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Theme:
Interspiritual Mysticism

Interspiritual Mysticism

Saturday, September 26, 2020
Summary: Sunday, September 20—Friday, September 25, 2020

The loving and universal scope of Jesus Christ provides us with a model of how to recognize and celebrate truth on the many different paths to God. (Sunday)

The proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. (Monday)

We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. —Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)

Not only do many young people believe that there is one underlying reality at the foundation of all major world religions but they are also convinced that different traditions and their unique approaches to God complement each other. —Adam Bucko (Wednesday)

I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths (Thursday)

One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities. —Bede Griffiths (Friday)

 

Practice: God In My Breath

Anthony de Mello (1931–1987) was an East Indian Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, writer, and public speaker. He was beloved for his ability to use stories to teach the spiritual truths of both the East and West. He taught that:

In the practice below, De Mello invites us to cultivate an awareness of our breathing as a way to deepen our connection to the divine.

Close your eyes and practice the awareness of body sensations for a while . . .

Then come to the awareness of your breathing . . . and stay with this awareness for a few minutes . . .

I want you to reflect now that this air that you are breathing in is charged with the power and the presence of God . . .  Think of the air as of an immense ocean that surrounds you . . . an ocean heavily colored with God’s presence and God’s being . . . While you draw the air into your lungs you are drawing God in . . .

Be aware that you are drawing in the power and presence of God each time you breathe in . . . Stay in this awareness as long as you can . . .

Notice what you feel when you become conscious that you are drawing God in with each breath you take . . .

There is a variation to this exercise. Another reflection, this one borrowed from the mentality of the Hebrews as we find them in the Bible. For them a human’s breath was life. When people died God took their breath away; that is what made them die. If someone lived it was because God kept putting [God’s] breath, God’s “spirit” into this person. It was the presence of this Spirit of God that kept the person alive.

While you breathe in, be conscious of God’s Spirit coming into you . . . Fill your lungs with the divine energy God brings . . .

While you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out all your impurities . . . your fears . . . your negative feelings . . .

Imagine you see your whole body becoming radiant and alive through this process of breathing in God’s life-giving Spirit and breathing out all your impurities . . .

Stay with this awareness as long as you can without distractions . . .

References:
[1] Anthony De Mello, Walking on Water (Crossroad Publishing: 1998), vii.

Anthony De Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (Image: 1978, 1984), 36‒37. Note: Minor edits made to incorporate gender-inclusive language.

For Further Study:
Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation (North Atlantic Books: 2013).

Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change, ed. Justine Afra Huxley (Jessica Kingsley Publishers: 2019).

Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, ed. Thomas Matus (Orbis Books: 2004).

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019).

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012).

Wayne Teasdale, Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to His Interspiritual Thought (SkyLight Paths: 2003).

Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religious Traditions (New World Library: 1999).

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mysticism

Our Common Heritage
Friday, September 25, 2020

Today’s meditation continues with reflections from interspiritual mystic Bede Griffiths who I introduced yesterday. I invite you to read his words with an open mind and heart.

It is only today that these different religious traditions are beginning to mix freely all over the world and are seeking to relate to one another, not in terms of rivalry and conflict, but in terms of dialogue and mutual respect. One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities. This has been called the “perennial philosophy,” the eternal wisdom which has been revealed in a different way in each religion. . . .

The different world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have themselves to recover the ancient wisdom which they have inherited, and this has now to be interpreted in the light of the knowledge of the world which Western science has given us. . . . [1]

According to the Letter to the Colossians, in Christ “all things were created, in heaven and on earth . . . all were created through him and for him” [1:16]. This is truly a cosmic vision embracing the whole created world, which we now know to be an integrated whole, and this forms a body, a living organism, which is capable of embracing all humanity. We have therefore the conception of a universal community capable of embodying the universal wisdom and uniting all humanity in one body, one living whole, in which the “fullness,” the whole, of the Godhead dwells. . . . [2]

The Second Vatican Council said that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in [other] religions.” [3] There is truth and holiness in all genuine religion. . . . It has been our experience in the ashram that the more we open ourselves to the other religions, to Hinduism in particular, the deeper our Christian faith grows. Our aim is the deepening of our own faith, which then becomes more open to others. . . .

If you go deeply into any one tradition, you converge on a center, and there you see how we all come forth from a common root. And you find how we meet people on the deeper level of their faith, in the profound unity behind all our differences. . . . The grace of Christ is present in some way to every human being from the beginning to the end. [4]

Bede Griffiths draws his theological insights from the teachings of the Catholic Church to which he remained committed and the Christian Scriptures, which he never stopped reading and interpreting as the word of God, yet now as a part of the perennial tradition. He is an example of how interspirituality can strengthen our Christian faith by deepening our capacity to love and respect the other.

References:
[1] Bede Griffiths, Universal Wisdom: A Journey through the Sacred Wisdom of the World (HarperSanFrancisco:1994), 7‒8.

[2] Ibid., 42‒43.

[3] Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate (In Our Time): Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (October 28, 1965), 2. Full text at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

[4] Bede Griffiths, A New Vision of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism, and Christian Faith (Templegate Publishers: 1989, 1992), 99‒100.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mysticism

A Christian Ashram
Thursday, September 24, 2020

It is only in prayer that we can communicate with one another at the deepest level of our being. Behind all words and gestures, behind all thoughts and feelings, there is an inner centre of prayer where we can meet one another in the presence of God. . . . If we could learn to live from that centre we should be living from the heart of life and our whole being would be moved by love. —Bede Griffiths (1906–1993)

The interspiritual teacher Bede Griffiths was born in England, became a Catholic after college, and soon entered Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester as a Benedictine monk. After almost twenty-five years in this community, he went to India in 1955. He recalled:

I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul, a kind of natural mysticism which is the basis of all Indian spirituality. I felt therefore that if a genuine meeting of East and West was to take place, it must be at this deepest level of their experience and this I thought could best come through the monastic life. [1]

In 1968, Bede was asked to take over Shantivanam (Forest of Peace) Ashram, which was founded in 1950 by two French Benedictines. Thomas Matus, who lived with Bede at Shantivanam, writes:

The liturgical hours, tuned as they are to the cosmic rhythms of sunrise and sunset and the seasons of the year, already link the prayer of Christian monks to the religious and even mystical sense of the cosmos which is an essential characteristic of Hinduism. . . . The Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Sufi texts, read at the beginning of each Hour, are seen clearly as a preparation for the Christian prayer, which opens with the sign of the cross and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. [2]

It was in India that Bede discovered a different way of thinking:

The Western mind from the time of Socrates and Plato had concentrated on the development of abstract, rational thought which had led to the great systems of theology in the Middle Ages and to the achievements of modern science and philosophy. But India had been nourished from the beginning by the truth of the imagination, the primordial truth, which is not abstract but concrete, not logical but symbolic, not rational but intuitive. So it was that I was led to the rediscovery of the truth which the Western world has lost and is now seeking desperately to recover. [3]

I have deep respect for the courage it must have taken Griffiths as a Catholic monk in the pre-Vatican II era to follow the calling of the Holy Spirit to live and worship in the East. He not only taught a nondual consciousness but embodied it in his life, remaining faithful to Christ while embracing the wisdom and practices of Hinduism.

References:
[1] Bede Griffiths, Christ in India: Essays towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue (Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1966), 17.

[2] Thomas Matus, introduction to Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings (Orbis Books: 2004), 16–17.

[3] Bede Griffiths, The Marriage of East and West: A Sequel to The Golden String (Templegate Publishers: 1982), 47.

Epigraph: Griffiths, The Golden String: An Autobiography (Templegate Publishers: 1954, 1980), 146.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mysticism


An Interspiritual Awakening

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Today, I introduce you to my friend Adam Bucko, who is a devoted Christian contemplative, Episcopal priest, activist, and friend to the poor. He collaborates with spiritual leaders across religious traditions and mentors young people, helping them discover a spiritual life for the 21st century and live in the service of compassion and justice. Here he reflects on what he sees as a spiritual awakening in younger generations.

For younger people, many of us, it’s very clear we see God as present in all of the traditions. . . . Not only do they believe that there is one underlying reality at the foundation of all major world religions but they are also convinced that different traditions and their unique approaches to God complement each other. . . .

But it’s also important to say, a lot of young people don’t actually identify with a tradition any more. . . . Many of our churches, synagogues and mosques are freaking out when they hear this, thinking that young people are no longer interested in the sacred. But to me it is clear that young people are not necessarily rejecting God, they simply feel that many religious organizations lost touch with reality and are too concerned with money, power, self-preservation, maintaining the status quo, and ‘having right beliefs’. As a result, they tend to view them . . . as organizations that are spiritually bankrupt, that are no longer able to speak to and address some of the big questions of our time. And it takes deep insight and spiritual courage to see that. It is for this reason and many others that I don’t think of the rise of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ among our youth as a sign of spiritual decline but rather a new kind of spiritual awakening. . . .

We have to acknowledge that when people hear about spiritual and not religious people, they often immediately think that these are people who are just shopping around and not really that committed. . . . But when we look at some of the people who come from that group, we realize that actually many of them spend more time [in spiritual practices] than regular churchgoers.

Richard: I can honestly say that I have observed many of these same things in my work with young people at the CAC. I do not see a lack of spirituality and good faith in many seekers of the next generation, but an abundance of it and a deep desire to live with integrity and in alignment with their values. Such people are not satisfied with a faith simply handed to them by an institution or the previous generation. They insist on investigating what is truly important for transformation and a more just and compassionate world.

Reference:
Adam Bucko, “Follow Your Heartbreak,” in Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change, ed. Justine Afra Huxley (Jessica Kingsley Publishers: 2019), 67‒68.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mysticism

Engaged Love
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

While interspirituality is not for the faint of heart, or for dabblers who merely want to appropriate the clothing, language, or customs of other faiths, sharing in the spiritual heart of a different religious tradition can be a genuine vocation, bringing much needed peace and healing to the world. My friend, author and spiritual teacher Mirabai Starr, offers a compelling invitation to engage in the work of interspirituality:

As a spiritual writer and translator of the Spanish Christian mystics, a religious studies professor, and a practitioner of many spiritual traditions, I have spent my life responding to the call to honor diversity and celebrate unity among all paths that lead us home to love. . . .

America is the Land of the Consumer. . . . We are conditioned to treat the spiritual life as another commodity, rather than as a discipline of inner transformation with a corresponding commitment to alleviating suffering in the world. Yet, authentic engagement with the perennial wisdom that lies at the heart of the well means we must leap from the lip of the vessel and dive into the unknown.

The late Brother Wayne Teasdale [1945–2004] coined the term “interspiritual” to describe “the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.” [1] This perspective encompasses a much broader scope of shared religious experience than does its predecessor “interfaith” movement, which focuses more on the dialogue between the established institutionalized religions than on an intermingling of their common heart. Genuine interspiritual dialogue demands that we draw deeply on our inner knowing and show up for the hard work of understanding. It requires that we not only study and discuss religions other than our own, but that we commit to a disciplined practice in more than one tradition, immersing ourselves in the well of wisdom they offer, allowing these encounters to change us from within.

The sacred scriptures of all faiths call us to love as we have never loved before. This requires effort, vigilance, and radical humility. Violence is easier than nonviolence, yet hate only perpetuates hate. The wisdom teachings remind us that love—active, engaged, fearless love—is the only way to save ourselves and each other from the firestorm of war that rages around us. There is a renewed urgency to this task now. We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. This is the “narrow gate” Christ speaks of in the Gospels [Matthew 7:13]. Don’t come this way unless you’re willing to stretch, bend, and transform for the sake of love.

References:
[1] See Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religious Traditions, (New World Library: 1999).

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012), 4–5, 6–7.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mysticism

An Unspeakable Name
Monday, September 21, 2020

Remember what God said to Moses: “I AM Who I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God is clearly not tied to a name, nor does God seem to want us to tie Divinity to any one name. Which is why, in Judaism, God’s statement to Moses became God’s unspeakable and unnamable identity. Some would say that the name of God literally cannot be “spoken,” only breathed. [1] Now that was very wise, and sometimes I wish we had kept it up. This tradition alone should tell us to practice profound humility in regard to God, who gives us not a name, but only pure presence—no handle that could allow us to think we “know” who God is or have the divine as our private possession.

The Christ is always far too much for us, larger than any one era, culture, empire, or religion. Its radical inclusivity is a threat to any power structure and any form of arrogant thinking. Jesus by himself has usually been limited by the evolution of human consciousness in these first two thousand years, and held captive by culture, nationalism, and Western Christianity’s own cultural captivity to a white, bourgeois, and Eurocentric worldview. We have often missed the ways Jesus reveals himself, because “there stood among us one we did not recognize” (John 1:26). He came in mid-tone skin, from the underclass, a male body with a female soul, from an often-hated religion, and living on the very cusp between East and West. No one owns him, and no one ever will.

Jesus clearly says naming God correctly is not the priority, “Do not believe those who say ‘Lord, Lord’” (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46. Italics added). It is those who “do it right” that matter, he says, not those who “say it right.” Yet verbal orthodoxy has been Christianity’s preoccupation, at times even allowing us to burn people at the stake for not “saying it right.” We ended up spreading national cultures under the rubric of Jesus, instead of a universally liberating message under the name of Christ. What I call an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.”

I would go so far as to say that the proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. Authentic God experience always expands your seeing and never constricts it. What else would be worthy of God? In God you do not include less and less; you always see and love more and more. And it is from this place that we lose any fear we have about entering into discussion, prayer, and friendship with people of other faith traditions.

References:
[1] Richard Rohr, The Naked Now (Crossroad Publishing: 2009), 25-26. In fact, the holy name YHWH is most appropriately breathed rather than spoken, and we all breathe the same way.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 17-18, 33, 35.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mysticism

Solidarity Instead of Judgment
Sunday, September 20, 2020

In our one small and interwoven world, the great spiritual messengers of all the sacred traditions are a universal human treasure, to be received and reverenced with the respect due an attained being, an exemplar of a higher level of human consciousness. —Cynthia Bourgeault

While many Christians are familiar, and possibly even comfortable, with the idea of interfaith dialogue, few have had exposure to the discipline of interspirituality. While the first tends to be a respectful exchange of ideas; the second is a shared journey into the depths of the heart. Most Christians have been discouraged from exploring the teachings and practices of other religions, but I believe the loving and universal scope of Jesus Christ provides us with a model of how to recognize and celebrate truth on the many different paths to God.

Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the other world religions, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness.

If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself.

After the incarnation of Jesus, humanity could more easily imagine a give-and-take, relational and forgiving God. Christians had a very good model and messenger in Jesus, but many outliers actually came to the “banquet” more easily, as Jesus often says in his parables of the resented and resisted banquet (Matthew 22:1–10; Luke 14:7–24), where “the wedding hall was filled with guests, both good and bad alike” (Matthew 22:10). What are we to do with such divine irresponsibility, such endless largesse, such an unwillingness on God’s part to build walls or create unneeded boundaries?

We must be honest and humble about this: many people of other faiths, like Sufi masters, Jewish prophets, many philosophers, and Hindu mystics, have lived in light of the Divine encounter better than many Christians. And why would a God worthy of the name God not care about all of God’s children? (Read Wisdom 11:23–12:2 for a powerful Scripture in this regard.) Does God really have favorites among God’s children? What an unhappy family that would create—and indeed, has created.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 32, 33, 34.

Epigraph: Bourgeault, foreword to Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti (Sounds True, Inc.: ©2016, 2014), xii.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths
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Interspiritual Mystics

Summary: Sunday, August 4—Friday, August 9, 2019

At their most mature levels, religions have a common goal: union with all beings and with God. —Beatrice Bruteau (Sunday)

By allowing inward change, while at the same time simplifying our external life, spirituality serves as our greatest single resource for changing our centuries-old trajectory of violence and division. —Wayne Teasdale (Monday)

A true dialogue between East and West would help seekers in both cultures to travel “upstream,” [to what Cynthia Bourgeault calls the “headwaters” of the world’s religions] to find their way to a deeper dimension of reality in which all religious paths might ultimately converge. —Robert Ellsberg (Tuesday)

Mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta (Wednesday)

Deep down, each one of us is a mystic. . . . Getting in touch with the mystic inside is the beginning of our deep service. —Matthew Fox (Thursday)

How do we find the path forward? Howard Thurman, a mystic who sought to make peace between religions and founded the first major interracial, interfaith church in the United States, urged people to “listen for the sound of the genuine.” (Friday)

 

Practice: Loving Gaze

Having someone look at us with love can be a healing and transformative experience. Sometimes we need a human—or in my case, many times canine—gaze to convey God’s unconditional acceptance. My dogs Peanut Butter, Gubbio, Venus, and now Opie have done this for me. Humans can’t seem to sustain eye contact for long. We get nervous, maybe because we’re afraid people will see there’s nothing in here or they won’t like us. But dogs just keep looking and staying present.

In the Hindu tradition, darshan (or darsana) is to behold the Divine and to allow yourself to be fully seen or known. Many Hindus visit temples not to see God, but to let God gaze upon them—and then to join God’s seeing which is always compassionate.

I invite you to spend several minutes with one you love—a human or a dog or other pet—looking into their eyes. (If you or the one you’re with are blind, you might lightly touch instead.) Without speaking, simply mirror to each other love and respect through your gaze. During the silence, allow the source of love within you to well up and flow from you. Receive the love flowing from the one gazing at you. It is all one love. Witness the Divine Presence in both yourself and the other.

Bring your experience of darshan to a close by placing your palms together at your chest, bowing, and speaking “Namaste.” (Namaste is a familiar Indian greeting which literally means “I bow to you.”) Or you may prefer to say, “The Christ in me sees the Christ in you.”

Bring this loving gaze and an inner stance of humility and recognition to all you encounter today. Try to see the divine indwelling in everyone you meet.

For Further Study:
Robert Ellsberg, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1997, 1998)

Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011)

Bede Griffiths, Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, ed. Thomas Matus (Orbis Books: 2004)

Beverly Lanzetta, The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life (Blue Sapphire Books: 2018)

Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (New World Library: 1999)

Image credit: Sacred Heart (detail), Odilon Redon, 1910, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Mysticism . . . is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta
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Interspiritual Mystics

Listening for the Genuine
Friday, August 9, 2019
Anniversary of the Bombing of Nagasaki

I’m encouraged by the rediscovery of the broad and deep contemplative mind, which for the first two thousand years of Christianity had largely been limited to monks, women religious, and mystics. It is not our metaphysics (“what is real”) that is changing so much as our epistemology—how we think we know what is real. For that, we can thank a combination of insights from psychology, therapy, spiritual direction, history, and Eastern religions, along with the rediscovery of the Western and Christian contemplative tradition, starting with Thomas Merton in the 1960s.

Now this new epistemology is emerging all over the world and in all denominations and religions. I pray it will thrive and grow so we can heal the planet’s suffering before we’ve done irreparable damage.

Episcopal priest and friend Matthew Fox writes:

The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a mystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk. [2]

How do we find the path forward? Howard Thurman (1900–1981), a mystic who sought to make peace between religions and founded the first major interracial, interfaith church in the United States, urged people to “listen for the sound of the genuine.” Read these excerpts from one of Thurman’s talks several times to fully appreciate it:

There is something in everyone of you that waits, listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself and if you can not hear it, you will never find whatever it is for which you are searching and if you hear it and then do not follow it, it was better that you had never been born. . . .

Sometimes there is so much traffic going on in your minds, so many different kinds of signals . . . and you are buffeted by these and in the midst of all of this you have got to find out what your name is. Who are you? . . .

Now there is something in everybody that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in other people. . . . I must wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in you. . . .

Now if I hear the sound of the genuine in me and if you hear the sound of the genuine in you it is possible for me to go down in me and come up in you. So that when I look at myself through your eyes having made that pilgrimage, I see in me what you see in me and the wall that separates and divides will disappear and we will become one because the sound of the genuine makes the same music. [3]

References:
[1] C. G. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Pantheon Books: 1963), 375.

[2] Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011), 2-3. Learn more about Fox and his daily online reflections at dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org.

[3] Howard Thurman, “The Sound of the Genuine,” Baccalaureate Address, Spelman College (May 4, 1980). Text edited by Jo Moore Stewart, Spelman Messenger, vol. 96, no. 4 (Summer 1980), 14-15.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 205.

Image credit: Sacred Heart (detail), Odilon Redon, 1910, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Mysticism . . . is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta
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Interspiritual Mystics

Cultivating Mysticism
Thursday, August 8, 2019

Deep down, each one of us is a mystic. When we tap into that energy we become alive again and we give birth. From the creativity that we release is born the prophetic vision and work that we all aspire to realize as our gift to the world. We want to serve in whatever capacity we can. Getting in touch with the mystic inside is the beginning of our deep service. —Matthew Fox [1]

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. —Howard Thurman [2]  

Mysticism isn’t an exclusive, esoteric club to which a few people “so heavenly minded [they’re] of no earthly good” belong, as Johnny Cash sang. It’s not only found in monasteries or ashrams but in ordinary people, in all of us. How can we cultivate mystical wisdom? Beverly Lanzetta writes:

Contemplation is beyond the normal consciousness of the mind, granting access to the mystery, known only by love. Here, the normal activities of the human personality come to rest, in order to hear what has remained unheard and to see what has been hidden or veiled. . . . Far more than a meditative practice or a temporary respite from worldly concerns, contemplation revolutionizes conventional attitudes and roles in order to transform the foundation upon which life is lived. And to illuminate the hidden teaching of love inscribed in our souls. Christian sannyasi [3] Bede Griffiths writes about contemplation:

It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. It is something that comes when we let go. We have to abandon everything—all words, thoughts, hopes, fears, all attachment to ourselves or to any earthly things, and let the divine mystery take possession of our lives. It feels like death, and it is, in fact, a sort of dying. . . . [4]

Although contemplation and mysticism can invoke rarefied experiences, “the true contemplative,” Catholic priest and Zen master Pat Hawk writes, “does not strive for unity of Divine and human only at specific times of prayer, but in all circumstances and conditions of daily life: washing dishes, caring for children, family, work, sleeping.” [5]

Contemplation refers to an inner monastic attitude, a centering point of one’s whole life and being. . . . This living, daily prayer breaks through into one’s mind and heart, teaching those insights and wisdoms that uplift the soul and lead it toward what Buddhists call Prajñāpāramitā (“perfection of wisdom”).

Contemplation normally is associated with formal religious institutions, yet it both precedes and exceeds religion itself. New traditions of contemplation—interfaith, interspiritual, intermonastic—pass beyond religious forms into deep states of consciousness that—while remaining part of the enduring wisdom of the world’s religions—also are the site of new spiritual traditions and forms of practice. This emergence expresses the timeless qualities of the monastic, contemplative experience outside of denominational institutions and structures.

References:
[1] Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011), 3.

[2] Howard Thurman, occasion unidentified. This often-used quotation is attributed to Reverend Thurman by the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University, https://www.bu.edu/thurman/about-us/about-the-htc/.

[3] A sannyasi is a Hindu monk or person who embraces the state of sannyasa, the fourth stage of Hindu life, as a homeless, wandering ascetic or renunciate.

[4] Bede Griffiths, “Prayer,” unpublished talk at Kreuth, Germany (April 7, 1992). Quoted in Shirley du Boulay, Beyond the Darkness: A Biography of Bede Griffiths (O Books: 2003, ©1998), 253.

[5] Pat Hawk, Pathless Path Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 4 (2002), 3.

Beverly Lanzetta, The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life (Blue Sapphire Books: 2018), 51-52.

Image credit: Sacred Heart (detail), Odilon Redon, 1910, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Mysticism . . . is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta
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