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Last edit of this page 26/04/2013
There are times in a person's life when, regardless of the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees in prayer. Victor Hugo
'Know the Universe as your self, and you can live absolutely anywhere in comfort.
Love the world as your self, and you'll be able to care for it properly.' Tao Te Ching
'Do you really have to fret about enlightenment?
No matter What road I travel, I'm going home.' Shinsho
The greatest act of faith is when a person finally decides that he is not God. Oliver Wendell Holmes
'God' is a verb' david a cooper
Healing what is broken open becomes a sacred path
The only spiritual teacher most people have is suffering. 'What About Me.'
We are never made whole... without at the same time being broken. Ronald S. Wallace
Prayer is not the moment when God and humans are in relationship, for that is always. Prayer is taking initiative to intentionally respond to God's presence. L. Robert Keck
Some time most of us will meet a crisis or a turning point that propels us to more than the sum of who we are. The late L. Robert Keck was a survivor of polio, of a broken back and of crippling, progressive pain from post-polio syndrome. He demonstrated how this soul-self is the vital ingredient in health promotion, disease prevention and healing from physical and emotional trauma. The introduction to Keck's book is here.
Usually this occurs after we reach the limit of our own resources and discover that our partner, close family and friends can not make up the short fall, as we had hoped. We are thrown, it seems alone, like clay onto a spinning wheel and wonder is this all there is, is this all I am, what is the point?
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you. Whyte
For some, this understanding never arises under any circumstances and that's okay too for the sacred is not a necessary ingredient of living a recognisably human life.
One of the confounding facts of life is that those who wish to die, those who live with levels of toxic stress or appalling lifestyles that ought to kill, live on. Whilst some who have lived good lives, ate well and done all the right things are struck down by terminal illness, many before they even reach their prime. There is a wild card in the mix for which there is no accounting.
The sacred as cliche
Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Frost
As we truly absorb the implications of the unbroken wholeness of the Universe, we will still be able to see and value the distinction between the parts (religions, races, nations), but we will also value how permeable the membrane is between the parts. As in ecology, we will know the value of diversity, and at the same time, know that for the greatest amount of health and well-being there is a profound interdependence at work naturally. Robert Keck
Our collective embrace of the material world whilst simultaneously rejecting the immaterial, places the aesthetic and the devotional out of mainstream practices.
People are easily drawn away from the ecstatic interior and from a personal relationship with Life in order to accumulate the stuff of life.
It has always been so.
The great historical teachers (whose inspirations later formed a religious movement) walked out of their mainstream culture into a small waterway of truth - a road less traveled.
Organised religion can grow into a material business that may protect its franchise from the harm of a transparent investigation into abuses within its ministry and power. As a clinical psychologist I have assisted a number of victims of paedophiles in the ministry, where the business of church resolutely came before healing of the harmed and of even a semblance of restorative justice.
Popular mysticism too is subject to its own materialism, the 'how far have you advanced on the path' question that goes with compulsive belonging to spiritual groups or cult like organisations. 'Outsiders' are judged as not 'on the path'. Psychology and psychotherapy can be used like a cult of self-worship, a kind of new competitive religion - how long have you been in therapy, whose your therapist?
By contrast, I remember a God's Squad wedding in which the leather clad pastor John Smith, spoke to his leather studded and body pierced congregation, all clasping beer cans to their hearts, of the impossibility of marriage without the third person of God present. The ceremony invited that Being and asked the couple to welcome that Life into their marriage.
Celebrating what each considers sacred in Life makes for a meaningful practice in a daily or weekly ritual of marriage. The Jewish practice of friday night Shabbat is an example. Ensuring time and space for long hellos and long goodbyes functions in the same way - it acknowledges the sacredness of meeting and parting.
One of our friends continued a practice of saying goodbye that came from their Russian family of origin. It was to sit at the table for five minutes as a family or couple and just be together. Often this occurred in silence. I imagine it arose from not knowing if you would ever see each other again during the Russian pogroms, but they maintained it because it honoured the connection between them.
What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying "I Surrender!"
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves. Hafiz
One experience of intrinsic spirituality is in the breath, the 'ah ha!' experience. Breathing in and out is inspiration and expiration. These share the root word for spirit. The Hebrew (ruwach) and Aramaic (alaha) are words from which the Latin spiriea or spirit is derived, meaning air in motion, breath and life.
This version of the christian Lord's prayer from Aramaic is astonishing for its breath as is the Hidden Gospel of Jesus.
In Rabbi Jesus' time teachers had a custom of always asking their audience at the end in Aramaic "Mai kô mashma lan?" What does it mean for us?
It might be that our in-breath is god's out-breath.
I doubt the founders of Christianity and Buddhism intended their teachings to become religions. They are both practices of reasoning and wisdom, new wine in old wineskins, not to be taken as Given but to be understood within oneself, with one's breath.
'Ripe/Blessed are those who soften what is rigid in body and mind; for they shall receive power and sustenance from the subtle forces of creation.' Yeshua, (Gospel St Matthew 5:5) a contemporary translation from Aramaic to English. Compare a translation of the same Aramaic beatitude into Greek into Latin and then into English King James Bible. It comes out as 'the meek shall inherit the earth'.
In this link about divinity are a rich cross section of views about the meaning of spiritual. My personal favourite in this tradition is the reluctant messenger Thomas the apostle.
Born alone and die alone
That is a myth.
If we were just a particle then maybe, but we are also a wave and like a soul pebble thrown into a pond, the waves meet and bounce off intersecting pebble waves and demonstrate non-local effects. We are a blob of energy that from the beginning to the end is in constant, energetic, communicative movement even though the illusion remains of one solid, separate and particular entity - I/Me.
Only one reality seems to survive and be capable of succeeding and spanning the infinitesimal and the immense: Energy - that floating, universal entity from which all emerges and into which all falls back as into an ocean. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
It takes an awesome amount of brain power to maintain the illusion of separateness against everyday evidence to the contrary, probably the 90% of the brain we don't consciously use.
Without mortification, renunciation or separation from the senses, without psychic abilities, meditation, prayer, near death experiences, without religion or ritual, whilst ever we vibrate we are in contact with each other - from the womb until death and perhaps a little time after death. That is the nature of the energy field we now understand from quantum theory and wave mechanics.
'The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today.' David Bohm, 'Wholeness and the Implicate Order' 1980
Many esoteric traditions and yoga practices have that sense of connection or unity as their aim.
'A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. Albert Einstein, 1954' Both quotes above from spaceandmotion.com
Here is a cautionary view of chaos theory and quantum mechanics as a complete explanation of the wholeness of everything. That web site is filled with little treasures as is this one on christian anarchy.
'If we realize that life is asking us to respond with our core values, we awaken to the precious beauty of our life and of others. We abandon spiritual practice and embrace life. We do not worry. We do not flee. We act with grace, strength, and compassion. We act even with imperfection -- but we act. Spirituality born out of crisis is grounded in the personal. I truly believe that to be the case. Don't fool yourself and think that Spirit is somewhere else, in other worldly experiences, in great rushes or ecstatic visions.
Surviving my nightmare has taught me that we are all a lot better off when we understand that the Holy is in our hands and in our deeds. I suspect that was King David's message when he wrote the simple statement, "May goodness and compassion chase me all the days of my life." If we hunger to live the spiritual, we hunger to serve and to give. Life's deepest experience is the joy that fills our hearts when we love and give to others. Ask anyone in the middle of battling a catastrophic illness. Or survey all my friends from the acute trauma ward, and they will tell you they live to give a halting hug or to speak a word of grace to another. The irony can no longer be lost on me. When crisis explodes in our midst, what we yearn for is a clue to our spiritual life.' from Yehuda Fine and here an interview with the times square Rabbi.
Extrinsic spirituality on the other hand, is the sacred in the ordinary and everyday. In beauty and solitude, in music and in a crowd, in every act of service and kindness. It is not religiosity but a broad spirituality that includes self, family and bio-community. For example, volunteering celebrates the sacredness of life.
Esoteric and exoteric is simply contrasted on this link.
Due to the impossibility of reconciling literal scriptural theology with mystical insight, sharp divisions occur between Islam and Sufism, Judaism and Kabala, Christianity and Gnosis.
Extrinsic religiosity was researched by Gordon Allport in the 1950's and discussed here in the guardian review of the book 'The Story of God' by Robert Winston.
The biological correlates of religious experience explored in the critical and non-dogmatic numenware blog. For example: 'Siddartha Gautama was enlightened at age 35, whereas Jesus of Nazareth’s breakthrough came at the age of 33. What is it about the early-to-mid-thirties?' and near death experiences. Is it to 'allow the dying organism to think more lucidly and flexibly in order to save itself from death'?
Spirituality in art
I can't say it better than Gerhard Richter, quoted from his 'The Daily Practice of Painting - writings 1962-1993:
When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models ... Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate: the unknown, the incomprehensible, the infinite. For thousands of years we have been picturing it through surrogate images such as heaven and hell.
In abstract painting we have found a better way of gaining access to the unvisualizable ... Accustomed to pictures in which we recognise something real, we rightly refuse to regard mere colour as the thing visualized. Instead we accept that we are seeing the unvisualizable: that which has never been seen before and is not visible. This is not some abstruse game but a matter of sheer necessity: the unknown simultaneously alarms us and fills us with hope, and so we accept the pictures as a possible way to make the inexplicable more explicable ...
Of course pictures of objects also have this transcendental side to them ... when represented in a picture, the object conveys this mystery all the more powerfully, the less of a 'function' the picture has. Hence, the growing fascination of many beautiful old portraits.
Psychotherapy and spirituality
I can't say it better than Sandford Drob
As a consequence of Darwinian and Freudian developments (there) has been a further bifurcation between man and the world, between the humanities and the natural sciences; to the point where the soul has been taken out of the world and confined to man.
James Hillman, has spent the past 30 years bemoaning this occurrence, urging us to regard the world itself as well as our own productions in art, language, and science as filled with soul and spirit. We have boxed ourselves into such a corner that the psyche is confined to ourselves and our relationships, and we are no longer as capable as previous generations of sensing the great depth and soul in the world at large.
Indeed, our generation is one in which to be deep means to turn inward toward the self, and to be involved in such matters as politics, science or the natural world is deemed psychologically uninteresting. Many of the most creative minds of our own generation have spent the better part of their lives in self absorption on the analytic couch or in other primarily psychological activities. As such, we are in a position that is in some ways analogous to that of God before creation: we are narcissistically preoccupied and unable to get ourselves out of the way so that we may genuinely encounter an ensouled world.
Perhaps another human act of contraction or tzimtzum is necessary at this stage to recognize that the hermeneutic categories which we have eagerly applied in psychoanalysis to ourselves are relevant to the world at large, and that there is as much psyche and depth in that world as there is within our own souls.
When patients take a genuinely deep and abiding interest in the world around them and turn away from their own inner preoccupations I consider this a most hopeful sign. While such an interest can, on occasion, be a sign of resistance, it is very frequently also a sign that the patient has contracted himself, that, he has gotten himself out of the way to such an extent that he has permitted a world to emerge outside the confines of his own psyche.
Achieving this might be considered a wonderful act of imitatio dei, and when it occurs the Kabbalists would find it as a warrant for the assertion that man was created in the image of God.
This human being is a guest house,
every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty
of its furniture....
The dark thought, the shame, the
malice, meet them at the door
laughing... be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. Rumi
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