In Our End Is Our Beginning
My Wisdom Lineage
Friday, January 2, 2015
As best I can discern it, my spiritual lineage has about 15 building blocks. I must begin with “The First Bible”—Creation itself. God has revealed who God is through what is: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s everlasting power and glory, however invisible, have been there for the mind to see in the things he (sic) has made” (Romans 1:20). From nature I turn to the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the Prophets who call us to be self-critical and inclusive. The Prophets then prepare us to understand the radical challenge of Jesus’ teaching and life. He is my point of synthesis, who unites all before and after.
Thus the lineage continues with the apostle Paul, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the more inclusive wisdom of the Patristic period and the early Eastern Church, my own Franciscan tradition, the “correct practice” emphasized by Buddhism and Hinduism, right-brained interpretations of reality such as art and myth, the non-dual mysticism that is always emerging at the higher levels of every religion, the wisdom of non-violent teachers and social activists, and in the last century the brilliant psychology of Carl Jung. Now we also have the growing scientific evidence pointing to patterns of love and “entanglement” throughout the universe.
I’ve also learned so much from people who are in the recovery movement. The 12-Step program represents the best of American spirituality, offering a very practical way of living the Gospel. Finally, Spiral Dynamics (or “integral theory,” as Ken Wilber calls it) charts the growth of human consciousness throughout history and human development, as I’ve partly shared during the past year of Daily Meditations.
If truth is one (Ephesians 4:4-6), we must recognize we are all approaching that one divine truth from different angles, with different needs, in different eras, and with different starting points. But I find the final goal to be the same. Unity is not the same as uniformity, and so my own path has been to find and emphasize the essentials so clearly that we can then easily see what the non-essentials are. In my experience, this confusion between essential and non-essentials, between means and ends, is the most common mistake of religious people in all religions, clergy and laity alike.
We each must find our own way (as almost all my favorite saints said, in one way or another!). Nothing else is possible. But it is also helpful to have reference to the common path so that I know I am not alone and my ideas are not just my own but from the one Holy Spirit. (Individualism is the bane of much postmodern soul work.) If we can remember that we all came from God and are headed back to God, whatever circuitous route we take, I think it will help us be more humble and patient with each other. We all have our preferred symbols, rituals, Scriptures, and words for things, but let’s not ever let them get in the way of what they are all pointing to and leading us toward—union of the soul with God.
Gateway to Silence:
God, keep me in your truth.
Adapted from “The Authority of What Is,” the Mendicant, January 2015