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."

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.