciousness at least since Plato. Matter may be frozen or very slow-moving light, but light is the name for God world over! What does that mean? Matter is incarnated spirit—
and it is far rarer than light! We who are incarnated light (i.e., material) are rare in the universe. Rejoice!

Darkness: The Apophatic Divinity
Midwestern_USA_at_Night_with_Aurora_Borealis_-_NASA_Earth_Observatory
A fourth way to name and approach God is through a discussion of darkness. In a universe we now understand to hold 97 percent more darkness than light, Darkness becomes more than ever an operable name for the Divine. The Double Dark theory of the universe calls for an explosion in our time of an apophatic Divinity that, as Meister Eckhart put it, “has no name and will never be given a name,” the Divinity of “superessential darkness.” Says Eckhart: “The final goal of being is the darkness of Divinity.” He reminds us that “God is nothing; but God is also something.” In other words, Nothingness is another name for God.

One reason for the rise of the apophatic Divinity in our time are the multiple stories emerging about dark matter and dark energy. As astrophysicists Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams have pointed out in their book
The New Universe and the Human Future, one gift of today’s science is to have discovered that we ride in a sea of darkness. If over 97 percent of the matter of the universe is dark matter or dark energy, we ought to synchronize our theologies and spiritualities with these facts (otherwise we fall into  Aquinas’s “mistake about creation [that] results in a mistake about God&rdquoWinking.

Primack and Abrams invite us to imagine the entire universe as an ocean of dark energy, explaining that “the larger the universe expands, the faster more dark energy gets created.” This sounds like mother power if I have ever heard it: creativity generates more creativity, expansion generates more expansion. This is the Cosmic Mary, the Black Madonna, at work in the universe. The darkness that characterizes dark energy, dark matter, and black holes finds its human counterpart in the mystery of the unconscious. Eckhart tells us God is “a being beyond being and a nothingness beyond being” and “the ground of our souls is dark.” Ours are a time for learning to dwell in that nothingness and that beyondness—a time for silent receptivity in “the cave of our hearts.” In meditation we discover these truths.

Transformative Action: God as Creativity, Justice, and Compassion
A fifth area in which contemporary God-talk comes alive concerns creativity and compassion. Thomas Aquinas calls God “the Artist of artists.” God or the Holy Spirit is the implicit power of creativity itself, the urge to beget, the urge to make, the urge to give birth. What does God desire us to give birth to? To justice, compassion, and love—for God is described as constituting all of these things.

The Jewish prophets remind us time and again that compassion and justice are one. Our striving for justice is a striving for God. God is the love we strive for and the love we learn to give and receive; God is the justice we work for; God is the compassion we grow into. God is the Holy Spirit of creativity that births the universe. We experience God when we too are in a creative state. In that sense we are, as Eckhart says, “the mothers of God,” ever birthing Divinity, participating fully in the divinizing of the universe and in the exponential increase of awe, wonder, and beauty. Of course, like any mother, we do not know what our progeny is until we give birth to it, so in this way, as Eckhart says, God is still “unborn and needing to be born.” In this way too we are without God until we start birthing compassion and justice.

God as Life

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Medieval Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen explored the Divine Feminine in her writing. Fox writes, "Naming the feminine side of Divinity gives inspiration and support to women struggling with their womanhood." Credit: Creative Commons.

A sixth area for contemporary God-talk is in the discussion of God as life. To speak of God as life is to recognize all of life—its awe and wonder, its beauty and grace, along with its pain—as God-experiences. The great mystic Howard Thurman, whose book Jesus and the Disinherited Dr. Martin Luther King carried with him to jail on thirty-nine separate occasions, says this about God and life: “The core of the analysis of Jesus is that man is a child of God, the God of life that sustains all of nature and guarantees all the intricacies of the life-process itself.” For Thurman, God is the “common center” that births life and what is at the heart of life itself?  “Life is alive; this is its abiding quality as long as it prevails at all. The word ‘life’ is synonymous with vitality.” I consider “life” and “spirituality” and “vitality” to be synonyms. Clearly Thurman does also. To be spiritual is to be fully alive. Yet Thurman alerts us to how we can be so focused on each individual expression of life that we can miss its deepest reality—“the fact that life itself is alive.” Not only Thurman but also other mystics including Hildegard, Aquinas, Eckhart, and Tolstoy talk about God as Life. In my very first book I defined prayer (and still do) as “a radical response to life.” Perhaps Arthur Rubenstein puts it best when he says:

I have noticed through experience and through my own observations that Providence, Nature, God, or what I would call the Power of Creation, seems to favor human beings who accept and love life unconditionally.  And I am certainly one who does, with all my heart.

Substitute “radical” for “unconditional” and you understand my definition and experience of prayer.

My Own Names for God
Thus far I have laid out some new (and often ancient) names for God, identifying deep experiences from which names for God can emerge—and have emerged for me in my own experience. In what follows, I’d like to share some more personal reflections on my own encounters with the Divine.

In so much of my work, reading, writing, liturgy, action, I experience God as Truth and God as Justice. I see Jesus as a rabbi or teacher
and I see teachers or rabbis and all beings as other Christs. I see the Cosmic Christ as the presence of glory and radiance, beauty and elegance, in all of creation from microcosm to macrocosm. (I also see this as the Buddha Nature present in all things and as the Shechinah reflecting the numinosity of things.) I see the Cosmic Christ as “present with God before the creation of the world” and present in all creative acts as Wisdom and glory (doxa in Greek). I also see the Cosmic Christ as the wounds in all things—and I see all things that suffer as being like the Christ on the cross. I experience God as Holy Spirit that, like the wind, is invisible but tangible and very real. Spirit is especially active in our creativity, intuition, and inspiration.

In short, I subscribe to R.D. Laing’s philosophy that “God is our experience of God” because I see experience as primary. As the psalmist says, we must “taste and see that God is good.” Tasting and wisdom are essentially the same words in both Hebrew and Latin. Spirituality is about tasting. No one can do it for us.

As a “spiritual” theologian, I believe it is my vocation to speak to the
experiential side of religion. I name the experiential side of religion as “mysticism” (our Yes and love of life) on the one hand and “prophecy” (our No to injustice) on the other. Our response to both is, I believe, our prayer. Our Yes and our No come from very deep places.

A Lifetime of Experiencing God
Over the course of my life, in addition to the names above I have encountered or listened to God in such ways as these:

In Nature: I encountered God early on in lightening storms when I was a child growing up in Wisconsin, in the tranquility and beauty of the snow, in the colors of leaves changing in the autumn and in the smells of leaves burning, in sunshine, in dark nights, in the stars, in the smell of newly cut grass.

In Sport: Playing outdoor sports like football and baseball has often brought together for me the spiritual experience of nature (sunshine, grass, wind, rain), body, and community (team awareness and “team-work&rdquoWinking in what have felt like God experiences. A certain spiritual intoxication happens. A mystical encounter with life at its best.

In Books and Ideas: Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” blew my soul wide open in high school. Since then, I have encountered God in the works of all kinds of authors—including Mary Oliver, Howard Thurman, Joanna Macy, Thich Naht Hahn, the Dalai Lama, Hildegard of Bingen, and countless more.

In Science: I encounter God in the works of scientists such as Arne Wyller, Erich Jantsch, Thomas Berry, Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, Brian Swimme, Albert Einstein, and many others.

In Music: I recall hearing Beethoven’s seventh symphony for the first time when I was in ninth grade—it made me want to dance. I have encountered God not only in classical music but also in the prophetic music of the sixties created by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and more—and of course more recently, Lenny Cohen.
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Fox encountered God in nature: in the beauty of snow, in the colors of changing leaves, and in sunshine. Credit: Creative Commons.

In Scripture: I read the Bible from cover to cover as a teenager, going at it daily for twenty minutes per day. I did my master’s thesis in theology on the “prayer of Jesus in the New Testament” and it was there that I learned the deep connection between prayer and culture and how to understand Jesus one must ground oneself in his Jewish roots. I continue to encounter God in the writings of the prophets and in the wisdom literature.

In Liturgy: I frequented daily mass as a teenager, even though I attended a public high school. I was especially inspired by the Saturday Mass, which was always dedicated to Mary or the feminine divine. In my nine years of Dominican training I continued to encounter God through spiritual practices such as mantras (i.e., praying the rosary), processions, Gregorian chant, stations of the cross, vows, and daily mass. Praying, vision quests, sweat lodges, and sundances have been a rich way of feeding my ceremonial soul since.

In Silence: I also encountered God in my many hours of silence and meditation during my training as a Dominican. I cherished the silence that we maintained at meals, at night, in the morning, and in our rooms, and it spoke deeply to me—so deeply that my confessor suggested I become a hermit. After thinking it over, I gave it a try for one summer, joining a hermit colony on the island of Vancouver. I have often felt that I ran on the energy from that rich experience for twenty years. Nature itself is a school of silence if we allow it to be.

In Study and In Writing: Study and writing bring together everything I have learned with everything I am striving to learn and share with others. A great flow of creativity and grace occurs often for me while learning. The same occurs sometimes when I am lecturing, teaching, or preaching and experience deep exchanges with students or other listeners.

In Social Action: In social action I experience God. I came of age during the Civil Rights movement and it had a deep effect on me. One of the gifts I received the day of my first mass as a new priest was a subscription to the NAACP. The anti–Vietnam War movement, the ecology movement, the women’s movement, and the gay and lesbian movement have all shaped my experience of God and resulted in my expulsion from the Dominican Order. My social commitments eventually led me to stand up to the Vatican for selling its soul to the CIA and to neofascist movements such as Opus Dei, Legion of Christ, and others, and I continue to encounter God in sacred activism and struggles for justice.

Creating the Cosmic Mass and Alternative Education
In the current moment I work to rebirth new forms of worship using postmodern art forms of DJ, VJ, rap, and much more in an interfaith context through birthing what we call the “Cosmic Mass.” I have committed myself to working with the young to birth postmodern forms of worship and became an Episcopalian in order to work with young people from the rave movement in England committed to reinvigorate liturgy.

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A woman sits at an altar at a Cosmic Mass. Credit: Andrew Young

I have been pursuing the idea of an alternative model of spiritual education since the 1970s, when I launched the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality, a master’s program in spirituality at Mundelein College in Chicago based on the idea that one cannot teach spirituality in an exclusively left-brain model of education. When Cardinal Ratzinger, having hounded this project for twelve years at Holy Names College in Oakland eventually succeeded in shutting it down, I started the University of Creation Spirituality, which offered a whole new kind of doctor of ministry program, seeking to bring spirituality and work together. Many professionals, from engineers to social workers, from therapists to doctors, from artists to activists of various stripes, joined the program to bring their professions more alive. I experience the God of Justice in these projects and struggles.

Years ago I was interviewed on Dutch television, and when the camera was off, the interviewer, a man in his early forties, said to me eagerly: “I have to ask you this one pressing question. Do you Americans really believe that we can still experience God?”
That may be the difference between pro forma religion and living religion: spiritual experience. The mystics are those who have tasted the Divine, and I believe that means all of us.

New names for God do not necessarily drop from the sky or arise from a book; they come from our experience of the living God in his/her living universe and from our own encounters with life. They emerge in our psyches and intuition and imagination. By listening more intently to the depth of our experience of Life in all its wonder and its pain, its fullness and its emptiness, God emerges often with fresh wording from a place of deep silence. It is our deep experiences of awe and amazement that gestate new names as we stammer to name the unnameable anew in each generation.

WEBSITE:
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(This web-only article is part of a special series associated with Tikkun’s Summer 2014 print issueThinking Anew About God. Subscribe now to read these subscriber-only articles online, and sign up for our free email newsletter to receive links to future web-only articles on this topic, as well! Visit tikkun.org/god-anew to read the other web-only articles associated with this issue.)

Matthew Fox is author of thirty-two books on spirituality and culture including
Original Blessing, A Spirituality Named Compassion, The Reinvention of Work, Letters to Pope Francis, The Pope’s War, and most recently Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times.
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"If There is No Self, Then Who’s Sitting Here?" by Sunada Takagi

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Does the Buddhist idea of “no self” strike you as bizarre or outrageous? Sunada has been reflecting on this difficult concept, and shares her thoughts on it so far. It isn’t just an obscure philosophical point for mental gymnasts, she says. Paradoxically, she thinks the ideas can help us in a very real way toward finding and becoming more of who we really are.

If I asked you who you are, what would you say? Many people might begin by telling me what they do for work – teacher, software engineer, accountant. But no, I’d say. That’s the work you do, not who you are. If you changed or lost your job, that identity would disappear. So who are you really?

OK, then next you might tell me something about your family and your people – perhaps you’re a mother or father, a person of African descent, an American citizen, and so on. But no, that’s you in relation to others. So who are YOU, independent of them?
“There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.”

So then you might bring up your personality or values – an introvert, a romantic, or that you have a deep love of beauty. But I’d say these are descriptors of ways you behave or what motivates you. They aren’t who you are.

The thing is, we can continue this exercise forever, but we’ll never find anything we can nail down as “who we are.” That’s because everything we come up with is superficial and impermanent. There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.

Let me be clear that this idea isn’t saying we don’t exist. If we walked into a wall, our bodies would bump against it and we’d feel pain. Yes we exist! Instead, what it’s really saying is that we’re constantly changing beings, always in flux. We’re not permanent, fixed entities. We’re more like rivers. If you stood on a bank and watched a river, the water molecules passing by now would be different from what passed by a moment ago. So then how can we say it’s the same river? Giving it a fixed name and identity is just a convention that humans came up with so we can talk about it. The whole idea is a fiction.

At this point, you might argue that there are core aspects of our character that don’t seem to change over our lifetimes. OK, now we’re getting into some tricky territory. The problem is that as soon as we attach labels and concepts onto something, our egos kick in and start objectifying it, nailing it down, and spinning off stories to make something permanent out of it. And that’s what can get us into trouble.

Let me illustrate with an example of my own. Some of the traits that emerged very early in my life were my hard-working and self-motivated nature, and that I enjoyed accomplishing goals I set for myself. The various labels I took on included “high achiever,” “Type A personality,” “motivated by excellence.”

But labels are traps. With every one of them comes a whole string of stories, assumptions, and beliefs. And for the most part, they don’t match with reality. I took my labels to mean I should go after a high-paying, high-status professional job, become part of a “respectable” (i.e. conventional) community … you get the idea. But more than that, I felt I had to do my absolute best at everything I did. I was driven to excel at everything I took on because it made my ego feel good.

Many of you know my life story, so I’ll keep it short here — but basically, my house of cards came tumbling down hard in my thirties. I had so taken in my own stories of what being excellent meant that I wasn’t seeing any of the signs around me that were telling me otherwise. My physical health collapsed and I fell into a depression. Then on top of that, 9/11 happened, which among other things, pretty much closed the door on my career.
“…look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment.”

So what did the idea of “no self” have to teach me about all this? First and foremost, drop the stories. In any given moment when I’m faced with a choice, look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment. Of course, this doesn’t mean I disregard everything from my past. I have all that I’ve learned from my life experiences, all the skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired, and all my personal strengths and talents. But the real question is, how are those things actually manifesting in me right now, and how do they apply to the situation at hand? It’s not about the degrees I have, or the idea that I strive toward excellence, or that I want to succeed. Those are my stories. What’s really present for me right now, and what’s the most positive choice I can make based on that?

The Buddha’s teaching of no-self is about letting go. Let go of our stories, or in short, our egos. Our egos think those stories bring us security, but in reality they act more like ill-fitting glasses that distort our vision. But at the same time, the teaching isn’t telling us to be passive and let the winds blow us around. It’s about being so completely immersed in and open to the present moment that we know clearly and fully what the situation is – including our own strengths and weaknesses. With that clarity of vision, we can choose to flow more in harmony with the way things really are by confidently relying on our known strengths, rather than fighting to hold up our version of a fool’s paradise.

This is where the practice of mindfulness is vitally important. At some point in our practice, we begin to let go of our grasping to uphold “me” as something opposed to “the world out there.” We start subtly shifting away from being dualistically MINDFUL OF various things to sensing that we are just awareness itself, inseparable from our surroundings. We stand naked just as we are, the pure potential present in us right now, and flow intimately with the world as it is. That’s the real gift of mindfulness — to feel so confident and in harmony with the world that we can trust and let go of our lives to it.


Back to that notion of character traits that don’t change much – yes, I still have many of those qualities that keep me motivated to do my best at everything I do. But my way of thinking about them has really changed. I now know I’m at my best when I stand back and let the world around me augment what talents and skills I have. I suppose it’s sort of like sailing. Rather than me doing a lot of rowing, I’m learning how to harness the wind so it propels me toward where I want to go.

So if there is no self, then who’s sitting here? I guess the answer is a growing, changing being. In my case, this being also wants to grow toward becoming wiser and more open-hearted, and so every moment, I try to make the best choice I can to point myself in that direction. Where am I going? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Because the more I make positive choices, the more strongly the flow of my life seems to move in the direction I aspire toward.

I find the Buddha’s teachings profoundly optimistic and hopeful, because it says that we can change, and we can choose how. And paradoxically, I’m finding that the more I take in the idea of no-self, the more I’m becoming who I really am.

SOURCE:
http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/if-there-is-no-self

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Sunada not only teaches the online meditation courses at Wildmind, she runs her own business, Mindful Purpose Life Coaching, through which she coaches people toward finding their inner wisdom and confidence. You can read about her explorations of mindfulness in her Mindful Living Blog or follow her on Twitter.
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"Buddha Nature" by Sharon Salzberg (from rebel buddha website)

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When asked about self hatred the Dalai Lama said, "Self hatred. What is that? But you have Buddha nature. How could you think of yourself that way?" How can Western Buddhists gain confidence in Buddha nature and nourish our capacity to offer lovingkindness to ourselves?

I went to Dharamsala, India in 1990 for a Mind and Life conference with the Dalai Lama. It was a small gathering of psychologists, scientists and meditators, exploring the topic of healing emotions. “What do you think about self-hatred?” I asked when it was my turn to bring up an issue for discussion. I was eager to get directly to the suffering I’d seen so often in my students, a suffering I was familiar with myself. The room went quiet as all of us awaited the answer of the Dalai Lama. Looking startled, he turned to his translator and asked pointedly in Tibetan again and again for an explanation. Finally, looking back at me, the Dalai Lama tilted his head, his eyes narrowed in confusion. “Self-hatred?” he repeated in English, as though trying out the words. “What is that?”
I think that encapsulates much of what we encounter as the teachings come from East to West. I don’t want to deify Asian culture, but the rock bottom belief that if we went to the core of our being, if we really knew who we were it would be pretty bad news, doesn’t seem to be there, certainly not in the way it exists in the West.
During the remainder of the session, the Dalai Lama repeatedly attempted to explore the contours of self-hatred with us. “Is that some kind of nervous disorder?” “Are people like that very violent?” “But you have Buddha nature. How could you think of yourself that way?” At the end he said, “I thought I had a very good acquaintance with the mind, but now I feel quite ignorant. I find this very, very strange.”
For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of this session took place during our tea break. Several of the Westerners who were old students of the Dalai Lama’s tried to convey some of how the teachings of the Buddha could sound if one was listening with the perspective of self doubt and chronic self condemnation instead of confidence in our Buddha nature, however obscured it might be. They related things like, “When I first heard, ‘Give up self-cherishing, this is what I heard…’” “All this emphasis on effort, when I secretly think I might not be capable of achievement, makes me feel…”
It was amazing. The fact that self-hatred was not a part of his worldview summed up the essence of what I first aspired to through the practice of meditation. And I’ve certainly witnessed in many years of teaching the burden that not really believing we deserve to be happy, not really feeling that we can actually achieve happiness, brings.
In the Theravada tradition when we do lovingkindness meditation, the instruction is to begin by offering lovingkindness to ourselves. The explanation is that this is easiest, that we can “search the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of our love and affection than ourselves and that we won’t find that person anywhere. We ourselves deserve our own love and affection more than anyone.” But for many, that’s not the easiest, by any stretch. It might in fact be the hardest. And so we need a creative approach to accommodate that.
We’re taught (and I teach) that lovingkindness for ourselves is a foundation for lovingkindness for others, so that our motivation in giving is generosity and not martyrdom, our efforts at morality are not guilty and repressive but claiming a slice of the great human compassionate potential as our own. We’re taught (and I teach) that our own happiness, when it goes beyond merely seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, is not born of the circumstance we find ourselves in. Instead, when it is real and stable happiness, it is the basis for our ability to be generous, kind, and compassionate. Not only do we deserve it, we need that kind of happiness.

Implied in all of this is a deep sense of our own worth. What I’ve seen over these years of bringing an Asian teaching to the West, is that this sense needs to be a lot more than implied: it needs to be stated, examined, and nourished; our fears, assumptions and hesitations need to be challenged; and our capacity for freedom and happiness needs to be continuously brought forth and celebrated.

SOURCE:
http://www.rebelbuddha.com/2011/01/buddha-nature/

WEBSITE:
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"The Ultimate Yin" by William Martin

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I have been asked (and I often ask myself) how a Taoist approach to life responds to the ultimate Yin of life - death. As I enter my 73rd year the question is anything but theoretical. It is a reality that insists on breaking through the walls of my culturally conditioned denial and avoidance. But let’s stick with philosophy for a moment. The folk Taoism of Chinese culture entertains various beliefs in reincarnation, rebirth, and multiple heavens and hells, but the philosophical school of Taoist thought - that of Lao-Tzu and The Tao Te Ching - does not speculate about an afterlife. It does not deny the possibility, but it is frustratingly consistent in its refusal to pretend to know the unknowable. Instead it recommends the wise practices of; “letting go,” and of “not knowing.” I’ll  “know” someday. In the meantime I want to practice the wonderful art of letting go and develop a relationship of gratitude with this ultimate Yin that is asking for my attention.


I am coming to understand that the presence of death breathes life into the too-easily shrugged off concept of letting go. The Tao Te Ching, repeatedly advises the practice of letting go - of opinions, beliefs, desires, things, and even of people. The Buddhist ideal of non-attachment fit well with Taoist thought when the two philosophies blended in China two millennia ago. Both continue to stress the importance of ceasing to cling. Yet it is all to easy to delude myself into thinking that I am not attached, while in the back of my conditioned mind the thought process is actually: “I’m not attached. I’m just confident that my life tomorrow will have the same perks and pleasures that it contains today. It’s always been that way and I don’t see it changing.” This thinking process is the essence of clinging, and clinging is the root of humanity’s stress, tension, and unhappiness no matter how much my conditioning tries to insist otherwise. 

I do not advocate a morbid preoccupation or obsession with death. I am finding, however, that the acknowledgement of its reality can enhance life in ways that the practice of denial and avoidance can never fathom. One of the changes that the growing awareness of the ultimate Yin has brought to my life is the joy of actually letting go, not just pretending to let go. I am now able to say, from experience rather than philosophy, that letting go increases joy and pleasure in events, things, and people. What I have believed for decades to be true, I now find actually is true!

I am healthy and take great pleasure in the elements of my life, but my physical energy and muscular strength is noticeably less than it was five, or even two, years ago. On the other hand, my pleasure is noticeably greater. My delight in the sights and sounds of the natural world is increasing almost daily. My gratitude for simple things has expanded - for the aroma and taste of morning coffee; for pasta sauce simmering on the stove; for the breeze that comes through the window touching even a mid-summer day with coolness; for Nancy’s loving presence on the patio in the early morning.

Those of you who have had this ultimate Yin enter your life suddenly rather than gradually know how wrenching the process of letting go can be when it is imposed upon you. One of my dear friends has recently discovered that he has a debilitating and terminal disease that will take his energy and his life, sooner rather than later. I can only imagine the fear and grief that he and his spouse must be facing, yet they both report the presence of a marvelous joy that comes from remembering their long years together, from sitting on their patio with evening tea, and from learning how to care for and to be cared for in new and tender ways. 

These friends have had a crash course in letting go. I am reminded that, for the moment, I can take this course a bit more leisurely but take it I must. It is a course we all must take. We can’t “test out of it” with our philosophical meanderings. We will, however, all surely graduate. In the meantime, I think that Taoist thought advises us to allow the mystery of death to teach us the true meaning letting go. This, I believe, will bring us greater joy and appreciation than any of the false promises our acquisitive culture has fostered will ever be able to do. As one of my folk heroes, Arlo Guthrie, says, “Die now, go later!” 

SOURCE:
Taoist Living
http://www.taoistliving.com/B/Entries/2017/7/the-ultimate-yin.html
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"Letter to a Christian Teacher on Biblical Inerrancy" by Bei Kuan-tu

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Dear Friend in Christ,

Often I think that our inescapable cultural baggage, meaning our fragile egos and the influence of all who've crossed our way, "make being certain a necessity." Clearly, this is a reality that can never be — thus an exclusive product of our own heads! 
 
What I have questioned for decades is that the scriptures, beautiful and inspiring as they may be, are simply the product of a theologically divided church (367AD), and a power hungry Emperor Constantine (which Luther and those who followed him viewed with anathema) who sought to bring political stability and power to the western Roman world.  

As I've come to understand the gift of scriptures, they are the "finger that points to the moon." That simple idea has become quite liberating for me.  Of course, the problem is (at least in the Protestant world) men choose to "suck the finger" rather than adore and embrace what it points to!  As a consequence, the Bible has become the infallible A thru Z textbook for Truth. Sadly, this has given rise to innumerable emotional and psychological problems for believers.
 
It's near impossible to deny the history and politics behind the scriptures.  This should be a warning that scripture is not absolute in any way, shape or form. Whenever I've witnessed teachers using scriptures beyond simple instruction or contemplation of faith and pushing holy writ as a "key to everything," inevitably students end up trapped in their own conceptual thoughts and bias'. From there a sense of alienation, incompleteness and self-righteousness grows.  As Laurence Bolt observes:
"…Struggle (alienation) brings resentment, ingratitude, and withholding, which rob “us of joy” and keep the energy from flowing freely in our lives. This leads us away from the path of our spiritual destinies. Instead of following our own paths, we crave the approval and attention of others. This craving for approval, in turn, produces competitive hostility and envy. Envy, in turn, provokes greed, which agitates our minds and sends us on the mad chase that today we call the "rat race." In the process, we lose the ability to appreciate the simple enjoyments that come with life in the spirit (BECAUSE WE ARE IN OUR MINDS!). Ultimately, this leads to a sense of chaos and confusion that obfuscates our innate intelligence and robs us of our capacity to appreciate the beauty in life" (NOW WE JUDGE EVERYTHING!)." 

No room for the Spirit there!  This is a large segment of Biblical Protestant Christianity — no longer walking by faith, but blindly embracing dogmatism that justifies all sort of religious nonsense'.   
 
What is even more stunning is Biblically trained fundamentalists teachers carry with them (secretly) an underlying distrust of the very God they preach.  How could they not?  Their fear based theologies subtly and sometimes overtly permeate their own hearts and thus those who follow them. This travesty is simply "off the charts!"  It's everywhere, particularly in the Christian fundamentalist world. Makes me sick!  And if anyone in the remotest sense questions biblical inerrancy they are immediately cast aside as a heretic.   For where one set of biblically based doctrines go, so too do their opposites.   One can make a pretty good biblical case for "conditional salvation" or "universal salvation" or "Jesus is God" or "Jesus is God/man" or "Jesus was a man who infused by some sort of "cosmic consciousness", etc, etc."  I'm sure you get my drift.

"The wind blows where it desires, and thou hearest the sound of it, but canst not tell from where it comes or where it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."  

What Christians end up with is a biblical message of grace inner-woven with a fear based theology, legislated by a sometimes angry, bi-polar, anthropomorphic god (male, about 6'6", ripped — a bit of Zeus-like character) — who stands ready to annihilate, yet on the turn of a dime can forgive unconditionally.  

Sad to say that annihilation wins out far too often!  No wonder Mariology (adoration of Mary)came into being!
 
You appear to be scholarly in your biblical efforts.  I'd encourage you to be the same as a historian with those early church centuries.  Consider your sources (not just evangelical, but consider other schools of scholarly research).  Objectivity is paramount.  Open mindedness is not a threat to your salvation. It takes you ever deeper into the mystery one's faith.
 
This whole divine walk is clothed in mystery, it is intuitive, beyond the conceptual mind and rooted deeply in the heart. We can speculate on all sorts of Biblical concepts, but there is "that which is beyond dissection and definition." Either the scriptures are inerrant, written by the hand of God, or they are a product of inspired hearts woven with/into the politics and worldliness of the time. And if the later is true how does that change your walk?  
 
Lastly, it is clear to me that the vast majority of Christians are not free. This whole religious show can be so disingenuous!  In fact, the fruit of this disingenuousness is emotional mayhem on the part of the believer. And why is this scenario so common today? Because scripture has become an end in itself, rather than a liberating pointer to the mystery we call faith.

—Bei Kuan-tu
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"Living and Dying with Dignity: A Buddhist View" by Dr. Yoichi Kawada

Buddhist View - Mezzanine_399
In supporting people as they make difficult ethical decisions, Buddhism does not offer a set of fixed rules. In the case of medical-related decisions, such rules could be rendered outmoded or meaningless by further technological advances. Rather, it seeks to enable people to develop a deeper and clearer understanding of the nature of their own lives and the lives of others as a basis for such decisions. Specifically, it seeks to help people develop the wisdom and compassion that will enable them to experience a lasting sense of satisfaction and happiness. In this sense, Buddhist “precepts” are best understood as an internalized ethic of compassion that guides us toward becoming active, contributing participants in the creative evolution of the universe.

The Buddhist View of Life
As a philosophy, the starting point for Buddhism in ancient India was the effort by Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha) [literally, “the sage of the Shakya clan”] to resolve the question of human suffering, the “four sufferings” of birth, aging, sickness and death. (The inclusion of birth may be unexpected, but Buddhist tradition—confirmed by experience—holds that the transition from the warmth and safety of the womb to the cold outer world is an immensely painful one. Birth also symbolizes the suffering inherent in the very process of living.)

In order to resolve the question of human suffering, Shakyamuni
(Gautama Siddartha) engaged in various meditative practices, entering deeply into the inner realms of his own life. There he discovered a consciousness that transcended the purely individual, a layer of consciousness shared by all people. Beyond that, he was able to experience unity with all forms of life. Eventually, the expansion of his inner awareness enabled him to experience oneness with the Earth itself, and with the planets and stars which, like the individual human being, undergo cycles of life and death—forming and coming together, dissolving and ceasing to be. Finally, he was able to experience the dimension of what can be called a universal or cosmic life—the fundamental essence of wisdom and compassion that supports and underlies all existence. All life repeats cycles of birth and death supported by the compassionate functioning of the cosmic life force.

It was his awakening to this that earned Shakyamuni
(Gautama Siddartha) the title of “Buddha” or enlightened one. In the language of philosophy, he discovered an inner, immanent truth that is at the same time transcendent and universal. The inner cosmos he discovered could, in other words, also be observed in the world around him; perceiving a universal life of wisdom and compassion within, Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha) also recognized it in all people. He saw that all people were as capable as he of awakening to the true nature of their lives. From that time, his actions and teachings were dedicated to the work of awakening all people to the eternal, undefiled nature of their lives. These teachings formed the core and basis for the later development of Buddhism into a philosophical system and a movement of popular empowerment.
attacks in 2008
The goal of Buddhism is happiness. Because Buddhism views all life as interconnected, our efforts to realize happiness for ourselves must include compassionate action for others. Buddhism denies the validity of any form of happiness that is built on the suffering or at the sacrifice of others, including wanton destruction of nature. In the early Buddhist scripture the Dhammapada, we find this passage: “All living beings tremble before violence. All living beings fear death. Placing yourself in the position of these other living beings, you must not kill others, nor must you allow them to kill others.” Protecting life from violence and degradation is a core objective of Buddhism.

The Continuum of Life
Human dignity is a key concern in any discussion of bioethics. It must be given full respect in all stages of life. Being able to concretely sense and experience one’s own dignity, to have that recognized and respected, are crucial aspects of happiness. In Buddhism, the basis of human dignity is our identity with the universal, cosmic life, and our capacity to awaken to the wisdom and compassion inherent in all life. It is the fundamental nature of life to evolve toward self-realization and self-perfection. This remains true even for people with extremely reduced capacities. In this sense, human dignity is essentially independent of such standards as the ability to make rational decisions or to contribute actively to society.

The unity of the individual self with the cosmos means that the physical and mental, the concrete and spiritual dimensions of experience are also a unity. (“Two but not two” is the term used in Buddhism to describe that which is distinct and separate on the phenomenal level but one on a deeper plane.) In the same way, our lives extend to and embrace our surroundings with which we are also “two but not two.” For caregivers, this means that careful and balanced attention must be given to both the physical and spiritual aspects of the human person—one cannot be radically prioritized over the other. It also means that medical practitioners, when treating individuals, are also working with and “treating” the family, friends and community that are an integral part of that individual’s life.

Central to Shakyamuni’s (Gautama Siddartha's) awakening was his grasp of the eternal nature of life. The insights of Buddhism into the experience of birth and death parallel central concerns of bioethics. In Buddhism, individual lives are seen as emerging from the universal, cosmic life (the process of birth) and returning to it in the process of death. Governed by the law of cause and effect, we repeat endless cycles of life and death, each of which is a unique opportunity to create value (happiness) for ourselves and for others.

In terms of the process of birth, Buddhism views parent and child as manifestations of cosmic life who share a profound connection from the past, as well as a shared purpose or mission to be realized in the present and future. In the simplest terms, a child does not belong to or exist as an extension of the parents. Nor, however, is the child the gift or possession of an external absolute agent. In the Buddhist view, the sperm and ovum of the parents provide the environment or opportunity for a third, autonomous life to become manifest, grow and develop its unique potential within the context of the profound bonds of interconnection they share. These bonds are not a cold, biological fact that conflates genetic identity with ownership. They are developed and deepened through the process of care and parenting, and it is against this backdrop that specific reproductive therapies can be considered and often difficult personal choices made.

Dignity in Dying
At the other end of the life continuum, Buddhism views the process of dying as an invaluable opportunity to manifest one’s human dignity fully. Because Buddhism does not view death as an intrinsically negative experience, it does not generally support the use of “heroic” interventions that only prolong the physical existence of a patient. Nor, on the other hand, does it support any intervention that deliberately shortens a person’s life.

As Shakyamuni’s
(Gautama Siddartha) experience in meditation would suggest, Buddhism views consciousness as something not limited to such superficial aspects as sensation, perception and rational thought. Rather, it assumes the existence of deep layers of consciousness that are shared by and connect individuals (that are “transpersonal,” to borrow a contemporary expression) and which are ultimately unified with all being.

Just as the process of conception, gestation, birth and subsequent growth can be understood as a continuum of emergence and development from the common sources of universal life, the process of dying can be viewed as the process by which individual consciousness recedes into deeper levels until it fully merges with the cosmic life. This is not marked by abruptly delineated stages, but is a continuum on which “death” can best be understood as the point at which the dying process has become irreversible. Current medical technology is incapable of reviving people who have reached the stage of “brain death,” and my understanding of Buddhism can accept this as the present-day meaning of death.
scriptures, of Buddhism.
This view of death requires that people in the process of dying be treated at all times with respect. Long after they have lost the ability to express themselves, it appears that people continue to hear and otherwise sense their surroundings. And even after the capacity to organize sensations into rational thoughts or impressions has been lost, the deepest levels of consciousness continue to function, directly sensing the love and concern of family members and friends. Some Buddhist texts offer quite specific guidelines for behavior around the dying—to avoid speaking loudly or about subjects that the dying person would find disturbing, for example. Because dying is seen as a process, these texts hold that these guidelines should be observed for some time after the time of “death.”

In this sense, the inner state of the individual is the key to the Buddhist idea of death with dignity. As physical function declines and consciousness recedes toward the point of irreversibility, what kind of resolve and drama are enacted within the inner realm of the individual? How does that person deal with the regrets and satisfactions, a final settlement with all that has been painful and bitter, good and rewarding, in this life? In the ideal Buddhism offers for the final stage of life, wisdom and compassion figure centrally. An ideal death is one in which, supported by others and compassionately engaged with them to the last moments, we are able to sense the bedrock reality of our dignity, and can respond to this life’s gifts with a profound sense of appreciation and gratitude. In this way, we can mark a new and hopeful departure toward the future.


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Dr. Yoichi Kawada has a Ph.D. in immunology and is author of several books on Buddhism and medicine. Since 1988 he has been director of the Tokyo-centered Institute of Oriental Philosophy, established by Daisaku Ikeda in 1962 to make Asia’s philosophical heritage accessible to the world.
[Courtesy April 2004 SGI Quarterly]
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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the World’s Religions by Laura E. Shulman

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The human pursuit of religion serves a function in our lives. There is a purpose or goal to being religious. Be it the goal of salvation or enlightenment, comfort and guidance for living a moral life, or any of a number of other “higher” purposes in life, religions clearly encourage us to move beyond a life motivated by self-centeredness and pure animal instincts for mere survival. This observation about the ultimate goals, purpose or function of religion can be related to the classic theory of a hierarchy of human needs proposed by Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). 1,2


Religion tends to fulfill the higher needs. Starting with a need for the comfort and camaraderie of community, religion also addresses our need to respect and be respected by others [the “Golden Rule”] and, ultimately, to be all that we can be as “God” created us to be or, in the case of many Eastern religions, to become “enlightened” – thus “self-actualized”.

Most people seem to live a life in pursuit of the lower or base needs of Maslow’s hierarchy. Maslow says that we do first have to fulfill these baser needs before we are free to aim for the higher (deeper) needs. If we are hungry and homeless, our need for food and shelter consumes our every waking moment. Similarly if we are ill, our need to feel better will outweigh any other pursuit. Once these personal and immediate needs are secured, we then turn to safe-guarding them through steady employment and the protection and support from family and friends. We will also seek long-term satisfaction through the personal relationships of friends and family – seeking out a mate and having children of our own. For most people, these lower level needs are the primary consuming drive in our lives.

In addition to the qualities noted in the above diagram, self-actualization is also often marked by “peak experiences.” Mystical or spiritual experience is most definitely an example of a “peak experience.” The need for self-actualization is described as the “desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” (Michelle, Inc.
4) This is a good description of the Confucian ideal of achieving Jen – human heartedness, becoming more fully human, reaching one’s full potential for what it means to be human. Hinduism teaches that who we really are goes well beyond our current form as a human being: “we are spiritual beings, having a human experience.” An “expanded” hierarchy adds cognitive and aesthetic needs between esteem and self-actualization and then goes beyond self-actualization to Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization (McLeod 5). This Transcendence level relates quite well to Mahayana Buddhism and the idea of the Bodhisattva who chooses to forgo his or her own entry into Nirvana in favor of helping others become enlightened.

The non-monastic religions like
Islam and Judaism, do tend to focus more on the lower as well as higher level needs. Islamic Shariah (religious law) is based around many of the needs identified by Maslow: preservation of life, family, education, property and ultimately of religion. The dietary laws of both Judaism and Islam would seem to protect health as well as morality (causing the least harm to the creatures we eat). Sikhism is a religion from India that is also non-monastic. It too values family and community, working in the world through honest and moral means, and giving back through charity to support those “in need” (of the lowest needs on Maslow’s hierarchy). The Eastern religions also guide with regard to what we eat: a vegetarian or vegan diet amongst the religions of India or the Taoist natural and organic dietary preferences that also avoid too much of the “bad” stuff (meat, spicy and stale foods).
Taoism seeks long life and good health though the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes proactive approaches such as acupuncture, herbal cures, as well as diet and exercise (Tai Chi, for instance). Taoism is also associated with the practice of Feng-Shui, the Chinese art of placement. The Ba-gua tool that is at the center of Feng-Shui practice identifies eight aspects of our life that Feng-Shui seeks to enhance. These eight aspects relate quite well to some of the needs identified by Maslow:

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It is interesting to note that none of the areas of concern to Feng Shui relate to the lowest of Maslow’s needs: physiological.

The non-monastic religions emphasize the higher level needs though family values and, of course, encourage us to aspire to the “higher calling” of morality in relation to others. Eating is one of the lowest level needs all living things have. Yet fasting from food is a common practice in many religions, both monastic and non-monastic forms.
Jews follow annual 25 hour fasts associated with several of their holy days. The Yom Kippur fast is the best known of these.  Islam, of course, has the month-long fast of Ramadan when they do not eat, drink water or have sexual relations from sun-up to sun-down for each day of the month (providing health conditions do not dictate otherwise). Baha’is also fast from sun-up to sun-down for one of their 19 day months. Mormons typically fast the first Sunday of every month. Buddhist monastics eat just one full meal a day, around noon time. To forgo this physiological need for basic sustenance as a spiritual pursuit is just one way that religions emphasize the higher needs. The reasons for fasting are many. Most common are to focus on prayer and to identify with and even help the needy who are hungry on a regular basis.

Hinduism is an interesting mix of monastic and more worldly pursuits. The four goals of life, or Hindu Dharma, relate quite nicely to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The lowest of the four goals is that of seeking pleasure in life (such as through the well-known Kama Sutra) – not just about sex, but about all things sensual. This goal would seem most closely aligned with the lowest level of needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. The second goal of Hinduism is that of seeking success in life, living for both yourself and the sake of your family. Here one is the dutiful “householder” – the “family man”, working in the world, supporting and raising a family. Clearly, this goal of life aligns with Maslow’s second and third level needs. Beyond this is the goal of Dharma, one’s duty to one’s society: serving the needs of those who have less (charity – another common theme in many religions), fulfilling one’s role in the larger society of which one and one’s family is a part. This goal might relate to one’s sense of esteem (Maslow’s fourth level of need). Finally, the Hindu goal of Moksha seeks to transcend worldly pursuits as one seeks out ultimate spiritual enlightenment. This is more closely related to what we see in the monastic pursuit of the “peak experience”. Hinduism even refers to this goal as “self-realization” and equates it to “God-realization” – Maslow’s highest need of “self-actualization”.

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Kundalini yoga and the chakras of Hindu philosophy also relate quite nicely to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There are seven chakras or energy centers identified that run up the spine from the lowest at the coxis 7 to the highest at the crown of the head. The lower two chakras relate to basic survival needs like food and sex (Maslow’s physiological needs). The chakras then proceed through successively higher needs. Self-esteem, love, and self-expression relate to the mid-range of Maslow’s hierarchy. The two highest chakras of wisdom/intuition and, ultimately, spirituality would relate to Maslow’s highest need of “self-actualization.”

References used:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
1 A.H. Maslow, "A theory of human motivation," Psychological Review, 1943-JUL, Vol. 50, #4. Pages 370-396. Abstract at: APA PsycNET. See: http://psycnet.apa.org/

2
maslow99Abraham Maslow, "Motivation and Personality," Martino Fine Books, (2013). Available in Kindle and Paperback formats (Cover images differ). Rated by Amazon customers with 4.4 out of 5 stars. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

3 This image was was copied from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. License notice:
Factoryjoe, Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs

4 Michelle DeAngelis, Tools & Tips: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Michelle, Inc., 2008, at:
http://www.michelleinc.com/

5 Saul McLeod, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs," Simply Psychology, 2007, at:
http://www.simplypsychology.org/

6 This image mpan (Own work, based on File:Czakry.png), from: Wikipedia creative commons at:
http://creativecommons.org/

7 The coxis is also kown as the coccyx or tailbone, the lower end of the spinal column.

SOURCE:
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Why Buddhism and the West Need Each Other: On the Interdependence of Personal and Social Transformation by David Loy

Buddha Jesus
Abstract
The highest ideal of the Western tradition has been the concern to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and (to use the Zen phrase) realize one’s true nature, which puts an end to dukkha—especially that associated with the delusion of a separate self. Today it has become more obvious that we need both: not just because these ideals complement each other, but also because each project needs the other. The Western (now world- wide) ideal of a social transformation that institutionalizes social justice has achieved much, yet, I argue, is limited because a truly good society cannot be realized without the correlative realization that personal transformation is also necessary. On the other side, the traditional Buddhist emphasis on ending individual dukkha is insufficient in the face of what we now understand about the structural causes of dukkha. This does not mean simply adding a concern for social justice to Buddhist teachings. For example, applying a Buddhist perspective to structural dukkha implies an alternative evaluation of our economic situation. Instead of appealing for distributive justice, this approach focuses on the consequences of individual and institutionalized delusion: the dukkha of a sense of a self that feels separate from others, whose sense of lack consumerism exploits and institutionalizes into economic structures that assume a life (and motivations) of their own.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution. The mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both.
—Gary Snyder

Another way to put it: the highest ideal of the Western tradition has been the concern to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and (to use the Zen phrase) realize one’s true nature, which puts an end to dukkha—especially that associated with the delusion of a separate self. To- day it has become more obvious that we need both: not just because these ideals complement each other, but also because each project needs the other.

As far as I have been able to determine, the Western conception of justice largely originates with the Abrahamic traditions, particularly the Hebrew prophets, who fulminated against oppressive rulers for afflicting the poor and powerless. Describing Old Testament prophecy, Walter Kaufmann writes, “no other sacred scripture contains books that speak out against social injustice as eloquently, unequivocally, and sensitively as the books of Moses and some of the prophets” (186). Is there a Buddhist equivalent? The doctrine of karma understands something like justice as an impersonal moral law built into the fabric of the cosmos, but historically karma has functioned differently. Combined with the doctrine of rebirth (a necessary corollary, since evil people sometimes prosper this life) and the belief that each of us is now experiencing the consequences of actions in previous lifetimes, the implication seems to be that we do not need to be concerned about pursuing justice, because sooner or later everyone gets what they deserve. In practice, this has often encouraged passivity and acceptance of one’s situation, rather than a commitment to promote social justice.

Does the Buddhist emphasis on dukkha (suffering in the broad sense) provide a better parallel with the Western conception of justice? Dukkha is arguably Buddhism’s most important concept: according to the P
li Canon, Skyamuni Buddha said that what he had to teach was dukkha and how to end it. Historically, Asian Buddhism has focused on individual dukkha and personal karma, a limitation that may have been necessary in autocratic polities that could and sometimes did repress Buddhist institutions. Today, however, the globalization of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech opens the door to new ways of responding to social and institutional causes of dukkha.

On the other side, the Abrahamic emphasis on justice, in combination with the Greek realization that society can be restructured, has resulted in our modern concern to pursue social justice by reforming political and economic institutions. This has involved, most obviously, various human rights movements (the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, feminism, LGBT liberation, etc.), which have not been an important concern of traditional Asian Buddhism. As valuable as these reforms have been, the limitations of such an institutional approach, by itself, are becoming evident. Even the best possible economic and political system cannot be expected to function well if the people within that system are motivated by greed, aggression, and delusion—the “three fires” or “three poisons” that Buddhism identifies as unwholesome motivations that need to be transformed into their more positive counterparts: generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom.

Today, in our globalizing world, the traditional Western focus on social transformation encounters the traditional Buddhist focus on individual awakening. This essay addresses why they need each other in order to actualize their own ideals, and uses the example of our present economic situation to explore some of the implications of this interdependence.

Good vs. Evil
The difference in focus can be traced back to different paradigms. One way to draw the contrast between the Abrahamic and Buddhist traditions is to consider their dissimilar attitudes towards morality. The Abrahamic religions are (the primary) examples of “ethical monotheism” because they emphasize most of all ethical behavior. God’s main way of relating to us, His creatures, is instructing us how to live by giving us moral commandments. To be a good Jew, Christian, or Muslim is to follow His rules. The fundamental axis is good vs. evil: doing what God wants us to do (in which case we will be rewarded) and not doing what He does not want us to do (to avoid punishment). For many, perhaps most, of its adherents, this world is a battleground between God and Sa- tan, and the most important issue is whose side we are on.

Even the origins of human history in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve—which seems to me a myth about the development of self- consciousness—is understood as an act of disobedience against God: we suffer now because of an original sin by our ancestors. Later, God sends a great flood that destroys everyone except those in Noah’s ark, because people are not living in the way that He wants them to. Later, God formalizes His instructions by giving the Decalogue to Moses. Then Jesus (with some help from Paul) adds an emphasis on loving one another; still, this does not abrogate the emphasis on living according to God’s commands, on the importance of our will according with His will.

Although many people no longer believe in an Abrahamic God, the duality between good and evil arguably remains our favorite story, the main theme in most popular novels, films, and television shows (think of James Bond, Star Wars, Harry Potter, not to mention every detective novel and TV crime series). From a Buddhist perspective, however, our preoccupation with that theme is . . . well, both good and evil.

The duality between good and evil is a good example of the problem that often occurs with dualistic thinking—that is, conceptualizing with bipolar opposites such as high and low, big and small, light and dark, etc. Those particular examples are usually innocuous, but some other instances are more problematical because we want one pole and not the other. Yet we cannot have one without the other, because the meaning of each is the opposite of the other. (You do not really know what “high” means unless you know what “low” means.) This is important not only logically but also psychologically. If it is really important for you to live a pure life (however you understand purity), you will inevitably be preoccupied with (avoiding) impurity. That is why Chan master Hui Hai describes true purity of mind as “a state beyond purity and impurity” (in Blofeld 81).

The relationship between good and evil is perhaps the most problematical example of dualistic thinking, because their interdependence means that we do not know what good is until we determine what evil is. Good requires avoiding evil and we feel that we are good when we are struggling against that evil, preferably an evil outside us. This can be exemplified by inquisitions, witchcraft and heresy trials, and, most recently, the War on Terror. What was the difference between Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush? They were not only polar opposites but were mirror images of each other; both were fighting the same Holy War of Good against Evil, each leading the forces of goodness in a struggle against the forces of evil, because that is what the forces of good are supposed to do. Once something has been identified as evil, there is no need to under- stand it or accommodate it, only to destroy it.

The War on Terror illustrates a tragic paradox: historically, one of the main causes of evil has been our attempt to destroy (what we understand as) evil. What was Hitler trying to do? He was trying to eliminate the evil elements that pollute the world: Jews, homosexuals, Roma gypsies, etc. Stalin attempted to do the same with the kulaks, and Mao Zedong with Chinese landlords. Although the struggles of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were apparently “secular” in the sense that they were not motivated by what we normally consider to be religious belief, they were nonetheless identifying with the same basic duality, resulting in incalculable dukkha for many millions of people. (We shall return to the fact that traditional Buddhism explains such dukkha as the consequence of individual karma.)

That is the problematic aspect of the duality between good and evil, but there is also a beneficial side, which brings us back to the Hebrew prophets. Amos castigates those who “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” and “crush the needy” (2:7, 4:1). Isaiah complains about those “who write oppressive laws, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey” (10:2). Both speak on behalf of God, and both address themselves primarily to rulers who abuse their power. Of course, many more examples could be cited from the Bible: speaking truth to power, the prophets call for social justice for the oppressed, who suffer from what might be called social dukkha.

I am not aware of anything comparable in the history of Buddhism. There may have been a few counterexamples, but if so they did not influence the tradition in the way that the example of the prophets has influenced the West. According to the P
li Canon, the Buddha was consulted by kings and gave them advice, yet apparently he did not castigate or challenge them. Nor did the sangha do so after he died.

The other source of Western civilization is classical Greece, which discovered the momentous distinction between physis (the natural world) and nomos (social convention). Pre-Axial Age cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Aztecs generally assumed that their social structures were as “natural” (and therefore to be accepted) as the ecosystems they were embedded within. Realizing that human institutions are not pre-determined in the way that nature is—which means that we can restructure our society to make it better—the Greeks created a democracy that, although woefully inadequate by modern criteria, opened the door to new possibilities that modernity has developed.

Bringing together the Hebrew concern for social justice with the Greek realization that society can be restructured has resulted in what seems to me the highest ideal of the West, actualized in revolutions, reform movements, the development and spread of democracy, human rights, etc.—in short, social progress. We are all too aware of the shortcomings of this progress (see next paragraph) but our concern with those shortcomings itself testifies to our social justice principles, which we understand to be universal but are nonetheless historically conditioned and not to be taken for granted.

So, with such lofty ideals, everything is fine now, right? Well, not exactly, and I assume that I do not need to waste much time trying to persuade you of that. Even with the best ideals [what might be called our “collective intentions”], our societies have not become as socially just as most of us would like, and in some ways they are becoming more unjust. An obvious economic example is the gap between rich and poor in the United States, which today is not only obscenely large but is increasing. How shall we understand this disparity between ideal and reality? One obvious reply is that our economic system, as it presently operates, is still unjust because wealthy people and powerful corporations manipulate our political systems for their own self-centered and shortsighted benefit. So we need to keep working for a more equitable economic system, and for a democratic process free of such distortions.

I would not want to challenge that explanation, but is it sufficient? Is the basic difficulty that our economic and political institutions are not structured well enough to avoid such manipulations, or is it also the case that they cannot be structured well enough—in other words, that we cannot rely only on an institutional solution to structural injustice? Can we create a social order so perfect that it will function well regardless of the personal motivations of the people within it, or do we also need to find ways to address those motivations? In short, can the social transformations that our ideals seek be successful without also considering the challenge of personal transformation?

Perhaps we can now understand why so many political revolutions have ended up replacing one gang of thugs with another gang. Suppose, for example, that I am a revolutionary leader who successfully overthrows an oppressive regime. If I have not also worked on my own motivations—my own greed, aggression, and delusion—I will be sorely tempted to take personal advantage of my new situation, I will be inclined to see those who disagree with me as enemies to be eliminated, and (the number one ego problem?) I will be disposed to see the solution to social issues in my superior judgment and the imposition of my will. Unsurprisingly, the results of such motivations are unlikely to bring about a society that is truly just. And of course these distortions are not restricted only to authoritarian rulers. Beginning with the earliest Greek experience, and certainly supported by the contemporary U.S. experience, there is plenty of evidence that democracy does not work very well if it simply becomes a different system for certain individuals and groups to manipulate and exploit—again, usually motivated by the three poisons.

If we can never have a social structure so good that it obviates the need for people to be good (in Buddhist terms, to strive to not be motivated by greed, aggression, and delusion), then our modern emphasis on social transformation—restructuring institutions to make them more just—is necessary but not sufficient. That brings us to the Buddhist focus on personal transformation.

Ignorance vs. Awakening
Of course, moral behavior is also important in Buddhism, most obviously exemplified by the five precepts for laypeople and the hundreds of additional rules prescribed for monastics. But if we view them in an Abrahamic fashion we are liable to miss the main point: since there is no God telling us that we must live this way, they are important because living in accordance with them means that the circumstances and quality of our own lives will naturally improve. They can be understood as exercises in mindfulness, as ways to train ourselves.

The precepts can also be compared to the training wheels on the bicycle of a young child, which eventually can be removed because they are necessary only until the child knows how to ride a bike. In the Brahmaj
la Sutta—one of the most important Pli suttas, in fact the first sutta in the Dgha Nikya—the Buddha distinguishes between what he calls “elementary, inferior matters of moral practice” and “other matters, profound, hard to see, hard to understand . . . experienced by the wise” that he has realized (1.27-28). He speaks thus because for Buddhism the fundamental axis is not between good and evil, but between ignorance/delusion and awakening/wisdom. The primary challenge is not ethical but cognitive in the broad sense: becoming more aware. In principle, someone who has awakened to the true nature of the world (including the true nature of oneself) no longer needs to follow an external moral code because he or she naturally wants to behave in a way that does not violate the spirit of the precepts. (If only it worked so well in practice!)

The Buddha emphasized that he taught dukkha (suffering) and how to end it. Did he have in mind only individual dukkha—that resulting from our own thoughts and actions—or did he possibly have a wider social vision that encompassed structural dukkha—the suffering caused by oppressive rulers and unjust institutions? A few scholars such as Trevor Ling (1985) and Nalin Swaris (2011) have argued for the latter, that the Buddha may have intended to start a movement that would transform society, rather than merely establish a monastic order with alternative values to the mainstream. This possibility reminds us not to anachronistically project our enervated contemporary understanding of religion back onto his life and times. Certainly his attitudes toward women and caste were extraordinarily progressive for his day.

Regardless of what S
kyamuni Buddha may or may not have intended, what apparently happened after his parinibbna is that within a few generations much of the sangha settled down in monasteries and became relatively comfortable. Early Buddhism as an institution came to an accommodation with the state, relying to some extent on the support of kings and emperors, a development that may have been necessary for it to survive. And if you want to be supported by the powers-that-be, you’d better support the powers-that-be. That no Asian Buddhist society was democratic placed limits on what types of dukkha Buddhist teachers could emphasize. The tradition as it developed could not address structural dukkha—for example, the exploitative policies of many rulers—that ultimately could only be resolved by some institutional transformation. On the contrary, the karma-and-rebirth teaching could easily be used, and was used, to legitimate the power of kings and princes, who must be reaping the fruits of their benevolent actions in past lifetimes, and to rationalize the disempowerment of those born poor or disabled, who must also be experiencing the consequences of (unskillful) actions in previous lifetimes.

The result was that Buddhism survived and thrived, spreading throughout most of Asia and developing its extraordinary collection of contemplative practices that can help us transform ourselves. The emphasis, obviously, has been on the spiritual development of the individual. Whether or not that was completely faithful to the ideals of its founder, today globalizing Buddhism finds itself in a new situation. In most locales Buddhists are no longer subject to oppressive polities. We also have a much better understanding of the structural causes of dukkha. This opens the door to expanded possibilities for the tradition, which can now develop more freely the social implications of its basic perspective.

Admittedly, the implications of such a broader understanding of dukkha, and of a broader responsibility for addressing structural dukkha, are quite radical. They imply rethinking some cherished Buddhist teachings, beginning with karma itself. The conventional Buddhist understanding of one’s own karmic stream as individual and discrete is normally taken to mean that I myself am ultimately responsible for what happens to me: it is the result (vipaka) of my earlier (volitional) actions. What terrible personal karma must each of those European Jews have had to have been born into Nazi Germany! What terrible personal karma must the Dalit untouchables have who are oppressed in India today! If we are now dubious about this way of blaming the victim, we may find ourselves on a slippery slope that leads to questioning some other basic principles:
The influence of Axial traditions will continue to decline as it becomes ever more apparent that their resources are incommensurate with the moral challenges of the global problematique. In particular, to the extent that these traditions have stressed cosmological dualism and individual salvation we may say they have encouraged an attitude of indifference toward the integrity of natural and social systems. (Rue 37; emphasis added)

Buddhism is an Axial Age tradition, and both cosmological dualism and individual salvation have been important aspects of its Asian message. Yet in order for Buddhism to remain a living tradition relevant to the challenges we face now, it is necessary to interrogate how those teachings are to be understood today. Does nirv
āṇa refer to another reality, or to the śūnya (empty) nature of this world, where nothing has svabhva (self-existence)? If the latter, does awakening involve escaping sasra— this world of suffering, craving, and ignorance—or experiencing one’s nonduality with it? According to the Heart Stra, liberation is not only realizing that form is emptiness (śūnyat), but that emptiness is form. Insofar as śūnyat is not something that exists apart from form, all of us are interdependent, part of each other, and therefore responsible to each other. Needless to say, such reflections take us beyond the bounds of this essay; yet such issues are becoming crucial for the fate of contemporary Buddhism in a world very different from the pre-modern cultures of Asia.

Another way to express the interrelationship between the Western ideal of social transformation (social justice that addresses social dukkha) and the Buddhist goal of personal transformation (an awakening that addresses individual dukkha) is in terms of different types of freedom. The emphasis of the modern West has been on individual freedom from oppressive institutions, a prime example being the Bill of Rights appended to the U.S. Constitution. The emphasis of Buddhism (and many other Indian traditions) has been on what might be called psycho-spiritual freedom. Freedom for the self or freedom from the (ego)self? Today we can see more clearly the limitations of each freedom by itself. What have I gained if I am free from external control but I am still at the mercy of my own greed, aggression, and delusions? On the other hand, awakening from the delusion of a separate self will not by itself free me, or all those with whom I remain interdependent in so many ways, from the dukkha perpetuated by an exploitative economic system and an oppressive government. We need to actualize both ideals to be truly free.

The Suffering of Economic Injustice
From the above, one might conclude that contemporary Buddhism simply needs to incorporate a Western concern for social justice. Yet that would overlook the distinctive social consequences of the Buddhist understanding of dukkha. To draw out some of those implications, let us consider our economic situation today.

Until the modern era, economic theory was understood to be part of social philosophy, and in principle (at least) subordinate to religious authority [e.g., Church prohibitions of “usury”]. Today the academic profession of economics is concerned to model itself on the authority of the hard sciences and become a “social science” by discovering the fundamental laws of economic exchange and development, which are objectively true in the way that Newton’s laws of motion are.

What this has meant, in practice, is that such a focus tends to rationalize the kind of system we have today, including the increasing gap between rich and poor. Despite many optimistic new reports about economic recovery—for banks and investors, at least—in the U.S. that disparity is now the greatest it has been since the great depression of the 1930s. We have become familiar with claims that, for example, the wealthiest four hundred families in America now have the same total wealth as the poorest half of Americans—over 150 million people.
2 If, however, this is happening in accordance with the basic laws of economic science [which curiously echo pre-Axial understandings of social relations as “natural”], although we may not like this development and may try to limit it in some way, we would still fundamentally need to adapt to big disproportions. In this way such a disparity is “normalized,” with the implication that it should be accepted.

“But it’s not fair!” In opposition to such efforts to justify the present economic order, there are movements that call for social justice—in this case, for distributive justice. Why should the wealthy have so much and the poor so little? It is not difficult to imagine what the Hebrew prophets might say about this situation. For an economic system to be just, its benefits should be distributed much more equitably. And I would not disagree with that. But can the Buddhist emphasis on delusion vs. awakening provide an alternative perspective to supplement such a concern for social justice?

I conclude by offering what I believe to be two implications of Buddhist teachings. One of them focuses on our individual predicament— one’s personal role in our economic system—and the other implication considers the structural or institutional aspect of that system.

What I have to say about our personal economic predicament follows from what is perhaps the most important teaching of the Buddha: the relationship between dukkha and anatt
[“not-self” or “nonself”]. Anatt challenges our usual but delusive sense of being a separate self; it is the strange, counterintuitive claim that there is no such self. One way to understand this teaching is that there is a basic problem with the sense of a “me” inside that is separate from other people, and from the rest of the world, outside. In contemporary terms, this sense of self is a psychological and social construction. Although the development of a sense of self seems necessary in order to function in the world, Buddhism emphasizes the dukkha associated with it. Why?
Because the self is a construct, it does not have any svabh
va [“self-existence”], any reality of its own. The sense of self is composed of mostly habitual ways of thinking, feeling, acting, intending, remembering, and so forth; the ways these processes interact is what creates and sustains it. The important point is that such a construct is inevitably shadowed by dukkha. Because all those processes are impermanent and insubstantial, the self is not only ungrounded but is ungroundable and is thus inherently insecure.

One way to express this is to say that the sense of self is usually haunted by a sense of lack: the feeling that something is wrong with me, that something is missing or not quite right about my life. Normally, however, we misunderstand the source of our discomfort, and believe that what we are lacking is something outside ourselves. And this brings us back to our individual economic predicament, because in the “developed” world we often grow up conditioned to understand ourselves as consumers, and to understand the basic problematic of our lives as getting more money in order to acquire more things, because this is what will eventually fill up our sense of lack.

Thus, there is an almost perfect fit between this fundamental sense of lack that unenlightened beings have, according to Buddhism, and our present economic system, which uses advertising and other devices to condition us into believing that the next thing we buy will make us happy—which it never does, at least not for long. In other words, a consumerist economy exploits our sense of lack, and often aggravates it, rather than helping us resolve the root problem. The system generates profits by perpetuating our discontent in a way that leaves us always wanting more.

Such a critique of consumerism is consistent with some recent studies by psychologists, sociologists, and even economists, who have established that once one attains a certain minimum income—enough food and shelter at a pretty basic level—happiness does not increase in step with increasing wealth or consumerism. Rather, the most important determinate of how happy people are seems to be the quality of one’s relationships with other people.
3

Notice that this Buddhist perspective does not mention distributive justice or any other type of social justice, nor does it offer an ethical evaluation. The basic problem is delusion rather than injustice or immorality. Yet this approach does not deny the inequities of our economic system, nor is it inconsistent with an Abrahamic ethical critique. Although an alternative viewpoint has been added, the ideal of social justice
remains very important, necessary but not sufficient.

What does this imply about our economic institutions, the structural aspect? The Buddha had little to say about evil per se, but he had a lot to say about the three “roots of evil,” also known as the (previously mentioned) three poisons: greed, aggression, and delusion. When what we do is motivated by any of these three [and they tend to overlap), we create problems for ourselves (and often for others too, of course]. Given the Buddha’s emphasis on cetan
[“volition”] as the most important factor in generating karma, this may be the key to understanding karma: if you want to transform the quality of your life—how you experience other people, and how they relate to you—transform your motivations.

We not only have individual senses of self, we also have collective selves: I am a man not a woman, an American not a Chinese, and so forth. Do the problems with the three poisons apply to collective selves as well? To further complicate the issue, we also have much more powerful institutions than in the time of the Buddha, in which collective selves often assume a life of their own, in the sense that such institutions have their own motivations built into them. Elsewhere I have argued that our present economic system can be understood as institutionalized greed; that our militarism institutionalizes aggression; and that our (corporate) media institutionalize delusion, because their primary focus is profiting from advertising and consumerism, rather than educating or informing us about what is really happening (Loy 2003, 2008).

If greed, aggression and delusion are the main sources of evil, and if today they have been institutionalized in this fashion, you can draw your own conclusions. I finish with a few words on how our economic system promotes structural dukkha by institutionalizing greed.

What is greed? One definition is “never enough.” On the individual level, it is the next thing one buys that will fill up one’s sense of lack. But greed works just as well to describe what happens on an institutional level: corporations are never large enough or profitable enough, the value of their shares is never high enough, our national GDP is never big enough. In fact, we cannot imagine what “big enough” might be. It is built into these systems that they must keep growing, or else they tend to collapse. But why is more always better if it can never be enough?

Consider the stock market, the high temple of the economic process. On the one side are many millions of investors, most of whom are anonymous and unconcerned about the details of the corporations they invest in except for their profitability and its effects on share prices— that is, the return on their investments. In many cases, investors do not know where their money is invested, thanks to mutual funds. Such people are not evil, of course: on the contrary, investment is a highly respectable endeavor, something to do if you have some extra money, and successful investors are highly respected, even idolized (such as Warren Buffet, "the sage of Omaha."

On the other side of the market, however, the desires and expectations of those millions of investors become transformed into an impersonal and unremitting pressure for growth and increased profitability that every CEO must respond to, and preferably in the short run. If a CEO does not maximize profitability, he or she is likely to get into trouble. Consider, for example, the CEO of a large transnational corporation, who one morning suddenly wakes up to the imminent dangers of climate change and wants to do everything he (it is usually a he) can to address this challenge. But if what he tries to do threatens corporate profits, he is likely to lose his job. And if that is true for the CEO, how much more true it is for everyone else further down the corporate hierarchy? Corporations are legally chartered so that their first responsibility is not to their employees or customers, nor to the members of the societies they operate within, nor to the ecosystems of the earth, but to the individuals who own them, who with few exceptions are concerned only about return on investment—a preoccupation, again, that is not only socially acceptable but socially encouraged.

Who is responsible for this situation in which we have a collective fixation on growth? The important point is that the system has attained not only a life of its own but its own cetan
volitions, quite apart from the motivations of the individuals who work for it and who will be replaced if they do not serve that institutional motivation. And all of us participate in this process in one way or another, as workers, consumers, investors, pensioners, and so forth, although with very little if any sense of personal responsibility for the collective result. Any awareness of what is actually happening tends to be diffused in the impersonal anonymity of this economic process. Everyone is just doing their job, playing their role.

In short, any genuine solution to the economic crisis will not simply involve better redistribution of wealth, necessary as that is. We must also find ways to address the personal dukkha built into the delusions of consumerism, and the structural dukkha built into institutions that have attained a life of their own. It has become obvious that what is beneficial for those institutions (in the short run) is very different from what is beneficial for the rest of us and for the biosphere.

Concluding Remarks
The Western (now, worldwide) ideal of a social transformation that institutionalizes social justice has achieved much. Yet, I have argued, it is limited because a truly good society cannot be realized without the correlative realization that personal transformation is also necessary. In the present generation—thanks to globalization, widespread transportation and digital communications—these two world-views, with different but not conflicting ideals, are in conversation with each other. If I am correct, they need each other. Or more precisely, we need both.

This does not mean merely adding a concern for social justice to Buddhist teachings. Applying a Buddhist perspective to structural dukkha implies an alternative evaluation of our economic situation. Instead of appealing for distributive justice, this approach focuses on the consequences of individual and institutionalized delusion: the dukkha of a sense of a self that feels separate from others, whose sense of lack consumerism exploits and institutionalizes into economic structures that assume a life (and motivations) of their own. Although fairness remains important, in terms of equal opportunity and more equitable distribution, the Buddhist emphasis on greed as a motivation—“never enough”— implies that, when institutionalized, greed ends up subverting the purpose of any economic system, which is to promote widespread and sustainable human flourishing.

Here, the traditional Western concern for social justice is complemented by the Buddhist focus on ending dukkha. The role of greed must be addressed not only individually, in our personal lives, but also its structural forms.

Bibliography
Blofeld, John, trans. and ed. The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai on Sudden Illumination. London: Rider, 1969.
Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. New York: Knopf, 2007.
421 Journal of Buddhist Ethics
Kaufmann, Walter. Faith of a Heretic. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Ling, Trevor. The Buddha. London: Gower, 1985.
Loy, David R. The Great Awakening. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003. Money Sex War Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008.
Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin, 2008.
Ricard, Matthieu and Daniel Goleman. Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.
Rue, Loyal. Everybody’s Story: Wising up to the Epic of Evolution. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999.
Snyder, Gary. Earth House Hold. New York: New Directions, 1969.
Swaris, Nalin. The Buddha's Way to Human Liberation: a socio-historical approach. New Delhi: Navayana, 2011.
Walshe, Maurice. The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987.

SOURCE:
http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/files/2013/09/Loy-Why-Buddhism-final.pdf

WEBSITE:
http://www.davidloy.org/index.html

AUDIO SOURCE:
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David Loy
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Alan Watts - Philosophy of the Tao

Non-Duality3g

The subject of this seminar is going to be Taoism as contained in the teachings of Lao-Tzu and Juang-Tzu who lived approximately 400 years or more before Christ, separated probably by 100 years from each other. And as is often repeated, Lao-Tzu started out by explaining that "The Tao which can be explained is not the eternal Tao," and then went on to write a book about it, also saying "Those who say do not know; those who know do not say." Because there's nothing to be explained. You must remember that the word "explain" means to lay out in a plane. That is, to put it on a flat sheet of paper.

All mathematics is done on a flat sheet of paper until very recent times. But it makes a great deal of difference, because this world isn't flat. If you draw a circle on a flat sheet of paper it has an inside and an outside which are different. On the other hand if you draw a circle around a doughnut the inside and the outside are the same. So what we are first of all saying is that the Tao - whatever that is - cannot be explained in that sense.

So it's important, first of all, to experience it so we know what we're talking about. And in order to go into Taoism at all we must begin by being in the frame of mind which can understand it. You cannot force yourself into this frame of mind, any more than you can smooth disturbed water with your hand. But let's say that our starting point is that we forget what we know - or think we know. That we suspend judgment about practically everything, returning to what we were when we were babies. When we have not yet learned the names, or language, and although we have extremely sensitive bodies - very alive senses - we have no means of making an intellectual or verbal commentary on what is going on.

Now can you consider that as your state? Just plain ignorant, but still very much alive. And in this state you just feel what is without calling it anything at all. You know nothing at all about anything called an external world in relation to an internal world. You don't know who you are. You haven't even got the idea of the word "you" or "I." It's before all that. Nobody has taught you self-control. So you don't know the difference between the noise of a car outside and a wandering thought that enters your mind. They're both something that happens. You don't identify the presence of the thought, which might be just an image of a passing cloud in your mind's eye, and the passing automobile. They happen. Your breath happens. Light all around you happens. Your response to it by blinking happens.

So you simply are really unable to do anything. There's nothing that you're supposed to do. Nobody's told you anything to do. You're unable, completely, to do anything but be aware of the buzz. The visual buzz, the audible buzz, the tangible buzz, the smellable buzz, all buzz that's going on. Ha ha. Watch it! Don't ask who's watching it. You've no information about that yet, that it requires a watcher for something to be watched. That's somebody's idea. You don't know that.

And Lao-Tzu says, "The scholar learns something every day. The man of Tao unlearns something every day... until he gets back to non-doing." And that's what we are in at the moment.

Just simply, without comment, without an idea in your head, be aware. What else can you do? Don't try to be aware. You are. You'll find, of course, that you can't stop the commentary going on inside of your head. But at least you can regard it as interior noise. Listen to your chattering thoughts as you listen to the singing of a kettle. We don't know what it is we are aware of. Especially when you take it all together. And there's this sense of something going on. I won't even say that. This. You see? This.

Well, I said it was going on. That's an idea. It's a form of words. Obviously I wouldn't know if anything was going on unless I could say something else wasn't. Huh. I know motion by contrast with rest. So while I am aware of motion I am also aware of rest, so maybe what's at rest isn't going on and what's motion is going on. So I won't use that concept because I've got to include both. And if I say, "Well here it is," that excludes what isn't - like space. And if I say "this" it excludes "that." Ha ha ha, I'm reduced to silence!

But you can feel what I'm talking about, can't you? That's what's called "Tao" in Chinese. That's where we begin.

Tao means basically "way" - and so "course" - the course of Nature. Of which Lao-Tzu says "Tao fa tzu yan," which means - the "fa" - "Tao fa" means the way of functioning of the Tao. "Tzu yan" is of itself, so. That is to say, is spontaneous.

Watch again what's going on. If you approach it with this wise ignorance you will see that you are witnessing a happening. In other words, in this primal way of looking at things there's no difference between what you do on the one hand and what happens to you on the other. It's all the same process. Just as your thoughts happen the car happens outside. The clouds. The stars.

When a Westerner hears that he thinks of fatalism or determinism. That's because he still preserves in the back of his mind two illusions. One is that what is happening is happening to him, and therefore he is the victim of circumstances. But when you are in primal ignorance there is no you different from what's happening, and therefore it's not happening to you. It's just happening. Ha ha. So is you, you know, what you call "you," what you later call "you" is part of the happening. You're part of the Universe. Although the Universe, strictly speaking, has no parts. We only call certain features of the Universe parts of it, but you can't disconnect them from the rest without causing them to be not only nonexistent but never to have existed. Ha ha.

So when you have this happening the other illusion that a Westerner is liable to have is that it's determined in the sense that what is happening now follows necessarily from what happened in the past. But you don't know anything about that in your primal ignorance. Cause and effect? Why, obviously not! Ha ha ha! Because if you're really na•ve you see that the past is the result of what's happening now. It goes backwards into the past like a wake goes backwards from a ship. All the echoes are disappearing, finally, going away and away and away. And it's all starting now. What we call the future is nothing, the great void. And everything comes out of the great void.

That's the way a na•ve person - and as I explained if any of you were at my lecture last night, if you shut your eyes and contemplate reality only with your ears you'll find there's a background of silence and all sounds are coming out of it. They start out of silence. If you close your eyes - listen, just listen. [rings meditation bell] You see the bell came out of nothing, floated off, off, off, off, and then stopped being a sonic echo and became a memory, which is another kind of echo. A wake. It's very simple!

It all begins now. And therefore it's spontaneous. It isn't determined. That's a philosophical notion. Nor is it capricious! That's another philosophical notion. As we distinguish between what is orderly and what is random. Of course we don't really know what randomness is. If you talk to a mathematician about randomness he'll make you feel quite weird.

What is so of itself? "Sui generis" in Latin. That means coming into being spontaneously on its own accord. It's the real meaning of "virgin birth." Sui generis. And that's the world. That is the Tao. That makes us feel scared. Perhaps. Because we say "Well if all this is happening spontaneously who's in charge? I'm not in charge, that's pretty obvious! Ha ha ha! But I hope there's God or somebody looking after all this." Though why should there be someone looking after it? Because then there's a new worry that you may not have thought of. Like who takes care of the caretaker's daughter while the caretaker's busy taking care? Who guards the guards? Who supervises the police? Who looks after God? Well you say "God doesn't need looking after." Oh. Oh, then nor does this!

Tao. Because Tao is a certain kind of order. And this kind of order is not quite what we call order. When we arrange everything geometrically in boxes or in rows that's a very crude kind of order. But when you look at a plant it's perfectly obvious that this bamboo plant has order. We recognize at once that that is not a mess. But it is not symmetrical. And it is not geometrical looking. It looks like a Chinese drawing. Because the Chinese appreciated this kind of order so much that they put it into their painting. Non-symmetrical order.

In the Chinese language this is called "li" and the character for li means originally the markings in jade. Also means the grain in wood, and the fiber in muscle. We could say too that clouds have li, marble has li, the Human body has li. And we all recognize it, and the artist copies it whether he is a landscape painter, a portrait painter, or an abstract painter, or a non-objective painter. They all are trying for li.

And the interesting thing is that although we all know what it is there's no way of defining it. But because Tao is the course we can also call li the watercourse, because the patterns of li are patterns of flowing water. And we see those patterns of flow memorialized as it were in sculpture, in the grain in wood (which is the flow of sap), in marble, in bones, in muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles. That is the fa, Tao fa, the Tao's principle of flow.

There is a book called "Sensitive Chaos" by Theodore Svenk with many many studies and photographs of flow patterns. And there in the patterns of flowing water you will see all kinds of motifs from Chinese art. Immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle, the yang-yin, like this.... See?

So li means then the order of flow, the wonderful dancing pattern of liquid. Because Lao-Tzu likens Tao to water. "The great Tao," he says, "flows everywhere, to the left and to the right. [Like water]," - I'm interpolating that - "it loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them." "Because," he says elsewhere, "water always seeks the lowest level, which men abhor." Because we're always trying to play games of one-upmanship and be on top of each other. Well, Lao-Tzu explains that the top position is the most insecure. Everybody wants to get to the top of the tree. But then if they do the tree will collapse.

That's the fallacy of American democracy. You too might be president. The answer is, no one but a maniac would want to be president! [Laughter] Who wants to be put in charge of a runaway truck? [Laughter]

So, Lao-Tzu says that the basic position is the most powerful. And this we can see at once in Judo, or Aikido, which are wrestling arts or self-defensive arts where you always get underneath the opponent, and so he falls over you if he attacks you. The moment he moves to be aggressive you go either lower than he is, or in a smaller circle than he's moving. And you have spin if you know Aikido. You're always spinning, and you know how something rapidly spinning exercises centrifugal force. So if somebody comes into your field of centrifugal force he gets flung out, but by his own bounce. Huh, it's very curious. So, therefore, the watercourse way is the way of Tao.

Now, that seems to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and Irish Catholics... lazy... spineless... passive. And I'm always being asked when I talk about things, "If people did what you suggest wouldn't they become terribly passive?" Well, from a superficial point of view I would suggest that a certain amount of passivity would be an excellent corrective for our kind of culture. Because we are always creating trouble by doing good to other people. [Laughter] You know, we wage wars for people's benefit. [Laughter] And educate the poor for their benefit, so that they desire more things which they can't get. I mean, that sounds rather callous. But our rich people are not happy, whereas the poor people of Haiti are - to judge by the way they laugh. And we think-- we're sorry, really, not for the poor but for ourselves. Guilty.

So a certain amount of doing nothing, and stopping rushing around, would cool everything. But also it must be remembered that passivity is the root of action. Where do you suppose you're going to get enery from, just by being energetic? No, you can't get energy that way. That is exhausting yourself. To have energy you must sleep, but also much more important than sleep is what I told you at the beginning. Passivity of mind, mental silence. Not-- you can't, as I tried to explain, be passive, as an exercise that's good for you. You can only get to that point by realizing there's nothing else you can do. So for God's sake don't cultivate passivity as a form of progress. That's like playing because it's good for your work. [Laughter] You never get to play! [Laughter]

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"The Art of Mindfully Letting Go With Buddha’s Four Noble Truths" by Ronald Alexander, Ph.D.

n-BUDDHA-628x314
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha was like the first psychologist, teaching his followers about the power of changing their mental processes in order to alleviate emotional discomfort and embrace change. One of his insights were the four noble truths that helped people free themselves from the patterns of thinking and behaving that perpetuate their suffering.

By looking at these four central tenets of Buddhism we can better understand how micromanaging our circumstances can cause us to become agitated and restricted. Instead, when we learn to let go of our attachments we can transform our lives in an innovative way.

The four noble truths can help us break out of the need to be in control and, instead, enter into an acceptance of the present moment. Only in the present will we find the courage to cross the threshold of the unknown and relax into the changes we cannot avoid. I find it helpful to take a mindful pause throughout the day and check in with one or more of them. It’s a lovely compass to follow.
Here are the four noble truths from my book,
Wise Mind, Open Mind and how they can help you let go of resistance and move forward out of your dilemma.

The first noble truth: In life, there is suffering, because of the impermanent nature of things.
Because we feel more secure when we have a sense of predictability, we develop a great capacity for denying a simple truth: that nothing stays the same. Then the unpredictability of life shows us that even if we do everything “right” and exercise every precaution, we can still face unexpected loss.

When this happens the shock can make it hard to regain your equanimity and exercise nonreactvity. Too often, rather than surrender to the inevitability of change and work creatively with it, people resort to the fear-based behavior of trying to take charge and force other people and situations to conform to their expectations. The first noble truth of Buddhism is a reminder not to slip into the avoidance behavior of denial. While it’s not wise to create gloomy thoughts about how matters might take a turn for the worse, consciously ignoring the reality that all situations transform sets you up for a great shock when that time comes.

The second noble truth: Suffering is due to attachments and expectations, to grasping and clinging.
Your inability to avoid change may make you angry, sad, and frustrated. It can be hard to let go of the false belief that the only way to achieve happiness again is to regain what’s been lost. Even when you know you can’t reverse the situation, you may agonize over this reality.

Clinging to what once was, avoiding the process of grief and acceptance, causes paralysis. Grasping for a future set of circumstances identical to the past holds you back from discovering what better roads lie ahead, outside of your sight. The desire to backtrack or reconstruct will likely result in your walking around in circles, lost in the dark woods, instead of peering around corners to find new paths.

The third noble truth: It’s possible to end suffering by giving up attachments (clinging) and expectations (grasping).

The shift in perspective that comes when we recognize that there’s no such thing as a permanent sense of happiness begins our healing from suffering. The next step is to accept that we must broaden our definition of what we need in order to be happy, giving up the habits of clinging and grasping, as well as the need to control external circumstances.

After emerging from the shock of a great loss, we’re even more despairing about the possibility of being joyful again. However, the third noble truth offers us the promise of a new way of living that’s as satisfying, if not more fulfilling, than the old. It beckons us to begin the process of transformation.

The fourth noble truth: The way to end suffering due to clinging and grasping is through balance and living in the present.

It’s important to balance a thirst for something better with an acceptance of what is, right now. Balance allows you to live in the present moment and trust that your acceptance will clear the mist of confusion and distractions, and show you the way to move forward into happiness again. Here’s the paradox of change: until you can accept what is, you cannot move into what might be.

When we cling to the past or what no longer serves us, we contract ourselves to the point where we’re unable to be nourished and invigorated by the present moment. We have to accept that what’s past has truly passed in order to open up to what the present moment offers us. In this opening we become nourished, refreshed and revitalized.

--SOURCE:
HuffPost
Ronald Alexander

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"What is Wisdom?" by Peter Russell

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---Humanity is too clever to survive without wisdom.
———————————————~ E.F Schumacher

What is wisdom? We hear the word a lot these days—the need for wisdom, the wisdom traditions, wisdom schools. We each would like to have more wisdom. And for others to have it as well. Too much human hurt and suffering comes from lack of wisdom. But what is this quality that we hold in such high regard?

Most of us are familiar with the progression from data to information to knowledge:
• Data are the raw facts; the letters on a page, for example.
• Information comes from the patterns and structure of the data. Random letters provide little Information; but if they spell words and the words create sentences, they carry information and meaning.
• Knowledge comes from generalizations in the information. We build up understandings about the world, ourselves, and other people.

Wisdom concerns how we use our knowledge. Its essence is discernment. Discernment of right from wrong. Helpful from harmful. Truth from delusion.

We may, for example, come to understand that deep down each of us wants to be loved and appreciated. But do we then use that knowledge to manipulate others for our own ends? Or do we use it for the benefit of all, considering how to respond to a situation in ways that are truly caring?

At present, humanity has vast amounts of knowledge, but still very little wisdom. Buckminster Fuller called this time our final evolutionary exam. Is our species fit to survive? Do we have the wisdom that will allow us to use our prodigious powers for our own good, and for that of many generations to come?

It is a common perception that wisdom comes with age. The wise ones have learned from experience that there is more to life than acquiring wealth and fame. They know that love and friendship count for more than what others think of them. They are generally kind, content in themselves. able to discern their true self-interest.

But why wait until old age? In an ideal world we would finish school not only with sufficient knowledge for the life ahead, but also with the wisdom of how to use that knowledge.

The question then naturally arises: How can we develop wisdom? It turns out that the wisdom we seek is already there, at the heart of our being. Deep inside, we know right from wrong; this discernment is an intrinsic part of being human. But the quiet voice of this inner knowing is usually obscured by our busy thinking minds, forever trying to help us get the things we believe will bring us peace and happiness and avoid those that will bring pain and suffering.

So the real question is: How can we allow the inner light of our innate wisdom to shine through into daily awareness and guide is in our decisions? And that, as many have discovered time and again, comes not from doing more, but from doing less.

SOURCE:
http://www.peterrussell.com/SP/Wisdom.php
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To Become Aware of Our Egoic Mind (excerpt) Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening by Gina Lake

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To begin to live in the moment more fully, we have to become aware of our egoic mind, what it is thinking, and how true those thoughts are. The good news is we don’t have to do anything to develop that awareness. We have always been aware of our mind or we wouldn’t be able to recount what is in it or think about our thoughts. Something else is present besides the mind that has always been aware of it and everything else that is occurring in the sensory mechanism we call our body. This awareness, this Noticer, this observer, is you, the real you.

Exercise: Noticing the Real You

The real you is subtle. This inquiry will help you become more aware of who you really are.

Who or what is it that is aware of reading these words? Notice that awareness. How do you experience it? What does it feel like? Where do you experience it? Is it contained anywhere? Just stay with the experience of it for a moment. This is who you are. The experience of who you are is available in every moment. All you have to do is give your attention to the real you instead of to the egoic mind.

The egoic mind projects another you, the thinker of the thoughts. This is the ego, the you that you think you are: the you that has a name and looks a certain way and is a father/mother, sister/brother, and so on. (Fill in the blank with all the things you call yourself.) That you is the one that does not exist. That you isn’t real. Instead, you are the awareness of the person you think you are.


Once you see this, you have to wonder why it took so long. Programming. That’s all. We don’t see it because we are programmed to think of ourselves the way we do. There’s no getting around our programming except by seeing that it’s not the whole truth about who we are. We are programmed to believe an illusion. Once we realize this, the jig is up, as they say. The bell can’t be un-rung, and we can’t go back to believing a lie. We may still do some of the same things we did, but life is never the same.

However, our programming still has some pull. It can pull us in for a while, but not for long before we catch ourselves laughing for taking the me so seriously. We may find the ego endearing and silly, but we can’t buy into its perspective for very long. Most of what the egoic mind says just doesn’t seem true anymore.

What an amazing discovery! What a relief it is to discover that we are not this individual who suffers and struggles so. We can finally give up the effort to be somebody special, to know things, to be right, and to get it right. We were never satisfied with ourselves or others, no matter what we did or what they did. It was a no-win game. What a relief it is to give up the effort to be better, do better, and get more.

How did we miss the fact that everything we have ever wanted has been here all along? The peace, happiness, and joy we have been searching for, competing for, have been here all along in the space between our thoughts. We are that peace, happiness, and joy. We missed it because it is who we are. It is too close for us to see, like an eye that can’t see itself. It is so ever-present that, like water to a fish, it is taken for granted and not questioned. Like the air we breathe, it is invisible and without dimension, and the ego doesn’t pay attention to such things. The ego has eyes only for the tangibles in life.

Besides, the ego has been very busy creating a life, a story, by manifesting problems and then trying to solve them. When we were identified with the egoic mind, we were too busy to ask questions. We had a thought and then did something about it. That’s what life was about. But once we begin questioning the egoic mind, the illusion begins to unravel.

When the time comes to awaken, the Self puts thoughts into the mind that question the validity of our other thoughts. The Self also draws others to us who realize the Truth and have seen through the egoic mind. Questions about the nature and purpose of life also begin to arise in the mind.

Until then, the tendency is to respect and adhere to whatever goes through the egoic mind. Like someone lost in the ocean who has just been thrown a life preserver, we cling to each thought for dear life. After all, without our thoughts telling us who we are, who would we be? We don’t think that being no-thing is an option. To the egoic mind, being no-thing is the same as not existing. The ego would rather be anyone, even an unhappy someone, than not exist at all. This domination of the egoic mind is the cause of suffering.


---FROM:
Real Happiness Website


PURCHASE: From Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening
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Are Humans Special? by David Loy

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Obviously we are a unique species. Just look around: humans have transformed much of the surface of the earth, remolding it for our own convenience. We have fulfilled God’s injunction in the first chapter of the Bible: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26) A few chapters later our dominion is reiterated: “And fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air . . . into your hands they are delivered.” (9:2) We may wonder what it means to be made in God’s image (more on that later), but our superiority to all other creatures is thereby divinely sanctioned, with the apparent implication that they exist for us to use.

These verses are often cited as one root of the ecological crisis, because the consequences of that superiority— technological, at least—have become devastating. It is not surprising, then, that an increasing number of people now doubt that we should anoint ourselves as the pinnacle of creation. Deep ecologists claim that the natural world should not be understood as a resource for humans to exploit, for all living beings have inherent worth. The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould argued that evolution does not imply that we are a unique species: any perception of progress is a delusion based on human arrogance.

From a Buddhist perspective, however, our situation is more complex. The earliest texts emphasize how precious human life is. According to an analogy repeated three times in the Pa ̄li Canon, to be born as a human is more rare than the chance that a blind turtle, rising to the surface of the sea only once every hundred years, would put its head through the hole in a wooden cattle-yoke floating on the waves. In this case, however, the emphasis is not on some innate superiority but on our unique potential. Viewing ourselves as better than other species, which exist for our benefit, is not the only way to understand the unique position and role of humans on the earth. This alternative perspective needs to be clarified. In what ways are we special, and in what ways are we not?

Progress?
From an evolutionary perspective, a tendency toward more complexity and greater awareness is apparent. Many important biological traits have originated and improved over time, most noticeably the better information-processing abilities provided by larger brains. In accord with this, not all scientists are as uncomfortable as Gould in viewing evolution as progressive. The renowned biologist E. O. Wilson, for example, claims that progress “is a property of the evolution of life as a whole by almost any conceivable intuitive standard, including the acquisition of goals and intentions in the behavior of animals. It makes little sense to judge it irrelevant.”

But can progression be understood in a way that does not fall into the hubris that worried Gould?

Here I think we can bene t from Buddhist teachings about the “two truths,” which distinguish the highest (absolute) truth from conventional (relative) truth. From the ultimate perspective there is no such thing as progress, because no matter how simple or complex phenomena (forms, things, etc.) may be, they remain “empty” (shunya) of any self-existence. Everything is interdependent, a process arising and passing away according to conditions. In cosmological terms, our self-organizing universe ceaselessly generates new forms, and all of them are equivalent insofar as they are impermanent products of the same cosmic creativity. There is no progress or decline because, in terms of that generative process, there is no gain or loss. There is no more value to a rock or tree than to a chimpanzee or human, because better or worse does not apply here. Each of them simply is, not as a distinct thing, but as an “empty” manifestation. And from this perspective nothing is lost if civilization collapses or even if humanity becomes extinct. Other species will continue to evolve, because the universe will continue to generate forms.

Yet that perspective is not the only perspective. “Form is emptiness,” declares the Heart Sutra, but also “emptiness is form.” In terms of that relative dimension — focusing on the forms themselves — there is evolutionary progress: from unicellular to multicellular life, from reptilian to mammalian brains, from conscious primates to self-conscious human beings. And, according to traditional Buddhist teachings, only humans can awaken and become Buddhas. That is why it is so important not to waste our precious human birth.

Creatures that Create
In this way the “two truths” doctrine of Buddhism can help to answer the question of whether human beings are special in some way (which does not necessarily mean that we have dominion over the rest of creation) or are no more special than any other species (as Gould and many others believe). Both perspectives are valid. In one way, we are creatures just like every other creature and of no more value. Nevertheless, there is something that distinguishes human beings, as Buddhism also emphasizes. One characteristic of that distinctiveness is that we are creatures that know we are creatures; moreover, we are creatures that create, and know that we create. If the universe is not a thing but an ongoing creative process, we have become its epicenters, in a way that none of its other forms are (so far as we know). With us, new types of creativity and flourishing become possible.

Many species create. African termites construct complex mounds more than thirty feet high that include nursery chambers and fungal gardens. Unlike such instinctive behaviors, however, humans create something immeasurably more complex and interesting: culture, which in turn re-creates us and conditions the further possibilities we can envision and realize. If we don’t assume the usual distinction between biological and cultural evolution, we can see civilization as a continuation of the same generative process. Our supersized neocortex and opposable thumbs enable us to be co-creators. If “God” is another, more familiar term for the intrinsic creativity of our ever-transforming cosmos, is this what it means to be “made in the image of God”?

We transform eating into growing food, cooking, and dining; procreation into romance, weddings, honeymoons, marriage, and family life (and divorce); communicative grunts into literature, philosophy, and other types of storytelling. We create new “species” that could never evolve without us: hand axes and knives, houses and schools, temples and cathedrals, string quartets and jazz quartets, economic systems and political institutions. In this fashion the universe becomes endlessly richer in ever-ramifying possibilities. Humans are not just one more manifestation of this process: we have become a unique and important contributor to its incessant creativity.

Modernity has brought about an explosion of ingenuity incomparably more sophisticated than anything that existed previously. Today, innovation of all sorts has become an ever accelerating feedback loop, as scientific discovery and technological achievements enable fresh ones. Thanks to new communications media, only one person needs to discover something important; within a few days most people who follow the news can know about it, and within a few years it can be utilized around the world.

We have become so accustomed to this process that we now take it for granted, yet it is one of the most extraordinary features of contemporary life. And, although I am as concerned as anyone to decry the institutionalized greed that motivates and exploits so much economic activity today, capitalism, with its encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit, has played an essential role in promoting that creativity, and continues to do so.

Meaning
There is another implication to be highlighted: the most important thing that humans create is meaning. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, famously claimed that, “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” But to examine the universe objectively and conclude that it is pointless misses the point. Who is comprehending that the universe is pointless? Someone separate from it, or someone who is an inextricable part of it? If cosmologists themselves are a manifestation of the same universe that cosmologists study, with them the universe is comprehending itself. Does that change the universe? When we come to see the universe in a new way, it’s the universe that is coming to see itself in a new way.

Weinberg’s bleak scientific conclusion is very different from the traditional mythologies of perhaps all ancient civilizations. For them the world was objectively meaningful in the sense that humans are a part of a larger pattern and that we have an important role to play in maintaining that order. In ancient Egypt, rituals were necessary to keep the sky goddess Nut separated from the earth god Geb, or chaos would overwhelm the earth. Mesoamerican civilizations believed that human sacrifices were necessary to sustain the cosmos, the most famous example being the Aztec practice of cutting out the hearts of war victims as offerings to the sun god.

Few people still believe in such mythologies, fortunately, yet belief that the universe is ultimately pointless is problematic in a different fashion. From one perspective meaning is inescapable: it is built into our priorities. If my focus is “looking out for number one,” the meaning of my life becomes the promotion of my own best interests. If my own well-being cannot really be separated from the well-being of others, then that basic orientation may be based on a delusion; and if that delusion is widespread, the meaning built into the functioning of a whole society can be self-stultifying and even self-destructive. Such a motivation may nonetheless seem appropriate if the universe is pointless and our species is nothing more than an evolutionary accident. But if we are a way that the generative cosmos becomes self-aware, there are more interesting possibilities.

One uniquely human characteristic, emphasized by Buddhism, is that we can develop the ability to “dis-identify” from anything and everything, letting go not only of the individual sense of separate self but also of collective selves: dissociating from dualisms such as patriarchy, nationalism, racism, even species-ism [“we’re human, not lower animals”]. Meditation develops such nonattachment, yet the point of such letting-go is not to dissociate from everything but to realize our nonduality with everything.

That human beings are the only species (so far as we know) that can know it is a manifestation of the entire cosmos opens up a possibility that may need to be embraced if we are to survive the crises that now confront us. Instead of continuing to exploit the earth’s ecosystems for our own supposed bene t, we can choose to work for the well-being of the whole. That we are not separate from the rest of the biosphere makes the whole earth our body, in effect, which implies not only a special understanding but also a special role in response to that realization. As the Metta Sutta declares: “Let one’s thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world — above, below, and across — without any without any enmity.”

To ask whether the universe itself is objectively meaningful or meaningless is to miss the point — as if the universe were outside us, or simply there without us. When we do not erase ourselves from the picture, we can see that we are meaning-makers, the beings by which the universe introduces a new scale of significance and value.

The Responsibility of Being Special
If we are special because of our potential, we must choose. We are free to derive the meaning of our lives from delusions about who we are — from dysfunctional stories about what the world is and how we t into it—or we can derive that meaning from insight into our nonduality with the rest of the world. In either case, there are consequences.

The problem with basing one’s life on delusions is that the consequences are unlikely to be good. As well as producing poetry and cathedrals, our creativity has recently found expression in world wars, genocides, and weapons of mass destruction, to mention a few disagreeable examples. We are in the early stages of an ecological crisis that threatens the natural and cultural legacy of future generations, including a mass extinction event that may lead to the disappearance of half the earth’s plant and animal species within a century, according to E. O. Wilson—an extinction event that may include ourselves.

What needs to be done so that our extraordinary co-creative powers will promote collective well-being (collective in this case referring to all the ecosystems of the biosphere)? Must we evolve further — not biologically but culturally — in order to survive at all? From a Buddhist perspective our unethical tendencies ultimately derive from a misapprehension: the delusion of a self that is separate from others, a big mistake for a species whose well-being is not separate from the well-being of other species. Insofar as we are ignorant of our true nature, individual and collective self-preoccupation naturally motivates us to be selfish. Without the compassion that arises when we feel empathy — not only with other humans, but with the whole of the biosphere — it is likely that civilization as we know it will not survive many more generations.

In either case, we seem fated to be special. If we continue to devastate the rest of the biosphere, we are arguably the worst species on earth: a cancer of the biosphere. If, however, humanity can wake up to become its collective bodhisattva —undertaking the long-term task of repairing the rupture between us and Mother Earth — perhaps we as a species will fulfill the unique potential of precious human life.

SOURCE:
http://www.davidloy.org/downloads/Loy%20Are%20Humans%20Special.pdf
David Loy
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"A Toxic Image of God" by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

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Your image of God creates you. This is why it is so important that we see God as loving and benevolent and why good theology is still important.

One mistaken image of God that keeps us from receiving grace is the idea that God is a cruel tyrant. People who have been raised in an atmosphere of threats of punishment and promises of reward are programmed to operate with this cheap image of God. They need deep healing, because they are actually attached to a punitive notion of God. Many experienced this foundational frame for reality as children, and it is hard to let go. It gives a kind of sick coherence to their world.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to organize people around fear and hatred than around love. Most people who want to hold onto power view God as vindictive and punitive. Powerful people actually
prefer this worldview, because it validates their use of intimidation. Both Catholicism and Protestantism have used the threat of eternal hellfire to form Christians. I am often struck by the irrational anger of many people when they hear that someone does not believe in hell. Threat of hellfire “works” because it appeals to the lowest level of consciousness, where we all start.

Much of Christian history has manifested a very different god than the one Jesus revealed and represented. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but this “cultural” god sure doesn’t. Jesus tells us to forgive “seventy times seven” times, but this god doesn’t. Instead, this god burns people for all eternity. Many of us were raised to believe this, but we usually had to repress this bad theology into our unconscious because it’s literally unthinkable. Most humans are more loving and forgiving than such a god. We’ve developed an unworkable and toxic image of God that a healthy person would never trust. The mystical, transformative journey cannot take place until that image is undone. Why would you want to spend even an hour in silence, solitude, or intimacy with such a god?

It’s true that there are some troubling passages of Scripture; even Jesus used dualistic and judgmental statements. Jesus was an honest and wise teacher. He knew that clear-headed, dualistic thinking must precede non-dual or mystical thinking. Jesus was particularly emphatic about issues people normally want to avoid, especially social justice teachings. Here he used dualistic examples like God and mammon (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13), the rich person and the eye of the needle (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25), and the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46). Jesus had to make these points absolutely clear, otherwise it’s far too easy to avoid issues of justice for the poor and inclusion of the outsider.

It seems to me that in Matthew 25, when Jesus appears to make threats of “eternal punishment,” he is making strong contrasting statements about issues of ultimate significance, calling the listener to a decision. The trouble with this passage is that we focus on the threat more than on Jesus’ positive promise of “eternal life.” Jesus presents the teaching first in a dualistic manner. When pressed, he explains it in a non-dual way that encourages universal compassion: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Non-dual thinkers can see that he is creating a moral equivalence between what  we do to the least of the brothers and sisters and what we do to Christ. So Matthew 25 is supreme dualism overcome by supreme non-dualism. That is what we need. First do your clearheaded, rational, logical study of all sides of the issue of concern. Then you will see that the issue deserves much more subtlety than taking one side and damning all others. Non-dual thinking allows us to calmly hear, calmly detach, and calmly see from a higher level.

In his book,
Inventing Hell, Jon Sweeney points out that our Christian notion of hell largely comes from several unfortunate metaphors in Matthew’s Gospel. Hell is not found in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. It’s not found in the Gospel of John or in Paul’s letters. The words Sheol and Gehenna are used in Matthew, but they have nothing to do with our later medieval notion of eternal punishment. Sheol is simply the place of the dead, a sort of limbo place where humans await the final judgment when God will finally win. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, in the end “God will be all in all” (15:28). Gehenna was both the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem—the Valley of Hinnom—and an early Jewish metaphor for evil (Isaiah 66:24). The idea of hell as we most commonly view it came much more from Dante’s Divine Comedy than the Bible. Dante’s Purgatorio and Inferno are brilliant Italian poetry, but horrible Christian theology. Dante’s view of God is largely nonbiblical; however, there are some great insights in the Paradiso.

In his book,
Introduction to Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI explains his understanding of the curious phrase in the middle of the Apostles’ Creed: “[Jesus] descended into hell.” Benedict says that if Jesus went to hell, that means there is no hell—because Jesus and hell cannot coexist. Once Jesus got there, the whole game of punishment was over, as it were. One of the most popular icons in the Eastern Orthodox Church shows Jesus with his legs spread, bridging the abyss of hell, pulling people out of the darkness. This is called “the icon of icons” in the East because it shows the highest level of contemplative perspective and the essence of the Good News.

SOURCE:
https://cac.org/a-toxic-image-of-god-2016-01-28/
CFAC-screenshot_186.png

Gateway to Silence: Open me to grace upon grace upon grace.
References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Today Is a Time for Mercy,” December 10, 2015,
https://cac.org/richard-rohr-on-mercy-mp3; Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2012), disc 3 (CD, MP3 download); and Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 162.
See also
Hell, No! (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014, CD, MP3 download).
Posted in
Daily Meditations | Also tagged Dante, Divine Comedy, Eastern Orthodox Church, Inferno, Inventing Hell, Isaiah 66:24, Jon Sweeney, Luke 16:13, mammon, Mark 10:25, Matthew 19:24;, Matthew 6:24, Pentateuch, Pope Benedict XVI, Purgatorio, Sheol
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"The Self-Hatred Within Us" by Sharon Salzberg

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--“Dalai Lama”, Ink Drawing by RIYAZ POCKETWALA

I often think about a memorable conversation I had with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1990 while we were at a small conference in India sponsored by the Mind & Life Institute. At one point during the event, I had an opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama a question, so I ventured,
“Your Holiness, what do you think about self-hatred?”

He looked at me seeming somewhat confused and asked in response: “What’s that?”
It powerfully sums up a fundamental difference between our Western, ambition-focused value system and the Buddhist moral compass. While I came to meditation at 18 as a result of dealing with feelings of inadequacy and self-judgment for my entire young adult life, the Dalai Lama didn’t even know what the meaning of self-hatred was. When I explained to him what I meant by the term — talking about the cycle of self-judgment, guilt, unproductive thought patterns — he asked me, “How could you think of yourself that way?” and explained that we all have “Buddha nature.”

In other words, he simply didn’t get the fact that many of us are often overcome with fundamental feelings of negativity and inadequacy. I revisit this story repeatedly because there was, and still is, something so freeing about the fact that the Dalai Lama was so surprised about this negative way of relating to ourselves, an attitude that seems so common in today’s day and age.

I don’t want to deify Asian culture, or Tibetan people, or Buddhist thought. There are problems in every society, group, and philosophical school. But, I think it is powerful to reflect on what we think we will find within if we look underneath our habits and our desires and our fears. Is it a capacity for love and awareness? Or is it pretty much nothing, or nothing good?

In particular, I’ve thought about this in the process of writing my upcoming book theses past few months. I’ve found that many, if not most, of the people with whom I’ve spoken, feel the greatest sense of struggle around the question of cultivating love for oneself. We are conditioned to associate self-love with selfishness, and self-deprecation with virtue. It often seems easier to access feelings of judgment and anger about ourselves than towards those around us.
(B.C. Lorio / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

In my research for the book, I’ve encountered extensive information about evolutionary biology, and specifically about the phrase “negativity bias.” This concept refers to the fact that our nervous systems are programmed, on an evolutionary level, to look for possible negative outcomes in our surroundings. Our job as living creatures is to spot imminent danger and any sense of threat in our surroundings. Looking for negativity in our lives is literally a survival mechanism, dating back to the times when we were actually required to protect ourselves from being killed by predators. Given that most of us probably have no need to measure ourselves against the potential threat of a tiger or bear, we simply become lost in this pattern of dwelling on negativity, which includes more and more fixation on our own failings and inadequacy.

When I went to India to learn meditation, I hoped that I could become an entirely different person through meditating. Unsurprisingly, I found that I was unable to establish a practice of meditating from this place of self-hatred. In order to get to a place where I was able to feel a positive change in my life from the practice, I had to challenge my own self-judgment, as difficult as that was. Because it went against my habit, my survival mechanism of pointing out the negative in my life, it felt almost dangerous. By challenging myself in this way, I was able to let go of my constant state of guilt and find a sense of spaciousness and acceptance, even if negative feelings arose. Creating that spaciousness as a foundation allowed me to get to the place where negative feelings could come in, and go out, with greater ease and gentleness.

Of course, sometimes we have feelings of self-judgment; it’s important for us not to get caught up in judging the self-judgment, which leads to a vicious cycle of negativity. Years ago, a friend of mine visited the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts for the annual three-month retreat, and our teacher Dipa Ma was visiting during the course. One day during the retreat, my friend simply felt like he “couldn’t” meditate, and wanted to go check into a motel to watch football. So he did, but hardly cleared his mind.

When he came back, he was encumbered by self-judgment and preemptive shame about telling Dipa Ma. He ended up telling her despite his fear, and she unsurprisingly was OK with it and accepted him unconditionally. “Now you can begin again,” she reassured him, repeating a phrase that I now use to describe the practice of meditation to my students, no matter if they’re beginning their practice or have been meditating for years. Every time we sit with our breath, we can begin again an incalculable number of times. We can let go of our distractions, our ruminations and establish clarity of vision that is also filled with love.

Beginning again doesn’t mean we are lazy, or don’t seek excellence in what we undertake. It means we’ve figured out something that isn’t awfully available in our popular culture. Seeking to punish ourselves endlessly will leave us exhausted and demoralized. Caring about ourselves allows us to renew our efforts and continue on. This is the love that the Dalai Lama had tried to explain to me during our talk about self-hatred many years ago.
________________

I posed a similar question pertaining to “self-loathing” to Galen Pearl over at the “NO WAY CAFE” (http://galenpearl.blogspot.com). The following is Ms. Pearl’s response. It’s quite insightful.
Thanks Ms. Pearl!
—Bei Kuan-tu

"I think that we live in a self-created illusion of separation. This illusion leaves us in a state of chronic fear, which can manifest in many ways, including self-loathing. As the Dalai Lama learned, and as you point out, this seems particularly characteristic of Western culture. Western culture has a broad foundation in Christianity, which has permeated our collective psyche with the condemnation of both original sin and sin in general. I'm making no judgment on that--just an observation.

On top of that, as Buddha taught, we become attached to our beliefs and desires and aversions, which results in the suffering of humanity.

All wisdom teachings seem to have in common the path towards freeing ourselves of our illusions and restoring us to our true nature, which is one of joy and unity. Self-loathing is eliminated when we are living in harmony with our true selves.

This opens the door for all sorts of views on theology and culture and psychology, more than we can handle here. But that is my offering in answer to your question."


TAGS: ASIAN TEACHING, BUDDHA NATURE, DALAI LAMA, LOVINGKINDNESS, MEDITATION, MIND AND LIFE CONFERENCE, SELF HATRED, SELF-CHERISHING, THERAVADA TRADITION, WESTERN BUDDHIS
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"How to Reach Where You Already Are" by Alan Watts

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So, how can an individual realize that they are the universal self? In what way can a person who is under the impression that they are a separate individual enclosed in a bag of skin effectively realize that they are Brahman? This, of course, is a curious question. It proposes a journey to the place where you already are. Now, it’s true that you may not know that you are there, but you are. And if you take a journey to the place where you are, you will visit many other places than the place where you are, and perhaps when you find through some long experience that all the places you go to are not the place you wanted to find, it may occur to you that you were already there in the beginning. And that is the Dharma, or “method,” as I prefer to translate the word. That’s the method that all gurus and spiritual teachers fundamentally use. So, they are all tricksters.

Why use trickster as a word to describe them? Did you know that it’s terribly difficult to surprise yourself on purpose? Somebody else has to do it for you, which is why a guru or teacher is so often necessary. And there are many kinds of gurus, but among human gurus there are square gurus and beat gurus. Square gurus take you through the regular channels; beat gurus lead you in by means that are very strange indeed—they are rascals. Also, friends can act as gurus. And then there are gurus who aren’t people, like situations or books. Regardless, the guru’s job is to show the inquirer in some effective way that they are already what they are looking for.

In Hindu traditions, realizing who you really are is called Sadhana, which means “discipline.” Sadhana is the way of life that is necessary to follow in order to escape from the illusion that you are merely a skin encapsulated ego. Sadhana comprises yoga, which has the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join,” and it is from this root that we have the English words yoke, junction, and union. Strictly speaking, yoga means “the state of union”—the state in which the individual self, the jivatman, finds that it is ultimately atman. So a yogi is someone who has realized that union. But normally yoga as a word isn’t used that way; it’s normally used to describe a practice of meditation whereby one comes into the state of union, and in that sense a yogi is a traveler or seeker who is on the way to that union. Of course, strictly speaking, there is no method to arrive at the place where you already are. No amount of searching will uncover the self, because all searching implies the absence of the self—the big self, the Self with a capital S. So to seek it is to thrust it away. And to practice a discipline to attain it is to postpone realization.

There’s a famous Zen story of a monk sitting in meditation. The master comes along and asks, “What are you doing?” And the monk replies, “Oh, I’m meditating so I can become a Buddha.” Well, the master sits down nearby, picks up a brick, and starts rubbing it. And the monk asks, “What are you doing?” The master says, “Oh, I’m rubbing this brick to make it into a mirror.” And the monk says, “No amount of rubbing a brick can turn it into a mirror.” To which the master replies, “And no amount of zazen will turn you into a Buddha.” They don’t like this story very much in modern day Japan.

Suppose I were to tell you that you, right now, are the great Self— the Brahman. Now, you might feel somewhat sympathetic to this idea intellectually, but you don’t really feel it. You’re looking for a way to feel it—a practice for getting there. But you don’t really want to feel it; you’re frightened of it. So you get this or that practice so you can put it off, so that you can feel that you have a long way to go, and maybe after you’ve suffered enough, then you can realize you are the atman. Why put it off? Because we are brought up in a social scheme that tells us we have to deserve what we get, and the price to pay for all good things is suffering. But all of that is mere postponement. We are afraid here and now to see the truth. And if we had the nerve—you know, real nerve—we’d see it right away. But that’s when we immediately feel that we shouldn’t have nerve like that, because it would be awful. After all, we’re supposed to feel like a poor little me who has to work and work and suffer in order to become something far away and great, like a Buddha or Jivanmukta—someone who becomes liberated.

So you can suffer for it. There are all kinds of ways invented for you to do this. You can discipline yourself and gain control of your mind and do all sorts of extraordinary things—like drink water in through your rectum and push a peanut up a mountain with your nose. There are all sorts of accomplishments you can engage in. But they have absolutely nothing to do with the realization of the self. The realization of the self fundamentally depends on coming off it, just as when someone is putting on some kind of act and we say, “Oh, come off it.” And some people can come off it—they laugh, because they suddenly realize they’ve been making a fool of themselves.

So that’s the job of the trickster—the guru, the teacher—to help you come off it. And to this end, the guru will come up with all sorts of exercises to get you to come off it. And maybe after you get enough discipline and frustration and suffering, you’ll finally give it all up and realize that you were there from the beginning and there was nothing to realize in the first place. See, the guru is very clever. They don’t go out on the streets and preach and tell you that you need to be converted— they sit down under a tree and wait. And people start coming around and bringing their problems and propositions to the guru, and the guru answers and challenges you in whatever way they think is appropriate to your situation. Now, if you’ve got a thin shell and your mask is easily dispatched with, the guru uses the easy method. They’ll say, “Come off it, Shiva! Stop pretending you’re this guy here. I know who you are!” But most people won’t respond to that. Most people have very thick shells, so the guru has to invent ways of cracking those shells.

To understand yoga, you should read Patañjali—the Yoga Sutras. There are so many translations, and I’m not sure which is the best. This sutra begins, “Now yoga is explained.” That’s the first verse, and the commentators say that “now” in this context carries the meaning that you’re supposed to know other material beforehand. Specifically, you’re supposed to be a civilized human being before you begin yoga—you’re supposed to have been disciplined in Artha, Kama, and Dharma. You’re supposed to have engaged in politics, the arts of sensuality, and justice before you can begin yoga. The next verse is “Yogash chitta vritti nirodha,” which means “Yoga is the cessation of revolutions of the mind,” and this can mean many things—stop the waves of the mind, attain a perfectly calm mind, stop thinking entirely, or even eliminate all contents from the mind. How can you do that? Well, the sutra goes on to give you particular steps: pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.

Pranayama means controlling the breath, pratyahara refers to preliminary concentration, dharana is a more intense form of concentration, dhyana—the same dhyana from which the word Zen comes—means profound union between subject and object, and then there’s samadhi—the attainment of non-dualistic consciousness. See what’s happening here? First, you learn to control your breath. And breathing is a very strange thing, because breathing can be viewed both as a voluntary and involuntary action. You can feel that you breathe and yet you can also feel that breathing breathes you. And there are all sorts of fancy ways to breathe in yoga which are very amusing to practice, because you can get quite high on them. So this sutra sets you up with all sorts of tricks and if you are bright you may begin to realize some things at this point.

But if you are not very bright, you’ll have to go on to work on concentration. You learn to concentrate the mind on one point. Now, this can be an absolutely fascinating undertaking. Here’s one way to try it out: find some bright, polished surface—say, on copper or glass or something—and select on it some reflection of light. Now, look at it and put your eyes out of focus so that the bright spot appears to be fuzzy, like a fuzzy circle. You’ll see a definite pattern of blur and you’ll have a wonderful time looking at that. Then get your eyes back into focus and look at an intense light and go deep into it, like falling down a funnel and at the end of the funnel is this intense light. Just go in and in an in—it’s a most thrilling experience.

So you’re doing this kind of practice when the guru suddenly wakes you up. And they say, “What are you looking at that light for?” And you stammer something about wanting realization because we live in a world in which we identify ourselves with the ego and we therefore get into trouble and suffer. And the guru asks, “Well, are you afraid of that?” And you respond, “Yes.” Well, then the guru points out to you that all you’re doing is practicing yoga out of fear—you’re just escaping and running away. And how far do you think you can get into realization through fear? So then you think, “Well, now I’ve got to practice yoga, but not with a fearful motive.” And all the while, the guru is watching you. They’re a highly sensitive person, and they know exactly what you’re doing—they know exactly what your motive is. So they put you onto the kick of getting a pure motive, which means getting a very deep control of your emotions. So you try not to have impure thoughts. You try and try and maybe manage to repress as many impure thoughts as possible and then one day the guru asks, “Why are you repressing your thoughts? What’s your motive here?” And then you find out that you had an impure motive for trying to have a pure mind. You did it for the same old reason. From the very beginning you were afraid, because you wanted to play one-up on the universe.

Eventually you see how crazy your mind is. It can only go in circles. Everything your mind does to get out of the trap puts it more securely in the trap. Every step toward liberation ties you up even more. You started with molasses in one hand and feathers in the other, and the guru made you clap your hands together and then told you to pick the feathers off. And the more you try to do so, the more mess you make. Meanwhile, as you get more and more involved in this curious process, the guru tells you how you’re progressing. “You attained the 8th stage today. Congratulations. Now you only have 56 steps remaining.” And when you get to that 64th stage, the guru knows how to spin it and drag it all out, because you are ever so hopeful that you’ll get that thing, just as you might win a prize or win a special job or great distinction and finally be somebody. That your motivation all along, only it’s very spiritual here. It’s not for worldly recognition, but you want to be recognized by the gods and angels—it’s the same story on a higher level.


So the guru keeps holding out all these baits and the student keeps taking the bait. And the guru holds out more baits until the student gets the realization that they’re just running around faster and faster in a squirrel cage. I mean, the student is making an enormous amount of progress, but they’re not getting anywhere. And this is how the guru tricks you. The guru impresses this realization upon you by these methods until you finally find out that you—as an ego, as what you ordinarily call your mind—are a mess. And you just can’t do this thing. You can’t do it by any of the means that have been presented to you. You can now concentrate, yes, but you discover you’ve been concentrating for the wrong reason, and there’s no way of doing it for the right reason.

Krishnamurti did this to people. He was a very clever guru. And Gurdjieff, too, although he played the same game in a different way. He made his students watch themselves constantly and told them to never, never be absentminded. And the Japanese sword teachers do the same thing. Their first lesson is to always be alert—constantly— because you never know where or when the attack is going to come. Now, do you know what happens when you try to always be on the alert? You think about being alert—you’re not alert. And you’re a hopeless prey to the enemy. So the trick is to be simply awake and relaxed. Then all your nerve ends are working and whenever the attack comes, you’re ready. The great teachers liken this to a barrel of water—the water sits there in the barrel, and as soon as you put a hole in the barrel the water just falls out. It doesn’t have to think about it. In the same way, when the mind is in a proper state, it is ready to respond in any direction without any sense of being taut or anxious. And the minute anything happens, it’s right there, because it didn’t have to overcome anything, like coming back from the opposite direction to respond to an attack. See, if you’re set for the attack to come from over there and it comes from here, you have to pull back from there and come here, but by then it’s too late. So sit in the middle and don’t expect the attack to come from any particular direction.

In yoga, you can be watchful and concentrated and alert, but all that will ever teach you is what not to do—how not to use the mind. You have to just let it happen, like going to sleep. You can’t try to go to sleep. It’s the same with digesting your food—you can’t try to digest your food. And it’s the same with liberation—you have to let yourself wake up. When you find out there isn’t any way of forcing it, maybe you’ll stop forcing it. But most people don’t believe this. They say, “Well, that won’t work for me. I’m very unevolved. I’m just poor little me and if I don’t force it nothing will happen.” I know some people who think they have to struggle and strain to have a bowel movement—they think they have to work to make it happen. But all of this is based on a lack of faith—not trusting life. How do you get people to trust life? You have to trick them. They won’t jump into the water, so you have to throw them in. And if they’re very unwilling to be thrown in, they’re going to take diving lessons or read books about diving or do preliminary exercises or stand at the edge of the diving board and inquire which is the right posture until somebody comes up from behind and kicks them in the butt to get them in the water. 

Excerpted from Out of Your Mind: Tricksters, Independence, and the Cosmic Game of Hide and Seek by Alan Watts. Copyright © 2017 Alan Watts. Preface © 2017 Mark Watts. To be published by Sounds True in March 2017.

From our current issue Parabola Volume 42, No. 1, “The Search for Meaning,” Spring 2017. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.

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Cynthia Bourgeault - An Interview from the journal Oneing


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This interview appeared in "Transgression," a recent edition of the journal Oneing, published by the Rohr Institute.

Joelle Chase: Perhaps we could begin by talking about some of the ways in which you have transgressed, Cynthia! For example, your book on Mary Magdalene delves deep into a topic that has been taboo in many Christian circles. What has it been like for you to break the silence, to transgress some religious norms?

Cynthia Bourgeault: Well, it really was like saying “The emperor has no clothes on!” to those that continue to applaud the emperor’s magnificent clothes, blind to the fact that the emperor truly was naked. I would say my role was not so much transgressing as popping a bubble of illusion so we could see reality for what it is.
Joelle: It seems like you have been popping bubbles in other ways too. Your latest book,
The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, explores the untouchable, non-negotiable doctrine of Trinity that Christians claim but don’t really understand and thus often ignore. And in this work you rely heavily on the teachings of Gurdjieff which, if known at all, are often considered esoteric. You’ve been breaking new, yet ancient, ground!

Cynthia: It has definitely been breaking new and old ground. These taboos are simply the power and control norms of a very tight little filter through which the institutional church sifts Christianity. What I have really been about is to suggest that we not mistake the filter for the whole thing and to offer more expansive ways of looking at our tradition, doctrines, and practice. I would say that I am only transgressing from the point of view of the power structure.
As you say, the Trinity is of no interest to most people because it has mostly been discussed in theological shop talk among those that are empowered. Nobody else knows how to talk about Trinity..., so I’ve basically been offering new ways for people to engage with the idea of Trinity.

Joelle: I was reading some of the passages that you quote from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene—which in itself is a break from the tradition of relying on canonical scripture—and was particularly struck by something Jesus said. Peter asks him, “What is the sin of the world?” and Jesus replies: “Sin as such does not exist. You only bring it into manifestation when you act in ways that are adulterous in nature. It is for this very reason that the Good has come among you pursuing its own essence within nature in order to reunite everything to its origin.”[1]

Jesus goes on to say the disciples should not “lay down any further rules nor issue laws as the Lawgiver, lest [they] too be dominated by them.”
[2] I see how the rules and codes ... [can] dominate, that transgression is necessary else the laws will control us.

Cynthia: I think there are at least three different definitions of transgression, depending on your perspective. The kind of transgression we have been talking about is basically breaking out of boxes. I would question whether that is actually transgression. I think it is far more of a transgression to keep people and God in the boxes!
Then there is the role of transgression within the Law of Three—for any kind of new emergence there is also resistance. You can’t get directly to your goal. In fact, what you set as your goal is never what the real goal is. There is something that pushes back and deflects into another arena and makes a new arising possible. We learn more from darkness and descent than we do from ascent. Here transgression looks in some sense like it is negative or resistant but is actually a legitimate part of a new birthing.
There is also transgression in the classic sense of breaking the Ten Commandments or the Law of Love.

Joelle: Let’s focus on the Law of Three. How do you see transgression as part of this dynamic pattern?

Cynthia: The Law of Three is a basic metaphysical principle that was first articulated by G. I. Gurdjieff, though he claimed it had ancient roots. This principle states that in any new arising, anything that comes into being at any level, from the quantum to the cosmic, at whatever scale and in whatever domain—physical, physiological, or spiritual—is the result of the intertwining of three independent strands: affirming, denying, and reconciling. Note that reconciling is not the synthesis, but a mediating principle between the other two. This is a ternary, not a binary, system. Instead of paired opposites, we have the interplay of three energies that in turn creates a whole new realm of possibility.

Resistance or transgression is an absolutely essential part of any manifestation. It is a great mistake to try to eliminate resistance. Rather, you have to work with it, weave it, honor its presence—because what is going to come into birth is not what you want or expect. It is going to be completely new and surprising. The three forces working together dissolve gridlocks and move everything into a new playing field.

Joelle: Can you give an example of how this works?

Cynthia: In my work on Mary Magdalene and Trinity I think I represent an affirming force. I am pushing against something and it pushes back, and out of that something new is born.
All new arising is essentially cooperative amongst these three different roles which are never the same. Sometimes transgression can be the pushing or affirming force. Sometimes transgression is the push back, the denying. And at other times it might be the third force that relates or reconciles the other two….

Joelle: There is another wonderful quote from your Mary Magdalene book: “Ultimately it is not about clean living and purity but the total annihilation of one’s heart.”[3] This seems to fit with the Law of Three—that the annihilation or destruction is also the new arising.

Cynthia: Quite so.
Joelle: Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it. How do we access or open ourselves to the third, reconciling energy that allows the new, fourth thing to arise?
Cynthia: Most people in the work say that human beings in their normal state of consciousness are third-force blind. The third force is there, right under our noses in most situations, but we do not see it because we are too embedded in either-or thinking. And we are identified with outcomes. This combination makes it very, very hard to spot third-force energy.

While you cannot cause third force, you can increase the conduciveness of third force in a situation. ... [Teaching] non-dual approaches has certainly served as catalyst. More people are doing the work of meditation; they’re spotting the triggers that make them go into reactive and inflexible positions, rather than identifying with the issue. The more you are aware, the more you are able to help something new arise.

Joelle: In your book on Trinity you look at the Enneagram as it was taught by Gurdjieff, not as a personality profiling tool, but as a pattern for how growth works. The nine points are steps or stages, with a “stopinder” every three steps. At these points (3, 6, 9) there is a challenge requiring an extra boost of energy to overcome the resistance to keep growing. Would you say more about that?

Cynthia: The Law of Seven intertwines with the Law of Three in the Enneagram. Science is now confirming this pattern. When energy flows out from an initial impulse it does not flow in a uniform motion like inertia; there are places of discrete stoppages or losses of energy, and if additional energy is not added there (and the right kind of energy) things will just begin to veer off from their original purpose. You don’t have to go back to the beginning and start all over again, but you need another burst of the beginning kind of energy so that you can move on and push through these places of attenuation. Otherwise, if you sail through the stop signs, you tend to veer off in a direction far different than where you started and intended.

Joelle: So forward motion involves some form of transgression, overcoming inertia.

Cynthia: In Thomas Kuhn’s classic book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he insisted that science wasn’t incremental. You don’t go from one major paradigm to another without paradigm malaise and distress. When someone proposes a new theory at first they’re shot out of the water and then finally everyone switches over to the new idea.

I guess this is what happened in regards to my study and writings on Mary Magdalene and the Holy Trinity. I have sensed paradigm distress in the church. The ideas surrounding Mary Magdalene and Trinity were not holding water. No one was interested. People were tuning out. You can’t move a paradigm along by constant tiny revisions. Sometimes you have to say something completely different and even crazy. At first everyone responds, “Oh my God! No, it can’t be!” And then all of a sudden they realize, “Oh yeah, it is.” 

This is the way much of history works. Change always involves going through a time of discontent and then rupture and then reconstruction. I’ve been trying to lessen the drama by looking at the mechanics of this process. The Law of Three provides a pattern so that we really understand how change and new arising happens.
Don’t be afraid of darkness, of the things that look like they’re going in the wrong direction. The soul has to go through this overwhelm. So often I realize the difficulty was exactly the thing that needed to happen in order for there to be clarity. And now I’m back on the track I was really on. I’m a student of how change happens.

SOURCE:


http://store.cac.org/Oneing-Transgression_p_343.html



[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2010), 46.
[2] Ibid., 47.
[3] Ibid., 29.
 
The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD, is an Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally recognized retreat leader. Cynthia divides her time between solitude at her seaside hermitage in Maine and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom path. She is the founding Director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School and a member of the core faculty of the Rohr Institute's Living School. She is author of eight books, including The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three and The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity.
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Bernadette Roberts interview from the book TIMELESS VISIONS, HEALING VOICES by Stephan Bodian

Bernadette-Roberts
This Bernadette Roberts interview is reprinted from the book Timeless Visions, Healing Voices, copyright 1991 by Stephan Bodian (www.stephanbodian.org). In this exclusive interview with Stephan Bodian, (published in the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of YOGA JOURNAL), author Bernadette Roberts describes the path of the Christian contemplative after the experience of oneness with God.

Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey,
The Experience of No-Self (Shambhala, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the “unitive state”, the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experience of others. In the years that followed she completed a graduate degree in education, married, raised four children, and taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Then, quite unexpectedly, some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls “the experience of no-self” – an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, are her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.

Now 55, and once again living in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, Roberts characterizes herself as a “bag lady” whose sister and brother in law are “keeping her off the streets.” “I came into this world with nothing,” she writes, “and I leave with nothing. But in between I lived fully – had all the experiences, stretched the limits, and took one too many chances.” When I approached her for an interview, Roberts was reluctant at first, protesting that others who had tried had distorted her meaning, and that nothing had come of it in the end. Instead of a live interview, she suggested, why not send her a list of questions to which she would respond in writing, thereby eliminating all possibility for misunderstanding. As a result, I never got to meet Bernadette Roberts face to face – but her answers to my questions, which are as carefully crafted and as deeply considered as her books, are a remarkable testament to the power of contemplation.

Stephan: Could you talk briefly about the first three stages of the Christian contemplative life as you experienced them – in particular, what you (and others) have called the unitive state?

Bernadette: Strictly speaking, the terms “purgative”, “illuminative”, and “unitive” (often used of the contemplative path) do not refer to discrete stages, but to a way of travel where “letting go”, “insight”, and “union”, define the major experiences of the journey. To illustrate the continuum, authors come up with various stages, depending on the criteria they are using. St. Teresa, for example, divided the path into seven stages or “mansions”. But I don’t think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else’s retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light.

My view of what some authors call the “unitive stage”is that it begins with the Dark Night of the Spirit, or the onset of the transformational process – when the larva enters the cocoon, so to speak. Up to this point, we are actively reforming ourselves, doing what we can to bring about an abiding union with the divine. But at a certain point, when we have done all we can, the divine steps in and takes over. The transforming process is a divine undoing and redoing that culminates in what is called the state of “transforming union” or “mystical marriage”, considered to be the definitive state for the Christian contemplative. In experience, the onset of this process is the descent of the cloud of unknowing, which, because his former light had gone out and left him in darkness, the contemplative initially interprets as the divine gone into hiding. In modern terms, the descent of the cloud is actually the falling away of the ego-center, which leaves us looking into a dark hole, a void or empty space in ourselves. Without the veil of the ego-center, we do not recognize the divine; it is not as we thought it should be. Seeing the divine, eye to eye is a reality that shatters our expectations of light and bliss. From here on we must feel our way in the dark, and the special eye that allows us to see in the dark opens up at this time.

So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost “point” in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being – the point at which all existence comes together. This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all – no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.

Stephan: How did you discover the further stage, which you call the experience of no-self?

Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center – the coin, or “true self” – suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine. Our subjective life of experience is over – the passage is finished. I had never heard of such a possibility or happening. Obviously there is far more to the elusive experience we call self than just the ego. The paradox of our passage is that we really do not know what self or consciousness is, so long as we are living it, or are it. The true nature of self can only be fully disclosed when it is gone, when there is no self.

One outcome, then, of the no-self experience is the disclosure of the true nature of self or consciousness. As it turns out, self is the entire system of consciousness, from the unconscious to God-consciousness, the entire dimension of human knowledge and feeling-experience. Because the terms “self” and “consciousness” express the same experiences (nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other), they are only definable in the terms of “experience”. Every other definition is conjecture and speculation. No-self, then, means no-consciousness. If this is shocking to some people, it is only because they do not know the true nature of consciousness. Sometimes we get so caught up in the content of consciousness, we forget that consciousness is also a somatic function of the physical body, and, like every such function, it is not eternal. Perhaps we would do better searching for the divine in our bodies than amid the content and experience of consciousness.

Stephan: How does one move from “transforming union” to the experience of no-self? What is the path like?

Bernadette: We can only see a path in retrospect. Once we come to the state of oneness, we can go no further with the inward journey. The divine center is the innermost “point”, beyond which we cannot go at this time. Having reached this point, the movement of our journey turns around and begins to move outward – the center is expanding outward. To see how this works, imagine self, or consciousness, as a circular piece of paper. The initial center is the ego, the particular energy we call “will” or volitional faculty, which can either be turned outward, toward itself, or inward, toward the divine ground, which underlies the center of the paper. When, from our side of consciousness, we can do no more to reach this ground, the divine takes the initiative and breaks through the center, shattering the ego like an arrow shot through the center of being. The result is a dark hole in ourselves and the feeling of terrible void and emptiness. This breakthrough demands a restructuring or change of consciousness, and this change is the true nature of the transforming process. Although this transformation culminates in true human maturity, it is not man’s final state. The whole purpose of oneness is to move us on to a more final state.

To understand what happens next, we have to keep cutting larger holes in the paper, expanding the center until only the barest rim or circumference remains. One more expansion of the divine center, and the boundaries of consciousness or self fall away. From this illustration we can see how the ultimate fulfillment of consciousness, or self, is no-consciousness, or no-self. The path from oneness to no-oneness is an egoless one and is therefore devoid of ego-satisfaction. Despite the unchanging center of peace and joy, the events of life may not be peaceful or joyful at all. With no ego-gratification at the center and no divine joy on the surface, this part of the journey is not easy. Heroic acts of selflessness are required to come to the end of self, acts comparable to cutting ever-larger holes in the paper – acts, that is, that bring no return to the self whatsoever.

The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. As I see it, in the transforming process we only come to terms with the archetypes of the personal unconscious; the archetypes of the collective consciousness are reserved for individuals in the state of oneness, because those archetypes are powers or energies of that state. Jung felt that these archetypes were unlimited; but in fact, there is only one true archetype, and that archtype is self. What is unlimited are the various masks or roles self is tempted to play in the state of oneness – savior, prophet, healer, martyr, Mother Earth, you name it. They are all temptations to seize power for ourselves, to think ourselves to be whatever the mask or role may be. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the “ground” that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a “stillpoint”, not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them. So the path from oneness to no-oneness is a life that is choicelessly devoid of ego-satisfaction; a life of unmasking the energies of self and all the divine roles it is tempted to play. It is hard to call this life a “path”, yet it is the only way to get to the end of our journey.

Stephan: In The Experience of No-Self you talk at great length about your experience of the dropping away or loss of self. Could you briefly describe this experience and the events that led up to it? I was particularly struck by your statement “I realized I no longer had a ‘within’ at all.” For so many of us, the spiritual life is experienced as an “inner life” – yet the great saints and sages have talked about going beyond any sense of inwardness.

Bernadette: Your observation strikes me as particularly astute; most people miss the point. You have actually put your finger on the key factor that distinguishes between the state of oneness and the state of no-oneness, between self and no-self. So long as self remains, there will always be a “center”. Few people realize that not only is the center responsible for their interior experiences of energy, emotion, and feeling, but also, underlying these, the center is our continuous, mysterious experience of “life”and “being”. Because this experience is more pervasive than our other experiences, we may not think of “life” and “being” as an interior experience. Even in the state of oneness, we tend to forget that our experience of “being” originates in the divine center, where it is one with divine life and being. We have become so used to living from this center that we feel no need to remember it, to mentally focus on it, look within, or even think about it. Despite this fact, however, the center remains; it is the epicenter of our experience of life and being, which gives rise to our experiential energies and various feelings.

If this center suddenly dissolves and disappears, the experiences of life, being, energy, feeling and so on come to an end, because there is no “within” any more. And without a “within”, there is no subjective, psychological, or spiritual life remaining – no experience of life at all. Our subjecive life is over and done with. But now, without center and circumference, where is the divine? To get hold of this situation, imagine consciousness as a balloon filled with, and suspended in divine air. The balloon experiences the divine as immanent, “in” itself, as well as transcendent, beyond or outside itself. This is the experience of the divine in ourselves and ourselves in the divine; in the state of oneness, Christ is often seen as the balloon (ourselves), completing this trinitarian experience. But what makes this whole experience possible – the divine as both immanent and transcendent – is obviously the balloon, i.e. consciousness or self. Consciousness sets up the divisions of within and without, spirit and matter, body and soul, immanent and transcendent; in fact, consciousness is responsible for every division we know of. But what if we pop the balloon – or better, cause it to vanish like a bubble that leaves no residue. All that remains is divine air. There is no divine in anything, there is no divine transcendence or beyond anything, nor is the divine anything. We cannot point to anything or anyone and say, “This or that is divine”. So the divine is all – all but consciousness or self, which created the division in the first place. As long as consciousness remains however, it does not hide the divine, nor is it ever separated from it. In Christian terms, the divine known to consciousness and experienced by it as immanent and transcendent is called God; the divine as it exists prior to consciousness and after consciousness is gone is called Godhead. Obviously, what accounts for the difference between God and Godhead is the balloon or bubble – self or consciousness. As long as any subjective self remains, a center remains; and so, too, does the sense of interiority.

Stephan: You mention that, with the loss of the personal self, the personal God drops away as well. Is the personal God, then, a transitional figure in our search for ultimate loss of self?

Bernadette: Sometimes we forget that we cannot put our finger on any thing or any experience that is not transitional. Since consciousness, self, or subject is the human faculty for experiencing the divine, every such experience is personally subjective; thus in my view, “personal God” is any subjective experience of the divine. Without a personal, subjective self, we could not even speak of an impersonal, non-subjective God; one is just relative to the other. Before consciousness or self existed, however, the divine was neither personal nor impersonal, subjective nor non-subjective – and so the divine remains when self or consciousness has dropped away. Consciousness by its very nature tends to make the divine into its own image and likeness; the only problem is, the divine has no image or likeness. Hence consciousness, of itself, cannot truly apprehend the divine.

Christians (Catholics especially) are often blamed for being the great image makers, yet their images are so obviously naive and easy to see through, we often miss the more subtle, formless images by which consciousness fashions the divine. For example, because the divine is a subjective experience, we think the divine is a subject; because we experience the divine through the faculties of consciousness, will, and intellect, we think the divine is equally consciousness, will and intellect; because we experience ourselves as a being or entity, we experience the divine as a being or entity; because we judge others, we think the divine judges others; and so on. Carrying a holy card in our pockets is tame compared to the formless notions we carry around in our minds; it is easy to let go of an image, but almost impossible to uproot our intellectual convictions based on the experiences of consciousness.

Still, if we actually knew the unbridgeable chasm that lies between the true nature of consciousness or self and the true nature of the divine, we would despair of ever making the journey. So consciousness is the marvelous divine invention by which human beings make the journey in subjective companionship with the divine; and, like every divine invention, it works. Consciousness both hides the chasm and bridges it – and when we have crossed over, of course, we do not need the bridge any more. So it doesn’t matter that we start out on our journey with our holy cards, gongs and bells, sacred books and religious feelings. All of it should lead to growth and transformation, the ultimate surrender of our images and concepts, and a life of selfless giving. When there is nothing left to surrender, nothing left to give, only then can we come to the end of the passage – the ending of consciousness and its personally subjective God. One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back.

Stephan: How does the path to no-self in the Christian contemplative tradition differ from the path as laid out in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions?


Bernadette: I think it may be too late for me to ever have a good understanding of how other religions make this passage. If you are not surrendering your whole being, your very consciousness, to a loved and trusted personal God, then what are you surrendering it to? Or why surrender it at all? Loss of ego, loss of self, is just a by-product of this surrender; it is not the true goal, not an end in itself. Perhaps this is also the view of Mahayana Buddhism, where the goal is to save all sentient beings from suffering, and where loss of ego, loss of self, is seen as a means to a greater end. This view is very much in keeping with the Christian desire to save all souls. As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the “unconditioned and unbegotten” than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.

Actually, I met up with Buddhism only at the end of my journey, after the no-self experience. Since I knew that this experience was not articulated in our contemplative literature, I went to the library to see if it could be found in the Eastern Religions. It did not take me long to realize that I would not find it in the Hindu tradition, where, as I see it, the final state is equivalent to the Christian experience of oneness or transforming union. If a Hindu had what I call the no-self experience, it would be the sudden, unexpected disappearance of the Atman-Brahman, the divine Self in the “cave of the heart”, and the disappearance of the cave as well. It would be the ending of God-consciousness, or transcendental consciousness – that seemingly bottomless experience of “being”, “consciousness”, and “bliss” that articulates the state of oneness. To regard this ending as the falling away of the ego is a grave error; ego must fall away before the state of oneness can be realized. The no-self experience is the falling away of this previously realized transcendent state.

Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist’s insistence on no eternal Self – be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman. Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the “no-self experience”; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.

Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, “All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed.” And there it was – the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, “Again a house thou shall not build,” clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a “true center,” a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.

As a Christian, I saw the no-self experience as the true nature of Christ’s death, the movement beyond even is oneness with the divine, the movement from God to Godhead. Though not articulated in contemplative literature, Christ dramatized this experience on the cross for all ages to see and ponder. Where Buddha described the experience, Christ manifested it without words; yet they both make the same statement and reveal the same truth – that ultimately, eternal life is beyond self or consciousness. After one has seen it manifested or heard it said, the only thing left is to experience it.

Stephan: You mention in The Path to No-Self that the unitive state is the “true state in which God intended every person to live his mature years.” Yet so few of us ever achieve this unitive state. What is it about the way we live right now that prevents us from doing so? Do you think it is our preoccupation with material success, technology, and personal accomplishment?

Bernadette: First of all, I think there are more people in the state of oneness than we realize. For everyone we hear about there are thousands we will never hear about. Believing this state to be a rare achievement can be an impediment in itself. Unfortunately, those who write about it have a way of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful that it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment – we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes. But if I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey.

Paradoxical though it may seem, the passage through consciousness or self moves contrary to self, rubs it the wrong way – and in the end, will even rub it out. Because this passage goes against the grain of self, it is, therefore, a path of suffering. Both Christ and Buddha saw the passage as one of suffering, and basically found identical ways out. What they discovered and revealed to us was that each of us has within himself or herself a “stillpoint” – comparable, perhaps to the eye of a cyclone, a spot or center of calm, imperturbability, and non-movement. Buddha articulated this central eye in negative terms as “emptiness” or “void”, a refuge from the swirling cyclone of endless suffering. Christ articulated the eye in more positive terms as the “Kingdom of God” or the “Spirit within”, a place of refuge and salvation from a suffering self.

For both of them, the easy out was first to find that stillpoint and then, by attaching ourselves to it, by becoming one with it, to find a stabilizing, balanced anchor in our lives. After that, the cyclone is gradually drawn into the eye, and the suffering self comes to an end. And when there is no longer a cyclone, there is also no longer an eye. So the storms, crises, and sufferings of life are a way of finding the eye. When everything is going our way, we do not see the eye, and we feel no need to find it. But when everything is going against us, then we find the eye. So the avoidance of suffering and the desire to have everything go our own way runs contrary to the whole movement of our journey; it is all a wrong view. With the right view, however, one should be able to come to the state of oneness in six or seven years – years not merely of suffering, but years of enlightenment, for right suffering is the essence of enlightenment. Because self is everyone’s experience underlying all culture. I do not regard cultural wrong views as an excuse for not searching out right views. After all, each person’s passage is his or her own; there is no such thing as a collective passage.

SOURCE:
Spiritual Teachers.org
http://www.spiritualteachers.org/bernadette-roberts-interview/


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The Negative Way by Ryan Phipps - March 2017

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---MIKI YOSHIHITO

In the study of theology, if one studies long enough, it’s likely that they will come across a method of study called, “Via Negativa.”
Via Negativa is the Latin for, “The Negative Way.” It’s a type of theological thinking that attempts to describe God by negation— to speak only in terms of what may not be said about God.

The Irish theologian and philosopher, John Scotus Erigena defined Via Negativa as such:

“We do not know what God is. God does not know what God is because God is not any created thing. Literally God is not, because God transcends being.” - John Scotus Erigena

When he says, “God is not anything,” and, “God is not,” Erigena doesn’t mean that there is no God. Instead, he means that God cannot be said to exist in the way that other things exist. He’s using negative language to emphasize that God is something “other.”
This way of thinking is a struggle for those of us in living here in the west, because we pride ourselves (especially those of us who are Evangelical) in knowing who and what God is, and how to explain God in simple terms so that our friends and neighbors can understand what we believe.

Though this way of thinking about God is useful in smalltalk, it falls horribly short when it comes to discussing the deeper things. It makes the Divine something cheap— something that can be read off of an index card— when in truth, we can’t even explain a grain of salt in such with such simplicity.

Think about your life for a second. Think back over the years that you have lived on this earth. Do you remember when you were in grade school? High school? What about college? Think of all that you wanted to do and be in this life that, for some reason just never materialized for you.

I think back over my own life, look at where I am today, and I can’t draw any sort of line between the various stages of chaos and disorder that have caused me to arrive where I did. I never planned to be where I am. In fact, growing up in a pastor’s home, becoming a pastor was the one thing in my life that I said I would never do. Yet, now that I am, I realize that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life.

Had I gotten everything that I wanted when I wanted it and how I wanted it, I’d be something else. Life is strange like that. We are taught at a very young age to set our sights and pursue our dreams, but in all the setting and pursuing our lives seem to drift off course. We are pointed at something, but we never reach it.

Realizing that we arrive where we are supposed to arrive, not with determination, skill, or a carefully crafted plan, but because of chaos and disorder, is so important for us to learn and own. This is grace at work in us.

Do you really want what you think you want? Could it be that getting everything that you want in this life would turn you into something that you would detest in the long run?
All of the avoidance and the padding that we build into the construct of our lives and our routines to keep us from experiencing the smallest bit of dissatisfaction— could that be why we are so unfulfilled in the deepest parts of us?

In 1934 John O’Hara published his first novel, titled, “An Appointment In Samarra.” The book title is borrowed from on an old Mesopotamian tale about a merchant’s servant who is trying to avoid Death, a character in the story.
The tale goes like this:

A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant down to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterward, the servant came home, white as a ghost and trembling. He told the merchant that he saw Death in the marketplace and that she made a threatening gesture toward him.

Borrowing the merchant’s horse, the servant fled at great speed to Samarra (a city about 75 miles away) where he knew Death would never find him.

The merchant, intrigued by the story of his servant went down to the marketplace to question Death about why she made the threatening gesture toward his servant. Death replied, “That was not a threatening gesture that I made. On the contrary, I was startled to see him in Baghdad, for I knew that I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

We all have all have appointments with things that we are trying to avoid. And the harder that we try to avoid them, we put ourselves right in their path.

What are you avoiding in your life today? What are you terrified of?
Instead of running from it, maybe you need to run toward it, embrace it, and learn from it.

Selah.

SOURCE:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-negative-way_us_58ce8689e4b07112b6472ec0

WEBSITE OF:
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"A Friendship, A Love, A Rescue" by PARKER J. PALMER

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“…I stand among you as one who offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk. And among these people, if they are faithful to their own calling, to their own vocation, and to their own message from God, communication on the deepest level is possible. And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech and beyond concept.”
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

I met Thomas Merton a year after he died. I met him through his writing and through the communion that lies “beyond words,” met him in the seamless way good friends meet again after a long time apart. Without Merton’s friendship and the hope it has given me over the past forty-five years, I’m not sure I could have kept faith with my vocation, even as imperfectly as I have.

My vocational journey to what Merton calls “the margin of society” — at least, the margin of my known world — began in 1969 when I was completing my doctoral work at Berkeley. As the 1960s unfolded, the academic calling that brought me to graduate school had become less and less audible. Vietnam, a spate of assassinations, race riots and “the fire next time” in several major American cities — all of this had me hearing an insistent inner voice saying, “Your vocation is in the community, not the classroom.”

I turned down several opportunities to become a professor, and in July of 1969 moved with my wife and two children to Washington, D.C., to begin work as a community organizer. No one could understand what I was doing, beyond committing professional suicide. In truth, I could not explain it to myself, except to say that it was something I “couldn’t not do,” despite the clear odds against success.

I had no training or experience as a community organizer; much of the work had to be funded by grants I had no track record at raising; and I was an idealistic and thin-skinned young man temperamentally unsuited for the hard-nosed world of community organizing. Compared to accepting a salaried and secure faculty post, as such posts were back in the day, I was stepping off the edge into “a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk.” Companions would have been comforting, but few are to be found when you go over the cliff.
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Thomas Merton at a picnic at Gethsemane in 1967. (The John Jacob Niles Photographic Collection / © All Rights Reserved)

Meeting Merton
After five months in D.C. — when the thrill of my free-fall had been replaced by the predictable bruises, cuts, and broken bones — I walked into a used book store near Dupont Circle. A friend had recommended that I read The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. It was not on the shelf, but in the place where it would have been was another book I knew nothing about: The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. I remember thinking, “It’s about a mountain and the author’s surname begins with M. Close enough…” So I bought it.

That was early in December, 1969. Merton, I soon learned, had died almost exactly one year earlier. But he came alive as I read his autobiography, as he had for millions before me. I never felt that I had merely discovered a new author worth reading. Instead, I knew I had met a kindred spirit who understood me better than anyone alive, better than I understood myself, a fellow traveler who could accompany me on the strange path I had chosen — or had it chosen me?

Wanting to learn more about my new friend, I set out to read everything he wrote. As Merton devotees know, this turned into a lifetime project. The man published at least sixty books, and that counts only those published while he was alive: I’ve lost count of how many more have been published since his death. Merton’s posthumous literary output is, I believe, the first documented case of “perish and publish.”

A few years after I began reading Merton, I learned about his correspondence with
Louis Massignon, a French scholar who introduced Western readers to the life and work of al-Hallaj, a ninth century Muslim mystic. Massignon felt that his relation to al-Hallaj was not so much that of a scholar to his subject as it was “a friendship, a love, a rescue.” He did not mean that he had rescued al-Hallaj from historical obscurity, but that the Muslim mystic had reached out across time to rescue him.

That’s what Merton did for me as I read and re-read
The Seven Storey Mountain. Forty years later, I’m still reading him, still finding friendship, love, and rescue — essential elements in serving as a messenger of hope. Imparting hope to others has nothing to do with exhorting or cheering them on. It has everything to do with relationships that honor the soul, encourage the heart, inspire the mind, quicken the step, and heal the wounds we suffer along the way.

Merton has companioned me on my journey and illumined my path, offering life-giving ways to look at where I’ve been, where I am right now, and where I’m headed. I want to say a few words about four of those ways.
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John Howard Griffin

The Quest for True Self
First comes the pivotal distinction Merton makes between “true self” and “false self,” which helped me understand why I walked away from the groves of academe toward terra incognita. No reasonable person would call my early vocational decision “a good career move.” But looking at it through Merton’s eyes, I came to see that it was a first step on a life-long effort to be responsive to the imperatives of true self, the source of that inner voice that kept saying, “You can’t not do this.”

I grew up in the Methodist Church, and I value the gifts that tradition gave me. But at no point on my religious journey — which included religious studies at college, a year at Union Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. in the sociology of religion, and active memberships in several mainline Protestant denominations — was I introduced to the contemplative stream of spirituality that Merton lived and wrote about. His notion of the quest for true self eventually led me to Quakerism, with its conviction that “there is that of God in every person.” The quest for true self and the quest for God: it’s a distinction without a difference, one that not only salvaged my spiritual life but took me deeper into it.

“Most of us,” as
Merton brilliantly observed, “live lives of self-impersonation.” I cannot imagine a sadder way to die than with the sense that I never showed up here on earth as my God-given self. If Merton had offered me nothing else, the encouragement to live from true self would be more than enough to call his relation to me “a friendship, a love, a rescue.”
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Bob Cunnane, John Howard Yoder, and Thomas Merton in conversation at the 1964 peacemaker retreat. (Jim Forest)

The Promise of Paradox
The notion of paradox was central to Merton’s spiritual and intellectual life, not merely as a philosophical concept but as a lived reality. Given the many apparent contradictions of my life, nothing Merton wrote brought him closer to me in spirit than the epigraph to The Sign of Jonas: “…I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox.” It is no accident that my first book featured a lead essay on Merton and was titled The Promise of Paradox.

Merton taught me the importance of looking at life not merely in terms of either-or but also in terms of both-and. Paradoxical thinking of this sort is key to creativity, which comes from the capacity to entertain apparently contradictory ideas in a way that stretches the mind and opens the heart to something new. Paradox is also a way of being that’s key to wholeness, which does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.

For me, the ability to hold life paradoxically became a life-saver. Among other things, it helped me integrate three devastating experiences of clinical depression, which were as dark for me as it must have been for Jonas inside the belly of that whale. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was the question that came time and again as my quest for light plunged me into darkness. In response, Merton’s lived understanding of paradox came to my rescue. Eventually I was able to see that the closer I move to the source of light, the deeper my shadow becomes. To be whole I have to be able to say I am both shadow and light.

Paradoxical thinking can also save us from the crimped and cramped versions of faith that bedevil Christianity and are, at bottom, idolatries that elevate our theological formulae above the living God. Merton — who had a deep appreciation of Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and Sufism — once put this in words so fierce that, if taken seriously, could generate enough energy to transform the Christian world:

The Cross is the sign of contradiction — destroying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies…. But the magicians keep turning the cross to their own purposes. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the cross contradict mercy! This is of course the ultimate temptation of Christianity! To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved — while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.”

— from “To Each His Darkness” in
Raids on the Unspeakable
 
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Untitled photo of Thomas Merton, 1967-68. (Ralph Eugene Meatyard)

The Call to Community
For several years after the 1948 publication of The Seven Storey Mountain, the Abbey of Gethsemani was flooded with young men who wanted to join Merton in the monastic life. Though I came to the party twenty years late, I too wanted in. But I had a few liabilities when it came to becoming a Trappist monk, including a wife, three children, and Protestant tendencies. I needed to find another way into “life together” in a spiritual community.

So in 1974, I left my community organizing in Washington, D.C. and moved with my family to a Quaker living-learning community called Pendle Hill, located near Philadelphia. For the next eleven years, I shared a daily round of worship, study, work, social outreach, and communal meals with some seventy people in a spiritually-grounded community that was as close as I could get to my image of the life Merton lived. That image was of a “community of solitudes,” of “being alone together,” of a way of life in which a group of people could live more fully into
Rilke’s definition of love: “that two (or more) solitudes border, protect and salute one another.”

This is not the place to write about the many ways a decade-plus at Pendle Hill deepened and strengthened my sense of vocation,
a topic I have explored elsewhere. Suffice it to say that in the Quaker tradition I found a way to join the inner journey with social concerns, and eventually founded a national non-profit, the Center for Courage & Renewal, whose mission is to help people “rejoin soul and role.” My experience at Pendle Hill also gave me the impetus to take one more step toward “the margin of society.” For the past quarter century, I have worked independently as a writer, teacher, and activist, unsheltered by any institution.

When my courage to work at the margins wavers, I take heart in what Merton said
in his final talk, given to a conference of monks in Bangkok a few hours before he died. Quoting a Tibetan lama who was forced to flee his monastery and his homeland, Merton advised the monks, “From now on, Brother, everybody stands on his own feet.” In words that ring true for me at a time in history when our major social institutions — religious, economic, and political institutions — are profoundly dysfunctional, Merton goes on to say:

“…we can no longer rely on being supported by structures that may be destroyed at any moment by a political power or a political force. You cannot rely on structures. They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and if everything is taken away, what do you do next?”
 
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Untitled photo of Thomas Merton with friends, 1967-68. (Ralph Eugene Meatyard)
Hidden Wholeness in a Broken World

As the Nigerian novelist
Chinua Achebe famously reminded us, “things fall apart.” But in “Hagia Sophia,” one of Merton’s most lyrical pieces, he writes about the “hidden wholeness” the spiritual eye can discern beneath the broken surface of things — whether it’s a broken political system, a broken relationship, or a broken heart:
“There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.

These words, too, have served as a source of hope for me. Once one has eyes to see it, wholeness can always be discovered, hidden beneath the broken surface of things. This is more than a soothing notion. It’s an insight that can shape what the Buddhists call “right action,” if we have eyes to see. Here’s an instance of what I mean.
In the early 1970s — as I was reading Merton and learning about organizing for racial justice in a rapidly changing neighborhood — I began to understand that my job was not to try to compel people to do things they did not want to do, such as protesting against unscrupulous real estate practices like blockbusting and redlining. Instead, I needed to give them excuses and permissions to do things they really wanted to do — things related to the justice agenda — but were too shy or fearful to do under their own steam.

For example, the people in the neighborhood where I lived and worked had already run from “the other” once, driven by the fear that animates white flight. But in their heart of hearts, they had come to understand that there is no place left to run, no place to escape the diversity of the human community, and that embracing it might bring them peace and enrich their lives.

I knew that step one in stopping real estate practices that manipulate fear for profit was simple: give the old-timers and the newcomers frequent chances to meet face-to-face so they could learn that “the other” came bearing blessings, not threats. But instead of asking folks to do the impossible — e.g., “Just knock on a stranger’s door and get to know whoever answers” — my colleagues and I began creating “excuses and permissions” for natural interactions: door-to-door surveys, block parties, ethnic food fairs, and living room conversations about shared interests, to name a few.

Amid the racial tensions of our era, we helped people act on their deep-down desire to live in the “hidden wholeness” that lies beneath the broken surface of our lives. And it worked. Over time, because of our efforts and those of many others, a community that might have ended up shattered
became diverse and whole.

Things do not always work out so well, of course. History is full of tragically failed visions of possibility, and the more profound the vision, the more likely we are to fall short of achieving it. But even here,
Merton has a word of hope for us, a paradoxical word, of course:
“…do not depend on the hope of results. …you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”

As long as we are wedded to “effectiveness” we will take on smaller and smaller tasks, for they are the only ones with which we can get results. If we want to witness to important but impossible values like love, truth and justice, there must be a standard that trumps effectiveness. The name of that standard is “faithfulness.” At the end of the road, I will not be asking about outcomes. I’ll be asking if I was faithful to my gifts, to the needs I saw around me, to the ways in which my gifts might meet those needs, to “the truth of the work itself.”

For helping me understand this — and for imbuing me with the faith that, despite my many flaws, I might be able to live this way — I owe a debt of deep gratitude to Thomas Merton, friend, fellow traveler, and messenger of hope.

(I have saved
my favorite Merton line for the end of this piece, relegating it to the status of a footnote to keep myself from prattling on about it: “I had a pious thought, but I am not going to write it down.&rdquoWinking

This essay appears in We Are Already One: Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope — Reflections in Honor of His Centenary (1915-2015) from Fons Vitae Press.

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PARKER J. PALMER
is a columnist for
On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.
He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the
Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

OTHER WRITINGS by
PARKER J. PALMER:
https://onbeing.org/author/parker-j-palmer/


WEBSITE:
On Being 876 PNG

ALSO FOUND AT:
http://www.couragerenewal.org/friendship-love-rescue-essay-celebrating-thomas-merton-parker-j-palmer/


Comments

"Loss and Revival of the Timeless Wisdom" by Peter Russell

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Print from http://www.vladstudio.com

We live in unprecedented times. Science is answering age-old questions about the nature of reality, the birth of the cosmos, and the origins of life. We are witnessing technological advances that a century ago would have seemed science fiction, or even magic. And, more alarmingly, we are becoming increasingly aware of the impact our burgeoning growth is having on the planet. Yet, along with these rapidly unfolding changes is another development that is passing largely unnoticed. We are in the midst of an unprecedented spiritual renaissance, rediscovering in contemporary terms the timeless wisdom of the ages.

Most spiritual traditions began with an individual having a transforming mystical experience, some profound revelation, or inner awakening. It may have come through dedicated spiritual practice, deep devotion, facing a hard challenge, or sometimes unbidden, out of the blue—a timeless moment in which one’s personal dramas pale in the light of a deep inner security. However it came, it usually led to a delightful joy in being alive, an unconditional love for all beings, the dissolving of the sense of self, and an awareness of oneness with creation.

The profound transformation they experienced caused many to want to share their discovery, and help others have their own awakening. But those who listened to their teachings may have misunderstood some parts, forgot others, and perhaps added interpretations of their own. Much like the party game of Chinese whispers in which a message whispered round a room can end up nothing like the original, as the teaching passed from one person to another, from one culture to another, and was translated from one language to another, it gradually became less and less like the original. The timeless wisdom became increasingly veiled, and clothed in the beliefs and values of the society in which it found itself, resulting in a diversity of faiths whose common essence is often hard to detect.

Today however, we are in the midst of a widespread spiritual renaissance that differs significantly from those of the past. We are no longer limited to the faith of our particular culture; we have access to all the world’s wisdom traditions, from the dawn of recorded history to the present day. And the insights of contemporary teachers from around the planet are readily available in books, recordings, and via the Internet. None of this was possible before.

Rather than there being a single leader, there are now many experiencing and expounding the perennial philosophy. Some may be more visible than others, and some may have clearer realizations than others, but all are contributing to a growing rediscovery of the timeless wisdom. We are seeing through the apparent differences of the world’s faiths, past their various cultural trappings and interpretations, to what lies at their heart. And, instead of the truth becoming progressively diluted and veiled as it is passed on, today our discoveries are reinforcing each other. We are collectively honing in on the essential teaching.

As we strip away the layers of accumulated obscurity, the core message not only gets clearer and clearer. It gets simpler and simpler. And the path becomes easier and easier.

At the leading edge of this progressive awakening is what contemporary teachers such as Francis Lucille and Rupert Spira call “the direct path”. Recognition of our true nature does not need studious reading of spiritual texts, years of meditation practice, or deep devotion to a teacher; only the willingness to engage in a rigorously honest investigation into the nature of awareness itself. Not an intellectual investigation, but a personal investigation into what we truly are.

WEBSITE (Peter Russell):
Sci and nonduality

Comments

"The Extraordinary Life of Maurice Frydman" — Buddha and the Gas Pump interview with David Godman + Additional Biographies


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Maurice Frydman is one of most extraordinary people I’ve ever come across and virtually nothing is known about him. And because of his connection with Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Gandhi, Nisargadatta, the Dali Lama I kind of view him in my own mind as a Forest Gump of 20th century spirituality. He was in all the right places in all the right times to get the maximum benefit of interaction with some of the greats of Indian spirituality… He was a Gandhian, he worked for the uplift of the poor in India, he worked with Tibetan refugees, he edited extraordinary books [like] “I am That,” probably one of the all time spiritual classics.

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This man for me a shining beacon of how devotees could and should be with their teachers. He was just absolutely an extraordinary man. And went out of his way to cover his tracks; to hide what he actually had accomplished in his life. So I’ve enjoyed the detective work of looking in obscure placers, digging out stuff that he personally tried to hide, not because it was embarrassing, but because he didn’t like to take credit for what he’d done. So I see this as an opportunity to wave the Maurice flag and say “look look, this is one of the greatest devotee, sadoc seekers from the West whose been to India in the last 100 years, and I think more people should know about him."—————————————————————————— David Godman

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THE INTERVIEW:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyC3yBRsBt8




Both of David Godman's interviews are found at:
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BIOGRAPHY #1
Maurice “Bharatananda” Frydman:
The great karma yogi you never heard of


“We ripen when we refuse to drift, when striving ceaselessly become a way of life, when dispassion born of insight becomes spontaneous. When the search ‘Who Am I?’ becomes the only thing that matters, when we become a mere torch and the flame all important, it will mean that we are ripening fast. We cannot accelerate that ripening, but we can remove the obstacles of fear and greed, indolence and fancy, prejudice and pride.”

Maurice Frydman, April 1976 The Mountain Path
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Maurice Frydman and J. Krishnamurti

You might have come across his name on the cover of the classic giant I Am That. He was the man who tape recorded conversations in the Marathi dialect with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and then translated and pushed to publish the book. What you might not know is that he carried out that deed late in his life after five decades of service to India directly and to the world of spiritual seekers at large. The people that he came across and was in deep relationship with included J. Krishnamurti, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Mahatma Gandhi besides Maharaj. Furthermore, he was also involved with the liberation of India from English rule in the state of Aundh by writing the constitution there as well as being active in the villages of the state. Later on, he spent years pushing the Indian government for and receiving land and money to create the settlements where thousands of uprooted Tibetans escaped the Chinese invasion.

Maurice Frydman was born in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow, Poland in 1894. Being an exceptionally bright student, he excelled in school and studied electrical engineering. He was fluent in Hebrew, English, French, Russian, German and added to that Hindi later in life. His seeking started at a young age and involved delving into Judaism and studying the Talmud. He followed this by becoming a monk in the Russian Orthodox church. This path also did not feed his thirst and he was said to have been fed up with all dogmas. His brilliance in his school did pave the way for him to drastically change his life from his humble beginning. He had many patents to his name by the age of twenty when he moved to Europe for his studies and started work.

During this time he came across his first teacher J. Krishnamurti in Switzerland. This meeting was prior to Krishnamurti’s break with the Theosophical Society and the relationship lasted many decades. Maurice was known to be a fierce debater with Krishnamurti whom he held in high regards. He would organize meetings for him as well as translate some of his work into French. After a period of several years, in 1928 he made a more permanent move to Paris to start a job at an electrical factory. In Paris he came across Brunton’s book on Ramana Maharshi that started a burning desire to go to India.

His wish came true several years later when in 1935 he was offered a job to set up an engineering firm in Mysore, which he accepted. In his early years in India in the late 1930s he found Ramana Maharshi and spent time with the Bhagavan. As one of the regular devotees, many of his questions and the master’s response were recorded in Maharshi’s Gospel. Ramana said of Frydman “He belongs only here to India. Somehow he was born abroad, but has come again here”.

Concurrently he came into relationship with Mahatma Gandhi and was involved with his struggle to free India from British rule. It was during this time in 1938 that he asked the Raja of Aundh province to help Gandhi’s cause by freeing his control of the seventy two village property which the Raja agreed to. He then drew up a draft of declaration of independence which then was given to Gandhi. He in turn wrote the constitution of the state, giving full authority to the people of the state, a rare event in pre independent India. An interesting side fact is that during his time with Gandhiji Frydman worked on and improved on the design of the cotton spinning wheels that became synonymous with Gandhi and his movement.

Frydman’s family perished in Poland during WWII and he never returned there after that.

At this juncture in his life he gave up on his job and worldly possessions. He took on the robe of a sannyasi under Sri Swami Ramdas who named him Bharatananda; a robe he later gave up as being meaningless while living the spirit of it to his death. From this time on, he did give up his salary to the needy around him. He had no room for symbols and spiritual materialism that did not reflect true ripeness; he found them to be shallow and counter productive. He regretted his inability to take further use of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings while the Bhagavan was alive. He wrote after his death “Now He is still with us, but no longer so easily accessible. To find Him again we must overcome the very obstacles which prevented us form seeing Him as He was and going with Him where he wanted to take us. It was Tamas and Rajas – fear and desire that stood in the way – the desire of the pleasure of the past and fear of austere responsibility of a higher state of being. It was the same old story- the threshold of maturity of mind and heart which most of refuse to cross”.

Maurice Frydman died in Bombay on March 9th of 1976 with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj by his side. A beautiful event ends this incredible life. During his last days of life Frydman gets a visit by a professional nurse he does not know. The nurse had been visited in a dream by an old man in a loin cloth telling her to go and take care of Frydman. Frydman refuses to accept the nurse’s offer. As the nurse is leaving she walks past a picture of the old man that had visited her in her dream. Upon telling Frydman this, he accepts her offer and allows her to take care of him. The picture: it was Ramana Maharshi who had left his body over three decades prior.

Excerpts taken from:
Dr M. Sadashiva Rao Vol. 19, No. 5 The Maharshi
Apa B Bant, 1991 Volume of Mountain Path
Written for Namrupa Issue 10 Volume 05, November 2009
http://www.namarupa.org/volumes/1005.php

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BIOGRAPHY #2
Maurice Frydman
By Barrry Gordon

"Your own being is your definitive master, the external teacher is simply a sign on the path, only your inner teacher will go with you to the goal, since he is the goal."
— Nisargadatta Maharaj, from the book I Am That.

If you mention the name of Maurice Frydman to spiritual practitioners who are familiar with Advaita Vedanta and Tibetan Buddhism, not many would recognize it. Even so, Maurice was a key factor in the dissemination of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi , Nisargadatta Maharaj , Swami Ramdas, Anandamayi Ma, Mahatma Ghandi; And in supporting the Tibetan Buddhists. It was because of Maurice that I was able to stay in Ramana Maharshi's ashram , meet Nisargadatta, J. Krishnamurti , Mother Krishnabai and (indirectly) Douglas Harding .

I met Maurice for the first time when he was an energetic man of seventy-six, and instantly felt that he had found a friend and grandfather long lost. I had gone to India earlier in 1971 to stay at Baba Muktananda's ashram in Ganeshpuri, not far from Bombay.

When my six-month visa expired, I wanted to stay in India. I gave my passport to a Hindu politician (MP) from Bombay, whom I had met at Muktananda's ashram and who said that I could get a permanent residency status. Since this was India, several months passed without resolution in sight. One day, two friends and I decided to go to Bombay for the purpose of satisfying our cravings for ice cream and mango lassi, but the hotels did not admit us without a passport. One of my friends had heard of Maurice Frydman and suggested that we go to his house for help.

Maurice lived on Nepean Sea Street, at the home of Ms. Hirubhai Petit, a former devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Mrs. Petit was a wonderful lady Parsi, a little younger than Maurice and almost deaf. It was usually seen at meal times. Maurice and she had been constant companions for many years. Maurice said that when Maharshi left his body, Ms. Petit saw a star cross the skies of Bombay and said, "There goes Bhagavan." He had made the right moment.

Mrs. Petit lived in the rooms in front of the apartment and spent most of her time meditating. In his youth he had been a piano performer, playing professionally in Europe, which was sometimes considered improper behavior for a Hindu woman in those days.

Education was a rare option for a woman. I remember a woman Parsi, perhaps in her forties, friend of Maurice and Mrs. Petit, who came to lunch one day. She was one of the first women graduated from college in India and was active in social work. She told me that Maurice had been instrumental in helping her get a better education. He then gave him great spiritual and emotional support when he was experiencing difficulties in accepting the world of work, which was totally dominated by men.

Maurice welcomed and fed everyone at his door - and there were many people. After questioning me sharply (as he did with many of his guests - a skill for which Maurice was famous), he offered me an exchange. I could stay with him if I helped him to pack and send to Poland the books he had published. I do not think Maurice needed to question people, because he already knew the answers. It felt as if he held your heart in the palm of his hands and could examine it in detail. From the spark of his eyes, however, he obviously enjoyed it. He saw everyone clearly and allowed no dishonesty. A lot of deflated egos left their table being better people. That was the beginning of an 18-month relationship during which I helped Maurice with many of his social projects, but mostly to pack books for the Hindu-Polish Library, to interview Nisargadatta, and later to edit the manuscript to be published as I am That . Although he did not really need to help with the book, as he was a brilliant writer in many languages, this work became one of the ways he taught me the importance of making every detail look good.

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Maurice Frydman with Nisargadatta

Together, we were going to interview Nisargadatta once a week, though I think Maurice had started the interviews about a year before I knew him. Maurice spoke Marathi (the local language) fluently, as well as Hindi, Polish, Russian, French, English and many others. Maharaj was very fond of Maurice. Once, Maurice was injured in a collision with a scooter and could not leave the house for a few weeks. We were surprised by a spontaneous visit by Maharaj, who walked all the way, with the help of one of his sons, worried that Maurice had not come to his regular visit. Maharaj must have walked for more than an hour to get to Maurice's house.

Nisargadatta welcomed the visitors into a small room above the house of his family. He sat near the front window, with a bidi (cigarette) in his hand, and excitedly answered our questions, which were recorded by Maurice. In a recent video about Nisargadatta Maharaj (produced by Inner Directions), it looked as if the room had been reorganized since those days.

Maharaj and Maurice were alike in many ways. Both were inflexible as to truth and had a similar intensity that could be mistaken for anger - but it was more the fire of their enlightened compassion. In fact, all the masters with whom Maurice had been implicated were thus, except perhaps Swami Ramdas. Although Maharaj is famous as vedantin , I was struck by the intensity of his puja (devout worship). When the time came for the puja, all talk ceased; Maharaj took his great cymbals and began to worship and sing to the utmost of his lungs - an example of true devotion.

Maurice spoke very little about his past. The only extensive biographical material I know of is an article by Apa B. Pant, a retired Hindu diplomat (and Prince of Aundh), who was Maurice's disciple for forty years. In addition, material has been published in The Mountain Path , a magazine published by Sri Ramanasramam (the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi). In the house of Maurice I met Eva Moimir, from Krakow, Poland. His father, now about ninety years old, was a friend of Maurice's early days in the Theosophical Society. Eva stayed with Maurice for about six months and contributed to this article with some of her memories.

Maurice was born in 1894 in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow, Poland, from a very poor family. At that time, it was very difficult for Jews to receive public education. My grandmother (from Odessa) told me that only five percent of Jewish children were allowed to attend school. Maurice's father was a very devout man and wanted Maurice to become a rabbi, so Maurice began to learn Hebrew. I think he ended up speaking fourteen or fifteen languages ​​altogether. At the age of ten, he spoke fluent Russian, Polish, French, English and Hebrew. Maurice went on to study electrical engineering, and at twenty, he had received patents for more than a hundred electrical and mechanical inventions, one of which was a talking book. Maurice's skills for invention and his ingenuity later would be very beneficial to the villages of India. Maurice told me that he designed all the hand tools used in the Khadi movement of Ghandi (hand-knit clothing), such as the small and famous handwheel.

Maurice's services were in demand in many parts of Europe. However, around the age of twenty-five, he had an overwhelming desire to see God, and this intense desire helped determine the balance of his life. Maurice was allergic to dogma. He studied Judaism seriously and even became a Russian Orthodox monk. He once told me a story that represents his character very well. AB Pant describes it beautifully: "One day, Satan tempted Maurice to jump out of a great waterfall to 'prove his faith' in Jesus Christ and the church. Then this intrepid seeker of truth immediately jumped from a precipice of over a hundred Feet! He was barely saved by some bushes in which his cassock tangled. " Maurice's impetuosity would later become a saving grace for thousands of people. Maurice, however, did not last long in the church.
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Maurice Frydman and J. Krishnamurti

Around thirty, Maurice discovered the Theosophical Society, its founder Annie Besant (1), and the rising star of the Theosophical movement, J. Krishnamurti, becoming one of Krishnaji's most serious inquirers. Maurice was also friends with Wanda "Umadevi" Dynowska, an aristocrat and notable spiritual seeker. Together (in 1944), they founded the Polish-Indian library. Umadevi also founded the Polish branch of the Theosophical Society.

Maurice introduced AB Pant to Krishnamurti. Pant describes Maurice's dialogues with Krishnaji: "I marveled at Maurice's incisive brilliance and vision by challenging almost every point with Krishnaji." It was not the challenge of the arrogant or of a confident pandit . Which Krishnaji explained through his own immediate experience.In the "duel" between the two of them, there was no memory of the past or no conjecture about the future. fragrant".

Pant continues the story and tells that Maurice immigrated to France to accept a job in a new electrical factory from which he would soon become the general manager. Reading voraciously and absorbing books of religion, mysticism and occultism in the National Library, he soon encountered Vedanta (the non-dualistic wisdom of India, especially revealed in the Upanishads , the great metaphysical part of the Vedas) and immersed in the Bhagavad Gita , the Upanishads and the Mahabharata . Greatly attracted him books about Sri Ramana Maharshi, especially India Secret of Paul Brunton . For Maurice, this was the greatest revelation, the inquiry: "Who am I?" - a question that I think was answered in his last stay in India.

During his stay in France, a great desire to visit India arose in Maurice. Around this time, the Diwan (Chief Officer) of Mysore, Sir Mirza Ismail, arrived for a tour of the factory where Maurice worked. Quickly recognizing the genius and skill of Maurice, Sir Mirza remarked: "Mr. Frydman, I wish you could come and visit us in Mysore and advise us on development." Diwain wanted to make a replica of the Paris factory in Bangalore (South India). Maurice told him that his bags were ready.

It is noteworthy that just as Maurice was keen to go to India, the Diwan of Mysore would arrive and invite him - not only to India but to Bangalore, which is quite close to Tiruvannamalai so that Maurice could spend the weekends at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. Maurice soon became a passionate disciple of Maharshi and later compiled a series of conversations with Ramana, later published with the title The Gospel of Maharshi . Maurice asked Ramana to initiate him as a Hindu monk ( sannyasi ), but Maharshi refused. Once Maurice was decided there was nothing that could dissuade him. While living and working in Bangalore, Maurice visited Swami Ramdas at the Ananda ashram in Khanangad, Kerala. During one of these visits, Maurice made the resignation vows, shaved his head, and began to wear the saffron robes of the Hindu monks. Swami Ramdas gave Maurice the name "Bharatananda". This change, reflecting Maurice's inner conviction, caused him some difficulties with Sir Mirza, his boss in Bangalore.

When Sir Mirza learned that Maurice had begun the sannyas , who wore saffron robes, who went out to beg for food and gave all his wages to the poor, he became enraged. I think Sir Mirza never really understood how to work with Maurice. When Maurice was ordered to wear normal clothing, Maurice immediately offered his resignation and said: "I am free to live my personal life as I see fit, as long as it satisfies everything concerning the quality of my work as an engineer and manager" . Soon they reached an agreement in which Maurice would only have to wear a traditional dress when a very important person went to the factory. AB Pant was one of those people, and the meeting between them marked the beginning of the end of Maurice's time with Sir Mirza. Although Maurice spent much time in the company of Ramana Maharshi and J. Krishnamurti, he managed to cling to strict fidelity to external renunciation for another ten or twelve years.

The father of Apa Pant was Diwan of Aundh, a small and poor state of Maharashtra. Pant was Maurice's first and closest disciple. When Pant asked Sir Mirza to "lend" Maurice for a period of six months, he quickly denied his request. This action, of course, caused Maurice to leave permanently for Aundh. As Sri Pant tells us in his story, Maurice carried Mahatma Ghandi's inspired message to the villages of Aundh, as neither the Rajas or British autocrats of other states were very adept at decentralized democracy. Maurice and Sri Pant were called to the famous mud hut of the Mahatma and Ghandi welcomed Bharatananda with a: "So you have taken the poor Raja of Aundh and left the rich man in Mysore to his fate?" This meeting began a close association between Mahatma and Maurice. Maurice became a Hindu citizen and was deeply involved with Ghandi's work and movement for national independence. He was also active in the Sevagram movement , which continued after independence with Britain. Maurice played a key role in the invention of several hand tools, such as spinning equipment, which were then employed by the village industries movement.

Sri Pant wrote about the meeting between Maurice and Mahatma Ghandi in the books A Moment in Time and An Unusual Raja , both published by Orient Longman.

For three years Maurice lived under an acacia tree in the fields of Aundh. Although the daily temperature ranged from 48 degrees during the day to 6 degrees Celsius at night, he slept only with blankets and bamboo rugs. During this time Maurice was personally responsible for the abolition of the death penalty and the release of many prisoners to a democratic and open penal colony. In fact, he created the city of Swatantrapur, originally located in the fields of Aundh. It still exists today.

Although Maurice was already in his mid-seventies when I spent time with him, he was very active in various charities, most of which had been started and completed by him. In addition to publishing spiritual books, she also opened orphanages, centers for training prostitutes, and an organization to find gifts for them so they could get married. It was closely associated with Chetana Books, a publishing house and bookstore located in Bombay. (Chetana was the first editorial of Yo Soy That , the collection of conversations with Nisargadatta Maharaj).

Maurice experimented with many things and was especially attracted to natural cures and special diets. I was being successfully treated by a homeopath for something that I later realized was poisoning Agent Orange, which I contracted during my days as a Marine Officer in Vietnam. Maurice convinced me to change him for fasting, which began with three days of bananas, followed by three days of oranges, then three days only of water; And then the same, but in reverse. Homeopathy worked better. There were always bizarre concoctions on the table - dark liquids with unusual fragrances, etc. This must have been true for years, because Pant also describes Maurice's fascination with food experiments. Ghandi also had this predilection. Maurice believed firmly in fasting and loved to tell the story of the Italian Count who lived during the Renaissance. The count was a great sybarite who, because of his excessive indulgence, was very overweight. As a result of his weight problem, the Count became ill to death. However, by simply cutting his food intake in half, the count successfully restored his health.

When the Chinese invaded Tibet and thousands of Tibetans fled to India, they found themselves without shelter in the land of Buddha. Maurice took charge of his cause and without help became an "Indian-Tibetan refugee program". The history of the Tibetan refugees reflects the determination and tenacity of Maurice; It was these qualities that helped him move mountains. Maurice literally sat in the prime minister's office until Nehru spoke to him. When he finally gained access to Nehru, Maurice advocated the cause of the Tibetans. Nehru, along with the government of India, were very concerned that if they granted land to the Tibetan refugees, then China could invade India. This was the reason why there was no official position on the refugee problem. However, Nehru found in Maurice the last of his shoe. Maurice refused to leave the prime minister's office without an official letter that could be taken to several peripheral states of India and to authorize the use of a land of more than 3500 feet that can be used by Tibetan refugees. Maurice left the meeting with the letter and sought land that was appropriate for the Tibetan settlement. What is now Dharmsala owes its birth to Maurice, who was instrumental in procuring most of the land and financing the settlement of the villages.

In 1976, Maurice had a second accident. As he walked through the crowded streets of Bombay, he was hit by a motorcycle. She never completely recovered from this accident and later died in the apartment where she lived for so many years, of which Mrs. Petit was the owner. Nissargadatta Maharj was at his side at the end and proclaimed Maurice a free man. Maharaj respected Maurice so much that he added his photograph to that of other saints and gurus whom Maharaj worshiped daily.

---WEBSITE:
Advaita Info
Barry Gordon holds a BA in Physics and is a Feng Shui consultant and educator, and an advanced student of Professor Thomas Yun Lin, one of the most renowned philosophers of our time.
While serving in the United States Army, a death experience in Vietnam led him to a broad and extensive spiritual path.
With extensive experience in Western psychotherapy and Homeopathy, he also lived in Hindu ashrams, Buddhist monasteries, studied with a Sufi master and with a Hawaiian Kahuna.

-—Barry Gordon's Website:
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BIOGRAPHY #3
Maurice Frydman was an engineer, humanitarian and a close associate to notable spiritual teachers when he spent the later part of his life in India.
He was a Polish Jew who subsequently converted to Hinduism.
He became a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, lived in his ashram, and took an active part in India's fight for independence. He was also very close to Nehru.

He was associated with the great spiritual teachers Sri Ramana Maharshi and J. Krishnamurti and a longtime friend to the famous Advaita guru, Nisargadatta Maharaj, who considered him a Jnani. He edited and translated Nisargadatta Maharaj's tape-recorded conversations into the English-language book "I Am That", published in 1973. Nisargadatta Maharaj was by his bedside when he died in 1976 in India.

According to David Godman, Nisargadatta Maharaj, in response to the question "'In all the years that you have been teaching how many people have truly understood and experienced your teachings?" replied: "One. Maurice Frydman”.

Using his engineering skills, he made the spinning wheel that Gandhi himself used. Frydman created several new types of spinning wheels for Gandhi, which piqued his interest in finding the most efficient and economical spinning wheel for India.

He took an active part in India's fight for independence —notably in helping to draft a new constitution for the State of Aundh that became the Aundh Experiment.

Frydman came to India in the late 1930s as a Jewish refugee from Warsaw. A successful capitalist, he was managing director of the Mysore State Government Electrical Factory in Bangalore. Eventually he was won over by Hindu philosophy and became a sannyasi. Frydman was instrumental, along with Gandhi and the Raja of Aundh, in helping to draft the November Declaration, which handed over rule of the state of Aundh from the Raja to the residents in 1938-9.

He visited Swami Ramdas in the 1930s and Ramdas apparently told him that this would be his final birth. That comment was recorded in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi in the late 1930s, decades before he had his meetings with Nisargadatta Maharaj. He was at various stages of his life a follower of Ramana Maharshi, Gandhi, and J. Krishnamurti.

A senior Indian government official told David Godman in the 1960s that it was Frydman who persuaded the then India Prime Minister Nehru to allow the Dalai Lama and the other exiled Tibetans to stay in India. Frydman apparently pestered him continuously for months until he finally gave his consent. None of these activities were ever publicly acknowledged because Frydman disliked publicity of any kind and always tried to do his work anonymously.

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ALSO SEE:
Maurice Frydman - His Life Story:http://life-after-joining-ishayoga.blogspot.com/2014/09/maurice-frydman-his-life-story-your.html

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BIOGRAPHY #4

Maurice Frydman
(Maurycy Frydman or Maurycy Frydman-Mor in Polish), aka Swami Bharatananda (1901 in Warsaw, Poland 9 to March 1977, India), was an engineer and humanitarian who spent the later part of his life in India. He lived at the ashram of Mohandas Gandhi and took an active part in India's fight for independence—notably in helping to draft a new constitution for the State of Aundh that became the Aundh Experiment. He was a Polish Jew[5] who subsequently converted to Hinduism.

BIOGRAPHY
Frydman came to India in the late 1930s as a Jewish refugee from Warsaw. A successful capitalist, he was managing director of the Mysore State Government Electrical Factory in Bangalore. Eventually he was won over by Hindu philosophy and became a sannyasi. Frydman was instrumental, along with Gandhi and the Raja of Aundh, in helping to draft the November Declaration, which handed over rule of the state of Aundh from the Raja to the residents in 1938-9.

He became acquainted with one of the sons of the Raja of Aundh, and was well regarded by the Raja himself. According to the Raja's son, Apa Pant, "Frydman had great influence with my father, and on his seventy-fifth birthday he said, 'Raja Saheb, why don't you go and make a declaration to Mahatma Gandhi that you are giving all power to the people because it will help in the freedom struggle.'"

As a sympathiser with the Indian independence movement, the Raja accepted this idea. Frydman wrote a draft declaration, and the Raja and his son, Apa Pant, travelled to see Gandhi in Wardha, where the Mahatma drew up a new constitution for the state. The constitution, which gave full responsible government to the people of Aundh, was adopted on 21 January 1939. This "Aundh Experiment" was a rare event in pre-independence India, where the rulers of princely states were generally reluctant to give up their power. After some initial hesitation among the populace of the state it proved to be very successful, lasting until the merger of the princely states into India in 1948.[7]

While in India, Frydman became a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and lived in his ashram, where he made the spinning wheel that Gandhi himself used. Frydman used his engineering skill to create several new types of spinning wheels for Gandhi, which piqued his interest in finding the most efficient and economical spinning wheel for India.[8]

He was close to Nehru, and was associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi[9] and J. Krishnamurti.[10]

A longtime friend to Advaita guru, Nisargadatta Maharaj, who considered him a Jnani, Maurice Frydman died in 1976 in India, with Sri Nisargadatta by his bedside.[11] Frydman edited and translated Nisargadatta Maharaj's tape-recorded conversations into the English-language book
I Am That, published in 1973.

Frydman helped Wanda Dynowska, a Polish theosophist who came to India in the 1930s, to establish a Polish-Indian Library (Biblioteka Polsko-Indyjska). The library holds a collection of books aimed "to show India to Poland and Poland to India", containing translations from Indian languages to Polish and from Polish to English. During the 2nd World War he helped with the transfer of Polish orphans from Siberia, displaced there by the Soviets after their annexation of Eastern Poland to Siberia in 1939-1941. They were moved from Siberia via Iran (with the Polish army of Gen. W
ładysław Anders) mainly to India, Kenya and New Zealand. After 1959 he helped Wanda Dynowska with Tibetan refugees in India.

SOURCE:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Frydman




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"What is Vedanta?" by Randall Friend

Vedantaswan

Vedanta is a "non-dual" tradition of Hinduism. It is similar in many ways to other non-dual traditions such as Zen or Dzogchen Buddhism, Taoism, Christian Mysticism (Gnosticism) and Sufism of Islam. The Advaita is a "section" or branch of the Vedanta which says that there is a singularity of reality, a "Unity" or an essence that underlies everything that appears to be.


Advaita means no-dos. This is not a path, nor a practice. The Advaita is a direct description of reality as it is.

Vedanta means the end of the Vedas, the end of all knowledge, unlearning, non-knowing. Through research on the nature of reality, called "knowledge of Being," the seeker comes to the realization of the non-dual nature of Reality.

Vedanta Advaita does not intend to impart a new set of beliefs, but to leave us without the support of all beliefs, all assumptions, including the assumption that there is an individual entity or person that exists, that is born and then will die.

In the direct recognition of Reality as it is, the seeker disappears as the root or foundation of all false translations (of Reality).

Our problem
Our problem is that we feel limited, we feel isolated and small, temporary and insignificant. So we try to fill that gap, either with things from a material point of view or with states from a spiritual point of view.

However, it is this inherent sense of limitation that we can not escape. The belief I have about me is that I am limited, therefore when I look for the unlimited it is always very frustrating. If my belief about me is true, if I really am limited, if reality is really composed of separate existences, then spirituality is really a fantasy. This means that slavery and suffering is the truth of existence.

However, there is another possibility. That possibility is that, to begin with, I have never been limited, reality has never been composed of separate existences. If this is the case, then the only problem is my own ignorance of myself, ignorance of the truth of reality as a whole. This ignorance can only be corrected by the knowledge of myself, of reality as it really is. Vedanta is a means of knowing to know myself.

Paradox
The "seeker" and the "realization" can not coexist. As a seeker, I see myself as an individual "part" of the Universe, I have established a situation that has everything to lose. A seeker can never find the Oneness, because it is the same idea of ​​a seeker that automatically excludes the Unity as a possibility. It is the concept of a person who is, by definition, the core of the limitation.

So to ask what I can do, as a seeker, to realize the Unity, is useless. It will always be useless. We could say that "Seeker" and Unity are mutually exclusive. It is only when the very root concept of the individual, the seeker, the person, is questioned, that opportunity can come for Unity or realization.

The Subject "I"
The Vedanta asks nothing of the seeker except to inquire in the sense of the "I", the subject, the Atma as it is called (in the Vedanta). Is the "I" the world? What is the world made of? How does it appear before you? It is presented through objective experience, as sensory information. However, is not the same thing with the body? Is the "I" the body? And with the thoughts? Are "I" thoughts?

No. The body is not the subject, because the body appears in the subject - "I". The thoughts are not the subject, the thoughts appear in the subject - "I". Any feeling, memory, emotion, sensation, perception, concept, idea - all are objects contained in the subject - "I", which is what you are.

So what IS that subject- "I"? Any sensation is not. Any perception is not. Therefore, that subject - "I" has no form, is not objectifiable through any experience. However, it is always there - without a doubt. You are always there in any and all experiences. That subject- "I" is, in fact, neither a body nor a thought. It is the realization of the body, the thoughts and the world.

Therefore this subject - "I" is pure, without attributes, without form, size, color - without any dimension in space or time. What you truly are, in real experience, is not something that has some objective content, yet it is the most intimate aspect of all experience.

Another word for the "subject" is knowledge [of knowing, realizing ].

The dissolution of the search engine
The goal or goal of spirituality according to Vedanta is not the achievement of the enlightenment of the seeker, but the liberation of the seeker. That Unity or unique essence is really what you are - it's just that you've limited yourself to the idea of ​​being a limited self. By questioning this idea, you get to know yourself as you really are - the whole, the whole, you no longer imagine yourself as limited. This is the only goal.

However, since you are already that totality, this limitation or slavery is only conceptual - the so-called veil or "maya" is only composed of concepts. There is no real separation or limitation in that one essence, even when it appears as everything.

Therefore, enlightenment is simply the recognition that you are already that one essence, and you have never been limited at all. You are only being as you are. Free, perfect and complete.

Existence
If I say "I am seeking" I am affirming myself as an individual existence. I take my existence as having begun on a certain day and moment. When I say "I" I really refer to "a separate existence" - I assume as real that existence is separate, that there are "things" that exist by themselves, apart, on their own account. What I really mean is that each "apparition" has its own existence, that its existence began and that it will end. My main idea of ​​reality is that it is composed of an infinite number of existences. This idea is what is called "slavery".

Vedanta calls the Mithyan " appearance " . Mithyan means that which comes and goes, what appears, what has no existence by itself. A "thing" is only one thing from a particular point of view, it is only available through a certain medium of knowledge, a certain means of measurement. If that medium changes, the appearance changes. If that appearance changes, nothing happens to the "existence" of that "thing". Existence is Sat . Sat means that which is . Sat only means "is" . There is what is - Sat - and that appears in various forms depending on the means of knowledge or measurement.

There is only Sat , mithy
ā depends on Sat although Sat does not depend on mithyā - what seems is Sat . Sat is Brahman - truth and reality, the "only existence," which appears or expresses itself as everything.

Therefore what I am is Sat -that is, that unique existence-a single reality that appears as everything. I can find no fundamental division between what I am and what appears, unless I take mithyã as the absolute reality.

The realization of who I really am is expressed in the equation - Tat Tvam Asi - Tu Eres That. The realization is that what is called "Brahman" is all reality and if I am something , I am Brahman . I am that same unique reality.

A metaphor
The gold chain is suffering — it is seeking peace and happiness — it really tries to know what it is. She meditates, hoping to have some vision or special experience of Gold. Her essence. Visit a Guru , asking for guidance to know what it is.

At the beginning many ideas are formulated about Gold, how it should be, feel. He desperately seeks to know his essence of this unit called "Gold".

However, at every step comes frustration. No vision or experience arrives, or if it always comes through. No lasting realization of Gold arrives.

The Guru says to him, "What you are is Gold, you can not mock it because You are it". The chain is baffled by this paradox, and downplays this wisdom, and continues to seek one Guru after another. One book after another.

At some point the chain has exhausted all the routes, it has consumed all the concepts about Gold. Gold can not be found, no matter what efforts it makes. No concept brings the desired Peace and Happiness. The chain is lost without any point of support, Gold is nowhere to be seen.

However, the Guru only smiles. Because there was never actually a chain form out of the same Gold. There was never a chain searching. The chain was a form of Gold, a manifestation of Gold itself. The unique existence of the chain was only a concept - the reality is that it was always Gold itself. The chain could not find the Gold after all.

It was not the chain that realized that it was Gold. It was Gold that realized that it was never "chain".

At this point, you are the whole itself, the only essence - which has taken itself as a limited entity, just like the chain. As that entity you feel limited and you need to search the totality. However, that entity you believe to be is only a name, only a form, only a manifestation of that One Essence.

Therefore, this "I" can never find anything. The "I" can never find that essence. It is that essence that realizes that it was never that limited "I".

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ENTERING INTO THE KINGDOM — excerpt from THE KINGDOM WITHIN by John A. Sanford

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We have already seen that the kingdom is within all of us. But paradoxically only a few among the multitude will find their way to the kingdom. The many will pass by and not notice its reality, and even some who have been expressly invited to enter will not accept God’s invitation. So Jesus declares
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14)

Those who do enter the kingdom are those who have come to recognize the reality of the inner world and to respond to its demands upon them for consciousness. This must always be an individual act of recognition; it cannot be accomplished so long as we are identified with a group. Yet most of us find our sense of identity only in our membership in the Church, the nation, the political party, or the gang on the street corner…

In contrast, entrance into the kingdom requires the dis-identification with the group and the assumption of the burden of being a person. It is often painful to no longer identify with outer collectives. Often our dreams reflect the pain of finding ourselves no longer identical with those around us. In such a dream we may have just found something unusual, or have taken a little- traveled turn in a path or road. The dreamer is filled with a sense of wonder at the new turn of events, but there are many other people around who pass by and take no notice. The dreamer is surprised that no one else seems to feel the discovery is important, or to recognize what the dreamer feels is so unusual. Inner reality is discovered, and already the dreamer is no longer identical with the collective spirit; the dreamer finds, with surprise, that he or she is different. The differentiation of personality has begun.

Because those who enter the kingdom must enter as individuals, the way to the kingdom is never the path of least resistance, but a narrow, difficult, and winding way that requires us to “go against nature.” As long as a person is identical with a group consciousness, he or she follows the easiest road, inclining to those instincts, attitudes, and mass movements that are the easiest to follow at the time. An individual set against the group consciousness, however, begins to swim up the stream instead of down and suffers the pain and difficulty of becoming conscious, no longer able to hide from anxiety in a mass identity.

Anxiety is inevitable for those who enter into the kingdom. There is, of course, such a thing as sick anxiety, the sign of a pathologically disturbed personality. But there is also
divine anxiety, the anxiety that is inevitable because entering the kingdom calls for the individual to differentiate from the group, accepting the consequences and responsibilities of choice. All of this is stated by Jesus in his saying in the Sermon on the Mount,
“Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14/Luke

The wide road is the way through life that we travel unconsciously, the road of least resistance and mass identity. The narrow road requires consciousness, close attention, lest we wander off the path. Only the few take it because of its individual character and because it entails the hardship of becoming conscious. The narrowness of the gate suggests the anxiety of this part of the process of finding the kingdom, for narrowness and anxiety have long been associated…

Those who are called upon to enter the kingdom of God may not always recognize what is happening to them. At first the approach of the kingdom may seem like a violent attack from something dark and dreadful, for when the kingdom descends upon us, the first experience is often a darkening of our old state of mind in order that a new consciousness may emerge. Psychologically this is a necessity. Entrance into the kingdom means the destruction of the old personality, with its constricted and un- creative attitudes. If the kingdom is to come, this old person must die. The fortress behind which the ego has been hiding must be torn down, and as these defenses are battered down forcibly by the movement from within, it may seem at first like a violent assault. Whenever this upheaval in personality occurs, it is important that one realize its religious overtones, for if this dynamic inner process is viewed only clinically its spiritual significance will be lost, and the kingdom will not be revealed.

The violent nature of the entrance into the kingdom is reflected in may of Jesus’ sayings, and is the proper explanation for Jesus’ seemingly enigmatic remark,
“Up to the time of John it was the Law and the Prophets; since then, the kingdom of God has been preached, and by violence everyone is getting in” (Luke 16:16/Matt. 11:12)

as well as in the familiar saying

“Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39)

The Law was a protection against a direct experience of the kingdom of God. By fulfilling the Law, people hoped to achieve their proper relationship with God without having to relate to the inner world. But it was, as Nicholas Berdyaev said in The Meaning of the Creative Act, an ethic of obedience, not of creativity. The kingdom, however, is dynamically creative, and the ethic of the kingdom is a creative ethic based on consciousness and love, not on legalism. Now that the kingdom has come, the old rigid outlook embodied in the Law will be violently assaulted so that the new and creative person may appear…

This brings us to the next paradox of entering into the kingdom of God: it is those who have recognized that they have been injured or hurt in some way in life who are most apt to come into the kingdom. There is no virtue in our weakness or injury as such, especially if this leads to self-pity, which completely defeats the creative purposes of the kingdom. But only a person who has recognized his or her own need, even despair, is ready for the kingdom; those who feel that they are self-sufficient, those whom life has upheld in their one-sided orientation, remain caught in their egocentricity.
This is why Jesus so often associated with sinners and tax collectors and was generally unable to have a relationship with the Pharisees, for the latter, as a rule, were upheld in their egocentricity by their privileged position in society and by their conviction of their own righteousness. But the sinners and tax collectors, if they turned and confronted themselves, could be receptive to the kingdom.

This paradox of the kingdom is expressed in the parable of the wedding feast, in which the kingdom of God is likened to the king who gave a wedding feast in honor of his son. First he invited those who were the most respected members of the community, but they were all too busy with other things, too engrossed in their own affairs, and did not heed the king’s invitation. Finally the king became angry and declared,

“The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find.” (Matt. 22:8-9)

In Luke’s version it is stated even more forcibly:
Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame... .Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full.” (Luke 14:21, 23; italics mine)

Precisely those who seem the least fit for the kingdom are those who come to enter into it. Those who are forced by life to concede to themselves that they are psychologically crippled, maimed, or blind can be compelled to enter into the great feast. But those who are convinced that they are self-sufficient do not enter because they remain caught in their own one-sidedness.

But even then there are dangers and demands, and not everyone called to come to a feast belongs to the kingdom; one man came without a wedding garment, and he was cast into outer darkness. According to K. C. Pillai in his little book
Light Through an Eastern Window, it was the custom in the ancient Orient for a nobleman who invited someone to his house for a special occasion to send with his messenger a special garment to be worn by the guest. To wear this garment was both an honor and a badge of protection to the person as he traveled on the way to the court. To arrive without the garment was the height of carelessness and rudeness. Similarly, if we arrive at the kingdom having carelessly and rudely neglected to recognize the divine author of the feast, we are cast into outer darkness; that is, we are banished to the realm of the unconscious.

To many people this ruthless punishment seems cruel, but we must remember that there is no sentimentality about the kingdom of God. Christianity is a feeling religion; it must deeply involve our emotions as well as our intellect, or it will not be real. But it is not a sentimental religion, and the sentimentalizing of the feeling aspect of Christianity has been a disaster for the Christian spirit. In the kingdom of God we are dealing with hard spiritual facts, and there is no room for sentiment. If we jump off a cliff, we may kill ourselves or break a leg; this is a physical fact, and we have no right to expect God to interfere with our fate if we flout the physical facts of his creation. But there are spiritual facts that are just as objective and real as physical facts. One of these is that if we come to the kingdom of God and act unconsciously, despising the things of the inner world, we can expect to be ruthlessly treated by the unconscious, for in our refusal to become conscious we have flouted the spiritual facts of creation.

A parallel to the parable of the wedding feast can be noticed in counseling. Few people come to counseling who are not driven to do so by some injury. Others, who can maintain the illusion of self-sufficiency, will avoid contact with the inner world. They are too content and absorbed with outer things to pay attention to inner things. But those who first come to the inner world because tey are forced to do so often remain to enjoy the feast. Though they are first motivated by some injury or failure in life, they may, through their contact with the inner world, not only be healed but also find the springs of creative living.

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"Overcoming the Obstacles to Awakening" by Leonard Jacobson

How to kill your ego
Becoming present is remarkably simple. However, remaining present is not so simple. Even if we are present for a short time, most of us are quickly pulled back into the past and future world of the mind. There are a number of obstacles that we must become aware of if we are to awaken fully into Presence, and remain fundamentally present in our daily living and in our relationships.

The first obstacle is the ego itself. The ego wants to become more spiritual. It wants to acquire spiritual knowledge. It would love to become enlightened. It will have you visiting many spiritual teachers and reading many spiritual books. But it will back off very quickly if you find your way into the truth of life through the doorway of the present moment.

This is because the ego needs to be in control of your life. It is addicted to its position of power and control. But it can only be in control of what it knows. And it only knows the past, which it remembers, or the future, which it imagines. It does not know the present moment, and so it will desperately resist your entering into and remaining in the present moment. In fact, as you begin to awaken into the present moment, it has a bag of tricks to seduce you or tempt you back into the world of the mind.

The second reason that it is difficult to remain present, is that most of us have a lot of emotions repressed within us from the past, particularly from our childhood relationship with our parents. These emotions are continually being activated or triggered, which brings the past flooding in, making it impossible for us to remain in the truth and reality of the present moment. To the extent that you are caught in the emotional pain and traumas of the past, you cannot be present.

The third reason that it difficult to remain present is that there are a number of very powerful hooks that pull us out of the present moment into the world of the mind. Looking to others for acknowledgement, approval or acceptance is an example of such a hook. Fearing rejection or judgment from others is another hook. Anything that entangles you in the mind of another, is a hook that pulls you out of Presence. To awaken fully into the present moment involves disentangling yourself from others so that you are fully with yourself.

To free yourself from the above obstacles and hooks, there are a number of steps you must follow.

The first is that you must awaken to the dimension of Presence within you. It opens up the possibility of true healing.

Then you must come into right relationship with the ego, so that eventually it surrenders its need to be in control of your life.

From a state of Presence, you bring the ego and all its so-called negative aspects into the light of consciousness, in a way that is acknowledging, loving and accepting. All judgment of the ego and all attempts to annihilate the ego must cease. As long as you judge or reject any aspect of yourself, the ego will prevail as the dominant inner force, simply because the ego thrives on judgment, condemnation and rejection.

The only thing that will bring the ego to a place of surrender is the energy of love and acceptance. If you love and accept every aspect of yourself at the level of mind/ego, particularly those aspects of yourself that you have been hiding, judging or trying to change, the ego will eventually surrender.

The next step is to allow into conscious expression, all those emotions repressed within you. In my private sessions, workshops and retreats, I offer very clear guidance and support in accomplishing this. It does not mean that you are identified with the feelings. You are simply allowing them to surface into conscious expression.

The fact that the emotion is arising is of this moment, and so you must be present with it as it arises and expresses through you. But the story associated with the emotion is not of the present moment, and so it is important that you do not become identified with the story. You will have to express the story as a part of expressing the emotion, but the story itself is not the truth. It is of the past or future. It has nothing to do with this moment. Do not believe in it and do not act upon it as if it is true.

The third step is to clearly identify the hooks that pull you out of Presence. These hooks only have power over you to the extent that they are allowed to function unconsciously. If you bring these hooks to conscious awareness, then they have no power over you. You can gently disengage from them as they are activated.

These steps will liberate you from the world of the thinking mind into the world of NOW. I do not mean to imply that you will always be present. But the present moment will become the very foundation of your life. You will come to know yourself as the one who exists in the moment of NOW, and only in the moment of now. This is the truth of who you are. And your life will be transformed. God and Heaven on Earth will be revealed.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Leonard Jacobson is an awakened spiritual teacher, mystic and gifted healer, who is deeply committed to helping others break through to the joyous experience of living in the NOW.

For more than 30 years, Leonard has been teaching people how to become fundamentally present and how to arise in mastery of the mind and ego, making awakening available to everyone. He is the author of five books and travels throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia offering inspiration, healing and guidance to those on the path of spiritual awakening. For more information visit
www.leonardjacobson.com

--ARTICLE FROM:
Inner Directions
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An Integral Catholic Leader: Father Anthony de Mello, SJ by Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera (Aug.-Nov. 2013)

sketch-Anthony-de-Mello
Introduction     
Father Anthony de Mello SJ is considered one of the foremost mystical theologians of the late Twentieth Century. His simple and direct approach to life continues to untie all kinds of blockages preventing man’s acceptance of his spiritual nature, even decades after his unexpected death. De Mello’s radiated authenticity, love for all and his characteristic laughter tended to disarm any negative preconceived notions against his ideas. As far as my research goes, I’d say that most of those that knew him personally can attest to his sincere and friendly attitude to all as people from every religious persuasion felt comfortable and at soulfully at home near him.

Through his books, Anthony de Mello still speaks about happiness and freedom by illuminating us on how to perceive conflicts and paradoxes differently, that is, by showing us that there’s an enlivening core of wisdom which is far more fundamental than our attachments to partial conceptual stances. Kindly and sagely de Mello often used stories which offered unexpected solutions to paradoxical situations we might be able to relate with. Each of these solutions recapitulated an essential intuition that apparently sprung spring from his direct awareness of non-relative Truth. As far as I know, this intuition was integrated into his whole being exulting joy, care and an unassuming attentive sympathy towards those that approached him.

In his foundational years, Father de Mello originally learned with great discipline the spiritual practices of Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) and gradually became a master teacher in spiritual retreats which incorporating yoga, vipassana meditation and other oriental and multicultural spiritual practices. He was a man of much charisma and, after reaching beyond the confines of the Jesuit centers in Bombay, gradually became well known throughout the world. Through books, lectures and retreats and by taking at heart the humanitarian outreach recommendations of the Vatican II Council, Father de Mello showed the way for a possible renovation of Catholic ministry and for offering a deeper kind of understanding to individuals of all faiths or of no particular faith at all.  Anthony de Mello, SJ used to call himself a “rolling stone” always available to move onto the challenges where Spirit took him. He expressed as a genuine brother to all and came to understand that the genuine Catholic Church encompasses all people: Christians and non-Christians.

Anthony deMello’s vision and path are attempts to bring to life what Ken Wilber calls the churches “Conveyor Belt” (read Wilber’s
Integral Spirituality). However, long after his physical departure Father Anthony prompted a censoring reaction from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This, in turn, prompted a reaction in liberal sections of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church and in the Mid Asian synod. In his own way, Father de Mello stands as an example to follow for any integral Church that may emerge in the future and will more likely than not serve as a referent symbol in additional attempts to assist the Roman Catholic Church become a more contemporarily useful, integral “Conveyor Belt.”

I believe that Father Anthony de Mello, SJ also stands next to other important pioneers behind the emerging fertile integration connecting East and West wisdom traditions. I think that his works also stand in line (in their own subtle and profound ways) with an emerging Integral Catholicism contributed by Catholic creatives such as Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Fr. Thomas Keating O.C.S.O., and Fr. Thomas Berry C.P. It’s the way of the future: Out with prejudiced rigidity; in with embrace through an integrally expressed love!

In my view de Mello’s sufi-like, paradoxical short stories are superb. They are deceptively simple and yet perhaps as inspiring as Kahlil Gibran’s and as touching as the stories about Mullah Najrudin. Perhaps a pre-established 2nd Tier sensibility would be required to seek them out without being prompted by the advertising given to other more popular and somewhat similar, spiritually-inspiring authors. I recommend you to visit
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_de_Mello where you’ll find a fine list of these works. However, the question I’ll attempt to inquire about in this essay is, what may have inspired Anthony de Mello’s mold-braking, practical-spiritual life?

A Biography
Anthony de Mello was born on September 4, 1931 in an Indian family that was seriously steeped in the Catholic tradition. His family consisted of mother, father, an older and a younger sister and a younger brother. He was born at the outskirts of Bombay and his parents (Frank and Louisa) were natives of a Portuguese territory called Goa. Anthony’s father was a railroad worker and since Anthony was the eldest son, there were great expectations for him to work in the same business or –better- to become a professional studying at a university so as to be able to take care of his parents in later years. According to a biography written by Anthony’s younger brother Bill, he showed great intelligence and social skills in school (Stanislaus High School) and an early desire (a true vocation) to become a Jesuit priest. Interestingly, the opposite could be said of Bill who showed no particular interest in religiosity, spirituality or academic achievement and, rather, excelled in physical prowess.

During a time of great economic uncertainty because World War II was raging (along with a growing collective desire for national independence led by Mahatma Gandhi), Anthony told his mother that he would pray to God for her to conceive (in her 40’s) a brother that would replace him so that he would be able to join the priesthood. When this improbable event happened he said “So now I can become a Jesuit priest.” According to Bill, Anthony also had a sweet romantic side and had promised a young local girl that “someday he would marry her and that he would take all the stars in the sky to make her a wedding dress.”

During his last year in high school, Anthony attended a career counseling course and re-announced his resolution at home. As his mother rightfully feared that he would not be able to visit home for long periods, she asked him to join a secular order and he would have sadly agreed if she had remained firm about it but she understood that he would have been very unhappy. Thus, in July of 1947, Anthony de Mello joined the Society of Jesus in the seminary of Vinalaya, at the outskirts of Bombay. Anthony quickly blossomed in his new life, studying abroad and becoming rector of the seminary between 1968 and 1972. Then, in 1973 he founded the (still operating) Sadhana Institute to assist many more people of various persuasions by conducting spiritual retreats.

According to his friend, Fr. Carlos Vallés, he had “an exact memory, a warm spontaneity and a capacity to live in the present (nothing existed before or after). He directed his attention to each person in a differently appropriate manner and, thus, everyone was able to understand him. Vallés mentions that “he learned by ‘helping others to learn’ fully giving himself to his own contributions and always perfecting his qualities as a communicator.” According to Vallés, Anthony said that he “grew with each of the courses given because with them he ‘developed himself,’ (the courses) helped him to clarify his ideas, to deepen his feelings, to strengthen his mind.” Vallés also declares that, furthermore, Anthony had immense fun, a great sense of humor and that he was characterized by being unpredictable. Vallés remarks that Anthony was “an individual capable of changes without caring about criticisms. He possessed unlimited generosity and this probably led to his early demise.”

According to his biographies, not long after his inclusion in the seminary, Anthony de Mello showed what seemed like a strong dogmatic conviction a certain day when one of his sisters visited him at the seminary and he strongly vented his views at her all inflamed saying “our mother church is just and you are guilty. You must not doubt that and don’t forget that the pope is infallible.” The reason for firing away with this strong statement is not revealed.

In any case, Anthony soon broaden his state of mind and understanding when in 1952  he was sent for three years to study philosophy in Barcelona, Spain and was also sent to study psychology and counseling at Loyola University in Chicago. He was soon inspired by the psychology of Carl Rogers which later helped him to “lead (spiritual retreats) without leading.” According to Mr. Malcolm Nazareth, a former Jesuit that trained under the guidance of de Mello, “Before and after his 1962 priestly ordination Tony worked in diverse capacities in the land of his birth. He is best remembered in South Asian Catholic circles as a spiritual mentor to countless persons of scores of nationalities and languages especially those who had embraced religious life and the priesthood. Tony’s first language was English. However, he mastered Spanish and was fluent also in-believe it or not-Ciceronian Latin. Tony also knew Marathi, French, and other languages. This may in part account for his popularity as a teacher of healing and of spiritual insight in English and Spanish-speaking parts of the world among Christians, non-Christians, and no-religionists as well.”

Mr. Malcolm Nazareth in his November 3, 2001 workshop presentation “Here & Now with Anthony de Mello,” given at the Call to Action Conference tells us that we could divide Anthony’s life in two basic stages: Sadhana One and Sadhana Two. Mr. Nazareth (who eventually left the Jesuit Order, married and founded the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Center for Interfaith Encounter) also attests to have been a broad minded spiritual seeker when studying under Anthony’s spiritual guidance. He tells us that during Anthony’s life in Sadhana One “Tony’s theology of religion was primitive at that time. Having made my preliminary explorations into Hindu religion and spirituality, I approached him with my questions about Christology. The Tony of Sadhana One provided me with a set of answers that were most unsatisfactory. I told him so. I walked away from him knowing that Tony hadn’t dared to encounter any non-Christian religion with openness and vulnerability. His Catholic Christian conditioning was blocking his spiritual progress, if I may presume to say so.”

Later on, Mr. Nazareth goes on explaining that “It was sometime in the mid-70’s that Tony opened his heart and mind to vipassana meditation practice. I’m inclined to think that this was a major turning point for Tony as he slowly began to move into Sadhana Two phase. After seriously practicing vipassana and thus exposing himself to Buddhist spirituality, Tony dared to confront the theology which he had learnt in theological school with, what now seemed to me to be the vital existential questions of our time: What is our human situation? What are the various religious responses to the human predicament? Is the response of Jesus Christ to the human predicament substantially different than the responses of Krishna, the Buddha, Moses? If the spiritual response of Jesus Christ was qualitatively different than theirs or Confucius’, Lao Tzu’s, Muhammad’s, or Baha’ullah’s how or why is Christ different? Why should I as a catholic care about such differences? And finally, from the point of view of ultimate reality, do the similarities and differences between the various religious paths matter at all? In a nutshell, what is spirituality?”

Mr. Nazareth then leads us to Anthony’s conceptual response to the important question “what is spirituality?” by saying that “In his 1982 Song of the Bird we find Tony’s terrific reply: Spirituality is that which succeeds in bringing a person to inner transformation. Question: ‘If one applies the traditional methods handed over by the masters, isn’t that spirituality?’ Tony’s response: ‘It isn’t spirituality if it doesn’t function for you. A blanket is no longer a blanket if it fails to keep you warm.’ Question: So spirituality does change?’ Tony wrote: ‘People change and needs change. So what was spirituality once is spirituality no more. What generally goes under the name of spirituality is merely the record of past methods.’”

Regarding Anthony’s continuously expanding shifts in understanding I think that he may have had one or more eye-opening mystical experiences somewhere along the line. This I surmise from my conversations with Mr. Nazareth who tells me that he had such an experience under Father Calderas and from interpreting a segment of Bill de Mello’s biography of his brother. In Mr. Nazareth’s email dated May 31, 2009, I’m told: “I don’t know where you read that de Mello was a changed man after his return from Spain.  Do you know what year that may have happened?” (Note: This may have happened in 1952 because in the biography written for his brother Bill de Mello lets us know that Anthony changed around that time his rigid, traditional outlook into that of an understanding brother or “mellow de Mello.” Bill writes that “In 1952 Tony was sent to Spain to study Philosophy for three years during which time some personal evolution took place. He gained charisma that made him a leader of men&rdquoWinking.

Mr. Nazareth continues his letter by writing “I remember him saying in one of his public talks that one of the first major influences on his spiritual transformation was in a 30 days retreat which he made under Fr. Calveras, S.J., in Spain (probably during De Mello’s tertianship (final segment of Jesuit formation). Calveras was a world famous authority in conducting the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Perhaps Prabhu would be able to fill the gaps in my knowledge on this issue, so I’m forwarding this post to him.

During that Calveras’ retreat, de Mello had a very powerful mystical experience which gave him profound insight into the spirituality of St. Ignatius.  After that, de Mello himself was much sought after for his skill as a retreat master.  He conducted 30 days retreats but he also conducted weeklong retreats.”

Mr. Malcolm Nazareth also mentioned in his workshop presentation at the Call to action Conference on November 3, 2001 that “His 1985 book One Minute Wisdom, in my view, makes Tony an incipient heretic (a la Ratzinger). Because here Tony dares to come up with bold statements that only mystics can utter so brazenly. Here he sounds now Buddhist, now Sufi, now Taoist, now Hindu, now Jewish. The master in Tony’s book is clearly an interfaith master. The Christian is hidden, but absolutely there. Tony has begun to point out that theological formulas, including theological and spiritual ones are no more or less than formulas, intellectual concepts, fabrications of the human brain that cannot but think in terms of binaries. Tony’s final expressions of spirituality in his posthumous “One Minute Nonsense” (Loyola, 1993) are basically supplements to his One Minute Wisdom.” Regarding Anthony’s “interfaith master” I wonder if he is one and the same as the voice of the “Integrated Big Mind-Big Heart” referred to by Zen master Genpo Roshi (see
http://integrallife.com/applications/big-mind-process-big-heart).
Mr. Nazareth tells us that “Tony’s charisma was compelling. He very easily charmed and convinced his audience to radically sacrifice their earthly possessions to favor the poor. He magnetically drew his admirers to commit themselves to the making and conducting of 30-day Ignatian exercises. Tony strongly encouraged his audience to become practitioners of vipassana and to go study this form of Buddhist meditation under Burmese master Goenka. In his earlier years Tony had delved deeply into Ignacian spirituality which he mastered in Spanish under the guidance of Father Calveras, SJ.  Later on, Tony had been gripped by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. Tony had also come for a while under the spell of Bertrand Russell. Tony had been taken by the British philosopher’s brutal honesty. In Tony’s final years, however, he was quite captivated by J. Krishnamurti. In my estimate this was when the Tony of Sadhana Two reached the zenith of his achievement as an East-West healer-and-guru.”

Analysis with an AQAL Approach
Anthony de Mello lived in a multicultural environment which was predominantly Christian and Hindu. According to testimony, he demonstrated a high level of (UL) cognitive intelligence in childhood and also a high level of (LL) interpersonal skills. Thus, at least two of his lines of development probably scored high. Interestingly enough, even from childhood, he manifested his desire to become a priest and, therefore, probably was also born with a high level of latent spirituality and/or his position as the eldest son in the family led him to conceive of a way to fulfill the highest possible expectations. Apparently his (UR) physical constitution was normal although not particularly athletic. His mother must have been around 27 years of age when he was born, a likely ideal age to give birth to an intelligent, healthy child (when his brother Bill was born she was forty, probably having something to do with a less integrated brain structure and a lack of interest for academic learning).

We could say that Anthony was born with a great potential in his spiritual line of development and that life would likely lead him to a natural expression of a level that may have been present in previous lifetimes. We also could say that Anthony’s (LL) cultural milieu was not only steeped in the centuries- old Catholic tradition but also steeped in a strong work ethic since the inhabitants of Goa (a Portuguese colony in those times) such as their immigrant parents were highly estimated by the British rulers of India, not only due to their Christian faith, but by their educated background and by their proficiency in the English language. Near Anthony’s home there was an apparently wholesome school which (if current indications reflect what was like back in Anthony’s time) promoted high values and discipline and may have appeared to young Anthony as a wonderful place to excel and develop. We cannot know for certain but, after the birth of his brother Bill, both of them may have strengthened their opposite psychological characters (Anthony responsible and ruly and Bill less responsible and unruly) in order to differentiate from each other.

The (LR) social situation during Anthony’s childhood would have been agitated because there already were intimations of an incipient revolution for a free India (Mahatma Gandhi was already in action) and because Second World War raged on for part of that period. Maybe (as Bill de Mello lets us know) economic security was an issue that kept everyone alert. Anthony would have also known what it is like to be part of a minority because his family had moved from a Portuguese colony to Bombay which was predominantly populated by Hindus. The need to speak different languages (at least Hindu, English and Portuguese) was also apparent.

We don’t know what may have arisen interiorly for Anthony but we could make a case for validly saying that his innate outgoing characteristics were also assisted by the conjunctive support of reality elements in all quadrants: A healthy brain, an ethical family proselytizing strong spiritual traditions within a well-established culture, a social need to be flexible and multicultural and a nearby adequate –and likely- open-minded school (Jesuits are known for fostering intellectual freedom) that offered rigorous academic training. Anthony himself may have come to his lifetime with a certain level of evolution potentially ready to latch on to any opportunity to unfold but it’s also as if a portion of the Universe as a certain objective, historical time and space had collaborated to assist Spirit to leave a mark in humanity through Anthony. Perhaps (remembering Chogyam Trungpa’s
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism) sometime and somewhere outside and inside human time and space, Anthony had become a “Tathagatha,” having completely “crossed over” in total availability and openness. His lifetime would have been a recapitulation as well as a new phase.

Anthony de Mello’s “Kosmic Address” (altitude + perspective) at the time he joined the Jesuits right after High School, may have been partially Second Tier in that he sincerely wanted to dedicate his life to a universal calling but was nonetheless well-possessed by an amber mental structure. He probably naturally experienced a persistent state of heartfelt openness (an indigo sensibility) which called for being filled in by information from a Second Tier perspective. To me, his incessant curiosity and continuous development in perspectives shows that perspectives themselves gradually caught up with his basic inborn altitude.   At the moment of his death most of his being lines of development may have been well into an indigo Second Tier as his ability to find truth in the resolution of paradoxes, his having emptied himself as a vessel for the service of God or Spirit and of others attests.  We could affirm that –as a perceiving subject- Anthony’s quadrivia had become quite developed and functioning in harmony later in life. The aspects of reality (quadrivium) that he perceived/disclosed in his “Sadhana Two” phase set him apart from the majority of religious people and he knew that only speaking in apophatic (via negativa) ways he would be able to transmit anything meaningful inspired by his direct spiritual experiences.

Anthony’s intellectual understanding had probably reached a non-dual, post trans- systemic level and his experience or inward-participatory sense of people, God and all of nature (as LL meaningful discourses and LR systemic, mutually needed relations) may have also reached a high level of intuitive understanding. I think that his non-dual altitude was accompanied by an Integral, all-around intuitive perspective which, nonetheless, still held a Green altitude theoretical level in some aspects like psychology. Anthony’s overall high altitude called for a structural understanding and this structural understanding probably also inspired him to soar in higher altitudes.

What would Anthony’s shadow(s) have been like? As far as we can tell he didn’t abuse anyone and he always seemed to be a paragon of virtue and excellence. However, he probably shouted to his sister at an early age. In the biography written by his brother Bill, there’s mention that Anthony “never complained.” This may be indicative of a level of unhealthy self-denial or of a lack of need to complain. I don’t know but it would have been extraordinary. Since Anthony’s relation with his family seems to have been a healthy one we I cannot speculate about an “evolutionary shadow” in this respect. Maybe during his early “Sadhana One” phase and earlier Anthony might have had a “bright” or “emergent” shadow” since he may have been unable to tolerate non- amber theorizing or what may have first appeared to him as openly non-dogmatic points of view. In this I see a possible trend manifesting in that, maybe highly evolved human beings not showing “submergent” shadows will be found to have them in emergent or more refined, less spiritual differentiated, involutionary levels of being. Actually, perhaps the fact that Anthony’s understandings only prospered among a rather small percentage of priests; the fact that his views were censored by the Church and, the fact that he died unexpectedly at a premature age was due to a spiritual manifestation blockage in his most refined inner levels of being. In this levels of being perhaps all human beings on Planet Earth are connected and the “We” relationship that allows or doesn’t allow the influence of a particular person on the whole is directly connected as one with that person’s innermost being.

Anthony de Mello’s specific spiritual practices were practices to become aware of a grander spiritual life through an acceptance of the “still and small voice” of the heart. This can be appreciated in his book
Sadhana (which became a classic of contemplative prayer) and in all of his published works. Anything that works to stop the egoic self-mind from blocking the perception of the simple wonder of God’s presence in every aspect of life would have been welcomed by Anthony. Reflections with surprising resolutions, or specific breathing and yoga practices practiced at one’s own pace and aiming at openness and sincerity rather than at methodological perfection would have worked. For instance, in exercise 13 of Sadhana, Anthony asks the practitioner to simply listen to any body sensation without naming it, then to do the same with any sound and then he tells the practitioner that he or she will notice a “great calm,” a “profound silence.” Then, Anthony advices us to focus on this quietude and to experience how good it is simply to be in the here and now without having to do anything; just simply being…being. Later on, he advices the practitioner to feel God in the air, the sounds, the world of the senses, the sensations of touch, to surrender to God.

As previously stated, Anthony’s definition of spirituality came to be “that which succeeds in bringing a person to inner transformation.” This definition allowed for an open-ended large array of methods and, I’m suspicious that Anthony had a kind of Integral Post Metaphysical intuition on this issue. Here he seems to be giving priority to method over definition as he had probably come to see that specific definitions of spirituality evolve over time or are not universally applicable to people from every cultural background. In this way, without apparently having developed an explicit complex theory or Meta theory, Anthony de Mello seems to have demonstrated an intuitive (or perhaps, incipient conceptual) post postmodern understanding about spirituality due to his own profound familiarity with it. I would also say that this intimate familiarity could have stemmed from his lifelong search for radical openness and authenticity, a required feature for spiritual advancement according to Chogyam Trungpa.

I don’t have much information regarding Anthony’s ILP physical (UR) practice. Perhaps they include yoga asanas. Nonetheless, I’m quite certain that he did pray or contemplated in a regular manner. I’m also quite sure that he was an avid learner and that he read regularly. Thus, his (UL) practices were probably quite skillfully developed. We are told that Anthony was a good listener and that he listened to each different person differently, so I suspect that he also intuitively had a regular (LL) hermeneutical practice that included effective means or translation. In terms of practical worldly relations his activities as communicator, as spiritual director and founder of Sadhana Institute and, previously, of the Jesuit seminary in Bombay would have kept him busy with practical business and inter institutional duties. It is also well known that he was heavily influenced by Vipassana and I believe that he didn’t just recommend it but practiced it regularly. In other words, I think that Anthony de Mello had most of his ILP quadrants covered, perhaps with the exception of his (UR) physical quadrant. I just don’t have any information regarding his physical exercises (except perhaps for the possible practice of some yoga exercises) or his diet. As most of us in search of a balanced Integral Life Practice leave out a significant quadratic aspect (due to lack of time or other influential reasons) Anthony may have simply left out an important aspect, which also perhaps led him to an ‘untimely’ death.

I don’t have any specific information regarding Anthony’s aptitude with specifically trained states but suspect that, since he was a ‘master teacher’ in spiritual exercises, he must have been able to sustain some kinds of higher states of consciousness. Actually, I don’t think that he would have been able to live the kind of life he did without being able to rest in some kind of contemplative abstraction. What we know is that he had become proficient in Ignatian practices early in his career, so much so that he seems to have had one or more transformative mystical experiences. I think that, maybe, Anthony had a deep awareness of God along with greater or lesser levels of abstraction from the outer world, but he probably didn’t flaunt about it. Anyhow, he might have been able to sustain levels of self-absorption or “ß as he was familiar with Yoga, Vipassana and self-emptying Contemplation.

The location of Anthony’s faith community on the “conveyor belt” would probably be in a special situation within the Roman Catholic Church since Jesuits in general (especially after the Vatican II Council) had become like the intellectual, “free thinkers.” His more local community was also positioned in the middle of India’s great religiosity and transcendental ethos thus being stimulated by LL and LR forces to create a more attractive, understandable and ecumenical approach which naturally re-emphasized some kind of direct, experiential mysticism. The superiors of the Society of Jesus defended themselves and their spiritual-religious, Mid-Asian ways.

I think that Anthony de Mello’s faith community was so well settled in modern, rational outlooks and methods that it was ripe for post-rational explorations, especially in the multicultural setting of India. I believe that –generally speaking- this community is still vying to move forward amber structures and awarenesses in today’s world and that, perhaps one day along with the contributions of other pioneering elements in their church (elements quite at home with free thought and with contemplative prayer), the church will be eventually lead by a splitting and less exclusivist, unimaginative and rigid faction.

Conclusion
Anthony de Mello is an example of an enlightened man who offered his life to serve Spirit and mankind in the milieu available to him. We don’t know why a person becomes likes this. He might have been born with the propensity. He may have been chosen. However, a spiritual experienced did hold a transformative sway in his life. His life will serve as an example for many of us today trying to ignite an integral civilization. It will serve future efforts aimed at recreating the relationship between man, religion and spirituality in an integral way. Anthony displayed –perhaps in an intuitive and/or conscious way- not only many of the characteristics of a universal, wise man but of a radically genuine Integral or Second Tier person. His understanding surpassed his era’s and his openness probably taught us that those possessed of a loving heart and a particularly developed spiritual line can overcome many cultural and structural deficiencies in their societies and rise to be pioneering representatives of a truly Integral stage.

Annotated Bibliography
Bárcena, Elcira Díaz (date unknown). Biografía de Tony de Mello SJ. Retrieved from:  http://www.geocities.com/tony_de_mello/index.html
DeMello, Bill (circa 1989). Tony deMello, SJ –a short biography. Retrieved from:
http://users.tpg.com.au/adsligol/tony/index.ht


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Harvey Cox Extended Interview by Bob Abernethy

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Q: Let me begin by inviting you to sum up, if you would, the central idea of The Future of Faith.
A: Let’s say it’s a tripartite thesis in this book. One is that the resurgence of religion around the world and the various religious traditions, which is unexpected, global—there were people who were predicting the marginalization and even disappearance of religion in my early years as a teacher. That disappearance, marginalization, didn’t happen, and in various religious traditions, almost all of them, there’s been a resurgence for complicated reasons. I do not think that is a mere transient phenomenon.  I think it’s a basic change in the nature of our civilization, that it will continue, and so, therefore, programs like this one probably have a future. You deal with religion and ethics. The second part of the thesis, however, is that fundamentalisms, I use the word in the plural, which have often been associated with this resurgence of religion, at least in the popular mind, are on the decline. I do not think that they’re going to last out much longer. It’s a recent phenomenon, began in the early 20th century and has appeared in various different religious traditions, always as a kind of a reaction against something that’s going on in that tradition. They claim to be very traditional, but they’re not. It’s really a modern movement, and I think there’s evidence that, in every one of the religions, they are on the decline. The third part of the thesis, and I think it’s one of the most important, not the central part, is that we’re seeing a change in what I call the nature of religiousness, that what it means to be a religious person, or frequently now people will say a spiritual person, they have some questions, occasionally, or often, about the word “religion.” We’re seeing a fundamental change there so that it means something now different than it did 50 or 100 years ago, to say nothing of 500 years ago. And that’s the main thesis of the book. It’s a a mixture of some of the things we’re talking about here as well as some autobiographical illustrations—my experience with liberation theologians, my experience with Pentecostals, with the Catholic Church, in fact with the present pope, and also my early years of formation in a Baptist evangelical congregation. I think it’s important when people are reading about issues as important as this that they know something about where I’m coming from when I’m saying these things and what life experiences have led me to make the kind of statements that I have here.

Q: So how is it changing? Tell me what the elements are of this new thing that you see.
A: For Christianity, in particular, to single it out among the various world religions, there’s a movement away from a more belief-and-doctrinal formulation of religion into a more experiential, practical, you might even say pragmatic understanding: How do I get through the day? How do I get through my life? What resources do I have—spiritual resources? There’s a very distinct move in that direction away, from hierarchical kinds of structures in religion toward a more egalitarian form of religious organization. I think the major evidence for that is the enormously new and important role that women are playing which they didn’t play 50 years ago, and there are other evidences for this egalitarian tendency.

Q: Let me take you back to the emphasis on faith and the movement of the spirit and the presence of the spirit in people’s lives, or the hope for it, and contrast that to 1,500 years in which beliefs and doctrines were primary.
A: I contend in this book that for roughly the first 300 years, early Christianity was a faith movement. They didn’t have creeds until the early fourth century, until Constantine. They didn’t have hierarchies. There was enormous variety of different expressions of Christianity which we’re now uncovering, with the different scrolls that are found, have been there all that time. Then, around the early fourth century, with Constantine in particular, there was a massive movement toward hierarchy, a clerical elite, and a creed. Now remember that the creed was insisted upon by the emperor. Not by the bishops, not by the pope. He wanted a creed so he had a uniform expression of Christianity as an imperial project. He wanted something that would bring the empire together. Now it didn’t work that well for him. Nonetheless, I think the creedal understanding, that is, the rather doctrinal and hierarchical understanding, goes back to that very, very unfortunate term under Constantine, which then set the pattern for the next centuries. Now we’re in a new phase in which that is no longer the case, a third phase.

Q: Define for me, if you would, just what are the principle components of this turn toward emphasis on faith?
A: I call it an age of the spirit, with the age of faith in those early years, and then the age of belief, and now this movement toward an age of the spirit, because the spirit indicates, at least in Christian history, the personal, communal, even subjective element as opposed to the hierarchical and doctrinal element in Christianity, and that’s where everything is moving, I think, clearly. The fastest growing movement in Christianity today is the Pentecostal charismatic expression of Christianity—vast variety of them. Nonetheless, what they have in common is an enormous emphasis on community and spirit and experience, and that’s drawing a lot of people away from these previous forms.
Q: Why do you think that is? I mean, why is there this emphasis on the spirit now, as opposed to creeds and beliefs?
A: Well, I think that, given the fact that we are often deprived, in modern technical society, of very much chance for deep, personal experience—we pass each other by in elevators—the yearning for some kind of personal experience, even the yearning for some kind of let’s call it an ecstatic encounter with God or with the divine is there, and the Pentecostals offer this, and they offer it in a community where people support and take care of each other, where there’s also healing. A lot of people are drawn in by the healing. So I think it combines elements that have an enormous appeal. It has no hierarchies. That’s why it branches out in so many different directions.

Q: But you have said that this is not just among Pentecostals, that this movement of the spirit, this emphasis on the spirit, is very broad.
A: It is very broad. I think in the mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church the emphasis on community and experience, and also the language of the spirit—and one of the favorite ways for women theologians and ministers now to refer to God is using the language of spirit, because the traditional language of the sovereign God and so on seems, and is, rather hierarchical and masculine.

Q: People have said when they’re referring to this experiential part of the heart it is often described as the heart versus the head—that for a religion to be healthy, it has to have both the spirit and some kind of structure, creeds, or beliefs, to hang all the rest of the feelings on.
A: I agree with that completely, and I think what we’re seeing now is a compensation for centuries in which the main emphasis was on doctrinal assent, hierarchical control suspicious of laity and lay movements, and now we’re seeing a kind of reaction to that, if you will, which inevitably is going to have to find some balance. I study the Pentecostal movement pretty carefully. The younger Pentecostals now are saying, “Hey, we ought to deal with the head a little bit here, too, you know,” some doctrinal or philosophical basis. So you’re noticing that, and they’ll work on that, as well. But what it is is really a complementary movement.
Q: I was particularly interested in your idea that the so-called apostolic succession after Jesus  wasn’t something that right back to his giving the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter, but it was something that was created by human beings some centuries later, and I’m wondering if you could describe how that happened and then tell me, particularly, how you think that affects the authority of the Catholic Church.
A: Well, I think the evidence is now in that the whole idea of apostolic authority, apostolic succession, came in much later, let’s say in the 200s and 300s, when Christianity was growing and people were looking around for some way to assert, especially the early bishops, their own authority, and you can see this emerging. The bishops would say, “Well, I go back to Matthew” or “I go back to Peter,” and they would even construct or write gospels and statements that were really—we would call them forgeries. They didn’t have that term in those days. And the interesting thing now is we’re beginning to find these things. You know, that whole stash of documents in Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, and all those things, which are late. They’re not early. They’re not the apostles doing that. But it was an invention. It was an invention to secure the authority of the church leaders who needed to have some kind of historical backing. I think it means a rather serious rethinking of the basis on which churches that claim the apostolic authority continue to assert their authority. Now, whether they are going to do that or not is another whole question. But when you find out that the historical basis for this is a little shaky, does that affect the way you exercise authority today? I think it should.

Q: Not only how you exercise it, but how the rest of us look at it. Does the scholarship you refer to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church?
A: Well, yes. I think it does. You know, there was a document around just about the time of the Renaissance called the Donation of Constantine. You may have heard of it, and it was supposed to be a document by which Constantine gave a lot of the property in central Italy to the church, and they used that to claim the church’s sovereignty over that. It was proven to be a forgery, and the Catholic Church made the adjustment, and eventually they gave up, many years later, secular sovereignty over central Italy and in some ways the moral authority of the pope became greater after he didn’t also have to be a secular sovereign. I think the Catholic Church can adjust to this quite well, and maybe it’s a very good thing that they have this coming. Now, I don’t know. I’ll be interested to watch, but they have to deal with the fact that the early historical grounding for apostolic succession is really no longer held by most scholars.

Q: In 1965, you published a book called The Secular City in which you thought that the role of religion in modern city life was becoming pretty less important than it had been, and some people said you were wrong about that assertion.
A: The original title of that book was
God in the Secular City. Most people don’t know that, and the thesis of the book was the decline of institutional religion should not be viewed as a catastrophe, because God is not just present in religious institutions. God is present in all of creation, in other kinds of movements and institutions and to be discerned, presence of God to be discerned there and responded to.  The publisher said no “God in the Secular.” It’s too complicated. Let’s just call it The Secular City. So I’ve lived with that title now for—that was 44 years ago, and I have learned a few things since then. I wouldn’t swear by every sentence in that book. Nonetheless, the central thesis of the presence of God in all of creation and historical institutions, culture, and politics and family I would certainly hold to enthusiastically and say that what I say in this book is the decline of creedal Christianity and hierarchical Christianity is also not a catastrophe. Maybe it points to a really important renewal of facets of Christianity that have been repressed over many, many years. I think it does.

Q: What are the implications of an age of the spirit for everybody who’s religious?
A: Well, I think it means, among other things, that we’ll be seeing, and should be welcoming and affirming, a much wider range of expressions of Christianity. I’ve often been thought of as normative over these 1,500 years of what I call Constantinian Christianity. We see it happening frequently, now, all around the world, especially since Christianity is no longer a western religion. That’s a central and important change in the composition of the Christian world—dates back to only about 20, 25 years. The majority of Christians in the world are no longer in the old steer of Christendom in which Constantinianism was the rule. So we see all kinds of very interesting new theological and liturgical and ethical movements emerging, often around what we used to think of as the periphery. But it’s not the periphery anymore.

Q: And what are the implications of that for the influence of religious life?
A: Oh, I think the influence of religious life is continuing. Not necessarily institutional, hierarchical religious life, but the influence of people who are religiously informed and inspired and supported in communities, working in various kinds of even nonreligious structures and movements. I think that’s on the increase and will continue to be.

Q: The spread of this kind of emotional Christianity throughout the southern part of the world—what do you think that implies for the future of Christian practice in the United States?
A: You know, the term “emotional” doesn’t quite do it.  I would prefer personal, experiential. Emotion is part of that, but the experience of community and hope and of affirmation is part of it, too, but they are experiences. I think it’s already having its impact. Somebody has talked recently about the reverse missionary movement of Christians coming from South America, or especially Korea, into the United States and influencing American—or Africa, most recently, African religious movements coming in and influencing American Christianity. I think that’s really going to be a big development in the future.

Q: Influencing it in what ways?
A: Well, toward a more communal and more experiential direction, largely. There may be other influences as well, but I think that’s mainly the way it will influence.

Q: In your teaching and writing career, you’ve been well known as someone wit an uncanny ability to spot new developments in religious life. One of them, certainly, was liberation theology.
A: Liberation theology emerged in Latin America as a way of understanding Christianity, a new way of understanding it from the perspective of those who had been excluded and not part of the clerical elite or the theological elite. They talked about the preferential option for the poor—not just doing something for the poor, but helping the poor to understand the claims they can make on the basis of the gospel. I have a chapter in the book on that as illustrative, precisely of this movement away from the control of hierarchies and creeds, because the basic structure of liberation theology, or what they call the ecclesial base communities, small groups of people, tens of thousands of them, all over Latin America and in other places, getting together, sharing, reading, sharing food, singing, studying biblical texts and thinking about how that would apply in their own lives, and it made, and continues to make, a very significant impact not just on that continent and not just among Catholics. It’s going strong, especially among people who had their first experience within these base communities and are now in other kinds of institutions, especially political, and journalism and education and things like that. That’s where its impact is being felt at this point.
Q: We talked about Pentecostalism a little bit. What are the real implications of that for us?
A: The most important development in the world Pentecostal movement is a movement toward social ministries. They didn’t used to be interested in that in their early years. They were really very much fixed on “my own experience” and, really, getting to heaven. There’s a recent book on Pentecostalism in which the author has coined the term progressive Pentecostalism. They went around and studied congregations all over the world, especially in the nonwestern world, and found that the ones that were involved in community service, in clinics, in hospitals and schools and all of that mainly were Pentecostal and charismatic churches. And they said this is the major trend now. This is what’s happening. So this combination of social ministry and experiential worship is a dynamite combination, and I think that is really going to be influential on North American and, eventually, even European Christianity, which, we all know, needs kind of an injection of life at this point, and it could happen there as well.

Q: Why did the mainline Protestants suffer such a decline over the last 20, 30 years?
A: Well, I think one of the reasons is the mainline churches did allow themselves to drift toward a more hierarchical, less communitarian structure—away from where they were, let’s say, 50 years ago. People need to have a sense of belonging, and that wasn’t there. It was a little bit too audience-oriented: There’s the pulpit there, and here’s the congregation and a choir performing for—now the Pentecostals: everybody sings. Everybody testifies. Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody gets into the act,” and it’s richly participatory—if you want to be a participant.
Q: I’ve heard it argued that they became too intellectual and not enough spirit.
A: I think that’s another way of saying the same thing. The clergy—and I take some responsibility for this, having been involved in it for over 40 years—was trained in Christian thought, Christian philosophy, Christian theology, how you deal with the problem of the modern world and all of this, you know, and not enough in how to nurture the experience of God, the experience of the spirit and encounter with Christ, and so the churches which have brought that back in, I think, are finding that it appeals to people.

Q: And what about the place today of what we call the religious right?
A: By religious right I think of a particular political expression of conservative evangelical Christianity, and I think that movement, if it indeed ever was a movement, is now divided and declining in many ways. The agenda used to be driven by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and a couple other people. That whole generation is now either dead or really gone, in one way or another, and you have a whole variety of people now in the evangelical community, and they have a political agenda which is far more diverse. I mean, you think of the evangelicals for ecological causes, or the ones who got together to sign the petition against torture, and the opposition to the war in Iraq, where a lot of evangelicals became involved. I don’t consider that a religious right. I consider that religious involvement in the public sphere, which they ought to be doing. I mean, as Christians and as citizens, you ought to be involved.  But I think the last couple of presidential elections and by-elections have exposed the religious right as really kind of being, in part, a paper tiger. They just didn’t produce the votes. They were really kind of angry—the fact that they didn’t get a Republican nominee that suited their profile. And I think they’re in considerable disarray, and frankly I’m not mourning over that.

Q: Let me ask you to look around the country and size up what you see going on there. A lot of people think that there’s been a rise of selfishness that perhaps was of basic reason for what happened to Wall Street, what happened with sub-prime mortgages and in other parts of life. What do you see as the problems in this society right now? We’ll get to religion’s role. What’s wrong?
A: It’s the best of times and the worst of times, I think, and I’ll explain that in a minute. But there is no doubt that a rampant culture of market and consumer values really has a grip on many people in America, and therefore accumulating, getting things, getting ahead is for many kind of a principle life goal. I’m told we work harder in America than any country in the world. Productivity is up. But everybody seems to be driven by, especially, the lure of advertising, which says, “You ought to have this. You really need this. You owe it to yourself to have this and that,” and therefore mounting credit card debt, and these people who buy houses on mortgages that they’re not going to be able to afford. I think the role of religion at this point is to make very clear that this structure of values, of consumer values is not coherent with Christianity, with the gospel, with the life and example of Jesus. That’s not what he was talking about at all, so we in the religious community need to take a much more critical, even confrontational, role about this, I think, than we have in the past. There have been moments in the history of American Christianity in which there has been a more confrontational role between Christian values and the values of consumer society. Reinhold Niebuhr, one of my great teachers, was really a great spokesman for that, But that seems to have faded out as the churches have largely simply adjusted to this, even taken over some of those kinds of advertising techniques and consumerist values. But I think we have to get tougher about that and really remind people that this is not what we mean by a Christian way of living.

Q: There is what’s called a prosperity gospel, and lots of ministers preach that God will reward you with everything you want.
A: Yeah. Can you imagine that kind of sermon coming from the mouth of Jesus himself? No. I mean, it’s a rank contradiction, the prosperity gospel. When Jesus says blessed are those who serve and have compassion on the poor, beware of riches, it’s very hard to get into the kingdom of God—passage after passage. It’s right there. You don’t have to look very far for it. The contrast is quite stark, and yet you’re right. There are ministers and preachers who pick up on this prosperity gospel, promise this to people, and I think it’s really, let’s call it by its name, it’s a heresy and needs to be pointed out as such.

Q: You spoke about religious leaders needing to stand up to consumerism. What do you want the churches to do?
A: Well, I think it does start with the ministers and priests in the pulpit, with the congregations, and then I think churches have to speak publicly, and some of them have, about the dangers to the soul of consumerist values, the lethal danger that the accumulationist light poses for you spiritually. There has to be more of that, which is really quite the opposite of the prosperity gospel. I said this is the best of times and the worst of times. I notice increasingly among my students, both undergraduates and students in the divinity school, a deep suspicion of this life of accumulating, consuming, and a realization that a truly spiritual life is going to be more simple and more oriented toward building community rather than competition with the other guy to see who gets ahead. It’s a canard about all young people, that they’re all “me first,” “I first” oriented. I don’t think that’s true. There are many who are. But let me tell you that the urge to graduate from college, like this one, and immediately go down to a Wall Street investment firm is greatly shrunken this year from what it was last year. We’re learning something from this—that this is not only economically, but spiritually a dangerous way to think of your life. I think there’s real hope in a younger generation coming along with that viewpoint.

Q: You’ve been teaching here for 44 years, since ’65. You’ve seen a lot, you’ve written a lot, you’ve studied a lot, you’ve taught a lot. What are the most important things you’ve learned?
A: I have learned how to think about Christianity as one of the possible symbolic ways to approach reality, among others. I used to think of other world religions as kind of exotic, and they’re out there, and they’re kind of curiosities. Now I have made a big adjustment, I think, in my life, and many people are, to say this is the way we see it. Other people see it other ways. This doesn’t invalidate, at all, our way of understanding reality. Rather, we have to look for the common threads, common values, and with these other folks, with Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims, even secular people. That is how to live with radical pluralism. The other big change that I’ve seen is the enormous growth in the hunger and interest in religion and spirituality among students at this university. It’s phenomenal. When I first came here, we didn’t even have a religious studies program at Harvard College. Didn’t exist. We had a very small divinity school. Since then, we have a religious studies program. We can’t add enough courses to respond to all the interest. Furthermore, if you clocked how many students here, on any given weekend, are worshipping, one way or another either at a church or a synagogue or a mosque or Memorial Church, there are more now than probably in the history of the college—a vast variety of ways of worshipping, and being spiritual, religious. It’s not singular. But—there it is. And I think they’re very interested. It’s intellectual curiosity. It’s also personal quest. And we have a responsibility, I think, to help them with that. I’m talking about the students now. But I think it’s also true in the public at large, maybe especially in the younger cohorts of the public at large.

Q: On this question of being open to the wisdom in lots of other religious traditions: If a Christian says, well, I’m a Christian, but of course that’s just one way among many others, what does that do to that person’s confidence and passion about his own faith?
A: Well, it requires a transitioning. It requires a maturation. I think we all grow up with serving ourselves, the center of the world. Then we learn that there are other centers gradually. Not only do I not think it diminishes the validity or power of the faith, in some ways I think it enriches it. I wrote a book about this some years ago called Many Mansions. You know, Jesus says at one point, “In my father’s house there are many mansions.” I would even argue that the plurality of religions in the world is a check on any one of them, including ours, not to get too pretentious and think that we have the whole truth. One of the most dangerous things in any religion is to identify my understanding of the truth, my take on it, with the truth itself. The truth itself is something out there, it’s absolute, but my take on it is relative. Otherwise, I’m guilty of the sin of pride. I mean, I identify my view with God’s view. God is larger than this. God is much larger than any particular understanding of God.

Q: So I can be just as faithful, I can be just as active.  I can be just as convinced of the importance of what I’m doing with my life if I say mine is just one tradition among many others?
A: Some of the most faithful and zealous Christians I’ve run into in the last 20 years traveling around the world are precisely those Christians who are living in India, Korea, China, Indonesia, Africa where they are surrounded by people of other religions. It has not in any way diminished how they feel, or their faith. They believe that they have unique contribution to make. It’s different from these other. But it hasn’t diminished it at all. In fact, in many ways it’s enhanced it. And I have a feeling that’s the way it’s going to go.

Q: You are an American Baptist married to a Jewish woman. You have one son by that marriage, and I think a lot of people would be interested in how you accomplish the religious education of your son when the mother is Jewish and you are Protestant?
A: Well, as you can imagine, my wife, Nina, and I talked about this a lot before we were married. We did not want our marriage to be one of these religion-free zones. She’s a serious, practicing Jewish woman. I’m a serious Christian. And we decided that what we would do was to try to learn about and participate in each other’s traditions to the extent that conscience permits. And so that’s what we’ve done. And we also decided before that I would respect the Jewish custom, and indeed Jewish law, that the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish and should be raised with that understanding of himself or herself.  And I said, “Look, I agree with this. I endorse it—on one condition: that I also, maybe mainly me, will be responsible for his religious education and formation.” And I was. When he had his bar mitzvah, she’s the one who sent out the invitations and prepared the reception. I was the one who prepared him in studying his Torah passage, and he gave a wonderful exposition of his Torah passage at the bar mitzvah. Now I have to say that, of course, as the son of a Protestant Christian theologian, he got very interested in Christianity and is, I would say, very sympathetic to it and has studied, at Princeton, early Christianity and some recent thought. He’s interested in the phenomenon of religion at large. But he considers himself Jewish, with this interest in religion in general and Christianity, of course, as his father’s particular way of life. So we think it worked out very satisfactorily. Both of us are quite pleased with the way it’s gone. And when I am asked by people about this, “What would you have done if you were Jewish and you’re marrying a non-Jewish woman?” I don’t know. That’s a theoretical question, because the child would not then, by Jewish custom and law, have been Jewish. That would have to be negotiated otherwise. But that’s the way we did it and are continuing to do it. We mark the Sabbath every week, with the lighting of candles and prayers. I go to the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur. She comes with me to various Christian festivals, as does Nicholas. We have successfully shared in each other’s spiritual traditions, I think, and it can be done, and it’s also very enriching. I mean, I really believe that I understand Christianity better for having participated in Jewish life—and remember, Jesus was a rabbi—than I would have if I hadn’t done that.
Q: How do you pray? What are your practices? How do you attend to these things through the day? A: I start the day with a prayer, just turning the day over to God, thanking God for this day. We have prayers at all of our meals, a mixture of Jewish prayers and Christian prayers, depending on how we feel. We mark the Sabbath. I have told my friends I’m in search of the perfect congregation. I haven’t found it yet. So I’m one of those people who bounces from one congregation to—I’m somewhere every week, but I go back and forth between the Baptist church which I belong to here, and an Episcopal church in our neighborhood, a black Pentecostal church, and sometimes Memorial Church, the university church here, and I get something from all of them. I feel a little guilty that I’m not sort of committing completely to one of them. But that’s how I do it.

Q: You have the reputation of being a pretty staunch liberal theologically and in every way.  Is that fair, or has it changed at all over the years?
A: I’m a chastened liberal, as they say, both theologically and politically. I have been greatly enriched in my fairly liberal understanding of Christianity by my evangelical boyhood, by very significant experiences among Catholics, especially liberation theologians, and others, by my experience with Pentecostals. So I’m an unusual kind of liberal in that—maybe that’s what a liberal should be, one who can affirm and learn from a lot of different sources. But I suppose the label is still a useful one, yeah, and not one to be shied away from.

Q: Have you become more committed to that position as the years have gone by?
A: More committed to the position of being open to learning from various sources? Yes, yes, I have. I started early with that, and it’s really kind of a hallmark of who I am. I think you have to be anchored, though, and I’m really pretty anchored in a form of Protestant Free Church Christianity. That’s pretty secure. That allows me, then, to be open to think other things that I can participate in without feeling that I’m floating away. I have something secure as an anchor.
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"MINDFULNESS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD" by Dr Ian Ellis-Jones

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Mindfulness and the
kingdom of God? Really? Well, yes. Let me explain.

The kingdom of God is a Biblical concept, in particular, a New Testament one. The phrase, the ‘kingdom of God’, does not appear as such in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) -- the Jews were, and still are, expecting a different kind of kingdom -- but you will find the phrase in many, many places throughout the New Testament.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article on the kingdom of God, explains that the kingdom of God means not so much a goal to be attained or a place – although those meanings are by no means excluded – it is rather a ‘tone of mind’ and an ‘influence which must permeate [our] minds’ if we would be one with the Divine Life and attain to its ideals. The kingdom of God refers to the rule or reign – the sovereignty – of God in our hearts and minds. The kingdom of God is a past, present and future reality all at the same time. It’s a very powerful concept, full of meaning and beauty and wonder.

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The Bible says that the kingdom of God is within [or among] us (Lk 17:21). Who or what is God? Well, God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and God is Spirit (Jn 4:24) – and that Spirit is LOVE. Another way of understanding Spirit is as pure Be-ing. So, if you think that God is a giant man 'up there' or 'out there', some supra-personal Being with a face, body, arms and legs and a penis – sorry to be crude – then you are horribly mistaken. The concept of a personal God has misled and confused many, yet the concept is valid if properly understood. First, each person's understanding of the Divine is personal. Secondly, the heart of Christianity is personality in the sense that our personality is to be moulded by the Divine. Thirdly, it is a key assertion of Christianity that God can be known as a person--as a loving Father or Mother. ‘Anyone who has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9). So, who or what is God? As mentioned, God is love and Spirit. In other words, God is reality, truth, life and love in the most absolute, infinite and eternal sense. God is pure Be-ing, and we have our be-ing-ness in God. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28). Jesus gave the world an entirely new conception of the Divine, and for Christians Jesus was and ever remains the supreme revelation we have of God as love.

The kingdom of God – also referred to in Matthew’s Gospel as the ‘kingdom of heaven’ – is the realm of divine ideas, producing their expression in us and others as the fulfilment of the nature of the Divine. The kingdom is a ‘heavenly’ one – that is, one of ideas, ideals, values and things not-of-this-world. The kingdom is an ideal state of society, an ideal way of being and living – our highest good. In their classic text The Mission and Message of Jesus (New York: E P Dutton and Co, 1938) by H D A MajorT W Manson and C J Wright, all of whom were eminent scholars and theologians, H D A Major writes in Book I, on pages 36-37:

‘For Jesus the Kingdom was not objective, but subjective. Its sphere was in the minds and hearts and souls of men. Where God reigns in a human personality, there the Kingdom of God has come on earth, and it is for this kind of advance of the Kingdom that Jesus taught His disciples to pray.’

Now, if you have trouble with the word ‘God’, then substitute for it words such as life, truth and love – in fact, anything representing the highest good. And if you have a problem with the word ‘kingdom’, then substitute for it words such as ‘state of mind’, ‘presence’ and ‘positive influence and power’. It’s not the word or phrase that matters but rather the reality behind the word or phrase. Never forget that.

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The Reformed Church minister Dr Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Tough-Minded Optimist (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1961), on page 66 of the Fireside edition, writes:

‘… The Kingdom of God is a powerful recreative force deep down in your personality waiting to be summoned forth. When you do summon it and put it to work in your life you will live with so much power that nothing can really upset you again, at least not to the point of defeating you.’

Dr. Peale often wrote and spoke about the kingdom of God. And why not? After all, the subject was the very heart of Jesus’ teachings. Peale would often say, ‘All of God’s values of strength, peace, health, and happiness are built into you. All of the riches of God's great Kingdom are potentially resident in your mind. Let them operate freely. Release them into abundance.’ In his book The Power of Positive Thinking (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1952), on page 62, Peale wrote in reference to the kingdom of God that we have ‘within our minds and personalities all the potential powers and ability we need for constructive living’. Got the idea?

Yes, Jesus’ parables were all about the kingdom of God. Take, for example, this one. ‘First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens’ (Mk 4:28). The kingdom of God is like that, said Jesus. Then there’s this parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches’ (Mt 13: 31-32). Now, that is the kingdom of God in action and expression. The kingdom starts with an idea and a presence – the Presence – and it grows and grows.

Mindfulness is a lot like the kingdom of God. It is a dynamic presence – a watchful, mindful presence and choiceless (that is, nonjudgmental) awareness of the content, both internal and external, of the action of the present moment, from one such moment to the next. Mindfulness is in this world, but not of this world. Mindfulness affords insight and self-knowledge. It is a state of power and oneness with the flow of life within you and outside of you. It is a state of pure be-ing-ness. Mindfulness can be secular or religious, but if it is divorced from the ideals to which I have referred -- especially the ideals of love and compassion for others, indeed for all living things -- it is an abomination. It is something to be shunned. Mindfulness must be more than a mere system or technique (ugh) of mental cultivation. True mindfulness embraces all things and recognizes the fundamental unity of all life. True mindfulness empowers a person to be a better human being. Well, it can be that way.

Mustard Tree Bezuidenhout
A mustard tree
Mindfulness is not inherently Christian, but neither is the kingdom of God. Did you hear that? Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian, and he taught the idea of the kingdom of God to Jews and to some who were not Jews. None of those to whom he spoke were Christians as there was no Christian Church then. However, you don’t need to be a Jew, or belong to any religion for that matter, to experience the reality of what the Bible refers to as the kingdom of God. You don’t even need to believe in God as such except in the sense of standing on the side of love, which is God. ‘Those who do not love, do not know God, because God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8). It follows that those who love know God, even if they are not explicitly aware of it. So, those who have love in their hearts experience the blessings of the kingdom. Wow, how’s that for heresy! But it’s true. My authority for saying that is the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Bible. If you are seeking love, life, truth, peace, health and happiness, then the kingdom of God is for you – and is yours, right now!

I am firmly of the view that what I have said above is one hundred percent Biblical, but I suspect that it is still more than enough to give Christian fundamentalists apoplexy. Never mind. I don’t write for them. I don’t truck with them and they don’t truck with me. I have been a fierce and tireless opponent of religious bigotry and narrow-mindedness all my life, and I am not about to stop now. Too many so-called Christians preach a ‘gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’ – their commonly used expression – which, with its butcher-shop theology, is about as far removed from the ‘gospel of God’ (cf Mt 1:14) proclaimed by Jesus as you can get. They have a religion about Jesus as opposed to the religion of Jesus. The latter is the religion Jesus taught and by which he lived and died. That is the true Christianity.

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The essence of the 'gospel of God' -- the real good news of the kingdom -- preached by Jesus at the very beginning, and right throughout the entire period, of his public ministry is encapsulated in this verse from the New Testament: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel.’ (Mk 1:15). The nature and substance of God is love. Where God rules in peoples' hearts and lives, love rules. That means there needs to be an inward change of mind, affections, convictions and commitments -- a complete turnaround in one's life (repentance, to use a Biblical word). And what of 'faith' -- faith in God? Put simply, faith is the living and lived response of a person to the revelation of God as love in the person of Jesus. It is not something intellectual. It is something lived out in one's daily life. 'Do this and you will live' (Lk 10:28).

When you come to experience the fullness of life in a truly selfless, self-sacrificing way – living deeply and mindfully, and loving and growing spiritually more and more with each passing day – you are then living in the kingdom of God. In the words of theologian H D A Major, the kingdom is 'the summum bonum [that is, the highest good or ultimate goal] of the individual' (The Mission and Message of Jesus, Book I, page 37).

The kingdom of God is a way of being and living – a state and tone of mind. So is mindfulness. Both are in the world but not of the world. Both can be yours – right now!


FOR MORE GREAT READINGS GO TO:
IEJ PhD lotus green
Dr Ian Ellis-Jones ... Living Mindfully Now

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The Egoic Mind (excerpt) THE NEW EARTH by Eckhart Tolle (Oprah #61 - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose)

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THE EGOIC MIND

Most people are so completely identified with the voice in the head—the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it—that we may describe them as being possessed by their mind. As long as you are completely unaware of this, you take the thinker to be who you are. This is the egoic mind. We call it egoic because there is a sense of self, of I (ego), in every thought, every memory, every interpretation, opinion, viewpoint, reaction, emotion. This is unconsciousness, spiritually speaking.

Your thinking, the content of your mind, is of course conditioned by the past: your upbringing, culture, family background, and so on. The central core of all your mind activity consists of certain repetitive and persistent thoughts, emotions, and reactive patterns that you identify with most strongly. This entity is the ego itself.
In most cases, when you say "I," it is the ego speaking, not you. It consists of thought and emotion, of a bundle of memories you identify with as "me and my story," of habitual roles you play without knowing it, of collective identifications such as…

nationality,
religion,
race,
social class, or
political allegiance.

It also contains personal identification, not only with possessions, but also with…

opinions,
external appearance,
long-standing resentments, or
concepts of yourself as better than or not as
good as others, as a success or failure.

The content of the ego varies from person to person, but in every ego the same structure operates. In other words: Egos only differ on the surface. Deep down they are all the same.

In what way are they the same?

They live on identification and separation. When you live through the mind-made self comprised of thought and emotion that is the ego, the basis for your identity is precarious because thought and emotion are by their very nature ephemeral, fleeting. So every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself. To uphold the I-thought, it needs the opposite thought of "the other." The conceptual "I" cannot survive without the conceptual "other." The others are most other when I see them as “enemies."

Complaining
At one end of the scale of this unconscious egoic pattern lies the egoic compulsive habit of faultfinding and complaining about others. Jesus referred to it when he said, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" At the other end of the scale, there is physical violence between individuals and warfare between nations. In the Bible, Jesus' question remains unanswered, but the answer is, of course: Because when I criticize or condemn another, it makes me feel bigger, superior.

Complaining is one of the ego's favorite strategies for strengthening itself. Every complaint is a little story the mind makes up that you completely believe in. Whether you complain aloud or only in thought makes no difference. Some egos that perhaps don't have much else to identify with easily survive on complaining alone. When you are in the grip of such an ego, complaining, especially about other people, is habitual and, of course, unconscious, which means you don't know what you are doing.

Applying negative mental labels to people, either to their face or more commonly when you speak about them to others or even just think about them, is often part of this pattern. Name-calling is the crudest form of such labeling and of the ego's need to be right and triumph over others: "jerk, bastard, bitch”—all definitive pronouncements that you can't argue with. On the next level down on the scale of unconsciousness, you have shouting and screaming, and not much below that, physical violence.

Resentment
Resentment is the emotion that goes with complaining and the mental labeling of people and adds even more energy to the ego. Resentment means to feel bitter, indignant, aggrieved, or offended. You resent other people's greed, their dishonesty, their lack of integrity, what they are doing, what they did in the past, what they said, what they failed to do, what they should or shouldn't have done.

The ego loves it. Instead of overlooking unconsciousness in others, you make it into their identify. Who is doing that? The unconsciousness in you, the ego. Sometimes the "fault" that you perceive in another isn't even there. It is a total misinterpretation, a projection by a mind conditioned to see enemies and to make itself right or superior. At other times, the fault may be there, but by focusing on it, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else, you amplify it. And what you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself.

Nonreaction
Nonreaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego. But you can only be in a state of nonreaction if you can recognize someone's behavior as coming from the ego, as being an expression of the collective human dysfunction. When you realize it's not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to react as if it were. By not reacting to the ego, you will often be able to bring out the sanity in others, which is the unconditioned consciousness as opposed to the conditioned.

At times you may have to take practical steps to protect yourself from deeply unconscious people. This you can do without making them enemies. Your greatest protection, however, is being conscious. Somebody becomes an enemy if you personalize the unconsciousness that is the ego.

Nonreaction is not weakness but strength. Another word for nonreaction is forgiveness. To forgive is to overlook, or rather to look through. You look through the ego to the sanity that is in every human being as his or her essence. The ego loves to complain and feel resentful not only about other people but also about situations. What you can do to a person, you can also do to a situation: make it into an enemy. The implication is always…

This should not be happening; I don't want to be here; I don't want to be doing this; I'm being treated unfairly. And the ego's greatest enemy of all is, of course, the present moment, which is to say, life itself.

Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn't necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter that your soup is cold and needs to be heated up—if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. "How dare you serve me cold soup..." That's complaining. There is a "me" here that loves to feel personally offended by the cold soup and is going to make the most of it, a "me" that enjoys making someone wrong. The complaining we are talking about is in the service of the ego, not of change.

Ego Identifies with the Body
Apart from objects, another basic form of identification is with "my" body. Firstly, the body is male or female, and so the sense of being a man or woman takes up a significant part of most people's sense of self. Gender becomes identity. Identification with gender is encouraged at an early age, and it forces you into a role, into conditioned patterns of behavior that affect all aspects of your life, not just sexuality. It is a role many people become completely trapped in, even more so in some of the traditional societies than in Western culture where identification with gender is beginning to lessen somewhat. In some traditional cultures, the worst fate a woman can have is to be unwed or barren, and for a man to lack sexual potency and not be able to produce children. Life's fulfillment is perceived to be fulfillment of one's gender identity.

In the West, it is the physical appearance of the body that contributes greatly to the sense of who you think you are: its strength or weakness, its perceived beauty or ugliness relative to others. For many people, their sense of self-worth is intimately bound up with their physical strength, good looks, fitness, and external appearance. Many feel a diminished sense of self-worth because they perceive their body as ugly or imperfect. In some cases, the mental image or concept of "my body" is a complete distortion of reality. A young woman may think of herself as overweight and therefore starve herself when in fact she is quite thin. She cannot see her body anymore. All she "sees" is the mental concept of her body, which says "I am fat" or "I will become fat.”

At the root of this condition lies identification with the mind. As people have become more and more mind-identified, which is the intensification of egoic dysfunction, there has also been a dramatic increase in the incidence of anorexia in recent decades. If the sufferer could look at her body without the interfering judgments of her mind or even recognize these judgments for what they are instead of believing in them, this would initiate her healing.

Those who are identified with their good looks, physical strength, or abilities experience suffering when those attributes begin to fade and disappear, as of course they will. Their very identity that was based on them is then threatened with collapse. In either case, ugly or beautiful, people derive a significant part of their identity, be it negative or positive, from their body. To be more precise, they derive their identity from the I-thought that they erroneously attach to the mental image or concept of their body, which after all is no more than a physical form that shares the destiny of all forms— impermanence and ultimately decay. Equating the physical sense-perceived body that is destined to grow old, wither, and die with "I" always leads to suffering sooner or later.

To refrain from identifying with the body doesn't mean that you neglect, despise, or no longer care for it. If it is strong, beautiful, or vigorous, you can enjoy and appreciate those attributes while they last. You can also improve the body's condition through right nutrition and exercise. If you don't equate the body with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes, or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect your sense of worth or identity in any way. In fact, as the body begins to weaken, the formless dimension, the light of consciousness, can shine more easily through the fading form.

It is not just people with good or near-perfect bodies who are likely to equate it with who they are. You can just as easily identify with a "problematic" body and make the body's imperfection, illness, or disability into your identity. You may then think and speak of yourself as a "sufferer" of this or that chronic illness or disability. You receive a great deal of attention from doctors and others who constantly confirm to you your conceptual identity as a sufferer or a patient. You then unconsciously cling to the illness because it has become the most important part of who you perceive yourself to be. It has become another thought form with which the ego can identify.

Once the ego has found an identity, it does not want to let go. Amazingly but not infrequently, the ego in search of a stronger identity can and does create illnesses in order to strengthen itself through them.

The Collective Ego
How hard it is to live with yourself! One of the ways in which the ego attempts to escape the unsatisfactoriness of personal selfhood is to enlarge and strengthen its sense of self by identifying with a group—
a nation, political party, corporation, institution, sect, religion, club, gang, football team.

In some cases the personal ego seems to dissolve completely as someone dedicates his or her life to working selflessly for the greater good of the collective without demanding personal rewards, recognition, or aggrandizement.

What a relief to be freed of the dreadful burden of a personal self. The members of the collective feel happy and fulfilled, no matter how hard they work, how many sacrifices they make. They appear to have gone beyond ego. The question is: Have they truly become free, or has the ego simply shifted from the personal to the collective?

A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as…

the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on.

Sooner or later, the collective will come into conflict with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary and thus its identity. Its members will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may wake up and realize that their collective has a strong element of insanity. It can be painful at first to suddenly wake up and realize that the collective you had identified with and worked for is actually insane. Some people at that point become cynical or bitter and henceforth deny all values, all worth. This means that they quickly adopted another belief system when the previous one was recognized as illusory and therefore collapsed. They didn't face the death of their ego but ran away and reincarnated into a new one.

A collective ego is usually more unconscious than the individuals that make up that ego. For example, crowds (which are temporary collective egoic entities) are capable of committing atrocities that the individual away from the crowd would not be. Nations not infrequently engage in behavior that would be immediately recognizable as psychopathic in an individual.

Grievances
There are many people who are always waiting for the next thing to react against, to feel annoyed or disturbed about, and it never takes long before they find it. "This is an outrage," they say. "How dare you ..." "I resent this." They are addicted to upset and anger as others are to a drug. Through reacting against this or that they assert and strengthen their feeling of self.

A long-standing resentment is called a grievance.

To carry grievances is to be in a permanent state of "against," and that is why grievances constitute a significant part of many people's ego. Collective grievances can survive for centuries in the psyche of a nation or a tribe and fuel a never-ending cycle of violence.

A grievance is a strong negative emotion connected to an event in the sometimes distant past that is being kept alive by compulsive thinking, by retelling the story in the head or out loud of "what someone did to me" or "what someone did to us.”

A grievance will also contaminate other areas of your life. For example, while you think about and feel your grievance, its negative emotional energy can distort your perception of an event that is happening in the present or influence the way in which you speak or behave toward someone in the present. One strong grievance is enough to contaminate large areas of your life and keep you in the grip of the ego.

It requires honesty to see whether you still harbor grievances, whether there is someone in your life you have not completely forgiven, an "enemy." If you do, become aware of the grievance both on the level of thought as well as emotion, that is to say, be aware of the thoughts that keep it alive, and feel the emotion that is the body's response to those thoughts.Don't try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go, to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place. The seeing is freeing.

Jesus' teaching to "Forgive your enemies" is essentially about the undoing of one of the main egoic structures in the human mind.

The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. And what is a grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.

--PURCHASE:
The New Earth Tolle

--COURSE IN MIRACLES WORKBOOK:
The Workbook
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"Freedom from a Punishing God" by Sam Alexander

AngryGod.2jpg
When you’re a Christian preacher sometimes you get a real earful concerning the nature of the Christian God. Things like this, “I despise the Christian God with his arbitrary judgments. This God who makes people feel ashamed of who they are and doles out punishments to the guilty. Guilty of what, being human? I want nothing to do with the Christian God. All he does is rip families apart, cause hatred, condone prejudice, send us to war, and let unspeakable acts of violence be perpetrated on the guiltless.”

I’m not making fun; I have suffered much at the hands of this image of god. As a young man, unable to live up to this god’s idea of “good,” I slid into a dangerous depression. I get how damaging this un-evolved and misguided image of god can be.

There are a lot of people out there who, having been brought up in a predominantly Christian culture, react negatively to Christianity for just this reason. I grew up in a predominantly Christian culture. I assume that there are people who have grown up in other areas of the world where different religious traditions have held sway, who react against other un-evolved and misguided images of god.

Once a person has experienced this destructive, controlling side of my religious tradition, [or any tradition for that matter], I think they are left with some choices. Depending on how damaging the past has been, where they are now, and so forth. Sometimes, maybe even often, I think it is important for a person to make peace with the tradition of their past; it’s part of our spiritual growth and development – whether or not we stay in the tradition.

I’ve obviously come to an understanding of Christianity that is very different from this damaging and I believe, profoundly distorted image of god. I am writing this blog from that perspective. I hope it is helpful for those who are looking at Christianity afresh, whether or not they “become a Christian” again.

But I recognize that there are people for whom resolution simply is not possible. Like an abusive parent, it has hurt too much. To you let me say that I hope you get as far away from the Christian tradition as possible. There is nothing magic about it; nothing magic about any of the traditions really. I have every reason to expect that you can find another tradition that serves you well. Patheos.com is a great place to start. It is one of the reasons I write here.

Having come back to Christianity, and denying the punishing view of God, I have to then contend with the texts of Scripture that lead some people – not all – to believe in a judgmental, punishing god. What are they getting at? Do we toss them or use them? I hope to open that topic next week.

Grace and peace,

Sam

---WEBSITE:
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WEBSITE:
GraceComesFirst
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"Intuition Is Your Superpower" by Diana Lang

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Your intuition is like a superpower. We use it every day in a thousand ways. We use is it in every transaction, negotiation and relationship we engage in.

Intuition is a deep inner listening.
And we all have this ability.
Intuition is a faculty of higher mind. It is a kind of extra sensory perception, as it were. Intuition allows us to discern between the billions of information bits that we are thinking, to discover by filtering through all of this sensory data, the common denominator, which is:
the truth of something.

There is often so much mental clutter around certain subjects, especially ones that are important to us, that we sometimes cannot cognize what we think. That’s because we are thinking everything at the same time! When we’re afraid, and especially when we feel our lives depend on it, we can be thinking thousands of thoughts simultaneously with no conscious prioritization. This can put us into utter chaos.

But just behind the veil of the pros-and-cons list of our life, and all the myriad information that we pick up along the way - behind all that data - waiting patiently for us, is our personal inner knowing. Not what the world would say, not what someone else thinks about a subject, but our very own precious
knowing.

Intuition helps us sense our way through life’s problems. We can sense when to move and when not to move. We can feel the intentions of another. We can intuit if something is right for us or not. It is literally our “inner sight.” It is our insight!

Your intuition is the most accurate gauge of someone’s intention and heart. Your intuition can tell you what something really is. By heeding this deep inner listening, the truth of it can shine through.
Because we really do know, or I should say, we can know. We just need to stop, and consciously ask ourselves…
...and then, listen.
Like this:
Become quiet inside yourself. This is very like a little mini-meditation. Sit perfectly still and empty your mind. When you think of the decision, the person, or the situation, what do you intuit? (Not, what do you think.) For the moment, put aside your opinions, judgments, or preconceived ideas. What does your heart know? What is your intuition?

Really, deeply listen.
Does your inner self give you a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down? Is there an internal nod of YES, or a squeezing contracted feeling of NO? You will feel it. It is very definite.

Here’s the thing, if you are listening with your intuition, you will know. We can be fooled by the external information of things. We can be overloaded by the sheer density of the concerns that are connected to our question, or overwhelmed by the fears we have of the potential domino-consequence of it. The problem is that the answer we think is right may look great on paper but not be good for our life.
Intuition includes logic but logic doesn’t necessarily include intuition.

It’s important to remember as you are gathering impressions to not be tempted to manufacture reasons to substantiate these impressions while you are receiving them. Listen to your intuition. But don’t try to justify your intuition. If you need to “prove” what or why your intuition is telling you something, you are already out of the intuitive state and back into the ego’s limited fear-logic.
This is why intuition is intuition, not deduction or analysis. It’s a whole different faculty of mind. There is no greater insight than what your intuition senses and offers - if you’ll listen.


It is how Einstein was able to conceive E=mc2. He intuited it first; then he proved it.
Your intuition is a powerful tool. It is like having a secret power, and in time, and with practice, you will learn to trust it more and more. It will guide you seamlessly through life. It will nudge you left when left is exactly the right move for you. As you become more adept in listening to your intuition, you will find yourself navigating your life more and more deftly, decision by decision, choice by choice, breath by breath, moment by moment.

And what is extraordinary about this inner knowing, this intuition, this superpower, is that it is adaptable and ever-responding to the ever-changing circumstance of our ever-changing reality!

Like any superpower, you need to cultivate and develop your intuition over time. Practice trusting your inner knowing. Get good at it. Let your intuition guide your life, for it will always lead you true.

SOURCE:
Intuition Is Your Superpower
by Diana Lang(from The Huffington Post

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www.DianaLang.com
On Twitter:
www.twitter.com/Diana Lang
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"Becoming Free of Our Substitute Life" by Ezra Bayda

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A Zen student walked in to see the master. Sitting down, he blurted out, "There's something terribly wrong with me!" The master looked at him and asked, "What's so wrong?" The student, after a moment's hesitation, responded, "I think I'm a dog." To that the master responded, "And how long have you thought that?" The student replied, "Ever since I was a puppy."

What does this story have to do with spiritual practice? Everything. It puts the basic human problem in a nutshell. Next time you find yourself immersed in the drama of a strong emotional reaction, awash with deeply believed thoughts, ask yourself how long you've taken these thoughts to be the truth. Especially notice the ones you believe the most: "Life is too hard," "No one will ever be there for me," "I'm worthless," "I'm hopeless." How long have you believed these thoughts? Ever since you were a puppy!

These deeply held beliefs may not be visible on the surface of our minds; we're often not even aware of them. Yet we cling to such deep-seated beliefs, these basic identities, because they've become rooted in our very cells—in our cellular memory. And their imprint on our lives is unmistakable. But in order to avoid experiencing the painful quality of these beliefs and identities, we continually engage in various strategies of behavior—habitual coping patterns that buffer us from the anxious quiver of insecurity. These strategies are our attempt to establish some sense of safety, security, and familiarity. They might include seeking achievements, becoming a helper, trying to control our world or withdrawing toward safety. But do they ever give us a sense of genuine satisfaction? No. All too often they keep us stuck in dissatisfaction, not knowing where to turn. I call this place "the substitute life."

If we're fortunate enough to aspire to become free of our substitute or artificial life, we may start questioning our most basic assumptions, including our very mode of living. Although such questioning can be painful, it's something we all need to do periodically in order to move toward a genuine life. The one question that goes directly to the heart of the matter is: "What is my life really about?" The degree to which we can be honest in answering this question will determine our clarity in understanding the basic human dilemma—that we are cut off from awareness of our true nature.

Do you try to maintain a sense of order and control, to avoid feeling the fear of chaos, of things falling apart? Do you try to gain acceptance and approval, to avoid the fear of rejection, of not fitting in? Do you try to excel and attain success, to avoid the fear of feeling unworthy? Or do you seek busyness in adventure or pleasure, to avoid the deep holes of longing and loneliness? All of these strategies have one thing in common: they keep us encased in our artificial or substitute life.

None of us are beyond this. We all follow some strategy to escape feeling the fears that silently run our life. Yet even when we know all about these fears, most of the time we don't want to have anything to do with them. Perhaps this sounds pessimistic and discouraging, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, it's only by realizing the extent to which we are asleep—the extent to which we are driven by the vanity of our endeavors, the smallness of our attachments, or the urgency of avoiding our fears—that we can wake up, out of our state of sleep, out of our substitute way of living.

Excerpted from:
How to Live a Genuine Life by Ezra Bayda
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"The Disease of Being Busy" (excerpt) by Omid Safi

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In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is yourhaal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.
I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and fast-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

W. B. Yeats once wrote, "It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a solider to fight on a battlefield."

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye […] and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing. […]

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

Omid Safi is Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. Reading above is excerpted from the 
OnBeing blog.

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On Being
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"Simply This" by Mooji

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Questioner: Some teachers say that there is nothing you can do to become enlightened or awake. That there is no choice and no one there to make choice. Is this true ?
Mooji: On hearing this, what was your response ?
Q: actually it was mixed. On one side it felt deeply freeing, simple and natural, followed by a sense of real frustration and anger. Honestly, I felt quite irritated and oppressed by the thought of having no free will. It was very strange.
M: Which of these two responses have remained the strongest with you ?
Q: Well, as I said before, initially the feeling of freedom was strong, beautiful and expansive but short-lived, while the frustration, doubt and confusion have been more lingering.
M: And these feelings have again brought you to satsang, is that right ?
Q: You could say that. Actually, I don’t feel I took any decision to come here. I feel like I was drawn here by some force. When I’m here with you it all feels fine; your words and presence makes me feel secure in this truth. The problem starts when I’m outside in the world. Then I doubt myself. I feel weak, unfocused and lack that conviction I’m feeling now. I need help.
M: Thank you. ‘ I need help’ is the important statement here. It is wise to seek help, until you go beyond the need for help. Not the arrogance which claims ‘There’s no one to be helped, no I, no you. No one exist, only that which Is’, which though true when spoken through the mouth of the sage, is completely false when uttered from the ego mind- the ego rising through the intellect posing as some kind of spiritual hero. This understanding cannot be grafted onto the ego-centred mind, for true understanding dissolves the seeker-ego. There is no one left to claim freedom as an achievement. The one unicity alone exist, manifesting through and as consciousness, it expresses as the cosmic play. It is consciousness expressing itself in the role of the humble seeker who ultimately, through grace, attains ultimate understanding, thus realising itself as the Impersonal Awareness/Being. Your seeking help opens the floodgate of grace which manifest in the form of the ‘teacher’, who is a reflection of your true self, whose authority and presence assists by pushing the externalised mind into its heart source, resulting in final understanding. This grace comes from your own Self and is your Self. You’ve heard the saying ‘ We’re called by our own self’, and yet all this takes place as a mere play in consciousness. The Absolute, One’s real Being- The sat-guru within, does not benefit from, or undergo any change at all, it remains the unalterable substratum or background. This is the truth.
Q: There is joy again, at being reminded of this, perhaps this is the pull of satsang. But I must say, I’m still a little confused about…
M: No ! Stop right there. Actually, ‘you’, what you truly are, cannot be confused. Confusion is a state of mind. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that you feel or notice confusion arising in you ? And that both confusion feeling and comfort feeling are perceived by you, including their effect in the body and the subsequent thoughts and judgements accompanying these feelings. That these are states which come and go in the presence of some background ‘field’ of impersonal intelligence or natural witnessing ?
Q: Yes. There seems more distance in this way of looking. Feels more detached and spacious somehow.
M: Let’s return to your original question ?
Q: Yes, but I would like you to speak more on this point.
M: Ok. Ok, we’ll come back if necessary. In the statement ‘ there’s nothing you or anyone can do to gain ‘enlightenment’ or ‘awakening’. Who or what is it that hears this ? and who or what is the ‘you’ in the statement ?
Q: Myself ! What I am.
M: And what is that ? ( pause.. ) Now you’re wearing ‘thinking eyes’, Don’t think ! Observe !
Q: My mind.. My individuality. My sense of self, I suppose. My intellect ?
M Musn’t there be something behind which sees the mind, the individuality, the intellect ? From where these very statements are arising, and which remains unaffected, untouched by the functioning of mind, intellect. Are these not phenomena being observed ? Can you confirm ?
Q: Yes, ( nodding slowly) I can confirm this as so.
M: Leaving aside whatever noticeable phenomena arising, turn your attention to the observing itself. What exactly is it that observes ? Is it a person, a thing ? Does it have a form, characteristic or quality ? Is it personal ?
Q: No. No one’s there. Nothing.
M: Are you there ?
Q Yes. No. I must be. I am in it.
M: What sees or knows this ?
Q: I don’t know. I just know but I don’t know how I know. I am nothing here exactly. I mean no form. Here comes that feeling again. This is what I felt, what I experienced the last time.
M: Don’t cling to this feeling now, let it be. Don’t go to the past, Stay behind. Don’t identify, don’t touch. Observe only, but remain neutral, so that if and when this joyful state subsides, there will be just this noticing remaining. You cannot ‘have’ this or ‘become’ this. No ownership, no achievement, only thoughts and sensations arising spontaneously in consciousness being perceived. You see ?
Q: But I don’t want this to go. Why push it away ? I wish to stay in this always. Isn’t that the point ?
M: That’s precisely what you must do. If it was not here before, it’s not permanent, it belongs to the changeful. It will go. Let it come and go, this is natural and this is freedom itself. Recognise the ‘ I don’t want to push this away’ is also a thought feeling arising, being noticed by something which is beyond coming or going. Be one with that. Don’t chase anything, stay as neutral awareness only. That’s all . What can awareness want ? What does it lack ? What to keep or lose ?
Q: My mind’s gone blank. Sorry, could you repeat ?
M: What is witnessing the blank ?
Q: (pause..) I am. Here again !
M: And again, who or what are you here ?
Q: Just this. There are no words to convey or describe it. Nothing-ness. Emptiness.
M: Is there some sadness ?
Q: No.
M: Happy ?
Q: No.
M Free ?
Q: No. I wouldn’t use the word ‘free’ even. ( Pause ). No words…
M Aha ! Very good ! Well done ! That is it ! that’s all, you’ve done it, Excellent ! The exercise is over. Now step out of this and return to your former state so that we may continue with your important questions.
Q: Mmm… That’s impossible ! It doesn’t make sense anymore. Step out and go where ?
M Here !
Q: There’s not even here !
M Really ? And what about Now ?
Q: No, not Now either( long pause&hellipWinking I see clearly now that these are concepts only. There is no doubt about this- The indescribable is behind.
M: This alone is freedom, beyond any concept of freedom. The natural and supreme state of one’s true being.
( The questioner appears to have slipped into a meditative state, his face is motionless, but tranquil…Mooji chuckles.. ).
M: I wanted to talk along the lines of what happens when this ‘enlightenment’ experience fades away, but now it’s impossible to discuss this with him while he’s in samadhi. ( Laughter.. ).
Another questioner: I’ve also experienced this state which he seems to be in right now, that sort of non-experience experience, which lasted for about three or four weeks. I felt totally empty, clear, present, at one with all that Is. Everything was just going on by itself, it was really indescribable and beautiful, but after a while my mind came back, in my case I think even stronger than before. Actually I went into a kind of heavy depression and felt lost for some time. I feel afraid of repeating that experience.
M: Which experience ?
Q: The crazy one.
( Laughter.. ).
M: The real self is the changeless background underlying the changeful phenomena world. It is impersonal Awareness only; Immutable and blissful. In the experiential state it shines as the pure subjective awareness sense ‘I am’. This ‘I am-ness’ is impersonal and synonymous with consciousness- the field of perceiving. It is the direct expression of pure subjectivity. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the great sage, describes it as like a door which swings one way into the manifestation and the other way into infinity. This expresses it beautifully. All events occur as movements in consciousness and are cognised in and by this conscious presence ‘I am’; this is the ‘witness’ or witnessing principle, which we are, while the body is here.
Q: So are we the body or ‘in’ the body or something separate ? Because…
( The questioner began recalling some experiences and observations&hellipWinking
M: Leave all this alone for now; just stay open, allowing what is being said to simply be heard in the consciousness without taking hold of any particular thought or idea such as what to do with what’s being heard; let the listening just ‘happen’, as it were. You are there behind the listening mind. Watch the ‘I’- thought, it is not the true ‘I am’. It comes when the impersonal ‘I am’ gets identified with the body, which is merely the instrument through which it is expressing itself, with the aid of the vital force- the animating power. This association gives rise to the ego or individuality- the sense ‘me’. So you see, the individuality sense cannot exist without the supporting impersonal consciousness, and must itself be the changeful expression of that creative consciousness. Only now it operates as conditioned consciousness, believing itself to be the body-mind. Now arises the knowledge of ‘other-ness’ and the basic urge to protect itself; likes and dislikes arise, along with judgements, fear, desires, attachments and the entire play of inter-related opposites. We, as individual/being are fascinated and addicted to experiencing, which is natural and nothing ‘wrong’ in itself, when seen as the play or expression of the manifest consciousness we are. But when seen from the perspective of the individual identity, with its private agenda- Big trouble ! ( Laughter..).
Now listen, there’s nothing in particular to ‘do’ here and no one to do or undo either. Just a change in understanding must happen and everything will be set right. It’s all One. Let’s take the example of the telescopic car aerial, it is one unit- this represents the Absolute. Extend or Pull once- the impersonal ‘I am’ appears; it is still one unit. Pull again – the ‘I’- thought or ‘me’/ individuality sprouts and simultaneously- the personalised world manifestation comes into play. Like Russian dolls- One inside the other, successively- yet one whole ! One unicity expressing as manifest and unmanifest, two aspects of the one Reality. Such is the play in the theatre of consciousness. You are the ultimate witness; Happy, unaffected and whole. You are That ! It’s nothing personal. It’s not a compliment I’m paying you.
Q: Please could you repeat the point about the ‘theatre of consciousness’.
M: No ! I cannot repeat. For now, be attentive, open and present but neutral here, without letting your attention drift off or land on any particular thing. This position I’m inviting you to take. Trust your intuitive listening. It is your mind, appearing as a vigilant seeker, that strives for exactness then gets caught up with the feeling of missing something vital. At this point it is a subtle form of resistance or avoidance. My advice is; If you miss it, simply let it go. All is well for now. The real you is here and behind it all, effortlessly observing; from where the sense of losing and finding arises, is felt, but discarded as ‘not real’- ‘neti-neti’ as the jnanis say. You, as awareness are not any particular feeling. Thoughts and feelings come and go like waves playing on the surface of the ocean. Let everything come and go by themselves, this is natural for waves. Ocean, water, waves- all the same. Stay as witness only. For awareness, nothing is lost or found, or is good or bad. It is the immaculate substratum against which the shadow mind/world of names and forms dance their apparent existence.
Q: But Mooji, surely it is vigilance to make sure we understand correctly, to avoid misunderstanding; especially as all this is new to me, also many scriptures and teachers point to vigilance as a necessary quality or virtue for spiritual growth.
M: That is true if there really is a ‘someone’ who will make use of this understanding. But if you would really investigate, that ‘someone’; the ‘person’, the ‘individual’, will not be found ! All is consciousness only – the ‘you’, the ‘me’, the speaking, listening, satsang, everyone here, everything- all consciousness; this is the wonderful discovery ! Consciousness conversing with consciousness about consciousness through consciousness. How simple ! Yet how baffling when searched for through the ego-mind. Look, I point you to where you are right now, to stay with that, nothing else, but your mind landed on some point of interest to it. While you were engaged with holding onto that, you miss everything else- this is called the play of ‘maya'( The cosmic illusion). It’s like reading a book on exotic fruits and reggae music while strolling through Brixton market ! ( laughter..). One zen master named Bankei said: ‘it’s like a man losing his sword over the side of a ship at sea, and marking the spot on the railing where it fell in the water. ( Big laughter&hellipWinking.
Q: Just now as you said that, everything stopped. I can’t think. There are no thoughts. ( Raising hand to her mouth ) That is amazing !
M: What seeing all this ?
Q: Nothing… I.
M: ‘I’- nothing, witnessing the stopped mind. When mind is stopped, can it be called mind anymore ?
( Pause&hellipWinking
M: And now ?
Q: Silence and peace.
M: For whom ?
Q: Here.. For me.
M: For you ? Are you sure ? What, where and how are ‘you’ exactly in this ?
Q: Not me; just silence and deep peace and a real feeling of gratitude. Is that right ?
M: You tell me.
Q: Yes. Gratitude for hearing and seeing this so clearly. Thank you.
M: You are welcome. Self thanking Self. Very nice !
( Laughter).

SOURCE:
http://mooji.org/dialogues/dialogues-simply-this/
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"Is Christianity the only true religion, or one among others? by John Hick

Religious Calendars

Is Christianity the only true religion, or one among others?

(A talk given to a Theological Society in Norwich, England)

The likelihood is that all or nearly all of us here are Christians, though no doubt with varying degrees of commitment to the church. And so the question I am raising is inevitably an uncomfortable one. For we have probably nearly all taken it for granted, for as long as we can remember, that of course Christianity is the only true religion, or at least much the most true. I myself became a Christian by evangelical conversion when a Law student and it was part of the package of belief that I accepted wholeheartedly that Christianity is uniquely superior to all others and the world in process of being converted to Christian faith.

But that was some sixty years ago. In those days, like most of my generation, I had never met anyone of another faith and knew virtually nothing about the other world religions - and the little that I thought I knew has turned out to be largely caricature. But the present generation is generally much better informed. And today we all know, when we stop to think about it, that people of the other world religions have exactly the same view of their own faith as we do of ours.

In other words the religion that seems so obviously superior to anyone depends in the vast majority of cases on where he or she happens to have been born. Someone born into a devout Muslim family in Egypt or Pakistan or Albania (or for that matter in England) is very likely to grow up as a Muslim; someone born into a devout Hindu family in India (or again in England) is very likely to be a Hindu; someone born into a devout Buddhist family in Thailand or Sri Lanka or Burma (or once again England) is very likely to be a Buddhist; just as someone born into a devout Christian family in this country is very likely to be a Christian; and so on.

There are of course and always will be individual conversions for individual reasons in every direction both to and from each of the great world faiths, and generally we must presume that this is a right move; but such conversions are statistically marginal in comparison with the massive transmission of faith from generation to generation within the same religion. So normally the religion that you accept - or of course the religion that you reject - is the one into which you happen to have been born. I think that this is obvious and undeniable, although theologians all too seldom reflect on its implications.

So why do many, in fact probably most, Christians believe that Christianity is uniquely superior to all other faiths, the one and only true religion ?

Well, above all the New Testament says so. We read in St John’s Gospel that Jesus said ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me’ (14:6), ‘I and the Father are one’ (10:30), ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (14:9), ‘before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8: 58). In these texts, all from St John’s Gospel, does Jesus not clearly claim to be God, or God the Son, incarnate, and is he not claiming that his is the only path of salvation, and thus the only true religion? So in the Acts of the Apostles we read that ‘there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [than that of Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).

I must say a little about this New Testament basis of the belief, although it would require a whole week, or more likely a whole year, to discuss it properly. But most New Testament scholars today do
not believe that Jesus, the historical individual, claimed to be God incarnate. That doesn’t mean that they don’t believe that Jesus was in fact God incarnate, but they don’t think that he himself taught that he was. In case this comes as a surprise to some, I will give some brief quotations. I’m going to quote only from distinguished New Testament scholars who personally believe strongly that the Church has been right in believing that Jesus was God incarnate. They believe this with their whole heart. But nevertheless they hold, on the basis of the evidence, that Jesus did not himself claim this. Referring first to those New Testament sayings which I quoted a minute ago - ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life . . .’ etc. - Professor Charlie Moule of Cambridge, the doyen of conservative British New Testament scholars writes (in The Origin of Christology, 1977, p. 136), ‘Any case for a “high” Christology that depended on the authenticity of the alleged claims of Jesus about himself, especially in the fourth Gospel [i.e. John’s], would indeed be precarious’. Also in Cambridge Canon Brian Hebblethwaite of Queen’s College, a notable defender of the orthodox doctrine, says (The Incarnation, 1987, p. 74) that ‘it is no longer possible to defend the divinity of Jesus by reference to the claims of Jesus’. Then the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey (previously a New Testament professor) said in his book Jesus and the Living Past (1960, p.39), ‘Jesus did not claim deity for himself’. Again, perhaps the leading New Testament scholar in this country today, Professor James Dunn of Durham, after examining minutely every relevant text, in all four Gospels, and indeed throughout the New Testament, writes (Christology in the Making, 1980, p. 60) that ‘there was no real evidence in the earliest Jesus-tradition of what could fairly be called a consciousness of divinity’. These are all people who accept the traditional Incarnation doctrine, but who are also part of the scholarly consensus that the historical Jesus did not himself teach this. It is generally held today that the great ‘I am’ sayings of the fourth Gospel, which I quoted a minute ago, cannot be attributed to the historical Jesus but are words put into his mouth by a Christian writer some 60-70 years later, and also that Jesus’ sayings in the Synoptic Gospels cannot be taken to constitute a claim to be God incarnate - as Dunn says, ‘there was no real evidence in the earliest Jesus-tradition of what could fairly be called a consciousness of divinity’. If this comes to anyone as a bit of a shock, that is because although theologically educated ministers of the church know this, they do not mention it in their sermons. And I must confess that I myself have never said it in a sermon, but only in settings such as this. This silence has been going on for a very long time, and of course the longer you put off saying something difficult - difficult to the hearers - the harder it becomes to say it. When some years ago, 1977, a group of us, who included the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, and a former Regius at Cambridge, then Warden of Keble College, Oxford, and the Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxford, and others, published a book called The Myth of God Incarnate in which we discussed this question openly and frankly, we were attacked and reviled, not for saying what the scholarly world had long known, but for saying it so publicly and with such an alarming title. But today, more than twenty years later, the whole subject is much more openly discussed, and I don’t have any hesitation in discussing it here.

It’s also well known today - another theme of that book - that the term ‘son of God’ was widely used in the ancient world. Jesus was by no means the only person to whom the term was applied. In particular, within Jesus’ own religion, Judaism, Adam was called the son of God, and is so called in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus’ ancestry is traced back to ‘the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God’ (tou Seth tou Adam tou Theou’, 3:38), angels were called sons of God, Israel as a whole was called God’s son, and indeed any outstandingly pious Jew could be called a son of God. And the ancient Hebrew kings were enthroned as son of God - hence the words of Psalm 2:7, ‘Thou art my son, this day I have begotten thee’. But no one within Judaism thought that God literally begot sons. The phrase ‘son of God’ was clearly metaphorical. ‘son of'’ meant ‘true servant of’ or sometimes ‘given a special divine mission by’ or more generally ‘in the spirit of’. The term was a very familiar metaphor within Judaism and never implied deity. But as Christianity expanded beyond its Jewish roots into the Graeco-Roman world the metaphorical son of God was gradually transformed in Christian thinking into the metaphysical God the Son, second person of a divine Trinity. And it is this epoch-making development that is under question today.

Now in the discussions of the last twenty or so years, the idea that Christianity is the only true religion and only source of salvation, and that only Christians are saved, is today generally called exclusivism, in distinction from the two other main positions, called inclusivism and pluralism.

However today the majority of Christian theologians and church leaders have moved away from this strict exclusivism to what is called inclusivism. This concentrates primarily on the question of salvation, and is the view that salvation is indeed through Christ alone in virtue of his atoning death on the cross, but that this salvation is not confined to Christians but is available, in principle, to all human beings. So non-Christians also can be included within the sphere of Christian salvation - hence the term inclusivism. People of good will outside the Church can be said to have an implicit Christian faith, or to be anonymous Christians, or to be in such a state that they
will respond to Christ as their lord and saviour when they confront him after death. On this view Christianity remains the only true religion; but those who do not know Christ can also benefit from his atoning death. This position was adopted by the Catholic Church at the second Vatican Council in the 1960’s and is the position of the present Pope and also of a majority of theologians within the other mainline Christian churches, including the Church of England, the Methodists, the United Reformed Church, Baptists, etc. - except in each case for their fundamentalist wings. Its attraction is that on the one hand it preserves the traditional conviction of the unique centrality/normativeness/superiority of Christianity, but on the other hand it does not involve the horrifying implication that only Christians can be saved. This is why it is today so attractive and remains such a popular position.

But it does have its negative side. If we think for a moment of the analogy of the solar system, with God as the sun at the centre and the religions as planets revolving around that centre, the inclusivist position says in effect that the life-giving light and warmth of the sun falls directly only on our earth, but is then reflected off it to the other religions, which thus receive it at second hand. Or in terms of economics this is a kind of trickle down theory of salvation. We Christians are the spiritually rich at the top but our riches trickle down in varying measure to the people of the other world religions below. And just how realistic this is will depend on what we mean by salvation.

If you define salvation as being forgiven and accepted by God because of the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, then salvation is by definition Christian salvation and Christianity is by definition the only true religion. That is to settle the matter by definition. Suppose however that instead of doing this we start with the realities of human life around the world as we find it and mean by salvation something concrete, something that can take place progressively in people’s lives, something that is meant to begin here and now in this life and to make a manifest difference. We can describe it as the gradual transformation of men and women from natural self-centredness to a new orientation centred in the divine reality that we call God, liberating us into love and compassion for our fellow beings. On this view it is those who love their neighbours; who have compassion - that is feeling with and for others, - and who give something of their time, energy, intelligence, resources to those in much greater need both far and near, who are on the path of salvation. Or again, putting it in biblical terms, it is those whose lives embody what St Paul called the fruit of the spirit, which he described as ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Galatians, 5: 22) - to which we must I think add a commitment to social justice as an expression of love - who are on the way of salvation. Its not a question of Are you saved or not saved? but of the direction in which you are going, the path you are on.


Now the call to self-transcending love and compassion comes to humanity through a number of channels. Jesus taught that we are to love and value our neighbours as we love and value ourselves, even to love those who regard themselves as our enemies, so that ‘you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Matthew 5: 44-5). Others hear the call to an equal concern for all in the Hebrew scriptures in such divine commands as ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19: 18), or in the teaching of the Talmud, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary’ (
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a). Others again hear it such Hindu teachings as one on which Mahatma Gandhi based his life: ‘If a man give you a drink of water and you give him a drink in return, that is nothing. Real beauty consists in doing good against evil . . The truly noble know all men as one, and return with gladness good for evil done.’ (Gandhi, Autobiography, I, chap.10). And yet others hear it in such Buddhist teachings as ‘As a mother cares for her son, her only son, all her days, so towards all living things a man’s mind should be all-embracing’ (Sutta Nipata, 143). And yet others hear it in the Qur’an, where we read ‘Repel evil with what is good. Then you will find your erstwhile enemy like a close, affectionate friend’ (41: 34), or in the teachings of the Sufis of Islam, such as this parable of Rumi’s, ‘God rebuked Moses, saying, ‘I fell sick, thou camest not.’ Moses said, ‘O transcendent One, what mystery is this. Explain, O Lord!’ God said again to him, ‘Wherefore didst thou not kindly ask after me when I was sick?’ Moses answered, ‘Lord, thou never ailest. My understanding is lost.’ God said, ‘Yea, a favourite and chosen servant of mine fell sick. Consider well: his infirmity is My infirmity, his sickness is My sickness’ (Nicholson, Rumi: Poet and Mystic, p. 65). You see, such ideas are genuinely Christian, but they are also genuinely Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist. There is in fact a basic moral outlook which is universal, and the concrete reality of salvation consists in a spiritual transformation whose natural expression is unrestricted love and compassion. I stress the word basic, because what is common to the different faiths is this truly basic principle, not the specific moral codes which have developed within different societies at different times and places and in different circumstances. These latter reflect the particular historical circumstances in which they were formulated and are not immutable, but ought to develop as societies change, and when they don’t they can produce evil instead of good. We see this, for example, in some of the harsh rules of desert life in parts of the Old Testament and in parts of the Shariah of Islam, and also, in a lesser way nearer to home in current debates within the churches about the ordination of women, about the remarriage of divorced persons, and about homosexuality. New moral sensitivities, and new scientific knowledge, rightly enter into the development of our specific social norms.

But the
basic moral teaching of the religions remains the same. It constitutes the universal ideal. But how does it actually work out in people’s lives? Do Christians in fact respond to it better than the rest of humankind? Are Christians in general better human beings, morally and spiritually, than non-Christians in general? This is the question that I would invite you to focus upon. In order to answer it of course one has to get to know people of other faiths; and this is much easier for some than for others. Birmingham, for example, where I live, is a multi-faith city. There are eighty thousand or more Muslims, large Sikh and Hindu communities, a smaller but long established Jewish community, and growing number of Buddhists and Bahais. When you go into the mosques, synagogues, gurudwaras, temples, as well as churches, something strikes you, or at least has struck me, very forcibly. On the one hand, all the externals are different. When you go into a Hindu temple, for example, the sights, colours, sounds, smells are those of India and you can easily imagine yourself back there. And not only what the senses perceive, but also the language, the concepts, the whole way of thinking are distinctively Hindu. And the same is true in their different ways of each of the other places of worship. But at a much deeper level it seems evident that essentially the same thing is going on in all these other places as in our Christian churches – namely men and women are coming together under the auspices of some ancient highly developed tradition which helps them to open their minds and hearts ‘upwards’ to a higher divine reality which makes a claim upon the living of their lives; and the basic claim is in each case, as I illustrated a few minutes ago, the same. So it seems right to say with the thirteenth century Muslim writer Jalaludin Rumi, writing about the religions of his time, ‘The lamps are different, but the Light is the same: it comes from Beyond’ (Rumi, Poet and Mystic, trans. R.A. Nicholson, 1978, p. 166).

But further, it is a very common experience of Christians in such a city as Birmingham that when you get to know some of your neighbours of other faiths - and you meet them today in every walk of life, but particularly when you know individuals and families - you do not find that they are in general any less loving and caring, any less honest, any less likely to help a neighbour when someone next door is ill or in some trouble and needing friendly support, any less law-abiding, any less concerned for the good of society, any less ready to make sacrifices for the education of their children, any less faithful in the practice of their religion, than are our Christian fellow citizens in general. I do not say any more, but I do say not any less. There are good and bad people, and all degrees of goodness and badness, within each faith community, including Christianity; but it does not seem that Christians in general stand out as morally and spiritually superior to everyone else.

And there’s another kind of encounter has been to me equally important. Partly in the course of inter-faith dialogue over a number of years with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, and from time spent in the heartlands of these other faiths, I have had the very good fortune to come to know a small number of individuals whom I regard as, in Christian terms, saints - saints in the sense that they have largely transcended the ego point of view and become channels of the higher divine reality. Such all-too-rare individuals are extremely important to us, because they make it much easier for us to believe in the higher reality to which the religions point. And they are to be found not only within Christianity but within each of the great faith traditions.

And, although this is a huge topic which I cannot open up here, I do not think that history shows Christian civilization through the centuries to have been morally superior to all other civilizations. It is an unpleasant business to compare historical evils, but since many people take it for granted that Christianity has a manifestly cleaner record than the rest of the world, I would just remind you of the centuries-long persecution of the Jews, the Crusades, the burning of witches and heretics, the conquest and exploitation of what today we call the Third world, the carrying off so many of its people as slaves, the history of Christian Europe through the twentieth century, which saw two terrible wars between Christian nations in which tens of millions were killed, and the Jewish Holocaust, and churches supporting Fascist dictators in Italy, Spain, Brazil, San Salvador, Chile (the most recent being General Pinochet), and for a whole generation supporting apartheid in South Africa . . But we can take all this up further if you want to in the discussion period.

And so it just does not seem to me that Christians, either individually or collectively, are manifestly better human beings than the rest of the human race.

But - and this is the question that we now have to ask ourselves - is this what you would expect if our traditional doctrines are straightforwardly true? According to these doctrines we have an uniquely direct knowledge to God in Christ, an uniquely direct access to and relationship with God in prayer and worship in the name of Christ, and the direct presence of God with us in the sacraments of the church. Would you not then expect all this to make a visible difference in the lives of Christians? Would you not expect the fruits of the spirit to be more evident in Christians than in non-Christians? I suggest to you that we should expect that, because otherwise the unique superiority of Christianity would be mere rhetoric. But then on the other hand can we honestly claim that Christians are in fact morally and spiritually better human beings, in general, than non-Christians?

You see where all this is pointing - to the conclusion that perhaps Christianity is not after all the one and only true, or one and only salvific, religion. So this brings us to the third option that I mentioned for understanding the global religious situation. I’ve said a little about exclusivism, and more about inclusivism. Now the third option, generally called pluralism. This holds that there is not just one and only one point of salvific contact between the divine reality and humanity, namely in the person of Jesus Christ, but that there is a plurality of independently valid contacts, and independently authentic spheres of salvation, which include both Christianity and the other great world faiths.

In developing this pluralist point of view I am assuming that religion is our human response to a transcendent reality, the reality that we call God. And as a
human response there is always an inescapably human element within it. To remind ourselves of this, look at the histories of both Judaism and Christianity. The image of Jahweh reflected in the Old Testament develops over the centuries from a violent tribal god who commands the Israelites to engage in genocide against the original inhabitants of Palestine [‘go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass’, I Sam. 15:3] to the universal Lord, blessed be He, of later and modern Judaism. Within Christianity, for quite a long period of time in the medieval world most Christians thought of God as a terrible figure who would send most human beings to eternal hell, and before whom they trembled in terror, expecting to be judged by the equally terrible figure of Christ, and their Christian faith was largely one of dread. Life’s calamities - disease, death, droughts, plagues, floods and so on - were seen as God’s punishments for human sin. And because life was so precarious, they thought that God must be very angry with his human creatures. For mercy they looked to their local saints and to the figure of the Virgin Mary, who might intercede on their behalf. It was only in the 13th and 14th centuries that Jesus came again to be thought of by many as manifesting divine love, which is how most of us think today. Now is it God’s nature that has changed through the centuries or is it our human images of God that have changed? Clearly, it is our human images of God.

So in other words, between ourselves and God as God is in God’s ultimate transcendent being there is a screen of varied and changing human images of God - not graven images but mental images, or pictures, or concepts of God. And our awareness of God is always through and in terms of these human images. We worship God through our own images of God, to which our human ideas and cultural assumptions have inevitably contributed. These mental images not only differ considerably between religions, but also within a given religion. In fact if we could see into one another’s minds now I believe we would find a great range of images or concepts of God in this room.

But how can this be? The basic principle involved was stated long ago by Thomas Aquinas when he said ‘Things known are in the knower according to the mode of the knower’ (S.T., II/II, Q.1, art 2). This is a principle that was taught in a much more massively systematic way by the philosopher Immanuel Kant, and which has been strongly confirmed since by cognitive psychology and the sociology of knowledge. ‘Things known are in the knower according to the mode of the knower’, and the mode of the knower differs as between the different religions and the different cultures and histories within which they have arisen. This, I suggest, is the basic clue to a religious understanding of the fact of many religions each producing, so far as we can tell, equally valuable fruits in human life.

I’ve been concentrating so far mainly on the question of salvation. But what, more briefly, about the different and often incompatible teachings of the different religions, what about their conflicting truth-claims? For example, for Christians God is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whereas for Jews and Muslims God is strictly unitary; for Christians Jesus was the second person of a divine Trinity, whereas for people of all the other religions he was a great prophet or teacher or guru but was not literally God walking on earth. Again, for the monotheisms the ultimate reality, the absolutely real, is an infinite person but for Buddhism, for example, the ultimate reality is not a person but a reality beyond the scope even of the personal/impersonal distinction. And of course on a less basic level there are innumerable other differences between the teachings of the different faiths. But how can this be if they are all responses to the same ultimate reality that in Christian language we call God?

Well, if we accept the distinction between the divine reality as it is in itself and as variously imaged by us, then our Christian doctrines are about the ultimate divine reality as conceived by us, in distinction from that reality as it is in itself. And the different truth-claims of the different religions are claims about
different manifestations of the Ultimate to different human mentalities formed within different human cultures and different streams of religious history. As such, they do not contradict one another. That Muslims, for example, think of the divine, and experience the divine, as the Qur’anic Allah is not incompatible with the fact that Christians think of the divine, and experience the divine, as the heavenly Father of Jesus’ teaching, or more theologically as the Holy Trinity. In other words, what are called the conflicting truth-claims of the religions do not in fact conflict, because they are claims about different human awarenesses of the divine, made possible by the fact that, to quote Aquinas again, things known are in the knower according to the mode of the knower.

But there is something else important to be said before I finish. There is a valid sense in which, for those of us who are Christians, Christianity
is the only true religion, the only one for us. For we have been formed by it. It has created us in its own image, so that it fits us and we fit it as no other religion can. And so for most of us who are Christians it is the right religion, and we should stick with it and live it out to the full. But we should also be aware that exactly the same is true for people formed by the other world religions. They also should stick with the religion that has formed them and live it out, though in each case gradually filtering out its ingrained claim to unique superiority.


So the bottom line, I am suggesting, is this: we should live wholeheartedly within our own faith, so long as we find it to be sustaining and a sphere of spiritual growth, but we should freely recognise the equal validity of the other great world faiths for
their adherents, and we can also be enriched by some of their insights and spiritual practices. We should not see the other religions as rivals or enemies, or look down upon them as inferior, but simply as different human responses to the divine reality, formed in the past within different strands of human history and culture. And we should seek a friendship with people of other faiths which will do something to defuse the very dangerous religious absolutism that is being exploited in almost all the conflicts going on in the world today. To support religious absolutism is to be part of the problem which afflicts humanity. But we can be part of the solution by setting an example of transcending that absolutism.

SOURCE:
http://www.johnhick.org.uk/article2.html

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"Moving Beyond A Human Image Of God" by Jeffery Small

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When you think of God, what images come to mind?

Do you think of a supernatural being who sits outside the four dimensional (space + time) universe who created us as a potter might? Do you picture God as a supreme designer who built the intricate laws of the universe as a watchmaker assembles a fine timepiece? Do you see God as a grand chess master who has an elaborate plan for the figures on his cosmic chessboard? Do you imagine the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where the outstretched hand of Michelangelo’s God (who looks like someone’s muscular grandfather!) reaches toward Adam?

Many popular images of God resemble a Zeus-like figure, who lives in “heaven” rather than on Olympus. When we think about it, this God seems a lot like us, only much more powerful. He has emotions: he can be a “jealous God”; he can be an “angry God” or a “loving God.” We may address him as Father, Lord, or Judge. We even use the personal (and masculine) pronoun “He” in referring to God, but we capitalize it to show that “He” is greater than we are.

In other words this God is strongly anthropomorphic, a Greek word whose roots mean “human” and “form.” In the fifth century BC, Greek philosopher Xenophanes wrote, “If horses had gods, they would look like horses.”

To me these classical images of God are fraught with problems. As a teenager, when my interest in science blossomed, I began to question the theology I had been taught as a child. Why would God allow millions of children to starve in Africa or die in a genocide, yet “He” just might intervene on behalf of our favorite sports team if we prayed hard enough? Why is it that two and three thousand years ago (when human understanding of science was very different than it is today) during the age of the Biblical writers, God seemed to intervene in the world a great deal more than he does today: causing worldwide floods, parting seas, speaking from burning bushes, stopping the sun from moving across the sky, raising dead people, and sending angels to earth to deliver his message?

The common view of God as a supernatural being like us, only more powerful, is one of the principal reasons behind the rise of atheism in the Western world and the spiritual apathy of many young people today. It certainly contributed to my own questioning of the usefulness of religion. This view of God opens itself up to critiques from the likes of eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume who pointed out the logical fallacies in the traditional arguments for the existence of God, Sigmund Freud who characterized such a God as nothing more than a “projected father figure,” and twenty-first century biologist Richard Dawkins who points out the incompatibility of this God with science.

Our modern lifestyles depend on scientific principles working, not some of the time, but all of the time: would you fly in an airplane if the laws of aerodynamics only worked occasionally? We take for granted the physics behind our cell phones and TVs. We understand that solar eclipses are not a divine omen in which God turns day into night, but are predictable astronomical events caused by the moon passing between the sun and the earth. We have faith in the biological principles that allow for the medicines we create to treat our diseases - diseases that we understand today are not caused by evil spirits or divine punishment but by bacteria, viruses, and biochemical processes.

In this post-modern age in which reason and science underlie every aspect of our daily lives, which concept will lose out in the battle between God and science? I think we are seeing (unfortunately) that God is losing this battle.

Even more problematic than the incompatibility of the classical view of God with modern scientific and logical thought is that this God opens “Himself” up to the critique of being an incompetent watchmaker, an unartistic potter, and a cruel chess master. The world we live in is a messy, complicated, imperfect place, ripe with tragedy, sickness, and injustice. The traditional view of God leads to the philosophical problems caused by the existence of evil, the reality of human suffering, and the multiple religions around the world with opposing doctrines about God. How can such a God be omniscient, omnipotent, and loving at the same time?

Finally, for me, the ultimate critique of this God is that “He” is too small. A God that is seen as some kind of intelligent being living in an extra-dimensional heaven becomes just one more thing in the universe (although a powerful thing nonetheless). A God that chooses when to tinker in the workings of the universe and when not to is not only capricious but begs the question of why God didn’t make things right the first time around? In other words, this God is finite.
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Does this critique of our traditional understanding of God mean that the only alternative is the atheist one?

That is what writers like Dawkins, Hitchins, and Harris want us to believe. I actually agree with much of their criticism of religion, but ultimately, I think that the version of God they are trying to disprove is nothing more than a straw-man.

As much as my rational mind wanted to reject God, something deep in my core sensed a fundamental meaning to existence. What I needed was a different way to conceive of God that didn’t require me to close my eyes to scientific knowledge, to reason, and to personal experience. How could I be true to both my intellect and my soul: my mind that must see the world in logical terms and my heart which yearns for a greater spiritual connection? In my next post, I’ll explain how my current view of God attempts to reconcile these seemingly conflicting goals. But for now, I’m interested to hear from you.

How then do you think about God in a way that works in the 21st century?

SOURCE:

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-small/the-problem-with-god-toda_b_814932.html


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“Rediscovering Fire” by Ursula King - Religion, Science and Mysticism in Teilhard de Chardin

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[Teilhard's] vision of love is a spirituality that celebrates the oneness of creation, a spirituality that acknowledges love as the clearest understanding we have of God, of ourselves, of history, and of the cosmos.
— David Tracy, theologian

Teilhard was one of the first scientists to realize that the human and the universe are inseparable. The only universe we know about is the universe that brought forth the human. Teilhard understood this. He understood that the human story and the universe story identified with each other. The immersion into the deep creative powers of the universe is the most direct contact a human can have with the divine. Such is thespirituality that Teilhard makes available to us. A spirituality that is rooted not in the spatial cosmos of Ptolemy, but in the time-developmental universe that the scientists have detected.
— Thomas Berry, geologian

A VISION OF FIRE
The day will come when after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
— from The Evolution of Chastity

PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN'S vision was one of consuming fire, kindled by the radiant powers of love. It was a mystical vision, deeply Christian in origin and orientation. Yet it broke through the boundaries of traditional orthodoxies -- whether those of science or religion -- and grew into a vision which is global in intent.

His deepest desire was to see the essence of things, to find their heart, and probe into the mystery of life, its origin and goal. In the rhythm of life and its evolution, at the center of the cosmos and the world, Teilhard believed, is a divine center, a living heart beating with the fiery energy of love and compassion. Now, the heart is really a fleshly reality But the image of this very flesh, this concentration of living, breathing matter, came to symbolize for Teilhard the very core of the spirit.

His entire outlook on life was profoundly mystical, yet his mysticism was firmly grounded in contemporary scientific research. For Teilhard the mystic, seer, and believer, the immense research efforts and advances of contemporary science, despite their negative side effects and the new ethical problems they cause, ultimately lead to the adoration and worship of something greater than ourselves, to the celebration of and surrender to divinity, to the heart and soul of the world.

[Teilhard's] ideas were developed in direct living contact with the world, especially the Earth, the stuff of the Earth. As a scientist in the fields of geology and paleontology, he was in constant contact with the world of rocks and stones, fossils and bones, plants and animals. But he also was in touch with many different places and peoples. All of these were, for Teilhard, the tangible concrete stuff of the universe.

While he worked on his scientific papers in his laboratory and office, he created most of his religious and philosophical writings in an unusual setting different from most academics, far removed from any library. His first essays were written in the trenches of the First World War, in woods and farmhouses, whenever there was respite from battle. In later years, he often composed the final version of his essays on the long boat journeys between Asia, America, and Europe, or during vacation time in his family home in the old land.

As he wrote in his 1918 essay "MY UNIVERSE":
"It seems to me that every effort I have made, even when directed to a purely natural object, has always been a religious effort. Substantially, it has been one single effort. At all times, in all I've done, I'm conscious that my aim has been to obtain the absolute. I would never, I believe, have had the courage to busy myself for the sake of any other end. Science, which means all form of human activity, and religion have always been one and the same thing for me. Both have been, so far as I am concerned, the pursuit of one and the same object."
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The turmoil of the war clarified his ambition. It made him realize in a new way, that matter was charged with life and spirit. He felt so deeply, so vividly, a love of matter, of life. Life is never mistaken, he said, either about its route, or its destination.

This interesting quotation points out the twofold way in which Teilhard refers to science. On one hand, he mentions specific natural sciences such as physics and chemistry (which he taught in his early years) and geology and paleontology, which were his specialties of research. But he also understood science in a much more generalized sense: as any ordered unified effort of inquiry, and as the systematic knowledge arising from such efforts. In this way his approach to an understanding of the universe, of an ordered cosmos, was larger and more comprehensive than that of traditional science.

Teilhard believed that however much science had achieved, analysis alone, if it was not also related to synthesis, was not enough. He criticized science as often being too reductionist, too constricted by little questions without asking bigger ones about direction and meaning -- and about philosophical and ethical concerns relating to our responsibilities in being human.

For Teilhard, the universe is not simply an object of scientific inquiry. It is a reality passionately loved and embraced, something alive, throbbing, and pulsating with energy and growth. He refers to the mother Earth, the terra mater, as our matrix and ground. And he refers to the Earth womb from which we grow and in which we have lasting roots; an Earth whose immensity, richness, and diversity of life he approached with deep reverence and a deep sense of wonder.

At the human level, Teilhard's world is marked by experiences of suffering and joy, warmth and love, celebration and ecstasy. One has to be attuned to the tonality of his feeling, to the metaphors of fire and music, which he so often uses. He speaks about a note, a melody, a sound, a rhythm that beats for him at the heart of the universe. He also speaks of the spark of fire, the glow, the leaping up of flame, the blaze that sets alive and consumes.

These attitudes are summed up in a passage of The Heart of Matter, where he writes; "Throughout my life, by means of my life, the world has little by little caught fire in my sight, until a flame all around me, it has become almost luminous from within. Such has been my experience in contact with the Earth. The diaphany of the divine at the heart of the universe on fire. Christ, the heart, a fire capable of penetrating everywhere, and gradually spreading everywhere."

FORGED IN THE TRENCHES

TEILHARD FELT INSPIRED and compelled to write his first essays against the battle fires of the First World War. Almost daily at the boundary of life and death, he sensed an urgency of leaving his intellectual testament. He felt he had seen something new which he wanted to pass on to others. From the very first, he wanted to communicate the fire of his vision.

We can ask, therefore, what is this fire? How was it ignited and kept alive? What does this fire mean, and what energies and powers does it transmit? And how can we discover this fire today, kindle it in ourselves and others, feed it and keep it alive? What does he mean by discovering fire, again, a second time?

The war experience immersed him, as he himself wrote, in a baptism of fire, and proved a crucible in which the full power of this vision was forged. Five years of trench warfare brought all his different experiences together into a single process of spiritual transformation.

It is astonishing the amount of work he managed to get done between all the exhaustion of battle. With heightened sensibility (and some may say, extraordinary detachment) he went for lonely walks between battles and reflected in solitude. What was the meaning of all life, and of his own? Where was God on these fields of death and battle? What was humanity heading for? Where was it going? How did all these diverse human groups on both sides of the battle line ...belong to one human family? What was the role of the Christian faith in the immense cosmic process that is the evolution of life?

He started a journal, made notes, wrote letters, and composed a series of stirring essays. He wrote them for himself, but he also wrote them for the world. For he wanted to make others see what he felt, saw, and believed. His journal contains the seeds of his thought, the initial plans for his essays, later written out with a meticulous hand in full lengths between the spells of battle. The turmoil of the war clarified his ambition. It made him realize in a new way, that matter was charged with life and spirit. He felt so deeply, so vividly, a love of matter, of life. Life is never mistaken, he said, either about its route, or its destination.

In the midst of these terrible battles of the First World War, surrounded by the experience of death, Teilhard opens his first essay with this extraordinary affirmation, "I am writing these lines from an exuberance of life, and the yearning to live. It is written to express an impassioned vision of the Earth, and in an attempt to find a solution for the doubts that beset my action. Because I love the universe, its energies, its secrets, and its hopes, and because at the same time I am dedicated to God, the only origin, the only issue, and the only end. I want to express my love of matter and life, and reconcile it, if possible, with the unique adoration of the only absolute and definitive god-head." ("Cosmic Life" from Writings in the Time of War.)

HARNESSING THE ENERGIES OF LOVE
THE SYMBOLISM OF FIRE was to occur in his writings again and again in the years to come. Nowhere is this vision more radiant and empowering than in the description of his mystical experiences. They truly express a vision of fire which filled him with wonder and amazement, ecstasy and joy, and made him see the world burst into flames. It is this fire which he wanted to pass on and kindle in others. His vision of fire was one of spiritual transformation drawn from the insides of both science and religion. The universe in evolution, studied in great detail in his scientific work, stimulated his zest for being. His Christian faith made him see the universal presence of Christ in all things.

Teilhard loved the Earth and its peoples. He loved his church and his order. And he was filled with the fire of love for the ever-great Christ. For him, the symbol of fire meant the warmth and radiance of love and light, the energy to fuse and transform everything. But fire is, of course, ambivalent. I t can destroy as well as transform. In Teilhard's understanding, it is the transforming power of the energies of love which alone can create a truly human community and provide it with its strongest points. Thus, the fire of love may be the only energy capable of extinguishing the threat of another fire, namely that of universal conflagration and destruction.

He considered the phenomenon of religion as central to human evolution, and the phenomenon of spirituality as the key element in religion. At the center of spirituality he perceived the phenomenon of mysticism, which he distinguished into different types. The core of mysticism, the most important and energizing type, was mysticism centered on love, a mysticis