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Archive for the ‘thomas christians’ Category

Glow warm and time-worn amber paints my horizon

While foraging squirrels and song-stirred birds go about appointed chores.

And young boys play in the streets unaware of the gathering life,

Nor of my hope-drenched fears.

All the buzzing hive of rolling life plays on,
While the heartbeat of a silent single star beats inside the emptiness.

Glad-sad veneer of years marches ever onward,

As I await the blue-grey sheet of night to embrace all my dreaming.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Imagine a theological Sherlock Holmes: Seeing details overlooked by most.

There is a spiritual lesson in really seeing more of what is happening around us. Clear sight, the skill of tracking, is deep meditation. It cannot be accomplished unless we quiet all of our inner leaping.

One useful practice is to try to draw what we are seeing. Almost immediately, we discover that we are not really seeing but recalling an image of what we think we are looking at. In the act of really examining our surround, we can catch a glimpse of things as they are. In doing so, we set the stage for breaking through to a new relationship.

Martin Buber referred to I – It vs. I – Thou relationships. I -It is seeing inner facsimiles of objects, whereas I -Thou is inter- subjective and intimate.

We are all artists. The real question is are we rendering what is or what we think we know. Biblical knowing is about seeing from the inside-out rather than outside in.

The good news is that all we need is a pad and pen or pencil and we are off on an adventure of discovery. Looking with intent to really see gets us beyond vague sketches to catching the wisdom of actual detail.

Cultivating an artist’s eye opens us up to first seeing what’s there and then seeing into and beyond mere appearances. It is instructive that artistic realism preceded impressionism and expressionism. A jump straight to impressionism is not an act of deep sight but a crass short-cut, a pretense and an affectation.

Happy sketching!

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Will I make it into heaven? Will St. Peter smile on my admission to paradise? Is there a heaven?

This is all history wrapped in metaphor and has a certain poetic aesthetic. Problem is that for many it is the stuff of immutable belief.

It also is thinking that views human life as operating in an enormous “Skinner Box” with God playing the role of dispenser of the reinforcers ( akin to yummy Purina pellets for hungry souls, administered so long as we behave). Quaint but very much built around an adult – child model of our relationship with the Sacred.

Authentic spiritual practice, on the other hand, expects nothing. We show compassion because we are not separate. We need each other. We worship because we sense the Presence all around us. We invest in spiritual disciplines so as to be more truly who we are beyond illusions, delusions and allusions.

To expect nothing is to simply be children of the Loving-Living God seeking intimacy with the Heart of the Universe: to act in the moment without agenda.

The simple practice before and after action: check in with driving motives. Ask: What am I expecting? As the story of the Dalai Lama goes, on receiving a gift-wrapped box containing nothing: ” Thank you. It’s what I always wanted! ”

Luke 6: 32-36

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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So said St. Francis: a  koan of christendom that invites meditation.

Francis saw fraternity and sorority everywhere.

Creatures ( living and nonliving) are brothers and sisters in the Order of Creation. Adjusting the statement slightly we may pose the challenge this way: ‘Who we are looking for is who is looking.’  Yet, our ordinary conscious experience is of separation, difference and individual expression.

What experience inspires this insight on the part of Francis?

His vision was penetrating and went beneath the surface of form and function, speciation and diversity. The entire Cosmos was personal. In the eyes of wolves, he caught a glimpse of ein sof, the unknowable One. In Sun and Moon, he saw the illumined face of love.

All the exquisite forms and variety formed a choir chanting in unison of the passionate Heart tuning the music of the spheres. Going well beyond expectation and learning, labeling and categorizing, Francis discerned essences.

Doing so requires letting go of  our clinging to unique and divided identity.

It means examining oneself and seeing the degree to which we imprison the mind and soul in ideas about self and other.

We each weave clever and elaborate fictions designed around a history of experiences and language, strokes and slaps delivered by the environment through which we travel. We embody the mandate to separate and judge and build a system of dichotomies – good & bad, beautiful and not, right and left, right and wrong, valuable and not, worthy and unworthy, intelligent and not, ad infinitum.

As Francis knew intuitively, contemporary research is likewise showing how wrong we have been about assumptions of the comparative  intelligence of nonhuman beings.

One case in point is the wisdom of crows: their capacity to use tools and problem solve equal to the capacity of young children. Elsewhere, there was a recent study of the dance of bees and how they compete in their dancing to democratically choose the best next site at which to build a hive. Once decided, after feverish “debate through dance,” they all lift as one body and move together to the new site. All of this is further impetus for our grappling with what Francis saw empirically without the lenses of science as support.

How, then, do we cultivate the sense of the grander truth that lies within appearances and divergences?

It begins by practicing the “via negativa”, systematically dwelling in the tensions forged by our false dichotomies and dissolving them.

The challenge is to annihilate  limiting paradigms by rising up to a third position neutrally suspended above them. Each time we do so, we open our aperture wider and see a bit more clearly what is really there. We lift the veil that our thinking manufactures and throws over the real like a heavy cloak that obscures it.

This is a Western expression of jñāna yoga or “knowledge of the absolute”: discerning the difference between the real and the unreal.

One example: we pose the dichotomy of sentient – non-sentient. We see rocks as non-sentient, trees as sentient yet less so than birds and mammals. We create taxonomies of like and unlike that, while convenient for study, fuel our perception of difference as primary.

Using thought differently, we can confront our convenient divisions and resolve them in a higher sense of unity.

How?

One meditative stream of thought: Dispensing with sentience as the frame altogether, rocks and trees, insects, birds, mammals and human beings are Presence, amalgams of earth, air, fire and water. All were hewn from the same stuff.

I celebrate the variety and I see their unity. We are all sons and daughters of the Sun/Son. We are energy enlivened with purpose, ordained by first cause and evolving along lines laid down before the first micro-second of the universe. We are Light, mineral, Mind, Heart, and a vastness emerges among us.

We can learn much by incorporating this Christic jñāna yoga into our contemplative round.

What/ who we are looking for is already and always is with us.

interior intimo meo et superior summo meo” (“higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”) (St. Augustine, Confessions III, 6, 11)

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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lighthouse

How much light is needed to cut the darkness,

to tear that pitch of mystery, and dark-silent veil?

One warm strand:

Small boats on vast seas lunge forward,

bold with steady purpose on uncertain waves,

Soundless Beckoning:

Ever true, never fading,

For love and joy, the elder mariner keeps watch,

drawing ever nearer

the infinite warmth of the Great Lamp.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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In my recent post, I focused on the myth of the “one” true and destined love and the importance instead of choice and commitment.

Further reflection at the opening of Advent 2012 leads me to consider the Christian dogma of the “one” and “only begotten Son”. It is a matter of orthodox theology that Christ stands apart from all others as the true Soter or savior of the World: an exclusivity, the embodiment on Earth of the Father whose Presence is mediated by the Holy Spirit.

How do we make sense of this within the context of Faith with reason? Is the notion of the “One” equally mythic with that of the single destined lover for whom we are meant to be joined: the one who completes us? Is there an alternative way of thinking that protects the deep sense of mystery and special character of the One who Luke makes reference in ascribing to the Father the words: ” You are my Beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.”

In reply to the question, my meditation stumbles on a framing error implicit in the questions themselves. In their construction, they are dualistic, (i.e., either/or).

A better question is:

In what way is the “Son of God” both inimical and yet non-exclusive?

After all, Jesus says elsewhere:

“Timeless truth, I tell you: ‘whoever believes in me, those works which I have done he will also do, and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to the presence of my Father.’ ” Aramaic Bible in Plain English

or ” Otherwise believe for the very works’ sake. Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do.” Douay-Rheims Bible

Jesus was fulfillment of prophecy. As it came to pass in the unfolding of time and history, the Christ nature was a charism bestowed to a babe in Galilee & it was once and for all. And – beyond space and time, in the timeless space of the Sacred, this emblematic and iconic moment was a call to all: an invitation to the next significant advance in human consciousness.

As so beautifully stated in the Gregorian chant, Ubi Caritas: ” Where Beauty and Love are there also is God.”

Spiritual transformation is the yearning of the Divine Heart for Humanity to emerge into full “Sonship” wherein love defines us and we integrate in ourselves the Shadow and the Light and act with authentic compassion. In this sense, living sacramentally involves  learning to be able and willing reflectors of the Divine Light and  to help restore the State of Eden: to be “christ” for one another.

© The Harried Mystic, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Two Standing Together

Is she the one? Is he my soul mate?

These questions epitomize the myth of the One for whom we are meant to spend our lives. This way of thinking embodies the Hollywood portrayal of love and romance yet has little to do with the Love spoken of by Christ: agape.

The practice of agape is humble. It is not brash or reckless. It is not compulsion or obsession – or fine words to market fragrances by meant to conjure up images of abandon to physical attraction and “falling in love”. Agape makes ever larger space for the other to evolve and finds fresh reasons to listen and learn and to wrap oneself in the mystery of souls journeying together.

At heart, agape and true love, Christic love, is a choice: a decision to remain open to possibilities. Anything less is a cheap substitute; hence the high rate of relationship failures and divorce in the West.

We are called to a higher state of interaction and inter-being.

Anyone married more than a decade knows the truth of this. Physical prowess and attractive features are transient. One reaches the point beyond which we have heard all of our partners’ stories many times over. Then, it’s all about companionship, finding deeper levels of connection and mutual interest. This is the work of authentic loving.

Something beautiful visited often is never less beautiful, though we may stop paying attention and seeing that beauty. Having eyes to see the truth is to see each day as if for the first time and this is a high form of spiritual meditation.

As one now celebrating 39 years of marriage, the choice is rooted in gratitude to have a friend forever. What could be more truly romantic than the commitment to keeping it that way?

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Interbeing

As it is for so many, July 4th in the U.S. is our day for time with immediate family and close friends, to share food and tell stories, swim in the pool, light up a bonfire and toast marshmallows and watch the sky for all the fireworks that others work so hard to collect and display.

The day seems long and the light remains with us until quite late. Time slows and our being together seems simply perfect. We recall those who are no longer with us and our memories of when they were and we share amazement at how quickly our children have grown.

Such days as this are so much more about our interdependence and need for each other than about our individual lives and accomplishments. So, this year, I am struck by the paradoxical idea that while we celebrate our Independence day as a Nation, we live in a world of ever more delicate and critical interdependence. It is a complex network of connectivity that translates down to a very personal level.

It is truly in the evolution of human community that we will realize our best destiny.

It is in embracing our profound, if subtle, ties to each other that will reveal our deeper and richer meaning.

This year, I celebrate our interdependence and give thanks for days set aside to appreciate that and to feel it more keenly than when I rush through the customary and obligatory daily round of chores, challenges, and problem-centered chatter.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Spiritual practice aims to awaken us, to see ourselves with clarity and to pursue the truth. Right living is more than prayer and meditation, attendance at religious services, and blind fidelity to corporate beliefs. Critical thinking is essential. Our faith must grapple with doubt and all our beliefs should be tested and examined. As Socrates would have it: “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

So, anything that would call for suspension of critical thinking is predicated on the superiority of ignorance and spiritual blindness over the quest for knowledge. Such attempts at suppression of reason are also extremely dangerous.

History shows that a campaign to control thought is too often a strategy of those motivated to protect their own power from challenge. This was the case in Hitler’s Germany, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Stalin’s Russia, Mubarek’s Egypt, Assad’s Syria, Gaddafi’s Libya and many other examples can be included. With lesser lethality but no less manipulative intent was this Nation’s communist witch hunt during the Macarthy era. Tragically, we can also add the recent Inquisition ordered by Pope Benedict to chastise wayward nuns for deviating from the principle that only men should have Priestly vocation in the Church. In each instance, rhetoric, sloganeering, propagandistic machinery and corporate sanctions aim to trump critical thinking and reasoning.

Enter the 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party and it’s plank on educating our children:

” Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. ”

In other words, children should be required to think in pre- determined ways. They should not examine assumptions but accept what their authorities tell them to think. This is nothing new but is an anti- intellectualism that seeks a society of sheep who are made thereby more tractable and manageable by their elected shepherds.

We need to keep this trend in our sights. It is a gathering darkness. Already, we are a Nation in which the majority fails to vote which increases the odds of extremists populating the halls of Congress and becoming majorities in our State houses. In a survey published this morning, 41 % of the U.S citizenry don’t know that the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act.

It is an act of critical practical spirituality to help others to awaken and unplug from the “matrix”. It is an act of evil to work deliberately and systematically to keep people ignorant and to maintain the illusions that render them pliable.

Let us awaken and see clearly and inspire others to do the same. In the name of God and goodness, let us educate our children to challenge, test and think for themselves.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What is the relationship between science and religion?

Throughout history, and even now, the tension between them has been too much the characterization. The argument goes that science proffers testable hypotheses and the scientific method uncovers either support for that hypothesis or fails to do so. Religion, on the other hand, is discussed as wholly subjective, defined by untestable beliefs.

In establishing this dichotomy, a false one in my estimation, they are endemically at odds with each other. In today’s scientific and pseudo- scientific ethos, science is often deemed superior and more appropriate for our times. Religion, on the other hand, is portrayed by empiricists as a quaint remnant of pre-scientific explanation. Theists, on the other hand, see science with suspect eyes, arguing that it misses the deeper import of events and what it means to be. Both polar viewpoints are ill informed.

Fundamentalist science and religion are, indeed, at odds with one another. Both suffer the same problem: they proceed from a dogmatic position of what is true, right and knowable. I set aside fundamentalisms of all kinds as too narrowly constructed and thereby intrinsically fragile and lacking in merit. Those who subscribe to them are welcome certainly to their beliefs but it strikes me that such extreme positions render dialogue impossible, and creates a climate of mistrust, sterile bickering, and mutual claims about the inadequacies of the other. For me, such banter is a waste of energy and are, simply, uninteresting.

Instead, I live at the nexus between these two methods of knowing and both have much in common along with complementary differences. They need each other if the goal is agreed upon as a seeking after truth and a deep desire to get inside the ontological mysteries. Science speaks in the language of mathematics. Math is wholly based on certain assumptions and, while an invention of humankind, it is unusually powerful in unraveling the mysteries of the Cosmos. The scientific method then is brought to bear on predictions to apply critical tests. Yet, while we have seen convergent evidence of their existence, no one has ever seen, for example, a quark. In other words, we study the cumulative record. Having done so, new evidence may overturn, and often does, our most established interpretations.

Religion is also a cumulative record. Yes, it is a phenomenological one but this too is data. Seen through the lens of well reasoned theological discourse, it too makes predictions and offers interpretations. For example, in a universe that became conscious of itself, one can rightly posit that intelligence must be fundamental in its essence ( I.e., that it had a first cause). One need not resort to a simplistic Creationism that mangles good science to get there either. With the integrity of both science and theology left fully intact, one can catch inspiring glimpses of the heart of mystery.

To devolve to angry and oppositionally defiant atheism is to ignore experience and the universal sensibility of something greater than we that beckons. Such a retreat to mere science reduces matter, energy and space-time to mere objects of study rather than deep subjects with which to have a relationship. The result is spiritual reductionism and solipsism.

I am a scientist- theologian because as I study the one it informs the other. The reflections of science for me give rise to the meditations of spiritual practice. I delight in the online lectures such as those offered by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in the UK Faraday Institute for Science and Religion that serve to elevate and poke our understanding.

When both scientific and religious discourse act with genuine humility, we can proceed boldly and with the spirit of the child into realms of deep wonder. May our eyes be opened to see the wider landscape that awaits us if only we get beyond the tyranny of methodological chauvinism.

Life is way too short to narrow one’s field of view.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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