I want to start our conversation with two questions. The first, what is it that you build your life on? And I don’t mean some abstract notion that doesn’t really impact your life. I mean the thing that if it started to crack, if it started to shake, if it started to wobble, then you’re whole, entire life begins to crumble around you. It might be your career, your family, your feelings, your finances. It might be your sense of peace or control or power or competence or feeling protected. The second, how do you go about interpreting the things you encounter in your existence? And I don’t just mean you feel sad some days or you like watching Game of Thrones to distract yourself. I mean your near and far brushes with suffering and evil. I mean the feelings of hopelessness you get or the longing for meaning and connection that is at the base of your being. What do we build our lives on? And how do we view our existence?
I know these are big questions. They’re questions we all try to avoid looking into too much. But if we are to try live fully human lives, to live up to our full human potential, to find the love, peace, hope and sense of aliveness we all know intuitively is possible, it’s not enough to just be against certain things. We need to find what we’re for. We need to confront the deepest questions and allow ourselves to be opened up by those questions. Most of us don’t like to open ourselves up because we’re afraid that there may not be any answers. That we may be even more alone in this vast universe. That what lies beyond this world and this life is something to be terrified of. But what if the answers to these questions instead gave us hope? What if they grounded our being and existence?
Paradox: Joy and Sorrow
This life is a mystery. It is a paradox. Just on Wednesday we were celebrating Eli’s fifth birthday. We went to the zoo. There was so much wonder, excitement and joy. He’s been constructing these lego sets that he got for his birthday and asking questions about the universe and animals and nature. Then we went to a farewell party of a kinder friend who is heading back to New Zealand. There was dancing and games and food and laughter. Ivy was even dancing and freezing in the statues game. Then, that night, once the kids were finally in bed, Emma had a phone call. Her ‘baba’ had a stroke. She had been rushed to hospital in an ambulance. One side of her body was unresponsive and she was unable to communicate. It was a shock and a whole lot of emotions started to swirl. The hypothetical dominoes that start to topple over. Things left unsaid. And so Emma wrote a letter for her dad to read. Just in case this was the last chance. Baba couldn’t talk, could only moan. But as the letter was read she burst into tears. And it’s hard for me to think of a more deep, meaningful, beautiful moment than that. What a paradox. This is what life dishes up to us. The wonder and excitement of a 5 year old birthday. And the depth and crisis of the suffering of a loved one. What do we do with a day like that??
I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago and they were interviewing Rebecca Solnit, someone who searches for the hidden, transformative histories inside events that we describe as disasters like post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. The media outlets were reporting danger, looting, murders, but what she found were neighbours helping each other. Gang members, helping the elderly. That through the chaos and destruction humans don’t actually descend into their animal/predator instincts, but instead “…when all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up to become their brothers’ keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amidst death, chaos, fear and loss.”
Perhaps the problem isn’t so much what’s out there, but in here – it’s what we build our lives on and how we view it all. If we see the universe and our existence in the right way, there are possibilities of hope and life hidden everywhere.
Our community has been on a long journey. Many of us came out of contexts where the shape of community life, the depth of conversations, the expectations placed on us, and the vision, values and aims of Christian community didn’t feel right, they didn’t resonate with our being and, in some cases, caused some dramatic conflict. And when you’re immersed and in the thick of cultures and relational matrices, it’s very hard to see what the problems are. It takes time and distance to disentangle yourself from all the social and emotional ties, to begin to see clearly and to consider alternate possibilities.
For many of us it’s taken a while to deconstruct and unpack the baggage that comes with our personal histories. The deconstruction can be confusing, isolating and hard to understand. Sometimes it can be extraordinarily painful and life changing. Yet without this deconstruction, there can be no reconstruction. Without leaning into your own woundedness, without exploring your own captivity, there can be no healing and no freedom. It is this deconstruction and reconstruction cycle that is absolute necessary if we are go make the most of the gift that is life. This reconstruction process has been liberating and transformative for Emma and I, and our entire family, and our hope is that you too might find hidden depth, beauty and meaning in your own reconstruction.
To help in the reconstruction we are using Richard Rohr’s articulation of an alternate orthodoxy. A collection of seven themes that rearticulate a way of embracing Christian faith, of finding life, hope, peace and flourishing. We spent a month skimming the surface of the themes and a lot of the ideas really seemed to resonate with a lot of people. There was excitement, interest, provocation, depth and insight. This month we dive deeper into two of the key themes that piqued our interest: foundation and frame.
Rohr defines foundation like this:
“If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of but is the Ground of Being and is on our side.”
This has enormous, profound and beautiful implications. For many of us, growing up in the Christian world, or even an agnostic or atheistic world, the universe is not benevolent. The universe is not loving. The universe is broken, distorted, destructive, or vast and meaningless. God was someone to be very scared of. You don’t want to be judged by God and sent to hell for eternity. You wanted to make sure that you’re on God’s side and you do that by having the right beliefs and saying a ten-second popcorn prayer. And God is not so much the Ground of Being, as he is the bad Santa who keeps a list of who is naughty and nice and is willing to torture people who don’t discover and love him.
For Rohr, the term ‘God’ is a stand in for reality. And how we see ‘reality’ has enormous consequences and implications for how we see the world, how we see ourselves and how we live everyday. The problem is that if we don’t analyse our construction of God, if we don’t question it, it often just becomes an assimilation of our parents or other authority figures. God becomes about punishments, cold, withdrawn, male, big on consequences. The issue is that none of our parents measure up to God, no matter how good they were. The Bible actually reveals that God is more like a loving parent who runs towards us even when we have gone against him. God is the ‘Divine Flow’ that sustains, regenerates and undergirds all things. We don’t have to enter into the ‘presence of God’, through some special ritual or mediated by some set apart priest. We are always in the presence of God, he is in and above and beneath us. We can’t get more of it, we can’t monopolise it or commodify it, we can only become more aware of it. Our imagining of God either creates us, inspires us, moves us, helps us become more human or it defeats and destroys us.
In light of the benevolent universe and God as the ground of being, below are some of the things we may have deconstructed, with an alternative reconstructed way of viewing those same things:
|Prayer||Prayer changes God’s mind if we do it enough and in the right way.||Prayer is about changing our mind to the mind of Christ. It is about unlearning and loosening our attachment to ourselves so that Reality can get at us. The closer we get to the Light the more we see our own darkness,but God is more for us than we are for ourselves..|
|Scriptures||We read the Bible as a flat, univocal text telling us who God is and what we should do. Everything is literal, true and without error.||We should approach the text with ‘expansive sacred question’s: What is God doing here? What does this say about who God is? What does this say about how I relate to such a God? We enter into the wrestle of the Biblical text as we try to understand who we are and who God is.|
|Christ||God killed Jesus so that he could forgive humanity for their sin paying the price in a heavenly transaction (divine child abuse?)||God spilled blood to get through to us, to show how wrong humans were about God and being human, exposing deception and demonstrating unconditional love. God is found wherever pain is – standing on both sides of every war.|
|Conversion||Say a prayer once in your life and believe certain theological idea to get you into heaven when you die.||No one can do the thinking or the journey for us – each person has to do that themselves. It will look differently for each generation. God created us to love us fiercely and hope we would return his love freely.|
|Holy Spirit||The Holy Spirit is a force that descends on special people in special times to help them to do special things.||The Holy Spirit turns the formless void into a garden, science reveals that the relational space between particles sounds like the Spirit. A Christian is one who is animated by the Spirit, it’s not about the right awareness, language or group, but living in the right reality.|
Rohr then defines frame like this:
“There is only one Reality. Any distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane is a bogus one.”
Most of us have grown up in worlds where there was this big distinction between what is holy and unholy. The business of religion, even Christian religion, was to erect this big wall and to say those within the wall were the holy ones and those outside the wall were the unholy ones. You then become a customer, enter into the walls do some buying and selling of God, make yourself right and return to your otherwise untouched lives. Yet for Jesus, the Pharisee, who separated himself from unholy things, was the one who missed the point and it was the tax collector, who was flawed and corrupted yet uttered a humble prayer, who was the one to be emulated. Sin isn’t so much about obeying rules, following the law, being outwardly perfect. The only sin is making something god that is not God. When Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple, it was a response to those selling purity and access to God (Luke 19:45-46) – making something god that is not God, or making something holy that is unholy.
The key here isn’t so much being able to distinguish between the holy or unholy and join the right side, but to see everything as sacred. If you dive deep enough, if you embrace the questions, you begin to see that divine grace undergirds it all. Whenever you dwell on the surface, in the superficial, you miss the point and misuse good things to do evil, but when you plumb the depths or profundity of things you begin to see that there is only one reality and that God is the ground of being itself. This is what Rohr calls the ‘mysticism of ordinary life’. This is not about becoming more ‘spiritual’ beings, but it is about becoming human beings. The biblical revelation is clearly saying that we are already spiritual beings, we just don’t know it yet. There is no natural and supernatural – it’s all miraculous. When Jesus speaks, he constantly uses physical grounding points for metaphor. You can think of the ravens, or the lilies, or the trees, coins, or people. Jesus does not come to communicate an eternal doctrine of truths but to point out what is real, what lasts, what is beautiful and what matters.
In light of there being only one reality, below are some of the things we may have deconstructed, with an alternative reconstructed way of viewing those same things:
|Incarnation||The incarnation is God entering the physical world from outside and taking the form of the human in Jesus.||The first incarnation was at creation, the second was in Jesus. Jesus reveals that God is everywhere and we can’t control him. Matter and spirit are two sides of the same coin – revealing one another.|
|Heaven||Heaven is some kind of life after death, beyond the physical, where our soul goes when we die.||Heaven is an utterly new creation, a transformation into Love that is something that can happen in this world and is God’s final chapter for all human history. Christians should be optimists.|
|Mystery||Mystery is something to be afraid of, certainty and correct doctrine is true faith.||We need to have humility and patience before mystery and paradox. God hides inside the seeming insignificant – only the humble can find him.|
|Creation||God exists outside of the created world and intervenes from outside.||God exists inside all things. Creation is not a commodity, it is the very Body of God. Christians should have no problem with evolution – grace is in the DNA of all things|
|Holy Spirit||The Holy Spirit is up and out there, descending or coming at special times and in special places.||God plants a bit of himself within each of us, and does the loving in us towards our neighbour, enemy, the broken parts of ourselves and back to God. Scientifically, the Spirit is equated with the space between particles.|
|Kingdom of God||The gospel is about theological arguments and a contest for rewards and punishment in the future outside of this world.||There are two worlds – one of power, the other of love. We can live in the world of love here, now, in this physical world. The Kingdom of God is the final and big picture where all will be revealed in the love and mercy of God.|
|Church||Church is an institution with clergy, elders, budgets, property, programs, preaching and power.||Deep church is something shared between a small group of believers – two or three gathered in Jesus’ name (Matthew 18:20).|
|Questions||Questions are the enemy because they might rock our faith in our certain doctrines.||Most stay trapped in the first half of life, focused on survival, not turning our minds to the highest questions. We awaken our deepest and most profound selves through questions at the edges of our life. We grow spiritually more by doing it wrong than doing it right, by embracing imperfection.|
One Reality – Benevolence
Deconstruction is an important step, but you can’t stay in the deconstruction space forever. You can’t live well, at peace, with love, with hope, by defining yourself by what you’re against rather than what you’re for. Luckily for us there is a possibility of a reconstruction. There is a thoroughly Christian foundation to build a beautiful life on and a thoroughly Christian frame through which to view the world and our existence. There is only one Reality: it is a benevolent universe, God is the ground of being and is on our side.
Below you can go into some more detail on some of the ideas we’ve started exploring:
“If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of but is the Ground of Being and is on our side.”
Our image of God creates or defeats us. Rohr speaks of the word ‘God’ as a stand in for reality. And how we see ‘reality’ has huge practical implications on how we live.
If we don’t analyse our interpretation of God, it can often just become an assimilation of our parent or other authority figures (punitive, cold or withdrawn, male, big on consequences). Most Christians continue to hold to the bad ‘Santa’ depiction of God who keeps a list of who is naughty or nice and is willing to torture people who don’t discover and love him.
Actually, the Bible reveals that God is like a loving parent who runs towards us even when we have gone against him. More broadly, he is the Divine Flow that sustains, regenerates and undergirds all things.
Our picture of God will have a huge impact upon how we see the world and ourselves. When we categorise God with purely male gendered qualities, we miss the complexity and wholeness of God as what it means to be both male and female in perfect balance. He is beyond gender. Mother and Father.
Story: The Lady of Guadalupe. The importance of the Eternal Feminine.
Rohr speaks of true knowledge of God as both an ‘abyss’ and ‘ground’. We have been created to participate in a larger and shared life (“Let us make humans in our image.” Gen 1:26) and we can do nothing to ‘deserve’ or ‘earn’ his love. When we come to knowledge of our place in this universe receiving radical grace just like everyone else, we are both floored in the face of the mystery that we can never truly understand (abyss) and find ourselves standing on something solid to move out from (ground).
We are always in the presence of God, he is in and above and beneath us. We can only become more aware of it.
Prayer and Contemplation
Purpose of prayer: prayer is always about changing our mind to the mind of Christ. When we open ourselves up to this divine participation, our prayer is ‘true’ and will always be answered (Matthew 7:7-11) because we are simply echoing the will of God.
St Francis of Asissi used to spend whole nights praying ‘Who are you, O God? And who am I?’ These open-ended questions are borne out of humility, mystery and trust.
Rohr speaks of this more as a recognition that prayer is happening and you just happen to be the channel and instrument. When your mind, heart and body are all present that full presence is prayer. God is able use us in that moment when ‘we’ get out of the way.
Contemplation is about unlearning more than learning. It is loosening our attachment to ourselves so that Reality can get at us. The lesson in silence is that we can be instruments before we perform or fail. The silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching and using us.
The closer we get to the Light, the more we see our own darkness. We become more aware of our shadow selves, our illusions and pretensions. Yet this knowledge is discovered in the safety and grounding of God and only invites us deeper into the mystery as we humbly follow.
God is more for us than we are for ourselves, and we need prayer and contemplation to realise and draw strength from that. Jesus struggled with doubts, fears and lack of strength but he withdrew into prayer to combat these weaknesses.
Reading the Scriptures
When we read the Scriptures, we can approach the text with restrictive Ego questions (‘is this literal?’ ‘what is the right thing for me to do?’) or expansive Sacred questions (‘What is God doing here?’ ‘What does this say about who God is?, ‘What does this say about how I can relate to such a God?’).
Rohr provides a foundational way of approaching and interpreting all of Scripture wisely: If we are reading the text and we see God operating at a lesser level than the best person we know, it is not authentic revelation. Because God is Love (1 John 4:16) and the Source of love itself. This provides a much more satisfying framework for interpreting the tricky passages of the Old Testament where the evil and violence is attributed to God. The authors have created God in their own image
The crucified Jesus forever reveals to us how wrong both religious and political authorities can be (framing he who was perfect (Hebrews 1:3) as sin itself (Romans 8:3-4)), and how much we also can get it wrong (the crowd chooses a common thief to save over Jesus). As a result of the cross we know that God is not watching human pain, nor apparently always stopping it, as much as God is found hanging with us alongside all human pain. God is found wherever the pain is – standing on all sides of every war, with the pain of the perpetrator and the victim alike. This was not some heavenly transaction, an act of a Cosmic child abuser sending his only son to pay the price for humanity, but rather an attempt to expose deception and break through our defenses, demonstrating solidarity and incredible love.
So why did Jesus have to die? Rohr posits that until someone dies, we don’t ask bigger questions. Jesus ‘paid a price’ to the human soul so that we could break through to a new kind of God. Far from the human understanding that we needed to ‘spill blood’ in order to get to God, God actually spilled blood to get to us. This is the Gospel, and it sounds too good to be true.
As humans, our concept of love is based in some way on performance or the attractiveness of the object. It is hard for us to comprehend that we don’t have to ‘do’ anything to be ‘deserving’ of God’s love. Divine love does not make distinctions between persons and has a way of making each person feel like ‘God’s favourite’. It is received only as a result of surrender, not performance.
Rohr looks at the many interactions with Jesus and humanity (healings, exorcisms etc) and proposes that all of these stories are present-tense concerns for human suffering in this world. They are not as the result of good behaviour or even necessarily faith on the part of the sufferer, but a righting of relationship, change in self-image and courage that the intervention created (as a bigger story). God deeply cares about the human condition now.
Conversion and Cosmic Christ
No one can do our thinking for us. We cannot just adopt the journey or lessons of another (as a grandchild rather than a child of God). Each generation has to discover for itself, wrestle with the truth and realise the beauty of the Gospel in the context of its own culture.
Some of us have fallen in love with historical Jesus and have not followed him through the death and resurrection journey as the risen Christ. The Jesus that we now participate in and are graced and redeemed by is the risen Jesus who has become the Christ (Acts 2:36) which is an inclusive statement for us and creation too. The Cosmic Christ is now in all of us, we are his hands and feet in the world.
God created us to love us fiercely and hope that we would return his love freely. We mirror this as we come to create children of our own – loving them with all our being and hoping that they will come to love us in return. In this way we can understand the heart of God.
When we have an overwhelming experience of God’s love for us and the realisation that he pursues us agressively, seducing us out of our unworthiness – we can do little but to respond by loving those around us.
The Bible is an interplay between our fear (of what we cannot control, particularly God) and faith. When interacting with us, one of the most common phrases is ‘Do not be afraid’. All we can do is remain present and open in the face of God’s invitation and announcement of the Divine Presence in all of us.
Rudolph Otto says that in an experience of the Holy we are caught between the mysterium tremendum (scary mystery) and the mysterium fascinosum (alluring mystery). The first is overwhelming and makes us want to run away because it is too much, but the alluring mystery simultaneously pulls us forward to something amazing. It is a paradoxical experience.
Christian Mysticism leads us to the truth that ‘my deepest me is God’, as St Catherine of Genoa shouted in the streets. We are pulled into an experience of God as imminent, present, here, now, safe and within me.
The Holy Spirit has been hovering over the chaos since the beginning (Genesis 1:2), turning the formless void into a Garden of Eden. Science is revealing to us that the energy of the universe is not in the particles or planets but in the relational space between them. This relational space is so difficult to control, predict or inhibit. Rohr suggests this sounds an awful lot like Spirit.
In our lives, the Spirit is totally unmerited grace. She initiates and is experienced as intimacy, enlightenment, joy and fire and the power to love beyond boundaries and ethnicities. She is presented as surprising, elusive and free yet totally given. We have no hope of controlling this energy, but must simply surrender, enjoy and share.
A Christian is one who is animated by the Holy Spirit, whether they know it or not and regardless of whether they belong to the ‘right’ group and use Jesus language. It is not about language or even awareness but living in the right reality.
Rohr makes a point about the magic of three, in human relationships (two expressing their love in and through a child/shared interest) and in the Trinity, where The Holy Spirit is whatever the Father and Son are in love with; excitement and joy about everything that has been created!
The relationship is the fundamental beauty and meaning in the Trinity. It is a dynamism, a flow – energy and action more than a concept.
Paul says that ‘God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Where human strength is about autonomy or self-sufficiency, God’s weakness is about letting go, about shared intimacy, mutual dependence and interdependence. It is total disclosure, surrender and vulnerability.
All material taken from ‘Yes, And: Daily Meditations’ by Richard Rohr.
‘There is only one Reality. Any distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane is a bogus one.’
All religion begins by making a false distinction between the holy and the seemingly unholy. This becomes the very ‘business’ of religion, keeping customers coming back and exchanging in the ‘buying’ and ‘selling’ of God. For Jesus, the Pharisee (the one who separated himself from unholy things) missed the point, while the tax collector (flawed, corrupted but with a humble prayer) was the one to be emulated.
Idolatry (making something god that is not God, or making the means into the end) is the only sin. Jesus’ angry reaction in the Temple was in response to those attempting to sell worthiness, purity and access to God (Luke 19:45-46).
Everything is profane if you live on the surface of it, and everything is sacred if you go into the depths of it – even your sin.
The distinction then, is not secular/sacred, but whether you dwell on the surface (superficiality) or the depths (profundity) of things. Staying on the surface we miss the point and misuse good things to do evil. When we descend we discover grace which is the ‘mysticism of ordinary life’.
It is not about becoming spiritual beings nearly as much as about becoming human beings. The biblical revelation is clearly saying that we are already spiritual beings, we just don’t know it yet.
When Jesus speaks, he constantly uses physical grounding points for metaphor (ravens, lilies, trees, coins, people). Jesus does not come to communicate an eternal doctrine but to point out what is real and unreal, what lasts and what doesn’t.
The first incarnation was that through light, water, land, sun, moon, plants, stars, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish and ‘every kind of wild beast’. “Ever since God created the world, his everlasting power and deity – however invisible- have been there for the mind to see in the things that God has made” (Romans 1:20). The second incarnation was Jesus.
Jesus came to reveal that God is available everywhere and we cannot control Him by our theologies (destruction of the Temple as a symbolic act) (John 2:21).
Russian Dolls analogy: Page 136-137 (Christ is the name for God’s plan to materialize his formless Spirit. Evolution is the reality that God creates things that continue to create themselves from the inner divine Spirit.)
In light of the incarnation(s), we realise that matter and spirit have never been separate but are merely two sides of the same coin that reveal one another. When we only understand Jesus as historical and ignore the Christ mystery we never move to realise the cosmic story that encapsulates everything.
Jesus gave us the ordinary act of eating bread and drinking wine as a way of comprehending the sacred all the time. The first incarnation in creation personifies in the body of Jesus and is spread out in space and time as a Eucharistic meal in ordinary food.
Whenever the human and divine coexist at the same time in the same person we have Christianity. Christianity has little to do with the performance of the right rituals, only the right reality.
The mystery of the incarnation is precisely the repositioning of God in the human and material world and not just part of that world. God’s will is always incarnation – either flesh is inspirited or Spirit is enfleshed.
Simone Weil: “Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is in fact possible.”
In light of the resurrection, we should not just believe in some kind of survival or immortality or just “life after death” – but an utterly new creation, a transformation into Love that is promised as something that can happen in this world and is God’s final chapter for all of history. That is why a true Christian has to be an optimist.
We need to have a humility and patience before mystery. The mystery surrounding Jesus being both fully divine and human is the ultimate paradox and every Christian and human will struggle with the meaning of it every day.
God always hides inside of littleness and seeming insignificance, so only the humble and honest can find him. He appears at the edges and in little backwaters like Bethlehem, hardly worth noticing.
This Christ names in his life and person what matters, what lasts and finally what is. He holds it all together in significance, reveals the redemptive pattern that we call the life and death of things and holds the meaning and value of our lives outside of ourselves.
Through the ages, people have intuitively known that they belonged simply by viewing the rhythms and beauty and order in the world. They lived in an inherently enchanted universe where everything belonged, including themselves. We look down on these ‘unenlightened’ ones now, yet arguably they saw the world as it was – and understood that the power of salvation was a healing and harmonising force for now, rather than a reward for good moral behaviour later.
Richard Tarnas says that all of philosophical history is a pendulum swing between the romantic and the rational and only now and then do they come together in good balance. Healthy and mature religion must again combine the best of both worlds – the mythic and non-rational to intuitively open us up to the Whole – along with the critical rational to keep us honest and humble about what we can know and what we don’t know.
The hiding place of God is the material world.
Rohr urges us to grant subjectivity to the natural world, addressing it with a title of respect as it sustains us and nurtures us. For so long we have viewed the world as a commodity, a useless or profitable wilderness leading us to framing the question in terms of consumption and capitalism. If we instead approach the earth with a contemplative mind, the world itself becomes the very Body of God. Paul puts it like this: “From the beginning until now, the entire creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8:22).
We have to realise and put into perspective the immense cosmos inside of which we are living (14.5 billion years of materialization). Like no other generation we are the first free to begin to recognize the unfathomable character of the universe. And it is still expanding!
Christians should not have any trouble with evolution because grace is found in the DNA of all things. The issue comes where we think that God is outside of everything, intervening rather than within all things. Evolution is not compatible with this (misguided) mindset.
The Holy Spirit
God plants a little bit of himself (the Holy Spirit) within each of us. God is doing the loving, in and through us, back to God, toward our neighbour and enemy alike and even towards the sad and broken parts of ourselves.
Rohr proposes that scientifically, where it is being discovered that the power is held in the space between the particles rather than the particles themselves, that this could be explained as the Holy Spirit. Great science is helping us see that we are standing in the middle of an awesome Mystery.
We have grown up in a tradition that looks for the Spirit ‘up there’, rather than in the human heart already. This material universe is the hiding and revealing place of God -the physical, animal, elements, sexuality and embodiment.
The Collective Unconscious
Aldous Huxley drew together three questions in his perennial philosophy to show that there is an underlying truth that is guiding all of humanity (in all religions) throughout the ages: (1) There is a Divine Reality substantial to the world of things, (2) there is an inner compatibility and coherence between humans and God, and (3) the goal of human existence is union with that Reality.
We have no way of experiencing or understanding things that are completely foreign to us, but God planting something of Himself within us allows us to recognise it in the world and in others. We already know the truth, we just have to return to it.
All beings (including plants and the earth) speak with one voice (Univocity of Being).
Connection to Each Other
Our goodness is not just our own, nor is our badness just our own. We carry the lived and the unlived (unhealed) lives of our parents, grandparents and ancestors. We are all connected. Living in this communion of saints means that we can take ourselves very seriously (we are part of a Great Whole) and not take ourselves too seriously (we are just a part of the Great Whole). This should free us from unnecessary individual guilt and inspire us to see our place in the great story!
The Kingdom of God: Now or Then
The transformative power of the gospel has been diluted and corrupted as we have made it more about theological arguments and a contest for reward and punishment that is removed from the physical world. We found it necessary to contain Jesus into our religion, rather than see him as Truth for all. Goodness and evil are their own reward and punishment respectively and we must leave the future to God rather than think we can judge in any way who goes where, when and how.
The Kingdom of God is first of all NOW, and therefore also later and forever. We have turned Christianity into a religion for self-protection and accumulation of power and wealth, thinking that we just have to get through to the next life. This was never the point! Authentic Christianity is a religion of constantly letting go of the false self so that the True Self in God can stand free and revealed – now.
The goal is to live in “the sacrament of the present moment”, being fully present and aware of the eternal that is tangible right now. We otherwise fall into the trap of nostalgia or a ‘carrot on a stick’ religion that is never satisfying or meaningful.
“God comes to you disguised as your life!” – Paula D’Arcy
We must have an authentic God experience which allows us to stand in a spacious and gracious place towards everyone else. It liberates us to be who we really are – ordinary and poor – just like everybody else. This freedom allows us to act from deep within rather than for or against any outside group (unless this group is motivated by the same deep Spirit).
The Kingdom of God is “the final and big picture” where all will be found and revealed inside the love and mercy of God – for everyone without exception – and for all of creation. To live with that final consciousness today is to live in the Reign of God. Our task is to learn to live lovingly in both worlds until they become one world, at least in us.
The Reign of God is not about a world without pain or mystery but simply a world where we can be in real contact with all things. God is saving history from itself, not individual humans from a cosmic mess. We are all connected in this.
There are two worlds – one is about power, the other about love. Conversion is almost entirely moving from one world to the next, loosening our grip on the need for power and tightening our grip around the motivation of love.
“The journey of the soul into God”, as St Bonaventure put it, was to learn how to see the unity of all being, how to look for this partially hidden God, and how to honor those footprints everywhere once you could see them. It was a surrender to gratitude – and also to immense confidence that you were a part of something very good.
Nowhere is there found an institutional image of church as what we have now. Deep church is invariably something shared between a small group of believers, which is probably why Jesus speaks of ‘two or three gathered in my name’ (Matthew 18:20).
Asking Better Questions
When we remain trapped in the first half of life (an important framing stage, but not one to be lived out of forever) we become focused primarily on reproduction, food and survival. We do not turn our minds to the higher questions that concern the greater whole and we can exist without actually practicing love of neighbour.
How do we awaken our deepest and most profound selves? We must ‘live and fully accept our reality’. The edges of our lives – fully experienced, suffered and enjoyed – lead us back to the center and the essence. Our journeys around and through our realities lead us to the core reality where we meet our truest selves and our truest God.
We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. A pursuit of real ‘perfection’ can only be achieved by handling all the imperfection that is everywhere (including our own). The journey of descent is the path to be taken.
We cannot be spiritual before we learn how to be human. First learn to enjoy the lilies of the field (or a simple rock) and if you can do that, you will be able to move upwards and truly love others.
Eventually we come to understand that life and death are misleading concepts. Nothing in life totally dies, it is simply transformed. It may look like a death or loss but in each case it is a becoming.