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Center for Action and Contemplation

Walking toward Heaven

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Justice: Week 2

Walking toward Heaven
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Summer Solstice

Yesterday I explored the fundamental importance of discovering and living out of our True Self, our imago Dei, the image of God that we are. In the Center for Action and Contemplation’s most recent edition of Oneing, “Anger,” actor, filmmaker, writer, and personal friend Josh Radnor writes about how living from our inherent divinity contributes to creating a just and loving world.

In his book Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett has a character define sin thusly: “Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.” [1] . . .

We’re seeing the consequences of this everywhere these days: People are being objectified. . . .

The translation of Namaste is one of infinite depth. It means: The divinity in me . . . salutes the divinity in you.

Here we have an antidote to objectification. Something infinite, immortal, mysterious, loving, and alive abides in me and it is from this light that I bow toward that which is infinite, immortal, mysterious, loving, and alive in you. What if this was our set-point, our baseline, the fundamental assumption we had about every single person we encountered? All our reputations precede us: We’re divine. . . .

Mystics from every tradition testify to the aliveness and sentience of all things, that the natural world is lit up with the flame of divinity. This does and must include us. We’re not taught this. In fact, most of what we’re taught opposes this.

There’s an urgency to this moment. We must choose between a world of subjects and a world of objects. To acknowledge the divinity of another, we must first accept our own, which is not nearly as easy as it sounds. . . . Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield [writes]:

Our belief in a limited and impoverished identity is such a strong habit that without it we are afraid we wouldn’t know how to be. If we fully acknowledged our dignity, it could lead us to radical life changes. It could ask something huge of us. [2]

. . . So many of us carry a kind of unspoken assumption that something is very, very wrong with us, that we’re damaged, guilty, and unlovable. Stepping into our divinity—acknowledging and accepting our fundamental nobility—is the ultimate paradigm shift. Kornfield is right. We cannot continue with business as usual after this. . . .

Namaste asks something huge of us: If the divinity in me recognizes the divinity in you, how could I abuse, debase, violate, or harass? I would, after all, only be punishing myself. . . .

St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 394) offered another beautiful, succinct, and useful definition of sin. Sin, he [suggested], is a refusal to keep growing. [3]

This is a growing moment. Growth is painful.

I don’t believe hell or heaven to be post-life destinations. I believe they are states of consciousness largely visible here and now. A world of objects is a kind of hell. A world of subjects—divine beings honoring the divinity in the other—is surely heaven. May we point our feet toward this heaven and begin the hard and necessary work of walking there.

[1] Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum (Harper Torch: 1998), 278.

[2] Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology (Bantam Dell: 2008), 12.

[3] See Jean Daniélou, From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings, trans. Herbert Musurillo (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: 1979, ©1961), 60. In his works The Life of Moses and Commentary on the Song of Songs, Gregory of Nyssa used the Greek word epektasis (expansion) to describe the soul’s inherent and ever-increasing desire to grow toward God’s goodness.

Josh Radnor, “Saluting the Divinity in You,” “Anger,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2018), 47, 48-50.

Image credit: Full side view of adobe house with water in foreground, “Acoma Pueblo, National Historic Landmark, New Mexico,” (detail); from the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941-1942, documenting the period ca. 1933-1942.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
The Catholic “Doctrine of Discovery” sent Spanish Conquistadors in search of gold, beginning in the sixteenth century. As the area was colonized, many indigenous peoples were massacred, enslaved, or forced to assimilate. Colonial governor Juan de Oñate (1550-1626) had one foot cut off of each man in Acoma Pueblo after they rebelled against Spanish domination. By the late eighteenth century, approximately one third of New Mexico’s native population was enslaved. —Richard Rohr
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