Thursday, August 7, 2008

Divinity in all

My purpose being to bridge Christianity with other spiritual traditions, I’m always happy to see common themes. One such is the idea that individual consciousness is part of the One consciousness.

First a word about “consciousness.” For me “Consciousness” can be a synonym for God, similar to Mind or Thought, and I believe Consciousness/Mind/Thought is prior to the material universe.

I’ve read and listened to more than one kind of atheist. Some only disbelieve in the god I don’t believe in either—the humanlike individual. But some atheists apparently don’t believe in immaterial reality, and that makes no sense at all.

We think, and our thoughts cannot be tracked by the brain or attributed to brain processes. They are more than movements of molecules. Furthermore, our scattered and contradictory thoughts are unified by our minds into a unified sense of self. I know that I am I, no matter how the various feelings and ideas in me conflict. Where does this self in me come from? Ken Wilber explores this mystery:
What in you right now is looking at all these objects—looking at nature and its sights, looking at the body and its sensations, looking at the mind and its thoughts? . . . As you push back into this pure Subjectivity, this pure Seer, you won’t see it as an object—you can’t see it as an object, because it’s not an object! . . . the “Seer” in you that is witnessing all these objects is itself just a vast Emptiness.
This is the Void that Buddhists talk about and the Formlessness I talk about in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky. It is infinitely greater than us but not separate from us. Thich Nhât Hanh, a Buddhist monk living in the West, likens our connection with God to a wave’s relation to the whole ocean.

Yann Martell in Life of Pi says,
The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for the water table. That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and that which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing. The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite.
The fourteenth century German mystic Meister Eckhart approached this mystery with Christian language:
The Father gives birth to me his Son.
When the Father begets his Son in me, I am that Son and no other. . . . Thus, we are all in the Son and are the Son.
The Father gives birth to his Son without cease, and I say more: he gives birth to me his Son and the same Son.
God and I we are one.
If we translate Eckhart’s patriarchal symbolism—his father/son language—to apply it universally, we hear him saying that the Source is continually begetting, and each of us is equally an offspring of the Source called God. Eckhart essentially says,
I’m just as divine as Jesus is.
His insight is that of all mystics. Whatever their tradition, mystics are transported into a state of communion with the One so complete that they lose their separateness from It, realizing full union with Divinity. I believe Jesus attained this state, but I do not believe his communion with what we call God was unique and unrepeatable.

Eckhart was excommunicated shortly after he died, but since then his preaching has been received with awe and gratitude by Catholics and others on a spiritual quest, whatever their tradition. One Christian writer said,
To go where Eckhart went is to come close to Lao Tzu [author of the Tao te Ching] and Buddha, and certainly Jesus Christ.
Now to the breathtaking revision in Connie’s comment to my post “God is not supernatural.” An extraordinary ordinary Catholic, she wrote,
I reverse the consecration prayer at Mass by saying, "in ME, through ME, and with ME.
The penetrating insight and courage in that!

My final quotation addresses the consequences of this insight. Andrew Cohen in What Is Enlightenment? writes,
You realize "I am the creator" in the midst of the fact that there are six or seven billion other creators. . . . It means within my own means, I’m going to take absolute responsibility for creating the future. It means we’re no longer deferring responsibility, no longer making excuses.
This theme implicitly gives an answer to one reader’s comment that I cannot “claim to be a Catholic Christian and then reject the divinity of Christ.” I do not reject the divinity of Christ but, as I say in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, the term "Christ" does not refer exclusively to one man who lived two thousand years ago. Divinity infuses the entire universe, and Christian doctrinal terms allude to this: "cosmic Christ" and "Incarnation."

Lincoln on myth (August 12, 2008)
Abraham Lincoln was no mythologist or theologian but he understood the human need for myth. During a discussion questioning whether George Washington was perfect, Lincoln said there was merit in having people believe it.
It makes human nature better to believe that one human being was perfect, that human perfection is possible.
I haven’t seen a better explanation of the need for and power in the mythical Jesus.

I’m reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Reading the book has become a spiritual exercise as I follow Lincoln and his contemporaries combining politics with their moral revulsion over slavery. Lincoln was an astute as well as compassionate politician and, while he advanced the realization of his ambition with canny skill, he absorbed defeats with magnanimity, despite the hurt.

He was not religious; he could not believe there is anything that survives death except being held in memory by others. But he supported his wife’s faith and remains a spiritual model for Americans and the world, prompting Edwin M. Stanton to proclaim at his death, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Lincoln is a clear example of the difference between religion and spirituality.

Florian commented:
Good beliefs are ones that are actually true. It is not good to believe what isn't true. To request belief in what is not true is an affront to our intelligence.

I think you have completely missed the fact that the power of the Christian "myth" comes from the gospel claim that it is not myth but (factual) truth. If you take away the factual truth aspect of it, I guarantee you that the power that the Christian message has displayed throughout history will fizzle out.

You don't even realize that you are a prime example of this. By giving up on literal belief, the Christian message has fizzled out of you.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This brings to mind a poem by a Sufi Master named Hafiz, titled:

WHEN I WANT TO KISS GOD

When No one is looking
I swallow deserts and clouds
And chew on mountains knowing
They are sweet bones!

When no one is looking
And I want to kiss God,
I just lift my own hand
...to ...my ...mouth.

Upon the mention of Meister Eckhart, I am reminded also that he said somewhere in his writings, "We all are mothers of God." I will try to find the actual reference. Connie

Jeanette said...

Thank you for your inspiring contributions.