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Integral Contemplative Christianity

Last post 10-19-2008, 9:44 PM by Magnulus. 62 replies.
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  •  07-25-2006, 4:13 PM 1982 in reply to 1963

    • markb is not online. Last active: 01-15-2008, 12:00 PM markb
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Hi Bruce,

    First, I thank you for your posts, many of which I have read in this and other forums.

    Secondly, I want to express thankfulness for the directive in this forum and others in the Multiplex, that our posts come from the highest and best in us.  It is so good for me to pause before typing and to be aware that there is that place.

    A response to your posting comes up in me at least partly, because of my own Christian background.  My dad was a fundamentalist preacher.  I am Christian, now, still!  However, Christianity looks different than when I was a kid.  Then, there was hardly a "thing" called "Christianity" to look at, although I knew that I was going to heaven when I died or when Jesus came back, and that all my Catholic/Jewish/liberal Christian/atheist friends were going to hell.

    Now, it's just about following Jesus and "putting on the mind of Christ".  When my elderly mom asks me now if I have accepted Jesus as my personal Saviour, I say "Yes Mom, many times."  She seems reassured that she will meet me in heaven some day.  What I mean, by "many times", is my understanding that that phrase, "...accepting Jesus as my personal Saviour..." is essentially the same as saying YES to Now, to this moment, and that rebirth, in my understanding, needs to happen every single instant.  I do not belabor Mom with this (probably heretical, to her) understanding.

    I wonder sometimes how I ended up here, in this remarkable forum, on my way to the Integral Christianity seminar in October.  What played a big part, I think, is being gay.  When that dawned on me, I was, almost by definition, on my way out the door of my dad's church, although it didn't happen right away.  This is where I am now, and I am so grateful.  It has occurred to me, especially as meditation practice has become more important, that Eastern understandings (the little I know of them) are far less complicated and convoluted, regarding the nondual issues and the literal vs. metaphorical uses of the words.  That has made me feel like moving along an Eastern path.  Like you, though, I am conscious of living in the Christian West.  Also, I was fortunate to discover the Episcopal church about 25 years ago, and am very happily, very active in my local parish (which is so progressive, that, a few years ago, the vestry decided to proceed to accept and honor same-sex couples' desires for rites, AND they insisted that the rites be called "marriage", not "blessing").  Somewhere in Wilber's writings is the idea that churches  need to become conveyer belts, and I see the possibility of assisting in that movement.  In my church, the sermonizing consistently makes clear, that the words of scripture are misused when taken literally, and that the Truth is what is pointed to by the words.

    Another reason for my staying Christian, is the idea about fostering transformation up to a higher stage, by the act of helping a person at any level, to be the best they can be, at that level.  For me, that is impetus to stay in the church and help it become the conveyer belt.

    I reflect on my own movement, but I am not sure that I can really identify the kind of support I just referred to, as being something that for me personally, facilitated spiritual growth.  It is pretty clear to me, that the "outsider" status that I experienced early on, was forceful.  However, I am quite aware, that, for many, being outcast as a gayman from church, seems to foster a permanent antagonism toward all things religious, if not spiritual.

    Finally, just so you know (and I would not be at all surprised to hear of your having already come across him), Jim Marion is a gifted writer, a Catholic Christian, who eloquently described his spiritual journey in a book called Putting On the Mind of Christ.

    It is interesting to hear about your conversations with conservative Christians.  I wonder if there is a way to assist them in being the best conservative Christians they can be.  Does that mean, believing in the words?  How does one do that, "believe in the words"?  Is it like just concentrating really hard on, like, John 3:16?  I wonder about that, when I recite the creed on Sundays.  They are only words.  I can see that some seem to create a little story about the words, and the story is that I am a Christian if I "mean" it when I say the words.  In my church, it is not about that.  "Belief" has come, there, to mean the way one lives one's life, and that has most to do with putting on the mind of Christ and being fully present.

    Thanks again, Bruce.  I appreciate, in the limited way words convey, your sense of conflict.  I expect that there is real value in simply being in the middle of the conflict, since that seems to be where you are, and then seeing where you go.  Meanwhile, God's peace to you.
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  •  07-25-2006, 7:12 PM 2001 in reply to 1963

    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Bruce,

    Thank you for sharing with us another side of your journey and therefore, another facet of  "Bruce"...

    I have noticed various references to Christianity in some of the other threads, so I thought it would be of interest and value to share some of my own experience also. So here is a very brief his-story of my own experience and Christian heritage....

    I was born in Ashford, England in 1953 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1955, eventually settling in Mesa, Arizona. My first step-father's family were all Mormons and so, of course, I was "raised" in the Mormon church. The last meeting I attended was in 1969....

    After leaving the church I became very interested in the study of religion/spirituality and one of my first "teachers" that I had a profound sense of connection with, even though that connection was limited to the written word, was one "Yogi Ramacharaka". All of the books - from Raja Yoga to Jnani Yoga to Mystic Christianity, were compiliations of "lessons" that were written in the early 1900's and published in book form by the "Yogi Publication Society"....

    I will not go into the details of the intermediate experience which lead from this very intense period in my life, to the next stage, and ultimately to the interpretation of the experiences I was having from the stage/culture in which I was born ...ultimately spending 5 years in the protestant/penecostal denomination of Christianity, and within 3 months of my ordination as a minister, leaving and subsequently recognizing, humorously enough, on the day that Elvis Presley died that I had spent 5 years of my life committed to something based on an interpretation of experience!

    And of course,this is where "Jesus" comes in and what you, as well as others may find of interest in regards to another perspective of "Christian Teaching"....

    I will just give two brief excerpts from a book I have been working on - the first is from my early childhood and the second is from my late adolescence....

    "He remembered, most vividly, the picture of "Jesus" that hung in the front of the main meeting hall, above the dais, you know - the one of the perfect handsome man with the golden brown hair, manicured beard, and aura of light surrounding his head - the gentle look of passive resignation on his face which somehow revealed a detached compassion and left him with the feeling of God become Man and not Man become God". Of course he did not relate to the image in such sophisticated terms as a boy of 6 - he was simply attempting to describe his feeling relationship to that image - Christ was a "something", not a person, how could he be-he was the Son of God!

    "As the service progressed he began to feel the same profound weariness he had experienced since the real awakening of his own self-consciousness in his early adolescence, as though he had already lived a billion births - as seen through a glass darkly. An intense desire arose within his depths to simply surrender himself to God. The inherent devotional nature of his very being was suddenly awakened and he desired nothing but to lay down at the feet of the divine, surrendering all of his apparent seeking and experience to the One who had led him thus far.... The worship phase of the service concluded, the minister stepped to the pulpet and began delivering the message. But this message was not like anything he had heard before, or anticipated hearing! The essence of the sermon was based on "The Gospel of John", Ch. 1 verses 11-13: "He came unto his own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Thus, as he understood it; through the sacrifice of Jesus and by the acceptance of his grace, and therefore, "blessing power", through the reception of the Holy Spirit, the comforter and revealer of God's truth and revelation we are made capable of duplicating the work, power, and further ministry of the Christ; we too are called as the Sons of God - the spiritual progeny of the "Father" through the reception of the Spirit power....

    Love, Peace, and blessings to ALL....

    Justin

     

     

     

     


    "Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink".

    SHUNRYU SUZUKI
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  •  07-25-2006, 10:26 PM 2035 in reply to 1963

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 09-04-2008, 12:45 PM maryw
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Bruce, I really was touched when I read your "confession," and check out how it has inspired others to share their Christianity-influenced journeys -- thank you, Mark and Justin!

    Balder:
    After years of dialogue with very Biblically literate conservative Christians, as I stated above, I feel rather daunted about the prospect of growing a viable "Integral Christianity."  I keep dabbling in it, testing out different ideas (I've started threads on Trinitarian perichoresis and nondualism, on Tonglen and Christian atonement, on a "theology of wholeness," etc, on Integral Naked), but I realize I'm doing so as an outsider and probably should keep my hands to myself! 

    Please don't keep your hands to yourself. Those threads you mentioned served for me--and I suspect for many others--as a (wonderfully affordable Wink [;)]) kind of online seminar on interreligious dialogue and interspiritual experimentation! Outsider, Schmoutsider . . . you are a brother to Buddhists and Christians alike. Perhaps one of those woolly, feverishly wandering, wilderness-dwelling brothers, but a brother nonetheless. At least in my opinion. Brother.

    I sometimes suspect that it is something regressive in me that feels a pull towards the church -- something that wants something established and secure in which I can set roots, even though I am no longer able to hold all the forms and images and messages with the faith and trust of my youth -- but I expect there's more to my ongoing attraction than that.  It's definitely more of an emotional attraction than an intellectual one, and that may be one reason why it is so hard for me to grasp and articulate.  It is a feeling that wells up, but which continues to elude words.  (And so, lacking adequate words, I blab on and on and on...!)

    Words and intellectual articulations often seem inadequate because so much of the mystery lies beyond what we can think and express. This is why a good amount of the mystical writing of the past comes off as "purple," melodramatic and overdone--folks are trying too hard to capture the ineffable in words. At any rate, for some reason I feel like quoting this passage from The Cloud of Unknowing -- though I know, it's just more words . . .

    But now you will ask me, "How am I to think of God himself, and what is he?" and I cannot answer you except to say "I do not know!" For with this question you have brought me into the same darkness, the same cloud of unknowing where I want you to be! For though we through the grace of God can know fully about all other matters, and think about them--yes, even the very works of God himself--yet of God himself can no man think. Therefore I will leave on one side everything I can think, and choose for my love that thing which I cannot think! Why? Because he may well be loved, but not thought. By love he can be caught and held, but by thinking never. Therefore, though it may be good sometimes to think particularly about God's kindness and worth, and though it may be enlightening too, and a part of contemplation, yet in the work now before us it must be put down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And you are to step over it resolutely and eagerly, with a devout and kindling love, and try to penetrate that darkness above you. Strike that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp dart of longing love, and on no account whatever think of giving up.

    Love,

    Mary

     


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  07-26-2006, 11:15 AM 2082 in reply to 2035

    • slbrown is not online. Last active: 10-26-2006, 10:30 AM slbrown
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Hello to everyone in this thread!

    First, a big heartfelt thanks for introducing this thread and also for the wonderful posts. I have been following this for a while now and one of the biggest gifts of this thread is the caring and sharing.

    So many things that I am reading here are resonating for me. I was raised a Baptist, attended christian school through high school. In my late teens, early twenties felt I had my world pulled out from under me as I came to the full realization that I am gay and that there was no place for me in the christian culture I was raised in. I have spent many years trying to find the faith, religion, belief, spirituality  that would fill the void and the longing that my soul so cried out for. I, similarly to Bruce, have found Buddhism to be the most intellectually, emtionally and reflectively satisfying of the religions I have explored. Yet also, as Michael has said, I experience an almost choiceless pull back to christianity. It isn't quite the christianity of my birth, in that I am pulled more towards the Catholic and Episcopalian vien . (I find this interesting because as a good protestant I was taught to believe that them Catholics were not really christians!!) What draws me to the Catholic church is the connection to mystery to the numinous. I recall listening to a IN dialogue between Ken and Father Keating in which Father Keating noted that when the protestant church pulled itself away from the Catholic church, it left behind all the mystics and saints, all the symbols of depth, thereby causing itself to be shallow and flat. I can completely relate to this sensation.

    I do consider myself very blessed in my journey to have found a spiritual director who is Catholic, has a doctorate in divinity and is trained as a Jungian and who also has a deep appreciation for Buddhism with whom I have a strong student/teacher relationship with. She has been a great guide for me on my path. (Michael, you might want to check out Spiritual Directors International  http://www.sdiworld.org
    as a place to find a teacher/director that may help you. In the recent conversation between Ken & Caroline Myss, she mentions that she also has been working with a spiritual director.) She helps me to integrate my birth perspective of christianity, with my developing perspective of buddhism and now Integral Spirituality as I sink into the reading of Ken's new book.

    Anyway, what I am really saying, is that I am very appreciative of this thread, grateful to hear the stories of others who are also groping with this topic, inspired by the support and honesty and just wanted to say thanks to all involved (including all those who are reading but not posting!)

    Many blessings to all,
    Sue


    And right there was everything I knew and I could not say what that was. - Natalie Goldberg
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  •  07-26-2006, 12:35 PM 2089 in reply to 2082

    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Thank you, Mark, Justin, Mary, and Sue!  I really appreciated your letters.  In the spirit of true confession, I felt a little exposed and vulnerable discussing my conflicts in this area, although I trust this space and the beautiful souls that it attracts.

    If I had discovered something like Centering Prayer when I was in my early twenties, I might have stayed within the Christian fold.  Though honestly, I'm glad I did not; I'm glad I got to see and experience the riches of so many other traditions...even new, non-traditional "ways" such as TSK, Diamond Approach, Krishnamurti's teachings, or the "spare" and elegant modern Vedanta of Jean Klein.

    Since I first set foot on this path 20 years ago, I've had an "integral impulse" -- attempting to integrate different perspectives and approaches, searching for the deeper points of connection among them, particularly as disclosed by contemplation.  Hence my attraction to Wilber, and my ongoing interest in the growth of a more integral, catholic, contemplative Christianity.  Although I still consider myself an outsider or a "margin dweller" with regard to Christianity, I am watching the Integral developments in this area with interest.

    Justin, you mentioned the devotional impulse.  I think this is one of my sources of conflict.  I still have the devotional impulse that drove me in my youth towards God, that filled me with joy and life, and I have not found it to really flourish as well in other contexts.  I am in conflict with a lot of the traditional doctrines of Christianity, but that early love of God that inspired me in my youth still lives on ... I have deep thankfulness for the teachings of the Buddha, and a "connection" I feel to Hindu, Sufi, and Buddhist figures, but have never felt what I would consider true bhakti outside of the tradition in which I was raised. 

    I really contacted this current again while reading Aurobindo's works last year, which prepared me to think of the Abosolute in second-person terms again.  I felt a sense of relief to be able to welcome that form of relationship to the divine back into my life, even though I had no idea where "God" really fit anymore.  Wilber's 1-2-3 of God has provided a helpful way for me to begin to frame this intellectually.

    I suppose I am slowly working my way back towards a perspective which will allow for a return of some form of theistic devotion, which does not feel like a mere "hold over" from an earlier stage of my path, a childhood conditioning which no longer applies in my post-Christian life and practice.  I am appreciative to Michael for starting a thread in which we can discuss these things.

    Mark, you talked about helping Christians to be the best they can be, at whatever level they are at.  I resonate with that.  I think I have spent some of my time in dialogue challenging elements of doctrine which I regard as problematic, but I have also come to recognize the "utility" of some of these doctrines (e.g., strong aversion may help an alcoholic or a "sinner" equally to distance themselves from and take an objective stance towards those things that have been controlling them, as an initial and provisional "step" in housecleaning), which has changed my stance towards them.  I have found it very nourishing to engage with Evangelicals, Calvinists, and Pentecostals at whatever level they are at, and to try to pull out together the deepest fruits of whatever doctrines they hold, since this movement seems to move naturally towards opening and transcendence.  (Sometimes they have told me, incredulously, that I have presented more of a Christian argument than any of the Christians there -- though admittedly, this is a rare and good moment, in between the regular doses of derision and condemnation I receive for being a lost and deluded pagan.)

    I appreciate the way you relate to your relatives, speaking their language even while meaning something else, and hopefully even while relating to and appreciating where they are coming from as well.  But that level of interpretive complexity is one thing that has kept me from more seriously considering returning to Christianity: Do I want to return to a tradition in which most of what I think and say will be regarded as heretical by the majority of the members of that tradition?  Where I will have to engage in lots of fancy linguistic footwork?  Where I will be almost as much of an outsider as I already am, as a post-religious pagan looking in?  These questions arise in direct opposition to that old devotional impulse I mentioned above.

    For now, my answer to those questions is no.  But I am still looking for ways to "make room" for Christianity in my heart -- not as the constricting Blue yoke that I left behind, but as a yoga.

    Justin, Mary, and Sue, I was going to write more to you as well, but I'm out of time. 

    I'll write again later.  For now, just thank you!

    Best wishes,

    Bruce


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  07-28-2006, 12:18 PM 2294 in reply to 2035

    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Hi, Mary,

    MaryW:
    Please don't keep your hands to yourself. Those threads you mentioned served for me--and I suspect for many others--as a (wonderfully affordable ) kind of online seminar on interreligious dialogue and interspiritual experimentation! Outsider, Schmoutsider . . . you are a brother to Buddhists and Christians alike. Perhaps one of those woolly, feverishly wandering, wilderness-dwelling brothers, but a brother nonetheless. At least in my opinion. Brother.

    Thank you, Mary.  I was really touched by your comments.  I think part of my feeling of being "outside" Christianity has to do with my own inner conflicts about it, but perhaps also because I keep talking to folks like BChristianK -- an articulate, intelligent, well-studied Christian who loves Merton's works, but who rejects most of what I have to say about Christian contemplation, who considers Integral Christianity an impossibility (or a wolf in sheep's clothing), and who fears the Integral movement is gearing up to eventually wipe out or oppress the Evangelical movement.

    I should talk more often with folks like you, to keep a more balanced perspective!

    I mentioned that I'm in the planning stages on a book, which I will co-write with a Christian pastor.  He's been very interested in our talks about Buddhist-Christian-Integral cross-fertilization and wants to create a book which will challenge both the non-contemplative conservatives and the modern Christian liberals (who take orthodoxy with a grain of salt).  It should be interesting, if we can pull it off.

    I noticed in the Trinity and Trikaya clip that Wilber thinks a better Integral apologetic method will be simply to get more people in authority to give permission to Christians to take up contemplative practices, rather than trying to reinterpret scripture through an Integral, higher-tier lens.  I think this makes sense, but obviously the "translation" component is quite important as well.  As Wilber stresses in Chapter 5 of his new book, right view is essential.  Access to higher states in the context of bad views is a recipe for disaster.  So reinterpretation is an essential component ... but also a very daunting one.  The argument "we've been lied to" will likely be a very hard one to sell to mainstream Christian America, and will awaken a lot of fear and possibly paranoia (as I am picking up from BCK). 

    I think a subtler, more organic, scripturally centered translative apologetic is more likely to be successful, in the long run -- but from what I have seen in my discussions so far, it is also quite a challenging task.  I expect to make a humble attempt in this book with my pastor friend.  It would be nice to consult with someone like Father Keating about some of the ideas -- how best to scripturally ground and support a contemplative reading of the gospel, how to reframe or tackle the trenchant exclusivism, etc. 

    We'll see....

    Thank you, by the way, for the passage from The Cloud of Unknowing.  The last time I read that, I was probably 19 or 20.  It spoke to me, so maybe I need to return to that text.

    Warm wishes, sister.

    B.


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  •  07-28-2006, 2:17 PM 2303 in reply to 2294

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 09-04-2008, 12:45 PM maryw
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Hi again, Bruce and everyone --

    Balder:

    I noticed in the Trinity and Trikaya clip that Wilber thinks a better Integral apologetic method will be simply to get more people in authority to give permission to Christians to take up contemplative practices, rather than trying to reinterpret scripture through an Integral, higher-tier lens.  I think this makes sense, but obviously the "translation" component is quite important as well.  As Wilber stresses in Chapter 5 of his new book, right view is essential.  Access to higher states in the context of bad views is a recipe for disaster.  So reinterpretation is an essential component ... but also a very daunting one.  The argument "we've been lied to" will likely be a very hard one to sell to mainstream Christian America, and will awaken a lot of fear and possibly paranoia (as I am picking up from BCK). 

    I think that the answer is more like "both/and" rather than just one or the other. Christians should be encouraged to take up contemplative practices and they should be led to discovering those higher-tier, contemplative / integral interpretations of the gospel. And in fact, this is just what organizations like Contemplative Outreach (cofounded by Fr. Keating) do. They don't just go and teach people the method of centering prayer and then leave them to their own devices without any further guidance or formation. Folks are encouraged to participate in continuing workshops and classes, retreats, lectures, days and weekends of prayer, as well as the practice of lectio divina; and they are led to videos, books, and other resources that gently and skillfully guide them into a scripturally-grounded contemplative reading of the gospel--a higher-tier "translation." (And it was actually a local coordinator of Contemplative Outreach, Fr. Justin, who first encouraged me to read Wilber!) In addition, folks get a good introduction to the theories on spiritual stage development when they attend centering prayer retreats. These retreats typically include viewings of Keating's Spiritual Journey video series (by now I think it includes 24 hour-long talks), which elucidates the Christian path in light of some of the theories on human evolution and stage development (Fowler's, Grave's and Beck's, Wilber's) while incorporating the mystical wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, etc.

    And yes: it is daunting; it is a challenge! Even in some Catholic circles, people like Merton and Keating are viewed with great suspicion. (Nor was the Inquisition very fond of Teresa or John of the Cross! Tongue Tied [:S]) And in centering prayer groups, there are usually people who are at different stages of development --  thus a variety of resistances can and do crop up. It all has to be approached with great gentleness and love and a kind of firm but humble determination. A passion combined with non-attachment to results. A trust that Spirit is working through us in ways we may not currently perceive.

    It would be nice to consult with someone like Father Keating about some of the ideas -- how best to scripturally ground and support a contemplative reading of the gospel, how to reframe or tackle the trenchant exclusivism, etc. 

    There are plenty of good resources--quite a few by Keating and his Trappist brothers--that do this kind of scriptural grounding and reframing, in my opinion. A couple that you might want to check out is The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience (by Keating) and Call to the Center: The Gospel's Invitation to Deeper Prayer (by M. Basil Pennington). Each book examines dozens of Bible passages and intelligently re-interprets them in a contemplative light.

    Anyway, Balder, I thought of you and your sense of being an "outsider" earlier today when I read this quote of Raimondo Pannikar's (in his discussion on multi-faith dialogue that Nomali posted in the Blog section here):

    "The meeting point is neither my house nor the mansion of my neighbor, but the crossroads outside the walls, where we may eventually decide to put up a tent--for the time being."Smile [:)]

    Sue -- you wrote (I'm trying to quote a piece of your post but for some reason it's not happening now) that "as a protestant I was raised to believe that Catholics weren't even Christians!" LOL -- and Catholics (pre Vatican II) were often taught that if you weren't Catholic you were going to hell. So many Christians agreeing that everyone else, even other kinds of Christians, were going to hell .. so weirdly unified in the damning of ourselves and others ...  Anyway, thanks so much for sharing a bit of your journey. Now I need to find a spiritual director myself!

    Blessings,

    Mary


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  07-28-2006, 3:08 PM 2307 in reply to 2303

    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Great, Mary.  Thank you for those resources.  I've read one or two of Keating's books, but was not aware of many of the other resources you just mentioned, including The Mystery of Christ.  (I'm looking forward to his new one, Christophany.)  I've read a great deal in the interfaith dialogue genre, including different cross-tradition experiments (Bruteau, Griffiths, Abhishiktananda, John Cobb, Keenan's Mahayana reading of the gospels, Masao Abe, Robert Kennedy, Trapnell, Panikkar, etc), but I really haven't read a "straight" Christian book in ages.  Probably I should again.

    Listening to you, I'm heartened to hear so much is going on in this area -- so much more than when I was actually Christian, apparently. I think I've gotten a skewed view, moving mostly between interfaith literature and then the far right, non-contemplative, super-conservative forums.  Visiting those forums has been good for jousting practice -- and also for learning to listen to and relate with individuals who come from a very different perspective -- but has probably had its drawbacks too.

    I relate to your Panikkar quote.  When I spoke of being "outside," I was thinking also of Merton's description of the marginal man -- the man or woman who consciously draws to the edges of society to do a different sort of work, but who then can also engage with society in a new way, from a new perspective.  Merton was referring to monastics, of course.  But a friend of mine did his dissertation on border-dwellers and marginal folks as a distinctly post-modern phenomenon, as more and more people find themselves standing between what were formerly the islands of faith and country, tradition and culture.  I relate to this as well. 

    And I think this state of in-between-ness, while lonely at times, will prove to be a rich soil in which new forms of the traditional ways will flower...more open to the interiority that allows for such multiplicity and richness in the first place.

    That is my hope, anyway.

    Peace,

    Balder

    P.S.  About all the comments about Protestants versus Catholics or those all-too-catholic Protestants, the Whiskeypalians:  I hear you!  I was baptized and raised in the Episcopal church, then gravitated to Catholicism later when I had the mystical experience that turned me toward religion in earnest.  Then, oddly, I followed my best friend to a conservative Christian college, where I was a great object of suspicion for many there...


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  07-29-2006, 12:21 PM 2361 in reply to 2307

    • markb is not online. Last active: 01-15-2008, 12:00 PM markb
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    To Balder and Mary and others who have contributed, many thanks.

    The recounting of communications between Balder and "far-right, non contemplative" Christians, reminds me of advice I heard earlier this year, from Shinzen Young, a teacher of insight meditation.  Someone at the retreat I attended, asked a question about how to have a discussion with someone coming from the position of extreme, dogmatic Christian fundamentalism.  His answer, was that he considers those kinds of encounters like games of chess.  However, the success of the game, i.e. "winning", for him, is simply keeping the conversation going.  So, from his perspective, there is much listening involved, especially at first, and many non-judgmental inquiries about the spiritual life of the Christian, so the listener can really get an appreciation of what the Christian has been through and how they came to take the positions they are in.  If the questioner makes a blunder of some kind, like a "bad" question or comment, then the game is lost.  So, it means being very, very present and awake and sensitive to the other.

    I like that.  It moves the motives, for me, from one of trying to get the other to move over to my position, or to at least acknowledge my position, to just being with the other person without fighting with them.

    Balder, I have not read the communications you have had with these folks, and so probably you already have patiently listened and made friends.  That must be the key.

    Thanks to you, too, Mary, for all the resources. 

    Love: joy, peace, Mark
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  •  07-30-2006, 3:05 AM 2407 in reply to 2361

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 09-04-2008, 12:45 PM maryw
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Hi Mark and hey folks --

    I thought I'd post an excerpt from Keating's book The Kingdom of God Is Like ... (another source with contemplative interpretations of the New Testament) so people could see one example of a current contemplative "translation" of a gospel passage. A little long, but check out how Keating explains the necessity of "new structures," and "expanded views." (This is also archived, with several other selections from the same book, at the Contemplative Outreach website).

    Peace,

    Mary

    The New Wine

    Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved." (Matthew 9:14-17)

        John the Baptist made quite a stir in Israel and attracted many disciples. Jesus was baptized by him and drew his first disciples from among John's followers. John was austere. He wore a loincloth and ate only locusts and wild honey. He practiced much fasting and expected the same of his disciples.

        When there are two spiritual teachers or religious communities in the same neighborhood, the loyalties of one group may conflict with the loyalties of the other. There may be some mutual denigrating and backbiting. Comparisons may be made between our observance and their observance, our spiritual teacher and their spiritual teacher, our tradition and their tradition.

        In this incident, John's disciples were sniping at the disciples of Jesus. They said, "How is it that the Pharisees and we fast and you folks do not?"--implying that Jesus' disciples were not measuring up to the high standards of John's. "Who are you" is the implication of the question, "Compared with us?" An austere observance draws public attention, admiration, and acclaim.

        Jesus graciously adjusts himself to these human foibles. He responds with a question of his own, "How can the wedding guests go mourning while the bridegroom is with them?" By this question he implies that John's disciples are not seeing the whole picture. They are looking for holiness, but in the wrong place. He adds, "When the bridegroom is taken away, then the wedding guests will fast."

        He appeals to the fact that his presence among his disciples is a celebration and that it is not appropriate to mourn while attending a wedding. At the very least, they will not be welcome guests. A celebration requires the capacity to receive as well as to give. When God graciously comes into our lives for a few minutes, it is not the time to practice our customary austerities. It is like having a surprise visit from a dear relative who comes to share affection and love, and who finds us too busy with various chores to say anything but, "Come back some other time."

        Jesus continues, "Nobody sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. That will only make the rip bigger." And he adds, "People do not pour new wine into old wineskins." An old wineskin dries out, shrivels, and cracks. If we put new wine into it, the chemicals that are still being processed in the new wine will burst the old skin. The old skin does not have the flexibility to expand with the effervescence.

        New wine is a marvelous image of the Holy Spirit. As we move to the intuitive level of consciousness through contemplative prayer, the exuberance of the Spirit cannot be contained in the old structures. They are not flexible enough. They may have to be left aside or adapted. The new wine as a symbol of the Spirit has a tendency to stir people up; for that reason, the fathers of the church called it "sober intoxication." Although its exuberance is subdued, it breaks out of categories and cannot be contained in neat boxes.

        Jesus points out to John's disciples that they have a good practice but are too attached to fasting as a structure. The wine of the Spirit that Jesus brings will not fit into their narrow ideas. They must expand their views. Otherwise, the new wine of the gospel will give them trouble. It will burst the narrow confines of their mindsets, and both what they have and what they are trying to receive will be lost.

        Jesus suggests a solution: "Put the new wine into new wineskins." The new wine of the Gospel is manifested by the fruits of the Spirit, which, according to Gal. 5:22-24, are nine aspects of the mind of Christ. If the new wine is to be preserved, new structures have to be found that are more appropriate then the old ones. If we lean too heavily on the old structures, the new wine of the Spirit will be lost. This happened in the late Middle Ages and especially in the post-Reformation Catholic Church when the emphasis moved from cultivating the fruits of the Spirit to conformity to doctrinal formulas and external observances. That is why we found ourselves at the time of Vatican II in a spiritual desert. The old wine had run out. Renewal in the Spirit, the new wine, is our recovery of the contemplative tradition of Christianity. But this movement of the Spirit has to be put into new structures; the old ones are likely to burst.

        Is it possible to renovate old wineskins? With a lot of greasing they may regain some flexibility, but not as much as new ones. The process may also take along time.

        What will happen with the renewal of contemplative life among lay folks? We will see new forms of contemplative lifestyles that better serve the new wine with its tendency to expand, to excite, and to go to one's head, so to speak. The new wine is the contemplative dimension of the gospel. Its basic act is consent to the presence and action of the Spirit within us. This consent is directed not to our intentionality but to God's intentionality. The Spirit who loves us first is pouring the wine, not we. It is a mistake to think that we have to win God's attention or impress God with our virtues. That is not the new wine. That is an attitude that belongs to the old wine where our virtues are viewed as the necessary means of winning God's favor.

        If we consent to God's intentionality, God works in us through the fruits of the Spirit: boundless compassion, joy, peace, and the others enumerated by Paul. No structure can contain such wine. Paul adds, "Those who are moved by the Spirit have no Law." They are beyond any law because they fulfill the purpose of all laws, which is the continuous flow of divine love and compassion. Thus they fulfill every just law spontaneously.


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  07-30-2006, 6:55 AM 2416 in reply to 1650

    • geomo is not online. Last active: 03-14-2007, 1:33 PM geomo
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    balder:

    As a Buddhist, and as a student of Integral, I think there is a lot of reason to believe that such union is possible, for all sentient beings.  But there is scant Biblical support for it. 



    I wonder how much the "scant Biblical support" has to do with the difficulty in translating  Jesus' Aramaic teaching into Greek, then English.  Even the Lamsa Bible, which is supposed to be translated from the "original" Aramaic, was a translation of the Aramaic (Syriac) which was a translation of the Greek Gospels.  I don't know how much other traditions "suffer" from the same difficulty.  I suspect that Buddhism is least susceptible because it doesn't really have a mythic basis (that I am aware of ).

    The following is a translation of the Lord's Prayer from Aramaic. Who knows how accurate it is, because it was probably translated from Greek, which was written decades after the Sermon on the Mount where it was supposed to have been prayed.  It may have been one of the quotations from the Q document.  I find that it speaks in much more transpersonal (?) terms such as "Presence" instead of  "Father," and that transpersonal element makes it more appealing, to me anyway.

    The Aramaic Lord's Prayer
    Attuning to the Cosmic Fire

        Ah bwoon d'bwshmaya


            Oh, shimmering, eternal, and sensuous Presence illuminating all.

        Neeta- kadasha - schmach

            We restore our holy union with you by breathing
            Your holy Breath.


        Tay tay malkootha

            The penetrating rays of Your Power and Beauty melt
            our rigidities, and we are now receptive to Your vision
            for us.


        Ne-whey t'savee-yanak eye kanna d'bwashmaya opf- baraha

            We are surrendererd to Your wondrous design as our mystical
            union infuses our earthly forms with the power of your Light.


        How-lahn lachma d'soonkahnan yow-manna

            The infusion of Your nurturing Wisdom will now carry
            us through the sacred moments of this day.


         Wash wo-klan how-bane eye-kanna dahp hahnan
        shwa-ken el'high-ya-bane


             
            Just as Your Light’s infusion dissolves our hidden fears,
            we extend and share this Light so that others, too,
            can dissolve their hidden fears.


        Oo-lah tah-lahn el-nees-yo-nah
        ella pah-sahn min beesha


    Your streaming Rays of Wisdom and Power release us from all forgetfulness that leading to the constrictions of useless fears.


        Metahl dih-lah-kee mal-kootha, oo-high-la, oo-teesh-bohk -tah.
        La- alahm, ahl-meen

            Now! Your illumined stream of radiant Light is embodied,
            and Your Presence is here as 'us', carrying me in Your
            stream of Grace from gathering to gathering!

        Ah-mayn.

            This truth is sealed in our hearts, with unwavering commitment.



    Peace

    Keith

    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  07-30-2006, 7:14 AM 2419 in reply to 1652

    • geomo is not online. Last active: 03-14-2007, 1:33 PM geomo
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    sagemichael:

    Your post made me realize that, to a large degree, what I've been doing in my personal contemplations is trying to understand and describe what's already happening, trying to get a clearer sense of a phenomenon already emerging and taking place, rather than trying to create something as a sort of project. I lose this orientation sometimes, getting caught up in lots of "A HA!" moments and feeling the rush of trying to make a project out of it, but then I remember that its already something that's taking shape, and that I'm working more with observations than inspirations.



    I see myself in that statement.  When I step back from the "project" (somewhat of a Messianic complex involved....but who here doesn't want to save the world?), I remember the concept that there is "no personal doer," and then I consider that all of our little projects are not our doing, but the doing of perhaps a re-emergence of  Christ in a sort of second coming.  I'm not particularly attached to that happening, but it does seem relevant to consider it.

    I also think about the typical Buddhist emptiness as somehow missing something.  It's not that the Buddha missed anything, just that the practices tend to be about emptiness.  Tonglen would be an exception, I suppose.  And I recognize that there is a real lack of devotion in the Buddhist teaching.  My teacher is not bound to any tradition, but uses terms like Nothingness and Allness.  The Truth, according to him, is beyond both, but when Nothingness and Allness are elucidated, it makes me think of Nothingness as emptiness of the traditional Buddhist teaching, and Allness as the Body of Christ.  I think (not particularly scholarly about it) that Vedanta actually has both aspects in that tradition, but I'm not sure.

    Great thread!

    Peace

    Keith

    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  07-30-2006, 10:15 AM 2438 in reply to 1691

    • geomo is not online. Last active: 03-14-2007, 1:33 PM geomo
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    maryw:

    When I went through the adult confirmation process as part of my return to the church, I was not taught that a priest magically turns a cracker into Jesus's flesh and blood.

    maryw:

    As for resurrection: I was taught that resurrection was not about Jesus as a resuscitated corpse. Rather, the risen Christ (or, as some call it, Christ consciousness) lives in us when we die to our false -- or ego-identified -- selves and are "raised up," or awakened, as vessels for the presence and action of divinity, which is both immanent and transcendent.


    Interesting.  When I went through the adult classes (did not confirm), I was taught the opposite.  That the Eucharist was literally turned into Jesus's flesh and blood, but that it did not appear as such because it would be nauseating.  I was also taught that there are specific examples of Eucharistic miracles, like the unleavened bread did actually become bloody flesh and that there is a preserved relic of this particular miracle (not sure of the time and place of the miracle).  I didn't dismiss it outright (for what I believe to be trans-rational reasons) but didn't fully believe it either.  Sacramental misgivings is one of the reasons I ultimately did not confirm in the Catholic Church.

    And the resurrection was also taught as an actual happening, and was compellingly linked to Old Testament prophecies.

    At the same time that I was taught those things, I was also taught the metaphorical meaning of these doctrines.  And I had a pretty long private conversation with the Vicar about my own mystical beliefs.  He did not discourage me in those beliefs and expressed his own interest in mystical practices and that his favorite saint is Saint Theresa of Avila.  So it was maybe like Mary expressed, that there is a place for both mystical and mythical Christianity in the Catholic Church.

    So far, I am still not dismissing the potential for sacramental miracles to occur.  It seems to me that there might indeed be a mechanism by which sacraments can be blessed in order to serve as some form of intermediary for spiritual transmission.  However, I do not think there are many Catholic priests who have the "spiritual frequency" (?) to really do it as Jesus may have actually done at the Last Supper.  If we start seeing enlightened priests, maybe with 3rd tier consciousness, I think it might be possible for sacraments to really have the power that is assumed but maybe not really occurring for the most part.

    Peace

    Keith


    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  07-30-2006, 10:26 AM 2441 in reply to 1715

    • geomo is not online. Last active: 03-14-2007, 1:33 PM geomo
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    sagemichael:

    To bring it back to my personal experience again, I find myself genuinely drawn, almost choicelessly, to a Christian life. Yet, taking all my facets of experience into account, I literally do not have the first clue what or how to believe. I'm beyond literalism, but not yet comfortable in a post-rational structure. I hope that the thoughts I express here are not taken to apply to anyone other than myself, though obviously there are many of us going through similar explorations. This, for me, is an intensely personal experience.



    Well, the thoughts might not be intended to apply to anyone other than  yourself, but they certainly seem to apply to me as well, particularly the part about being drawn "choicelessly" into the Christian life.  And as for not having a clue, that seems to me to be a great place for the allowance of Grace, and to just let the Holy Spirit make you (aka me) into what the world needs of us.   It is pretty painful from my perspective, seemingly moving blindly from one source of information to the next.  But at the same time, as I just take it in and don't try to hang onto any of it too tightly, I find myself in the company of folks like those who are contributing to this thread, and it gives me great hope and confidence that we are on the right path.

    Peace

    Keith

    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  07-30-2006, 1:46 PM 2454 in reply to 2438

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 09-04-2008, 12:45 PM maryw
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    Re: Integral Contemplative Christianity

    Hi Keith, and thanks for joining the thread! I love that Aramaic Lord's Prayer!

    geomo:
    Interesting.  When I went through the adult classes (did not confirm), I was taught the opposite.  That the Eucharist was literally turned into Jesus's flesh and blood, but that it did not appear as such because it would be nauseating.  I was also taught that there are specific examples of Eucharistic miracles, like the unleavened bread did actually become bloody flesh and that there is a preserved relic of this particular miracle (not sure of the time and place of the miracle).  I didn't dismiss it outright (for what I believe to be trans-rational reasons) but didn't fully believe it either.  Sacramental misgivings is one of the reasons I ultimately did not confirm in the Catholic Church.

    And the resurrection was also taught as an actual happening, and was compellingly linked to Old Testament prophecies.

    The literal flesh and blood thing is still taught in many churches, of course -- but in my opinion, this teaching is quite behind the times. Even the new Pope Benedict, when asked by a little girl "How is Jesus present in the Eucharist? I don't see him?" offered a more mystically-nuanced answer: "It's like when you turn on a light. You don't see the electricity, you see its effects." It is Christ's very Being that is present in the Eucharist -- mystical body, mystical blood, under the appearance of bread and wine. It is real, but not literal. And I believe that spiritual transmission really does occur through these sacraments. I have experienced genuine healing through the Eucharist.

    As for the resurrection -- I was also taught that it was (and is) a "real event," a great transformation--but with multilayered meanings. After his crucifixion, Jesus's disciples encountered something genuinely profound and life-changing--if they hadn't, it's unlikely that they would have preached the resurrection so fearlessly, confronting local authorities and enduring persecution and martyrdom. But, as my teachers pointed out, the