Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Prince of Peace is Born Within Us

Yeshua- Our Prince of Peace
by Bill Ryan

Inner Peace
When I was growing up I loved to read Pogo, the cartoon creation of Walter Kelley, in paperback book form. One of those quotes I remember most readily from one of the Pogo characters who are on a crusade to make the world better: " We will force peace and love down their dirty rotten throats." It illustrates well how we think of peace as an external ideal that we try to impose from the outside. We can contrast this with the invitation of Jesus,
" Peace be with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives." (John 14:27) I suspect

Pogo's character might have been trying to do the world's peace instead. When I was growing up I was also taught a simple prayer that said, "let there be peace and let it begin with me." That prayer taught a simple wisdom, that I understood intuitively, but the adults in my life didn't teach me how to live and abide in that peace within. The biblical tradition teaches us the word, Shalom; - the state of peace as the well being that arises from the soul being in inner harmony with God. When I was twenty one, in a moment of crisis, I cried out for help, and the help came in the form of a memory of myself as a child of age three. In the memory I would go to my favorite hiding place and close my eyes and leave behind my thoughts, and sink into a deep and secret place inside, and there be surrounded by a peaceful Presence. That was the beginning of my adult spiritual journey.

The Center
One of my teachers along the way, the Benedictine monk, John Main, spoke of this secret place inside, "Returning to the Center within us, is the gateway to the Center of All."

So this inner peace is a state, it is a state of communion with our Divine Beloved, an original state, a state of being Home, in the locus of our belonging. This is the state that Jesus invites us to, the peace that wordly human culture cannot give us.

In the Middle Eastern Abrahamic Faiths this practice of going to the secret Center is called the Remembrance of God. An un-Forgetting, an uncovering and abiding in what is Real and Ultimate. The meaning of the word- Re-membering, is a making One, making whole.

Healing the Soul of Humankind
The healing of the soul of humankind begins and ends within us. It is a life-long process which the mystic Julian of Norwich called our "oneing" with God, "the sweet and secret work of the Holy Spirit." Julian says that all human ills spring from the fact that we seek rest where there is no rest, and that only God within us can give us rest. Jesus invites us to this rest and healing at the sanctuary of His Presence within us, "Come to me you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you a place to rest your soul." Matt. 11:28
"Abide in my love." Thomas Kelly, the Quaker mystic calls this Center, "the Inner Sanctuary," citing Meister Eckhart he says: ." Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continually return."

Communion vs. Domination Paradigm
When we turn toward the Divine Center within we enter the Kingdom, or the Realm of Communion, where all are connected all are in relationship. Jesus says it this poetically beautiful way. "On that day you will know, that I am in my Father, my Father is in me, and I in you, and you in me." (John 14:20) There can be no greater connection, no greater communion than this. The Communion relationship, abiding in one another, sharing One Life, One Being. In the Center we come home to the Communion Paradigm, we come home to the life of Unitive Whole, where we all belong to the Essential Unity from whom all things arise and all things return. In the root names of the Divine in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions this Source and Essential Unity is called "Ela', Allaha, Allah."

The realm of societal culture is instead the realm of separation, where all are disconnected. The result is living the life of the Domination paradigm. All are separate, all are over and against one another, with the result of human life ruled by greed, wars, hatred fueled by differences of ethnicity, religion, and geography. The good news of the deep Wisdom traditions throughout the world is that we can learn to live life from the unitive state, life from the center that takes us into the Center of all. Instead of defending our little egoic, tribal, religious, and ethnic circles we can live and love from the One Circle that is within and encompasses us all.

Unitive Life
The Voice from the burning bush was the "I AM" Life. The voice that spoke in Jesus "Before Abraham, I AM", is the "I AM" Life. At the Center there is no Subject and Object, all is Subject. All is held within the " I AM" life. This is the true body of Christ for whom Paul said there is no distinction. There is no gender, religion, or ethnos. There is just the "I AM" the pure being of the Divine Beloved who holds all in the realm of Communion. This is where we find our True Life, and the True Life of all beings.

One of my teachers, Thomas Hand, who taught both Zen and Christian Contemplation said, "The God experience is Oneness, and fully accepting and living the Consequences." Our inner peace is the ceaseless abiding in the Communion Realm, within and without. and our release from captivity in the Domination Paradigm.

At the center of us is true peace. The peace that Jesus gives us, is the peace of inner communion with his Being within us. Nothing can destroy it, nothing can take it away, no fear or cruelty, or violence can stand against it. It is our home, our belonging, our security, our sanctuary, our true Life, and we can learn to live our life there. In that way we become peace, and share it with all we meet in this life.

Listening and Abiding
Not everyone will be drawn to meditation or Prayer of the Heart. But all of us can learn to listen deeply. When we do, we listen to the Heartbeat of the Universe in our own Center. The psalmist says, "Be still and know that I am God." "Deep calls on Deep." We cannot stop our minds from thinking but we can sink deeper than our minds into the spaciousness of the Center, and there listen. And cultivate that orientation like a homing pigeon, to bring us back home, again and again. When we enter into that inner quiet and listen we are accessible to the God experience, we are accessible to the Communion Realm.

When we are with another, and we release from compulsion to insist that another understand and agree with what we say, and instead listen from the heart-center, then we enter the common ground of unitive love, the communion realm, and listen to understand. From that perspective peace between persons and reconciliation can happen, with or without agreement of ideas. In deep listening we are in the God experience, listening to the " I AM" who encompasses all, the common ground of the Being of all beings.

Jesus invites us to "Abide in My Love". When we make a lifetime of learning to abide in the Ultimate we are following the "little way" of Lawrence of the Resurrection, the "little way" of our Buddhist Brother, Thich Nhat Hanh, the "little way" of the Quaker Mystic Thomas Kelly.
I have a favorite prayer chant that I practice alone or in groups it goes like this:
Listen, listen, wait in silence listening, for the One from whom all Mercy Comes.

One of my favorite mentors on the journey has been the monk and writer Thomas Merton who incorporated the passion for peace and justice with the interior silence of contemplation: He reports having an extraordinary experience of "Oneness" on the
corner of 4th and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

"Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire, nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God's eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way, all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other…..At the center of our being… is the pure glory of God in us. .. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely."

The Best Place to Pray
In the year 2000 while on retreat at a monastery in the mountains of Colorado I met a monk, named Theophane. He has since died. But he wrote a wonderful book called Tales of a Magic Monastery. He has said the stories are all true, not literally but metaphorically. The Best Place to Pray- (from Theophane the Monk)"I asked an old monk, "How do I get over the habit of judging people?" He answered, "When I was your age, I was wondering where is the best place to go to pray. Well, I asked Jesus that question. His answer was, "Why don't you go into the heart of my Father" So I did. I went into the heart of the Father, and all these years that's where I have prayed. Now I see everyone as my own child. How can I judge anyone?" (Tales From the Magic Monastery)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sept. Reflections on Healing and Forgiveness

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Sept. is a time when my soul begins to turn more inward and I am drawn to reflection after a time of outdoor activity and physical work. Significant events have happened in my life and in the life of the world I know in Sept. The shadows lengthen and past associations emerge from memory and consciousness. The recent commemoration of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, five years ago have also turned me towards reflection. I am troubled by the exploitation in the commemorations and rhetoric of grief and injury, and superficial sentimental patriotism to justify further injury and violence in the world, and to gain political advantage. These are the outward public manifestations of the "Domination Paradigm" articulated so well in our current readings by Beatrice Butreau. Rather than being entirely reactive I want to take my own revulsion at the culture of this society, of which I have been too often an adherent, towards a renewed commitment to live in the Communion Paradigm that is the Ultimate Reality that all of us are called to, to breathe Yeshua and be rooted in his Love, and to find my home ever in his belonging as the sole Reality to be lived, the gateway for followers of Yeshua to return to their true Home, in this life and the next.

Sept. is the month I was married 33 years ago. Sept. is the month my son was born. Sept 13, today, is the day my son died, 26 years ago. And I recall so vividly as I held his lifeless body in my arms, the face, the body I had come to cherish, the feeling of utter desolation, that my beloved son was gone and there was nothing I could do, no one or no thing to blame or hold responsible. I recall the sense of failure as a father that I had, that I had not protected him from disease and harm and death. In such desolation, surrender and Grace, and even healing, can happen. Since then I have come to appreciate how the world we know can disappear, the loved ones we hold dear can be taken, our very life can be gone, in an instant. To face and live this truth with courage, and trust, and to love the best we can is how healing happens.

Sadly the culture of this country has sought vengeance as a false means of healing, as a way of avoiding accepting our vulnerability. A country and a people that had nothing to do with the injuries of Sept. 11 have been targeted, (even a belated Senate Intelligence report verifies this). And for the 3 thousand Americans that died, more than a hundred thousand Iraqis have died, mostly non-combatant women and children(by report of U. of Johns Hopkins) and continue daily in the death squads and bombings of ethnic violence, in addition to another 3000 young Americans who were told they were fighting for the freedom and safety of their country, and another 27 thousand who are maimed and disabled in body, and the many tens of thousands who are maimed and disabled in soul. Americans continue to think that our losses and our injuries are the only ones that hurt, and our will, our power, our dominance, and our safety is the only imperative in the world. We forget that the whole of humankind suffers and grieves, and has a need to be safe and secure, especially those in the Middle East. And still the anger and the desire for vengeance goes on, the blaming and leveraging for political domination goes on. And so little of healing that the people need and long for is being sought.

From the mouths of children-
I saw a television program this week interviewing children whose parents died in 9/11. It was touching and revealing and instructive. What was clear to me is that these children, who had the most devastating loss of all, (what is worse than for a child to lose his or her parent?) were in their own way, quietly seeking healing. A daughter who still cries when speaking of her dad, said that she learned after a while, that the only way she could feel any thing but sadness and despair, was to do a good deed for someone else, and that could bring her happiness. A son, who missed his father terribly, decided to pursue a career similar to his father and to emulate the fine and honorable qualities his father had shown him. The children found they could share their vulnerabilities with other children who had lost a parent in the attack. Such basic wisdom shows us the path to healing (the true meaning of the word, salvation) is open to all of us, if we find a way to let go of the mind's compulsion for control. (At a later time I also found purpose for my pain in working with other parents who lost children, and finding communion of love and purpose in our common vulnerability.) Some of wives and loved ones who suffered loss on 9/11 have involved themselves in projects to promote healing and peace, including a group of widows who have travelled to Afghanistan to make common cause with widows who have lost husbands there.

The Way of Peace and Healing-
On Sept. 11 this week I walked in a silent contemplative group peace walk, in commemoration of another anniversary. On September 11, 1906, one hundred years ago, Mohandas Gandhi began what would become the non-violent, passive resistance movement for which he is so famous. It began, not in India, but in South Africa, at the time part of the British Empire, where he learned many of the skills he would later put to good use.
Gandhi called this practice Satyagraha, the Indian Movement which is born out of truth and love or nonviolence. It became the motivating ethos and strategy for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s led by the Rev. Martin Luther King. A strange juxtaposition....that events that have led to healing, and to injury and brutality should happen on the same day. Is humankind not being presented with a choice, to choose the path of healing and peace, or to choose the path of repeating the endless cycle of injury and retribution, and counter-retribution?

Forgiveness and Restorative Justice-
Much was made on 9/11 about the strength of religious faith in helping people survive adversity, trauma, and loss. I recall at the time, the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, who has been so lionized for his leadership in crisis, speaking of how religious faith was for him and New Yorkers the great salvific force. Yet I also heard him say that his greatest wish was to personally kill Osama Bin Laden in retribution for his role in the massacre. We all wished to be safe, but violent retribution is not safety. No one in those days spoke of the words of Yeshua inviting us to a better way, or his words saying that "whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me." And who, if not Osama Bin Laden, qualifies as "the least of these." No one said the words of Jesus as he faced his own humiliation and death, "Forgive them, Abba, for they know not what they do." No one invoked the beatitudes, "Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the humble, blessed are you when you are persecuted." In our vulnerability and our no-thingness we find the Communion Paradigm, we enter the Kingdom and the Kingdom enters us.

I say these things not because I practice them so well, but because I need to hear them myself. I know what it is to be captive of unforgiveness and to desire retaliation. When I was a young adolescent, someone in authority brought a terrible injury to me, willfully and maliciously. I nearly lost my life in despair. It is a human, healthy, and perhaps a necessary defense to have rage in response to injury. It is not helpful, healing, or holy to hold on to the injury, and to nurture the resentment and the desire to cause injury in return. As an adult at a certain juncture in my own healing of soul it became clear that this space in my soul needed the touch of the Healing Master, and I was the one who would give permission for this touch, to open it to the Light.

To aid in this process I sought a guide and advocate and Grace brought such a person to me. She is an Episcopal priest, a woman who has made it her vocation to practice what she calls, "Restorative Justice." Restorative Justice is the companion to forgiveness. In forgiveness we eventually learn, out of compassion for ourselves and the desire to be more accessible to the love of the Beloved, we must find a way to let go of our identification with the pain and the injury, and our obsession with the perpetrator. With Restorative Justice we engage with the perpetrator in finding mutual healing and in a process of change so injuries are corrected and not repeated. Such is not always possible, but it is the inner work of the Communion Paradigm we are called to do. Prayer of the Heart opens us to the possibility.

This process led to a face to face meeting, nearly two years ago with the perpetrator of the injury that was inflicted on me. There had been preliminary meetings and actions on both parties leading to this meeting. At the meeting I was surprised to find, in a place of empowerment I found no need for retribution, but saw how the injury had done much greater harm to the one who inflicted it as it was written on his face. And I saw the suffering of a lifetime it had imposed and was moved. And I was grateful for the way Grace had brought my injury to healing and, more than that, had made it a primary instrument of my growth as beloved child of the Holy One. I was able to speak my truth directly and hear the contrition and sorrow in return. Healing had happened for both. My guide was a witness to this great Mercy of Yeshua the Christ.

In the debriefing with my guide afterward it seemed that old words "sin and salvation" had new and different meaning. I asked her how she came to do this work. She said at some time in her life, she just knew this was her calling. I hope it shall be one day recognized as a true spiritual profession of advocate and guide, a profession of healing.

The Cross and the Lotus-
In the Christian Mystical tradition the Cross is a symbol of how Divine Love and healing make the wounds of existence into the sacred wounds of Christ that become for us the means by which we learn to be a vessel of Agape, the redemptive Self-Gift of God. In Buddhism, the Lotus is the symbol of the flower of enlightenment and awakening that brings forth compassion for all beings. It is rooted and born in the mud of the pain and suffering of existence, that becomes transformed through spiritual practice into unitive experience. Our brother, Thich Nhat Hanh, has so beautifully expressed this in his own life. He admits to periods of despair, depression, and post-traumatic stress in his life from the violence and loss of the Vietnam war. Out of this suffering he has grown through his spiritual practice the lotus of profound compassion and teachings to help people heal and find peace.

What I and countless others have experienced on an individual level has relevance for the community and global level. When nations, peoples, and religions become so tired and spent with the suffering of endless cycles of violence and retribution, then perhaps the way of forgiveness and healing shall be the way of all. When humankind, out of profound suffering, can open to the grace of contrition and conversion, then shall healing be possible. The mystic tradition across the globe can lead the way. I have practiced in both the mystic traditions of Christianity and Buddhism. Mystics have the goal and the experience of learning to abide and live from the Communion Paradigm. A great teacher I encountered on the way, Thomas Hand S.J., proclaimed a simple truth among a group of retreatants I was with, "The God experience is an experience of Oneness, and fully accepting and living the consequences." This is true whether one names the Ultimate as God, Brahmin, Dharmakaya, Allah, Ela, or Allaha, Grandfather, Grandmother, or XYZen. In this Oneness there is no self, and no other, there is just the One Life, the One Self, in whom we all find our belonging. The Divine belongs to no person, no religion, no nationality, but we all belong to the Unity from which all things arise. In this Unity, this One Life, we can learn, in the words of Paul, "to live, and move, and have our being." As Jesus said in his promise to us, "
On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)

May that day be today, and every day, to the end of our days. May the Grace and healing of Yeshua's love be ours always, and may we continue in the work of healing our soul and the soul of humankind.
Sept.Blessings to all,
Bill Ryan

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Praxis of the Ethos of Love

The Praxis of the Ethos of Love

Our decisions regarding our thoughts, words, and deeds, in what we do, in what we fail to do, or avoid doing, are the pivot point of our spiritual life. If prayer is the turning of the will towards God, then all of life is prayer. Most especially the process by which we decide what we shall do is prayer, and the fruits of our inner life of God, or lack of it. I recall a Zen teacher saying that the fullness of spiritual practice happens when deep meditation meets the conditions of life where we find ourselves.

In most Buddhist traditions there are moral precepts that are taken that become the daily basis for an examination of conscience, and a measure for which one is acting from the deepest inner reservoir of compassion and loving kindness or not. In the Christian tradition the great commandment of love cited by Jesus from the Jewish Torah is the basis of all moral discernment. “ Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the greatest commandment.” (Mark 12:29)

Here Jesus tells us the basis of the spiritual life is also the basis of our moral life. Relational life, of which the essence is self-offering love, is the ground on which we base all decision making and discernment in our daily life and prayer practice. He tells us that the way in to this kind of life is one of continual conversion, a letting go of those misdirections and attachments of the mind that have taken the place of right relationship in love. That includes and begins with the activity of the mind where misdirection or sin happens. Jesus also tells us that the vertical and the horizontal relationship are not separate. God is the one Self that we love, both alone in solitude and in all the relationships of our human life. What gives injury or neglect to either affects the entire matrix of our relational life in God. Christ is the living spring in our Heart, Christ is the living presence in those beings we encounter in our lives. The symbol of the cross in a circle so often found in the Celtic tradition symbolizes the totality of the vertical and horizontal relationship of the communion paradigm of Christ.

We have a daily practice of silent communion with Christ at intervals in the day. As we orient the soul toward this communion state as the ongoing state of choice we become increasingly aware of what opposes or injures this state of communion. So in a sense those thoughts, those words and deeds that are unloving, injurious, exploitive or cruel either in intention or effect become increasingly disturbing to our interior life in God. The more we practice the more attuned we become to those disturbances. At the end of the day the residue of that disturbance is likely to be accessible and noticed by us, a disturbance to interior peace. That is why our evening practice is a good time to review the day in a daily examination of conscience. We can note where we have caused injury and where we have neglected to love and serve as our heart's desire calls us. There is no room for the guilt of judgment of our goodness or badness as a person. That only feeds the fiction of a perfected ego and creates a block in our complete acceptance and responsibility for what we have done, what we have failed to do, and to direct our energies toward contrition and conversion. Acceptance means accepting the natural sadness when injury is done to love. Those injuries can come in many ways, lies, betrayals, harshness, pridefulness and self deception, taking what isn't freely given, hurtful anger, and so on.

True contrition comes from the understanding that life arises fresh each moment, and contrition allows us to drop the burden of the distant past, or even the previous moment and return to our heart's desire to be given to love. This is the freedom of conversion, and the wisdom that real repentance is re-directing our life towards true happiness, what we most want and desire. This is true metanoia, coming home, again and again and again.. ceaselessly. We are all the prodigal child, having dissipated and wasted the gift of our life essence, again and again. Yet the door is always open and the arms always welcoming us, a million times in the course of a day or a lifetime. The important thing is to return home to the Heart,and learn compassion from the pain inflicted on ourselves and others. The true wound is separateness, which heals as we harmonize the soul with unitive life in God.

By examining the circumstance of the thoughts, words, deeds, and omissions we have made, we can learn from them and bring the fullness of our practice into that situation when it arises again, as it will in various forms. Our practice is always to observe the mind and to abide in the heart. When we are able to "see", to witness the arising of misdirected hidden thoughts and motivations we can truly offer them up, and relinquish them to make space for our most essential desire, which is loving kindness or agape. The desert elders saw that true conversion must involve a praxis of freedom from addictive or destructive thinking patterns. (There is much more to be said about Prayer of the Heart praxis with thoughts, which can be added in another post.) Over time we cultivate Heart Presence as a ceaseless expression of Prayer of the Heart in daily life and activity, making each moment of life prayer.

The following is an example of the incorporation of reflection on the day and the praxis of contrition and conversion, integrated into the evening prayer practice:

Evening Prayer of the Heart-
- Opening Chant- "Yeshua, Yeshua" and Prayer of Consecration

-Formal Silent Prayer of the Heart Practice- One or more sessions.

-Review of the Day/ Evening Recollection-" O Beloved- Help me to know all the ways I have injured your Love this day. Help me to know the ways I have not loved you in all my being and all my doing. Help me to know all the ways I have not loved my neighbor as myself." ( silent pause and reflection on the day)

- Contrition and Conversion-" O Beloved, I resolve to claim the sorrow of every injury to love and to seek the grace of Your conversion this moment and always."

-Evening Devotional Prayer, Prayer of Jesus, and Intercessions-

-Closing Night Chant- "Into Your hands Abba, I commend my spirit, Into Your hands, Abba/Amma, I commend my spirit. In Christ we are given to You, day and night. Into Your hands, Abba, I commend my spirit."

I hope your find this response helpful in considering your own practice of ethical/moral discernment of the day.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Main Thing- A Paradigm for the Christian Mystical Tradition

The Main Thing-
A Paradigm for the Christian Mystical Tradition

The only reasonable measure for Christianity or any religious movement is the degree to which it has brought healing and transformation to the soul of humankind. By this measure all major religions of the world have failed. The Jesus of the Gospels says clearly that "By their fruits you shall know them." (Matt. 7:16) He proclaims to all that the measure of a lifetime is the extent that we come to see his life and presence in all beings, especially those who are the most forgotten, the least powerful, and the most abysmally rejected. "What you have done to the least of these you have done to me." (Matt. 25:40)

When asked what is the most important thing in human existence Jesus called upon the foundational statement of the Jewish Torah: “ Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the greatest commandment.” (Mark 12:29) Unitive love here is the main thing, the only thing. He is unequivocal that all of law and the wisdom of the prophets is in this. Life is one in God. Life in God is relational self-offering love given in the fullest measure. Many who might find inspiration in this turn their backs on Christianity as a religious movement. Historic institutional and cultural Christianity has become obsessed with power, influence, and lines of authority. It uses fear of a condemning deity who is self-obsessed with what human creatures are compliant and who are not. To be a life-giving way, the Way of Yeshua must exist as a mystic spiritual paradigm. The way of the Christos must be a way of love that is unitive with the Divine in all Creation.

Mystic Path- Learning Path of Trust
Unlike the path of religion the mystic path is not belief based but learning based. We can only begin with a simple faith that there is a Life greater than our own ego from whom our own human life, our own human soul/consciousness arises. We have an intuition of this, and an awakening desire to return Home to this Life. This is the basis of authentic faith. As we grow we discover, we uncover this One Life from whom we arise, and to whom we return. In our growth the mythic religion of our indoctrination is often shattered. The mythic sky-God of our human made doctrines dies and the mystic Life of our life lives. Our journey of uncovering will reveal there is no original sin in us, there is no great gulf between our being and the Life of the universe. What we do know is that Heart of the Beloved is within our heart.

The End of Ritual Killing
Therefore there is no great expiation sacrifice to be made for our sins, no salvific gesture that redeems us from our innate and corrupted image of God within. Many see Augustine's theory as a projection of his own unhealed addictions and judgments of the soul, and not the common ground of our humanity. The original sin/damnation theory of human existence is and has been a tragic inhibiting misdirection in the growth of the human soul's passage on this planet. The harmful consequences and damage by Augustine's theology to the spiritual consciousness of the Christian world is well described in the work of Mathew Fox and other writers of our time.

Christianity and Judaism arose from a primitive desert culture that believed in animal sacrifice to appease an unseen warrior/protector deity. In this culture it was convenient to let Jesus of Nazareth be the lamb of God to be ritually slain in public, a fulfillment of the messianic mythology of the Judaic tradition of Passover. Such a death might be assimilated through Paul's interpretation as the once and for all ritual sacrifice that ended the need for such, especially once the Jewish temple and Jerusalem was destroyed, where all such sacrifices were to happen. In the light of mystic awakening slaughtering animals or humans has no meaning or need, but is seen for what it is, the acting out of unconscious magical beliefs. The Lamb of God instead may be a powerful symbol of the vulnerability and tenderness of a Divine Life within the heart of each of us. In this way Yeshua becomes the revelation of who we are in our true nature in God, and who God is incarnate in the world.

Mystic Yeshua- Cosmic Christos
This brings us to the important question: If Yeshua is not the historic blood sacrifice to appease an angry deity from punishing a corrupt humanity, then who is the historic Yeshua, and in what way is he the Christ, the anointed One? In what way is the Christos the Way, the Truth, and the Life, salvific Life within us?

When considering salvation for humanity, we must examine more closely what is the need of the human species, what is the nature of the human condition, and what is true salvation?

The Genesis story describes in myth and metaphor, and poetry, the central wound in the human condition and the damaging consequences of it through time. In the beginning we, all of us, enjoy the knowledge of our essential oneness with the Source of all being, all life, all existence. It is the garden of our Beloved. We walk in communion with the Divine and our companion creation. It is a condition of nakedness, of no-self consciousness. When the duality of a separate self is created, and with it the polarities of good and evil, the garden experience is lost. As a result of this separate-self consciousness greed, envy, fear, and violence become the lot of human-kind, as illustrated in the fratricide story of Cain and Abel.

The story can only be understood as an esoteric myth about what happens to all of us, in the course of each life. We come into the world with an innate understanding, or memory of our ontological communion with the Divine. Yet what we have a growing experience of separateness in our own soul influenced by the collective soul or consciousness of those human communities where we find ourselves. From this wound issues forth all of the spiritual and moral ills of the world, and all of the terrible and tragic consequences that afflict humankind.

If the Christian revelation has any validity, it must be that in the historic Yeshua, is the opening, the revelation, a doorway and offering of the Love of the Divine Relationship we call Trinity. There is an invitation in to be in personal communion with the Divine in the mystical Yeshua. We can experience the healing of the wounds of the soul in his limitless love and to abide there always (John 15:9). The same emanation of Divine Light and Love manifest in the historic Jesus, is present and offered to us in the personal mystic Yeshua, is present and joined to us in the immanent Divine Christos in the entirety of the Cosmos. Through his love we can open to communion with the Cosmic Christ, the immanent Life of the Divine present in all Creation. And in this way our separateness with the world is healed, and we are then able to participate in the unitive relational Life of the Trinity present and accessible to all Creation as the Mystical Body of Christ.

This is a mystical theology of the Cosmic Christos that is beyond most "traditional" teachings. Yet it is the grand insight and vision of mystics in the Christian tradition from the earliest centuries to the inspiring vision of Teilhard de Chardin and present day pilgrims of the Way. Gregory of Nazianzius said, "Christ exists in all things that are." Morgan of Wales a Celtic teacher and monk of the fourth century said, " The presence of God's spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful." And Teilhard de Chardin says, " Through your incarnation, my God, all matter is henceforth incarnate." (Mass of the World)

Communion Paradigm
Beatrice Butreau, a contemplative writer of our time(The Holy Thursday Revelution), says that the profound healing of the human condition comes to us in Yeshua's revelation of the "Communion Paradigm" as the true nature of things. The communion paradigm is the realm of unitive love in God. It is the true resurrection experience, where through the personal healing of the mystical Yeshua we come to full participation and belonging in the Universal Christos. In this way the domination paradigm, born of the damaged consciousness of separateness is healed and the possibilities of spiritual growth and development of the human species become realized. We make ourselves accessible to this offering of healing through the praxis and grace of awakening and self-offering love. In the communion paradigm those who follow the Way of Yeshua find it treads the same common ground, and touches and opens to the same Ultimate Reality of the Way of the Buddha, the Prophet, and the other mystic paths of the peoples of the earth.

The Divine Christos-The Incarnation Creation Story

Chandogya Upanishad- "In the beginning was only Being. One without a second. Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos. And entered into everything in it. There is nothing that does not come forth from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme." chapt. 6 vs. 2.2

The Astrophysics story- The researchers collected observations of this polarization signal to create a map of the early universe, allowing them to test a sub-theory within the Big Bang theory, called "inflation."

Inflation theory states that the universe underwent a rapid expansion immediately following the Big Bang…"During this growth spurt, a tiny region, likely no larger than a marble, grew in a trillionth of a second to become larger than the visible universe," said WMAP researcher David Spergel, also from Princeton University.

The new observations reveal that the early expansion wasn't smooth, with some regions expanding faster than others….These fluctuations are thought to have led to clumping of matter that allowed the formation of galaxies.Brian Greene, a physicist from Columbia University who wasn't involved in the research, called the new findings"spectacular"and"stunning." http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060316_wmap_results.html

Revelations of Divine Love-Julian of Norwich- "Also in this He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little[ness]. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall [last] for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God."

Gospel of John -" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was Life, and the Life was the Light of the people." (John 1:2-4)

All the systems of matter, biology, and consciousness that have arisen are manifestation of the One Life that animates and holds us into being. The amazing thing, the Main Thing, is that intimacy with the mystic Yeshua brings us into intimacy with the Cosmic Christ in all Creation, making us full members and participants in the universal mystical body of Christ, the One Incarnate Life.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wisdom Schools

(Dear Friends,
This post will be controversial. Yet I hope it will stimulate reflection.
I hope you will read it with openness.
Bill Ryan)

Wisdom Schools- A New Vision of the Transmission of the Christ Mystery

The Legacy of Religion
Many theologians and scholars will say that Yeshua of Nazareth did not come to found a religion. Rather he wished to transmit in himself and his teachings a revelation of the Source of Life whom he knew as Abba. Yet what is the legacy of religion, both Christian and that of other traditions? What are the fruits of the great institutional structures, cathedrals, and temples? What are the contributions of the caste system of clergy and denominations that have multiplied throughout the world? What are the great contributions to the healing of humankind after all the money and resources dedicated to religion have been tallied? What we have are centuries of wars fueled by religious hatred, wars of conquest and colonial expansion under the symbols of both cross and crescent. We have endured wars of genocide fueled by ethnic and religious distrust and fear. Millions have been persecuted, killed, exploited, or sent into exile. This is the legacy of religion.

In the U.S. public attitudinal sampling reports consistently that Christian church goers are most likely to have attitudes in favor of the death penalty, supporting violent solutions to international conflict, opposed to compassionate social policies for the most vulnerable populations, and least tolerant or accepting of persons who are different in ethnicity or sexual orientation. If we look around the world, many of the most violent actions and conflicts between peoples have religion at their source. "By their fruits you shall know them."

If religion has any benefit for human kind it must be the capacity to bring healing and transformation to the soul of humankind, bringing forth the fruit of compassionate concern and service to the world. Instead those who are most religious seem to be most callous and hardened towards others, and the least mindful and responsible in their relationship with the natural systems of life around them. Those who are most religious seem to be most inclined toward violence and hatred. The least progressive societies, in measures of meeting basic needs and enacting compassion and peace-making in their social, economic, and foreign relations, are those who are the most religious. The most progressive societies in those same measures are those who are the most secular in their political and cultural make-up.

For this reason a genuine critique, a prophetic examination of the structure of religion, it institutions, and practices must be undertaken. Perhaps what we need in the world is a lot less religion and a lot more committed and serious spiritual practice.

The Structure of Religion-
Where we have been-
Whether it be Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Judaism or other religious structures and "isms" in the world, it can be said that without exception through the centuries all have betrayed the teachings of their founders. The structures, values, traditions, and activities of religion have been largely possessed and contaminated by the cultures and history of the peoples and geography they occupy. Religions have come to serve themselves and not the healing of the world. Today, more than ever, religion is at the center of the divisions and violence that scar humankind. And religions again seek to aggrandize themselves with political power and dominance in the societies where they dwell. Religions market the emotional massage and psychological consolations that keep us from truly living into transformative life. They convince the adherents to find refuge in the small circles of familiar ethnic and cultural prejudice rather than the expansive and transformative universal Heart and unitive ethos of the Divine. Religions are without exception primarily at the service of their own power and prestige and not at the service of spiritual healing to humankind. Religions reinforce rather than heal the central wound of separateness that afflicts humankind. This is unacceptable.

A New Direction-
We do not need more institutions and more clergy demanding ever more financial support in this world. We do not need a religious caste system of ministers, priests, and monks who enjoy a privileged position of deference and authority in human communities. We do not need intermediaries with the sacred. Rather we need to start with a new premise, the revolutionary premise of Yeshua the Christ that the temple of the Divine is not on the hill, not in structures, nor in brick or stone, nor in creeds or dogmas. Rather the temple of the Divine is the Heart, the spiritual center within us all. What humans need are teachers and companions of the Way, who will walk with us, teach and support us in the disciplines of awareness and will that open our soul/consciousness to the Ultimate and true dwelling place of the Spirit of the Beloved within us. What we need is the praxis to transform the soul that it becomes the lamp of the Light of Christ in the world, rather than the distorted and opaque vessel of confusion, despair, fear resulting in human compulsions of greed and power and resultant violence.

Wisdom Schools-
When the historical Jesus was living, his followers did not call him, "priest, minister, reverend, cardinal, or pope." Indeed his followers called him "teacher," and Jesus said in the end he wished to be called "friend." A soul friend, or anam cara, is someone who shares the fruits of inner life of the Beloved with another, who walks with another on the Way. (In the earliest years of the Jesus movement, those who were his followers were called the people of the "Way.") Spiritual transmission comes through teachers and soul friends, not through authoritative intermediaries. The Light of Christ is transmitted truly in this way to the people of the Way. For this reason we should be considering models of spiritual community other than denominational churches and parishes with their agendas for power and societal status. Is not the spiritual journey, is not the life of Faith (not belief), one of discovery and opening to what is beyond the egoic mind and consciousness? We need spiritual teachers and soul friends, who support us on the Way, who continually point to the true Teacher and true Friend, Christ, within us. He is already at the center of our Heart, why do we need grand buildings, institutions, and political power to possess what is already offered to us in each moment, the unconditional love and healing of the Divine Beloved in the universal mystical Christ? We can live a life of communion with Christ our true and universal friend and healer of the soul- our Way to experience the Divine Beloved who is the Heart of Creation. And from this healing of our wound of separateness the compassionate life is born.

Blessings to all,
Bill Ryan

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lenten Praxis

Dear Friends,
I wrote this little piece about Lenten spiritual practice. I hope you find it has some merit in considering your own approach to the season of Lent.
Many blessings,
Bill Ryan

Lenten Practice in Prayer of the Heart
By Bill Ryan

The time of Lent has had a penitential theme in years and centuries past, implying a certain self-punitive expiation for sins. As a child growing up in the pre-Vatican II era of the Roman Catholic Church I never found that expiation theology satisfying but the liturgies and symbols did touch me and move me.

Lent- the Interior Movement of Purification
Through my practice of Prayer of the Heart these many years I have come to an appreciation of the theology and practice of kenosis as central to the spiritual life. I have also come to appreciate the time of preparation in the 40 days Yeshua spent in the desert and that any important transformation in life involves a period of preparation and sustained inner work of purification. In the transformations of grace and deepening communion with God our preparation involves an emptying and opening to allow the love and grace of God to come alive in us, and to heal those wounds and addictive patterns in our soul that keep us bound. So Lent is a time of breaking out of the bondage of entrenched patterns so that we can be an empty and receptive vessel for the Light of Christ to burn brightly. Simplicity is the true meaning of purification, being freed to be wholly given to our heart's desire.

The Liturgical Year- Our Growth in the Christ Mystery
In the liturgical year, starting in Advent we liturgically enact the Christ Mystery in our human lives. The Calmaldolese monk Bruno Barnhardt restates the central truth of the Christ Mystery from the original statement by Athanasius (3rd c.) that in Yeshua the Divine became human so that humans might become divine. This understanding of Christianity of Theosis (Divinization) has remained central in the Christian East since the time of the earliest centuries of the desert tradition and the early articulations of the Greek Fathers. In Advent and Christmas therefore we celebrate the Incarnation of the Light of Christ not only historically but also in our own inner being, the Heart.

The Fire and Light of Christ, however, remains a dormant potential deep within us unless we do the inner work of the actualization of "theosis." We offer our soul/consciousness to become accessible, infused, and alive with the Light of Christ already present and living within the tabernacle of the Heart or true spirit. This is the praxis we do in Prayer of the Heart. We unite the soul with the Christ Light of the True Spirit or Heart within us. This is our inner work in Prayer of the Heart.

In the action of kenosis we give our will and awareness to self-emptying, a liberation from all that is non-essential, to receive and live our true essence in Christ. In this way the words of St. Paul, "I live no longer I (the ego-mind), but Christ (the Life of Christ) lives in me.)." (Gal. 2:20) In our praxis we release from the patterns of a lifetime, and the residue and wounds of existence so that the space and freedom is present for Christ to live fully in us, to bring us to healing and wholeness.

Living the Paschal Mystery
This is the inner work of transformation and self emptying we do in our daily silent sitting practice and in the endless praxis of consecrated bowing in adoration and self offering in love we do inwardly in the middle of activity. During Lent we can bring a special energy to this work of freedom, the freedom to release from all that we aren't, to become all that we truly are in Christ. This work of freedom brings us to the Holy Week Triduum and the enactment of the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection. This is the liturgical enactment of our own death to the self-created, separate self, and the rising to the Limitless Life that is the Heart of Christ, our True Life. We become the lit flame of the Light of Christ. We can truly chant with all Creation as the candles are lit from the Paschal Christ candle on Easter sunrise, "Lumen Christi- Light of Christ, Deo Gratias- Thanks be to God." This is our true destiny, to become a lit flame of Christ's Love, and to live His Light and share it with the world living the compassionate life in the season of Pentecost through the end of the liturgical year and the remainder of our days in the human state.

Lenten Praxis
As a child I was drawn to the liturgies of the Stations of the Cross and the practices of fasting that adults did. The fasting was a canonically enforced practice and the adults rarely understood why they were doing it. The notion of "giving up" something for Lent was done, but again without much understanding of the value as a praxis. We have just begun to explore a notion in the lexicon of ecological spirituality known as "voluntary simplicity." It means stripping away the unnecessary and burdensome patterns of consumption and attachment in our life in order to get down to what is essential. (No small task in this consumer driven culture.) This comes closer to the wisdom meaning of Lent in the liturgical calendar.

It is not the material order of Creation that is the impediment in our spiritual journey of liberation. What constitutes the blocking of our grown in communion with Christ is the attachment of human consciousness to "things" or addictive patterns as God substitutes, to attempt to fill the soul's hunger, craving, and emptiness. In the wisdom of the beatitudes it is the seeming paradox that in our emptying, as Yeshua does in the desert, that we confront the adversary of the ego-mind and the temptations to find God substitutes.

In our practice of kenosis we can come to find the vast spaciousness where the Divine dwells in our own Hearts, and come Home to our true belonging in the Sanctuary of the Heart. In the emptying of this kenosis we are prepared to become the vessels of the Life of the Risen Christ in our own life.

If we wish to make Yeshua our life, Yeshua our home, and Yeshua our singular Love, we must give ourselves wholeheartedly to the daily consecration of the undivided presence and will to become ceaseless adoration and ceaseless self-offering. We find liberation and healing from a divided life when we can become so fully given and freed from the divided life our attachments to God substitutes inflict on us. Regardless of our station in life we can all be "monos", monastics in the true sense of being fully consecrated to the Living God. What divides us from our deepest desire manifests differently in individual lives, but is something we face regardless of our station in life. The "consecrated life" is possible for all.

Given to our Deepest Longing
Our ongoing inner work of love is the commitment. In this way we become accessible to Love's gift of Self to us. Our deepest longing is this, and this alone. In this way the liturgies and the traditional practices of fasting and detachment can become truly enlivened. The Way of the Cross, as a devotional form of prayer, can become a profound enactment of our own path of liberation and transcendence.

Therefore we can approach Lent as an essential movement of our growth in communion with Christ. In Prayer of the Heart praxis we exercise vigilant awareness and release from our the mind's enmeshment with those patterns of living, of mental and behavioral compulsion, that divide us from being fully consecrated to the Love of Christ in all things.

We may decide to choose at least one habitual pattern to release from and offer up. At the same time we may also consider in what ways we can intensify our daily practice, possibly by increasing the time of silent sitting in prayer. For most people the primary impediment is getting to bed early at night so they can rise early in the morning and have more uninterrupted prayer time before they start the day. Intensifying or re-examining our vow of practice or daily rule of life can be an important commitment to make.

Choosing the Better Part
Yeshua tells us we must choose between our misdirected desire for psychological security and comfort and our true desire for God. Commitment or avoidance is an inescapable choice. We cannot do both, we cannot lead a divided life and still enter the Kingdom of unitive love. We cannot have God and god substitutes. We cannot worship God and idols of our construction. In the story of the rich young man Yeshua challenges him to give over everything to his heart's desire. (Matt. 27:57) His fear erodes his desire. In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38) Yeshua admonishes Martha, not because she is serving by doing manual work, but because she is creating a duality in herself and is divided in what she is doing, and therefore envious and resentful. The "better part" that Mary has chosen is her undivided devotion, a devotional love that can be undivided in both activity and stillness.

Therefore let us discover anew the season of Lent and Easter as a season of consecration, a season of healing of the divided life, a season of renewed commitment. Let it become a sacred and spacious time of freedom and unbinding of those vital energies within us that want to be given and united in the utter simplicity of our heart's desire. We can choose the better part wholeheartedly: Yeshua, our companion, our path, our destination and our home.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Deep Peace of the Son of Peace

Dear Friends,

A familiar Celtic blessing ends with this wish: "The Deep Peace of the Son of Peace be with You."
For me it is an intuitively satisfying blessing. We experience peace as a condition of the soul when we find home, sanctuary, and belonging. Peace is not an emotional state. It is state that emerges from deep within. And at the same time we know that we have a desire to have peace in the world around us, a longing that seems to go unrealized every day. There is a spoken prayer that is a favorite of mine, "Let there be peace in the world, and let it begin with me." We do not decide whether there will be peace in the world. We do decide whether we can bring forth the gift of peace to the world. Such a peace that surpasses understanding begins in the heart and our praxis of communion with the Son of Peace.

As I journey through this year of transition from the world of my past profession and from our previous residence to the new one in Salem, Oregon. Even as I am immersed more deeply into the retreat experience of greater intensity of practice, I am aware also that human beings are in a time of dangerous global passage, where the violent conflicts may break out in a more horrible way. News reports warn of an impending attack on Iran by the United States and Israel, an attack that will inevitably lead to wider, and possibly nuclear war.

Like Merton who wrote his "Confessions of a Guilty Bystander" I wonder what can I do. I can share my concern and be a witness to a better way than massive violence under the pretense of a safer world. More importantly I can find my sole refuge in the only peace that is truly inseparable from every human being who sincerely seeks it. The Heart of Christ is my refuge, my home, and my peace. There is no other even though the world should explode and end.

Yeshua whispers to us, "Peace is my gift to you, my own peace I give to you, that the world cannot give." John 14:27 This peace of Christ we can all bring forth in the shining lamp of our own souls. We can shine the Light within us in the world and be a witness to it. This we can all do, and I am at peace when I consecrate myself to what can be done rather than go into the despair of I can't do.
The peace of Christ be with us all, Friends.
Bill Ryan