The Emerging Gospel: Christianity As New Creation: The Dance

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The Emerging Gospel: Christianity As New Creation

IV: The Dance

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Let me recall and return to the general picture for a moment.
We've been talking about these four phases or four dimensions, especially of the Christ
mystery, but really somehow of all reality, including the human person.
And there are four expressions in Christ, there are four expressions of the unitive.
We spoke of this reality up here, the reality that is experienced, for instance, in contemplation
as being simply the pure unitive, where all things come together, the hub of the wheel
as it were, the source, the root, the ground of all being, paradoxically it's on top here,
which is God, and which we call Father in Christianity.
And then we spoke of the word in Jesus, but the word is the unitive word, out of this
word all things came, out of the word everything was created, and somehow everything remains
in the word, everything remains rooted in the word and somehow enclosed, embraced by the
And that's in one way, which is hard for us to describe in words, but it has something
to do with truth, it has something to do with meaning, it has something to do also with
Whereas on the other side, on the spirit, that's another expression of the unitive,
which is the world of movement, the world of energy, the world of light, and also the
world of the feminine, those two compare as masculine and feminine.
And the fact that Jesus is a man, is a masculine human being, is the expression of that, the
key to that, which we really haven't sufficiently gone into in Christianity.
But it calls for another expression of divinity, it calls for the feminine expression of divinity,
the feminine image of God, which maybe is not completely an image, which maybe is more
material, and that's why it's so mysterious, that's why it tends to be neglected and
eclipsed and forgotten so much.
But that's another expression of the unitive.
In Jesus we find the word that comes to us, the word of life, as John says, that we see,
that we listen to, that in some way we touch with our hands, that's a very real human
person for us in the Gospels, and gradually becomes real for us in our own life, even
though remote in history.
But over here we have something else, it's something that we don't touch, and we don't
see, and we don't hear directly.
But remember in that first prologue of John's letter, that he goes on, he says, the word
of life, and we tell you this so that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship,
our koinonia, that's the Greek word, is with Jesus Christ and with the Father.
Now that koinonia is practically speaking the Holy Spirit, that communion is the Holy
Spirit, is this other member.
So what we have seen and heard and touched disappears so that we might have fellowship.
And the fellowship is God, the fellowship is the Spirit.
The fellowship, the communion, is the feminine expression, you might say, of this unitive
In the Catholic Church at the time of Vatican II, if we move from a single image of the
Church, the institutional image, the institutional model, as Avery Dillard says, to several models,
but largely to this model of communion, the Church as communion, it's a movement from
a kind of masculine box, or the box of two, the box of the word, the structure, to a balance
in which it's both structure and communion.
It's both particle and wave.
It's both solid and it's energy.
It's partly a matter of images and thoughts in our mind, but also it's something that
moves right into our life, something we participate in.
And it has to do with the enlivening of our whole being in some way, with the awakening
of those dimensions, and particularly here, those energies, those unitive energies in
So this is the third expression of the unitive, the Holy Spirit within us.
And the unitive character of that is very evident in the New Testament.
Just think, once again, of the Acts of the Apostles in Pentecost Day, and those tongues
of flame, and the Apostles suddenly speaking in all those different languages, that plurality
which just tumbles out of this one fire, of this one fire of the Spirit.
And it's immediately manifested itself in diversity, the Spirit, that's the marvelous
thing about it.
It's fruitfulness, it's fecundity, it's naturally music, it's naturally a music of variations,
a music of infinite imagination.
So imagination also belongs over here, we said, and metaphor.
Modern poetry is particularly fruitful on that side.
In fact, something happens in the modern age, when you talk about modernism in art and poetry,
it means a lot of different things, but there's something very strange and different that
happens in poetry, for instance, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Because up until then you had a pretty rational type of poetry, in the 19th century especially.
It could be romantic, it could be very emotional, but it was still very, what would you call
it, pretty clear, and still operating very much out of the conscious mind.
And then all of a sudden that explodes and you get this weird poetry, which seems to
specialize in obscurity, its language seems to be mystery.
It's very language, it's like the bread has turned to stones in some way it seems.
The language has itself turned to obscurity, has itself turned to mystery, as if the difficulty
of it were the very language itself, as if you had to chew on these stones of obscurity
and of difficulty in order to get the nourishment, in order to eat the bread.
Now, what the heck is going on?
The same thing tends to happen in painting, I believe, in art, where it turns from representative
to non-representative, from representative or clear to what we commonly call abstract,
but at least non-representational.
What's going on there?
Something has broken, a shell has broken, and it's like the shell of obviousness, or
the shell of reference, or the shell of allegory, the shell of an exact, rational correspondence
to something else.
And something's breaking free, and it's very disconcerting, very distressing at first,
and after a while you get the hang of it, you sort of like it, and after a while you can't
even look at the old art, you can't even listen to the old poetry anymore, because this
thing is so exciting.
And what's happening?
It's resonating with something inside you, it's resonating with this freedom and this
free creativity of the human person, this wild creativity of the human person which
is inside of us, and which is God's gift to us in the spirit, meant to recreate the world
in some way.
So we're beginning to taste once again the freshness of that recreation, something absolutely
fresh, something absolutely new, that movement of metaphor in this wild poetry.
That's somehow theological.
In other words, what's happening is the breaking through our container, the breaking through
our container of consciousness over here, this box we were talking about, opening up
to all these different dimensions.
And as a matter of fact, the new poetry, for instance, in the 20th century goes in each
of these directions.
You find poets like Zen poets going right up here, into that kind of clear, empty consciousness.
And you find modern poetry in general moving over here, in other words, preferring dynamism
to structure, just the breaking up of all the old rhyme schemes and all the old stanza schemes
and all the conventional forms of poetry into something wild, where you're trying, you spend
a lot of your time trying to discern what is the form, what is the shape of this thing?
And then, is there a meaning in it?
William Carlos Williams is a good example, we had him in our seminar a little while ago,
and he seems deliberately to avoid all the cracks in the sidewalk, he deliberately tries
to avoid any kind of regularity, and to create some kind of new regularity which corresponds
to human speech, so to think.
But the absolute, what would you call it, absolute horror of the old regularities and
the old conventions, to break out and somehow express the pure, what would you call it,
the pure movement, the pure energy of whatever this is that's in us, and whatever it is actually
that we intuit happening in the world, because when we detect this in us, we're just participating
in something bigger, call it the zeitgeist or whatever you want to call it, call it the
movement of the Holy Spirit in the world today.
But the Holy Spirit is wrestling free, it's breaking out of that box, it's not happy in
that box, it's been like a bird in a cage, and the cage is breaking open now in all directions,
and we can picture that cage, that box breaking open in these three directions.
So modern poetry very much goes over here, practically all of it, I think.
And then there's one more dimension which is, in a sense, is the most mysterious of all.
This dimension of the earth, of the body, I find it the most difficult to deal with.
If we use those four words from our four phases, the silence, the word, the music and the dance,
I find the last almost comic in my own regard, because dance would be the most alien thing
to me, I think impossible, I've always lived in my head.
The only way that I could possibly dance was by some kind of mortal injury, if the hand
grenade exploded underneath me.
But that just illustrates how far we can get from that final point.
Which is not just my problem, it's in some sense the problem of everybody, because what
we're talking about is not just the body, okay, it's also the earth.
So today you have this reawakening of a sense of the cosmos, you have a reawakening of a
sense of the earth, the urgency of ecology, of environmental concern, when our planet
is shrinking around us.
We're brought back somehow to the ground in that sense, and when the religions try to
get together, for instance, immediately they have to talk about ecology, immediately they
have to talk about the shrinking planet and the earth, because that's the ground on which
we stand, and that ground suddenly has become precarious.
The ground is shrinking, the ground is of questionable health at this point.
So we have a consciousness of the earth in that way too, but think about the other things.
Think about spirituality and the way the body wisdoms come into play, especially from the
East, but not only from the East.
I mean, California is full of this kind of thing.
I remember seeing this catalogue of different therapies and things from the Bay Area, it
was that thick, and there were literally hundreds if not thousands of different ways you could
be rubbed, and your vibrations could be stimulated, and your kundalini and everything.
So much of it has to do with the body.
The wisdom of the body, which had been totally lost in the West, is coming back, is leaking
in from all sides, but especially from the East, especially from the Asian traditions,
which have a body wisdom and an energy wisdom.
They have a wisdom of the energy and of the body, as well as this wisdom of fear.
It's incredible, the kind of plurality of wisdoms that come from the East.
The wisdom of the pure unity, the wisdom of Atman and Brahman, the wisdom of Shunyata,
the emptiness of Buddhism, that pure non-dual reality, but also the wisdom of energy.
We can joke about kundalini, but it's a real thing.
The chi of Taoism, and the pranayama of Hinduism, and the shakti of Hinduism, and so on.
Each of those Asian traditions has its own energy wisdom, but try to find one in Christianity.
You don't find one.
We talk about the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit always remains, as it were, spirit,
and somehow we haven't realized its, what would you call it, incarnational manifestations.
We haven't realized how it comes down here somehow.
Of course, in Eastern Orthodoxy, you do find something like that, especially in Ezekielism,
and yet it never arrived at the refinements which you find in the Asian traditions.
But I think there's a reason for that in Christianity.
You see, Jesus didn't come to bring everything.
He doesn't bring everything.
He comes and incarnates himself.
The Word incarnates itself, the Spirit incarnates itself, and so it absorbs from everything
else in the world, including the other religions.
Not only the philosophies and cultures, but also the religious traditions.
There's no problem with that in Christianity, as long as the center can remain Christ, as
long as we realize clearly that personal relationship with Christ, and the way that
it orients us towards God.
And then it's this infinitely simple wisdom of God that comes into the world in Jesus,
and can somehow, I think, absorb every other wisdom.
But it has to remain somehow upright, it has to remain with that same, what would you call
it, that same fierce concern for fidelity to the central thing that Judaism has, and
that early Christianity has, and you see it in the martyrs.
You can't let go of that.
But if you hang on to that, then that's the seed that can go into the ground and sort of
fill all of reality, and transform all of reality, including the cultures and maybe
even the religious traditions.
Certainly the practices of the religious traditions.
But it's important, for instance, when people do meditation, when they do silent meditation,
and so on, they keep it in a faith context, that this keeps its connection with this,
that this keeps its connection with this, and that prayer is also a part of their life,
the prayer of the heart, that movement of energy, and of the soul, and of the spirit
towards God, that that remains part of their life too.
Otherwise they can also form a box around this, people who do that psychologically,
people who meditate and meditate and meditate, and make a kind of, what would you call it,
a kind of sanctuary of meditation, which enables them to shut out everything else.
And they find a kind of freedom there, a kind of repose, but also I think they get
into a kind of refrigerator, humanly speaking, and a kind of North Pole, theologically speaking.
Because there isn't enough there.
They need the whole thing.
And the Christ mystery offers the whole thing.
So this morning I want to talk about this last pole, the Earth Pole.
And what I'm going to say will be a little bit impressionistic,
because it's very simple and very difficult at the same time.
It's almost as if we only have glimpses, we only have hints.
And we don't know how to put them together, and it's best that we don't.
Because somehow we're only at the beginning of this.
There are a lot of things that come together at this last pole.
I said the cosmos, the earth, the body.
There's something else too, and that's social justice.
If we talk about the earth, we have to talk about the people of the earth.
And it's as if our discourse is always flying somehow, it's always a paper airplane,
until we ground it in this fact of oppression and suffering,
and what we talk about under the title of social justice.
You have to think about where we are in the United States,
where we are in California, where we are, let's say, in the middle class.
And then look over the fence into Latin America,
into Central America, into Guatemala and so on.
And that's the other side of our world, that's the underside of our world.
It's not only our backyard, but it's our earth, it's our ground.
And those are the people of our earth.
That's part of us, and we don't realize it.
That's the shadowed, forgotten, exploited, oppressed part of ourselves.
Which is, to put it in a self-centered way,
what I'm trying to accent is the fact that we're never quite in touch with reality
until we integrate that in some way, until we're really in touch with that ground.
I wanted to read you a couple of things that have to do with that.
Our spirituality remains a kind of hobby
until, in some way, it grounds itself in that reality.
Just as it was always said in the New Testament
that your Christianity isn't real until somehow it turns into action.
Until the word that you have heard turns into action.
Because action is also there, you see.
The whole thing involves some kind of physical response,
some kind of bodily response.
Which, in early Christianity, was what?
Feeding the poor.
It was washing the feet of the poor, and then the guests, and so on.
It was simply those corporal works of mercy.
Which, in those days, were in a local scene, weren't they?
It was in your own local church.
But nowadays, the local church is the world, in that sense.
So we have to have another kind, another range of consciousness
about these same realities, and simply expand it to that level.
Because we're all... It's like we're all in one room today.
Because we know about Somalia, or we know about Cambodia,
that means it's part of our world, part of our responsibility now.
Which is, at the same time, a very heavy weight,
and something exhilarating.
Because somehow the whole thing, we're in touch with the whole thing now.
It's as if the earth, the world, humanity,
enters into this phase where all the cards are out on the table.
And it's up to us somehow to move ahead with it.
It's all there, and because it's all there,
we can find Christ somehow, and Christianity,
and the Gospel, in its freedom, in its totality.
Because this is the world in which it was meant to function.
This is the world in which the whole world, the whole of humanity,
is where the Gospel and the Holy Spirit came to operate.
So until that's our sphere, we're always operating within walls.
When we're in that whole world, that whole planet, that whole of humanity,
then Christianity can fly.
Then the Spirit can really move, the Spirit can really burn.
That's the kind of theology they had in the early days in Christianity,
where they saw the whole of the earth, the whole of the world,
the whole of humanity, and the whole of the cosmos centered in Christ.
That's what you find in Paul and in John.
But then Christianity begins to be itself once again.
It's not a question of one Christian denomination,
or defining it against another.
Because when we start doing that stuff,
we lose the, as I say, we put the ceiling between us and the sky,
and we lose the earth, too.
We build a house, we elevate it above the earth,
we close it in on all sides,
and it's no longer a recognizable Gospel,
no longer a recognizable Christianity.
We've moved back in some way into the law.
We've moved back completely into that box of the second principle.
We were talking about music yesterday,
and there's something you might call a Gospel music,
which happens when the Gospel is...
When Jesus comes into the world and starts breaking down walls,
this music is what happens when a wall collapses.
The music is what happens when suddenly
the limitation, the confinement, is broken down,
and the whole space is opened up.
And there's a kind of a flash of energy
that happens from the center, from Jesus at that point.
Now, this happens in one way when Jesus heals somebody.
When he heals somebody,
notice that the body itself is participating.
In other words, the dance is happening,
because the music has got all the way into the flesh,
it's got all the way into the earth, all the way into the ground.
This music of the Gospel sounds
in the breaking out of confinement into un-confinement.
Now, that may be the breaking out of the Jewish container
to the Gentiles.
Then you hear the music
when Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman, and so on.
Or it may be between Jesus and the sinners.
Remember the banquet of Levi
when Jesus converts Levi and Matthew,
and then they have a dinner for him,
and all these no-good people are there.
Remember the sinners of all kinds,
and the publicans, and it's a mess.
And the Pharisees complain,
why does your master eat with sinners?
And Jesus says, I haven't come for the righteous, but for sinners.
The physician doesn't come to those who are well,
but to those who are sick.
I came for them, I'm here for them.
You hear that music.
That music is when the wall is broken,
when the wall opens,
and suddenly the thing resounds,
and you realize that unlimited expanse of what's happening.
That unlimited expanse of the Spirit.
The unlimited range, as it were,
of the light that comes in Christ.
That's when you feel the exaltation of Christianity.
But what I wanted to point out today
is that that gospel music sounds particularly
when it goes into the body.
That's why the healings are so effective, I think, in Jesus.
Why that energy flashes out.
Why you can hear that music in these healings.
When Jesus says to Lazarus,
come out, Lazarus, and he comes walking out of the tomb.
See, somehow,
that's when the gospel ultimately vindicates itself.
When the music is real,
is when it can raise the dead.
When the music is real,
is when it can go right down to the bottom
and pick up that which is hopeless.
Go right all the way
to the extreme, to the bottom, to the end.
Now for us, that's the body, that's matter.
For us, that's illness,
and ultimately it's death.
So the final music is the music of the resurrection.
When that spirit of God,
that power, that energy of God
comes down all the way,
scoops down all the way
and picks up absolutely everything there is.
Including that which is completely
extinguished and hopeless.
And of course, that's in us, too,
because we're living that, we're dying that.
That's when the music is real.
And that's what I mean by the dance.
So the dance is only ultimately
in the resurrection,
when the whole thing is brought back to life.
And that's the particular thing
about Christianity.
It begins with Israel,
but it concludes in Christianity
that it redeems everything.
It comes right down into the flesh,
right down into matter, and saves it.
And divinizes it in some way.
That's this absolute music of Christianity.
If we talked about
two principles,
like the perennial philosophy
and this other thing.
Now this is what's characteristic
of the second thing that Jesus brings,
is this redeeming of matter,
is this transforming,
it's going right to the bottom,
which happens in the resurrection.
But notice that what's being raised there
is not just matter, not just body,
but person, isn't it?
It's the human person that is the core of that,
that ties that all together in the end.
That's the creature which is able to be
both creation and God.
The human person is,
as Maximus says,
is microcosm and mediator.
That is, all of the universe
somehow is gathered into this human person.
Just like it was all gathered into Adam and Eve
in the garden.
So they were in the center, as it were,
of the creation, and they had this role
of giving God to creation
and giving the creation to God.
But somehow they didn't fulfil it for us.
So that's where we are.
And the whole thing comes together
in us in that way. That's our destiny.
So I think the exaltation
in the music of Christianity
sounds right there in that realization
because we come to our center at that point.
But it doesn't happen
until it's all brought back to life.
And when it's brought back to life in the resurrection,
it's brought back not just into human life,
but into a human life
which is the life of God,
which is participating in the life of God.
Because those two together
are the life of Christ.
It's like there are three musics.
The first music is
the music of Christmas.
That music of tenderness
and innocence.
There's something very strange about Christmas,
isn't it? The way that the music sticks in our minds,
sticks in our ears. We may not even prove of it.
I mean, aesthetically, musically,
we may think it's not much, but boy, it stays there, doesn't it?
Because it's bound up
with our own childhood.
It's bound up with the first music of life
which we live through.
With whatever paradise there was for us
in our childhood.
And somehow that's inside us.
And that music retains
its grip on us. Every year
it catches me, that's for sure.
I like to sing those Christmas carols.
But then that music
has to give way to...
Actually, you see that music in the Gospels
and Luke's infancy narratives particularly.
Those scenes are full of music.
Think of the...
I said in Luke
or in Matthew where the angels
where the magi are told
to go and visit
the mother and child and the angels
are there singing the glory of God.
I think that's in Luke, isn't it?
That's the music I'm talking about.
See, there's a music which is not just sound
but the music of the scene itself.
There's a music of the spirit
in the words, and Luke is a master
of that particularly.
And then the scene of the
annunciation to Mary in Luke.
And the scene of the visitation
when Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.
Those scenes are pure music in some way.
There's a resonance to them.
There's a tender, gentle energy
that comes out. A human energy.
An anointed human energy
that comes out at you.
There's that first music
and then that first music gives way to something else, doesn't it?
The second movement as it were.
The second music is a kind of discord.
A dark music
which is already there
in the early music.
Remember when
Herod sends and
kills all the children in Bethlehem?
So that harsh
music of discord
that terrifying
music is already heard
in the first music but it doesn't
kill it. It doesn't interfere with it really.
It's just there. But then at a certain
point in Jesus' life it takes over.
And that's what we have in Holy Week, isn't it?
That dark music. The music of Holy Week
and particularly of Good Friday
when it reaches its darkest point.
And then
there's a third music
where the resurrection
of Jesus is a third music
which is a music which
goes right down. He comes out of the empty
tomb. That tomb is a hole in the ground.
This music comes right out of the ground
and brings the ground with it
where everything somehow
dances with this music
of the resurrection because now
the grace of God, the Spirit of God
has reached down and gathered up everything
that's created and brought it to life
in Christ. Symbolically
and virtually and what would you call it?
Seminally in this one person
who is Christ but really so.
And the way that that comes down
to us is in the Eucharist, of course.
That new
matter, that new creation which is
the body of Christ.
Paul talks about it as a spiritual body.
He said, well, there was a psychic body, there was a body
of earth and now there's a body of heaven.
There was
the man of earth and now there's
the man of heaven. There was a body
which was of the soul
he said, a psychic body and now
there's a spiritual body.
Soma pneumaticon, the spiritual body.
Now what would that be?
See, that's the body of the risen Jesus.
It's a new kind of matter.
It's the first bit of the universe
which is divinized.
Now what kind of matter would that be?
Because that's what we are ultimately.
We are that spiritual
body, we are that divinized matter
ultimately. What does it mean
when the thing turns over so
that matter no longer weighs
down or conceals the spirit?
When matter takes on,
when body takes on the properties of
the spirit, which are freedom
and an abundance of life
and luminosity,
what's that like?
I think we need to try to imagine
that. And I think
strangely modern poetry begins
to give us a taste of that in some way
because of its freedom, because
somehow it finds the fire
in things.
Maybe I should read
a couple of poems. Actually I'm thinking
of one of Mary Oliver, which is about whales
but it's very relevant
to this. It's called
Humpbacks. Mary Oliver is very good
poetry for nature and body
and earth poetry.
There is all around us
this country of original fire.
She's not talking about the resurrection.
She's finding this just where it is.
For her it's in the creation.
She's not a theological person.
You know what I mean. The sky,
after all, stops at nothing. So something
has to be holding our bodies
in its rich and timeless stables
or else we would fly away.
Off Stelvagen,
off the Cape, the humpbacks rise
carrying their tonnage
of barnacles and joy.
They leap through the water. They nuzzle back under it
like children at play.
This whale is a very
important image for her.
In pure, brute physicality
they sing too
and not for any reason you can't imagine.
Three of them rise to the
surface near the bow of the boat.
Near the bow of the boat, excuse me.
Then dive deeply, their huge
scarred flukes tip to the air.
We wait, not knowing
just where it will happen. Suddenly
they smash through the surface. Someone begins
shouting for joy and you realize it is yourself.
As they surge upward and you
see for the first time how huge they are.
As they breach and dive and breach
again through the shining blue flowers
of the split water. And you see them
for some unbelievable part of a moment
against the sky, like nothing you've ever
imagined. Like the myth
of the fifth morning galloping out of darkness
pouring heavenward, spinning.
Then they crash back under those
black silks and we all fall back together
into that wet fire.
You know what I mean.
I know a captain who has seen them playing with
seaweed, swimming through the green islands,
tossing the slippery branches into the air.
I know a whale that will
come to the boat whenever she can
and nudge it gently along the bow with her long
flipper. I know several
lives worth living.
whatever it is you try to do with your
life, nothing will ever
dazzle you like the dreams of your
body. Listen,
whatever it is you try to do with your life,
nothing will ever dazzle you like
the dreams of your body.
It's spirit longing to fly
while the dead weight bones toss
their dark mane and hurry back
into the fields of glittering fire
where everything, even the great whale
throbs with song.
poetry becomes a kind of prophecy
at a certain point.
And at this time, in our time, it becomes a
prophecy of a transfigured earth,
of a transfigured body,
of a cosmos, somehow a universe
which is afire with divine life.
There's a refusal to distinguish
there. There's a refusal to
be theological. There's a
refusal to make logical statements.
But there's this sense, this perception
of what's there.
And as I say, it is theological.
In other words, this is
the Holy Spirit working in the world,
working in our bodies.
Let me change
course a little bit and
read you
something from Huard Cousins.
Huard Cousins, I may have mentioned before,
has this idea of the second
axial time. That time,
500 years before Christ, the time of the
Buddha and the time of the Vedanta and the
Upanishads and so on, is the time of
the first axial period, according
to Carl Jaspers. That's when personal
consciousness breaks through.
And you have a breakthrough
here and you have a breakthrough here.
The one in the East, the one in the Asian religions
is here. That's the breakthrough of this realization
of the Atman, of the
Atman and Brahman.
And that the two are one.
And in the West, it's something else.
And in Israel, according to Jaspers,
it's the breakthrough of the individual
consciousness, the prophetic consciousness.
That is God's voice
coming through an individual now,
not just through the tradition
and the magisterial teaching.
Now for him, that
first axial time is the
emergence of personal consciousness
and he says there's only been one time
that returns to that
kind of importance, that kind of significance
in human history as we know it
and that's right now, which he says is
the dawn of the second axial time.
Now the second axial time
for him is the dawn
not of a personal consciousness but of a
global consciousness.
A global consciousness because
suddenly, very quickly, we are one
planet, we are one globe, we are
one human family in some way.
Now for him,
first axial
period, that emergence of the personal
consciousness and also that
contemplative consciousness is coming out
of a background of tribal cultures
of primal peoples, as he says.
So what happens at the
time of the second axial period
and the dawn of the global
consciousness is that we have to
reintegrate, as it were, that primal
Reintegrate that wisdom of the
primal people. Typical for us would be
the North American
Indians, the Native American people.
But there are many other
indigenous peoples around.
I think in Latin America,
in Guatemala, for instance, you're much more conscious
of that because the Native American people
are much more numerous. For instance, there are five
million Native
Americans in Guatemala. That's the majority
of the population. They still keep a lot
of their culture
despite five centuries
of Hispanic
And he says that actually there are
two dimensions that are
involved there. We have to regain their
sense of communion, their sense of family.
But now we have to do it on a world
scale so that we have to
find that we somehow are
one tribe, that we
somehow are one family. That's the
horizontal part. The vertical part, however,
is to recover their relationship with the earth,
recover their earth consciousness.
And all
of this is a
reintegration, keeping what
we have, which is this larger range,
which is this whole growth of human personality
and of
human scope, I would say,
and of critical thought, and of all
that has happened, all that's developed since then,
which involves
all of these poles except the bottom one, basically.
That's the one that we've moved away from.
Let me read
you a little bit of what he has to say about that.
This global consciousness complexified
through the meeting of cultures and religions
is only one characteristic of the
second axial period.
The consciousness of this period is global
in another sense, namely in rediscovering
its roots in the earth.
In the second axial period, we must
rediscover the dimensions of consciousness
of the spirituality of the primal periods
of the pre-axial period.
As we saw, this consciousness
was collective and cosmic,
rooted in the earth and in the life cycles.
We must rapidly
appropriate that form of consciousness
or perish from the earth.
However, I'm not suggesting a romantic
attempt to live in the past,
rather that the evolution of consciousness
proceeds by way of recapitulation.
That is, you move away
from something, and then you have to
come back and reintegrate it.
Well, we've moved farther away from the earth
than anybody ever did, and now we have to
come back and somehow integrate it.
And that means integrating this level of human development,
this level of our own history,
which is built into us in some way at some point,
which is that of the primal peoples.
Having developed self-reflective
analytic critical consciousness
in the first axial period,
we must now, while retaining these values,
reappropriate and integrate
into that consciousness
the collective and cosmic dimensions
of the pre-axial consciousness.
We must recapture the unity
of tribal consciousness by seeing humanity
as a single tribe.
That's asking for quite a lot, isn't it?
And of course, the tribal consciousness
doesn't look very attractive,
does it, nowadays,
when it's expressed in terrorism,
particularly blowing up airplanes and things like that,
and killing people at random
because they belong to the others.
There are parts of that which are simply not acceptable,
which is the most awful thing in the world.
However, there's something else
in it, that closeness, which is part of Israel,
isn't it? I mean, Israel is our
biblical tribal people.
Whatever we think of Israeli politics,
there's something about that sense of belonging,
that sense of family that needs to be
recovered for us, and the sense of earth.
Sometimes I wonder
if our separation
from this point
in Christianity doesn't have
to do with our separation from Israel,
which has somehow never been bridged.
How much did we let go of?
How much did we separate ourselves from?
We separated ourselves definitively
from Israel and from Judaism.
And remember, for a long time,
Christianity defined itself sort of as being
not Jewish.
The New Testament is that which is not the Old Testament.
There's a lot of continuity there.
Maybe the continuity has to be
re-established. Remember what Paul says
in Romans? He says that if their
I think we had the reading recently,
the alienation of the Jews
by their not accepting
Christ, means the salvation
of the Gentiles,
because then the Gospel goes out to the rest
of the world. It's kind of expelled.
What does their restoration mean?
The reconciliation with Israel
but the resurrection from the dead.
But the resurrection from the dead.
I'm quoting approximately, OK?
Not exactly. But see, that's the element
of the body. So the restoration of Israel
is being connected with that
restoration of the body, with that totality
of restoration. So there's something there
which I don't claim
to understand.
Cousins goes on.
This means that the consciousness
of the 21st century will be global
from two perspectives. First,
from a horizontal perspective, cultures
and religions must meet each other on the surface
of the globe, entering into creative
encounters that will produce a complexified
collective consciousness. Horrible language.
Complexified collective consciousness.
He's getting his language partly
from Teilhard. He's a great
student of Teilhard.
And Teilhard's a great prophet in all of this
matter. Because it's as if
is within Christianity,
he's not a Western Christian. He's the one
who leaves behind them, as it were, these two
dimensions, and heads in this direction
and in this direction.
And instead of the God of the
above, he wants the God of the
ahead, the one that's moving ahead
in history, in a pattern of evolution.
And he thinks
of God not as up there,
but in Christ as the Omega, which
is imminent in the creation, imminent
in humanity, moving forward
on this evolutionary track.
So it becomes completely incarnational.
He's the one who seems, strangely,
to reverse the pattern
and to thoroughly, what would you call it,
thoroughly sketch out this
revolutionary movement down in this direction.
Away from the
preferred hemisphere, as it were,
for all those centuries.
So he's very significant. But his
language, my goodness,
that kind of science fiction
language that he has.
Complexified collective consciousness.
Second, from a vertical
they must plunge
their roots deep into the earth in order to
provide a stable and secure base
for future development.
So there's the horizontal, which is the gathering
of peoples and of religions.
And the vertical, which is a plunging
of their roots deep into the earth in order to
provide a stable and secure base for future
development. This new global
consciousness must be organically
ecological, supported by structures that will
ensure justice and peace, and so on.
The voice of the oppressed must be heard and
noticed how he relates two things
once again. The consciousness of the earth
and the consciousness of the poor and oppressed.
The voices of the
poor and
the voice of the earth, as it were.
They both come from the same direction.
And both of them are that
what would you call it, that
repressed dimension of ourselves.
And we can never get it together
until somehow we integrate
that. Somehow we listen to that.
Open ourselves to it.
I wanted to
read you something related to that.
This was a talk that
Cousins gave at the Parliament of Religions
three years ago. There was another talk
there. I heard that one. I didn't hear this one.
This was by Paul F. Knitter.
And his
title is significant.
Pluralism and Oppression.
Dialogue between the many religions and the many poor.
He says
there are two world-spanning realities
that confront and challenge the relevance
of any religion in today's world.
The many other religions and the many poor.
Now that's the
horizontal and the vertical of Cousins.
The many other religions
are the matter of this dialogue
between religions, between traditions,
which was what the Parliament of
Religions was involved with.
And he's saying that that can't go anywhere
until you hear the other voice, until you engage
in the other dialogue, which is the dialogue
with the poor, the many poor.
I thought his, what he had to say
was extremely cogent, so I want to read
a little bit of it to you.
It's a different language than Cousins.
He sounds much more like a preacher.
And his gospel actually is
pretty cogent.
In other words, Christians, together with
persons of all religious communities, today must
respond to the realities of pluralism and
oppression. Those are his two words.
Pluralism and oppression.
Now we can
enjoy the pluralism. We can enjoy the
diversity. But he says
we're kidding ourselves enjoying that diversity.
The diversity, as it were, of the third
dimension there. The opening
up of the metaphoric, of the plural,
of imagination.
And of the, what would you call it, the rainbow
of traditions and of
cultures that we encounter today.
He says we're kidding ourselves if we do that
without listening to this
other dimension, this other voice, which is the voice
of the oppressed. That is our
fourth pole there.
Different though they indeed are,
both of these challenges must receive the concern
of believers, theologians, and religious leaders.
What is now needed is a coordinated
joint response to these two different
but equally pressing issues.
Religious diversity and global
responsibility, or inter-religious
dialogue and socio-ecological
liberation. There's one for you.
Or in more Christian terms, a theology
of religions and a theology of liberation.
So the
theology of liberation is what I'm
trying to get at here. And that
belongs to our fourth pole.
It's interesting that a commentary on the Gospel
of Mark was written from a
liberation theology perspective.
Mark's Gospel, remember,
corresponds to our fourth point.
Mark's Gospel, which has been called
a passion narrative with an introduction
because the cross is so central in it.
And the core of Mark's Gospel
actually, I believe, is Jesus teaching
his way of the cross and predicting
his own passion.
Mark's Gospel, in which the
resurrection and the glory of Christ
is completely veiled, as it were, in ordinary
human realities.
Now this, Chet Myers was able to write
a commentary presenting
Mark as,
what do you call it, a manifesto of radical
discipleship against oppression,
against the structures of power
which are particularly embodied there
in the scribes and the Pharisees and the chief priests
and the people that put Jesus to death.
Now that's possible to do
in Mark's Gospel, so Mark is
really at that point. I don't want to develop
that too much at this point.
See, we talked about the four
Gospels expressed in these four points.
It's strange that they do, but they do.
I think that goes pretty deep in the four Gospels.
John expresses the pure unitive.
When Jesus says, I am the Father
of one, when Jesus says, I am,
you could see
that unitive light flashing right through him
and it's pure.
If John is about incarnation,
that seems almost sometimes a corrective
to this
unitive thrust, this thrust
into pure spirit of John.
The Gospel of Matthew,
we said, presented
Jesus as teacher, presented Israel
as, presented the Church as the new Israel
and the Gospel as the new Torah,
the new law. So it's really
this word over here.
The Gospel of Luke, on the other hand,
presents Christianity as movement,
presents the Church as movement
and energy, as the movement of the spirit
rather than as a structure or an institution
or something that stands.
It's not something that stands, it's something that runs.
It runs like fire.
The Gospel of Mark, on the other hand,
is like the ground from which
these other three come, it seems.
Remember that Mark's
parables are all agricultural parables.
They're all parables of the earth and of the seed.
The seed
that falls into the ground.
It's almost like the seed of the Word
falls into this ground and that's represented
by Mark. And then remember how the seed
comes up to produce 30 fold
and 60 fold and 100 fold.
It's almost like the three other Gospels are
developments out of that original
reality of the seed in the ground
which is Jesus in the tomb.
Which is Jesus, the seed
of God which has fallen into the ground.
And it's hardly visible coming out of the ground
in Mark. Mark's
Gospel is an anti-climax because you don't
even see there isn't Jesus. Remember the
women go to the tomb, the tomb's empty. That's
the original heming of Mark. Whereas
in the other Gospels you tend to have elaborate
resurrection appearances.
It's not in Mark. The seed stays
in the ground, as it were, and you've got to
find it there.
Now this has to do particularly, I think, with Eucharist.
Okay? With Eucharist.
Mark is a very sacramental
Gospel in a hidden way.
...versity is dominant.
You know, the kind of relativism of the post-modern
What's there is that
it's almost as if the logos or meaning has
broken up into so many facets that you
can't find a single meaning any longer.
And you can delight in the very movement,
the very diversity.
But he says
there's another kind of post-modernism,
post-modern consciousness, and that's the southern
variety. And what dominates there
is oppression.
In a southern post-modern awareness
one can say that the suffering of oppression
not diversity is dominant.
And not the enjoyment of diversity either.
Either the suffering of it
but oppression.
To balance pluralism and oppression
properly is two terms. In our
inter-religious dialogues we're going to have to afford
the oppressed of the earth and the oppressed
earth itself a priority,
a place of preference around our
dialogue tables.
I remember
Donald Nichol saying
I don't know if any of you know
Donald Nichol, do you?
Donald has got cancer now, by the way.
And it's serious.
It seems to have spread.
He may not have long to live.
He was a professor up at the University of California
Santa Cruz. He was a real prophet.
A prophet of social justice,
a kind of very courageous
gospel that he preached, even while he was teaching
history or English literature or whatever it was
he was teaching. It was marvelous.
And he used to say that the ecumenical
movement will never work until they bring
the poor into the dialogue.
As long as you're sitting at the table
and you don't see the people that are under the table
or around the table
or excluded from the table, it's never going to work.
Some way the dialogue has
to be total. And that's what we're talking about
with the gospel. The gospel, see, has that
range, that total range.
Manifested in a way that Jesus brings in
all the outsiders, and especially
the underdog, especially
the publican or the sinner
or the leper or whatever it be.
That's the one he brings in preferentially.
And manifested ultimately
in this resurrection of the body,
resurrection of the poor dead body
of inert matter.
Here he talks about
oppression as suffering.
He thinks that the presence of
the reality of suffering
communicated in the presence of victims
can provide the interfaith dialogue
such as common ground
with a common ground.
Suffering can also provide
common ground because of its immediacy
to our experience.
As post-modern scholars remind us
all experience is interpreted
but if there is any experience where the gap
between the experience and the interpretation
is as short or transparent as it can be
it is suffering.
So that's right there.
It doesn't call for any, it interprets itself.
Your nerve system interprets it.
Suffering has a
universality and immediacy that makes it
the ideal and necessary site
for establishing common ground
for inter-religious encounter.
Suffering brings us to the bedrock of human existence
cuts through the hermeneutic circle.
Suffering is
so to speak at the seam
between interpretation and reality.
The oppressed
The oppressed, the quality of the
experience of oppression that enables the
oppressed to know things that the comfortable
and powerful can never know by themselves.
This has to do with the victim's
greater experience of negativity.
He's quoting somebody.
Victims therefore have an insight
born of radical negativity
not experienced by the more elite
centrist groups.
The oppressed
can be the mediators who will help
the differing religions to understand each other
and to work together.
By first listening to the oppressed of the world
the religions will be better able to listen to one another
to each other.
I'm reading that
a little bit at random.
These are sort of random shots in the same direction
and they're all downward.
They're all towards that fourth pole
which I say is so hard to understand.
From a completely different angle
Jung wrote about the trinity.
He wrote
quite a long
treatise on the Christian
doctrine of the trinity
with which he had
a problem. He said it was
always incomplete, that our thinking had always
been incomplete because
we didn't incorporate what he
calls the fourth.
The fourth for him somehow is the ground
and the body and the inferior
function, remember?
The suppressed or inferior
neglected function in Jung.
To integrate the fourth
we don't have time but there's a marvellous
passage by him on that where he asks
what would Plato's philosophy be like
if he had been his own
servant, if he had been his own
slave? What kind of vision
would he have had? In other words
the whole vision of Western
thought, of Western
intellectualism and of Western Christianity
largely has been a second
story vision which has not incorporated
the ground.
So he insists on recovering the fourth
and the reason why
he goes for alchemy
and gets so much of his inspiration
so much of his raw material
from alchemy is that he contends
that's what alchemy was trying to do.
It was trying to incorporate the fourth
matter, the earth, the ground
the body, the stuff of
humanity, the raw material
the materia prima as it were.
Jung finds the mandala
then to be the figure
not the triangle, not the trinity
but the mandala, the quaternity
to be the figure which incorporates everything.
So Christianity has never been
very happy with that
because obviously the ground, the earth
is not on the same level with the three persons
of the trinity, is it?
And yet, and yet, and yet
the Rubla Vykon
where the three persons are sitting at a table
which is open to the fourth and the fourth
is yourself
and the fourth is the creation itself
I think that's exactly what it is
that the creation is brought
into the communion, the divine communion
and becomes somehow
an equal partner in it
If you read John of the Cross
a very different
author, you'll find him talking about
the incredible fact of divinization
by which we breathe the divine
spirit, we breathe the breath of God
by which we live
the very life of God
we're brought into that
Now that's a personal or interior
expression of this same thing
that the grace of the Gospel
the grace of Christ, the music
of the Gospel is precisely this
that it brings everything into it
brings everything into the choir
as it were, everything into the song
and that's what I mean when the music
turns into dance, it's when the
energy of God, which is the life of God
has permeated
the created reality
the body itself
the body is the bottom line
we're not really redeemed until the body is redeemed
so much of our spirituality
I think has tended to ignore that
it's not that we're going to find
some practice either that's going to do it
for us in this life
we're not going to find a special kind of yoga
that will enable us to live forever
and always
be healthy and so on
it may help, but it ain't going to do it
the only way somehow is right through the bottom
right through death and resurrection
and yet
there is an incorporation
there is a realization of that already
in this life
that's what the saints have realized somehow
they've anticipated the resurrection
the glory and that
what would you call it, fullness of the spirit
by being willing somehow to anticipate
the passion, anticipate their death
we're running
a little bit late
I wanted to say more about
the importance of the body
in Christian
scheme of things
it's very surprising how important
the body is
for instance in Saint Paul
or look at the letter of the Hebrews
that Jesus had to share flesh and blood
so that he might be one with us
or when Paul says
that we're one body because there's one bread
it's because there's one body of Christ
somehow our salvation
is bodily
when Jesus
when Paul talks about what happens with Jesus
that movement from old covenant
to new covenant
the before
he talks about as slavery
as darkness, as death
as the letter, as life under the law
he puts all that in the shadow
maybe in a somewhat
unfair way
but the after is the body of Christ
the after
the thing that exists
after the change, after the resurrection
of Jesus is simply
Christ, this person of Christ
and the body of Christ
and Paul's favorite language is in Christ
or in him for us
that is our condition after the resurrection of Jesus
after our baptism is in Christ
and that means in the body of Christ
he doesn't say it every time, but it means in the body of Christ
so this physicality
is very important
one could talk about that a lot
there's an expression of tertullian
in Latin
caro cardo salutis
the flesh is the hinge of salvation
and that is true in Christian reality
think of the importance of the sacraments
the two physical sacraments
very physical sacraments of baptism and Eucharist
there's an insistence on the physicality
there's an insistence on the body
Christianity doesn't let us get away from that
not that we like it, I don't like it very well
but it's there, but the more you return to it
the more you find it really is at the center
but the body is not just the exterior
but somehow it's the core
in some way of what we are
we don't have time to develop that very far
but it's Teilhard actually
who carries that notion of the body of Christ
to a cosmic scale
and also
inserts it
into the time scale
of a progression
of an evolution
of something that's happening
so that what's happening actually is the building of this body of Christ
which somehow
in some way contains the whole cosmos
but very particularly
contains all of humanity
especially we who are conscious of it
as Christians
by virtue of baptism
so that ends up to be the final term
somehow in what we're talking about
a bodily reality
of a kind of physicality that we don't and don't know
because we know what bodilyness is
that's what we are
and yet we don't know what that spiritual body is
what that mode of life is
in the body
which has acquired the mobility
and the freedom and the spontaneity
and the joy and the radiance
the luminosity of the spirit
we have glimpses of it or tastes of it
from time to time
but we can't say what it is
I think it's beyond language
in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says
well you're foolish to try to imagine this
because the seed is not like what comes out of the ground afterwards
the tree
is not to be glimpsed
in the seed and yet it's present in the seed
and we are the seed now
to conclude
let me read
just a couple of poems
which express the general drift of all this
if not with precision
there's a book of Robert Bly
the Christ of the News
of the Universe which some of you probably know
what he was trying to do was
express what happened to
in the West between our mind
and nature, how we got so separated
from nature
and so he collects a bunch of poems
along the line, poems which express
what would you call it?
a contempt of nature, a distance from nature
a kind of exploitative attitude towards nature
and then the gradual revolution
so that we're re-approaching nature
and even find somehow
what would you call it?
a movement, a circulation between nature and our own consciousness
he calls them poems
of two-fold consciousness
where there's a consciousness as it were
in nature itself
it's one of his ways of thinking about it
it's a marvelous collection of poems
Bly is very good when he's
commenting on poetry I think
and selecting poems
this is a poem called
On the Road Home by Wallace Stevens
and it expresses this movement
away from mind
away from idea
away from, even away from
some kind of explicit faith
and I'm certainly not sponsoring that
but I'm trying to show this movement
in its own, what would you call it?
its own home country, its own purity
it was when I said
there is no such thing as the truth
that the grapes seemed fatter
the fox ran out of his hole
do you get that movement?
it was when I said there is no such thing
as the truth
because somehow the truth had been hiding the fox
the truth was keeping the fox in his hole
and the truth had somehow shrunk the grapes
the truth somehow
the way we had the truth
had turned the wine back into water
you said
there are many truths
but they are not parts of a truth
then the tree at night began to change
smoking through green and smoking blue
we were two figures in a wood
we said we stood alone
it was when I said
words are not forms of a single word
in the sum of the parts there are only the parts
the world must be measured by I
these are skeptical statements
now Stevens doesn't believe them at all
he moves around into these different positions
but this is the position which
enriches life
which enriches this life for us
he says our paradise, imperfection
is our paradise
it was when you said
the idols have seen lots of poverty
snakes in gold and lice but not the truth
it was at that time
that the silence was largest and longest
the night was roundest
the fragrance of the autumn
warmest, closest and strongest
that's a marvelous poem
it's somehow
turning away from these spiritual
realities for him
he's presenting the pure position
this is a moment of
experience of life for Stevens
it's not the whole thing, he can just as well be on the other side
talking about the
mirror in the core
of the heart
but when he turns away
from all of those other positions
and moves towards the earth
itself and lets it be itself
lets it sparkle, lets it grow to
its fullness before him, this is the way
it is
it was at that time that the silence was largest
and longest, the night was roundest
the fragrance of the autumn, warmest
closest and strongest
all of this
has something to do I think also
with the image of childbirth
of the child
at this basic point
somehow there is the child
for Irenaeus it's the human
person, it's humanity the child
which God is raising up as earth
raising up and breathing his spirit
so let me conclude with that
text from
Romans 8
I'll mark my papers
for the creation waits with eager
longing, now he's talking about suffering
he's talking about very much suffering in the body
and very much this life of the earth
I consider that the sufferings of this present
time are not worth comparing with the glory
that is to be revealed to us
for the creation waits
with eager longing for the revealing of the children
of God, for the creation
was subjected to futility, futility
is all the weight of mortality
for instance
it's like the daily newspapers
not of its own will, it's yesterday's
newspapers, not today
it's yesterday's news, that's the futility
not of its own will
but by the will of him who subjected it in hope
because the creation itself
will be set free from its bondage to decay
and obtain the glorious liberty
of the children of God
the cosmos, the creation itself
will obtain the
glorious liberty of the children of God
and we're in the middle of the creation somehow
and it's waiting for us to come into this
we know
that the whole creation has been groaning
and travail together until now, groaning
in childbirth, the whole thing
and not only the creation but we ourselves
who have the first fruits of the spirit
grown inwardly as we wait for
adoption as sons, adoption as children
the redemption of our bodies
so the ultimate thing
the last act here
is the redemption of our body, the transformation
of our body
now obviously for Paul it's not something that's going to happen
completely in this life
it's the resurrection of the body
but the resurrection of the body is the transformation
of the cosmos, of the universe in some way
the human person is in the middle of it
humanity is in the middle of it
and humanity is the key to the destiny of the world
in some way
the whole creation has been groaning and travail together
until now, not only the creation
but we ourselves who have the first fruits
of the spirit, what roams
within our own hearts, the spirit, the energy
moving within us, this divine energy
is the same energy
that's moving in history, that's moving
in the heart of the world, bringing it
to this final point
grown inwardly
as we wait for adoption as children
the redemption of our bodies
so I leave that
final point, that point of the body
and of the earth as a kind of
conundrum for us, which will be a
conundrum for the whole of our lives
but that's the
last question, the final question
do you have any questions?
that's it
ok, thank you very much