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Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Escape from Plato’s Cave

If you make people think they think, they will love you.  If you make them think, they may hate you.

I LOVE TO THINK CRITICALLY. To be found wanting, and sometimes completely wrong, about what I have believed, especially for years.  It helps to distance my sense of identity from my intellect . . . and my human ego, which has been rather large, and troublesome at times.  I have a good mind and I enjoy using it correctly.  It’s given me much pleasure and service. But I am not my mind. 

I invite you to think with me for the length of this post about the current state of humanity . . . honestly . . . and about the way we’ve been going about creating our world.  I will use Plato’s allegory of the Cave in order to demystify where we have been in our awareness up until today, when we appear to be emerging from our hypnotic sleep.  I hope that you will enjoy the thinking process.  

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MOST OF WHAT WE HAVE CREATED in our world has been patterned after reflections from out of the past cast upon our clouded mental lens and filed away in our subconscious mind.   Much of it is reflected in the opaque substance of the veil separating human consciousness from Divine Consciousness, blocking inspiration from within.

For example, here in the USA we love our freedom and our democracy that grants us that freedom . . . and we have historically sought to destroy (as in kill) anyone who threatens, or whom we think threatens, that freedom or our democracy.  It’s just the way we’ve always done it.  History doesn’t repeat itself.  We keep reenacting history and stuffing the expansive nature of life into historical molds.  Uranda spoke to this “mould” acceptance several decades ago: 

Human beings have banded together to accept a mould into which all shall be crowded to smother a consciousness of those powerful inner drives. Society has tried to crowd the individual into an arbitrary mould; and to whatever degree one accepts that mould, he is “good.” To whatever degree one resists that, he is “bad.” Doing bad things is almost always the result of a misapplication of the principles of living in the early life of the individual, which has set up a pattern of internal conflict. We need to emerge out of the prison that has been established by these arbitrary moulds. In the world of humanity it is conceived that the only safe place for any good person is in “prison.”

The Master Jesus saw this condition in his day and sought to free the people from their culture of hate for the suppressive and persecuting Romans. His teaching to “Love your enemies; do good to those that hate you” did nothing for his popularity.  On the contrary, he was hated by the Scribes and Pharisees who kept the faithful imprisoned by the Law of Moses: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you teach the Law of Moses, but you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”  We have our own Scribes and Pharisees today continuing to keep the faithful from entering the kingdom of heaven before death takes them Home, and refraining from entering themselves.  Religion is big business — as are wars . . . and the politics of both.  

WARS CAST THEIR SHADOWS OF FEAR AND HATRED

As my friend on the other side of the pond reminded me, the English still hate and fear the “Hun”— a derogatory term for the Germans in WWI who crushed neutral nations and imposed brutal rule upon conquered peoples.  More recently the British suffered the destruction of much of England by Hitler’s German forces.  Hatred and fear of tyrants in neighboring countries continue to ignite and fuel confrontations and wars. The past tends to condition our perception and the way we handle our affairs in the present, as well as our expectancy of the future, clouding inspired vision of new possibilities and ways forward without fear and hatred, and absolutely without war.

The saving and redeeming grace is that what separates also connects.  Cleaning up our mental lens, both conscious and subconscious . . . and purifying the veil of our hearts connecting us with the Divine . . . is the only way to see what IS rather than what we have been taught and deeply programmed to BELIEVE.  Love alone casts out fear and purifies the heart. 

Our future arises from out of what we do now; the seeds we plant in the soil of the present moment. We chose to pattern it after the way things have always been.  It’s time we let go of the past entirely . . . and let the dead bury the dead.

Waking up out of our hypnotic stupor, we may be bedazzled by the beauty that’s always been there under our noses, so-to-speak, but covered over by our dark projections.

The following story came to me today as I read from blogs that I follow.  I won’t reveal whose blog this came from so as not to arouse any bias that might get in the way of seeing and realizing what is being implied by this allegory. Suffice it to say he’s a very reliable and trustworthy blogger. It’s an old story that still holds sway in today’s world. It demonstrates, for one thing, the wise saw that says it’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled.  Here’s the story.

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PLATO’S CAVE

About 2,400 years ago, the Athenian philosopher Plato (student of Socrates, mentor of Aristotle) described the Allegory of the Cave, writing while using the voice of his martyred mentor Socrates.  Socrates is most famous for his powerful logical approach for avoiding hubris, beginning all philosophical and logical quests for truth with the position that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.

In his political masterwork “The Republic”, Plato uses the Allegory of the Cave to justify his core political thesis that the ideal ruler is the “Philosopher King”, essentially a wise philosopher-dictator who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are collectively wise enough to choose a good master.  Modern readers can immediately detect the conflict of interest which lies at the heart of this Platonic ideal, that being that Plato (and by inference Socrates) are basically nominating themselves as authoritarian rulers over Athens. Personally, I find the logic that the Cave allegory justifies the philosopher-dictator as the ideal leader both a bit contrived and circular. However, I suggest that the Allegory of the Cave is a profound and immortal insight into a fundamental aspect of human society which is at the center of the observations of both 20th century political philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt as well as her 21st century intellectual successor Dr. Mattias Desmet. 

The Cave is essentially a metaphorical thought experiment which uses a literary device similar to those employed in Aesop’s Fables, in which stories of talking animals are used to bypass the human mental defense mechanisms that can make it so hard for each of us to accept observations and critiques concerning fundamental behaviors. The Cave relates a fundamental, prototypic human myth.  It tells the story of the inevitable coupling of human discovery with the tribal rejection which all true innovative pioneers, all dissenters, all paradigm shifters know far too well.

The setting for the Allegory of the Cave is a hypothetical dark cavern inhabited by a group of prisoners who are all bound hand and foot facing the same wall. The prisoners have been there since birth; they have grown up together, and this is the only reality that they know.  Behind them is a burning fire maintained by the rulers of the cave.  The rulers have different objects and puppets which they hold up so that the prisoners can see the shadows cast by the objects as they interrupt the light of the fire, and the rulers make sounds and generate echoes for the prisoners to hear. These rulers of the cave are the puppet masters, able to control the reality which the prisoners are able to experience. As these shadows and sounds are all that the prisoners have experienced since birth, they do not question and do not know anything different from this shadow reality. They think that this is what life is, a reality of shadow, sound and echo.

The prisoners compose and share names for the shadows, develop competitions to determine who is best able to guess which shadow will turn up next, and give each other awards and praise for the ones with the most accurate predictions. From their standpoint, this is life.

One day, one of the prisoners gets loose.  His chains break, and in a confused state he stands for the first time, looks around, and sees the fire. Lying on the ground next to the fire he sees the puppets and objects which correspond to the shadows on the wall. In a great leap of insight, he concludes that the shadows came from these objects, and that the puppets and fire represent a greater reality than that which he had previously known.

Feeling empowered and  energized like never before, he begins to explore the cave, finds his way to the entrance, and leaves the shadowy fire-lit confines. The bright sun burns his eyes causing great pain, so he shields them with his hands. Gradually his eyes adjust to this new environment. He drops his hands and opens his eyes fully, seeing for the first time the greater world outside the cave. He sees color, sun, trees, animals, grass, mountains, and has yet another epiphany that he has become able to see the true nature of the world for the first time. The shadows had been mere surrogates of this greater truth.  There was much more to life than he had ever imagined. Filled with joy over this new experience, he feels a wave of gratitude and awe as awareness dawns that he has become able to directly perceive the true nature of the real world.

Then he remembers his fellow prisoners, the people he had shared his entire life with. He pities them for being trapped in their limited understanding of reality, for their ignorance of the larger real truth which they are neither able to experience nor perceive.  Overwhelmed with waves of pity, empathy, and anger at the puppet masters who have imprisoned and manipulated the reality of those that he has grown up and spent his entire life with, he returns to the cave determined to share what he has learned and help the prisoners see the larger reality, and to help free them from their bondage by the puppet masters.

The freed prisoner returns to the cave and his friends, hoping to enlighten and free them from their chains.  But they cannot understand what he is saying and trying to do. He tries to explain the greater reality that he has seen and experienced, but they cannot even begin to understand what he is trying to describe. Imprisonment in the cave is the only reality they have ever known, and they cannot understand anything else. They notice that the eyes of the freed prisoner have changed due to exposure to the sun, and that he now has trouble seeing, naming and interpreting the shadows. They laugh at him, and all concerned agree that leaving the cave is a waste of time. They then threaten to kill both the escaped prisoner as well as anyone else who dares to break their bonds and leave the cave.

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Human beings defend their beliefs, often with their life blood . . . and with the life blood of their fellow man. We as a race have yet to unshackle ourselves and come out of Plato’s cave?  We are still held prisoners of our past . . . and we appear to feel safe and comfortable in our state of deception . . . too comfortable. Thankfully, some of us have felt uncomfortable with our comfort, as many have awakened . . . or been awakened by one global crisis or another, and the politics thereof . . . and masses of protesters are begging and eager for the leaders of our nations to stop making war with one another . . . and to please do something about banning assault rifles on the streets again, as they were banned between 1994 and 2004, thank you then President Bill Clinton!  And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

Returning to the first line of this post, without critical thinking and extensive research, one is not likely to see the profiteering and manipulative politics churning beneath the deceiving surface play of events.  One has to turn away from the news media and peer through the smoke screens to see the puppeteers controlling what we see and hear about what’s going on in the world . . . the cave wall.  Then throw off the shackles and leave the cave, without taking up battle with the puppeteers.  Bask in the sunlight and breathe the fresh air of the beautiful world of Mother Nature.  As one enlightened soul commented on Facebook on the R.E.M song lyrics “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. . .“Mostly I have such a deep appreciation of Life with all of its sides. Gratitude seems to give me a door to bring love to the scene.”   Now that’s what’s real . . . and peacefully comforting.  Until my next post,

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com

Seeking the Face of Jacob

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       The Prince of Peace

“Whoever has come to know the world has found a corpse.
And whoever has found (this) corpse, of him the world is not worthy. . . .  If you do not abstain from the world, you will not find the kingdom.” —Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas

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The world is a corpse . . . so said the Master, the “Prince of Peace.”  Not the planet, just the world of man’s making.  Especially the world we’ve constructed of concrete, iron and plastic — of consumptive commercial enterprise, political polarization and division; of poverty, greed and avarice; of mass starvation and hysteria; of war and genocide.  That world is dead and is only sustained by the life-energy men and women pour into it, draining away their own life substance, their God-given birthright.

War is such a waste of life energy and natural resources.  Those who declare and conduct wars lose their lives just as surely as those who die on the battlefields.  And those who seek to profit from manipulating the masses and selling them false security are foolishly and deceivingly selling dishonest goods.  The lie of the serpent has always been a futile endeavor to be honest with dishonest good.  One cannot give what one doesn’t have oneself.  One cannot sell peace to a world at war with itself who does not own peace oneself.  Nor can one revive a corpse who has not the power to infuse flesh with life.  Best to put one’s efforts toward bringing forth a new world.  (The 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi . . . Life Out of Balance and needing a new beginning . . . comes to mind.)  A world out of balance is destined to topple.

LIFE IS A GIFT AND A MIRACLE  

I resonate with the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas. This saying by Jesus is powerfully resonating in my heart and mind as I approach writing this post:

“If the flesh came into being because of the spirit, it is a wonder.  But if the spirit (came into being) because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has taken up residence in this poverty.”

I marvel at how wonderous and mysterious is my own sustained incarnation after eighty-two years, and how this flesh body still pulsates with the breath of life.  I marvel at how my mind arises from my body to meet and share the Consciousness of God descending from Heaven above, a gift that connects me with my Creator making my personal world one, as heaven and earth are one.  This saying of Jesus brings sadness and hope into my heart:

“I stood in the middle of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found all of them drunk. None of them did I find thirsty.  And my soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their heart, and they cannot see; for they came into the world empty, (and) they also seek to depart from the world empty.  But now they are drunk. (But) when they shake off their wine, then they will change their mind.”

Will we change our minds and our hearts? My hope is likely in vain. That was some twenty-two hundred years ago; not very long when one considers the length of a human lifespan — in terms of generations, perhaps as little as sixty-five or seventy. How much do you think the world has changed in such a short period of time?  Do you think the Master’s words still apply to this generation?  He is on record as having said “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will not pass away.” I believe the man-made world is just as dead today as it was then.  That said, still . . .

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.  For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” 

The “ordinances” for the earth and its fullness are established upon the sea of Divine Consciousness, the Heaven for the unfolding of Earth’s journey through the Cosmos. Our part is to set them in the earth, to materialize creation. The true creator stays with his creation throughout the cycles of its existence, and according to astronomical predictions, this planet has several more billion years ahead of it . . . but not necessarily as it now is or has been.  Change is definitely afoot for the earth and for earthlings.

I’m preaching to the choir here, of course, just sharing the thoughts and meditations of my heart that started flowing in upon seeking, asking and knocking on the door of Heaven.  The rest of Psalm 24 wants to be shared here as well, perhaps as the focus for this post.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. 

Who was Jacob that his face would be sought by this generation?  He was, of course, the Father of the Nation of Israel, having received the blessing of Abraham, the father of his father Isaac, from whom he stole his brother Esau’s birthright and their father’s blessing. (The commentary and open forum the link above will take you to is insightful and worthy of your time.) The overarching answer to that question, of course, lies in the Akashic records of the several incarnations of the LORD of lords, who  was incarnate in the man Jesus — and that information lies in the realm of knowledge of a much higher order — which is not unavailable to us today.  According to the words of this psalm, the Lord was incarnate in Jacob as well.

We are in the Day of the “Second Coming” of the Christ , who was incarnate in a number of great beings of renown whose timely and appointed appearances are all part of the restoration of Man to his original state of oneness with the Creator.  The significance of Jacob’s “face” lies in the manner in which Jacob “wrestled with God” and therein proved his worthiness and stature of spirit to bring forth a nation¹ . . . and thereby initiate a cycle of restoration of Man to his rightful state of co-creator with God.  The story in the last chapters of Genesis — along with the dramatic episode of their wandering in the desert for forty-years as told in Exodus — are remarkable stories telling of the hardships the Nation of Israel suffered as the LORD God purified and chastened his children and proved them in the fire of love and truth.  From out of all they went through emerged the opportunity for life to be restored to the body of Man, the Body of God on Earth.  That restoration failed with Israel, and failed again with the re-initiation by the Lord of Love himself. 

This generation once again seeks the face of Jacob through whom the first opportunity of Man’s restoration was initiated . . . only that face today is the face of the Prince of Peace.  For it is peace the peoples of planet Earth now seek and for which we all yearn.  We will bring peace to the world when we look into the face of one another and see the face of God . . . and love what we see . . . what the pure of heart see.  In a sense, we have to wrestle with our traditional concept of who and what God is, just as Abraham wrestled with the angel of God over the tradition which required the sacrifice of his firstborn, Isaac, to Jehovah.  With that denial of tradition, Abraham brought to a close the era of human sacrifice.  Today we sacrifice human lives in the marketplace of Wall Street and in the battlefields of warring nations.  To find peace we need to wrestle with and overcome our own addiction to war and to that which we seek to gain by waging war . . . war of any and all kinds.  

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(The painting of the face of Jesus at the top, “The Prince of Peace,” was done by Akiane Kramarik at the age of 8. According to her story, she felt asked and compelled from within her spirt to paint it.  If you click on her name you can listen to her amazing story. She also painted this one.)

I’ve come to love this One, Jesus (aka Jeshua), in whom the Christ incarnated to bring love into the world and thereby initiate the final cycle of redemption and restoration of Man to his true state of oneness with His Heavenly Father, a oneness which he proclaimed for himself and exemplified to his disciples and to the world during his life and brief public ministry.  I’ve come to know him as my Self, as the One I Am, for I am, and you are, as much a son or a daughter of the Father as He is.  We are in the days of his “Second Coming,” this time through the hearts of human beings — and as the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the heaven of consciousness. These final words of Psalm 24 describe what we all must do to welcome His coming and complete the cycle of restoration that He initiated two-thousand year ago.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory?The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

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I leave you to ponder these words and those of this blog post, which I’m feeling may well be my last post on Healing Tones.  Thank you for sharing the thoughts and meditations of my heart. May God bless and keep you safe from harm in the loving arms of The Prince of Peace.  Aumen 

Be love.  Be loved

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com   

¹    “Jacob wrestles with God before going to meet his brother. What do we make of it? Obviously God could beat Jacob in a wrestling match so it seems that it may be that Jacob was having doubts or that God needed to test him. The NJBC says, “Jacob is truly a man of blessing, but this time he wrestles for it and receives it from God (in contrast to his cheating Esau in order to receive Isaac’s blessing.” Jacob has just prayed to God and laid his thoughts bare. Now he has wrestled with him and won. Now Jacob is ready to become the father of Israel. As Orual asked in C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece, Till we have faces, “How can the gods meet us face to face till we have faces?” Also, “I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?’” Jacob now has a face and is ready to become the father of a great nation. First he must make things right with his own brother. Jacob may have been struck by earnest doubts in the face of possible bloodshed and death but this meeting was too important for covenantal history. God had to intervene.” (The BioLogos Forum)

 

 

The Mystery of Consciousness: Conveyor of Light and Love

Where your heart is, there also is your treasure. 

A LINE FROM A POPULAR POEM BY RUMI about a field “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing” has been repeating in my head since I published my previous post: “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”  And it truly is. There’s just so much going on in our world today for one to crowd into one’s thimble-size mind.  Another saying that Rumi penned from his home in Konya, Turkey, speaks of the heart’s treasure: “I looked in temples, churches and mosques. But I found the Divine in my heart.” 

In the movie “The Sound of Music,” Maria (Julie Anderson) sings “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely.”  Today, amidst the devastation in Ukraine and the repercussions the sanctions levied against Russia are having on the economy here and globally, I go to my heart to find peace and sanity.  Peace, because love abides here; sanity, because in my heart I know and understand that all is well in the Hands of God. 

By divine design, we human beings are the hands of God here on Earth.  Whatever happens, let me be a beacon of light in the darkness of human consciousness . . . and human consciousness is truly filled with darkness.  But darkness is simply the absence of light.  It’s not something of itself.  It’s nothing.  Light is something! Let there be light! 

A large mass of humanity has withdrawn from the light of love and hunkered down in the shadows of fear and uncertainty.  But let the Spirit of Love move upon the face of the waters of human consciousness and, Voila! There is light! And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not comprehend it. “How can you be so calm and peaceful amid such atrocities and violence?! Where is your outrage!? Your condemnation of Putin and his murderous foot-soldiers who have exterminated tens-of-thousands of their fellow countrymen, women and children included?!” Such reactions are only incapacitating spiritually and contribute nothing but fuel to the fires raging in human hearts and minds, clouding and darkening vision.  If there’s one thing needed at this time it’s clear vision.

Whatever happens, let me be a beacon of light in the darkness

I find it somewhat challenging to refrain from outrage and remain non-judgmental in all of this death and destruction being heaped upon Ukraine and her citizens.  But that doesn’t mean I have blinders over my eyes.  I see clearly what is happening—at least what the news is telling and showing us—but only with my eyes. 

“A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten-thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee, for only with thine eyes shalt thou see and behold the reward of the wicked.” (Psalm 91:7). 

I looked up the word wicked and it has several connotations and applications: vicious, depraved, (wicked habits); mischievous or playfully malicious (a wicked joke); obnoxious or offensive (a wicked stench); formidable or excellent (a wicked tennis player).  The Psalmist most likely would characterize the wicked as “vicious” and “depraved.” Who, then, are these “wicked” ones who are reaping their rewards? I think we all have had some part in wickedness; surely any and all who have lived for the material treasures of the world rather than the spiritual treasures of Heaven. 

CONVEYOR OF SPIRIT

Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch, although a good segue to the theme of this post, the word “wicked” has the word “wick” as its root—which is a woven chord for conveying liquid, like the wick of a candle which is designed to convey the melting candle wax up to fuel the flame for light.  Consciousness is a conveyor of Spirit, given to us by the Creator as a means of connecting with Heaven and for conveying the Light of Truth and Love into the world.  By design, we are much like the whirling dervishes of Turkey who spin ’round and ’round, with one hand pointed upward toward heaven and the other hand turned downward toward the earth, as they provide a channel for bringing Love down from God into the world.  

There’s a wise saw that says you can’t fix a problem at the same level as the problem, but from a level above the level of the problem.  And so it is with the problems that plague human consciousness.  The solutions are to come from above and not from below.  The design for the New Earth descends from Heaven above into the heaven of human consciousness . . . but only as there is room to receive it.  Filled with wickedness, there’s no room for the Truth of Life, which is Love.  We need to cast the devil—literally the divider—out of our heaven, as Jesus did: “Get thee hence!”  Then there will be room for the Truth of the New Earth to emerge from the New Heaven and replace the old earth. 

A large part of the old heaven is occupied by the Christian belief that Jesus came down to earth from Heaven to die for our sins and redeem “us sinners” from the hands of the Devil.  That is a redaction and a lie conjured up by Saint Paul and the Council of Nicaea, the most grievous of lies ever perpetrated upon human beings. 

The truth is that Christ, the Son of God, incarnated in Jesus and came to show us how to love God and one another.  That’s the truth, and I think it’s time that Christians, and particularly Catholics, do away with their crucifixes and repent for having worshiped the murderous crucifixion of the Son of God all these centuries.  I am certain that He doesn’t want nor like that his crucifixion is still being celebrated as the purpose for his visitation to this planet.  We can celebrate His life and victory over death by His resurrection without dragging him through that ignominious ordeal in our memories and our Holy Week liturgies.  Please, take him down from the cross and worship the Father in spirit and in truth, which is all He asked.  His true passion was and is the return of Love of God and love for one another to humanity and to His Father’s world. 

If a cross is needed, one can replace the crucifix with the balanced cross of St. Benedict, which is a plus ⊕, symbolizing a cross-over point between Heaven and Earth, which is what Jesus was and what we are designed to be.  (This cross is believed to protect one from the Devil and was used in exorcisms to cast out demons.)

I’ll leave you with the beautiful and rich Russian choral music of Grechaninov’s Passion Week, Op. 58:1, Behold the Bridegroom, performed by the Phoenix Bach Choir, Kansas City Chorale, conducted by Charles Bruffy.  Enjoy this first track of the album.

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=65aDlqi4KQI&feature=share

Have a Happy Easter Sunday. Until my next post,

Be love. Be loved. 

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com

 

The “Mystery of Consciousness”. . . The Addiction to Narrative

“Don’t be afraid to face the facts, and never lose your ability to ask the questions: Why? and How?”   Immanuel Velikovsky 

CONSCIOUSNESS IS NO MYSTERY.  Like a seedbed wherein ideas are planted, nurtured by unwavering belief, and given birth in their seasons, consciousness is the matrix for creation.  It is very fertile soil, so fertile that one has to be very careful about the nature of the seeds one plants. 

This fertile soil can be cultivated and seeded from below as well as from above and within.  Our physical bodies and the natural world are the fruits of seeds planted by Life from above.  The world that man has constructed and imposed upon the surface of this planet, with its skyscrapers, concrete roadways and parking lots, industrial and commercial complexes, along with its burgeoning landfills, are all the product of seeds planted by human beings from below . . . none of it compatible with the fine living, breathing fabric of our beautiful Home among the stars. 

Not all is a burden to the Earth, as many of our ideas and dreams, visions and asperations are creative and harmonious with the natural climate of Gaia.  There is a saying among the spiritually awake when an idea presents itself for manifestation, “Put it in the heaven.”  A more common expression is “Put it on the back burner.” If it is resonant with Life, it may be useful to the creation of a living world.  What we now have is a dying world created by dying human beings. 

Weeds find their way into this sacred soil as well, deposited there by birds-of-sorts in their fertilizing poop. There’s a biblical passage that cautions “Beware the snare of the fowler,” the web-like net of the human mind that snares fleeting ideas. The soil of consciousness can become cluttered with weed-yielding seeds, so we have a responsibility to “Tend and keep the Garden.”

The content of human consciousness is generally a clutter of “false ambition’s restless schemes” . . . busy thoughts and self-serving ideas and concepts—many of them like concrete: thoroughly mixed up and permanently set . . . and ardently defended when challenged.  Just consider the “narrative” put forth by the official guardians of the nation’s health with regard to the current global health crisis.  Try and put forward an alternative narrative on social media, even amongst friends and family, and you’ll find yourself quickly censored and cancelled.  Mark Twain had something to say about this: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled.”

THE “OFFICIAL NARRATIVE”

Human consciousness, in its state of uncertainty and insecurity, greatly values official and popular narratives, and will ardently defends them against any and all challenges to the contrary.  It’s an addiction affording a sense of comfort, though false, in knowing what’s going on in the world, especially in a life-threatening crisis.  Most are fear mongering motivators. 

There are a number of crises constantly going on in our world of many problems.  One such crisis is in the Christian world of religious beliefs and doctrines.  I ran into this one several months ago during a fairly pleasant conversation with a nephew who is heavily invested in the Pentecostal narrative that “All men are sinners”—until I suggested he consider the passage in Genesis that says he is made in the image and likeness of God and is therefore Divine.  He vehemently objected to even the suggestion of a different narrative about the nature of man. “Oh No! I am a sinner! The Bibles says all men are sinners.”  I recall a biblical passage that declares “All men are liars.” (Psalm 116:11).  It was Paul who declared all men to be sinners, but Paul didn’t know the Master, nor did he ever hear Him speak of His Gospel of the Kingdom of Love.

Then, there’s this “pandemic” which has polarized the population of the world in two different camps believing in two opposing narratives.  Friends and families have been torn apart by this controversy.  The attitude is taken, on both sides, “Don’t mess with my belief if you don’t want to start a heated argument.  I need to believe in this for my own sanity and security.”  Apparently, this is not a good time nor topic for inquiry and critical thinking.

People have been censored and imprisoned, even scrubbed out, for putting forth a narrative that radically differs from the “official” narrative . . . and not only in modern times.  We have the historical precedent of the crucifixion of Jesus.  He was denied not once but three times by a disciple, abandoned by all but two or three, and crucified by those to whom he had come to offer salvation and a Way into the Kingdom of Heaven without having to die—all for proclaiming his divinity and the divinity of all men, male and female, made in God’s image and likeness.  He brought forward a narrative that was radically different from the long-standing Hebrew doctrines, and it was rejected by staunch believers in an ancient narrative that a Messiah would come and set things to right here on earth.  “My kingdom is not of this world” he told Pilate . . . yet another narrative that no one in his day could quite comprehend much less adopt.  The narrative of a temporal kingdom with a Messiah as king was deeply invested in by the religious authorities of the day, as well as the Zealots among the people, who cried out for his crucifixion. 

OUR YOUTH IN THE “CLIMATE CRISIS”

Then there’s the “climate crisis” everyone’s polarized in . . . well, almost everyone, most actively our youth since it’s their future that’s at stake.  Here’s a report by Somini Sengupta, Global Correspondent on climate issues for the New York Times from a recent survey of 10,000 young people on the issue of climate change. 

HOW THE YOUNG GENERATIONS VIEW THE WORLD

Four Takeaways on the youth climate movement: They’ve grown up in a pandemic.  They’ve come of age in an era of strongman leaders.  The climate crisis looms over their very lives. Generation Z, the cohort born after 1996, has inherited a set of compounding uncertainties. It explains, in some measure, the vibe of the youth climate movement. Powered by rage and distrust, it is decentralized and it is increasingly focused on the inequitable effects of global warming.

The global youth movement known as Friday for the Future has called on its members to organize protests around the world this Friday, March 25 (yesterday).  Its rallying cry is “climate reparations and justice.”

Here’s what I find most revealing about this generation of climate activists: They distrust government.

In a survey of 10,000 people between ages 16 and 25 in 10 countries, three-fourths said they think “the future is frightening.”  The survey was funded by an advocacy group, Avaaz, led by researchers at the University of Bath in England and published in The Lancet in December.  It asked respondents to answer “yes” or “no” or “prefer not to say” to a series of questions.

More than 64 percent said their governments were not “doing enough to prevent a climate catastrophe”; more than 61 percent said they did not have trust in their government; and more than 58 percent said their governments were “betraying” them.  In the U.S., they are mostly female and white.

This state of protest in the consciousness of our youth, seeded and nurtured by fear of extinction of our species, and anger toward the government for not doing more to avert an existential crisis, ignores the fact that the government has little real control over the climate of the planet.  The climate of the earth and all the planets is largely controlled and determined by what’s happening with the Sun at the center of our solar system.  Earth is part of a unit and moves with what is moving within it—which for the past several years has been a gradual heating-up, bringing about climate changes on all the planets, severe storms and turbulences just like those here on Earth. 

Our planet is not in jeopardy of extinction.  We are.  Not by climate change alone but by our own hand.  We’re poisoning our water, our air and our earth with our waste and industrial pollution. The fourth Creative Force, fire, cannot be polluted, and is at work cleansing and purifying the earth and its inhabitants. 

THE OFFIIAL CHRISTIAN NARRATIVE

Returning to the ill-conceived cancellation of Jesus by the radical fundamentalists of his day—a cancellation that was echoed and repeated at the ecumenical Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, a council of Christian bishops convened by Roman Emperor Constantine, in which Jesus’s message of the Kingdom of love was literally redacted and the official narrative of Christianity for the entire world established and published in the Nicaean Creed, a narrative recited at Sunday Services in the Christian world year ’round. The narrative Jesus brought and offered to the world hasn’t been successfully cancelled but continues to be offered by the Lord of lords and King of kings.  His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven from which his Father, who is Love, seeds the sacred soil of Consciousness from which Mother God brings forth the fruits of the Tree of Life in the Garden of the Natural World and so-called “wild kingdoms,” even with a few faithful stewards on hand to tend and keep it. 

The youth of today protest to the government for its lack of doing more about the “climate crisis.”  The truth is, WE are the government.  As youth choirs sing out these days, “We are the world.  We are the people.” It’s our job to set things to right here on Earth.  We are the designated keepers of Eden. 

IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD SEEDED BY LIFE

When was the last time you looked around and marveled at the beauty of Mother Nature’s wonderful world?  The wondrous works of the Creator, seeded from above by Father Sun, as the Native American Indians saw the world and honored the Earth and the Great Spirit whose world it is?  As I stated earlier, we must take great care for what seeds we sow in the garden of human consciousness.  Seeds of fear for what the climate prophets predict lies ahead for mankind and the planet invite that which we most fear to come upon us. The narratives we uphold and hold sacred in consciousness have the potential of doing more than simply defining what is thought to be going down in our world.  They have the seminal potential of determining what will transpire down the road, if not sooner.  

“IT’S WHAT IT IS”

When I think deeper about it, why do we need a narrative at all?  About anything? Why, indeed?  A narrative is not needed to define what’s going on in the world. It’s plain to see. As the current popular quip puts it, “It’s what it is.”  The world is what it is . . . and how we’ve made it.  There’s a saying in the Bible “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” The New World—the biblical “New Jerusalem”—comes down from God out of Heaven . . . “adorned as a bride for her husband” . . . all ready to be received and established on Earth.  That’s why we’re here.  The only reason why we were put here: to know the ordinances of Heaven and to set their dominion in the Earth.  Let us lift up our hearts unto Heaven and welcome the New Earth . . . even as we totter on an existential precipice “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” as the ancient saying goes.  

I leave you with these timeless words in the form of a poem composed by a remarkable spiritual teacher, Lord Martin Exeter.  May they quicken the angelic spirit of love for the truth of life in you, my cherished reader and follower.

                            THUS IT IS

From age to age

      Love’s word rings forth,

          “The truth is true and all is well,

                 Unconquerable life prevails.”

Oh, man, whose strident dreams

       Lead gravewards,

               Return to calm and noble

                       Character of life.

Blaze forth pure virtue;

        Depart false ambition’s restless schemes.

Busy thought and troubled feeling

        Trespass not in virtue’s wise serenity

              Where firm control and awful power

                      Eternally abide.

Here earth’s pains are healed

       And cruel chaos of mind’s spawning

              Is called again to order and to beauty.

 Thus it is. Until my next post,

Be love.  Be loved. 

Anthony 

tapal70@gmail.com

 

The Incarnation of God, 3: Unveiling Love, the Gift of You

           Love is at the Heart of Creation 

Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.  —Dylan Thomas

I GREET YOU ON THIS CHRISTMAS MORNING in the Spirit of the Christ, whose birth we celebrate today. Let peace reign in your heart today and throughout the New Year.

Cynthia Bourgeault takes this chapter of her book, THE WISDOM JESUS, home to an unveiling of love.  Recapping the previous two paragraphs for continuity of thought, here is the final installment of this series on the incarnation of Jesus.

♦ ◊ ♦

LET ME BE VERY CLEAR HERE. I am not saying that suffering exists in order for God to reveal himself. I am only saying that where suffering exists and is consciously accepted, there divine love shines forth brightly. Unfortunately, linear cause-and-effect has progressively less meaning as we approach the deep mysteries (which originate beyond time and thus have no real use for it). But the principle can be tested. Pay attention to the quality of human character that emerges from constriction accepted with conscious forgiveness as compared to what emerges from rage and violence and draw your own conclusions.

At any rate, I have often suspected that the most profound product of this world is tears. I don’t mean that to be morbid. Rather, I mean that tears express that vulnerability in which we can endure having our heart broken and go right on loving. In the tears flows a sweetness not of our own making, which has been known in our tradition as the Divine Mercy. Our jagged and hard-edged earth plane is the realm in which this mercy is the most deeply, excruciatingly, and beautifully released. That’s our business down here. That’s what we’re here for. ♦ (Emphasis added)

Unveiling Love

IF MY HUNCH IS CORRECT, you can see how it significantly rearranges the playing field. Our earthly existence, then, is not about good behavior in preparation for a final judgment. It’s not a finishing school in which we “learn what we need to learn,” nor a sweatshop in which we work off our karmic debt. Right here and now we are in the process of speaking into being the revelation of God’s most hidden and intimate name. That’s a difficult assignment, particularly when “success” and “failure” mostly wind up being the complete opposites of what we would normally expect in life. But the most productive orientation for our time here is not to focus on how quickly we can get back to our spiritual homeland, but to give ourselves fully to the divine intimacy being ventured right here and now. We might reassure ourselves that in some conscious (or deeply trans-conscious) way, we have chosen to bear our part in what mystical tradition calls “the suffering of God”: the costliness that is always involved in the full manifestation of divine love. We’re doing it here and now, through the marrow of our own human lives, consciously lived. And these space-time conditions, as fragile and as frustrating as they are, are precisely the conditions which allow it to happen. As the poet Dylan Thomas expresses it in the beautiful lines with which this chapter began, “Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.” It is the reality of the chains that creates the beauty of the song.

Mediator as Bridge

From a God’s-eye view of creation, the real operational challenge is not sin and evil; it is posed by the vastly unequal energetic frequencies between the realms. How can the sun touch a snowflake? How can the divine radiance meet and interpenetrate created life without incinerating it? This is the ultimate metaphysical koan—to which Christianity proposes as its solution the mystery of the incarnation.

This realization, in turn, opens up a whole new line of insight into John’s statement, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The Son, in this wider metaphysical context, is no longer the one who bails us out or who rescues us from our fallen state but the one who becomes our bridge between the realms. Recognizing the enormous difficulty of our mission, Jesus comes to accompany us on it, advocating for our human finitude in a way that respects its integrity but doesn’t allow us to get trapped in it. As in the traditional theological understanding (but with a very different flavor), he becomes our mediator. Standing at the confluence of two vastly different orders of being, he offers his own life as the sanctuary between them.

“Become All Flame”

As we have seen already, these great metaphysical paradoxes lend themselves more easily to poetry and metaphor than to the theological scalpel. One of the classic images Christian mystics have used to portray this cosmic mediation is actually very ancient, from the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus (3:1-6) the story is told of how Moses, while tending his father-in-law’s flock of sheep in the Midianite wilderness, suddenly comes upon a bush fully engulfed in flame and yet miraculously intact. The miracle is quickly revealed as an angel of God speaking through the flame. But for the Christian desert hermits later inhabiting that same wilderness, the burning bush became a symbol of Jesus himself: all flame, yet perfectly intact within his finite container. And there were those among that desert fellowship who yearned for that same incandescent ground. In one of the most famous of the desert parables:

Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.

Would it be possible for us, too, to “become all flame”? Could our own lives become such a perfect fusion of infinite love and finite form that light would pour from our being as an actual physical radiance? I have indeed seen this light in more than a few realized masters toward the end of their earthly journeys; it is the fully revealed mystery of human life lived as a conscious sacrament. How we get there is the secret Jesus will unfold for us through the course of his own consciously sacramental life. But our first step in joining him on this journey is to recognize that his incarnation is not about fall, guilt, or blame, but about goodness, solidarity, and our own intimate participation in the mystery of love at the heart of all creation.

♦ ◊ ♦

Life is sacred wherever it is expressed in Nature.  A life lived with love is truly a sacrament.  I love Cynthia’s passionate presentation of the incarnation and life of Jesus.  Speaking of passion,  I was listening to Bishop Michael Curry on NBC’s Today Show this Christmas Eve morning give his Christmas message, which is all about giving the gift of YOU to all those you meet in your daily activities by greeting them with a smile and a kind word or two to make a connection with them for sharing love.  He exemplifies this in his own robust ways.  We each have a gift to give of our Self, which is a gift from Heaven from whence we came into this world.  The gifts of Spirit are always coming down from God out of Heaven.  We need only be still enough and prepared in our hearts to receive and deliver them.  My friend in South Korea, Jae Hyoung Lee, shared this timely message on his Facebook page today: 

How careful are you that the atmosphere in you, that your state inside yourself, is of such a nature that the delicate things of God will not be destroyed? Such things will be destroyed by self-indulgence in such things as resentment, fear, hate, jealousy. All such attitudes produce a coarse atmosphere within a person, where the delicate plant cannot grow, where the delicate plant in fact will be destroyed. The way the world now is the atmosphere is so coarse that the things of God cannot exist here. They must first be placed in a womb, and the womb is provided by human beings, who were created for this purpose. We are the human beings through whom this development needs to take place, and we are responsible for maintaining security.  —-Martin Cecil

There a beautiful hymn we used to sing in choir that speaks of the womb of the Earth for beauty to be born and our crowning role as emissaries of beauty and light.  I’ll leave it with you to hold in your heart during this Christmas Season and throughout the coming year. 

Our God did make the earth a place of beauty, love and light, Where skies and seas and all of life reveal Him with delight. For God did make the earth a womb where beauty might be born. 

The flowers drink the rain and sun above the good brown earth, And do not seem to have to try to fill their life with worth. For God did make the earth a womb where beauty might be born.

And man He made with crowning care to share His majesty, To let His gifts of life appear, His glory ever be. For God did make the earth a womb where beauty might be born.

May your Christmas be a joyful celebration of the gift you are and the gifts of friends and family.  Feel free to share my Christmas message with friends and loved ones.  See you next year!  

Merry Christmas . . . and Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and neighbors! 

Anthony

 

The Incarnation of God, 2: Many Mansions

“The crucifixion wasn’t really the hard thing for Jesus; the hard thing was incarnation.”  

THE PASSAGE ABOVE, attributed to the mystic Bernadette Roberts, sets the tone for this second in a series of three posts on the theme of the incarnation of Jesus, the son of God.  I continue from where my previous post left off sharing from Cynthia Bourgeault’s  beautiful and provocative book, THE WISDOM JESUS, Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message.  We came into Being in Heaven before coming into Human form on Earth, and our journeys here were anything but pleasant.  We fell into this illusive world “from a lighter gravitational field to a heavier one.” With this post I celebrate the Winter Solstice and the beginning of yet another solar cycle initiated by the increase of Light.  Enjoy.  

♦ ◊ ♦

“Many Dwelling Places”

We Christians still inhabit a rather small universe, metaphysically speaking. We know that we live here on earth, and some of us may believe that above it is a place called heaven, counterbalanced by a place down below called hell. At very best it’s a three-tiered universe. But the ancient wisdom traditions (now strongly reinforced, incidentally, by findings emerging from modern physics and cosmology) universally suggest that we need to throw this three-story world out; it is far too cramped to contain the vastness of divine consciousness. There are many realms, wisdom teaches: not just earth, heaven, and hell, but countless densities or dimensions of existence, all of which exist to manifest or mirror an aspect of the divine fullness. Jesus himself states this very clearly to the disciples in his farewell discourses in the Gospel of John, when he says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (John 14:2). He does not mean physical places but rather states of consciousness or dimensions of divine energy (as we saw in chapter 3 with Jim Marion’s recognition that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was Jesus’s way of referring to nondual consciousness). The tradition of sophia perennis (perennial wisdom) pictures this vastness as a “great chain of being” or “ray of creation.” which begins in a pure, high-intensity, invisible, subtle consciousness and “descends,” thickening as it does so, into this world we inhabit: the realm of sharp edges and tables and chairs and human beings crashing and banging against each other in a finite and terribly solid world.

The contemporary Christian hermeticist Valentin Tomberg envisions this ray as a vast energetic cascade, beginning in divine consciousness itself and ending up in our familiar empirical universe. In Meditations on the Tarot he writes:

“Modern science has come to understand that matter is only condensed energy. Sooner or later science will also discover that what it calls energy is only condensed psychic force, which discovery will lead in the end to the establishment of the fact that all psychic force is the condensation, purely and simply, of consciousness; i.e., spirit.”

Like a mountain whose base is solidly on the earth but whose summit is hidden in the clouds, this insight leads us step by step up the ray of creation. Modern physics certainly would have no difficulty with the assertion that matter is only condensed energy; this is officially the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But what about this next realm, “psychic force”? Here the paths divide. This second form of energy is well known to spiritual seekers, but largely invisible to hardcore science; it is the energy flowing through prayer, attention, intention, and will: those more subtle exchanges which science has so far declined to measure but which we know have the power to create demonstrable effects in the physical realm.”

Beyond psychic force, yet another energetic realm awaits us, claims Tomberg, for psychic force is itself only the “condensation” (that is, the densification or coarser expression) of a substance incomparably more intense and subtle: pure spirit, pristine consciousness itself, unmediated by any form of expression. This primordial quality is known by many names in the tradition-“I AM” in Judeo-Christian tradition, wujud (“reality”) in mystical Islam, rigpa (“pristine awareness”) in Tibetan Buddhism. The names vary, but the understanding remains the same. Virtually unanimously, the ancient wisdom roadmaps picture the cosmos as a vast light stream, radiating out from the ineffable Godhead through the realm of primordial intention (known in Christianity as the logos), into archetypal form and energies, and finally into human, earthly becoming. Our life here in this physical cosmos is merely the endpoint of a long journey of what you might call “divine redshift”— that is, the condensation or cooling down of the intense energy of pure spirit in order to make physical manifestation possible.

Down Here on the Edge

So here we find ourselves on this plane of existence, at or near the bottom of the great chain of being. What are we to make of our position? What are we doing “down” here in a world that seems so dense and sluggish, so coarse and fragile and finite? Even in our dreams we move faster than the speed of light, and our mystics and visionaries are perpetually reminding us that in our heart of hearts we remember and yearn for a state of greater spaciousness and fluidity.

It’s curious, when you come to think about it, how virtually all the world’s spiritual traditions see this earthly realm as somehow deficient. Depending on the tradition, our world is either an illusion or a mistake, but in either case we “fall” into it, from a lighter gravitational field to a heavier one. We have seen how the Judeo-Christian tradition upholds this understanding in its primordial myth of the fall of Adam and Eve. Other traditions (primarily the Eastern ones) see this world as a mirage, an illusion to be dispelled. Still other traditions, such as mystical Islam, carry a profound sense of exile and a “nostalgia for the infinite.” Here is not home.

Is there another way of looking at this? I believe there is, and I think that it is actually at the heart of what is intended by that beautiful mantra, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” But it is so spiritually counterintuitive that it remains almost entirely unspoken — at least I myself have never heard it spoken or written about in any of the traditions. To the extent that what I am seeing here is correct, Christian wisdom steps out into unknown territory, leaving even sophia perennis behind.

Here is my take: Yes, this is a very heavy, frustrating, difficult density that we come into by taking birth in the human realm. Because of the binary, finite nature of both the physical world itself and the egoic operating system we use to navigate it, it seems as though we’re always bumping into sharp edges. Life presents us with a series of seemingly irrevocable choices: to do one thing means that we have to give up something else; to marry one person means we can’t marry another; and to join a monastery means we can’t marry at all. Our confused agendas clash both inwardly and outwardly, and we cause each other pain. Our bodies age; we diminish physically; loved ones fall out of our lives. And the force of gravity is tenacious, nailing our feet to the ground and usually our souls as well.  I remember my granddaughter, now five, who from the very moment she arrived on this planet expe­rienced an intense frustration bordering on fury at her inability to move. “What the hell?” she seemed to be saying as she flailed her little arms and legs and tried even at four months old to wriggle herself across the room. I have never seen a child who
felt the constriction of this planet as much as she did. 

Yes, we come into constriction, but is that the same as punishment! I believe not. I believe rather that this constriction is a sacrament and we have been offered a divine invitation to participate in it. 

Remember our discussion of sacrament at the beginning of this chapter! A sacrament reveals a mystery in a particularly intense way while at the same time offering the means for its actualization. And in this sphere of human life, the sacrament is finitude and the mystery is “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known….” 

Notice that there is a subtle double meaning at work in this phrase. At one level “I loved to be known” is a synonym for “I longed to be known” (and the phrase is often translated that way). But you can read the words in another way: “I loved in order to be known”– and when you do, they reveal a deeper spiritual truth.  In order to become known to another, we must take the risk of loving that person, and this includes the real possibility of rejection and the even more painful prospect of heart­ break if the beloved is lost to us. It is difficult to risk love in a world so fragile and contingent. And yet, the greater the gamble of self-disclosure, the more powerful the intimacy and the more profound the quality of devotion revealed. 

Could it be like this for God as well? 

Could it be that this earthly realm, not in spite of but because of its very density and jagged edges, offers precisely the conditions for the expression of certain aspects of divine love that could become real in no other way? This world does indeed show forth what love is like in a particularly intense and cost­ly way. But when we look at this process more deeply, we can see that those sharp edges we experience as constriction at the same time call forth some of the most exquisite dimensions of love, which require the condition of finitude in order to make sense — qualities such as steadfastness, tenderness, commitment, forbearance, fidelity, and forgiveness. These mature and subtle flavors of love have no real context in a realm where there are no edges and boundaries, where all just flows. But when you run up against the hard edge and have to stand true to love anyway, what emerges is a most precious taste of pure divine love. God has spoken his most intimate name. 

Let me be very clear here. I am not saying that suffering exists in order for God to reveal himself. I am only saying that where suffering exists and is consciously accepted, there divine love shines forth brightly. Unfortunately, linear cause-and-effect has progressively less meaning as we approach the deep mysteries (which originate beyond time and thus have no real use for it). But the principle can be tested. Pay attention to the quality of human character that emerges from constriction accepted with conscious forgiveness as compared to what emerges from rage and violence and draw your own conclusions.

At any rate, I have often suspected that the most profound product of this world is tears. I don’t mean that to be morbid. Rather, I mean that tears express that vulnerability in which we can endure having our heart broken and go right on loving. In the tears flows a sweetness not of our own making, which has been known in our tradition as the Divine Mercy. Our jagged and hard-edged earth plane is the realm in which this mercy is the most deeply, excruciatingly, and beautifully released. That’s our business down here. That’s what we’re here for. ♦ (Emphasis added)

♦ ◊ ♦

I love Cynthia’s passion and I’m finding her insights enlightening relative to the evolution and transformation taking place in Christian thinking and in the collective consciousness as a whole, probably because I still have a place of compassionate caring in my heart for my Catholic roots.  Not that I’m setting out on a mission to save the Catholic Church.  It’s the betrayed and misled that I care about, and who I have in mind and heart sharing Cynthia’s writings.  Please feel free to wisely share these blog posts with friends and family.  We will find out where the author is taking this consideration in the final series installment, which I will post on Christmas day.  Until then, Happy Solstice.

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com 

The Incarnation of God

I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known, and so I created the worlds both visible and invisible.” — Islamic Tradition

CHRISTMAS IS A YEARLY CELEBRATION of the incarnation of God’s only son, the Lord of Love and Prince of Peace, on Earth. I would like to share with you an insightful view and perspective of the incarnation of Jesus as a fully humanized being, taken from Cynthia Bourgeault’s beautifully written and profoundly insightful book THE WISDOM JESUS.  Its author is an Episcopal priest who has written several books exploring Jesus’ life as a mystical teaching and sacrament. 

Having emerged from a Catholic upbringing myself, and having spent seven years in Catholic Seminary, I do enjoy sharing this author’s vision of what Christianity could be simply by adopting a more metaphysical view and understanding of it core truth and of the One whose birth we celebrate this week.  Cynthia takes us from where we’ve been in our religious path of worshiping God, to where we are now at the threshold of opportunity for a radical shift in our attitude and consciousness, and forward to how we could easily move into a more spirit and love based path to knowing God.  I will share selections from her book in two or more blog posts.  I hope you will enjoy her as much as I do.

♦ ◊ ♦

THE INCARMATION

IN THE FIRST PART of this book we explored Jesus’s teachings as a comprehensive spiritual path. In this second part we will be shifting our focus to consider Jesus’s life itself as a teaching. By “a teaching” I mean a model, of course; all authentic teachers walk the talk. But more than just a model, I want to consider his life as a sacrament — that is, as a spiritual force in its own right. The traditional definition of a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” But what to my mind this definition does not make sufficiently clear is that a sacrament does not merely symbolize a spiritual reality; it lives that reality into existence.

Jesus’s life, considered from this standpoint, is a sacrament: a mystery that draws us deeply into itself and, when rightly approached, conveys an actual spiritual energy empowering us to follow the path that his teachings have laid out. This sacramental life of Jesus rests on four cornerstones which are both historical events and cosmic realities: his incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension. Together they compose the foundation of the Christian mystical and devotional life, and to open oneself fully to the meaning of these great mysteries is to be able to read the inner roadmap of the Christian path. In the next four chapters we will be exploring each of these mysteries in turn. My hope is to move beyond the usual theological and critical-historical explanations in order to follow the living mystical thread that will allow us to appropriate each one of these mysteries as food for the journey.

Since the ground we will be traversing is also the sometimes prickly shared territory of Christian liturgy and sacramental theology, let me remind you once again of my own background here, so that you will know where I am speaking from. While I wear the collar of an Episcopal priest, most of my lived liturgical life has been within the wider stream of Benedictine monasticism, primarily Western and Roman Catholic (although the Episcopal liturgy is in most respects identical), and it is from this perspective (as well as my earlier training as a medievalist) that I will primarily be speaking when I describe the ritual celebrations that unfold these great mysteries. I am less familiar with the Orthodox traditions (except through my exposure to the  Christian inner tradition), but at ease within the Celtic and Oriental Orthodox spiritual streams, whose extraordinary insights I will draw on at appropriate moments. As Meister Eckhart once observed, “There is no being except in a mode of being,” and the Western Catholic mode of being is the stream in which I have primarily come to know what I know. With that disclaimer in place, let us see what we can discover about the first great mystery, the incarnation.

“For God So Loved the World . . . .”

I remember being struck many years ago by an insight from the contemporary mystic Bernadette Roberts that crucifixion wasn’t really the hard thing for Jesus; the hard thing was incarnation.” Crucifixion and what followed from it — his death and resurrection — were simply the pathway along which infinite consciousness could return to its natural state. What was really hard for infinite consciousness was to come into the finite world in the first place. With nothing to gain from the human adventure — nothing to prove, nothing to achieve, and a dangerously unboundaried heart that left him defenseless against the hard edges of this world — Jesus came anyway: that, claims Bernadette Roberts, was the real crucifixion! As we saw earlier, Paul grasped that same point in his beautiful hymn in Philippians 2:9-16. The first self-emptying that Jesus goes through is the self-emptying that lands him in bodily form on this planet, a human being. There is definitely something spiritually counterintuitive about this business of incarnation, and to really get what’s at stake in this mystery is for me the acid test as to whether you understand what Christianity is all about.

Unfortunately, this understanding is hard to come by: not only outside of Christianity, but inside it as well. Make no mistake, Christianity is intensely a religion of incarnation. Millions of people caught up in mass hysteria during the Christmas season can’t all be wrong! But even the sentimental excesses of the season only go to reinforce the point. There is a deeper truth at work here that stirs us in spite of ourselves. Who among us has not awakened in the wee hours of Christmas morning to catch the live broadcast of the Ceremony of Lessons and Carols from Westminster Abbey and thrilled to the sonorous reading of those immortal words from the prologue to the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us”? There is a deep soul-truth here that both contains and redeems our frantic efforts to penetrate its meaning at a more superficial level.

If you were to imagine the great world religions like the colors of a rainbow, each one witnessing in a particular way to some essential aspect of the divine fullness, Christianity would unquestionably hold down the corner of incarnation — by which I mean the vision of God in full solidarity with the created world, fully at home within the conditions of finitude, so that form itself poses no impediment to divinity. There is another beautiful phrase in John’s gospel proclaiming: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).  At its mystical best, Christianity reverberates with the warmth of this assurance: with the conviction that creation is good, that God is for us, and that what ultimately gets worked out in the sacred mystery of Jesus’s passage through the human realm is a profound testament to love.

Who Screwed Up?

Unfortunately, Christianity as a religion has never had a sufficient metaphysical understanding of its own core truth. The message gets obscured by its primary interpretive vehicle: the theology of fall and redemption. Virtually all Christian teaching begins from the supposition that Jesus’s incarnation is brought about by the fall of Adam and happens in response to it. “As in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive” is the classic Pauline formulation of this idea (I Corinthians 15:20). The primordial parents Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and plunged the world into chaos; Jesus came to rescue it. Thus, incarnation is framed from the start within the context of God’s response to a mistake that should never have happened in the first place. This assumption, in turn, deeply colors our understanding of the phrase, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It sounds like: “God didn’t give up on us; God bailed us out.”

In a more mystical nuancing of this same basic idea, we encounter the theology of “0 felix culpa”~”O happy fault”~ to quote the first line of a traditional Gregorian Advent hymn which expresses this theology particularly clearly. Rather than blaming Adam and Eve, this line of argument claims, we ought to be grateful for them because their mistake set in motion the chain of events through which Christ would fully reveal himself to this world. Without that initial fall there would have been no need for the redemption. In the most subtle versions of this teaching (as in Karl Barth’s Christ and Adam) linear cause and effect are reversed, and we see Adam and Eve falling into this space/time continuum out of God’s “prior” decision (that is, already made in eternity) to reveal himself in human form. Rather than being the cause of the fall, Adam and Eve become the instruments of the ultimate divine self-communication. This is a much more affirmative teaching, which brings the theology of fall and redemption to its most mature expression.

But I would like to push the metaphysical envelope still further and see if we can approach the mystery of the incarnation through a conceptual framework that does not rely on fall and redemption at all but unfolds along an entirely different line of understanding. Instead of a cosmic course-correction, this other approach envisions the steady and increasingly intimate revelation of divine love along a trajectory that was there from the beginning. The best expression of this idea is actually contained in a beautiful saying from Islamic tradition (although its roots go down into perennial wisdom ground): “I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known, and so I created the worlds both visible and invisible.” Both the saying itself and the understanding that illumines it derive from a profound mystical intuition that our created universe is a vast mirror, or ornament (and the Greek word “cosmos” literally means “an ornament”), through which divine potentiality — ­beautiful, fathomless, endlessly creative — projects itself into form in order to realize fully the depths of divine love. And remember that “realize” has two meanings: “to recognize” and “to make real.” The act of loving brings hidden potential to full expression, and the more intimate and costly the self-giving, the more precious the quality of love revealed. This subtle and beautiful understanding of creation will also, as we shall see, have something very important to show us about our true work as human beings.

♦ ◊ ♦

We are each one an incarnation of Divine Being.  Our personal incarnations were stressful and limiting, descending from the peaceful Realms of Light and landing in the dark wet terrain of busy embryonic cellular activity; from flying freely in the air of spirit to crawling on our bellies until our toddling forms learn to walk and run.  How we yearn for the freedom we knew before incarnating.  I remember very vivid dreams of flying above the ground at breakneck speed in my youthful years.  Who hasn’t had such dreams?  And I can relate to the thrill a jet pilot must enjoy flying through the air at supersonic speed.  One has to be fit and well trained to fly a jet.  Likewise our human capacities need compassionate care and vital nourishment in order to be fully fit and available in accommodating the incarnate divine beings we are.     

Yet here we are, fully awake and learning how to navigate a multidimensional universe of energy-shaped-and-driven hard and complex materiality only God comprehends.  Being incarnate gods ourselves, we have been gifted the privilege of sharing in Divine Consciousness and comprehending reality that is incomprehensible to the human intellect—for the darkness cannot comprehend the Light in the same way that Light comprehends the darkness.  We incarnate to bring Light into the dark corners of Creation to bring forth a heavenly world here on Earth where we are.  This gives us great cause for celebrating, at Christmas time and throughout the year. 

I celebrate you, dear reader, this Christmas, along with my own Divine incarnation—and my gift to you and myself is unconditional love and acceptance.  May the joy of Love fill you full to overflowing during this Holiday Season.  Until my next post — which will be published this coming Wednesday,

Be love.  Be loved.

Anthony    (tpal70@gmail.com)

Credits: Artistic drawing by Rose Meeker, author of MAGIC AT OUR HAND – Releasing Our Lives into Order and Beauty

 

Steps of Ascent 5: The Way of the Master

“I have thrown fire on the world. Look! I watch it until it blazes.” —Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas

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IN MY PREVIOUS POST I spoke of a restoration process underway since the Fall, so far made in two approaches.  The first one was initiated with Abraham and the nation of Israel. The second approach, from the physical plane as was the first, was initiated with King Solomon.  Both failed to bring mankind back into the Garden state and alignment with the governance of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

      The third and forth approaches were from the mental and spiritual planes respectively and was initiated by the Master Jesus Christ, the incarnate Lord of Love.  Both of these approaches failed as well due to the hardness of men’s hearts and failure to comprehend his dual command to love the Lord God above all and one’s neighbor as oneself, which embodies the essence of his life and teachings.

This post is about the third approach which led to a fourth for him personally, opening the Way to restoration and ascension for all of mankind.  The following is from my book SACRED ANATOMY. 

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The Way of the Master                                        

       There was a Man sent from God—an incarnate God Being—who returned to Heaven with his human capacities restored to their glorified state.  His name was Jesus and he was called “Master” by those who loved and followed him closely. 

       Putting these cycles of restoration in a certain perspective, Uranda called them “Sacred Schools” in that they were periods of spiritual education, a time when human beings were taught by great spirits and masters how to function spiritually in each level of ascent as the restoration continued to unfold. Jesus initiated the second cycle, at the level of the mental plane, and opened the door to the third, the level of the expression of Spirit, with his two Great Commandments of Love. But those to whom he brought the Way back into the “kingdom of heaven” either didn’t comprehend him or rejected him out of hand and sought to erase him from the face of the Earth by destroying his personal temple.  This time it was men who failed to defeat the Divine Design for restoration, as it was beyond their reach.

       Jesus dealt with human consciousness from the “mental plane approach.” He offered tranquility, a quality of the Spirit of the Single Eye in the second plane of being, to minds frantically busy with the letter of the law and the prophets.  “Peace, be still,” were words he often spoke before preaching and ministering to his disciples. He took issue with the Scribes and Pharisees, for example, which he blatantly characterized as “hypocrites” and “whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones” for  the way they allowed the letter of the law to overshadow the “spirit that giveth life.” 

      He came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to impose them upon the faithful in order to “lord it over them.” Above all, he met and dealt forthrightly and in singleness of purpose with his own human mind and restored order and beauty to his house of Being.  “Get thee behind me, Satan” were his words of rebuke more than once to his own human mind and through it to the collective mind in the larger body of mankind.

       He brought one law, the law of love, to replace the many laws that were on the books and enforced in order to keep the people subdued and under control. That law was stated as two Great Commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart and all of thy mind and with all of thy strength,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” 

In giving this one law of love, He began opening the third level of consciousness and plane of being, the spiritual-expression plane approach, which is made from the level of the heart.  It is simply the expression of the spirit of God in living, which brings a realization of the presence of God in one’s temple and an outpouring of blessing into one’s world.  We have seen how this level is the domain of the Spirit of Blessing.

       “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” He taught, and in so teaching began to open the way leading up into the fourth level of consciousness, which is the plane of being connecting heaven and earth and the level of awareness of divine identity. The Spirit of Purification reins here to bring clarity to the heaven.

In order to enter this level of consciousness, where one knows with assurance one’s own divine presence in the world, the heart must be purified by the continual and consistent outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Love.  It is the only way—and the Master Jesus went that way, even though no one at the time was willing to go with Him.  “I am the way, the truth and the life,” He proclaimed and then proceeded to exemplify for all who had ears to hear and eyes to see. 

      Here was the Lord of Love himself incarnate on earth attempting to gather human beings back under his wings, “as a hen with her brood,” but they “would not.”  The gospels say Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.  It was not for himself that he wept but for what he saw human beings were doing to themselves.  He came to initiate the process by which human beings could come out of the state of dying souls and back into the state of original innocence as living souls, only he was met by all sorts of resistance and considerable opposition. 

      When it became apparent to him that he was not going to be allowed to initiate that process for the whole body of mankind through His personal hedge of followers, he accepted the responsibility himself of ascending to the third and fourth planes of being.  But he did not stop here.  There had already been too much failure in the past.  He went all the way through the remaining three levels of being: the fifth which is that of radiance under the domain of the Spirit of Life, the sixth which is that of wisdom under the domain of the Spirit of Truth, or the Womb, and finally the seventh, the dwelling place of the Spirit of Love, with his transfiguration, resurrection and ascension into heaven.

       He stepped from earth back into heaven from whence he had come—and from whence we all have come—giving the simple and apparently achievable instruction to simply follow him: “He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)

      Going unto the Father is the first step and the last that leads to union with God and glorious transfiguration.  He established agreement on earth with His Father in heaven, and where two agree on earth as touching anything “in my name” (in the vibration of love), it shall be done of them by the Father in heaven.  He was able to step, body, soul and spirit, back into the realms of light by reason of the working of this law of love, and the process of ascension manifested in His humanity.

      Each one of these steps of ascent, from one level of consciousness to the next, manifested changes in his outer form.  They each had their impact on Him physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Throughout this process he experienced amazing feats of all sorts: levitation, transfiguration, command of the wind, mental telepathy, long distance healing power,  a potently radiant and highly charged personal atmosphere that when but touched by those around him in faith, wrought healing, power to raise the dead, and many other miracles of transformation. The greatest transformation was that of his own consciousness to the clear, absolute realization that “I and my Father are one.”   He attained to the vibration of the Father, who is love, as he himself had long since earned the title of “Lord of Love.” 

       Probably the toughest of all the outer manifestations of change to move through was his betrayal and subsequent crucifixion. Yet move through it he did, maintaining His connection with his Father and thereby maintaining the continuity of the cycle he had initiated which took him step by step back into the Realms of Light from whence he had come.  He surely saw that experience as a door through which he had to pass in order to go the Way he had chosen. Death with its seeming finality was to him but the shadow side of eternal life itself, and not just for his spirit but for his own body temple as well. 

      The door that leads into the light is always hidden in the shadow, because it is closed.  He opened that door and found resurrection and ascension on the other side, and he opened it with unconditional love for and forgiveness of those who had put him on the cross.  His heart was utterly purified in the fire of love he shared with his Heavenly Father, and which he sought unceasingly to share with his disciples and the world which his Father so loved and had sent him to save.  His outer form was transformed by the Spirit of Purification as He moved through the fourth plane of being on his way up in the ascension process.  Indeed, he became the Spirit of Purification himself at the fourth level of being, the crossover point between spirit and form, and burned his way through the thick veil of the impure heart of humanity. 

      In a service entitled “The Way of the Master,” Martin Cecil describes these events in a remarkably clear and thought-provoking presentation.  He refers to a “tone” sounded:

What a task!  What an unbelievable undertaking, and yet He did it, in spite of everything . . .   He established what we have called the true tone of life for man, an actual vibratory radiation that has been sounding on earth all down the centuries . . . .  It was set of course not by a man as such but by the Lord through a man.  That trumpet tone has been sounding without diminishing for nineteen centuries . . . .

     When He did proceed through the creative cycle in His own personal experience on earth He did what He might to assist those who were present with Him to come along into an experience of greater understanding, but they didn’t get very far.  You may recall, in the Gospel of John, Philip and Thomas, two of the disciples, had no faintest idea as to what it was that our Master was talking about.  He’d been speaking: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”  And He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”  That’s the way He was going, moving through these successive levels of consciousness in the creative cycle, the ascending cycle, thereby preparing the way.  Nobody was going with Him at that time.  The disciples were completely at sea. They enjoyed being with Him, they loved Him, but they didn’t know what was happening and apparently no one has known since. Some beliefs have been generated, some ideas have been produced, and there may have been a little truth back of some of these things. But only now, when it begins to surface and come within the range of present human experience, does it once more become meaningful.  It becomes meaningful to the extent that it is experienced; not to the extent that it is thought about or discussed, or to the extent that doctrines are established; it means something only on the basis of actual experience.  So because there begins to be some actual experience it begins to be meaningful . . . .  (Excerpted from Third Sacred School, Vol. 2, Chapter 28)

       It is the experience that this One Divine Man undertook himself that has established what the body of mankind is to experience and has experienced since he set this tone and sounded it all the way through the seven levels of being as he ascended with his body temple restored to its glorified state.  This is the path that all of mankind has been invited to take and that we each must travel if we are to experience fully the salvation which he brought, the path leading well beyond worship of God to resurrection and ascension in sacred union with God.  Until the reality of such union is actually known, man shall continue his search for Eden outside himself and worship God at the foot of altars made of wood and stone — but not for long. ♦

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The purpose of restoration relates primarily to the return of this world, the earth and the fulness thereof, to the One whose world it is, through Man restored.  In my next post, “The Transmutation of Planet Earth,” I will give in-depth and specific consideration to the divine design by which the Earth is restored to the One who is responsible for it.  Until then,

Be love.  Be loved.

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com

Kenosis, Self-Emptying Love — “The Jesus Trajectory”

“It was not love stored up but love utterly poured out that opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.”  

Generosity of spirit is innate with everyone.  We are born to be givers.  This pandemic, along with hurricanes and wildfires, is bringing out the spirit of giving in us all, heralding in a new day and shaping a new world.  When I see it acted out in movies and news stories, I tear up with joy and longing for the return of generosity to our world.  A passage from my poet friend Don Hynes expresses what I feel today: 

   The old earth claws for purchase
   but the turning is profound,
   reaching from the furthest stars
   to the roots of trees,
   a new heaven poised beyond
   the horizon, beginning even now
   to shape the world anew.

This passage from Cynthia Bourgeault’s THE WISDOM JESUS touched a place in my heart of deep sadness for the state of the world mingled with profound love for this Man she honors and celebrates so exquisitely personal.  How little we know of his colorful character from the Four Gospels.  The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene give us a taste of his more candid expressions, some rather blunt and thought provoking:  “Whoever is near me is near the fire. Whoever is far from me (the fire) is far from the Kingdom.”  He was no gentle lamb, nor a “sweet Jesus.”  His generosity of spirit still shines through his words and deeds recorded in the New Testament, all of which were written down four to five decades after his departure, all from oral traditions.  Yet they inspire and compel us to be better and do better than we have been and done heretofore—even to be ablaze with love as he was.  Cynthia introduces this passage with poetry by Rumi: 

Yet in the midst of suffering,
Love proceeds like a millstone,
hard-surfaced and straight forward.
Having died to self-interest,
she risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.

The Jesus Trajectory

The words above were written by the great Sufi mystic Jalallu­din Rumi.  But better than almost anything in Christian scripture, they closely describe the trajectory that Jesus himself followed in life. He certainly called us to dying to self, but his idea of dying to self was not through inner renunciation or guarding the purity of his being but through radically squandering everything he had and was. John the Baptist’s disciples were horrified because he banqueted, drank, and danced. The Pharisees were horrified because he healed on the Sabbath and kept company with women and disreputables, people known to be impure. Boundaries meant nothing to him; he walked right through them.

What seemed disconcerting to nearly everybody was the messy, freewheeling largeness of his spirit. Abundance and a generosity bordering on extravagant seemed to be the signa­tures of both his teaching and his personal style. We have already noted this in two of his parables, where the thing that sticks in people’s craws is in each case the display of a generosity beyond comprehension that it can only be perceived as unfair. But as we look further, that extravagance is everywhere. When he feeds the multitudes at the Sea of Galilee, there is not merely enough to go around; the leftovers fill twelve baskets.  When a woman anoints him with expensive ointment and the disciples grumble about the waste, he affirms, “Truly, I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (Matthew 26:I3). He seems not to count the cost; in fact, he specifically forbids count­ing the cost. “Do not store up treasures on earth,” he teaches; “do not strive or be afraid—for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke I2:32). All will come of its own accord in good time and with abundant fullness, so long as one does not attempt to hoard or cling.

It is a path he himself walked to the very end. In the gar­den of Gethsemane, with his betrayers and accusers massing at the gates, he struggled and anguished but remained true to his course. Do not hoard, do not cling—not even to life itself. Let it go, let it be-“Not my will but yours be done, 0 Lord.  Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Thus he came and thus he went, giving himself fully into life and death, losing himself, squandering himself, “gambling away every gift God bestows.” It was not love stored up but love utterly poured out that opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us. There is nothing to be renounced or resisted. Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing. You let it go. You go through life like a knife goes through a done cake, picking up nothing, clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing. And grounded in that fundamental chastity of your being, you can then throw yourself out, pour yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself. That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell. Very, very simple. It only costs everything.

Now, I wouldn’t say that Jesus was the first or the only teach­er in the world ever to have opted for this more reckless and extravagant path, the kenotic way to full union. But it does seem that this was the first time such a teaching had ever been seen in the Near Eastern world, and along with its newness also came confusion. It was a concept so far ahead of its time that even Jesus’s closest disciples couldn’t quite stay with it. They’d catch it and they’d lose it. Paul catches it exactly in his beautiful kenotic hymn, then loses it in the long lists of rules and moral proscrip­tions that dominate his epistles. And as the church took shape as an institution, it could not exceed the wingspan of its first apos­tolic teachers; what they themselves did not fully understand, they could not hope to accurately transmit. Thus, as we will see in the next chapter, right from the start the radical simplicity of Jesus’s kenotic path tends to get roped back into the older and more familiar ascetic models, with a subtle but distinct disso­nance that we will be keeping our eyes on.

“It only costs everything.”  Cynthia’s words in this passage take me back half a century to the awakening phase of my spiritual transformation.  I was in my late twenties, just starting up my chiropractic practice in Denham Springs, Louisiana, eager to give my gift to the world and hungry for patients to serve. The going rate for an office visit back then was $15, up from $5 a decade earlier.  Even with such a low fee, however, I felt restricted and handcuffed by the tradition of a “fee for services.”  What price can one place on health? On life itself? Health is priceless and life is a gift freely given by God to all human beings. It didn’t feel honest for me to place a price tag on my services, so I dropped my fees altogether and placed my services on a “giving basis.”  This launched me into the most rewarding and enjoyable fourteen years of my entire career. (This was before the widely available use of credit cards and insurance coverage of Chiropractic care.)

This way of serving wasn’t original with me but was already being successfully modeled by Dr. William H. Bahan and his brother, Dr. Walter Bahan, up in Derry, NH, who were seeing upwards of a hundred patients a day.  I began attending his seminars and discovering that there were a number of chiropractors practicing on a giving basis. Six years into this new way of serving—called “GPC” for God Patient Chiropractor—I wrote an article for ONTOLOGICAL THOUGHT, a journal of The Ontological Society, while attending an Art of Living Class conducted by the Universal Institute of Applied Ontology (the art of being).  The article is entitled “How Do You Live, Doctor?”  I’ll share it in my next post. Until then,

Be love. Be loved. Be for-giving.

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com

Kenosis: Self-Emptying Love 2, “The Gift of the Magi”

“Jesus said: Whoever has found the world and become rich should renounce the world . . . . The world is not worthy of one who finds himself.” — From The Gospel of Thomas

THE GIFT IS LOVE

Continuing with Cynthia Bourgeault’s insight into Jesus’s chosen kenotic path, I will forgo any introductory comments so as not to clutter the space with thoughts other than those presented in this excerpt from her book THE WISDOM JESUS:

A Pointless Sacrifice?

To flesh out a bit further what this path actually looks like, for­give me if I make a sudden leap into the world of modern litera­ture. Kenosis does not lend itself easily to spiritual theorizing. By far its most powerful and moving enactments have come in the form of story and drama.

One of the most precise descriptions of this path, believe it or not, is the familiar and well-loved story “The Gift of the Magi” by the American author O. Henry. You probably remember the tale. Della and James are newlyweds; they’re madly in love with each other. They are also poor as church mice, and their first Christmas together finds them without sufficient funds to buy each other gifts. But each of these lovers does have one prize possession. James owns a gold watch given to him by his grandfather; Della has stunning auburn hair falling all the way to her waist. Unbeknownst to Della, James pawns his gold watch in order to buy her beautiful silver combs for her hair. Unbe­knownst to James, Della cuts and sells her hair in order to buy him a gold watch chain. On Christmas eve the two of them stare bewilderedly at their completely useless gifts.  It has been a pointless sacrifice—pointless, that is, unless love itself is “the gift of the magi.”

And of course, this is exactly what O. Henry is getting at. In the voluntary relinquishing of their most cherished possessions, they make manifest what love really looks like; they give tangible shape to the bond that holds them together. That’s what kenosis is all about.

Another profoundly kenotic parable of our times is the tale that forms the 1987 movie Babette’s Feast, adapted from a short story by Isak Dinesen.  As the drama unfolds we discover that its heroine, Babette, had until recently been one of the most celebrated chefs in Paris, but during the political riots of 1871 she loses everything—restaurant, livelihood, and family. She flees for her life to rural Denmark and is taken in by two aging sisters who have given their lives to religious work, trying to hold together the spiritual community that their father founded. When Babette arrives, the remaining believers have grown old and weary, lost in petty bickering. Babette tries as best she can to lift their spirits, but nothing seems to be turning the situation around. Out of the blue a letter arrives informing her that she has won three million francs in a lottery back in Paris, and then and there she decides to treat these Danish peasants to a proper French dinner. She imports all the necessary ingredients: not only exotic gourmet delicacies for the seven-course meal itself (each with its appropriate wines, champagnes, and liqueurs) but the china dinnerware, silver cutlery, damask table cloths, and crystal glassware. The film zeroes in on the banquet table as the astonished Danish peasants are suddenly faced with this extrava­gant abundance. At first they are frightened and suspicious, but little by little the mood mellows as they slowly relax into gratitude and forgiveness. The last scene of that banquet night has them all stumbling, a bit drunk but very happy, out into the village square, where they form a circle around the fountain (a vivid image in its own right) and begin to sing and dance togeth­er. After all these years they have finally touched the wellspring, and their hearts are overflowing. Then someone says to Babette, “Well, I guess you’ll be leaving us soon, won’t you, now that you’re a rich woman?” She says, “Rich? I’m not rich. I spent every penny I had on that banquet, three million francs.”

Again we see the same leitmotif as in the O. Henry story. An extravagant sacrifice is in one sense wasted, because these poor peasants cannot really comprehend the magnitude of the gift, and by morning, when they’ve sobered up, they will probably have lost most of its beneficial effect. But no matter; the banquet table is set before them anyway. In her no-holds-barred generos­ity Babette offers these broken, dispirited souls a taste of reassur­ance that their long years of faithfulness have not been in vain. She mirrors to them what God is like, what love is like, what true humanness is like. And she does it precisely by throwing away her entire escape route in a single act of extravagant abundance, extravagant beyond the bounds of earth (and therefore invoking the presence of heaven). That’s the kenotic path.

Theologians have sometimes commented that if the goal of ascent mysticism is to bring about union through convergence at the point of origin, the effect of the kenotic path seems to be. self-disclosure and new manifestation. The act of self-giving brings new realms into being. It shows what God is like in new and different ways. Some of the most intuitive theologians of our times say that this is how the world was created in the first place—because, in the words of Karl Rahner, “God is the prodi­gal who squanders himself.” The act of self-giving is simulta­neously an act of self-communication; it allows something that was coiled and latent to manifest outwardly. “Letting go” (as in non-clinging, or self-emptying) is but a hair’s breadth away from letting be,” and our Judeo-Christian tradition remembers that it is through God’s original “Let there be . . . ” that our visible world tumbled into existence.

I love Cynthia’s authentic thinking and writing outside the box of conventional belief.  She presents a theology that I, as a former Catholic seminary student, can easily accept and understand at a heart level.  In my own published writings and blogging, I have ascribed to “ascent mysticism” as the path of ascension to the “point of origin” we think to be up in some Heaven, a point that Jesus himself taught is within.  When he reportedly ascended into Heaven, did he go up or within? 

There is a passage in my SACRED ANATOMY book where I contemplate this paradoxical dynamic.  The word “up” can be both dimensional and non-dimensional, or vibrational, as in moving up to a higher frequency.  The same is true of the word “down.” The biblical account of Jesus’s ascension indicates that he ascended into “the clouds of heaven.”

For example, I mentioned the “clouds of heaven.”  Jesus was seen by his disciples as ascending into the clouds above their heads. These clouds may have been the conditions in their own (transforming) collective consciousness through which the Lord of Love was making his royal exit from the earthly planes back into the higher planes of being from which he had come, and from which we all come—the “kingdom of heaven” which he had told them more than once “is within you.” This could also be the inference made by the two men in white apparel whom they reportedly saw standing with him and whom they heard say to them:  “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”  This may well be a classic case where the dimensional state simply did not comprehend the non-dimensional.  The darkness did not comprehend the light.  The lower planes simply cannot comprehend the higher.  But the one who stands in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, the seven planes of being, in the fourth dimension has both physical and spiritual eyes and can see and comprehend the non-dimensional as clearly and easily as the dimensional.

I can appreciate Cynthia’s inference that Jesus descended down all the way—actually “into hell” according to the biblical text—in order to encompass and include all the dimensions of the vast spectrum of Creation in both heaven and earth, in the cycles of restoration, which he was very intentionally in the process of initiating.  In so doing he opened the gates to the Garden of Paradise here on Earth.  As Cynthia states so well in the next excerpt from this chapter, which I will publish in my next post:

It was not love stored up but love utterly poured out that opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Until my next post, be love, be loved and be blessed.

Anthony

tpal70@gmail.com

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