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Center for Action and Contemplation

Intelligent and Heartfelt Participation

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Participation: Week 2

Intelligent and Heartfelt Participation
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as One,
Received not in essence but by participation.
It is just as if you lit a flame from a live flame:
It is the entire flame you receive.

—St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) [1]

Jesus’ rather evident message of “full and final participation”—of union with oneself, others, and God—was probably only fully enjoyed by a small minority of Christians throughout history. The Desert Fathers and Mothers, the early Eastern Fathers (such as St. Symeon), the early Celts who were outside the Roman Empire, some monasteries and hermits, and the constant recurrence of mystics and holy people let us know that there was a deep underground stream to Christianity, but it was hardly ever the mainline tradition in any of our denominations. Only contemplatives, whether conscious or “hidden,” knew how to be in unitive consciousness—through their nondual and inclusive way of processing the moment.

Unfortunately, the monumental insights of the Axial Age (800-200 B.C.E.) that formed all of us in foundational and good ways began to dry up and 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 in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although the reformations were inevitable, good, and necessary, they also ushered in the “Desert of Nonparticipation,” as Owen Barfield called it, 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—on both the Catholic and Protestant sides. Despite some fortunate exceptions, during this period we almost lost the “alternative processing system,” which I would call contemplation. We just argued, proved, and disproved—the very opposite of the contemplative mind and heart. The ongoing life of the Trinity was an unknown part of Christian spirituality, which defeated us at our foundations.

Karl Jaspers, Owen Barfield, and Ewert Cousins, each in his own way, foresaw the coming of a Second Axial Consciousness, when the best of each era would combine and work together: the pre-rational, the rational, and the trans-rational. We live in such a time now! In this consciousness, we can now 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,” as Jesus puts it (Mark 12:30).

Whenever the Spirit descends anew, the forces of resistance become all the stronger, even in the world religions. This is very obvious in our time and in our politics today. So we must each do our part to further what some call “the Work,” “the Great Turning,” and “the Refounding” in our own lifetime. We must rebuild from the very bottom up, and that means restoring the inherent sacrality of all things—no exceptions—and all the past mistakes must be included as teaching opportunities and not just things to stop, hate, or destroy. We have a unique chance to reconnect all the links in “the great chain of being.” It is time for the relational nature of God, the foundational Trinity as the shape of God, to be roundly re-appreciated, making interfaith respect much easier.

Gateway to Silence:
Spirit of Love in me, love through me.

[1] J. Koder, Syméon le Nouveau Théologien: Hymnes, Sources Chrétiennes (Éditions du Cerf, Paris: 1969), 157-158.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 107, 114-117.

Image Credit: Candles by clarita.
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