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Full Participation

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mysticism: Week 1

Full Participation
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jesus’ rather evident message of “full and final participation”—union with oneself, others, creation, and God—was probably only fully enjoyed by a small minority throughout history. Only contemplatives, whether conscious or “hidden,” know how to access unitive consciousness through their nondual and inclusive way of processing the moment.

Unfortunately, the monumental insights of the Axial Age (800-200 BC) began to wane, descending into the extreme headiness of some Scholastic philosophy (1100-1700), the antagonistic mind of most church reformations, and the rational literalism of the Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries). Although the reformations were inevitable, good, and necessary, they also ushered in the “desert of nonparticipation,” as Owen Barfield described, where hardly anyone belonged, few were at home in this world, and religion at its worst concentrated on excluding, condemning, threatening, judging, exploiting new lands and peoples, and controlling its own members by shame and guilt. This happened on the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant sides; the primary difference is what we shamed.

Despite some wonderful exceptions, we almost lost the “alternative processing system”—the nondual consciousness of the mystics. We just argued, proved, and disproved, the very opposite of the contemplative mind and heart. The ongoing and flowing life of the Trinity was unrecognized in most Christian spirituality, leaving us defeated at our very foundations.

Karl Jaspers, Owen Barfield, and Ewert Cousins (1927-2009), each in his own way, foresaw the coming of a Second Axial Consciousness, when the best of each era—pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational—would combine and work together. We live in such a time now! In this consciousness, we can make use of the unique contribution of every era to enjoy intuitive and body knowledge, along with rational critique and deeper synthesis, thus encouraging both intelligent and heartfelt participation “with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30).

Duane Elgin describes the difference between the first and second axial age as follows:

[T]he first axial age began with a view of separation and the “other.” In a world of growing individualism and differentiation [and violence], the religious emphasis on compassion served as a vital bridge between people [and the divine]. Now, a second major axis with a very different orientation is opening in the world. Religions of separation are becoming religions of communion as we realize there is no place to go where we are separate from the ever-generative womb of the living universe.

The second axial age begins with a recognition emerging from the combined wisdom of both science and spirituality; namely, that we are already home—that the living universe already exists within us as much as we live within it. In the words of theologian, Thomas Berry, “The universe is a communion and a community. We ourselves are that communion become conscious of itself.” Compassion remains a vital element of spirituality, but it is now being held increasingly within a context of communion rather than separation. [1]

Amen. May it be so.

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

[1] Duane Elgin, “Humanity’s Second Spiritual Age,” Huffington Post, June 5, 2011,

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 114-116.

See a timeline of Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers throughout history (PDF).

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