Foundation of Respect
Sunday, August 4, 2019
At their most mature levels, religions have a common goal: union with all beings and with God. Unfortunately, many religions and Christian denominations have over-emphasized differences and claimed that their particular brand is superior to others. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion but to reveal God’s presence in all of us. The Christian name for the universal incarnation is Christ, but it is known by innumerable other names.
Leaders of the Catholic Church have acknowledged the perennial and pervasive nature of truth. For example, the Second Vatican Council teaches that all peoples comprise a single community and share the same origin, “for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal: God.”  The declaration goes on to praise indigenous religions, Hinduism, and Buddhism as they “reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all [people],” and states “the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.” 
Continuing our exploration of mystics, I want to share some insights from several Christians who have found deep wisdom in other faiths that affirms truth in Christian texts and tradition. Today’s meditation is a bit longer than usual to lay some ground work.
Dr. Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014) was a pioneer in integrating science, mathematics, philosophy, and religions, especially Hinduism and Christianity. While she may not be a household name, her ideas have deeply influenced CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault. Though Bruteau lived what some might consider a quiet life, her mind was busy expanding the world’s ideas of consciousness and evolution. She believed that mysticism was foundational to transforming the world. I offer you this very clear and compelling passage from Bruteau:
A “better” world is one in which we recognize that all people possess an incomparable value that we are morally obliged to respect . . . in social, political, and economic terms. Honoring the humanity of your fellow beings means that if they are hungry, ill, or oppressed, you must exert yourself to help them. . . . But this . . . runs up against our inherited instincts of self-protection, greediness, and desire to dominate others. . . . If we could rearrange energy from within—if we more often nurtured our companions and promoted their well-being, we would suffer much less. Rearranging energy from within is what mysticism does.
How does mysticism do this? Consider that domination, greed, cruelty, violence, and all our other ills arise from a sense of insufficient and insecure being. I need more power, more possessions, more respect and admiration. But it’s never enough; the fear always remains. It comes from every side: from other people; from economic circumstances; from ideas, customs, and belief systems; from the natural environment; from our own bodies and minds. All these others intimidate us, threaten us, make us anxious. We can’t control them. They are, to varying degrees, aliens. Our experience is: where I am “I,” they are “not-I.”
At least this is our experience insofar as we are not mystics. But, fortunately, everyone is a mystic. At some deep level, we know that we are not mutually alienated from each other and that we do have sufficient being. . . . The practice of raising this knowledge is the process of becoming a mystic in experience as well as in potentiality. . . .
There are exercises for cultivating this transition in every culture and tradition. We can learn from any or all of them. . . .
In talking with one another, sharing experiences, teaching and encouraging one another . . . we are helping each other know that we are deeply related, that we are all precious and deserving, that the universe is our home, that we can feel safe on the deepest level of our being. In this mutual support, the sense of oneness that is the hallmark of the mystic is increasing. . . .
Mutual respect is the only possible foundation for a free, just, equal, and responsible society, and mystical experience is the ultimate ground for that respect. With freedom from the need to promote oneself—or one’s nation, tradition, or religion—by devaluing others comes a great release of energy. What had been invested in protection is now available for caring for and rejoicing in others. 
 Second Vatican Council, “Nostra Aetate (In Our Time): Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” (October 28, 1965), 1. Full text at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html.
 Ibid., 2.
 Beatrice Bruteau in her preface to Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (New World Library: 1999, 2001), xvii-xix.