Tag Archives: fundamentalism

Sleep Walking in the Spiritual World

An “awakening” is an interesting notion as it implies having been asleep before.  And it brings to mind the notion someone posited that we are a “nation of sleep walkers” in reference to not apparently having any idea what we are doing.  And the notion that one is not “awake” is disconcerting to say the least.  It can threaten one to the core and technically should do so as the “core” is where the “stuff” of life is found.  There we find the heart.

Spiritual traditions usually have awakening as a primary concern for spiritual teachers who help formulate these traditions always “see through” the falsities of life and want to bring them to the attention of others.  And this was certainly so with my spiritual tradition, Christianity.  But the spiritual truth that Jesus offered to the world was wisdom from the depths of the heart and this wisdom cannot be put into words.  Jesus, of course, used words but knew these words would only rattle around in many heads and never make it into the depths of the heart where meaning could be experienced.  This is what he meant by “having ears to hear, but hear not” and “eyes to see, but seeing not.”  For He knew that the real “stuff” of life takes place deep in the bowels of the heart and words can furrow there but only when great resistance is overcome.

This issue is very relevant to my spiritual history.  I was “Christianized” from early on.  I imbibed the “stuff” from even before I was conscious and one might say that since then everyday was summarized by, “Wind me up and watch me be Christian.”  And, yes, I grew up and got an education and dared to become a “damn liberal” and then it became, “Wind me up and watch me be a liberal Christian.”  Same song, different verse.  Only in the past decade or so have I realized just how I was embedded in my own thought, including in my own Christian teachings, and was largely just an indoctrinated automaton.

So, what is the solution?  Atheism?  Agnosticism?  Self-indulgence?  All of the above?  Well, I don’t know if I have a “solution” but I do know that I have been granted awareness of my self-serving faith, I have been made aware that ego-gratification was one of its primary intents.  And with this awareness, or “awakening,” I have suffered the disillusionment that I think is necessary at some point in life.  But this descent into the darkness has taught me that there is some inner resource I have other than the ego and its trappings.  I am finding a Center that is solid which words and spiritual traditions can only point to.  Yes, I still think of that “Center” as God, or even the “Christ child” that is within us all but I’m aware that these are only words.  I only know that in the depths of my heart I am a mystery, and that the whole of my life is a mystery, and that I’m living for a while longer in a beautiful world that is full of mystery, part of which are you!

So often I conclude with the observation, “But I have no need to convince anyone or to convert anyone.”  In my spiritual tradition, the spiritual passion has always led to an urgent need to evangelize and hope that others will “join the team.”  Not so in the least now, and that is one indicator that I’m growing up.  Changing others is no longer my job.  Changing my own life is the issue and gawd is there work to do there!  And I firmly believe that as I focus on “working on my own salvation with fear and trembling” any impact on others that needs to take place will occur.

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Basic Premis of “Getting Saved” Culture

The problem of “getting saved” culture is not on the surface but in the depths of the heart, in the premises. A fundamental primis of this mind-set is that the world is seen as separate and distinct from humankind. The “unity of all things” dimension of human experience is not recognized. Their world is bifurcated into “saved” vs. “unsaved” which is merely another version of the “us vs. them” paradigm, the need to see themselves as separate and distinct from other people and from the world. It goes hand in hand with the notion that this earth is something to exploit.

Someone steeped in this “getting saved” culture sees the world “out there” reflecting the over emphasis of God’s transcendence, God always being “out there,” sitting on a throne wielding judgment and pulling strings bringing about his will. This is a projection of the human heart, reflecting the abdication of his/her own power onto a sterile image. This perspective gives only lip-service to the immanence of God which in favor of His transcendence. The subtlety of Spirituality is not seen as God is, yes, “out there” in some sense (though not in terms of time and space) but simultaneously he is “in here” (though again, not in terms of time and space.) “God” is a merely a word that we have used in an effort to capture this incredible Mystery of the human experience, an experience which is actually intrinsically divine. That Ground of our Being cannot be reduced to a mere word or concepts, nor to elaborate theological veins of thought.

And this is what Jesus was telling us that “the Kingdom is within” and that “he who was afar off, has been brought nigh by the blood of the Cross.” The Old Testament Jahweh, “way out there” in the heavens had reached a new level of development and it was time for humanity to recognize it was no longer necessary to attempt to appease him with the “blood of bulls and goats.” Jesus was saying, “You can give that stuff a rest” as that which you worshipped has become enfleshed, I am He, you and I are one, you too are God.”

But acknowledging and embracing our deity, which Jesus taught that we have, requires handling the awkwardness of thinking of ourselves as “God.” It requires a spiritual subtlety that permits an individual to handle mutual contradictory notions at one and the same time; such as, “I am God” as well as “No, I’m not.” It requires recognition, not just intellectually, but intuitively that I am not what I imagine myself to be, that I am more and even less than I “think” that I am.

But when this notion begins to seep into consciousness, it is scary, even “scary as hell.” For this notion invites us to recognize another dimension of life that lies beyond the pale of our conscious mind but is always vibrating within that conscious mind.

Okay, I’m running out of steam and the not quite dormant “literallew” is raising his juvenile hand, reminding me of just how crazy this line of thought is. Yes, it is “crazy “ to a linear mind trapped in the time-space continuum. This is the “Mystery” that even Einstein noted lay at the root of his explorations in the realm of science. But this same “Mystery” with Christians…and most religions…is immediately “bronzed o’er with the dull cast of thought” when we encounter it and we fall in love with the concept. If we would look carefully, this concept, this “idea” that we love is merely our own ego-self wrapped in religious trappings. That is what Jesus was trying to tell the “Christians” of his day, those who were ensconced in the “Pharisee” denomination of that time.

Be a Voice, not an Echo!

I recently saw a quip on Facebook that grabbed me, “Be a voice, not an echo.” I feel I have spent most of my life merely echoing what I have been taught and what I have been rewarded for thinking and believing. I have dutifully mirrored back what “they” have wanted in the interest of the approbation that is always promised for this behavior.

But, due to my own internal “non-sense,” I realized I wasn’t feeling the approbation in the first place. And I saw that I had been guilty of this spiritual “offense” and am finding that I live less in an echo chamber now.  But notice I said “less.” We can never think with perfect clarity…unless we achieve deity; and if I ever have intimations of having done that I hope someone is nearby with a hypodermic of industrial strength Haldol!  We always live and think in a context and we always have a human tendency to interpret things to fit with our old-brain, ego-template of the world. When this understanding comes to us, we can back off more readily with our “certainties” and allow some doubt to filter in, making room for others. I love that line from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets about the need to “live in the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain and therefore the fittest for renunciation.”

 

Jesus is “Speaking” to Me!

Now, He does not “literally” speak to me.  I don’t hear voices or anything like that.  If it should happen I would refill my prescription of industrial-strength Haldol quickly! But my imagination, so long dormant or even imprisoned within tyrannical linear thought is finally coming out to play and from time to time I like to interpret a few things I’m learning in the realm of spirituality with the following refrain, “Jesus said unto me….”

For example, in the mid eighties when I was knee deep in my “great depression” and was walking past a large Baptist church to get my favorite comfort food, ice cream, and I just noticed that for the first time in my life I had no tinge of guilt for not being there in that moribund house of worship, for disobeying the biblical injunction to “forsake not the assembling together as  the manner of some is,”  And this tid-bit of freedom has been burgeoning through my life since then, slowly working away on that deep-seated core of guilt and shame that had kept me in Christian bondage. And there on that street that summer night, Jesus told me, “Hey Louie, its ok!  You don’t have to do that anymore!  You are free, my son!  You’ve done your time, done your penance…a penance you never did have to do in the first place; for, after all, that’s what I was about.  Remember?  Remember?  Remember?”

And Jesus continued to speak to me and to tell me, “Hey, that whole Christian thingy.  You don’t have to do that any longer.  I paid the price for your freedom from all bondage, even the bondage to “me”….which by the way I never had in mind!”  I began to explore this vein of thought and realized that in the way I had been taught in my youth, I was no longer a Christian and Jesus was telling me it was ok.

So I wondered in that wilderness for years, knowing that I was not an atheist or even agnostic even with this radical vein of thought coming to me from Jesus, of all people.  For, yes I had lost my religion, I had lost my family, I had lost my childhood friends, I had given up professional employment and was living on a meager income, barricaded in the basement of an office building.  I had “lost” everything.  But, I then realized that Jesus and the Christian tradition was still there even though “it” had lost its grip on me.  I no longer “had” to be Christian but realized that I still believed fully that Jesus walked the face of this earth and trotted out a lot of marvelous ideas….and lived them, embodied them!  Now it is true, dealing with “loss” of this type…and speaking now as a clinician…can lead to radical loss which is known in my trade as psychosis.  But I knew that history was still present for my scrutiny and that Jesus had been here in history in some shape, form, or fashion and though we know little about Him, we can surmise that he was a powerful spiritual teacher and I found that his teachings had great value for me, greater value for me than ever before.  And I realized that this meant that I was a Christian and always had been and this “loss” I had experienced was the “loss” of the letter of the law which in the subsequent decades has allowed the “spirit of the law” to begin to flow in my heart and life.

 And since then, Jesus has said occasionally, “Hey Louie!  You are beginning to get it!  You find me only when you lose me, you find me only when you lose the “idea” of me and discover me deeply in the inner depths of your own heart, discovering that the Kingdom is within.  And, Louie, this “loss” you experienced is an ongoing experience but this is only the loss of your ego self which is what I had in mind when I taught that you can find yourself only when you are willing to lose yourself.

 Since then I’ve come to realize why most Christians hyper-ventilate with the Mel Gibson “Passion of Christ” stuff for with that imagery they can allow the story of Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection to remain…in their mind…an historical “fact” and miss the point that he was “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”  This allows them to keep Him and the whole story a mere conceptual narrative which has nothing in the least to do with the depths of their heart where the real “death, burial, and resurrection” must take place.  They cling tenaciously to the “idea” of Jesus just as they cling to the “idea” of their own identity for to let go of the “idea” and embrace the experience would mean letting the ego die, it would mean following the advice of W. H. Auden who encouraged us to, “climb the rugged cross of the moment and let our illusions die.”

 

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But with this vein of thought, I always am brought to the realization that I have just condemned them all to hell!  By that I mean, in the old-brain mind-set of “literallew” they do not believe the “right way” and therefore are “lost as a goose in a hail storm.”  But the marvel of the Jesus story is that…as the old evangelical hymn puts it, “Jesus paid it all.”  Sure, they don’t get it “right” but guess who else does not get it “right”?  C’est moi?  None of us get it “right” but the message of Jesus is that we are forgiven nevertheless!  And as far as getting it “right”, please define right for me?  “Right” will always be a rational construction, a formulation arising from the depths of the heart which always has a deep-seated need to legitimate its preconceptions.  And that is why Christianity has often been a laughing-stock, easy fodder for late-night comedians such as Bill Maher who see readily through the non-sense and confront them with reality.  But, being confronted with reality, most Christians have a built-in escape, captured by W. H. Auden with this note, “When Truth met him, and held out his hand, he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”

Jesus Taking on the Religious Establishment

Yesterday, I paraphrased the teachings of Jesus as simply, “Get rid of your stuff!” Today, I’d like to elaborate on that theme a bit, hypothesizing about his view on the human race.

You see, what happened was that Jesus came down here and pretty soon found this a bewildering place. Often in his youth he would exclaim to his parents, “What the hell! This can’t really be happening! Why don’t these people get their heads out?” Mary and Joseph would often roll their eyes as they watched him grow up and periodically express his frustration with the human race. Much later when Jesus’ frustration became more intense they began to worry and once Mary even anticipated the mother of Hamlet and said, “Oh what a noble mind is here o’er thrown.”

It took a few more years of maturity but it dawned on Jesus that the problem was that people invested in the material world to the exclusion of the spiritual world. Even worse he realized that this was also true for the religious establishment of his culture, that the Jewish religious tradition was nothing but pomp and circumstance, summarizing one visit to Sunday School when he was 13 with the words, “Yada, yada, yada.” (You see, Jerry Seinfield was not the originator of this expression.”)

So decades later Jesus saw the potentates of the religious establishment together in the village plaza and overheard their conversation enough that he understood them to be sincerely discussing ways in which they could improve attendance each Sunday at the synagogue and also trying to be subtle in their comparison of the size of each others phylacteries. (Yes, Jesus did note that this probably had Freudian overtones.)

So Jesus was in a pissy mood that morning and decided just to saunter up to this august group in which he had no standing in the first place. “Hey guys,” he said, “Just a thought here. I see you guys are having a good time with this religious thing you got going on here. You really get a charge out of this ‘holy’ thing and you succeed in teaching your congregations to drink the same kool-aid. But may I suggest that you simply get over your self which will require getting rid of your stuff, certainly including this religious falderal which amounts only to the dissonant racket of ‘sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.’ If you don’t catch my drift, I’m saying your worship services and spiritual practice have become simply a lot of noise which provides you and yours a whole lot of satisfaction but does nothing for the world outside of yourself. Now forgive me, but I can’t help but liken this particular little tete-a-tete you are having this morning as reflective of the circle-jerk that I see at most of your Sunday morning dogma-fests.” He paused a moment and listened to the deafening silence and noted the apoplectic visages. “Anyway, just a thought here. Excuse me. Carry on. Talk amongst yourselves as you were doing. Oh, and have a nice day,” and he walked away.

So Jesus resumed sipping privately on his cup of latte as he watched these religious elders out of the corner of his eye. He saw them intensely discussing something and he knew it was him, he knew that he had put a bee in their bonnet; but he didn’t care. Occasionally he would catch a furtive glare from one of them as they continued to angrily discuss what he had said and they were gesticulating wildly. He occasionally heard words like “bastard” and “son of a bitch” and something about “probably was born in Kenya”, a reference which Jesus, even with his omniscience, did not understand.

After a few minutes, he saw them coming his way and he thought with amusement, “Uh oh!”

They approached him and the leader of the group announced, “Jesus, we don’t appreciate what you had to say and no one had asked you say anything in the first place. We are left with only two choices—a)ignore you and let you continue in your lunacy or b)to vote you off the island.”

Jesus interjected, with a wry smile, “And let me guess which one you have opted for!”

 

 

 

Ersatz, Ego-ridden, Spirituality

I’ve shared here several times that Richard Rohr steal’s my thoughts. He continues to do that and is rich and famous and I am still poor and unknown. Life is just not fair! In today’s email he again chides Christians for their “dualistic” thinking and points out how the ego is hard at work in this process. It is really unnerving to realize that something as personal as one’s faith can be little more than an ego function, an escape from life, and not the expression of the Divine that one purports it to be. And that is what I’ve had to learn and am continuing to learn about my own faith. But when this truth began to sink in, the first faint glimmer of light dawned in my soul allowing me to see the darkness in which I lived. And I still live in this “darkness” and will always do so even as that “glimmer of Light” brightens each day. For, I now know…and feel…more clearly what the Apostle Paul meant when he declared that “we see through a glass ‘darkly’”.

Let me explain just one facet of the ego’s presence in the spirituality of my early life. One of the first things I learned as a child was the distinction of “saved” vs “unsaved”, a distinction which paralleled the infinite variety of other distinctions I was learning as my innocent world was being carved up into various categories. And, of course at some point I learned that I could recite the correct syllogism, the magical words, and presto I would join the club of “the saved.” This bifurcation of the world followed me through the first half of my life as I hid behind the facade of being “saved” and from that subjective prison lived and felt separate from the whole world, radically disconnected. Now, I didn’t know about this disconnection as I participated in a “saved” culture which daily reassured me that I was “one of them” because I spoke the right language and lived the right life…at least out in public! However, there was always unrest in my soul, an unrest which in the middle of my life began to grow and became a veritable tumult which is now blossoming fully in my life. But this “tumult” is merely the experience of life unfolding in my heart as it opens up and becomes, “filled with penetrable stuff” as Shakespeare once put it.

Rohr presents spirituality as a “personal” phenomena, not an ideology. Spirituality is not a mind-set or a template through which we are to view the world as “out there” and needing to be made like me. Spirituality is the process of letting boundaries down and seeing the connection between “me and thee” and between the whole of God’s creation. And the process never ends. We never “get it” as there is nothing to “get”. It is a process. “Saved” and “unsaved”???? Well, the concept does exist in Christianity and most religions have some way of setting themselves apart and reassuring its followers that they are “special.” I now feel that the only “saving” I am responsible for is the saving of my own soul…a life long process which always involves relationships with other people…and which the Apostle Paul had in mind when he instructed us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” This “fear and trembling” is the tumult I alluded to earlier.

Here is Rohr’s observations for today:
DUALISTIC THINKING

Resistance to Change
Friday, March 21, 2014

Sadly, the mind trapped inside of polarity thinking is not open to change. How else can we explain the obvious avoidance of so many of Jesus’ major teachings within the Christian churches? Jesus’ direct and clear teachings on issues such as nonviolence; a simple lifestyle; love of the poor and our enemies; forgiveness, inclusivity, and mercy; and not seeking status, power, perks, or possessions have all been overwhelmingly ignored throughout history by mainline Christian churches, even those who so proudly call themselves orthodox or biblical.

This avoidance defies explanation until we understand how dualistic thinking protects and pads the ego and its fear of change. Notice that the things we Christians have largely ignored require actual change to ourselves. The things we emphasized instead were usually intellectual beliefs or moral superiority stances that asked almost nothing of us—but compliance from others: the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the atonement theory, and beliefs about reproduction and sex. After a while, you start to recognize the underlying bias that is at work. The ego diverts your attention from anything that would ask you to change, to righteous causes that invariably ask others to change. 1 Such issues give you a sense of moral high ground without costing you anything (e.g., celibate priests who make abortion the only sin). Sounds like an ego game to me.

Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go. Split people split up everything and everybody else. By the second half of our lives, we are meant to see in wholes and no longer just in parts.
1. Adapted from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, p. 94
2. Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
p. 151

 

An Addendum on the Incest Theme

Let me explain a little further about the incest notion. Incest is a spiritual problem as are all problems for we aren’t a body who has a spirit but we are a body who is intrinsically an expression of Spirit. When incest takes place, something has gone horribly awry in the depths of the human heart and sometimes, though not always, finds expression in behavior. But it is first and foremost a spiritual matter. Now, of course, when addressing this issue as a clinician, my first concern was not so much the “spiritual” as the behavioral—the behavior had to stop and thus the legal system had to be employed. And by here speaking of the issue as “spiritual” I do not diminish in the least the horrible nature of the deed itself.

And by “spiritual” here I am not speaking of “Spiritual” necessarily as in God and such…though ultimately that is where this “spirituality” leads. But I am talking about the subtle intricacies of the human heart, the hidden fancies and whims which for most of us are filtered out of consciousness. Some are not so fortunate and have their conscious thought violated by these thoughts and are often overwhelmed with their intoxicating lure. When the intoxication becomes too intense, acting-out often occurs.

The spiritual incest phenomenon reflects a great distrust of the world and I suspect it stems from a great distrust of the man/woman’s own physicality. He…and I’m going to focus on the male…is fearful of the outside world and comes to find the realm of private fantasy more appealing than that of the outside world. Sure, the outside world beckons but to venture there exacts a price, it entails risk and fear, and it is easier to just retreat within a private world. And this “private world” inevitably is orchestrated in the dynamics of the parents who have their own deep-seated problems with personal and physical intimacy. And this poison deepens and evolves, becoming increasingly convoluted, and when children come along they inevitably imbibe of this atmosphere and internalize it. And, this is true even when some of these families never actually become “incestuous” overtly. For some reason they mercifully they maintain the physical boundaries but the spiritual boundaries are not there and the children are enmeshed in a morass of expectations which always include a disdain and fear of the outside world. This often gives rise to some of the families who decide to “home-school” their children, keeping them from being “contaminated” by that “evil and wicked world out there.” And they almost always adopt religious views which encourage this poison.

But this same dynamic is often present with the hyper-conservative extremist groups. They reject the world, turn within, and end up feeding on themselves; or, as Shakespeare put it, they find themselves “feeding even on the pith of life.”