(Editor’s note: The following was written by one of the students on our open source Life and Spirit Facilitator Course. That is the course that teaches an individual how to become a facilitator of this evolutionary new spirituality. We thought it would be both informative and inspiring especially for individuals with a Christian background.)
EXCERPTS FROM ESSAY TITLED
And With Delight: Integral Spirituality, Reflections, Meditations and Offerings
The mission statement of IntegrativeSpirituality.org is a teasing invitation to be led into this delight!
“Through art, beauty, and with delight, we seek to integrate all
of humankind’s spiritual wisdom and processes to help you
expand your personal spirituality through transformative
direct spiritual experience of the Ultimate Reality.”
The following essay is a personal attempt to contribute to the movement of “integral spirituality” through explorations of the literature, descriptions of the tasks necessary for delight and ways of facilitating spiritual growth in the larger community.
IMAGES AND DEFINITIONS
The purpose of this essay is to invite and engage you in your own inner world stimulating and evoking excitement about your own personal spirituality and to evoke interest in the movement of integral spirituality.
Integral Spirituality is a complex, diverse and multifaceted understanding of ancient truths.
Let us now enter an IMAX movie theater. Go ahead, get some snacks, find a seat, and sit down comfortably in the chair of your mind and heart.
Notice the 360 degree screen that surrounds you and get ready to enjoy fabulous surround sound.
The 1st image on the screen is a Hindu prayer closet. Notice the idols and the incense burner, candles, and beautiful colors.
A 2nd image flashes across the screen: a beautiful huge Buddha statute;
The next image across the screen is the inside of a gigantic old Cathedral. You are facing an altar and cross, you look around at the stained glass windows, art work and sculptures everywhere.
That image disappears from your eyes and you then notice a line of Buddhist monks walking in line on their way to their meditation session in colorful robes.
Then shockingly, what flashes across the screen is St Peter in ancient Israel.
He is on the top of a home in deep prayer and meditation. You watch him as he has a vision and hears a voice saying, “all this is clean, eat.”
Peter is disturbed by this dream vision, in the next moment he is asked to go with some men to a house where gentiles and other non-Jewish folks, including Romans are in an ecstatic spiritual experience. Peter perceives this event as a receiving of the Holy Spirit and realizes in an instant that God is no respecter of persons and His truth is for everyone.
As Peter fades away in his amazement, we see the Twelve Apostles come out of a room. There are many people in Jerusalem that day because of a major festival. The people are from all over the world, speaking in many, many different languages. Peter again reappears and shares his recent experiences of God’s work and everyone hears him in their own language.
Peter, the apostles and Jerusalem fade and we then notice Gandhi with his scant clothing, and bald head. We hear him say:
“I am a Moslem and a Hindu, and a Jew and a Christian and so are all of you. When you wave those flags and shout you send fear into the hearts of your brothers! Stop it! Stop it! “
Gandhi disappears and before you is a very small nun with an edged and lined face, as she grows bigger on the screen, you notice her as Mother Theresa of Calcutta and she addresses us:
“By blood and origin, I am an Albanian. My citizenship is India. I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus.”
Mother Theresa steps away and Numi, the famous Muslim Sufi mystic and poet, appears on the screen, larger than life, filling up the 360 degree screen. Numi tells us:
“I am neither Muslim nor Christian, Jew nor Zoroastrian: I am neither of the earth nor of the heavens, I am neither body nor soul.”
Rumi recedes into the background. The screen flashes again to ancient Israel. To our horror, we see a soldier being mugged, beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest, a rabbi, a minister all pass but don’t stop. We see other people of different countries and religions pass but don’t stop. We see a man, an enemy of the man bleeding on the side of the road, stopping, giving aid, and putting this man in his vehicle. The next thing you see is the wounded soldier, washed, bandaged and delivered to a hospital with money in his pocket.
This scene fades and we then see Jesus. Jesus tells us that this man, the man who is our enemy, the good Samaritan, he is the one who is our neighbor. “I say unto you, love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus fades from the screen and then the screen displays in glorious 360 degrees, beautiful, luscious pictures of nature. We are awed by the displays of color, trees, mountains, waterfalls, beaches, rivers and oceans. We hear the voice of Stephen Dinan, the author and editor of the book, Radical Spirituality.
We hear him share with us his vision of spirituality.
“ --- a dream I have, an image of a future in which a new brand of
Spirituality has fully emerged, a spirituality that takes the entire world
as its starting point, that marries inner and outer work, that cultivates
stillness and compassion in the midst of active, engaged lives. This
spirituality is a slow dance of evolution, a tender response to the pulsing
heartbeat of the universe. It builds upon-----but ultimately goes beyond—
traditional belief systems to create a unique path, marrying ancient
wisdom, scientific and philosophic truth, and personal insight. It is
a spirituality that honors periods of withdrawal, of inner contemplation,
as equally as it honors the active and passionate life. It recognizes a
sublime Ground, ultimately beyond all manifest form, while it also sees
the realm of manifest form as the playful and ecstatic dance of that very
Ground. Its God is to be found both in prayer and in lovemaking, in
meditation and in mountain climbing. It sees every moment as an
opportunity; for learning, for giving, for expressing a truer nature. Perhaps
more than anything, it is a spirituality built upon adventure, a plunge into
From the little I have glimpsed of this emergent spirituality,
I am heartened for our future. So many ills of the modern world---
excessive consumerism, rampant fear and mistrust, addiction, war,
ecological meltdown, racism, gross imbalances in wealth---
promise to, if not be solved, then at least be softened by this new
kind of spirituality. Freed from rigid and dogmatic faiths, we can
engage in a richer spiritual dialogue. Freed from the need to
accumulate more material goods, we can begin to turn the tide on
environmental destruction. Freed from the maintenance of falsely
pleasant facades, we can begin to heal and let our creative,
authentic nature express itself. Freed from the separation of rational
thought and passionate soul, we can engage in further technological
and social evolution far more intelligently and compassionately.”
If we are to preserve and continue to be transformed and inspired by our spiritual heritages, we must find a way to include and integrate, perhaps go beyond the understandings and creeds we have inherited from the past.
Religions and spiritualities are crucial in helping our planet and our human species leap to a higher form of loving cooperation. (Hans Kung, Ken Wilber)
There seems to be some kind of force, or energy, spiritual DNA, if you will, or “cosmic qi”, embedded in the universe that develops from very simple forms to increasing levels of complexity.
Multiple writers appear to describe this phenomenon occurring in nature. (Ken Wilber, Allen Combs, Pierre Teilhard deChardin, Sri Aurobino, Maher Baber, Clare Graves, Don Beck, Gerbser, Andrew Cohen, just to name a few)They assert along with many others that the human person is capable of ever increasing levels and stages consciousness, capacities and complexities, both spiritual and psychic. This developmental energy allows us the opportunity to grow increasingly more complex, psychologically, morally, socially and spiritually (Fowler, Beck). In the words of Clare Graves, “ the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”
There is upon the current era we live in, a convergence of scientific research in brain chemistry, psychological and psychic functioning and quantum physics that appear to demonstrate the phenomena of synchronicity and attunement. The brain of a “regulated” person (Bryan Post) can affect the brain of an “unregulated” person. That may explain physiologically why Avatars, saints, dictators and demagogues have such a powerful effect upon us.
We, in the 21st century, have the benefit of all the experiments, trial and error, of all those wondrous holy souls and wicked persons who have come before us. We can “piggyback” on their experience and their accumulated wisdom. We have the opportunity to start at a place of their wisdom. We are privileged to be privy to all of the world’s wisdom and religious traditions simultaneously and globally, in a way that was never available to those great souls that came before us.
I often wonder what Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad would push us to achieve spiritually if they were walking the streets today. We live in an extraordinary time and are called by present circumstances to exert extraordinary efforts not as a guru or exceptional example but as ordinary persons to mature to a “critical mass” of spiritual awareness where transformation and global healing, solutions and miracles can be manifested in our world like flowers blooming in spring.
To a person, all of the great wisdom figures of history: Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius spoke out for the care and concern of the individual person and they challenged societal mind structures that were unjust and demeaning toward persons. We are now a “global village”. Certainly, we see the expression of shadow energy spreading among us. We, as ordinary persons doing our own individual development, with synchronicity and attunement, now have the spiritual and technological potential to spread transforming spiritual power to the entire planet like bamboo roots taking over everything.
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Is it possible that the very expression of “Evolution Spirituality” is one of these “transformations”, that are happening in the minds and hearts of people throughout the world?
In the throes of chaos, confusion, personal and society breakdown, hunger and starvation, poverty and disease, torture and violence, injustice, oppression and war, there still seems to be a deep drive within humanity for peace, joy, fulfillment, harmony and yes, delight! Human beings appear to express a need to experience “delight”. Human society has created art, architecture, music, fashion, ritual, and dance. Humans have built and decorated temples, churches, synagogues, cathedrals, mosques, and bodies, from humanity’s inception.
How are we to re-discover our Original Face and Divine Nature and connect with all others? Perhaps by focusing our attention on clarity of purpose we can move closer to a “bliss moment”.
The Jewish Zohar offers a beautiful way of thinking about purpose.
“Our purpose in the world is to gain joy and fulfillment through unity with the Creator. This purpose never changes. It is unaffected by the material conditions of our lives, including the state of our health.”
In all religions and spiritualities, there is a primary focus on the experience of “unity with the Creator”. Other ways of expressing this idea are: unity and and/or oneness experience of the void, the Great Mystery, the Wholly Other, the Transcendent, the Absolute, the Universe.
What does it mean to have “unity with the Creator” or the Great Spirit, or the Universe, the Divine Mother, Heavenly Father or other expressions used by humanity? How do we achieve this experience?
For the purposes of this essay, we will explore two ways to experience God or feel cosmic unity and oneness with the Ground of Being.
The works of Matthew Fox give us help in the pondering of this koan.
The first way we will call INDIRECT. Examples and descriptions of indirect experiences are: prayer, meditation, candle burning, rituals, worship services, religious dancing, fasting, vision quests, psychotherapy, chanting, abstinences, retreats, and yoga.
These practices and experiences help prepare our mind, bodies, and spirits for direct experiences of oneness, unity and of direct contact with God.
The second way, we will call DIRECT experiences of God. Direct experiences are an end in themselves and are experiences of delight. Direct experiences of God bring us closer to a unitive experience and sense of oneness with all other others, with the Absolute, with nature and the Cosmos. This experience transforms our perception, sometimes our bodies, and alters the way we live in the world.
In this essay, rather than explore the more common understanding of unitive experiences, visions and other phenomenological reports described by numerous mystics of all faiths, we will focus on ten direct experiences of God elucidated in Matthew Fox’s book, Whee, Wee, We All The Way Home.
The ten direct experiences of God are: nature, friendship, sex, art and craftsmanship, sports, thinking, travel and visiting, involuntary suffering, celebration, and work.
Steps toward Delight
For some of us the path to ecstasy, enlightenment, satori, unity consciousness, oneness with God, salvation, redemption, transformation and healing begins as a recovery process as we respond to the pain in our lives.
For others of us, our “unity with the Creator” begins due to an inner restlessness, or an intense search for meaning, purpose and fulfillment.
Whether one begins on a healing journey or with an intense hunger for meaning and purpose or just plain restlessness, the “getting up to bat” usually includes a spiritual discipline of meditation and development of the “inner witness”.
For the purposes of this essay we will discuss two methods of meditative practice.
The first method is called, Imaginative. Imaginative meditation includes visualization, repeated prayers, journaling, psychotherapy, devotional reading, scripture reading and study, reflection on an object, picture or story. It could also include active thinking, use of a Mandela, or any active means to focus the mind on worship, and understanding of self and spiritual truth.
The second form of meditation practice is called Contemplative.
This practice includes silence, solitude, fasting, emptying the mind, “non-thinking”, which leads to an experience of emptiness, serenity and spaciousness.
A person can pick up any of the sacred scriptures of any religion and read the stories of the revered ones and hear the necessity for transformation.
Words to describe this spiritual, bodily, psychological and psychic process are multitudinous. A few words commonly used are: transformation, metanoia, death of the self, satori, nirvana, the dark night, kenosis, healing and regeneration, enlightenment and individuation to name a few.
This transformational process appears to be a development toward ever increasing capacities blossoming into a wondrously attractive, balanced personality structure.
Thomas Keating, in his book, Intimacy with God, states it the following way:
“all methods that lead to contemplation are more or less aimed at bypassing the thinking process. The reason is that our thinking process tends to reinforce our addictive process----our frenzy to “get something” from the outer world to fuel our compulsions or to mask our pain.”
The paradox of authentic spiritual work that leads to inner freedom, serenity and delight in the world despite circumstances seems often to be through the dark cave (remember the scene in the Star Wars trilogy where Luke Skywalker goes into the cave and sees himself in the face of his father) where we confront our unconscious aspects. We terrifyingly face that we, too, have Darth Vader inside of us. This is the part of the journey that is crucial, if we are to truly become a free and loving human being.
This part of the spiritual journey is called “owning your shadow”, or “facing the dark side”. This is the stage where there is and unloading of unconscious material such as intrusive thoughts, intense emotions, memories, fears, anxieties, depression, rage and sometimes acting out behaviors.
As we walk through the cave, we may become aware of physical or psychological symptoms or we may be involved in some life crisis. Acting out behaviors many times have been brought on by the accumulation of our own unconscious actions.
This is a time for a wise spiritual director and/or psychotherapist who know the path.
At this time we begin to wrestle with the “false self” and the horrifying awareness of how un-free and inauthentic our life has become.
Keating describes it well. Spiritual growth is often,
“a series of humiliations of the false self with the value system and world view that we built up so painstakingly as defenses to cope with the emotional pain of early life.”
Two methods that we can consider to dismantle or dis-identify with the false self so that the authentic self, the person’s essence, can be recovered is in H. A. Almaas’s work, Essence. Another is in a rigorous study and application of the Enneagram.
Doing shadow work is very serious business and can be very uncomfortable. Ken Wilber and Jack Cornfield talk about the danger of spiritual practice and advanced meditation, without first “owning and accepting responsibility that,
‘yes, that is me and in me’.
Ron Smotherman, in his book, Winning Through Enlightenment, talks about the importance of observing our projections. Whatever you see out there is in you as re-activated lack of self acceptance.
Ken Wilber, in his book Integral Spirituality, and Jack Cornfield, in his book, After Ecstasy, the Laundry, warns that without the process of first “owning and admitting” one’s own shadow aspects, meditation and the practices of spirituality can intensify our dissociated and disowned self and deepen our denial, deluding ourselves and misusing any spiritual gains along the way.
Every spiritual and religious tradition has numerous examples of this severe pathology in individuals, and in organized social groups. On any given day, we can read or see in the mass media examples of these pathologies being manifested. Perhaps we ourselves have wrestled with this dark angel.
As we ponder the lowest depths and the consequences of dark projections in our world, where do we look for hope? Our hope in this process is expressed beautifully in the Jewish Zohar.
“According to kabbalistic teaching, whatever is most difficult is also most highly valued, and to sincerely repent for a misguided action is one of the most challenging and rewarding activities of the human heart.”
Keating and Wilber both attest in their works that integrated, conscious contemplative practice, one that thoroughly owns and faces the dark side can hasten the process of evolution, detachment and dis-identification with our false, deluded self.
We begin to taste freedom, serenity and the fruits of our labor. Some traditions would language it as the fruits of “God’s labor in us.”
Once Darth Vader has become part of us (and as we continue to be vigilant for any signs of re-emergence) we begin to experience interior freedom. We are able to choose our own internal responses rather than be at the mercy of our interior addictions, compulsions, inner demons and shadow projections. We begin to experience a healthy and life-giving self worth.
Emerging from the cave, we see on the horizon the delights promised to us. We begin to live in gratitude for ourselves and the world we live in.
In the thoughts and words of Trungpa, the great American Buddhist teacher, we become less fearful. We allow others, and the world to “tickle our hearts”. We risk tenderness. We become strong enough to soften our hearts with others, and the world. We express gentleness, honesty with self and others.
The gift of accepting and embracing our wounded humanity is that we become undefended, vulnerable, naked and raw, we no longer fear being tearful, passionate or alone. We give up the desire to manipulate situations. Our developing spiritual maturity and mastery leads us to an acute sensitivity of everything around us. We discover the greatness and searing pain of our brothers and sisters, our friends and enemies and also we become awed by the wonder of the natural and cosmic order we live in. We become a spiritual warrior.
Our emptiness becomes fullness. We identify with others. We express compassion, a gentle heart, loving kindness. We experience a larger world than one’s own ego, family, tribe, religion, nation and point of view. We live life with open heartedness and open mindedness. We begin to honor what we don’t know and we begin to have respect for the limits of our own understanding and points of view. We reverence the “Great Mystery” of life that begins to delight us. We encounter others as truly different as ourselves and rejoice in the discovery of unknown ways of experiencing the Creator. These are the gifts from deeply embracing the discomfort of the dark side.
“It is a Kabbalistic teaching perhaps the fundamental teaching----that when a sufficient number of people have chosen to use the divinely given spiritual tools, a critical mass will be achieved that will bring about the redemption of humanity as a whole even including those who have followed the negative path.”
When we reach the place of grace where we experience unity consciousness, life becomes full of delight. We joyfully and willingly participate in the connectedness of all others and the world. We become flexible, tolerant, disinterested in our own petty ego needs. We become more trusting of our place in the world and our value even though we don’t always see the big picture.
As the Zohar states, “It is not always possible to perceive why certain things happen. Our challenge is to trust in the big picture--- to know, though we cannot see it, that the oak is in the acorn.”
All My Relatives
Some Native American traditions speak, “all my relatives”, when exiting a sweat lodge ceremony. This is a reminder that we are connected to all others and the natural world.
Integral spirituality would lead us to find ways to participate in expressing this connection by respecting the earth and cooperating with the earth to bring healing to our planet.
Raisin in the Sun
Years ago, as I engaged in sales, I had the privilege of interacting with thousands of businesses over a large regional area in the part of the country I was living at that time.
I came into contact with restaurants, retail stores, tourist businesses, bed and breakfasts lodges, laundry mats and cleaners, gift shops, furniture stores, grocery stores and lounges. I encountered every kind of business under the sun.
What I observed with wonder and awe were ordinary people, some who were immigrants, who could barely speak English, putting their hearts and lives out on a limb to make their dreams come true. These businesses were all local and owned by ordinary people. Working really hard carrying themselves with great dignity, proud of what they were trying to accomplish no matter how humble in the eyes of the world, “trying to find their place under the sun.”
I want to honor these ordinary heroes who are expressing a certain type of spirituality. They expressed a spirit of determination, courage, grit and service, in many ways being very sacrificial, bringing needed goods and services and joy to all of us.
I call these dear ones, “anonymous saints” (a wonderful term coined by a dear friend in a discussion around the kitchen table many years ago). This expression of Spirit is an “ordinary” (perhaps closer to the “direct experiences of God” mentioned earlier in this essay) kind of mysticism and spirituality.
These “anonymous saints” express caring about their families, their dreams and hopes, caring about their customers and caring about the bottom line, sometimes cashed strapped, sometimes enriched, trying to manifest something, in the midst of the practicalities of daily life. They donate to the local youth’s baseball or soccer team. They pay taxes that provide services for their community. They sometimes give away their hard earned goods and services to someone less fortunate or in need, without thought of reward and perhaps with great sacrifice.
What would these folks think if you asked them about “integral spirituality”? Most of them probably wouldn’t even know what you are asking or tell you they don’t have the time to ponder these things but they might show you their prayer closet, or talk to you about how they pray for their dreams. They might tell you a story about someone that they are praying for. They might tell you they close their stores or don’t work on certain days in order to honor their religious commitments even if it cost them market share or reduced profits. They might tell you how they cannot afford to donate money so are tithing their time tutoring someone in English or teaching someone how to read. They might show you their prayer mat or tell you they will close their store on a holy day to go worship.
I just have to bow to the ground in reverence to these “great ones”.
They are my heroes! They are the ones that Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Muhammad noticed and spoke about.
We are all an incredible tapestry of universal beauty.
We are sages, teachers, disciples, wisdom thinkers, authors, merchants, and politicians. We are call girls, prostitutes, pole dancers, gay and lesbian folks, petty criminals, gangs, drug addicts, mentally ill, foster children, AIDS victims, and criminal offenders, we are also those that society ostracize, judge and point fingers, sometimes hypocritically projecting our own inner demons, fears and dark side. They, too, are trying to find their place in the sun, just “wanna be loved” as Shug and Cecile would say in the Color Purple. How many of us have taken the time to listen to their stories and their hearts, to discover what burdens and hopes that we know not of----
Are they (we all) not also made in the image and likeness of God? How do we honor their spirituality and journey? How do we honor each person’s humanity and unique preciousness before God at the same time confronting and accepting the shadow side of us all?
Ken Wilber, in his book, A Theory of Everything, sums up beautifully this movement toward integral spirituality.
“Integral: the word means to integrate, to bring together, to join, to link, embrace. Not in the sense of uniformity and not in the sense of ironing out all the wonderful differences, colors, zigs and zags of a rainbow-hued humanity, but in the sense of unity-in-diversity, shared, communal ties along with our wonderful differences. And not just in humanity, but in the Kosmos at large: finding a more comprehensive view-----
“It does not seek to impose its belief structures on others, but invites each and all to develop their own potentials, therein to discover their own deep spirituality, radiant to infinity, glowing in the dark, happy for all time, this simple stunning discovery of your own Original Face, your divine soul and spirit, shining even now.”
A Brief Word about Christianity
As I enjoy my own dip in the warm and invigorating bath of integral spirituality, I want to speak a few words of transformational hope bearing witness to my highest guru, Jesus of Nazareth, the Resurrected One, the Cosmic Christ.
Christianity was born out of the life, death and resurrection of a Jewish carpenter and teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. It began as a Jewish movement and a violent disagreement within the Judaism of the day. Peter and Paul who were both deeply religious Jews were the major leaders in the early period after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They both understood that the teachings of Jesus were also meant for peoples outside of Jewish society. They lumped all of these people into the term, gentiles. Early Christianity was considered by the political authorities both Jewish and Roman as an unlicensed religion that was disrespectful toward the Jewish and civil religion of the state.
This led adherents to be persecuted by Roman and Jewish authorities.
Attitudes, practices and behaviors that were commonly practiced by early Christians were; a refusal to participate in military service, a lack of participation in attending Roman temples, cult prostitution, Roman games, and orgies. Christians also refused to offer incense to Caesar in a sign of loyalty to the Roman State by professing the godhood of Caesar. Roman society viewed Christians as anti-social, unpatriotic and atheists for these behaviors. Christians had other behavior practices which were met by the surrounding society with a mixture of ambivalence and admiration. Christians had a reputation of assisting each other financially, practicing remarkable egalitarianism manifested by women having leadership positions and in some areas at least one slave became a bishop.
By the 4th Century, Christianity had permeated all levels of Roman society gaining converts and adherents. A Roman political leader named Constantine became “converted” and declared Christianity the “state religion” changing the status of Christianity as an illegal religion to becoming an institution with temporal power. The state supported, influenced decision making and power arrangements and mandated adherence.
During this period, there was a movement protesting what the early monks (mostly in the east) perceived as the corruption of the gospel, retiring to the desert for meditation, poverty and transformation, sometimes forming themselves into groups. This movement grew throughout the Roman Empire until a monk named Benedict in Western Europe created what he called the “rule”. This organization of religious life set the stage for religious orders and monasteries, based on poverty, chastity and obedience to superiors, living together in common around prayer and worship.
Protestantism was born out of a protest toward the perceived corruption of the church and worldly power around the 15th Century. Protestantism also protested the control that the church institution over individual conscience.
Protestantism and the Catholic version of the Counter Reformation (most famously embodied by Ignatius of Loyola and the formation of the Jesuits) spawned intense world-wide evangelization of both Protestantism and Catholic converts. Some of this effort had positive impact but some of these efforts were filled with shadow elements.
In the modern and post-modern era (late 20th and early 21st Century) science, technology, anthropology, mass communication, internet communication and economic globalization has once again impacted the understanding of the Christian faith.
In the 21st Century there seems to be a need for an expanded definition, of what it means to be a Christian that can include all of the diversity within the church without compromising the teaching of Jesus and the meaning of the gospel.
In view of the latest research in integral and evolutionary spirituality and human development along with breakthrough understandings in psychological and social development, there seems to be a need for Christianity to include higher stages of complexity other than the more numerous “purple, red, and blue memes” (See Don Beck and Clare Graves, Spiral Dynamics)(Another work for Christians is, System-Sensitive Leadership).
Will the church continue to exclude and judge persons who are seeking to live in meaningful fellowship but have been divorced, unmarried couples who live together in love, commitment and fidelity both gay and straight, politicians who differ, persons of other faiths and persons of good will who espouse no religious beliefs?
Can the Christian message meaningfully speak to and transform, a hard-nosed scientist, the worldly executive, an urban youth, or a gangbanger. Can a transformed Christian message meaningfully relate to persons who experience the” religion of Christianity” as it has been experienced in mass culture as toxic and pathological? Can the Christian message speak to persons who care deeply for the environment and social justice and tragically find no partners among many churches? Many, many persons in the world today just cannot relate to or accept the traditional interpretations of Christianity (some writers have called it churchianity).
Can Be Found
There are signs of hope and transformation for our beautiful ancient faith.
“Anonymous saints” can be found in individuals in every church tradition, every neighborhood and community who pray for their neighbors, reach out in love, being a living example in their families and jobs of a Christ-like loving attitude and spirit. Hope can be found in churches both Catholic and Protestant where there is an active commitment and expression toward social justice by working to modify government policies and practices and declaring against war and violence. Transformation can be found in Christian institutions world-wide that provide education, health care and social services, giving access and skills to those persons who are poor and without hope, (of any race or religion or creed).
Authentic followers of the way of Christ can be found reaching out in love, understanding, mutual dialogue and partnership for human values to persons of other faiths and persons of good will.
Transformational Christians can be found in the hearts, and minds of every Christian denomination of untold numbers of persons throughout the world. These individuals, in their own personal practice, have developed more complex, inclusive, understandings of the Christian faith. These radiant ones must be careful least they too, become persecuted by fundamentalist and traditionalist. It is a story that goes back to the early pages of the New Testament Church.
A reading of the early New Testament indicates that the disciples of Jesus reached out to the “gentile nations”, to the poor, to women and children (who were relegated to inferior status), to societal outcasts, to intellectuals and movers and shakers. Persons came under the sway and became infected with the beauty and power of that Carpenter from Nazareth who still is speaking and transforming us today.
John Michael Talbot wrote and recorded a beautiful song with words expressing these truths. “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet now but yours. Yours are the eyes that look out with compassion on the world. We are his hands, now, we are his feet, now”.
The Jesus that I know stands with all persons of good will in love, peace and meekness and all who are hungry for the Kingdom of God. Qualities that I believe Jesus would have his followers manifest are: inclusiveness, respect, humility, gentleness in disagreement, honoring others’ truth, reaching out to those who are “outside”, who are poor, branded. Jesus quoted Isaiah in declaration of what his mission was; “I will not break a bruised reed, nor will I snuff out a smoldering wick.”
I believe that a more expanded understanding of Christianity includes a focus on the blessing of being human, of the Original Blessing of Who We Are, rather than how evil, and sinful.
It grieves me so much to experience the paradox that some of our non-Christian brothers and sisters more accurately embody the gentleness, tolerance and love of Christ than persons calling claiming the name, Christian.
Integral Spirituality can give us insights into the true spirit and image of our Christian faith.
One of my favorite stories illustrates what I am trying to express.
Jack Cornfield, a Buddhist priest and Ph.D psychologist, tells a story on one of his tapes while doing a retreat. Mr. Cornfield relates that he received a letter from one of his participants telling of her experience after the retreat when she returned home. She related that she was so inspired at the retreat she was excited to return home to practice her new Buddhist awareness and also a little anxious as her parents were very strict and devout Christians. She told the story that when she tried really hard to be a good Buddhist her parents hated her but when she allowed herself to be Buddha-like, they loved her.
May we all receive the grace of letting go of striving so hard to be “good Christians” and allow ourselves to be Christ-like, becoming lovable so that yet again the world around us will comment, “they must be Christians, see how much they love each other.” (Romans 12)
In addition to an intense personal devotion to the person of Jesus as well as to the Scriptures, I would propose that a new image of being a Christian-in-the-making is characterized by gentleness, lovingkindness, humility, and tolerance. Another manifestation of spirit in a transformed Christian is the facing and embracing of our shadow and dark side as well as a focus on the blessings of life with a practice of a grateful heart. A Christian can express self in the work place by developing practical wisdom, business skill, by having a passionate desire for excellence and service. Ethical practice is another expression of the faith. A further expression of spirit is a love of laughter and a commitment to treasuring our bodies in the form of exercise, diet and balanced living. Our devotion to Jesus will be nourished by our practice of prayer and meditation.
Finally, being mystical, having union with God, is not owned by any religion or faith. A mystical person is a transformed human being that delights in life, embodies peace and good will and experiences the connection and oneness of all things.
A Christian mystic is one who sees Christ in all things; in all literature, music, television programs, and movies. A Christian sees Christ in all religions, in the workings of nature and the cosmos, in business, in science, in worship services and in silence and solitude. A Christian mystic is a person who has the courage and strength to be vulnerable, open hearted, joyful and grateful. A Christian mystic is a person who has developed the willingness to be open to the mysterious gift of life, trusting in God’s infinite goodness, and knows oneself and all others to be in the image and likeness of God.
In the Acts of he Apostles of the New Testament, on Pentecost, Peter declared that the Spirit had been poured out on all flesh, sons and daughters alike. The Spirit has permeated all religions and the entire world.
Lord Tennyson wrote: “Prayer has wrought more things than this world dreams of”.
May we pray will all our hearts and strength to see and be the Kingdom of God on earth: of righteousness, peace and joy.
I would like to propose to the Integrated Spirituality Community the following humble offerings of service.
1. To persist in doing my own spiritual work
2. To dialogue with members and others about my own understandings and insight into Evolution Spiritutality.
3. To be a “presence” for Evolution Spiritutality on the East Coast
4. To offer to participate in, facilitate, host, inter-faith discussions, meditations, worship services, events.
5. To be available to members for coaching/facilitation re: spiritual growth and shadow work
6. As a follower of the way of Christ, I want to bear witness to an expanded understanding of the Christian faith not just to the Integral Spirituality Community but also to my fellow Christians as well as to reach a deeper understanding of Integral Spirituality and the Christian Faith and its relationship to each other.
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