Church and Monastic Life in the LIght of New Science and the New Technology

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Bede Griffiths begins with chanting.

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Perhaps we could begin with a chant of the familiar one, from the unreal lead me to the
real, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to immortality.
Om asato mahasat gamaya, tamaso madhukir gamaya, vrittor ma amritam gamaya, om shanti
shanti shanti shanti.
So we come today to consider this church in the light of the new science, the new theology,
and I would remind you that for a thousand years, from 500 AD to 1500, we were thinking
of it yesterday, the perennial philosophy prevailed throughout the civilized world.
In China, in India, the Muslim world, Christian Europe, there was a perennial philosophy, an
understanding of the whole cosmos, of man's place in the cosmos, and ultimate reality,
which took different shapes, different forms, and a different culture, but had this basic
unity, and it's that unity which was shattered at the renaissance and from which we're suffering
at the present moment, and we're trying to recover that original unity.
And of course the perennial philosophy stems from a much more ancient tradition, goes back
right at the beginning of humanity, where this wisdom, this understanding of the universe,
was expressed in the form of mythology, and today we recognize the myth, you see, as symbolic
language, and for thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of years, man
expressed himself through the myth, through symbols, and these all have a profound meaning.
We're discovering today that all the tribal peoples, the Australian aborigines, the American
Indians, the tribal people in Africa and Asia, all have this symbolic theology, you could
call it, your mythology, in which the cosmos and man and the supreme reality which enfolds
the cosmos and man, were all recognized, and people lived in the context of that mythology
and that understanding.
And then, roughly from 500 BC, with the Upanishads, Greek philosophy, we get the rational understanding
begins to emerge, and the myth is subjected to rational analysis and so on, and so you
get that meeting of the mythical, intuitive imagination and the rational mind, and that
brings forth this perennial philosophy, begins to develop into a philosophical language in
China, in India, in Islam, and in Christian Europe.
And that prevailed, as I say, for at least a thousand years, two thousand years if you
take it from the beginning, and a thousand years of a comprehensive philosophy.
And then, at the Renaissance, this perennial philosophy began to fade away, for various
reasons, there was a decline in many of these cultures, but when you go, as I did yesterday,
you know, to the Oriental Museum in Kansas, you all get, once again, you're back in that
world of the perennial philosophy.
Every sculpture and every painting, every work of art there, is a product of this vision
of the universe, which we've lost, and you feel you're returning to this vision of reality.
And but, as I say, at the Renaissance, that was lost for various reasons.
The chief reason, I think, was that actually this kind of rational philosophy goes back
to Socrates and the Greeks.
Socrates was always asking, what is justice?
Analyze it.
Tell me what it is.
What is virtue?
What is goodness?
And so on.
And that set in motion this train of rational, linear thought, as they call it, as distinguished
from the mythological, symbolic thought.
And that went on as a kind of undercurrent in Europe all through the Middle Ages, particularly
with the discovery of Aristotle in the 12th century.
That kind of rational, scientific thinking began to take hold.
And from that time onwards, it grew more and more, until it broke out at the Renaissance.
It was a return to the Greek modes of thought, and the deeper intuitions of the perennial
philosophy faded away.
And gradually, this new scientific view of the universe took hold.
And what is happening today is that that scientific model of the universe, which started in the
17th century and continued into our century, has broken down.
And we're now emerging into a new age, when we're rediscovering the perennial philosophy.
The story of it, roughly, and here I base myself entirely on the work of Frithjof Capra.
Many others have written now on this subject, but you probably know his Tarot of Physics,
where he describes this breakthrough in physics, which has demolished the old vision of the
universe and opened up a new.
And then his very important book, The Turning Point, I think not so many know it, where
he shows how this new vision of the universe is affecting not only physics, but biology,
psychology, medicine, very importantly, and economics.
And he says we're undergoing a paradigm shift from the mechanistic, materialistic model of
the universe.
We're moving into an organic model of the universe, where everything is interrelated,
where mind and matter are no longer separate, but are interdependent.
And we're living in this world of interdependent relationships.
And this is going to change our whole way of life.
Present civilization, which we're living, is a product of this mechanistic, materialistic
And the new age is coming into being, which will be molded by this organic vision of the
So that is where we're situated today.
Now, just to recall the stages, it's probably well known to most of you, but maybe worthwhile.
The breakup began in the 16th century with Descartes.
And he divided the universe into matter and mind.
And matter was, he called, reis extensa, extended reality, do you see?
And mind was reis cogitans, a thinking reality.
And they were quite separate.
He thought, actually, they united at the pineal gland, was the point when the mind made contact
with the body.
But they're two separate realities.
And so the view grew up that we live in a separate material universe, which is quite
separate from us.
And the human mind simply observes this extended universe around us.
And now that was further, and that material universe obeys mathematical laws.
Descartes was primarily a mathematician, and he believed that you could explain the whole
universe in terms of mathematical law.
And the next element in this change was Francis Bacon.
And he developed the idea that this universe is a mechanism which we can learn to understand
and control.
And we can control it for our own benefit.
And all modern technology stems from that idea.
We can gain control over matter and the universe outside us and mold it to our own aims and
And of course, this had a wonderful success in a certain way.
And then another element in it was Galileo insisted that the only way of scientific knowledge
is knowledge which is quantitative, which can be measured.
So all these, an extended substance outside you, a mathematical law, a system which can
be manipulated and controlled, and the quantification, you see, that it's entirely measurable.
Now, all this, you see, is very positive in one way, and it's had a most marvellous effect.
It's changed the world.
And we must deny its positive values.
In fact, it may be interesting to note, you know, Sri Aurobindo, in his great work The
Life Divine, his first chapter was on the materialist denial.
And he says how by denying the spiritual world, the Western world has explored the material
world in a way it has never been done before.
You see, and we have a knowledge now which no other people have ever had.
So there is something positive.
And his second chapter is the ascetic denial, that the East did the opposite.
The East denied matter, concentrated on the spiritual world.
So one is balancing the other, and today we're trying to integrate the two.
So that was the model of the universe which emerged and which Newton perfected.
Newton showed how this mechanical universe was constructed and its laws.
And that model which Newton gave in the 17th century continued for the next two centuries.
We were all brought up, really, in this Newtonian model of the universe.
But there was a great difference, that Descartes was a Catholic and believed in God and brought
God into his philosophy, and Newton was a very interesting Christian theologian.
Not very orthodox, but extremely interesting.
And he studied many, he studied magic as well, you know, and the occult, whole volumes apparently
which didn't, well, published I think, which have been discovered where he is exploring
all these different realms.
But Newton believed that God was in charge of this mechanical universe, you see.
But the next century, the 18th century, we had to question that.
And Laplace, I think it was, said, in regard to God, we have no need of that hypothesis.
We can explain the universe without God.
So God was eliminated, and then a study of the human being, the human organism, more
and more seemed to be explained by physical and biological laws, and it was felt we could
do without the soul.
And so God and the soul were removed, and the whole universe was conceived in terms
of matter obeying mechanical laws.
That was the situation reached at the beginning of this century.
And then the great change took place.
And the basis of the previous view was that this universe could ultimately reduce to atoms,
and the atoms were particles obeying definite laws which could be known, and once you've
got to know all the atoms, all the particles, all the laws they obeyed, you could explain
the whole universe.
And then came the crisis in 1930, I think it was, with Niels Bohr and Heisenberg, where
the atom was split and they began to explore these subatomic particles and found they did
not obey these mechanical laws.
And it was a terrible crisis, they went through agonies, the whole science seemed to be collapsing.
But they had to face it, and eventually it broke through, that when you come to the subatomic
particles, sometimes they appear as particles, sometimes they appear as waves.
So the whole, this extended substance outside us began to dissolve, you see, and gradually
it was realized that matter is a form of energy, and today we see matter and energy interchangeable.
So our whole vision has changed, and we see now the whole material universe as a field
of energies which are structured in a particular way, and it's a beautiful phrase which Fistop
Capra uses, that the universe is a complicated web of relations between the various parts
of a unified whole.
You cannot explain, you see, the old idea was if you could only get down to the atoms,
the building blocks, you could explain everything.
Once you understood what it was made of, you could explain everything.
But then, once the atom dissolved in that way, they discovered that you cannot explain
any part except in relation to the whole.
And this changes our whole understanding, we're living in a unified, see, a complicated, a
unified whole, and the whole influences and controls the parts.
You cannot understand any part of the universe except in relation to the whole.
And then another extremely interesting theory has been introduced by David Bohm, an English
physicist, very famous in the world of physics, but who is also a disciple of Krishnamurti.
And it's one of the very interesting points when a pure physical scientist opens himself
to Eastern wisdom, you see.
And he's developed the theory of what he calls the implicate order.
It's a fascinating theory, he says, that what we experience in this world is explicated
and unfolded, but all that is explicated was originally implicated in the beginning.
Everything was fused together in the beginning, implicated, and it gradually unfolded, you
And this gives us a marvelous vision, you see, of the whole is present in every part.
You're observing a particular explication part, but you cannot understand that part, whether
it's an atom, a molecule, or an organism, a plant, an animal, or a man, unless you relate
it to the whole.
And so you've got to go back to the implicate order, where everything is contained in its
origin, you see.
It's a fascinating idea.
And he sees its implications not only from the physical world, but also from the point
of view of consciousness, you see.
And that is the next stage, that in Descartes and others was a complete separation between
matter and mind, you see.
And the mind was simply observing.
And then Einstein, of course, showed how your understanding of the universe depended on
the observer.
You cannot leave out the observer.
The same happened with quantum physics.
They found that the mechanism which you set up changed what you observed.
So gradually it's being discovered that you cannot separate the material world from the
mind which observes it.
And now we recognize that matter and mind are interdependent.
And incidentally, you know, that was the view of Aristotle.
Descartes broke with Aristotle, but Aristotle said that the mind is the form of the body.
The soul is the form of the body.
It's the organizing principle of the body.
So in Aristotle they were united.
We are psychosomatic unities, you see, and you cannot understand the body apart from
the mind or the mind apart from the body.
So now we've come back to that vision of reality.
So that is the... the implications of that are so fascinating.
You see, if the whole is present in every part, it means the whole universe is present
in you and me.
We are microcosms.
And the particles which emerged at the first explosion of matter, twenty thousand million
years ago, whenever it was, these particles apparently were so organized that the present
universe would unfold from them, you see, and if they'd been slightly different there
would have been another universe.
And we ourselves are the product of these thousands of millions of years of evolution
of these original particles, this matter which emerged, you see.
So each one of us is a microcosm, these atoms of the universe are present in each one of
us and those atoms have been organized by life into a living system and that has been organized
by consciousness and we've emerged now into consciousness.
The universe is emerging into consciousness in each one of us, you see, is the idea.
Now that is the discovery in physics.
The next one is in biology and here I have a rather personal interest.
Rupert Sheldrake, you may know his name, wrote this book, A New Science of Life, and I have
a particular interest.
It was written in our ashram and we became great friends and he has a very, very interesting
view of the whole development, but in this book he's kept it strictly on the scientific
level as a testable hypothesis.
And what he has done is to say that the mechanistic view of biology simply cannot stand, just
as in physics they had to break through.
As you know, the typical biologist today, and it still remains true, thinks that all
life can be understood in terms of physics and chemistry.
If we could only know sufficiently, we could explain life in terms of physics and chemistry.
And of course molecular biology has had extraordinary success with all this genetic engineering and
so on, but Rupert Sheldrake shows that it simply cannot explain the phenomena of life.
And he's introduced what he calls morphogenetic fields, that you cannot explain the evolution
of the universe in terms of energy.
Energy of itself is indeterminate, it has no structure.
You must have some organizing power which structures the energy of the thing.
And this dissolves one of those great illusions, you see, that before they were saying in biology
that the whole evolution of the universe is due to chance.
Monod, the French biologist, wrote a book explaining the whole universe in terms of
chance and necessity.
These chance mutations bring about changes and they obey certain laws and the whole universe
can be explained in those terms.
But Rupert Sheldrake shows that chance cannot explain, even the concept of chance is very
It cannot be explained in those terms.
You have to recognize an organizing power in nature.
Why do the subatomic particles organize themselves into a nucleus and electrons to form an atom?
Why do atoms organize themselves in very complex structures into molecules?
Why do the molecules organize themselves in still more complex structures into cells,
living cells, you see?
And why do the living cells organize themselves to form a total organism, a plant or an animal?
And then how is it that this living organism organizes itself in such a way as to evolve
into consciousness, you see?
To say this is all chance is ludicrous, really, you see.
There is an organizing power which structures the universe and it works at the subatomic
level, at the atomic, at the molecular, and at the level of the living cell and the organism.
And that organizing power becomes conscious in us.
We are bodies following the laws of the whole of this atomic molecular world.
But at the same time, this world has emerged into consciousness and we can observe now
ourselves and this whole world around us and bring it up into our consciousness.
And so the whole world of biology opens on the world of consciousness.
And the next stage is in psychology.
Here Ken Wilber is the person I rely on most.
His two books, The Spectrum of Consciousness and The Ackman Project, which is the most
fascinating, really.
And he is an orthodox psychologist and he bases himself on Freud, on Jung, and particularly
on Maslow, as David mentioned, with sort of humanistic psychology, all the different schools
of Western psychology, but he shows how we have to go beyond those.
And this transpersonal psychology, which has been developed at SNM in California, takes
us beyond normal human consciousness and the ego-consciousness into the transcendent,
transpersonal consciousness.
And so the whole, instead of where the behaviorists were trying to explain all human consciousness
in terms of the physical organism, we now see the physical organism opens into this
psychological organism and that now can be transcended.
We can go beyond our present psychology, our present mode of consciousness, and open onto
higher levels of consciousness, and that is the point when modern psychology opens itself
to Eastern psychology and Eastern mysticism.
And Ken Wilber has traced the whole course, it's fascinating, from the elementary particles
and the organism, through all the stages of consciousness, to the transpersonal, the transcendent
And what they discover now, you see, is that our present mode of consciousness, what Aurobindo
calls the mental consciousness, is a limited mode of consciousness and never gives us an
adequate view of the universe.
As long as we remain on the mental level, we cannot understand the universe, because the
mental level is always dualistic.
Everything is in terms of dualities, of subject and object, of mind and matter, conscious and
unconscious, time and space.
Everything is limited by this mode of consciousness.
What we are experiencing is not reality itself, but reality reflected in our body, our senses,
our imagination, our conceptual apparatus, you see.
It's always limited and always conditioned, and we have to go beyond this conditioned
And Wilber traces these further stages of consciousness, and he used the language of
theosophy, I think it is really, of a gross world, gross senses and the gross mind, the
subtle body, the subtle senses and the subtle mind, and the causal body, the causal and
the causal mind.
And we are living in the gross world and our whole mental consciousness is concerned with
all these gross realities, you see, of the gross senses.
But there is a subtle world, a subtle mind, what I call the psychic world, you see.
And I thought you might be interested, I made a list of some of the aspects of this psychic
You see, when we get beyond the mental consciousness, and as I said yesterday, sometimes you can
do it by drugs, you break down your present mental consciousness, and the whole world
of the unconscious, with all these psychic energies in it, comes into play.
And the various samples of this parapsychology, you get dreams are the first thing, you see.
Every night when we go to sleep, we dream and we enter into that psychic world.
And I'm not good at it, I'm afraid, but some people have wonderful dreams and they say
you can't learn to control your dreams, you must watch them every day and they form a kind
of sequence and your whole unconscious comes to light through observing your dreams.
As we know, for Freud and for Jung, the exploration of the dream was one of the principal methods
of exploring the unconscious.
And then, once you enter that psychic world of dreams where time and space are no longer
as they are here, and causality doesn't work in the same way, then you begin to discover
these parapsychological paths, precognition, how you know something is going to happen before
it happens.
And all these things have now been definitely categorized, we know that these things come.
You can experience your past lives, you can go into your unconscious, you can experience
your what Stan Grove calls the perinatal consciousness, when you, around the time of your birth, in
the womb, at the moment of birth and immediately afterwards, the human being is fully conscious
at that stage, but not in a rational consciousness obviously, but in this deep consciousness,
and it remains in you, and you can rediscover these experiences at the moment of birth.
And they say you can go beyond your own birth to other lives, which I suggest is simply going
into the unconscious of mankind, we all have the unconscious in ourselves, and we can go
deep into that and discover the past, you see, how it's mediated to us.
So you can go into this, the past, in that way.
So the unconscious, actually you see within our unconscious is our personal unconscious,
then the racial unconscious, the whole human unconscious, and then the animal, the plant,
right there to the first particle, all that is within our consciousness, you see.
As Aristotle said, you know, he had the most wonderful insights, the human soul is
quodamodo omnia, in Latin, is in a sense all things, everything is present in the soul,
you see, as I said we're a microcosm, the whole universe is in us, as the Upanishads
again and again say, within this heart, within this centre of the lotus is the moon and the
stars and the sun and everything else, it's all within us, you see, so that is the meaning of that.
Then there is all these phenomena of astral travel, people can appear at a distance, I've
known quite ordinary people who have that capacity to turn up in Spain or in France
or somewhere and visit people in this kind of astral travel, and then telekinesis, the
movement of things in the poltergeist phenomena, you know furniture begins to move about and
things spin through the air and so on, these are well-authenticated phenomena, and telepathy
where you know something taking place at a distance, a mother very often knows the moment
when her son is killed, thousands of miles away it may be, telepathy, and this is an
important point, you know, that this psychic knowledge was far more common among ancient
people, we've rather lost it, why? Because, you see, from the early age of four or five
we develop our rational consciousness, and the more you develop that the more the psychic
intuitive subliminal consciousness is suppressed and only comes up in dreams, but in the ancient
world you were open to this psychic world from infancy and therefore they had this awareness
of all these phenomena, and this is where the whole subject comes of ghosts and spirits and elves and
fairies and gods and angels, see all these are phenomena of the unconscious or of the subconscious
you see, and the ancient world they were much more aware of all these psychic forces around us,
they're all psychic energies, you see, in which we're involved, and they're not illusions, there
were fairies, there were elves, and even today people can see them, and say still more obviously
gods and angels, they're structured according to the different culture and symbolism, but they all
manifest psychic forces which are working in all of us, you can ignore them as much as you like,
but you are being influenced by these angels and demons, you see, the whole Christian tradition,
fathers of the desert were always caught with these devils which were assaulting them all the time,
I remember one story of two young men who came to meditate to a guru, a spiritual father,
and he went to them after a fortnight or so, and one was sitting in meditation and he was absolutely
pure, you could see he was radiant with angelic light, and the other one, a lot of little devils
were still attacking him from various points, so he knew one had got beyond the other,
was still under temptation, he saw the little devils, but that is simply as a psychic
consciousness, some people today, I knew a lady years ago, she had this fully, and she saw all
these elves, and fairies, and centaurs, and all sorts of things, we were going through a forest,
and she was seeing all these things, so that consciousness is there, but it's buried in most
of us, but among ancient people that was normal, so these are all the phenomena of the psychic
world, you see, and as I said, it's a dangerous world, you can get into it by drugs, and by yoga,
by other methods, but if you're not purified when you enter that world, it's got good and evil
forces, you see, positive and negative forces, and you're exposing yourself to forces which you can't
control, that's why it's extremely dangerous, and magic, you see, is a power, you get yourself into
the power of these forces, and you manipulate them, but they manipulate you, that is why it's so
dangerous, you see, the magician is always a person who is under the power of these spirits,
whereas the saint is a person who has power over the spirits, you see, but the magician is under
their control, and of course, if you do it without purification, you see, many mental cases are
simply cases of people whose unconscious are opened up, and they cannot control it, sometimes
they can be quite sane, but other times, the psychic forces take possession, and they have
wonderful visions, you know, one of non-duality, and that is the great discovery, really, it's
fundamental in Hinduism and Buddhism, and we're beginning now to discover how it's really
fundamental in Christianity, how the Trinity itself is a non-dual reality, and that, I feel, is one of
the... what we have to realize. Ken Wilber develops that very, very interesting from a Hindu and a
Buddhist point of view, he hardly touches on the Christian point of view, and that, I feel, is
exactly what we have to do, to try to restructure our understanding of God and creation in the light
of this non-dual reality, you see. They all say, in all mystical states, whether Hindu or Buddhist or
Christian or Muslim, you always go beyond the dualities, you experience the one reality, but
most of these doctrines recognize that within that non-dual reality, all this dual reality
is contained, you don't just lose it, and this is one of the points Ken Wilber brings out so well,
that at each stage, you transcend the previous stage, you separate from it, you go beyond it,
and then you integrate it. You see, the molecule goes beyond the atom, but it integrates the atom
into its system. The living cell goes beyond the molecule, but it integrates the molecules.
The organism goes beyond the particular cells, but integrates them as a whole. And then the mental
consciousness goes beyond the physical consciousness, but has to integrate it. And what we often do is
to fail to integrate. You see, if you develop your mental consciousness and don't integrate your body
consciousness and the others, then you get a split. Schizophrenia is when the mental consciousness
is developed and the other has split off from it. And that is why human integration is integrating,
you see, the whole of our subconscious, all this psychic world, into our conscious, into the
inner spirit. And so, finally, you see, when you go beyond the mind and beyond the psychic world
of a non-dual reality, you integrate the whole, the whole of creation, the whole of humanity,
and all the differences in the world and in creation are present in that non-dual reality,
which is God, or rather is the Godhead, the ultimate truth, you see. So the whole creation
is contained in that one. So I would think, you see, here is a new science, new philosophy,
and it's open totally to religious understanding and to Christian understanding.
And my suggestion is that the task of Christian theology in the next thousand years, perhaps,
certainly the next hundred years, is to integrate this new vision of reality, as Capra calls it,
into our theology. And it's really ready-made for it, you see, whereas the old materialistic system
was a barrier the whole time and science and religion were seen as opposite.
Now science is opening itself up to the whole religious vision and particularly to the Christian
vision, because our Christian vision of incarnation is God entering into this whole complex reality
of matter, of life, of mind. And Jesus appears as a Jew of the first century with a particular
physical organism derived from his mother, a particular psychological organism derived from
Semitic culture, the world in which he lived, and all the language he uses is the language of that
culture. For instance, yesterday we read in the Gospel, Isaiah unto Elisha, sit on twelve thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel. What does that mean, you see? It's the symbolic language
of Jewish apocalypse, and Jesus is using that symbolic language, and we have to interpret it,
you see. So, God enters into the whole of this complex reality and transforms it. You see,
matter is being transformed into life, life is being transformed into a present mode of
consciousness, and in Jesus, as in also in other saints, holy men, this mental consciousness is
being transformed into higher consciousness and eventually into divine consciousness. And the
whole creation is in view of matter being transformed through consciousness into the divine
satchitananda, the divine being, the divine consciousness, and the divine bliss, you see, that's
the whole goal of creation. And in Jesus we see that point where the matter was transformed and
the soul was transformed and body and soul were taken up into the divine life, you see, of resurrection.
And don't forget, you see, that all, and this is where so many misunderstandings arrive,
all this doctrine was put in terms of symbolic language. You see, we say in our creed,
he descended into hell, we used to say, we say into the dead now, but into Hades, the Sheol,
he ascended into heaven and he sits at the right hand of the Father. What does that mean? I mean,
there's no throne out in the sky with God sitting there. It's symbolic language, you see, deeply
meaningful when you explore it and interpret it. But I think most Christians just go on saying it
without realizing what's implied in it, you see, it's all in symbolic language. And that is why,
as the gospel came out of Palestine into the Greco-Roman world, the Greeks brought their
metaphysical mind to bear on all this symbolic language and put it into more metaphysical terms,
you see. But that was a great advantage, but also a limitation, because that kind of abstract
metaphysical thought is very clear, very logical, but it also leaves out so much, you see. And that
is why I say we've come to the end of that Greco-Roman phase. Our theology has followed this
way of rational, logical, linear thought and has brought us into a kind of desert of theology,
you see, where abstract concepts, which for most people have very little relevance or meaning.
And we've got to renew our theology now by going back beyond all this Greco-Roman development,
back to the source in the New Testament, and then bring in the new science and the whole
vision of the Eastern world to interpret the mystery of Christ, you see, the Christian mystery.
And I think what Father David has talked about and has come up so much, this incomprehension today,
people cannot understand the language of Christianity because it's no longer speaking
to the modern mind, you see. And once we can learn to express the meaning of Christ,
the meaning of the Gospel, in a language which is attuned to the new scientific view,
to the new philosophical view, to the whole human understanding today, then the Christian
symbols will come across again and the power of the Gospel will be manifested, you see.
So we have this task of renewal of theology and renewal of the whole Christian life.
Now that's the next thing I want to come on to. We're thinking in terms of renewal of theology
in the light of the science and in the light of Eastern thought. But the next thing is the renewal
of the structures of the Church. And I wonder if you all realize, we're all complaining about the
Church, but how totally Western is the structure of the Church, the papacy, the episcopacy,
the priesthood. They're all Western structures, you know. They're not in the New Testament.
There's no papacy in the New Testament, no episcopacy in the New Testament,
and there's no priesthood properly in the New Testament, you know. The word heros for a priest
is never used of a minister in the New Testament. The only time it is used is the people. You are
a priestly people. That's interesting. We are the priests, you see. But the ministers were presbyters,
elders, episcopy overseers, and there were a variety of ministries in the New Testament.
St. Paul mentions apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors, administrators, helpers,
all these different ministries. And they all gradually faded away, and these priests, bishops,
and the pope remained, you see. And that is from the second century onwards. It's a Greco-Roman
structure, you see. It began in the second century, the monarchical bishop, and then the papacy.
Now, the papacy is very interesting, you see. Our present system derives from the high middle age,
roughly from the 10th, 11th century, the Gregorian reform, and it was a great blessing.
And I think we must recognize the Holy Spirit was at work in all this developing this priesthood,
episcopacy, and papacy. I'm not denying that. But it was developing in a particular tradition,
in a particular context, you see. And there's no reason why that particular tradition should
continue in another context. And in the Middle Ages, it was necessary to center the church and
the papacy. There were so many abuses, you know. The kings and the emperors were getting control,
and it was through the pope that the bishops could be set free from that control.
So gradually, the centralizing on the papacy took place, and the Roman Curia came into being.
And now we're all being ruled by the pope and the Roman Curia. But that's a modern institution,
you see. And before the 10th century, that was unheard of. And on the contrary, in the 5th
century, you had five patriarchates, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome,
the chief cities of the Roman Empire. And each had its patriarch. And the patriarch was responsible
for the whole of his people. He appointed bishops. He organized everything. The pope never
interfered, normally. There was a right of appeal to the pope, which is important. But he normally
never interfered. He would never appoint a bishop in another patriarchy. It would be unheard of.
He was the patriarch of the West. He appointed bishops in the West, but the patriarch of
Constantinople appointed his own, you see, and so on. So in the 5th century, we had these five
patriarchates. And there was a certain primacy in the Bishop of Rome, there is no doubt,
and a right of appeal to him. And one can see how the medieval papacy emerged from that. It's quite
reasonable development. But now, before the 5th century, if we go back to the 2nd century,
we have an extremely interesting model of the papacy of the Roman Church. Saint Irenaeus,
one of the most interesting theologians, he wrote about 180 A.D., and he describes how the faith
came from the apostles through the bishops. He makes a great deal of that. But above all,
through the Church of Rome, because that was founded by the chief of the apostles, Peter and
Paul. He doesn't say only Peter. That came later, the sense that the pope is a representative of
Peter. It was Peter and Paul, the greatest of the apostles. And in that church, the true faith is
always preserved. And he has a nice phrase where he says, ad hoc ecclesiam laecessi est omnem,
I think he says, omnes Christiani convenere. To that church, it is necessary that all Christians,
I forget the exact word you use, whether it's all churches, all Christians, should convenere,
should come together. And Rome was a center, which everybody converged on Rome from all the
past, you see, and that preserved unity of the faith. And that, I think, is the function of the
papacy and the Roman Church, to be a center of unity. And many non-Roman Catholics would willingly
accept that today, that papacy as a ministry of unity, not a domination over the churches, but
a ministry to help assist the unity of the church. And I think that's meaningful.
So we have to go back behind the present structures, you see, to the earlier structures,
where the ministry of the New Testament, as I say, had all these varieties of ministry,
and where the papacy had a much different role, but a very significant and important one.
And that, to my mind, is the answer to the problem, you know, women priests. I think it's
mistaken, in a sense, at all, but women priests, because I don't think the present system of the
priesthood should continue. I think we should break out. You see, the priest has gradually
absorbed all these other ministries, and we should break them up again into various ministries,
where men and women would be working together in terms of equality. And that, I think, is happening
in many parishes in America and elsewhere, where there are not sufficient priests. You have a team,
don't you, of sisters and psychologists and social workers, and they all work together with the
priest. The priest still has the distinctively sacramental powers. But that, again, you know,
is a particular development of the sacramental system. It's not necessarily the final one.
So a whole church organization is open to restructuring, you see. And when we come to
the third world, to Asia, to Africa and South America, surely these new structures will emerge,
you see. We can't imagine that the present... And we've tried to do it, you see. We've tried to
impose the present system of papacy, episcopacy, clergy on Asia and Africa. And as I said,
one percent of Asia is Christian, and after hundreds of years, and they will not accept this
specifically Western European structure of the church, you see. And we have to be open to new
structures, of course, depending on the Holy Spirit. I say the Holy Spirit guided the church
in the West to build up these structures, but the Holy Spirit is a living spirit, always new and
adapting everything to the new situation, and that is what the church today has to do.
So we are open to these new structures. Now, what exactly would those new structures be? Well,
I feel that, as I said, the basic communities form sort of point of departure. In South America,
particularly, you had these basic communities. They're attached to the parish, and they have
good relation to the parish priests. They're approved by the bishop, but they're lay communities
organizing their own life, meditating on the Bibles, celebrating Eucharist with the priest,
and understanding their life, their whole role as Christians in the light of the Bible and the
Eucharist for the social, the economic, the whole political order, you see. There are vital centers
of new life, and I think such centers, they're growing up now in Africa, and not much, I believe,
still in Asia, but I feel that is where the future lies. And that is where I feel monastic life has a
very important place, because such communities are rather loose, and they often need a more stable
community behind them, you see. So you can have a group of monks forming a stable community,
and as I was suggesting yesterday, I would like to see a group of monks living a celibate life,
and a group of sisters living a celibate life, and around them families, and an extending circle
to those simply living the normal life, to those more closely associated with the monastery,
some perhaps actually living in the monastery or the ashram, you see. So these would be new
centers of Christian life. And now what I feel we have to do, you see, Europe and America,
we can bring to the third world the principles which the Church has evolved in all these centuries,
and I think we're needed in that way, you see. It's a kind of catalyst. By themselves, it seems,
generally, they don't develop very effectively. You see, it's a very interesting fact that
Indianization in India has been largely the work of Europeans, and many Indians object to that
very strongly. See, our founder, Father Hoshina, came from France with his vision of an Indian
Church, and lived for years in Tamil Nadu, met very little success, but planted a seed,
and that seed has grown steadily, and Indianization is spreading all over India now.
So I think we have that function, like a missionary today is one who can go out to the third world
and bring with him the monastic tradition, you see. I think there's something in the Benedictine
rule, the whole Benedictine tradition, which is of value for all mankind, you see. And they could
form these communities, and then they would act as a sort of catalyst, sort of animator, to develop
the whole region, just as the monasteries in the Middle Ages developed the whole European
civilization, you see, came from the monasteries. Little villages grew, and towns grew around them,
and so the whole thing emerged in that way. And now, all further, I feel that these monastic
communities and basic communities should be open to the New Age communities. You see, once we begin
to restructure our theology, to take note of the whole science and so on, and the whole Oriental
tradition, then we're open to the whole New Age movement, and to all the contacts with Purvodhism,
Hinduism, Sufism, and all the rest, you see. So we would gradually become what the Vatican Council
envisaged, a church open to other Christians. It can not, it can many could, you see, and the
barriers there are gradually going. Open to other religions, open to all the techniques of
meditation and so on, and the whole theology, as we're seeing of Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism,
and open also to the new world, the whole world which is emerging, which I think is the world
of this organic universe, you see. The church is still stuck with the mechanistic universe,
trying to make the best of that, but once we open ourselves to what Capra calls the paradigm shift,
we see everything in times of this organic universe, then our whole understanding of life
changes. And he is very interesting in the economic sphere, he works it out in quite detail,
and he thinks the present economic system cannot survive, you know, it's got so many imbalances and
conflicts in it, it will break down, and a new economic order, not based on materialistic
science and this manipulation of nature, you see, but an organic community living in organic
relationship with the universe around, the whole principle of ecology, you see, is fundamental to
this. And that is very monastic, you see, and a monastery should be in harmony with its surroundings,
and the agriculture will be, as Schubert would suggest, you see, not imposing advanced technology
on the villages of India and China and Africa, but developing the local technology in a more
scientific way, and so building up small communities, small farms, small industries. And he thinks it
will all be decentralized, and that the future lies with solar power. Nuclear power, he regards,
is a disaster in every way. It's got all the worst characteristics of the present mechanistic system,
and could be a disaster for humanity. But solar power can be distributed as widely as you like,
and you can have a decentralized economy, and he feels that we could futurelize in that way.
So that suggests, you see, how we could think of the church of the future, its kind of vision
of a future. But I think it's based on fairly solid ground, and perhaps we can all reflect
on that, because it's, I admit, we're only right at the beginning. Even our small ashrams,
small communities have to struggle to insert themselves in the present system, and the present
system is extremely strong, gets stronger every day in some ways. But the future does not lie
with the great powers and the great big structures. Jesus came, a little born in Bethlehem, living in
a little village of Nazareth, just sharing himself with the small groups in Palestine like that,
but he inserted something into the world. A small community, you see, in Jerusalem, grew up,
aspired by the Holy Spirit, and then it spread through the Roman Empire, and that power is still
in the world, and these small communities really living the gospel, living in Christ, living by the
power of the Holy Spirit, can be centers of energy of a new culture, just as the monasteries in the
new culture, and that is what I hope for the Church and for the monastic life in the future.
That is what I hope for the Church and for the monastic life in the future.
Thank you.