Restituendis Sacris

“If we knew in our hearts that things have soul, we could not govern them as conscious subject over inert object. Instead we would have a mutual relationship of affection, respect and care. We would be less lonely in a world that is alive with its own kind of soul than we are in a mechanical world we think we need to sustain with our technological efforts.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul.

Soul is often and erroneously understood as the idea of some “non-physical immortal essence of a human being” that many religions want to “save”. But Moore suggests that “soul” is something that we intuitively know and sense and yet has something to do with “genuineness and depth”.

As I look out at the world, I perceive that everything I experience is somehow connected to me. As I interact with the world, I sense how my actions are changing things “out there” and how those changes are circling back and impacting me. This underlying unity of all gives me a sense that that there is something special embedded in the world, something that could be termed as “soul” or “spirit” or some other word that reflects its true essence.

Intuitively we know that there is more to our existence than we can perceive with our senses. There is the surface material actions of things “out there” and then there is the “something else” in the world, something that is the “depth” below the surface, the truth or “genuineness” of what we experience. It is that which we intuitively know that we need to reignite within our awareness. This process of shifting our perspective so that we begin to see everything as sacred and divine is the true “resacralization” of the world that is called for in these times.

“Resacralization” can be defined as the return of religious meanings to public sectors of social life. The term religious (from re-ligare or to fasten again) relates to re-uniting the underlying ultimate truths of our existence with our actual experience of that which is divine. Thus “resacralization” also indicates “the return of a direct realization of the sacred or divine embedded in all that exists to public sectors of social life”.

The rise of desacralrization (the removal of religious meanings from public sectors of social life) results also in the removal of our sense of how sacred and meaningful all of life truly is.

When things are no longer sacred, then we tend to treat them differently. Everything becomes something that we can manipulate to our personal self interest. It becomes easier to justify actions that are not in the collective best interest.

• Plants and animals become commodities for food such that we can change their genes without concern, that we can over produce the ones we want such that we reduce biodiversity, that we treat animals poorly via factory farming.
• Economies become driven by the need for continuous growth and malignant consumption without regard for how such growth is realistically sustainable or its impact upon the planet.
• Corporations become instruments of the economy that are driven by more and more profits without concern for their workers or the environment, such profit motivations drive them into seeking to control our governments to ensure higher profits.
• War and violence become the norm, driven by corporations seeking to expand their sales, religious zealots seeking to expand their converts and salvation — and governments seeking to expand their power.

Humanity made a conscious shift over time from its original sense of the sacredness of the world to the desacralization of the world. Yet there is another shift calling us now — one that will loosen the bonds of thinking the world is all competition and survival of separate things fighting for control, power and ownership, a change that will allow us to be free to explore the intuitively known truths of unity, genuineness and depth embedded in this world.

Any shift, any movement, starts with one person and then another….and then another changing their beliefs, changing their perspective. It starts with you, it starts with me. How can you or I do this?

Our desacralized senses coupled with the scientific mindset seduce us into seeing the world as “widgets” out there with no true soul. Something inside us senses differently. There is value and meaning to this world. Everything I experience is embedded with something that cannot be easily measured but can be detected by our true nature.

Our true nature is looking out there for this genuineness, this soul, this divinity. We are seeking its true nature and its true nature is seeking us. When we sense that connectedness, we sense the sacred. Or as Rumi simply put it, “What you seek is seeking you.”

The more that we grow this sense of seeing the world and everything in it as sacred, then the more we will naturally change our actions in the world. The world and life becomes less about power, control and manipulation. The world and life become more about dignity, respect, honor, appreciation, sharing, support and love.

Deo Gratias!

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What is it that Separates us?

How did we become so separate?
Where did these distinctions come from
the beliefs that masquerade as facts
the badges of identity that cover our common core
and turn us into aliens and enemies?

How can we be separate
when we’re the same substance, body and soul
collections of the same atoms
and channels of the same soul-force,
when we’re still connected to the source
still meeting and merging
becoming part of each other’s flow
like rivers from the same ocean?

Let’s be like children
whose beings are too empty
to be filled with distinctions
too open to be closed off by prejudice
too fluid to be clogged up with concepts
so whole and so connected that they don’t need to build
a fortress of identity.

What is it that separates us?
Only the illusion of separateness
only the illusion of identity.

(a poem by Steve Taylor)

A Feral Apostolate

“Who has let the wild ass go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift ass, to which I have given the steppe for its home, the salt land for its dwelling place? It scorns the tumult of the city; it does not hear the shouts of the driver. It ranges the mountains as its pasture…” – Job 39:5-8

As long as humans have been domesticating animals, the descendants of those animals have been escaping back into the wild. There some of them survive, changed by their species’ association with humans, but truly—if newly—wild. Chincoteague ponies, razorback hogs, and pigeons are all good examples.

To challenge Job’s knowledge about the world, God busts out another example: “Just who do you think freed the wild donkeys?” God asks. “Who cared for them even after they left their stalls?”

People leave the church all the time. Those who remain often think of them as lost; some talk about them as lapsed. But what if what they really are is…feral?

And what if it’s God who made them that way?

What if, after all the time they spent in the church, it was God who left the barn door open, God who told them it was time to leave the fold? What if it was God who called them out to the wilderness toward which they wandered?

While most were content living domesticated lives in the domesticated church, what if it was God who sent the feral Christians out? Their DNA had been evolved by baptism, they’d been trained in the ways of grace, they’d been taught to pull the Christ-yoke, they’d been fettered by bonds of love, they’d been saddle-broken by repentance, they’d been fattened up on heavenly feed. What if was God, that sent them “out-there” to interbreed with the wild populations; a “Feral Apostolate, so to speak?

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle do not have a right to eat…Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Glory be…

Jesus and Merlin

What if…
Jesus and Merlin were to meet
At twilight
In the garden, in the grove,
One looking forward to the Skull of Golgatha,
One looking back on the Sacred Head of Bran?

What would they say to one another,
These men, these gods,
Who live in time beyond their lives –
One forward, one retrograde?

“Let this Cup pass from me…” says the one.
“May the earth open and swallow me,
May the sky fall upon me,
May the sea rise and cover me,
May fires consume me…” says the other.

“Take this cup and drink from it…” says the one.
“This is the Cauldron of Inspiration and Wisdom…” says the other.
“Do this in remembrance…” says the one.
“I know the Cup
From which the wave has overflowed.
I know the end of the dawn…” answers the other.

What if they do meet
There in the grove, in the garden,
Two avatars –
One about to ascend,
One about to descend –
Each serving the Chalice in his way?

What if Merlin’s Afallen and Jesus’ Rood are the same Tree?
One rides it to his destiny,
One sits beneath to prophesy.

What could they give to one another
These prophets circling in their Time-long orbits?
Could Merlin say: “The seed is planted, the tree will grow
There is a thorn in Avalon that bears fruit in thy name.”
Would Jesus reply wistfully: “Kiss Nimue for me.
Tell her I love her beauty and her power.”

RoMa Johnson

Thoughts of an Arrived-One

Dignity is the ontological awareness
an individual has of his supra-individual reality.

Pride consists in taking ourselves for what we are not.
Self-respect is knowing what one is
and not allowing oneself to be humbled.

In Beauty is the splendor of the True:
If Truth we know, we will know Beauty too.
And if in Beauty we can see the Good,
Our spirit understands all that it should.

Beauty mirrors happiness and truth. Without the element of ‘happiness’
there remains only the bare form, geometrical, rhythmical or other;
and without the element of ‘truth’ there remains only
a wholly subjective enjoyment.

Beauty stands between abstract form and blind pleasure,
or rather combines the two so as to imbue veridical form with pleasure
and veridical pleasure with form.

– Frithjof Schuon

Slouching Towards Bedlam (again)

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

The Celtic Path of the Ancient-Evernew

Peace to their shades! the pure Culdees
Were Albyn’s earliest priests of God,
Ere yet an island of her seas
By foot of Saxon monk was trod.
– from Thomas Campbell’s “Reullura”

The Celtic Spiritual Tradition is just one of many noble and beautiful
paths in the world. One of the many expressions of the Great Truth – the only Truth there is.

It is a Truth that cannot be named, for it is all-inclusive and, when it becomes divided in our minds by concept and identification, we can lose sight of its purity.

It can only be alluded to by those who beckon and call to us from further along the path, then yearned for, then kindled and experienced in the heart.

Finally, it can be embodied, incarnated into the world, by those who have been challenged, won over and forever changed by its undeniable reality.

Two thousand years ago, the British Isles were awash with an awareness of the Divine Child. In the Brythonic tongue he was called Mabon ap Modron – “Son, son of Mother”. In Gaelic he was Oenghus – “The Chosen One”. Beings of Light and Unconditional Love, these divinities were the earliest native mythic depictions of what we now call the Christ Consciousness.

When Christianity first came to the British Isles, it took on a distinctly Celtic flavour, characterised by a continued reverence for Nature as the face of the Divine. The One God spoke simply in the solitudes of wind and woodland, sea-wave and mountaintop, and for centuries, the old Gods and Goddesses – the many faces of The One – continued to have a place in the hearts and holy days of the people.

Today, the Living Celtic Spiritual Tradition is moving and intelligent and Christ-centred. It is a path that honours our time upon this Earth as the Womb of mystical experience; where a life lived in holy embrace of both the imminent and the transcendent Divine brings forth a unitive consciousness.

This consciousness, that waits to be born from out of the deepest heart of us all, works in the world as a force that reconciles all dualities. Sometimes we call that force Love, sometimes we call it Christ. To give it life is to become fully Human.

(excerpts from Céili Dé – The Companions of God)

Wisdom from Hassidut

When a person is confronted by many details but lacks understanding of how they relate to one another or fit into a general system, it is intellectually unsatisfying and highly burdensome.

The opposite is true when a person understands something in relation to its context. Seeing it in its wider framework, he can go on to grasp other associated concepts, and his success will bring him pleasure and elation.

One’s goal should be to attain knowledge of general principles. In its very nature each general principle includes many details, so that when a person grasps a general principle, he automatically grasps a large number of details.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto

The Wayless Way: Where the Children of God lose themselves and, at the same time, find themselves.

A MIDRASH BASED ON THE REFLECTIONS OF MEISTER ECKHART

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. – Matthew 21:12

We read in the Gospel how Holy Week began with Jesus entering the temple and driving out all those that bought and sold. He then rebuked the vendors of doves: “Get these things out of here!” He was so crystal clear in his command that it was as if he said, “I have a right to this temple and I alone will be in it and have control of it.”

What does this have to say to us? The temple God wants to be master of is the human soul, which he created and fashioned just like himself. We read that God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” And he did it. He made each soul so much like himself that nothing else in heaven or on earth resembles him as much. That is why God wants the temple to be pure, so pure that nothing should dwell there except he himself. And that is the reason why he is so pleased when we really prepare our souls for him. When we do this, when he alone dwells in our hearts, he takes great comfort.

Jesus went into the temple and drove out those that bought and sold. His message was bold: “Take this all away!” But observe that when all was cleared, there was nobody left but Jesus. And when he is alone he is able to speak in the temple of the soul. Observe this also, for it is certain. If anyone else is speaking in the temple of the soul, Jesus keeps still, as if he were not at home. And he is not at home wherever there are strange guests – guests with whom the soul holds conversation. If Jesus is to speak and be heard the soul must be alone and quiet.

Christ said that whoever leaves anything for his sake will receive again a hundredfold in return (c.f. Matt 19:29).

I tell you the truth, any object you have in your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost Truth. As long as I am this or that, I am not all things. Only the hand that erases can write the true thing. Indeed, the more we are our own possession, the less we are God’s possession.

A free mind is one which is untroubled and unfettered by anything, which has not bound its best part to any particular manner of being or devotion and which does not seek its own interest in anything but is always immersed in God’s most precious will, having gone out of what is its own.

For whoever does not truly have God within themselves, but must constantly receive him in one external thing after another, seeking God in diverse ways, whether by particular works, people or places, such a person does not possess God. The least thing can impede them, for they do not have God and do not seek, love and intend him alone. It is not only bad company but also good company that can obstruct them, not only the street but also the church, not only evil words and deeds but also good words and deeds, for the obstruction lies within themselves, since in them God has not become all things.

How then should I love God? You should love God non-mentally, that is to say the soul should become non-mental and stripped of her mental images. For as long as your soul is mental, she will possess images. As long as she has images, she will possess intermediaries, and as long as she has intermediaries, she will not have unity or simplicity. As long as she lacks simplicity, she does not truly love God, for true love depends upon simplicity. Indeed, you must love him as he is One, pure, simple and transparent, far from all duality. And we should eternally sink into this One, thus passing from something into nothing.

But what then should we do? First of all, we should renounce ourselves, and then we will have renounced all things. Truly, if someone were to renounce a kingdom or the whole world while still holding onto themselves, then they would have renounced nothing at all. And indeed, if someone renounces themselves, then whatever they might keep, whether the kingdom or honour or whatever it may be, they will still have renounced all things. Amen.

Glory be…

The Road Back to Who?

Most people dread the visit to the doctor for an annual physical examination. Nobody likes to be poked and prodded and stuck with needles. But more than that, the exam is a judgment on how you are doing. You’ve got to answer questions about your lifestyle(still looking for the right “balance”), food and drink intake (too much), and exercise (not enough). You’ve got to check the boxes on all the various things that are wrong with you.

Conceivably, you could answer the doctor’s questions in a way that puts you in a good light. But then there are the evaluations that can’t be nuanced: the scale, your lab work, your cholesterol count, your blood pressure. People avoid the doctor because nobody likes to undergo that kind of judgment. Obviously, this avoidance is unwise. The doctor is there to help you. If there is something wrong with you, then the doctor will help you get better.

Helping you get better is quite the industry in our country. This post concerns a (fairly) new self-help book – a book intended to help you get better. The book is about the Enneagram. The Enneagram is presented as a way of identifying your personality type. The approach claims it has its roots in ancient Christianity and purports to be a helpful diagnostic tool that reveals both your strengths and your weaknesses; that it can help you understand the people you live with or work with; that it flags your stress points and reminds you of your vulnerabilities.

There is a fatal flaw, however, in the Enneagram. That flaw is revealed in the book’s title, which is “The Road Back To You.” The title is communicating the well meaning, broadly accepted thinking that goes something like this:

1) Deep down, you’ve got a divine essence
2) You’ve been separated from your true divine essence by something external: the hectic pace of the world, materialism, childhood wounds, etc.
3) You can reunite with your divine essence by working on your “spirituality”, usually by meditation, inner knowledge, dedicated effort. Once you do this, you will achieve an inner peace and be in harmony with the Divine Essence that unites all creatures. You will have finally found the “Road Back to You.”

In 1 Corinthians St. Paul addresses people who (2000 years ago) had bought into this kind of thinking. They were extremely impressed with their own spirituality. Paul comes to do a kind of annual spiritual physical for the budding congregation and finds terrible vulnerabilities: a man is sleeping with his father’s wife, poor people are not being welcomed into the fellowship, people are getting drunk at the church suppers that doubled as the Lord’s Supper. All the while, the Corinthians are boasting about the spirituality that has put them on the Road Back to You.

The truth of the matter is that the Road Back To Me is not a road I want to be on. Just ask my wife! The Road Back To Me is a road that ends in selfishness, anger, lust, pettiness, and self-pity. And those are my better qualities.

Jesus teaches very clearly that out of our hearts comes that which hurts us and others. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” The great teacher, Jesus, is saying this – not me! So much for the Road Back To Me. Any kind of spiritual physical will reveal that there is something wrong with me – and you. Let’s get off that road A.S.A.P.

St. Paul wants the get the Corinthians off that road A.S.A.P. His plan for that wasn’t popular then and isn’t popular now. Who likes to admit that there is something wrong with them? But, Paul offers the only hope there is for people in need. He says, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Jesus Christ and him crucified!

An extremely popular therapeutic self-help book of the 1970’s was called “I’m O.K, You’re O.K.” If I’m O.K. and you’re O.K., then what is the significance of the cross? The cross is significant because our true metaphysical condition calls for a more drastic answer than a Road Back to You.

When Christ was crucified, he was crucified for us all. He represented each one of us and took upon himself all that is wrong with us and the world. Jesus Christ endured the desolation of our sin and shame to become for us the Road Back to God.

“I am the Way”, he said before he was crucified for our sake. Through him, with him and in him we are given so much more than a dead end road back to ourselves.

Elsewhere St. Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Or even more powerfully, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Jesus Christ and him crucified is God’s (only) roadmap. If we belong to him we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God. The Road Back To Me only has power and meaning if we understand and embrace the Via Crucis traversed by the Saviour in order to bring us on the True Road Back To God.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.