What do you think?
Created by: www.MastersDegreeOnline.org
Regular centering prayer encourages our direct knowing, without which there is no actual living Jesus tradition.
While we call Jesus our ascended master, our risen Lord, we act like we’re absentee landlords. Why do we invoke Eucharist in third person as though he’s not here?? Why not second person? Surely he didn’t go away when he died!
[Mike's note: I love how Cynthia says Jesus “is” and “does” rather than “was” and “did” like so many of her fellow progressive Christians, who do indeed see themselves as absentee landlords presiding over a Jesus Christ estate sale!]
Surely our hearts can pick up a connection with our living master if we’re only shown how.
The heart is the original spacecraft, for time travel – connecting us with all that is true, beautiful, and real.
Recognition of power is a profound kriya; Peter walking on water is the perfect example of this. If we want this connection in a similar fashion, we have to become serious students of the heart.
Nondual consciousness must be carried by the heart. Orthodox (Eastern) Christians have known this from the start. “The mind must be in the heart.” If you talk to a good Buddhist, they’ll say they know through the mind, but this carries inherent limitations. Unitive oneness, compassionate action, the grace & clarity we attribute to the saints – this is never attained by the mind alone.
In utero, the heart & brain begin as a single organism (according to an embryologist she spoke to). There can be a feedback loop between the two of them. We are becoming students of the magic of this extraordinary cardiology, opening up a unitive way of seeing.
(A humorous aside – Cynthia visited some older monks who knew Thomas Merton. Their take on Merton: “Oh yes. The little silence he knew, he spoke about very well.”)
I’m not trying in any sense to trash the mind; it’s a wonderful instrument. When the mind and heart work together, they’re brilliant. But anything which makes the mind rigid, fearful, simplistic creates a human being who uses neither the mind nor the heart.
To be continued…to see where Cynthia’s going with this, I recommend checking out her books The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, and The Wisdom Way of Knowing.
If you’re interested in exploring the myriad of ways in which apprentices to Jesus can navigate change in the 21st century – in our worship, our spiritual formation, our way of engaging the crises and opportunities we face today – I hope you join me at Co-Creation 2012, happening this April 12-15 in the same space where I saw Cynthia. Brian McLaren, Diana Butler-Bass, and Integral Christianity author Paul Smith will be joining with the Servant Leadership School of Greensboro, North Carolina and a half-dozen artists and musicians to bring a truly unforgettable, interactive experience. To register, click here; to read more about this in an in-depth blog post, go here.
In This Series:
The Way of the Heart – Cynthia Bourgeault Part 1: What IS the Path of Jesus?
The Way of the Heart – Cynthia Bourgeault Part 2: See What Jesus Sees; Do What Jesus Does
The Way of the Heart Part 3: Cynthia Bourgealt’s Four Proposals – Beyond ‘The Imitation of Christ’
The Way of the Heart Part 4: Heartfulness Practice Transcends & Includes Orthodoxy
The Way of the Heart Part 5: Upgrading Our Operating System
The Way of the Heart Part 6: A Rorschach Blot for the Mind
The Way of the Heart Part 7: When 20/20 Hindsight Becomes Blindsight
The Way of the Heart Interlude: Kenosis Hymn
The Way of the Heart Interlude: Speaking of Life Divine
The Way of the Heart Part 8: Heart Surgery
The Way of the Heart Part 9: Christ is Living in Our Midst
Nondual week continues, perhaps out of bounds of the ‘week’ as conventionally understood (because hey, from a nondual vantage point all weeks are in some sense one, right?) with David Henson, a journalist/husband/father/Episcopal priesthood postulant. Here goes!
Hinduism saved my Christian faith. Like others who have engaged in interreligious study, — most famously of late Paul Knitter, it was the introduction to a completely different strain of spiritual thought that opened up my own Christian faith to new, more complex depths of God. As part of my studies in comparative religions, I sought out an interreligious dialogue partner, and when I came to him, I was on the brink of leaving the Christian faith together.
When I left, his wisdom had so enlivened my soul that for the first time in years, I encountered Christ during Holy Week.
But things didn’t start off quite so easily at first, as I brought with me, a great deal of religious baggage I thought I’d left behind. Growing up, my family read the Bible religiously. We didn’t so much reflect on its teachings, its stories or meditate on its truths to tease out its meanings. We read the Bible. I vividly remember, with no small amount of residual angst, the year our family pledged to read the Bible cover-to-cover and how my brother and I would frantically read five dense chapters in Deuteronomy five minutes before dinner on pain of losing our allowance. The only thing I remember from our readings that year was the uncomfortable silence of not being able to answer a question after speed-reading the scriptures. Nevertheless, we still read the Bible.
When I prepared for my meeting with my dialogue partner, I thought I had left all that behind me, the progressive, enlightened Christian that I was. Yet, as if by unconscious habit, the first thing I did after scheduling my first meeting with Swami Vedananda at the Vedanta Society in San Francisco was to purchase the Hindu scriptures – the night before nonetheless – and try to read as much of them as possible. How very Protestant of me.
When I met Swami Vedananda for the first time at the, I told him I had brought the Hindu scriptures and asked him to suggest some readings in it to start off our time together. He smiled wryly, his kindly face bathed in an earthy orange glow from his monk’s robes and wool cap. “Which Hindu scriptures?” he asked.
The look on my face must have betrayed my confusion as I fumbled through my book bag for the texts and handed them to them with a feeble, “Um, these Hindu scriptures.”
Vedananda chuckled good-naturedly as he thumbed through the book, its spine uncreased and the price sticker still on its cover. Not every religion, he said, viewed their holy scriptures the way some Christians do – as the first, foundational and sometimes only needed ingredient for a proper understanding God and the faith. Hinduism, he explained, was not only ancient, but rooted in a culture that sometimes doesn’t translate readily or easily to other modern cultures, and I probably wouldn’t get much out of reading the Upanishads or the Bhagavad-Gita. It would be much better, he said, to begin to learn about Hinduism from experience or at least the experiences of a Hindu teacher, rather than an ancient book that can’t talk back. During most of our first talk, Vedananda held the book of holy writings in hand, close to his chest, seemingly holding its truths outside my reach. At first, I felt irked. He seemed to imply I wasn’t able to grasp what the scriptures taught without some handholding. But, I was seminary student at the time of our meeting after all, and I had made a few As.
“Hinduism is not an acceptance of a certain set of beliefs. It is a path,” he explained warmly.
Then the dim bulb brightened, and I began to understand him. My mind scurried form one topic to the next, trying to keep up with Vedananda as he spoke extemporaneously and eloquently about the Divine, seamlessly weaving the words of the Upanishads with Christ, Buddha and Swami Vivekananda, who founded the San Francisco-based society. Though it took him years to get around to reading Christ’s teachings, Vedananda seemed to hold a better opinion, in general, of Christianity than I did, perhaps a reflection on his training as a monk and mine as a journalist. He focused on the good in Christianity, holding up mystics like St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. I focused on the bad, mentioning people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the Church of Christ, the sect of my birth and childhood. I asked him how a Hindu could see good in these things that seem to repress the spirit rather than give itwings. His answer surprised and pierced me. He said one should look for and treasure the eternal truths each teaches and disregard the temporal fallacies. While I hate to admit it, I have too easily demonized these elements of the Christian faith and refused even to consider whether they do perform some good in pointing to or revealing the Divine.
The ability to see the good, the actual Divine in everything is the most striking, the most attractive and most challenging aspect of Hinduism, particularly for someone brought up in an uber- Calvinistic tradition. The doctrine of Original Sin, though I have had no particular affinity for it recently, still echoed inside my head when Vedananda said the Hindu believes that a human’s true nature is good, that humanity and the world is Divine and that one should strive to see not only that the Divine is in everything, but that everything is the Divine. The two positions seemed at odds. The emphasis on Original Sin in the Christianity seems to impress on the human soul a pessimism, where humankind and the world are broken, fallen from grace and in need of redemption that won’t be truly complete in this life.
This is what brought me to contemplating the central nondualistic philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, the notion that God and humanity are not two, but neither are they one, while, at the same time, holding in tension the unity of reality that, in fact, “this atman (self) is brahman (the Divine).” In other words, God and humanity are best described as more more than one, but less than two.
The striking juxtaposition between the idea that when one does evil, she or he does violence against the soul’s true nature and the idea that one can’t help but do evil because that is our true, inescapable fallen nature gave me pause. I began to wonder which Christ taught. When Christ said that the kingdom of God is within and that what we have done to the least of these, so we have done to him, was he speaking of humans as Divine, the divine in us or of a torn, half-faded carbon copy of God’s image.
Colored by Hindu thought, I began to gravitate more toward the human as divine, seeing Original Sin as implying our true nature as Good and Divine. Original sin and “original virtue,” as Vedananda phrased it during our second meeting, have become opposite ends of the same continuum, trying to answer the same question of good and evil in the world, so seemingly polar that they reach around the mountain and almost touch.
In short, though I did not know it at the time, I was moving closer to the Orthodox notion of theosis.
Viewing Christ’s teachings through the beliefs of a Hindu presented the familiarity of my own faith in surprising newness, giving our interpersonal relationships a sense of holy urgency and joy with the idea of meeting the Divine, not a mediated metaphor of God, when we meet someone. So often an eschatological meaning is placed on Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount that, “The pure in heart shall see God.” In effect, the pure in heart shall see God … eventually, when the world ends, when we die or when Christ returns. Maybe what he meant was that the pure in heart will see God here, on earth, now, everywhere, as everything and in everything.
Shining the blue of his Hinduism onto the red of my Christianity time and again revealed not only depths to my own faith tradition I had never considered, but also echoed and gave definition to unstructured thoughts about the transcendent Divine that have been slowly forming for several months. God isn’t either/or, but often both/and in some mystical way. Or in the words of scholar of religion Raimon Panikker, “no religion, ideology, culture or tradition can reasonable claim to exhaust the universal range of human experience or even the total manifestation of the Sacred.”
But it did more than that. It forced me to face my past a strident religious literalist and conservative, and it made me look for the Divine even in those experiences for which I so often feel guilty. In other words, to use a Christian metaphor, it redeemed my past and made my faith whole again.
Other posts in the Nondual Week series:
Radical Incarnation: Thoughts on Nondual Spirituality by Matthew Wright
Nondual Week: Ken Wilber on ‘One Taste’
Nondual Week: Panentheism & Interspirituality – What’s Jesus Got to do With It?
Nondual Week: Panentheism – Perichoresis – Christology: Participatory Divinity
This post continues a four-part interview with arguably the most controversial contemporary charismatic minister, John Crowder. It’s worth noting that Crowder’s ministry has evolved since 2008, and that he’s recently released two new books reflecting this: Mystical Union & Seven Spirits Burning. The conversation picks up…
Over the next several days, John and I will have a 3-4 part dialogue about some questions and concerns that occurred to me about their lives and ministry. Some are specific for them in their unique ministry, and others are general questions I’d have if I was talking to any itinerant prophetic minister or revivalist in this Spirit-saturated stream of faith. I learned a ton; read on…
Mike: So John, what do you’re your and Ben’s wives think about all this recent ministry? Particularly yours, John! I mean, with four kids and all, being out all the time at Holy Ghost House Parties with beautiful sisters in Christ all around…itinerant ministry of any kind can be tough, but poured out in this fun ‘party’ manifestation, I’ll bet it’s extra challenging. Too often we only hear from the ‘alpha-male’ front-line ministers (when the ministers happen to be male)…what do the wimmin think??
John: Not sure why you ask this, but I have a hunch … Of course, my wife can speak for herself [Ooh! Can we have her do a guest blog?], but she loves the wildness of God. She often gets more plastered in the love of God than I do. She has seen me dry, bored and performance oriented. And she very much prefers the joyful, whacked, spiritually inebriated John much better. It does wonders for a marriage when the two of you are actually happy all the time (not just pretending to be so). Understand for starters that we are NOT Pentecostal, just because we interact with Holy Spirit. So you have to do away with all those old AG/holy roller mindsets of dominating women and forcing them to play the part of pastor’s wife (Pentecostal churches on the whole don’t like us very much, by the way). By this, I mean we are not chauvinistic abusers who keep our wives’ heads covered, barefoot and pregnant. We do not take the Mars Hill approach at all in this regard. The first person I ever ordained was a woman. We think the entire family needs to be integrated into the things of the Spirit.
Mike: Very cool. The family that drinks together…It’s nice to know she’s ‘with you’ in this adventure.
John: I would like to say that in terms of healthy families, marriages, sexual purity and other similar issues (if this is what you are hinting at), then there is a tremendous misconception (lie) among non-charismatics that all Spirit-filled persons somehow lack character and integrity in these areas. I would like to see a statistic on this, because it is simply not fact. I would contend that the opposite is true. It is not a common thread that spiritually gifted/charismatic people are shallow in the area of personal integrity, character and taking care of their families. This has been a common, baseless judgment coined off the back of a few televangelist scandals in the ‘80s. This “character argument” is really just an excuse for many non-charismatics NOT to pursue the Holy Spirit. I’ve even heard people say “I don’t need the anointing, I just want to have good character.” How silly is that? The anointing is the very unction of God the Holy Spirit Himself! How arrogant to think we can muster up good character on our own, without the help of God. Only the Spirit of God can sustain a healthy marriage.
Mike: Ah, geez. Now I feel like a tool. I’m sorry for how my questions about your wives seemed. (And by ‘your wives’ I mean ‘yours and Ben’s’ – I’m not adding a fresh accusation of polygamy!) I was not insinuating unfaithfulness on your part – far more mundane than that, I just wondered if it’d be tough for your wife if you were on the road and she was home with the kids – especially since you’re so handsome and are bringing the Rave Anointing!
No problem. I didn’t take it personally, just thought you may be addressing the whole assumption that charismatics all have a fornication hobby. Not that many don’t, it’s just that the problem probably cuts across denominational lines.
Incidentally, Christianity Today agrees with your assessment of the Charismatic Playboy myth. Attempting to remove foot firmly from mouth, tell me more about the kiddies…
John: As for the kids, we think it is a grievous sin for them ever to be bored in church. The last thing we want is to give them the wrong impression that God is not an eternal source of excitement and holy pleasure. Children are a great indicator of whether the Spirit of God is really moving in your midst. If the kids are engaged – if they want to be in the services and they are demonstrating a real hunger for God on their own initiative – I think that something is happening right. If they are bored, then so is God. You can brainwash a kid to believe a theology, but you cannot brainwash them enough to enjoy God. We try to learn from our children. We listen to them, because they are continually saying prophetic things. There is really no age difference in the Kingdom. All of us will live for millions of years, so why is it difficult to learn from someone who is just 25 years younger than us? Everyone plays an integral part. We do not view the children as tag-a-longs. Every itinerate minister you see throughout history burned their family out because they could not find ways to engage the entire family in the ministry.
Mike: Yeah, I was that a lot with visiting ministers growing up in Assemblies of God churches. I even sometimes wonder how my emerging public-speaker friends do it. Any practical tips on keeping your family and your ministry?
John: I turn down many conferences and ministry opportunities in order to pace my schedule for the family. For us, family is a priority over ministry. In fact, I really don’t give much of a rip about “building ministry” in general anyway. I just stay whacked up, and somehow I get invitations to speak. If I cared about building a ministry empire, I would sure do things a lot differently and tone things down a lot more. I don’t care about making things palatable, I just want to experience the Lord and help others to do so.
Mike: Alrighty John. Tomorrow we get to talk about all that whacked-out druggie anointing that’s ticking so many people off!
“Jesus (peace be upon him) is unambiguously mentioned over 25 times in the Qur’an,” the young Imam explained to us at the Raleigh Islamic Center this week. “This is many more times than even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).” I was learning this in a very unique context – about 30 Christians and 30 Muslims got together Wednesday night for an unusual act of friendship: Sharing our distinctive understandings on Jesus, and sharing a meal.
Apparently, sharing meals in the manner of Jesus is controversial then as it is now: When I posted, later that night, on my Facebook Wall about what a great time I had, my online ‘friend’ count immediately went down. In the past, when I’d posted a positive story (or even neutral observation) regarding Islam, huge fights would break out on my Wall. Once-civilized Christians would say the most ignorant and hurtful things. I’ve had some painful-but-necessary online connection-purges since the initial e-skirmishes a year or so ago, but judging by the self-selection, it looks like I may have missed a few people…
Part One – Why Won’t This Book Go Away?
Part Two – Would Francis be Medicated Today?
Part Three – Mystics and Prophets
Part Four: Does Orthodoxy Have to be Static?
Part Five: Chasing Francis: The Sleeping Giant
Part Six: Influences & Aspirations
Mike Morrell: What about Francis and the institutional church? One would think he would have abandoned it.
Ian Cron: One of the things that makes Francis very interesting compared to a lot of what we’re seeing in the Post Modern Emergent conversations is that he was not anti-institutional. He actually honored the institution of The Church even in it’s screwed up state. He critiqued it with his life, not his words, and he wasn’t leaving it. He really felt like you could change it from the inside out. I recently read something by Jonny Baker about this very thing. Did you read that article?
IC: Heh – Yeah, he says it’s equally valid to change something from the outside and the inside. I agree.
MM: I think they both have valid points but Jonny’s really did stick out to me, that people who just want to damn “the man” and start their own thing do end up having to become institutions, and when they do, as often as not it can be just like what it replaced, if not more tyrannical, so why not at least try to make a good faith effort of working from within?
IC: This raises a really interesting point, too. One problem I’ve seen in the postmodern/emergent church conversation is you tend to have one of two different kinds of things going on: one is the emphasis on social justice. That’s a great thing unless you over-privilege social action and have no contemplative life. Someone who over-privileges social justice runs the risk of becoming an angry, disillusioned and very often, a smug activist. On the other hand, there are people who ignore social justice and only care about the contemplative life and this leads to a sort of saccharine piety. They start watching EWTN and saying the Rosary without any interest in the fact that so much of the world is starving to death.
MM: Yeah, I spent about a decade in a church movement that was very contemplative, and I feel like a lot of times we did veer into that danger where we really, at the end of the day, didn’t give a rip about what was happening in the outside world. I transitioned from that into this sort of Anabaptist, Anarchist, hardcore social justice world, and it was like a breath of fresh air to see people who really cared about what’s happening around the world, but, I did begin to encounter sort of an intolerance and almost a mocking of sincere expressions of love for God or spirituality that didn’t into the plight of the Post Modern world and things like that.
IC: Yes, you need both in tension. The commitment to social Justice should correct the excesses of the contemplative life and vice versa. That balance is very Franciscan.
MM: I can see that – there’s the deep impatience of the prophetic tradition, but then there’s the sense of “all will be well” in the mystical tradition; I think you need both to fuel the other.
IC: That’s right. And this is the beautiful polarity that Francis embodies so well.
This concludes part three.
The Chasing Francis interview is to be continued..!
Here is an excerpt from a Psalm I rendered for The Voice project, Psalm 65:
1 Rapt silence and praise
Sweep through the Sacred City, O God
Competing to give voice(less) voice to Your goodness
Solemn vows uttered to You will now be performed
2You hear us in words and silence;
all humanity comes into Your presence.
3Crookedness and perversion overwhelm us!
But You forgive us and bring us integration,
Restoring as only You can.
4You invite us near, drawing us
Into Your courtyard – what an honor!
We feast ’til we’re full
on the goodness of Your house
Your sacred abode made manifest
Where heaven and earth kiss.
5You leave us breathless
in the wake of Your response;
God of liberation—You are the hope
of all ecologies, from far-flung
continents to life-giving oceans.
6 With creative energy You inaugurated mountains
Wrapped in strength You compelled
And cacophonous people
To sit in astonished silence.
8Those who inhabit the boundaries of the known
Are awed by Your enfolded clues,
Strong and subtle hints of Your indelible presence.
The portals of night and day gape to sing Your praises.
9You spend time on (Y)our good earth,
Watering and nourishing the networks of living.
God’s river, full of water,
All people full on the staff of life without exception—
Poured and mixed, living bread, kneaded by Your very hands.
10You are the gentle equalizer;
smoothing soil’s wrinkles,
Softening unbending earth
making holy the fruit of the ground…
…continued in The Voice of the Psalms!
What is The Voice, you ask? Here’s how I initially described it in a Relevant Magazine news snippet I wrote back in early 2006:
The newly-formed Ecclesia Bible Society is releasing a full-orbed narrative and artistic retelling of the Bible, beginning with the recently-released The Last Eyewitness and Songs from the Voice, Volume One. The project, which began in April and will continue throughout the next five years, includes work from notable authors such as Phyllis Tickle, Tim Keel, Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, Lauren Winner, Phuc Luu, Allison Smythe, and Dieter Zander, as well as musicians and visual artists including Rob Pepper, Waterdeep, Derek Webb, Sara Groves and the Robbie Seay Band.
Project originator Chris Seay describes The Voice as a serious translation that allows the original biblical authors to speak in all their truth, beauty, and stylistic diversity.
The Ecclesia Bible Society feels like many traditional Bible translation committees have muted the original biblical authors’ unique voices. “The Chronicles of Narnia and Blue Like Jazz might sit as two bookends in my library,” said Seay. “They’re among my favorite books. But 100 years from now if a committee of translators tried to make CS Lewis‘s and Don Miller‘s voices sound the same on the page, you wouldn’t want to read either one.” Even so, they’re still being careful. “We have scholars on board as a vital part of The Voice project,” Seay said. “But they’re following the creative lead instead of vice-versa. They’re helping us navigate the linguistic roads, showing us the terrain so that we can avoid translational pot holes and ditches.”
Ultimately, Seay and The Voice contributors hope to resource the Christian community with “the full narrative force of Scripture, which for too long has been blunted by a ‘propositional’ grid.”
The Ecclesia Bible Society is not-for-profit, and all revenue generated will be dedicated to church planting and humanitarian initiatives. Their stated goal is to embody God’s kingdom in voice and deed.
“What we long to do is retell the stories of Scripture, not only in truth but in beauty. We hope that you fall in love with these stories anew.”
The Voice New Testament: With Psalms & Proverbs (coming soon)