The Emerging Gospel: Christianity As New Creation: The Word

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The Emerging Gospel: Christianity As New Creation

II: The Word

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We start with two and then we go to one, but that's deliberate. Usually, I've been accustomed to thinking of this as one, two, three, four. The logic of it moves in that way, but we start at two. Christianity starts at two, and the Judeo-Christian tradition starts at two, and especially in the West we start at two. And so I decided to try it that way, this time during the retreat. Some of you know the dreaded mandala already, this contraption of the one, two, three, and four, which has been a kind of obsession of mine for many years now. And it's a diagram which somehow expresses the Christ mystery. And it's a kind of eastern trinity plus the cosmos. And the picture is in Irenaeus, actually. It's late in the New Testament and appears in the Church Fathers here and there. This idea of somehow Christianity in the fullness as being quaternary, as being square, as being a mandala. Somehow all completion, all fullness, all wholeness,


and therefore the totality of what Christ brings and what Christ encompasses being expressed by the fourfold figure, which is often seen in that, for instance, that halo they give Jesus in the icons. Because everybody else has just a circle for a halo, but Jesus has a circle with a cross inscribed in it. So it's a mandala. And that indicates that he somehow is the center of all reality. So the poles are, just to start with a kind of basic introduction, are the three persons of the trinity, which is God, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. It's not God, Word, and Spirit in a line, which we tend to think of that way in the West, but rather Word and Spirit as the two parallel, as it were, manifestations, expressions or participations of God. But this is the God who is invisibly absolute. It's the, what would you call it, the absolute of Hinduism or Buddhism. And in order to know that God, we have to know that God through the Word, through the Spirit. That may be implicit, as it is in the Eastern religions,


or it may be explicit. It's explicit in Christianity. And in Christianity what you have is this invisible God coming into the world and manifesting himself, manifesting herself, itself, because it's beyond gender. Through these two very distinct, what would you call it, very distinct manifestations, that's all I can say. Because if you call one a symbol, then the other is not a symbol. They're two participations in God and divinity. Christ belongs here, to start with, and the Word of God is over here, and the symbolism of God is over here, and every external manifestation of God is over here. I say external, it's not only external, but it confronts us that way. It's what we sense, it's what's in consciousness. It's what comes to meet us. The Word of God comes to meet us in the Old Testament. We hear it. God says, Hear, O Israel, I know that you're God, and so on. That's very distinct. And the symbolism of it is most distinct, like that voice that shouts at the top of Mount Sinai or something like that.


And then, when it's Jesus, ultimately, when it becomes incarnate, as John says, what we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and touched with our hands, the Word of Life, so it's something that we sense. It's something that's out there for consciousness. It becomes an object for us. Ultimately, it's an object with which we identify, which becomes us. We are in Christ. But to begin with, the Word of the Gospel, for instance, is this object that comes to confront us. Whereas the Spirit is something else. The Spirit is inside us, and inside us in such a way that it's one with us. Not simply one with us, but one somehow with our life, with our energy. I think energy, perhaps, is the best word. Not just movement, but energy. It can be the energy of communion, or it can be the energy of movement. It can be the energy of love. Simply the energy of life. We run out of words. The words tend to stick together, they fuse, and then sort of disappear at these poles. But what I want to convince you is that these are four real things, and that Christianity does somehow express itself when it has the space and freedom to do so in these four ways.


And the four ways are all interrelated. And there are historical dynamics going on. The fourth one is a kind of intruder, a kind of guest. The guest, which is the whole creation, invited into this communion, which is the Trinity. We'll talk about that a lot during these few talks. But I recall to you that icon that's in the front of the church. The Rupert icon of the Trinity. Remember the three men? The three angels seated at the table? And the table is open towards you. The fourth is open. What you have there is a Trinity, as it were, standing in this position with yourself invited to join the table down here. You are the fourth, the guest. But it's not only you personally, it's you collectively, communally, and you, or me, as the creation. The whole creation somehow, which we represent as we're brought into the communion of these persons. I'll bring that up again later. So we have God, Word, Spirit, and Earth.


I put Earth here, it could also be Body, it could also be Humanity, it could also be Cosmos, Universe. Whatever is created, it could be all creation down here. Now, obviously, there are all kinds of nuances and overlappings and so on here. The Word and the Spirit are in the creation. The creation participates in God through Word and Spirit. And one thing that I would want to say about this conception of God is that it is God as the One. God as Unity. So God is, as it were, I say center, and that's a contradiction here because I haven't put God at the center. But God is the center where everything comes together, the hub of the wheel, as it were, the point of emptiness at the center of everything where all things are together and all things are somehow one. God as being the root and the source. And yet the root and the source that's somehow beyond it all and at the same time within it all. That's inaccessible and yet most present. But at which point, everything is one, even the Word and the Spirit are one. So God, conceived in this way, is the root, the unitive root of Word and Spirit


before the differentiation of Word and Spirit, as it were. The two manifestations of God and then the root from which they both issue. Which we call Father, don't we? We call Father. But I haven't put Father there because I want to leave it sort of unnamed. So I put that cipher of the Word, which is God. We could also call it the One. We could use a hundred different names. But as soon as we say Father, we've personalized God more heavily. And I think, actually, as soon as we say Father, we're over here, in a way. Because Jesus is the Word. He's also the Son. Raimundo Panacra says a very interesting thing when he talks about the Trinity and the various religions of the world. The religions of the West are the religions of the Word. The religion of Buddhism, the tradition of Buddhism, relates very well to the Father, to the unnameable God, to the apophatic God, for whom you can give, as I said, a thousand names, but who's beyond all names. To that reality which is approached, as it were, in darkness and emptiness, and which is light and fullness at the same time.


They're where all the paradoxes come together. Now Buddhism relates to that. He says Hinduism relates to the spirit because it's the interior unitive spirit, the interior advaitin experience that corresponds to Hinduism, according to Panacra. He wrote this 30 years ago. He may have changed his mind by now. But I'm sure he still maintains the correlation of Buddhism with God, with the unnameable God, as it were, the God beyond. And the Word with Christianity and Judaism, but more than that, the person. Think of Word and person together. Think of Word somehow. Word comes from a person, doesn't it? Word is a personal expression. No matter what other symbols we use for God or for the mystery or for ourselves, a word has to be personal. It's spoken from a person to a person. But Jesus is the Word who becomes a human person, isn't he? Jesus is the Word who is also a person, my theology tells us, the New Testament tells us.


And when he comes into the world, he comes into the world as a human person. He happens to be a male person, too. I tend to identify masculine over here and feminine over here with the spirit. But the person belongs to the world, as it were, of the Word. The person belongs to the principle of two. If you think about that, it's very interesting. We usually talk about the Father and the Spirit both as persons, don't we? The persons of the Trinity. But do we really know what we mean when we say that? They're not persons in the same way that Christ is a person, that Jesus is a person. They're persons in a kind of, what would you call it, in a theological language, which does not mean person as we know person. So we'll come back to that later. But that's one of the ways that our kind of mind frame breaks open when we start thinking about these things. Now, I said we were going to start at two instead of one. If we started at one, we would start with, let's say, the Asian religions. We'd start with that breakthrough of mystical knowledge


in about 500 B.C. They call it the Axial Period in the East. When Buddhism arose, when the Vedanta was being put together and so on. Those experiences of the ineffable, of the God beyond, which is at the same time the center of all reality, the center of the human person, or you could say the ground of reality and the ground of the human person. We could start there. But we're starting here because we're Westerners and because we come, most of us, from the Judeo-Christian tradition. And also because Jesus comes from here. He's coming out of the Jewish tradition and he's coming out, as it were, of a training in the Word. He, according to John, is the Word. He's coming, as it were, out of the container of the Word. He comes from there. And when he comes from there, as it were, he moves to the center and then expands and then blossoms into all of these dimensions. So, paradoxically, this thing is full of paradoxes, but Jesus is both here and he's here, just as the Father is both here and he's here.


But I prefer to think of it in terms of the Christ mystery, that is, the whole monad represents the Christ mystery, which is the same as the mystery of the human person. Jesus is the human person in its full opening, in its full blossoming, you might say. The human person which unites heaven and earth, which means God and creation, we're a microcosm of the creation, somehow in our body and soul and spirit, we contain, we represent, we bring together all of creation. So we have what they used to call a natural priesthood, right? Because we are spirit and we are nature. We are spirit and we are matter. And we bring the two together in ourselves so that we raise the world up to God, you can say, and we bring God into the world, and so on. Such, at least, is our vocation. Such is what we're made to do. That's our structure, the structure of our being. So, this is a human person. So, it's an image of the wholeness of humanity, the individual person or all of humanity, as we find ourselves. We'll talk more about other works later on.


That may have a resonance for you of Jung, right? Jung, who had a really mandalic mind, who tended to think of the fullness of human nature, of individuation and integration as fulfilling itself in this form. Remember all those mandalas that he drew himself and had his patience with himself. Even when you don't put words on them, they somehow represent the fullness. It's the figure of fullness. And that's why you find it so much in ancient religions. But we'll come back to that more when we talk about the four. Because that's where the mandala will bring it to its fullness there. Now, so we start at two because we come from a Judeo-Christian tradition and because our Christian tradition does too. Jesus does too. He comes from the world of the word, as it were. The word of God in the Old Testament. Once again, those two kinds of religions, as it were, the great religious traditions in the world, the ones of the West, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are religions of the word, aren't they? I mean, they're very clearly that.


There's no doubt about it. God speaks. We have a Bible. God speaks and there's a history of Israel. God calls Israel. It's a God who comes as if from outside and speaks to you. God who intervenes in human life and in history as it were from outside. You can say that everything he does is also a word of some kind. It's a communication, personal communication. It's a word and person, once again. That's where we come from. The religions of the East, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism or something else, aren't they? They're not that. Whatever they are, they're not religions of the word primarily. But we tend to locate them up here as ancient religions of Asia. You can call them religions of imminence. You can call them the traditions, the spiritualities of the one. You can call them apophatic. They're not always apophatic. But whatever they are, they're not primarily and clearly the religions of the word the way our religion is. In Christianity, the peculiar thing is that the word has become a human person. And the word has become then an inclusive


or unitive human person which draws all other human persons into itself. In other words, which becomes identical somehow with humanity. That's what we mean when we say the body of Christ. The mystical body of Christ, as we used to say. Now, another thing about starting from two. It introduces a kind of progression into this. The mandala tends to be static, doesn't it? Because it's a figure of fulfillment. It's a figure of wholeness, of completion. Therefore, it's the final scene, as it were. And nothing seems to move when you get there. But there's a lot of movement in it, especially at pole number three. There's also movement between the poles. But when we start over here, we realize that we are somehow in a box. We're in a two-box. Not a shoebox, but a two-box. And it's the box of the word and everything that goes with it. In other words, we begin, as it were, with a limited notion of reality because our consciousness is confined within certain ways of thinking. When you run into the Eastern traditions,


you realize that. When you run into almost any tradition, African traditions and so on, you realize that. That our ways of thinking are very circumscribed. And they're circumscribed because something has happened here. At the time of Jesus, for instance, there was an explosion of wisdom into the world. Now, wisdom belongs to the mind. It belongs to understanding. It belongs over here. It belongs to the world. It exploded into the world, and I believe it exploded in all these dimensions. The Christ mystery, as it were, locates this central point in the world. And it's always there to be expanded. But what happens is, we tend to, when it issues from here, this wisdom, we tend to put the toothpaste, as it were, back into the tube. We tend to squeeze it back into the framework of the word, and a word that can be domesticated. In other words, a human word. Because the strong point of our tradition is word, or understanding, or revelation, or knowledge, that strong point becomes its weak point. The strong point becomes its confinement. This is true, I think, of human beings.


If they do one thing very well, they may tend to be very narrow personalities who can only do that one thing. So they become like performers on top of a thirty-foot pole at a certain point, with no developed personality outside of that. Imagine the violinist who is encouraged from age two to become the best violinist in the world, and everyone's out to brush his teeth. Or many other things. We all have some of that in our lives. But Christianity has done something of the same thing, in fact, very much of the same thing. Because our strong point is truth, our strong point is truth, we box ourselves in with the truth. And the truth turns in upon itself and can't do what it's meant to do. Remember how Jesus says, the seed, if it remains by itself, it remains alone. But if it falls into the ground, then it brings forth much fruit. Somehow the seed of knowledge, the seed of the word, has to die so that it can fill this whole thing. So that it can fill all of our humanity. So that it can fill the world, in some sense. It has to go into the ground. The ground is this, but the ground is also the whole thing.


We know that when we hear certain kinds of Christianity, when we realize how narrow and how tinny much of our Christianity is, I'd say you might have two extremes. One is a resonant Christianity, I would say, with which everything somehow vibrates. When you see Jesus coming into the world in the Gospel, when Jesus walks on the water, and he says, be still, and the water is still, and you're at the center of the world, and everything just circles, just kind of gathers itself like iron filings around that center where Jesus is. That's happening all the time in the Gospel. But does that happen with Christianity? No. Why? Because the music has gone flat somehow. The resonance has gone out of it. And it's largely because we've confined our Christianity within this box of understanding. Within this domesticated, or what would you call it, tractable, this thing that we can control somehow. It turns into a structure of control, a structure of caution, of security. And that happens in the church all the time, but it happens with each of us. Because the mind, the cognitive, is also the control side of the belief.


The control side and the power side. So we have a kind of box over here. That's where we start from. So the plan, the drama, the script, would be beginning from this confinement within the Word, which has not been able to expand into its fullness, but has remained boxed within Word, within understanding, within the mind, within the narrow conscious mind, largely. And also the institution, which is like the externalized structure of the mind. The Word, which has not been able to become the full organism because it has been boxed into those structures. Moving out from this point, over to the center, and then filling the whole figure. And then expanding into the fullness. Now, we're talking about this, as you have on your schedule there, as the question of wisdom Christianity. Now, wisdom Christianity would be a Christianity of knowledge which is more than knowledge. In other words, a revelation


which becomes not just revelation, not just understanding, but becomes everything. Or an understanding which becomes everything. Or a knowledge which is immediately more than knowledge. That quote that you have from Paul, from Ephesians 3, where he says that you may comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth. Obviously, he had this figure in his mind, didn't he? He must have. And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. That you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now, Paul is obsessed with the idea of knowledge, isn't he? He's really got it on the brain. He's always talking about knowing. But the knowing that he's talking about is always going beyond knowing in some way, isn't it? When he talks about knowing here, that you may know, that you may know. But that you may know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. So it goes beyond itself into love. It goes beyond itself and into fullness. You may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now, the fullness is not separate from the knowledge. The knowledge, somehow, is a knowledge of the fullness. You can call it experience if you wish, but it's also knowledge. It's something that stays with you


and it's something that inheres in you, that dwells in you. Elsewhere, when he talks about knowledge, remember where he says, I've thrown away everything. Everything is garbage for me that I might have the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ. I might know him and his sufferings, that I may be one with him and his resurrection. So the knowledge is union, somehow. The knowledge he's talking about is union. And in being union, it's love, it's fullness, it's all the rest. Now, that's what we're talking about. If you ask for a definition of wisdom, you can define it on a number of different levels. On maybe the best level, you would just say it's living in the spirit or living according to God, right? Or living a fully human life, something like that. But the wisdom that we're talking about is biased a little bit on the side of the mind, because it is also in the New Testament. You talk about the wisdom of David and the wisdom of Solomon. The wisdom of David was just living according to God. He had a heart that pleased God. He made some mistakes, too.


He killed a lot of people, too. But basically... He had a heart that pleased God, but he didn't have the kind of wisdom that Solomon had, did he? Because Solomon could tell you how many fingers the caterpillars had, and so on. Solomon knew everything then, numerically, quantitatively, and categorically. But David didn't. He had wisdom of heart. So we start with that. But that's not what we're talking about here. Here we're talking more about a wisdom of the mind and a kind of Christian vision, which is able somehow to pull it together. A Christian vision which is able somehow to embrace all of reality rather than just a little bit of reality. Now that's what I meant when I talked about a non-resonant Christianity. The tinny or metallic kind of Christianity, which you hear especially in fundamentalism, but not only, okay? Where the word becomes a hard object. It becomes like a blade or like a hammer, like a blunt instrument sometimes. Even the name of Christ can be dreadful sometimes because it's used so aggressively. And it's used so dumbly, so stupidly, in a sense,


without any comprehension of what Christ means. So the name of Christ can be used in hatred, in cruelty, can be used in aggression, can be used egocentrically as well as in love. And what we're talking about is the name of Christ as a word which somehow expands into all beings so that it can't be used that way, it can't be thought that way, it can't be that way. Basically because it's open. The word has come somehow to die into the world and become one with all the world and transform the world in itself. So that word is the wisdom that we're talking about. Now, I would contend that the origin of Christianity was a kind of explosion of wisdom. Jesus was perceived as being the wisdom of God. He was perceived as being this light, you know, which somehow, when you see this light, the center of yourself opens up and somehow you know the center of everything. You know what's in human hearts. You know, you're just at that level of the center of everything. That's what you see in Jesus. And that's something that was given to the disciples.


When John says in his first letter, he says, well, you've received this anointing and you all know, you know everything. You don't need anybody to teach you. Obviously they didn't know all the stamps in the world or anything like that, but somehow they had a knowledge which was at the center and which was adequate for human life, which was a real wisdom. And this was the anointing with the same thing that Jesus had. If he's called Messiah, if he's called Christ, which means Messiah, that means anointed one. But the peculiar thing about the anointing of Jesus is first of all, it's the divinity. The very anointing is God. It's the Holy Spirit. And secondly, it's not just for him, but it's passed on. It's the anointing that doesn't stop with him. He goes away. And why does he leave us? He leaves us the anointing. The anointing is the anointing that makes us what he is, divinizes us, as it were. And that's the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which we're speaking about is over here. But he is the Word, who becomes a human being, becomes flesh, and is anointed with the Holy Spirit, and so joins us with God, joins us with the Father. But you can run around this circle


in many different ways, and I don't want to pretend that it only works one way. I don't want to keep you too long tonight, but any questions at this point? So I wanted to explain why we're starting in this way, and what the general scheme is about. If we have four points there, we're starting with two. The idea is that we begin in a kind of confinement. We begin in something of an imprisonment, something of a limitation, because our second pole, because our knowledge has itself become a kind of prison for us. I think you notice that very much when you get in contact with the Eastern traditions at all. And then you realize that we have been intimidated so much by, let's say, science, by a scientific rationality, which in the end is not really scientific. It's a scientism that intimidates us. It's something that pretends to be science, because real science is alive. Real science is a knowledge which is also connected with the center of the human person, which is like a fire, you know,


which is a restlessness for, a hunger and thirst for understanding. But what goes by the name of science is a very narrow way of knowing, which is imperialistic in the sense that it claims there isn't anything else to know. A lot of criticism is that way. Even biblical criticism can be that way when everything is explained away on purely natural grounds. All the miracles are carefully explained away, sometimes at ridiculous lengths. But there's been so much of that, and we've been largely intimidated by it, somehow beaten into submission by centuries of this stuff. So we don't really know that there are kinds and kinds and kinds of knowing. Transpersonal psychology begins to move into that area, begins to explore that area. But especially, I think, the contact with the other spiritual traditions, the mysticisms of the East, of Hinduism and Buddhism and so on, just make us aware that we're kind of, we're often children with respect to the world of wisdom.


There's a wisdom gap in the West, a wisdom vacuum. We had a wisdom once, and then somehow we traded it away for something else, and I think it had to happen. And what we've got is precious. The rationality that we have, and all that goes with it, and the development of the human person in particular, is precious. We can't renounce it, we can't go back on it. But there's a return of wisdom that is awaiting us, and at which I think we are at the threshold now, which brings a whole new fullness with it, and brings a whole kind of, what would you call it, exultant and resonant Christianity with it. Because Christianity is not something that comes into the world and browbeats it into submission, or stands on a pedestal and makes it guilty or intimidates it. Christianity is something that makes the world jump. Christianity is something that brings the world to life. Jesus and the Gospel are something that come into the world so that the whole world resonates with it.


That's what you see happening in the New Testament. And if we've had a long eclipse of that, it's so that we might get it back in a bigger way. If we go through times of poverty, times of desert, it's because we're going somewhere, it's because we're on the move. And we're on the move into a larger world, just as we're surrounded by a larger world today. Because of science, because of technology, because the whole world is brought together around us. So is there a Christianity that's being born on that scale, on the scale of the world that we know today, and the world that keeps expanding around us? I believe that there is. Remember that the science and technology is largely born out of Christianity. It's the child of an unrecognized Christian background, Christian tradition. I'll talk a little more about that maybe later. It's as if when Christ came into the world, he brought this quantum, this gigantic quantum of light and energy with him. It just went into the ground and into humanity and gradually comes out over 2,000 years in all these different ways. Ways which are not obviously part of Christianity at all. But these ways have been


most developed in the West. And the West is where that Christ quantum, that Christ seed is really buried in the ground. If the West sort of sits on top of the world, there's a special irony in that, that Jesus came to teach something else. He came to teach a way of self-giving, not of taking, not of exploitation, not of dominance, not of imperialism, but quite the opposite. He gave the example of that. He taught it consistently in his death, especially his illustration of that. But the very gift that he gave to the world, the very gift that he gave to the West, let us say, has made the dough rise in a sense of becoming dominance, becoming power, becoming exploitation. These unrecognized gifts are gifts whose source is not recognized, let us say, which make the West dominant, I believe, come actually from that Christ event, from the incarnation largely. And they get reversed, they get turned around, so that instead of spreading grace to the world, instead of giving light


to the world, or planting that seed in the world and making it propagate, they do the opposite, they block it. This is true not only in the Western world, it's true also in the church, it's true in Christianity. If you look at how often our colonialism and missionary efforts sort of went hand in hand. Let's pause for a minute and see if there are any questions or comments, then I'll go a little further tonight, but I want to get through this. Can I just respond? Yes. You said like, word is like Christianity and religion is the West and God, so I don't know why it would be kind of like Buddhism and then God would have centered it down. And you said spirit was like Hinduism and... I was talking about Panakar then, I was quoting Panakar, okay, so I don't say with complete conviction. I've been fiddling with these things for a long time, but the way that Panakar sets this up, in this particular article, which Eward Cousins talks about also in his book, Christ of the 21st Century, is the clearest ones are Buddhism and Christianity,


or the Judeo-Christian tradition. He says that Buddhism corresponds to our top point, to the apex, which is the unnameable God beyond the apophatic divinity, okay? Now Buddhists won't even talk about divinity usually, right? It's not pure as Buddhists, okay? It's just whatever, a mystery we can say. Now that seems to me to be clear, and you go out of the world to get to that, you renounce, you move completely away from what is visible into the invisible. You may come back later on. And in this Mahayana Buddhism it's a good deal different from the early Buddhism. So that one's clear. The second one is clear also, that it's Judeo-Christian tradition, particularly Christianity and the Word. And he puts person there. Now that was kind of a revelation to me. I've been thinking a lot about that, the connection between Word, person, and that Pope. And we'll talk about that later, because person is an extremely important thing in all of this. What's happening in the world is about person. It's like the creation of the person. And then the third one,


he said Hinduism and the Spirit. Now what he meant by that was Hinduism as expressed in that interior experience of union, okay? The interior, unitive experience, which is identified with the Advaita tradition, Hinduism. Abhishek Tananda writes a lot about that, remember? The Advaitin experience, he really goes for that. So that would be the third member. Now he's just talking about the Trinity, he's not talking about a fourth pole there. So that would be his way of relating the major world religions to the Christian Trinity. I'm not so sure of that third pole. Yes? You mentioned Islam. One of the obvious differences between Christianity and Islam is the rigidity of the word. Yes, oh yeah. In Christianity, the word is sort of spontaneous and self-generating and so forth. Yeah.


But in Islam, it is impersonal and extremely rigid. Yeah, yeah. That's true. I think there's some of that in each of our three traditions of the word, though. There's some of it in Judaism, isn't there? Because Jesus runs into some of it. The legalism. The Pharisaic legalism. In Christianity, we've had it too because with fundamentalism today and with legalism and institutionalized, you know, and extreme dogmatism in the past. So the word, the religions of the word always have that possibility. But it's like Islam has carried it to, you know, terrific extremes. It's like in Islam, you find a fundamentalism which is the fundamentalism of fundamentalisms almost, you know, because you'll kill for it. It's lethal. It's true. I think, again, the Koran itself is so untouchable because it is the word in the same sense that Christ is the word in Christianity. People get confused when they try to compare the Koran with the Bible. Yes. There is a sapiential tradition in each of these three traditions,


in Judaism, you know, and in Christianity and Islam. I'm very curious that we have this marvelous mystical tradition of Sufism inside that shell of the hard word, you know. But it's there. That counterpole is always there somewhere. Yes. I'm reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ right now, and he seems to feel from listening to Christians that Buddha's mindfulness equates nicely with our Holy Spirit. And I think it must be because he's thinking of that more as process. I have to look at this a little longer. Buddha's mindfulness and... Hi, Mary Ellen. Hi, hi. Buddha's mindfulness and the Holy Spirit. Hmm. I'm not sure I have to think about that one, too. Somebody gave me an article


by Thich Nhat Hanh about prayer, you know, comparing... Like he was interpreting the Lord's Prayer from a Buddhist perspective. It seemed to me that he brought it way over to that side of unity which I identify with the first pole rather than the third one. Because that's where Buddhism is. And I think his own consciousness is coming very much from there. And I think mindfulness is largely there, you know, at the first pole. So... Okay, let's proceed a little further. Real quick. I have a certain responsibility to this second point before we pass on. Just a few illustrations of that. Identification of Christianity with the Word. In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son whom he appointed the heir of all things through whom also he created the world. That's the beginning of the letter of the Hebrews. Sounds very much like John's Gospel, doesn't it? Jesus is the Word there. And then John,


in the prologue of his Gospel, it's clearest and most fully developed that he's the Word. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Remember? And the Word is also the light there. The Word is the light that enlightens everyone and that's coming into the world. And of his fullness we have all received. Nobody's ever seen God. The only Son who is in the bosom of God, he has made him known. That's that unitive revelation. But it starts out with the Word. The Word starts out being Word and ends up being, somehow, this divine all, this medium of communication of the divine unitive, of especially what I would say that which is located at the first point. But it embraces all reality. The Word has become flesh and of his fullness we have all received. The fullness is this here, largely, I believe, but in the Holy Spirit. It's hard to locate things on here when you get to that kind of discourse.


And then the first letter of John. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, the Word of Life. That's marvelous. It's so incarnate what he says about the Word of Life which has become Jesus. So there's a Word of Life which is a person, a human person that can be seen and touched. It's amazing. It's amazing that it's so clear, isn't it? It's amazing that they have a notion like Word to put onto that which they have experienced in Jesus. There was something, of course, current at that time also in Judaism. If you read Philo, the Philo of Alexandria, you'll find he uses the notion of logos, Word, a lot too for the totality of God's revelation. A couple of things I wanted to say about our tradition. One is that there's something that happened when God spoke into the world


that I've been fiddling to the right language for. It's almost like the sharp point of truth that comes into the world. And I was hinting at this before, but there's something There's such a revelation, as it were, such a density of truth and of power too that comes into the world that it becomes contagious, that it leads to a certain kind of consciousness, a certain kind of thinking, a certain kind of behaving. When we speak about faith as being the foundation, that's what we're talking about. If Jesus says that Peter and Peter's faith are the rock, that's what we're talking about. The symbol of the rock very much corresponds to this other mountain. Think of Mount Sinai. Something very solid comes into the world which becomes the strongest point of truth in the world, you might say, and of a certain kind of truth. And everything grows on that afterwards, including science. I think even the science of the West, the rationality of the West, the technology of the West somehow is growing on top of that hard rock


of truth that came into the world at that time. But the thing about it also is that it's so dense and intense and powerful that it also tends to make people close in on it. It tends to be appropriated. It tends to be used as a power. It tends to become a container. It tends to be used by people for security reasons. We immediately grab onto it, appropriate it, and use it for our security. Notice how people do that when they have a conversion experience. They're converted to God or to Christ, and their faith becomes everything for them. And rightly so. But there's a kind of, the faith is like a, what was it, a life preserver, or like a beam that they're hanging onto, and it's completely identified with their ego at that moment. So they can't tell themselves really distinctly very well from what they believe in. In some way there's an ego identification, and often an inflation that goes with it that only gradually gets worn down. The same thing happens collectively. This sharp point, or this hard core of truth


that comes into the world first in the word of God in the Old Testament, in the Law, and then in Jesus in the Incarnation, makes it possible to do all kinds of violence with that truth. It makes people capable of being completely rigid and inflexible. Because it's such a dense gift, a dense presence of truth, it makes it possible to absolutize it, and close it in upon itself, and not allow it to grow, excuse me, not allow it to expand. In other words, it makes it possible to construct that box we've been talking about. It's the very density of that truth, the very fullness of that truth, which makes it peculiarly susceptible to that, to becoming a container, to becoming even a fortress, and a suit of armor, and a battleship, and all of that. And that's what we've had. We've had so much of that. And it's very hard to get out of that position, not only to get out of the box, but to transform all the psychological structures inside of us, which have been rigidified


around that truth. So we tend to get what I call a monotropic Christianity, pardon the long word, but a Christianity which has to be in one form. Okay? In other words, because of the density of that truth, you come to renounce any flexibility. Because of the density and the intensity of what's happened over here, you exclude any possibility of something over here. Now what happens over here? If this is, let us say, carried to its extreme, is this hard point, this hardcore, sharp point of truth, this rock or mountain of truth that's come into the world. What you have over here is the opposite, which is mobility and flexibility, a kind of flight. It's movement. It's energy. It's truth, not as substance, but as participated energy. As you could say, a unit of energy, which is just like music, where the knowledge somehow


is in the very movement itself. Even the form is in the movement. It doesn't stand still for a minute because the meaning, the form is in the movement. It's in the mobility. So we're always getting stuck over here. We're always getting stuck on our gift, you see. Somebody wrote a book about what is called the shadow side of the dark, the bad side of a good gift. Somebody in a charismatic moment would experience that phenomenon. But it's a very general phenomenon. The bigger the gift, the more you have to look out. The bigger the gift, the more power it has for canceling itself. The greater the gift, the more power it has for negating itself, for inverting itself, for transforming itself somehow into its opposite and completely frustrating its own purpose, completely frustrating its own, what would you call it, intentionality. And that's what's happening with this density of truth that's come into the world of Christianity. What happens is that you get a kind of equilibrium when it's completely canceled itself out, when it's managed to transform itself in a way which completely


keeps it from expanding any further. It's like a law of physics, some process in physics or chemistry, that equilibrium. And we can see Christianity arriving at that equilibrium quickly in the world after the missionary impulse, as it were, is exhausting it. And look at China, or India, places where the gospel hardly moved at all. We reach our equilibrium and we found out how, without even knowing it, to cancel completely the movement of the gospel, because we turn it into its opposite. And we do because of its power, because of the confidence that it gives us, and the way that our own ego gets into the driver's seat and just doesn't permit it to, doesn't permit the word itself to do what it has to do. Since we're not willing to die into the ground with it, the word can't die into the ground and it can't multiply. It has to remain what it was when we grabbed it, or when it grabbed us. Monotropic Christianity. If you think of Roman Catholicism, for instance, it's up until, well, the Second Vatican Council.


If you consider that everywhere in the world Latin language was used, wasn't it, for the liturgy. And basically there was practically no inculturation of the theology of Catholicism, or the spirituality of Catholicism. It was always the Roman Catholicism of Europe, if not of Italy, if not of Rome. It would be planted everywhere. It could be very jarring, actually, to the local cultures. But we didn't know how to distinguish the culture from the gospel itself, so they had to take the whole works at once. Now that's what I mean by this monotropic Christianity. Some of you know about this little scheme of Rahner's about the dawn of the world church in our time. He says there are three phases in the history of the church. First is Jewish Christianity, up to the Council of Jerusalem. The second one is European Christianity, Greco-Roman-Germanic Christianity, you could say, up until the Second Vatican Council. And the third one is the world church, which starts only in our time. Now if I've said this before, pardon me, but it's very important,


I think, this notion that Christianity has been caught in a single incarnation almost until the present time. Now that highlights for you the importance of this present moment, because this is the moment. He identifies the dawn of the world church actually with Vatican II, not with the missionary movements of 500 years ago, because they planted European Christianity everywhere, India, Latin America, anywhere, but rather with this moment when we begin, because of those years of criticism, those centuries of critical thought and so on, we can distinguish the cultural stuff from the gospel itself. And we find that the gospel is very simple because it's the wisdom of God. And that that can now enculturate itself in many different ways. So we're at the point where this stem, this stem of a single form is able to blossom into all the possible forms, all the possible incarnations of the gospel, which are many in different cultures, so that Christ, as it were, can be reborn in different colors and different faces and different races and all of that, which really hasn't been


permitted to happen. People have had to wear a kind of mask or clothing of European culture in order to be Christians up to now. So if we tend to have, what would you call it, a single form over here, we're going to have many forms over here. We're going to have a multiplicity over here. If I talk about the senses of the scripture later on, we'll come back to that. Let me just give you a kind of quick rundown of how we might consider the phases of what's happened here. Jesus comes into the world as the divine wisdom in a human being. And this wisdom is a plenary wisdom somehow, that in him is knowledge, and when you recognize him, this knowledge lights up inside of you. And then he leaves that gift in the world so that the wisdom which he is becomes the anointing which we have, becomes the wisdom


which is in us, and which is somehow identified with our own being. We have that wisdom because he has become one with us, not because we know something, not even because we have something inside us, but because we're becoming, and already are in some way, that which he is, which is the wisdom of God. The human person is somehow meant to be the wisdom of God, the light of God in the world. Various things from the Greek culture and the Roman culture, Greek philosophy and Roman organization and institution, and then we build this structure which seems to us now to be the structure of Christianity, the unique structure of Christianity, which really isn't. It's one of a thousand possible ones. But we identify that whole works with the gospel. Now the mobility of that original wisdom has been lost. The versatility, the, what do you call it, the power actually, and the radiance and the resonance of that original wisdom is lost because it's identified with all these other things. It's identified with the masonry and with the hardware and everything else. And then there's a supplantation of wisdom by theological science


at a certain point. Like in the 13th century you don't speak about theology any longer as wisdom but rather as science as if it were a purely rational discipline. It just starts happening and keeps happening until wisdom is pretty well eclipsed all the way. Until we have a kind of total eclipse of Christian wisdom in the West in our time, for a couple centuries now, I think that critical thought really did it in finally. You'd be ashamed to raise your head. The sapiential thing, the wisdom thing, couldn't really raise its head out of the foxhole because some critical response had come along and shoot it down. It's that way in biblical criticism, for instance, biblical work, that anybody who would have a, what would you call it, a mystical intellectual, a contemplative intellectual approach to the Scripture would be considered lightweight and not worthy of serious consideration because they were doing such hard work on the historical level,


on the critical level, that all they were getting was the literal sense. All they were getting was the Word itself, which is precious, which is vital. But meanwhile, the sapiential, the wisdom, understanding Scripture hardly had a chance outside of, you know, the chapel sort of, outside of the monastery, religious context. And now we have the crumbling of our containers. You know, the container of Christian institution, Catholic institution, the container of theological structures, but even in the West, even the container of our very Western consciousness is challenged and begins to crumble. This contracted and rigid container that we had for the past couple of centuries made from so-called scientific thought, you know, that kind of thought that's crumbling. The light is coming in from all quarters, from all different sides. And so there's the possibility now of a rebirth of that original wisdom, but into a larger world.


Rebirth of that Christian wisdom which came into the world in Christ. It's strangely hard for us to get a hold of that, strangely hard for us to believe in that, that that light can be in him, that light which is possible out of which everything is understood, that light out of which the world itself was created, that it's possible to know that, that there is such a thing. It's hard for us to believe that. But when we have an experience of Christ, an experience of the gospel, it's right there. We know it, and then we get intimidated out of it. It's like we go back to school and we get it trained out of us again. There are a lot of influences that do that to us. The whole culture in some way militates against it. But there it is. And it's always ready to come forth, always ready to light us up from our own center, always ready to blossom into that fullness in which it's much more than knowledge, much more than wisdom. When we talk about this wisdom, we're talking first of all about a vision, which you can call a theological vision. But we're also talking about something that comes into the world and a knowledge which is always a seed and always has to die


in order to become more than itself. You can say that it dies into action, it dies into love. You can say that it dies into a rebirth. But it's a knowledge which is always going somewhere, always on the way to dying in order to be reborn in greater fullness. And that greater fullness is both communal and it's physical, it's actually physical. We're going to get to that when we get to the fourth point. We'll always return somehow to the body and the earth and the physicality of it all because that's what we are. We are, as it were, the bodies who are able to be God, who are able to be divine. Here's just a final quote from a letter to the Ephesians. I was thinking of reading from Romans 8, but this seems to do a little better for what we're talking about. He who descended into the earth is he also who ascended far above all the heavens that he might fill all things. That's Jesus, of course. And that's a quotation that was greatly loved by Teilhard. He that descended into the grave, into the earth, is the one


who ascended that he might fill all things. The idea of Jesus coming into the center of things to fill them. So he's at the center. If you know him, you know things at their center because you know that creative light that's at the core of things and creative energy. His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. We tend to get bored of those lists. To equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature personhood, manhood he said literally, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. So he's describing not just what's happening at that time, in those years, in those communities, but that's what's happening through all the history is that building up of the body of Christ, of that person who is one person and at the same time all persons and in whom personhood itself, person-ness, whatever it is to be a human being in which that's brought to its fullness. That's what comes into the world in Jesus and that's what distinguishes Jesus


as it were from the Eastern religions, the other traditions, the perennial philosophy is that accent on the person, the human person, also the individual person, the permanence, the non-negotiability of that person the immortality of that person and the full development of that person which we kind of grope towards in the West in the Western world. And that's what the West has to say I think is about the human person. So that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. Children are often good people and desirable and admirable people in the New Testament, not much more. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head into Christ from whom the whole body joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied when each part is working properly makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love. The person is being born this is what's happening through history. We may have


rather crude images of that body of Christ but the images actually have to evaporate in some way. It's a mystery that we can't see. The word body is part metaphor but it's very much truth also. What's being talked about here is physical, is matter, is body, is earth, is creation. But it's a new kind of matter because it's full of God. It's a new kind of creation, a new kind of physicality. So, that's where we'll arrive when we get to point four there on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, we'll talk about tomorrow morning I'd like to talk about one which very much identifies with the East, with Buddhism, with monasticism and with contemplation. Thank you for being so patient. Are there any questions or comments before we close? I'm sorry I kept you so long. Okay, thank you. Anybody need a schedule? Has everybody got one?