Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Call to Silence & Opening Meditation

A Reading from One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springs from Global Faiths, Two Quotations

Nicolas of Cusa:

"Humanity will find that it is not a diversity of creeds, but the very same creed which is everywhere proposed...Even though you are designated in terms of different religions yet you presuppose in all this diversity one religion which you call wisdom."

(Nicolas of Cusa was a fifteenth century theologian and scientist and cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church)

The Dalai Lama:

"I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together a new spirituality. [Interviewer: Which wouldn't be religious'?] Certainly not. This new concept out to be elaborated alongside the religions, in such a way that all people of good will could adhere to it. [Interviewer: Even if they have no religion or are against religion?] Absolutely. We need a new concept of lay spirituality. We ought to promote this concept with the help of scientists...[but] everything starts with us, with each of us. The indispensable qualities are peace of mind and compassion. Without them its useless even to try. Those qualities are indispensable; they are also inevitable. I've told you: We will surely find them in ourselves, if we take the trouble to search for them. We can reject every form of religion but we can't reject and cast off compassion and peace of mind."
Both quotations from One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Spring from Global Faiths, Matthew Fox, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguine, New York, 2000, page 3.

Readings from A Conversation on Science and Theology

[from Belonging to the Universe: Explorations on the Frontiers of Science and Spirituality (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991)pages 46-49. The conversationalists are David Steindl-Rast, Thomas Matus, both members of the Benedictine Community in Big Sur, California, and Fritjof Capra, physicist and systems theorist and founder of Elmwood Institute, an ecological think tank in Berkeley, California.]

David: Do we agree then that there is a paradigm shift in theology that is comparable to that in science?

Thomas: I certainly agree that there's a paradigm shift in theology today, but whether and to what extent it is really comparable to the one in science is still not clear to m e.

Fritjof: In science, in order to sustain the development, whether its the gradual development in the periods of normal science or the revolutionary development in periods of paradigm shifts, you have to continually do this systematic observation that is part of the scientific method. It would seem that in theology, if you want to refine your dogmas and your understanding of faith, the reflection on religious experience, you would also have to rely on continual religious experience. Now, as far as a I can see, this is not the case today. ;And maybe I could even make a stronger statement and say that in Christianity this was never a strong point. ;The mystic were always soft of marginalized and often persecuted.

Thomas: I think you have to nuance this with regard to the different epochs of what we're calling paradigms in Christian theology.

Fritjof: Could you give us a short summary of these paradigms?

Thomas: During the first thousand years of Christianity, it was generally recognized that theology had to be the fruit not only of a profound intellectual conviction but above all of an intense personal experience of faith. This as the epoch of the "Fathers" of the Church - excuse the sexist language, but practically all the early Christian writers were men! There is hardly one of these Fathers whom you wouldn't also call a mystic: think of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzen in the East, Ambrose and Augustine and Pope Gregory the Great in the West.

The crisis of mysticism and deep religious experience in Christianity coincides with the emergence of the great scholastic paradigm. This as the period of Thomas Aquinas adn Bonaventure in the thirteenth ceantury, and the energy, you might say, of the Scholastic paradigm continued on into the sixteenth century...[since] that time there has been a constant tension between the theologian as the professional scholar of the contents of Christian teaching and the spiritual person who is trying to life this teaching on a deep level of practice and experience.

David: Are you saying that, roughly, before the thirteenth century, the mystic were the theologians, and vice versa?

Thomas: Certainly, in principle at least, it was axiomatic that the two were inseparable. And the attitude of the theologian was first of all that of a listener, a person of faith who is searching for adequate ways to explain the Christian experience and connect it with other knowledge...What is basically the same view of theology's purpose: to initiate the believer into a genuine gnosis, an experimental knowledge of God. Not a purely intellectual knowledge, but one that totally transforms and, as many early writers say, 'divinizes' the believer.

Fritjof: And from the thirteenth century on, you were saying, there was this tension between the theologians on the one hand and the mystic on the other.

Thomas: It was the paradigm itself that imposed this division and almost forbade the theologian to become too mystical. He had to remain on the intellectual level. Let me add, though, that the crisis of mysticism was something that happened largely in the West. The Eastern Church continued, for the most part, in the lime of holistic theology. But by then the two churches had excommunicated each other.

Fritjof: This makes it, of course, very difficult for this whole parallel between science and theology. If religious experience has not been the ground of theology in the theological establishment for the past seven centuries, how do we expect new-paradigm thinking to emerge if it does not come with a renaissance of religious experience?

David: It must come with a renaissance of religious experience, and it does come today with a new explicit appreciation of religious experience. The sense of a deep inner communion with God was thought not long ago to be the privilege of 'mystics.' Today this sense of inner communion is widespread. Today we recognize that every human being can be a mystic of sorts. Of course, we should not forget that countless Christian throughout the ages were living in the strength of the divine life at the core of their being. Thus they were truly mystics. People like Meister Eckhart of Jakob Bohme of Julian of Norwich or John of the Cross, people whom we label mystics, were often those who gained notoriety by getting in trouble with the establishment. Countless others were nourished by sources of mystical life within their hearts and may have never even reflected on it. What keeps faith alive is always experiential knowledge of God's spirit within us.

A Reading from the Gospel of Mary

"...This is why I tell you 'Be in harmony...'If you are out of balance, take inspiration from manifestations of your true nature.

Those who have ears, let them hear."
After saying this, the Blessed One greeted them all, saying:"Peace be with you-may my Peace arise and be fulfilled within you!

Be vigilant, and allow no one to mislead you by saying:"Here it is!" or "There it is!" For it is within you that the Son of Man dwells.

Go to him, for those who seek him, find him.

Call to Conversation

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