Wednesday, July 29, 2009

(31) Bede's Vision

No, not the medieval Bede, but rather the late Benedictine master--
Bede Griffiths--who years ago traveled to India and created several
ashrams that stressed inter-spiritual contact. While perusing
Templegate in1989--I found some points he made that may stand
behind the universal perspective of the *sannyasis* mentioned
in my previous post.

If I may, I'll list some of Fr. Bede's points, as put in the above book:

• "There is a general feeling today that we are at the end of an age...
[and] we go on now to ask, what will the pattern of the new age be
like? [pp. 276, 281]

• "The first thing is that human society will be based on a new
relationship to the world of nature, arising from an organic
understanding of nature in place of a mechanistic view of the
universe...We have to learn to see ourselves as part of the
physical organism of the universe. [p. 281]

• "Secondly, the sense of communion with an encompassing
reality will replace the attempt to dominate the world. The different
understanding of ecology and a greater sensitivity to its realities
would revolutionise our understanding of nature and of the world
in which we live. [p. 282]

• "Thirdly, these new values would give rise to a new type of human
community...a decentralised society. [p.283]

• "Then we turn to the great religious traditions, Hindu, Buddhist,
Jain, Sikh, Taoist, Confucian, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Judaic, Muslim,
and Christian. These are systems of religion which have their origin
during the first millennium before Christ. All are based on the
perennial philosophy, developed under different situations and in
different circumstances, and all embody in their different ways the
ancient wisdom and the wholeness of life. These different traditions
will all be seen as interrelated and interdependent, each giving a
particular and unique insight into ultimate truth and reality." [p. 286]

Comment: Utopian? No, since over the twenty-year period since
Bede Griffith's book was published, we are rapidly coming to the
understanding that we are part and parcel of the Natural World.
After centuries of sad misuse of our planet's resources, we have
arrived at the question of Sustainability. Over populated, how do
we now appropriately and fairly sustain the world's citizens?

Without being a worry-monger, I can only hope that our destructive
misuse and treatment of the planet will not plunge us into despair.
It would seem now that time is of the essence. Scientists have
discovered that the Earth is a single Complex System, consisting
of system upon system, whether ecological, whether climatic,
whether oceanic, whether biological, and even perhaps mental,
all Inter-related. But can our leaders, as well as the commonweal.
digest all these new findings and potential paradigms before we
experience destruction? Let's pray so!

As for the world's religious traditions--or systems, as Fr. Bede
rightly puts it--will their "authorities" come to understand their
Common Source and somehow not only engage inter-spiritually
but also perhaps integrally?

As for Fr. Bede's hope that we may harken back to a decentralized
society--moving from cities to small towns and villages--I wouldn't
even venture a guess. His hope was that such a move would help
us to re-engage with one another. Of course the World Internet
was not as fully established back when he wrote his book. As a
participant of the Net, it's obvious (to me) there's engagement with
one another. But it's perhaps lonely and too superficial. We still
need deep-down friends and family--and many of us languish in
this respect.

Nonetheless, I surely believe that Fr. Bede was right. A new age
certainly beckons, but we need keep our fingers crossed as to how
it might unfold.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

(30) Sannyasis

"Perhaps one day we will witness the eventual emergence of
a universal order of *sannyasis*: contemplatives or mystics
from all traditions united in their awareness, their love, and
their dedication to the earth, humankind, and all sentient beings."
SPIRITUAL LIFE, New World Library, 2002, p. 16.]

Comment: Interestingly, today I decided to re-read the above
book by the late Wayne Teasdale--a truly universal monk, yet
who remained a Roman Catholic. Like Thomas Matus, OSB Cam,
who I mentioned in my last post, Teasdale was initiated as a
sannyasi by Fr. Bede Griffiths, a famous Benedictine monk, who
established an inter-spiritual ashram in India.

Not a surprise, of course, but Benedictines have been involved
in an inter-spiritual movement for years. I once remember
attending a Benedictine monastery, amazed seeing visiting
Buddhist monks--in their saffron robes--flocking out with the
black-robed Benedictines. So for quite awhile I have realized
the Buddhist-Benedictine connection.

But I am new to the Sannyasis connection. But I plan to study this
connection more carefully. Just yesterday I came across an
announcement of Thomas Matus' ASHRAM DIARY: IN INDIA WITH
BEDE GRIFFITHS. It is an account of how he became a sannyasi.
To quote from his blog site, he notes that his book is "a story of
immersion and induction into the freedom of the sannyasis, India's
'renunciants' who paradoxically embrace all reality, sacred figures
who are free from all rituals of home fires and temple fires."

Need I say that I am going to acquire this Benedictine monk's book
as soon as possible. Mainly I am interested in the evolution of
monastic thinking when it comes to an universal perspective.

But returning to Wayne Teasdale, the monk in the world, well he
accommodated this universal perspective by living his professed
monastic life in various ways out beyond the monastery walls.
He taught Catholic theology, he worked with the homeless, he
danced on the edge trying to promote change, and he firmly
worked towards what he called a "New Catholicity."

Monday, July 27, 2009

(29) Ancient Intuitions

"THOMAS: As far as theology is concerned, the dialectic between
the new and the old is somewhat different from what it is in science.
You said, David, that what we call the new theological paradigm is
the recovery of our most ancient intuitions. This is true, and it is
also where science and theology are methodologically distinct.
The development of new theological paradigms does not entail
the falsification of the 'old' ones, any more than the adult involves
the falsification of the Saint Paul said, 'Now I have put
childish ways behind me.'"
[Fritjof Capra & David Steindl-Rast, OSB, wtih Thomas Matus,
1991, p. 80.]

Comment: The book cited above is the result of an interchange
between a well-known scientist, then working at the Esalen
Institute and two Benedictine monks who were residing nearby
at the Camaldolese Hermitage at Big Sur, California.

Reading through this book many times, I really liked the comments
made by Fr. Thomas--an incredibly gifted monk and contemplative.
And I especially took note of his paragraph above, because in
recent days it strikes close-to-home for me.

Over the past several months I wrote and completed a particular
series of stories that addressed my present interest in both
science and spirituality as well as natural history. And in terms
of my spiritual (or theological) quest, I have found it more
relevant to harken back to the early, original *intuitions* we
humans have discerned over time.

However, ancient intuitions of special note sometimes are over-
ridden by opinions that ultimately detract from their original
form. In Vatican II there was a term used that described this
situation: "Concretion." This term is actually a geologic term
which describes the Original Rock deemed nearly
unrecognizable because of all the extraneous residue that
forms around it over the ages.

So what Fr. Thomas seems to be saying is that somehow we
need clean away the residue and get back to the original intuition
when it comes to our theological conceptions.

The question I have is to whether the "ancient intuitions" actually
are theologically relevant in our diverse, often secular-oriented
world? I really cannot answer my question very well, because
the rock-cleaning has barely begun. Still, I am grateful that there
are theologians--and monks--who recognize the situation. They
propose a new avenue of approach.

I'm inclined towards this new avenue that approaches the "old,"
too! After I have dug deep enough, I am actually able to see a
Continuum--a connection or flow theologically--come down
through time. When I "see" this way, I almost can detect the
work of the Spirit in our midst.

However, my next question is directed towards the Future. Even
if we spy the Continuum of our various god-imagery, will this very
ancient intuitive habit of ours be relevant enough in these
tough-minded technological civilizations we have built and in
which we live? Can these ancient intuitions address the
spiritually (and non-spiritually) diverse populations that are
forthcoming on larger and larger scales?

Some scholars suggest tossing aside our ancient intuitions,
start over, working towards totally new theological or deistic
concepts. I suppose that could happen, but I am inclined to
think that may not be a wise move.

Rather, I agree with Fr. Thomas that the more mature way to
"Seek God" is to build upon our ancient intutions, ever building
our god concepts and imagery upon a strong base that has
been with us from the beginning of human awareness.

Friday, July 17, 2009

(28) Choice

"The function of religious life is to make obedience to the highest
law visible...Obedience, in other words, depends on choice.
Obedience is a criteria for personal determinations, not a set of
rules for living...institutionalized. Who can possibly admire religious
robots...Only choice makes witness real. Only choice makes growth
real. Only choice makes virtue real. For religious life to be real,
we must all beware of anything that makes choice suspect and
maturity a sham."
[Joan Chittister, O.S.B., THE FIRE IN THESE ASHES: A
Sheed & Ward, 1995, p. 135.]

Comment: A former Benedictine prioress, Sister Joan fully
recognizes the plight of religious orders in her book cited above.
It's the old story about dwindling numbers and advancing age in
the monasteries and priories. However, this particular book
addresses new ways that might revitalize religious life. As I read
through it, I saw that many of the ideas that Sister Joan advances
might be really valuable for those monastically inclined who live
outside the walls.

The one tidbit I chose for this post is about *choice.* Really, as a
mature adult, just about everything we do boils down to choice.
Our decisions determine how we live, how we interact with the world,
how we forge our own life, etc.

Once a friend provided an analogy about choice. She said that what
we choose is like a toboggan ride. We make our choice at the top of
the run, and there's no changing it until we have arrived at the end of
the run. Perhaps true up-to-a point, though I believe occasionally
there is a chance to make a correction. When thinking about that
analogy, I kind of got scared. If we paused to ponder such, some of
us just might be paralyzed to choose anything at all. That's probably
why many of us don't think before we make a choice. Me? I'm oft
guilty as charged.

Again, maybe just my opinion, but within the Benedictine world or
in its tradition, there are factors that can lead the monastic to mature
and grow towards making evenly balanced choices. The structure
is there but we can't always guarantee the "chooser." There's that
old monastic maxim about "falling down, getting up--over and over."
As much as we might wish over the thought of perfection, it's never
quite a reality.

Still, as Sister Joan puts, there are "religious robots" who perhaps
adhere too much to blind obedience. Let the Boss or the Abbot be
the grown-up Father, if you will. Don't think, just do. Still there is a
necessity lurking behind all this business, when it comes to
obedience within the monastery. Sometimes the Abbot or Prioress
need be obeyed for the greater good of the monastic community.
Again--choice--a determination need be made about obedience.

Of course my interest about obedience and choice, as Sister Joan put,
is from the perspective outside the monastery, beyond the walls, out in
the world. The milieu is totally different. Lots of diversity, lots of calls
towards obedience that are not necessarily to be honored. Hitler
demanded obedience, and so do gang leaders. So right off, the
question begs to whom/Whom are you obedient --especially if you
are monastically oriented?

Maybe being out-in-the-world can make one more tough-minded.
That's oft been my case. In the end, I try to discern the action of the
Holy Spirit in/upon my life and, from such, attempt to be obedient to
its Call. This can be a treacherous undertaking, in that being human
I can really make some big mistakes. And I have! Discernment, in
itself, is not easy--but finally I have narrowed down my discernment,
my choices, perhaps in the most simplistic way.

I view the outcome of my choices, when it comes to obedience. More
than I would like to admit, I have had hit Brick Walls. Hence my choice
hurts me--maybe even others--and the more I insist on "my way, well
the more painful my given road becomes. On the other hand, I have
experienced Open Doors wherein I breezed through when it came to
my discernment and subsequent choice. Going for the Positive just
makes common sense! Or, as St. Paul once inferred, you can know
what's right from the fruit of your labor.

Friday, July 10, 2009

(27) Consider

"The world is dependent on human intelligence in the framework
of human life...Men naturally strive to create and sustain a unifying
understanding of the world, in order to give sense and purpose to
the complexities of human experience and natural phenomena."
[Daniel Rees and Other Members of the English Benedictine
MONASTIC LIFE TODAY, Cistercian Publications, 1980, p. 29.]

Comment: The above book is one of the Benedictine works that
celebrated the 1500-year anniversary of the Order. It's a very
thorough examination of the monastic life in our modern day.
But what caught my eye in the quoted paragraph was the emphasis
on understanding the world, the universe, and our experience in
such. It was interestingly apropos, because only recently I had
just completed two short stories that try to understand how the
Spirit works within us, through our minds, and how the Spirit
might be operative in the universe. See "Mind Link" and
"Sol Scientia" on the left margin.

I'm still striving to comprehend better our human experience of
God. I've lived long enough, now, to realize that there are many
experiential avenues of approach when it comes to our connection
with that Greater Reality we call God.

From what I have come to understand, the experiential isn't always
necessarily related to our Consciousness nor our Intelligence.
Special experiences are oft more luminous, more pronounced,
more boggling, whether we call them "peak experiences" or
"eureka moments." Theologians (and even some philosophers
and scientists) have long considered what they call the Imaginal

From what little I know, the Imaginal Realm is not some sort of
mystical land outside, out there. Rather it's part of the Inner
Universe, the Implicate Order, if you will. These days it is being
given more attention. Could be we might become more comfortable
with these complexities of experience we face. Could be, too,
that if we better understood this inner aspect of the universe,
our creativity will let loose in unimaginably rich expressions.