The Two Truths of Christianity: Part II

In the last post I discussed this bifurcation between the so-called Methodist self-help pre 9/11 W. versus the post 9/11 Calvinist cosmic dualist messianic W.

Now to put those in a larger context.

To return to the key framework to help interpret everything that follows: The Two Truths. There are Two Truths to Existence (however Existence be conceived…whatever “whatever” menas to you): Absolute and Relative.

The Absolute Truth is the Truth of Indistinct Union–Ultimate Oneness or Even Non-Oneness/Non-Duality. This is a truth not describable but experiencable. It is the Ground, Source, and Essence of all Relative Truth.

When this “ONE” creates it does so based on polarities. Like a battery that needs both a positive and negative charge to produce energy. For every liberal/progresive there is a conservative. And vice versa. For every good cop, a bad one. Up.down, left/right, male/female, you get the picture.

The Relative Polarity for Spiritual Practice bifurcates between Other-Powered and Self-Powered Paths. For a larger overview of this, see a post (and especially the comment) of mine on Generation Sit:

But in short, Other-Powered Paths rely primarily on the Power/Grace of the Other: God, the Higher Self. The Self-powered, as the name suggests, rely primarily on one’s own power…this is particulary the case in Buddhism which is non-theistically (non-Higher Power) oriented.

What is very interesting to note, however, is that no Relative Spiritual Path is either exclusively Self-Powered or Other-Powered. Self-powered paths like Tibetan Buddhism are filled with the “grace of the Guru”. And Other-Powered Paths like Christianity have the notion of free will. The problem occurs when the Relative path either A)Does not recognize the Absolute (which is neither Other nor Self-Powered) and/or B)Tries to relatively destroy one of the polarities to the demise of the other (known intererestingly as ABSOLUTization).

Christianity unfortunately has committed both A and B. A occured when the Church refused to accept the legtimacy of the experience of Indistinct Union (e.g. condemning Meister Eckhart’s theses, burning Marguerite Porete at the stake, and ignoring Nicholas of Cusa).

B happened when Augustine, in his battle with the Irish monk Pelagius, overturned the presiding Patristic wisdom of the synergistic relationship between grace and free will, and stated that human will was corrupted completely and everything was Grace. Salvation depended on God’s grace alone–no argument there, everyone believed that–but the new wrinkle with Augustine was that God’s grace was required to enable the will to say Yes to God’s grace. In the earlier Patristic tradition–still the teaching 2,000 years later of the Eastern Orthodox Churches–the will is free to either accept or deny God’s grace. On its own terms–thereby keeping the relationship between the two poles in tact.

So with Augustine all Western theology both Catholic and Protestant goes a separate direction.

All Western theology accepted the basic Augustinian framework.

The Catholic and Protestant Churches split over their interpretations of Augustine. The issue is most famously known as the debate between justification by faith and good works. Justification by faith–or more properly justification by grace through faith is the Protestant interpretation of Augustine. Luther promoted this most directly. Justification by grace through Faith is the belief that, as Luther said, we are shit covered in snow. The snow being justification–a state redeemed from our inherent original sin. We are still the shit though, that is in Protesatnt theology Original Sin is our cupidity (our self-centered selfish motivations). In Catholic theology Original Sin is an objective state that is wiped away at baptism (symbol of justification), leaving us opened up to be sanctified. A state of transformation. Catholic theology therefore states that God’s grace gives us the power to do good works which then cause relative transformation, meriting rewards as a consequence for the good actions.

The Catholic tradition leaves open the possibility of sanctification known in Eastern Orthodox theology as Deification: God became human, so that humanity might become God. Protestantism on the whole because of its notion of original sin and justification by faith through grace denied this mystical element to Christinaity, focusing almost exclusively on redemption (justification, redemption from a state of original sin). Sanctification rather points to redemption towards–redemption towards perfection.

For classical Protestant theology the notion of perfection or the advanced in this life is anathema. Luther re-interpreted Dionysius the great Christian father of the three-fold (Relative) path of mysticism as meaning that all mystical statements, negatively described–called apophatic theology–referred to the folly of the Cross. Unfortunately this is not the case. Apophatic theology is firstly the experience of God beyond form in the Cloud of Unknowing, an experience by all accounts Luther (and Calvin, Zwingli) was not familiar with.

As Paul Tillich says Catholicism is a relative value. The sacraments, the church hierarchy, the counsels (for the perfecting versus the commandments for all–again abolished by Luther), penitential system, merits, good works, and all the rest. Protestantism, in his view, is meant to point to an absolute relationship with God. An I-THOU interaction with the Great Unkown, the Mysterium Tremendis, the Holy (according to Lutheran Rudolf Otto).

Protestantism unfortunately did not understand the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is the Truth of Indistinct Union. The statement of Eckhart: In the breakthrough I realize that I and God are One. The realization of Godhead, where both the Soul and God dissolve their love partnership into an unspeakable “oneness”.

Classical Protestant theology therefore lost both the Relative and Absolute Paths of Mysticism. The relative path of transformation from purgation, illumination, to union. The path laid out by Dionysius, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor and Gregory Palamas in the East; and Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila in the West.

Protestant theology has only two great mystics of this type: William Law and Jacok Boheme. Law relative, Boheme Absolute (and maybe the Wesley Brothers). At least Charles.

Catholic theology kept the Relative Threefold path, though not as strongly as in the Eastern Church. And had openings to the Absolute, though never officially recognized.

Now onto how the Other-Centered and Self-Powered Paths manifest in the Catholic and Protestant Churches.


Protestantism, philosophically is influenced by Kant. Kant argued that the human mind can not point to nor describe realities above what it was experiencing at the moment–e.g. heaven if one is alive on earth. And the human mind shapes the data of the world not the world and the mind correspond one to one as in Aristotelian influenced Thomistic Catholic theology. So out the window went Aquinas’s Proofs for God’s existence.

The human mind could not naturally prove (nor disprove the existence of God). Kant understood this. Therefore theology was left with two choices. Either God was accessible thorugh non-rational aspects of the mind like emotions, subconscious, dreams, etc. or God was wholly Other and must Reveal Himself in this world in a non-rational, incomprehensible way.

The first group is represtened by the Liberals–both in the Protestant and Catholic Churches. In the Prot. group the big name of course if Frederick Schielermacher (also Bultmann and Tillich). F.S. famously re-interpreted all language of faith to be that of emotions. In the Catholic world there is Karl Rahner who talked of God being the horizon of our consciousness. Another name of course is Swiss Carl Jung–again note the emphasis on dreams, subconscious elements as markers to the Divine.

The second option was exercised by the Conservative/Traditionalists. The most famous name in Prot. theology being Karl Barth. In Catholic theology his friend Hans Urs von Balthasar–beloved by both this pope and John Paul II.

Both unfortunately were caught in the basic Kantian divide between consciousness and the thing-in-itself (in this case God). In integral mystical theology we know that different phenomena arise in different worldspaces. The mind must be transcended to experience trans-mental categories of experience. Hence the turn to Idealism after Kant.

But Prot. for all its loss of mysticism could not get rid people of being on the Relative path. It just did not afford an awakening to the higher state-stages of the process. Prot. in general was healthy in bringing about the modern stage-structure (orange meme) in existence. But lost mysticism of the state-stages. Hence the Biblical Criticism–orange theology–as well as the emphasis on social action (Social Gospel), the ordination of women, of blacks, abolition, and all the rest.

So the Other-Power in Prot. is obviously the grace for justification. It tried its damned-est to totally viciate the human will (Self-power) but only ended up promoting it more nad more. Without referencing it though.

The whole self-help movement in America grew out of self-power Prot. While theraphy grew out of Catholicism (see Michel Foucualt) in Austria–from the confessional to the therapist’s chair there is a direct link–in America therapy became self-help.

The self-help is as noted in the earlier passage an outgrowth of Methodist Evangelicalism.

Remember the phrase justification by faith. Justification by faith is actually anti-Protestant (hence Tillich always saying justification by GRACE through FAITH). God grants the Faith; Faith is considered a theological virtue awakened by God’s grace. Justification by faith would be justification based upon someone’s action (again: I argue the Eastern synergistic model does away with all the difficulties here).

So the Evangelical Tradition promotes confession of Jesus Christ as Savior, particularly in an emotionally-charged conversion experience–predicated upon Luther’s Tower Experience. Thsi is overly involved “self” power. Meanwhile leaving go of the entire philosophical-theological tradition of Luther-Calvin-Barth-Schielermacher.

The Second Great Awakening (early 19th century) fueled by the Methodist Evangelical tradition became the main stream of American Christianity. The Self-power underground became the source of the so-called Protestant Ethic…ie no cursing, smoking, drinking, dancing, hardworking, capitalist.

The Bible in the Prot. tradition became the objetive standard to create a pole of reference around which the subjective-Prot. ethic-self power-evangelical-born again tradition could revolve. Luther proclaimed sola scriputra–only scripture. In Integral philosophy we know that this idea of an objective, “real” Biblical Church was nothing but a modernist fallacy of the Pregiven, a metaphysics of modernity. The real world exists out there (as described by the Bible), that all can see for themselves.

Without a strong emphasis on interpretation–as in the Catholic and Orthodox notions that the tradition interprets the Scripture (interpretation determines the level of facts, the meaning is the injunction in integral language) interpretation became wildly overboard in Prot. Just as without really deeply delineating the role of free will (self-power) in Western theolgoy, Catholic mysticism became overly subjective and Prot. ethic (orange structure-stage) became overly subjective as well.

In the Catholic tradition with its emphasis on the Sacraments and the Church Hierarchy, self-power was left to the “natural” world–the world of virtue, science, politics, history, language, sociology and so on. Ethic was not practiced in the same way–think of the sexual and cultural freedoms of a France, Italy, Spain, Bavaria (Catholic) versus Northern Germany, Scandanavia, AngloSaxon America (Protestant).

The polarities go on and on. The communion emphasized by Catholicism versus the individualism of the Protestant tradition.

So Methoidsm-Evangelicalism morphed for many into the self-help success world. While the Catholics cum European Psychotherapy led to Freud, Jung, Adler, Farnkl, and the Existentialists. The Existentialists started to act as a bridge between Europe and the States particulary in NYC. Tillich ended up at Union. Karen Horney, Rollo May, Perls, and May bridged American boot-strap self-helpism with cerebral-philosophical-theological European thought patterns.

But US has gone very reductionistic in terms of cognitive neuroscience and have left the self-help world to drag on without renewed phenomenlogical depth. Lost in a traditional modernist metaphysics of the Pregiven Myth, the monlogical worldview of orange, etc.

So as Bush went from self-help (faith-based) Methodism/Evangelicalism to the dualistic Calvinist strain he came in contact with the Scotch-Irish stream of American Christianity. Scotch-Irish very strong in Texas and particularly in the entire Southern aristocratic warrior culture rampant in the Army and the Southern Gun Culture at large.

He shifted to the seemingly all Other-Power Calvinist dualist tradition. But right there, how can we know which Other Power is at work when there are Two: The Light and the Darkness at war with each other. Then the self-power of America as the New Messiah. And Bush as the Prophet figure of the Coming Wrath of the Divine Almighty through its chosen representative. Appointed to bring light to the nations. A people set apart. The Self-Power no longer of individual self-help but of a nation, a collective on the march.

Calvin sought to bring sanctification back into the Christian fold–left out by Luther. The Sanctification of Calvin though dealt with the cosmic, worldy sanctification, not the individual’s soul mystical connection to the Divine. That is why the theocratic strain in Calvinism-Prebysterianism. The secular must be sanctified not by its perfectability, its deification, but by abolishing the secular in favor of the “holy.” Again original sin is the snow covered in shit. Theocracy is covering the nation, the people in “religious” snow leaving the shit of human politics, culture, and all the rest. Prohibition, moralism, and that whole strain of Presbyterian righteousness.
And sadly this cosmic dualism masks our own sinfulness, acts as an inviolable justification to become just like our enemy in tactics, thoughts, words, and sadly often enough deeds.
Published in: on October 29, 2005 at 2:25 am  Comments (1)  

The Two Truths of Christianity

Just finished watching PBS Frontline special on the faith of George Bush The Jesus Factor–aired in May 2004)

One commentary that was particularly interesting was the noted shift in Bush’s theological speak prior to and after the Attacks of Sept. 11th.

Prior to the attacks one of the reporters interviewed described his faith language as self-help Methodist Evangelical. After the attacks it was Calvinist.

The Self-help Methodist strain we see in things like his compassionate conservative 2000 Campaign Slogan. His constant emphasis on Jesus being the source of his sobriety, his Faith-Based Initiative measures as the first act of his presidency. A time most of us forget due to the majority of his term served since the attacks and the extremely controversial actions (and inactions) undertaken during that time.

David Brooks just wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times where he describes how “W” (not HW) transformed the Republican party in a way no one has since Reagan. That the Republicans of the 90s were too busy allowing Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan to speak at the ’92 Convention. That the party was spinning into a weird Newt-led domestic tax policy, rising anti-immigrationism, and foreign isolationist policy.

It was W who brought compassionate conservatism to overcome all this. Not the Reaganite “Government is the problem not the solution” motto, but the government has to help those who really know how to do what needs to be done–i.e. faith based initiatives and compassionate conservatism.

An interesting thesis, but leaving out a few points. One: the President, within his own party, is currently described as “radioactive.” The Maverick McCain waits in the wings for his chance. The Republicans theoretically–though not likely in my mind–could lose either the Senate or House. Or more possibly–though still less than 50% in my book–the White House.

Two. And more importantly, the compassionate conservative agenda never really got off the ground. It was an interesting theory, still to be tested.

Col. Larry Wilkerson (deputy to Colin Powell) and Brent Scowcroft (erstwhile mentor of Condi Rice and member of George Bush I Administration) have come out within the last week blasting Rumsfield and Cheney. Wilkerson called them a cabal—now a buzzword, heard it used in tonight’s episode of E-Ring. An you don’t have to be Jurgen Habermas to realize that non-transparent channels of communication in realms of such enormous power leads to conflict of interests (can anyone say Haliburton?) and more dangerously politicians unanswerable to the populace. Not held liable for their failures–can anyone say Rumsfield is still the Sec. of Defense?

What happened is that self-help Methodism turned into the Axis-of-Evil strict empire-building dualism of Calvinist American theology. The attack fundamentally changed the president I believe on a deep spiritual-psychological level. It brought forth this language of messianism, of his divine mission, of this country’s purpose to bring forth democracy in the world.

All of which projects so much evil externally. It becomes a meta-narrative that focuses energy and personnel and the popuulace, no doubt, but turns cannibalistic in time, eating its own….a true patriot like Colin Powell forced to lie before the UN on Cheney-Tenet’s “slamdunk” anyone?

That Calvinist theology, inspired more it seems by the stories of Joshua slaying the enemies of God than Jesus loving the enemies, leads to a direct blacklash in charges of hypocrisy. For one thing: one man’s divine slaying of the heathens is another man’s genocide. Consult the story of how the Israelites are commanded by God to put certain pre-existing enemy tribes under the ban. The ban is to slay all the men, and sell the women and childrne into slavery–or kill them too. All of them. Not too often most of us imagine what it would have been like to be a Jebusite or Philistine. [Did God really command that, or do you think it was an ex-post facto justification, and/or some Israelites really believed God wanted them to kill them all, or did they just learn the tactic from the ones they used it on….probably all of the above.]

By creating such a black/white dualism there is no choice but to eventually be called on one’s own evil. Whether those who are calling the so-called righteous on their own evil are evil themselves (e.g. A Terrorist Critique of American hypocrisy) or self-serving (uber-liberal deconstructionist Americans and Europeans, or those from the Third World who have aped the nihilistic postmodern in-speak).

In the next post I’ll go into the relationship between the self-help Methodism, so-called, and the dualistic-apocalyptic Calvinist strain in relationship to Catholic theology (not anywhere on Bush’s radar) as they relate to the understanding of the Two Truths in the Buddhist realizer Nagarjuna: The Relative and the Absolute. And how the Relative world further manifests as a polarity (as it always does) in the religious relative sphere between Self-powered paths and Other-powered paths. Then I believe the change within the President will become clearer.

Published in: on October 26, 2005 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Homo Economicus

I go through reading cycle–thematically. I was on a spate of Religious Right, Evangelicalism as well as Islamic theology-jihadism-terrorism over the summer.

Moving onto the post-Cold War globalized economic structure of the world. Reading End of the Line by Barry Lynn from New America. The subtitle is The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation. It is a much better read, less ideologically driven than say the common postmodern opuses (opi?): David Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism (not that those are totally bereft of any merit).

Anyway, I find Lynn’s thesis quite compelling and frightening. He follows how for Americans political wisdom since the New Deal held that the best use of the Sherman anti-trust laws was to allow a few mega-companies, preferably three, in an industry to proliferate. The most famous example being of course the Auto-Industry and the Big Three of Detroit: Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Or if one company managed to get a monopolistic-like share of market to force them to make available their patents in relatively quick succession. Meaning these corporations would then be forced to pour a group measure of their overflow capital back into their own Research and Development.

At the same time the prevailing mindset of American Manufactors–often called Fordism–was to have a veritcally integrated corporate structure. Fords were built on Ford plants. Henry believed in controlling all the processes of production under his own roof.

Lynn’s book examines how both of these common sets of wisdom which had guided American business and political economics for decades came to unravel during the 1980s and then absolutely imploded after the Fall of Communism.

Interestingly for Integral types, he lays most of the blame at the foot of Bill Clinton, who oftherwise is considered by many Integral-types (wrongly in my view) to a sorta hero of the “3rd Way” of the “New Democrats.”

What Clinton did do well I think is he ran the government like a business. He did what a good Republican (excuse me Southern Democrat) is supposed to do: keep the books. But certainly in terms of foreign policy-military issues he was overall in my book a flop. The only issues he was “liberal” in the current sense is probably abortion and Supreme Court Justice nominations (Ruth Bader Ginsberg). He tried to go, I would say, very liberal (almost green) with the Health Care proposal. It blew up in his faee and as a result he lost the House and later the Senate, to The Contract with America folks.

He let the genocide occur in Rwanda.

–He put the US under NATO in Bosnia, as if that was a long-term feasible strategy. (Though he did have Wesley Clark leading the combined forces).
–He got us involved in Somalia and then withdrew quickly during the Blackhawk Down fiasco.
–Worst of all…against loads of strong evidence, he never took al-Qaeda seriously. Not after the Embassy Bombings, Somalia, or the USS Cole.
It was Clinton who de-regulated the media-communications industry which has lead to the abomination that our media world of infotainment, and corporate cruck-moguls like Rupert Murdoch peddling their ideologically driven blather.

It was Clinton, Lynn argues who went against the centuries old wisdom of an Alexander Hamilton up to a Harry Truman that believed the US government must involve itself in market economics.

The US has never had a purely free-market laissez faire economic structure, nor a rapidly instigated “pure democracy”. It is these two that the US is peddling around the world. The result is nothing short of disastrous. Bush has emphasized more the freedom and spread of democracy, Clinton more the “free marketism.” [For the results of this twin policy around the world see Amy Chua: World on Fire].

Lynn uses examples like Dell, Cisco, FedEx, and of course the big daddy Walmart to describe how the rise of “logistics”, “outsourcing”, “insourcing”, multinational monopolies, insane coporate mergerism, has led to a extremely delicate and potentially dangerous worldwide economic structure.

We assume globalization is here to stay. But Lynn rightly questions that assumption. When so many large corporations single-source to a sub-contractor around the world, where sub-specialization–particularly in the technology industry–is so fine-tuned, that many companies no longer recall how to manufacture a great deal of the pieces that go into the finished products (like a Dell PC), and givne the rise of global catastropic possibilies from Avian Bird Flu, to further natural catastrophes, ecological meltdown, and the most precipitous the rising cost of oil (on which the entire economic strcuture is built and running out!!!): there is a recipe for a huge global economic downturn, decade long-global recession or worse depression.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Western Europeans were creating a so-called worldwide economic market that was destined to last for all time. It only took a global pandemic (FLU), a catastrophic World War to set in motion the Cold War, the rise of Fascism, State-controlled Economies, neo-mercantilism.

All of those possibilities are re-emerging. Global virus spreads, rampant poverty on a scale never before imagined in human history, the mass migration since WWII of humans from agricultural to urban dwellings (leading to shanty towns), the upsurge of Isalmo-fascist jihadist ideology, the rising fear on the global oil markets, ecological destruction, and so on.

The possiblity of this phase of globalization distintegrating is quite real. Scarily so in my estimation.

Meanwhile all of which is less and less, as Lynn so forcefully argues, leveraged by government. How is the anti-Trust suit going to be wedged against outsourcing? How is the government to force a corporation to fund their revenues back into their own R&D when they don’t manufacture anything (Cisco)? When they don’t have R&D. Because that involves risk, overhead, investment and so on. Easier to let someone(s) else spend all that time, gobble them up, and them leverage them to your own end. Spend your effort on rationalizing and simplfying supply chains and logistical trackings, then you can like Walmart invert the traditional relationship between manufactur and retailer…giving the retailer the dominant position.

Without legitimate government regulation, the liberal movements around the world flounder in ideological nowheresville. Have a World Social Forum for example and give a standing ovation to f(*#ing Hugo Chavez. Or worse blame excuse the crimes of a Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. There are the profusion of deconstructionist protests–Seattle and Genoa–or Cindy Sheehan style non-sense around the Iraq War.

Roosevelt and Truman saw that linking our economies with former enemies like Germany and Japan was meant to also link us politically, particularly as a bulwark against communism.

What has our economic linking with China accomplished to link our two countries politically or socially? Has the Chinese human rights record improved since joining the WTO? (Again thanks to Bill Clinton).

I am a firm believer in the rising noosphere and the eventual planetization of consciousness. The inter-linking of human community across the globe. But it has to be guided. It can not be reduced simply to exterior forms of communication, manufacturing, consumerism, and technologies. That is why Friedman thinks the World is Flat–because that is mostly what he pays attention to.

In Integral thought the higher depends on the lower for its existence not the reverse. We have seen horrendous examples of that truth recently. The biosphere is within us (the noosphere). We are higher. Therefore, we depend on it. Therefore when the biosphere quakes or storms or flames it is maintaining its own health. When humans move to coastal regions, particularly in poverty, in huge numbers unlike ever before in human history, or decide to build residential housing in and around the Forest of the West, tragedy ensues on a more dramatic and crushing scale than previously. That is a noospheric level choice of how to relate vis a vis the biosphere.

The so-called integrated, globalized market is a higher end version of the noosphere. It depends on a great deal of toil and labor from those who do not receive the lion’s share of the benefits which are hawked by over-paid “celebrity-status” CEOs. And the majority of the human race has no stake in, no connection to, and does not benefit much (if at all) from the globalized info-economy. The information economy exists upon the industrial, the agararian, and primitive hunter-gather economies (in descending order of evolutionary depth respectively). Those other economies do not depend on the information economy to exist.

Again leaving the possibility that the higher will destroy the capacity of the lower to support it. And/or the lower will revolt and slice its connection to the higher. Whether the lower in this case is nature or the oppressed, disconnected, degraded masses of the world.

We will not see, I believe, a true global integrated consciousnsess and certainly not a truly global form of governance in my lifetime. Or for lifetimes to come I fear. The Right-Hand evolution is outstripping the Left-Hand too rapidly. Is out-stripping our conscious evolution, our conscious involvement in the process of globalization. Right now, sadly, the single most important dominating factor is the bottom-line of multi-national, single-sourced, outsourced, susceptible corporations.

To end with a quotation from Lynn’s book–discussing the victory of shareholders against corporate management from the 1960s to the 2000s by ultimately cannibalizing CEOs into the class of shareholders:

The disintegration of the old corporation was now complete. Greed, Adam Smith believed, was a socially valuable passion. But it is a blind and mindless passion. For more than a century, the coporate form had contained a counterbalance to the blind passion, first in the person of the on-site entrepreneur, then in the person of the on-site manager. But now the shareholder, as a class, had at last completed the subversion of the old CEO. Which meant that for the first time in its more than a century of life, the corporation was left truly unguided by any internal rational authority, even as it found itself ever less controlled by the external rational authority of the state. The modern equivalent of the absentee landlord–the nameless and facelss horde of investors–was now in control. And so was completed the transformation of the corporation from an institution designed primarily to commerciliaze new and better products and to maintain the machinery necessary to make these products. From now on, it would be a much more simple mechanism designed mainly to carve wealth from others, entirely without regard to the consequences, entirely without any interest in understanding the social ramifcations of what it is doing.


Published in: on October 14, 2005 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Three is a Magic Number

Breath in the gut,
A chakra

Tingling waves of fear-joy,
Both out of touch
With the reality.

A Desire only for confidence.
Wishing to bypass the learning stage.

Skipping to the end,
to the “good part.”

Waves of sloth, envy, panic,
ignorance, over-exuberance,

Moments, glimpses of what is to be–
confidence, clarity, relaxation
In the Moment.

A knowingness
an “arrogant” “stylish” “developed” humility.
All lying in wait.

The last unchartered territory of this psyche.

Deconstructing three vows,
the third chakra.
One down.
Two to go.

Published in: on October 10, 2005 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Answers for a Friend

We had a bit of email correspondence a while back. I just wantedto say the recent posts on your blog have been great especially the one on ID and abortion. Ive yet to read much in-depth onTeilhard de Chardin but your post has really motivated me to doso. In your last email you mentioned that your attempting to enter a ECUSA seminary, how is that going? Were you a Jesuit before? You had mentioned having problems relating to other Christiansbecause of their personal or anthropomorphic views of God-how isthat coming? Ive been thinking a lot lately about thepersonal/impersonal aspects of God, how they relate and in whatways God is personal. Any thoughts?

I got this note from a friend of mine today. Thought I would respond to it in this format.

In your last email you mentioned that your attempting to enter a ECUSA seminary, how is that going? Were you a Jesuit before?

Today I was formally received into the Episcopal Church. It was a very moving ceremony. Formal reception means that since I was already baptized and confirmed, I am simply being received into the Anglican Communion.

I was raised Roman Catholic, and at the age of 21 entered training to become a Jesuit–a member of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit order is a group of male priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. Most people know of them for their work in education–Boston College, Georgetown, Santa Clara, Gonzaga–and others for having good college basketball teams. My favorite is when Notre Dame plays Boston College and the announcers always say The Catholics vs. The Jesuits–as if Jesuitism were another religion unto itself.
Anyway after four years in the Jesuits, studying for the priesthood under vows of poverty,
celibacy, and obedience I left the order. I was just about to turn 25 at that point. That was Summer of 2004. It was a wonderful experience. There is a lot I miss about it–my Jesuit brothers, the comraderie, the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself, the millitary-like dedication and single-minded observance (as an ideal to be sure). And the sincerity with which people would open to me just after I told them I was a seminarian.
During my time in the Jesuits I was exposed to a great multitude of ideas. From the Jesuits I learned about Liberation Theology [For you integralists out there that is the “green” form of Christianity]. I read all the classic texts and absorbed the mindset.
In my third year in the Jesuits is when I came across Ken Wilber’s work and my life was transformed yet again. If Liberation Theology is considered radical by many–and it is–then adopting Integral Thought even put me further out there. Basically on an intellectual island.
My only guide into this territory was Teilhard de Chardin
Roman Catholic theology was forever transformed at the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965), when the Catholic Church finally responded to the modern world–on its term….praising certain trends, criticizing others.
Teilhard had essentially no influence at Vatican II. He had died in the 50s before the Council, and his work was just beginning to get noticed–he had been silenced and banned from publishign during his life by the Vatican though never formally charged or convicted on charges of heresy.
Catholic theology and thought and politics since Vatican II has been over the proper interpretation of the Document–kinda like US Supreme Court and the Constitution. During the 60s-late 70s, the “liberal” school of thought dominated–just like US politics. Then during the 80s–just like the US–with the rise of John Paul II and now Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger), the tide shifted to the right.
Either way, however, Teilhard was still not in the picture. Some Liberation Theologians were interested in his work, and the confluence of liberation theology, US environmentalism, certain “new” paradigms (so-called) in science, and elements of Teilhard led to the rise of Creation Spirituality. The names associated with that movement are Matthew Fox and to a lesser extent Thomas Berry.
While they certainly were a step in the right direction, it was not quite altogether there (the work has been taken over interestingly by Jim Garrison, a very integral thinker). Berry was especially prone to say that human beings were parts of the greater whole–GAIA. What Teilhard had stressed repeatedly, and Wilber affirms, is that the noosphere (the realm of thought) transcends and includes the biosphere (GAIA). That is, GAIA is in Us. Not we are in GAIA. We are members of the Earth, but we are not subservient to it.
Fox also described a four-fold path to Christian mysticism over the traditional three-fold path. He translated the works of Meister Eckhart and basically introduced, through the back door as it were, Nonduality. He, however, I think did not truly grasp what he was onto. His work suffers from the traditional flaw of all green-meme worldviews–the lack of understanding of true, healthy hierarchy.
The man is a genius, if not entirely correct. He is also one of my heroes, even if I disagree with a lot he has said and done–and not said and done. We corresponded for a long time during my stay in the Jesuits–he supported me in my spiritual growth at a time when others closer to me did not and would not. For that I will always have deep love and affection for the man. Even though we have gone in different directions of late, it is his influence that has brought me to the Episcopal Church (like him).
In one of Fox’s early books he described the difference between the traditional Christian path as symblized by Jacob’s Ladder with a new image of Sarah’s Dancing Cirlce. Jacob’s Ladder and Sarah dancing are two Hebrew Testament stories—too complex to get into it all–just note that the Ladder is meant to represent elitist, hierarchical, judgmental, rigid, masculine mysticism and the circle=non-hierarchical, embracing, non-exclusionary mysticism.
A better notion of course is a Spiral–which is both vertical (Ladder) and horizontal (Circle), both hierarchical and heterarchical.
Fox’s Four Steps in Spirituality are more like Four Movements that go around and around–like a Circle–but never higher or lower. And I need not rehash all the self-contradictions in there. Readers are smart enough to figure it out.
What no one has yet done is unite Teilhard’s understanding of Creation and the human role as the Universe aware of itself thinking as the embodiment of the noosphere and the eventual theosphere with the traditional Christian three-fold mystical path, as well as the less well known four-fold path of Nonduality (or Indistinct Union).
That is what my studies are about, that is what my work in Integral Christianity, in a nutshell is about. Beyond the right and left arguments and beyond even the faux-integral (what in Spiral language would be called Green/yellow, a kinda mini-step between postmodern and integral) notions afoot, keeping the worthy elements of all, jettisoning that which is unnecessary any longer.
I plan to be back in school Fall 2006; I will pick up my theological studies where I left off, complete them, and be ordained in the Anglican Church…God willing.
You had mentioned having problems relating to other Christiansbecause of their personal or anthropomorphic views of God-how isthat coming? Ive been thinking a lot lately about thepersonal/impersonal aspects of God, how they relate and in whatways God is personal. Any thoughts?
That’s a really good, important question. When I was first exploring non-personal aspects of the Divine, I became almost allergic to the whole “personal” notion of God issue. I over did it, in other words, going to the other extreme.
I accept the basic distinction made by Paul Tillich that for an educated, modern/postmodern/integral person, theism must be dead. Or is already dead. By theism I mean the notion that God is some sort of Being, a really big Ego as Alan Watts once said, “out there” or”up there” somewhere. Namely that God is totally separate from the process of creation and must supernaturally “dive” into creation to redeem it by mythic-magical acts: i.e. a supernatural atonement sacrifice on Calvary; a literal-gross level physical resurrection from the dead (or as Bishop Spong put it once, a “resuscitation of a corpse”); and all the rest.
None of the Church Fathers ever held such a primitive notion–not so literally. Even for an Aquinas and Luther God was present in everything. As Br. David Stendl Rast showed in his Dialgoue with Ken, the best postive image (cataphatic theology) for God is pan-en-theism: Everything is in God but God is more than the world (transcend-and-include). Panentheism is completely Teilhardian.
The non-theistic Christianity of a Tillich or Teilhard I think is more satisfying than the more mythic, big God in the sky. I also realize, however, that that view of God has its place. For me, in the post-industrial world I think it should be for children, not adults. I think its appropriate for 10-12 year olds. That is when most people make their confirmation (or bar/bat mitzvah) and as a result, most people still have a 12 year old vision of God. Even if they have become efficient business people, rational, intelligent humans in every other way, that religous part of them is stuck on pre-teenage mode.
So instead of personal per se I prefer the term active. What the Church Fathers meant by personal is so complex (and right) and so anti-thetical to the common way of thinking in our world that I say it might not even be worth the argument. The gist of it anyway is that God is the Truly Personal one, and we are persons only to the degree that we become like God. Other wise, in our sinful lives, we are not even real persons.
Obviously there is a lot of truth to that statement, especially when combined with notions of illusion, false self, and so on. But the word person has come to mean exclusively the individualistic, Western ego-notion, that when we talk of God as Personal, I find most people can not get out of the mode of thinking of God as just a Western-ego multiplied by a whole helluva lot.
This story illustrates the point.
A reporter asked Mother Theresa once what she said to God in prayer.
She answered, “I don’t talk to God. I listen.”
Then the Reporter said, “Well what does God say.”
She resopnded, “God doesn’t say anything either. God just listens.”
And before the reporter could get the question out, she said, “And if you ask me how that is possible, I have to say I don’t know. But it is.”
The mythic-theistic God notion leads to a view of prayer that is me pleading a bunch of requests out to that Big Ego in Heaven. Its how we pray in Church when we do petitions. Does anybody think that God is actually going to make it rain if we pray for it more and more?
The pan-en-theistic notion of prayer is so different. It is you listen and God listens. And the silence is itself the Conversation. As opposed either to us praying for a bunch of stuff, or God talking about of stuff (like “Conversations with God”).
As Eckhart said, our view of God tells us more about ourselves than it does about God.
So personal/impersonal (transpersonal) or active/passive means in essentially, God and Godhead.
The Greek Orthodox have a old theological dictum which goes there is God’s existence and God’s essence. They are not completely separate, but they are not the same either.
In other words, God’s existence is God as God-is-for-Us. The Biblical Term for that is “Emmanuel”–God is With Us. What God is as God is Pure Mystery–not even circumscribed by the notion of Pure Mystery, even that is a useless term. God is not Mysterious, and yet not known either.
So God must “constrict the Divine self” to meet us. We call this Revelation. Revelation is God as God chooses to manifest “himself” to Us. God meets us at our Level (The Incarnation). That is God’s Existence–or Active Pole. This is the traditional God of the Biblical Narrative. A God who chooses the poor, who calls Light out of Darkness, who calls Creation into Subjection under the One. It is the “God-of-the-Future” as Karl Rahner said. God the Prime Mover of Teilhard, the Omega drawing all things to “himself.”
The impersonal then is the Godhead–the Essence of the Three Divine Persons. The common “whatness” that makes the Father, Son, and Spirit God. Godhead could be equated with the term The Witness as used in Buddhist/Hindu tradition. The Godhead is the High Causal-Witness (Turiya) of all the worlds unending. The Kingdom of God on Earth then would be the Fifth–Turiyatita–or true Nonduality.
What the Eastern Orthodox Church said was that in this life (and the life to come incidentally) one could experience the Existence of God but never the Essence. The Existence of God is called they call the Divine Energies–God’s “action” in this world. God’s energies, “deifies” or “sanctifies” the soul of the mystic. As Athanasius said, “God became human, so that humanity might become God.”
In the Eastern traditions they speak of the Relative and Absolute Truths, the Relative and Absolute Paths. The three-step process outlined by Dionysius: purgation, illumination, union is the Relative Path. [This is a really important point, the differences/similiarities between the Catholic and Orthodox mysticism–but that for another post].
There is the Relation”-ship between grace and free will, the soul and God. Neither is the other, yet the join together. You move as Paul said, from the false egocentric self, to the True Soul-Level Self. The Self that is a self inextricably united to God. But STILL A SELF. Just a divinely connected one.
The Absolute Path is the Path of Indistinct Union. The Path of the Godhead-Witness and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth-Nonduality. Here discussion of Grace or Free Will, where God begins and the soul ends or vice versa, no longer has any value. There is aboslutely nothing to say–including that there is nothing to say. Only the experience, or the clearing of all experience.
The Orthodox were right that one can experience the Existence-Energies of God in this life and be deified. They were wrong when they said that one could not experience the Essence of God on this side of death. It is possible.
Back to the two poles for a second. The word for Godhead in both German and Latin is Feminine (Deitas, Gottheit); the word for God masculine (Deus, Gott).
I find it interesting to play with the Masculine/Feminine notions around the active/passive God/Godhead poles. So it seems like the passive pole is the Feminine One. This would make sense since Chrsitianity has neglected the Nondual, and has been marginalizing of the Energy of Descent-Feminine.
On the other hand, Pan-en-theism is often pictured as God is a Pregnant Woman, with the Universe in her womb. She is more than the womb (transcends) and yet the universe is within her, and her womb permeates every aspect of the Universe-Baby (Includes).
And, we normally talk in Integral World of Eros and Agape. Eros is the Energy of Ascent, the Masculine; Agape, the Energy of Descent, Embrace, All-Love. God, as Existence, as “Acting” is therefore more Feminine in Christian lanugage–God reaches down through Revelation-The Incarnation to embrace us.
And there is a truth to speaking of the Witness-Godhead as the Ultimate Masculine Principle. You find this particulary in Eckhart’s writings. Godhead is beyond, neither this nor that, in the Emptiness, no words, no thoughts, no feelings, the absence of created being. Pure Being, Eternal. Very Masculine sounding.
Not that either has to be right to the exclusion of the other. The key is to see these two poles–however conceived. God is the Masculine-Active-Existence and Godhead is the Feminine-Passive-Essence, or vice versa, the key is that both always exist simultaneously.
The Essence never “ex-ists” except in and as and through the Persons. And the Persons, in their “ex-isting” or nothing other than the Manifestation of their Essence. This was the traditional teaching of the Hypostasis in Triniatarian thought (in the Cappodocian Brothers–Basil and the two Gregories).
The one Christian mystic who understood this better than all the others, in my estimation was Jan Ruysbroeck. Eckhart most famously separated God and Godhead–he said, “God is as different from Godhead as day is from night.” Eckhart also spoke often of the God beyond God (Godhead), flowing out from Godhead and being sad at encountering God (meaning there is duality). And so on. It probably served a point, given that it was so radical. To make his point he had to overshot the market I imagine, but by itself it was still missing the final synthesis.
Ruysbroeck comes on Eckhart’s heels and basically helps unite the two again (if Eckhart is the Transcend, Ruysbroeck is the and-Include). The image of two poles in constant oscillation, one energetic and one unmoved, is a sheer plagarism of Ruysbroeck. Keeping with the theme of his transcend-and-include notion, Ruysbroeck describes both the traditional three fold Christian mystical path and the four-fold–Eckhart only describes the four-fold path.
Eckhart described this unmoved action as “living without a why. Living without an egoic agenda. Being the Process, Incarnating itself, purely with gratitude and joy. No other agenda–especially to be holy, to do God’s will, go to heaven. Those desires have their place–on the relative scale. But they are not absolute. To paraphrase Marguerite Porete: “To desire to do God’s will is to admit that you are not doing it right now.” To desire to unite to God means that you do not understand that you are always already indistinctly united to Godhead.
That is why the Absolute Realizer–The Siddhi–has such a sense of humor. S/he sees through the veil, even the spiritual veils, and sees that everything is already at Peace. Already free, even in and as and through the struggle, the erotic ascent, the evolutionary pull. The Existence is the Essence. The Active’s Essence is the Passive, and the Passive never is except as the Active.
Just realize that. Just watch the thoughts, the feelings, anything that arises–right now. And jsut look. See through. Be through. Feel your Right Heart, your Sacred Heart, feel the current of Love and Bliss that emanates from there. Feel also the knot in that part of your Body.
The Bliss and the Knot co-arise. Feel them both. You feel one, you feel the other. Feel them and continue just to look through-be through everything arising. Be Eucharistic. Everything that arises “sacrifice” it with gratitude. That is Thanksgiving-Eucharist. Sacrifice of Praise-Thanksgiving. Let it all come, let it all go. Watch. Feel the Bliss-Contraction. Then pop the question, “Who I am?” “What is this?” And let it go as well.
Then maybe you realize what is before you, aroudn you, within and without you.
The Kingdom of God(head).
Published in: on October 5, 2005 at 12:08 pm  Comments (1)