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posted
- moved from another thread -

Enlightenment is the feeling/knowing that no one exists including you and that everything that happens does so spontaneously and perfectly. Enlightenment is the feeling/knowing that what exists is Universe/Consciousness, they are the same, U=C. Existence is itself consciousness and that is why there is something rather than nothing. This is the real state of things and because it is so natural, so simple and so obvious

OK, I think this gets down to the crux of the matter, East and West, and although we've explored it on other threads, maybe a little more here is in order.

I have a problem with statements like "no one exists" and quibbled with Bernadette Roberts many times over her, "God is everything that exists . . . except the self." What I would like to suggest is that enlightenment is only a perspective on reality, but it is not the whole truth. Because the created human soul is spiritual and interfaces with God cosmically, enlightened people (who are very few, btw) are given to experience -- generally for a brief period of time -- a perspective on reality from the vantage point of this cosmic interface. Because this perspective is not mediated through the mind, a profound non-duality becomes manifest, and a moral perspective from the vantage point of unity begins to inform one's actions. In many ways, Christian contemplative experience is similar, but it is also significantly different.

What I would like to opine, here, is that enlightenment, though a wonderful experience, is not the real goal of Christian spirituality. I would also suggest that the kind of practice one embraces moves one toward enlightenment or, in the case of Christian spiritual practice, toward a relational union with God. So one must ask oneself what one is really seeking, and why? Do you want enlightenment? If, yes, then you will need to deconstruct your human consciousness so you can eventually perceive reality without the inconvenient mediation of the psyche. That's possible, as the Buddhists and advaitan Hindus give witness to, but you're doing to have to pay a huge price. You're going to have to sustain an intense spiritual practice to keep your "illusion-bound" human consciousness deconstructed--counting breaths, repeating mantras, doing yogic postures, and all sorts of other exercises intended to frustrate the re-integration of the psyche with the body and spirit. If that's what you want, go for it.

Christian spirituality is not about all that, however. We are about renewing the human person in Christ, and of finding the divine in our ordinary human experiences. The essence of Christian spirituality, even in its most apophatic contemplative manifestations, is relationship: with God, other human beings, creation. Relationship implies duality--a very ugly word, I know, but we take it for granted that creation is real, that I am real, that my wife and children are real, that I am not them, that they are not me, that we are not God, and in the end, that this is all very good, for it makes possible relationships. Even the God we worship is essentially relationship, as are all things in the universe in relationship. Goodness is not unity, but quality of relationship. When this quality is unimpeded by selfishness and infused with active willingness, unity emerges on its own. This unity is not of the sort where existents lose their identity in "The One," but where they are more themselves than when they are isolating in selfishness. Unity in love differentiates. Duality is real, but it is duality in God, who is also duality, or Trinity, even while Being One.

What this all means is that one must be careful about the kind of faith/beliefs one brings to spiritual practice, for these set up a kind of a-priori receptivity that disposes us to receive from reality what we're really asking for. You want to lose yourself and be one with the universe? That's what will probably happen, then, with lots of hard work at repressing some basic human inclinations. You want to relate with God? OK, but you'll have to watch out for all kinds of crazy beliefs that dispose you to see God as naught but an extension of your ego. IOW, in Christian spirituality, a proper theological formation is indispensable, and that's hard work. Healthy Christian spirituality and theology go hand-in-hand; you can't have one without the other. Sorry, it just won't work, which is why I've spent so much time writing about that in my life. This is the last thing people seeking enlightenment really want to do, however, as that's all b.s. going on at the level of mind. And that seems to be the impasse between East and West, imo. It's a pretty big one!

What we need to ask is if we want to know what Jesus Christ came to reveal to us? If the answer is yes, then you're on the Christian pathway, and you'll have to embrace those "ugly realities" like Christian community, learning the Bible, etc. If no, or if you think Jesus is saying the same thing as Sri Ramana Maharishi, Buddha, Krishna, etc., so it really doesn't matter which one you pick--they're all the same, just using different language--you're going somewhere else and I can't be of assistance with regard to kundalini or anything else on those other pathways, because I don't know them and am not traveling them.

Perhaps this all helps to clarify some of the limitations I have concerning advice to those on advaitan pathways. I don't really understand what kundalini is doing in that context, as I'm not of those traditions and have only experienced it in the context of Christian spirituality. In some ways, I guess, kundalini is kundalini and is always doing the same kind of work. So I can speak of that, but not much more.

-------

see also my little essay on Christian Enlightenment elsewhere on this site.
 
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<Asher>
posted
Morning Phil and others,

I'll go through each of your points, with a specific emphasis on experience, as I don't want to get caught up in philosophy if it doesn't intersect with my life.

-yes, the experiences I had was brief, but as I related, it gave me a vantage point by which to see the mechanics of the ego. At times, it seems we are given this vantage point a cue. I had many experiences over the years, but these two stuck with me more than any of the others. Recently, as I relayed in my email, my memory isn't working very well, and I try to conjure up images of a past, of friends, people, places, experiences to little or no avail. When I recall that experience described in the other thread, I seem to invoke it and some fragrance of it returns to me, like something lost that I have misplaced. Then something opens a process of disidentification begins on its own. All my other memories, including experiences of God, I cannot conjure up any fragrance except the feeling of intranscience, no matter how hard I try.

You talk about the interface with the human/mind etc and how this experience isn't mediated through the mind. From my experiences recently, all I can say is that the mind is a bundle of memories that depends on memories for its own surivival. Recently, there is a feeling in me of being completely forgotten by everyone and everything--and the mind seeks to be remembered. However, the paradox is that the mere remembering of an experience, can bring the essence of it back, can provide a doorway. The mind hence, can be used for it's own undoing in time. This is an accepted fact by many teachers and points to the mind's function. There are other functions. I desire to write, for instance, but I'm rethinking this, as I feel a lot of the desire comes from the mind-body wanting to be remembered. This is where I'm struggling. I know there's nothing wrong with all this--if it can be aligned with a personal God. The impersonal God doesn't interact in the same with the world as the personal does. That's why some teacher's prefer the personal, I think, even though they've gone beyond it.

What I would like to opine, here, is that enlightenment, though a wonderful experience, is not the real goal of Christian spirituality. I would also suggest that the kind of practice one embraces moves one toward enlightenment or, in the case of Christian spiritual practice, toward a relational union with God. So one must ask oneself what one is really seeking, and why? Do you want enlightenment? If, yes, then you will need to deconstruct your human consciousness so you can eventually perceive reality without the inconvenient mediation of the mind and will.

-I never sought out this experience consciously; I was simply riding my bike chanting "gratitude." I was a devotee. Sometimes the path chooses us, and we have little choice in the matter. This means that we must follow these cues--not seek to replicate, or re-experience something, or regress back to another point in time (I'm pretty sure you'll agree with this) but to follow the process itself as it unfolds and the intimations that it brings. If it brings the intimations of "no-self" then I figure I must allow that. If it is "enlightenment" that seeks us, then shouldn't we align our will to the unfolding intimations of that truth? Maybe I'm imagining all this, but then why would this process begin when I sit and feel the Blessed Mother, and then suddenly this movement away from her, in consciouness itself. Very subtle, and perhaps, I must rivet my attention to Her, as I want to serve in the world no matter how incapable I am.

This is a subtle point and it requires a subtle will, not a will that is disposed to recreating a past experience, but a will that interfuses itself with these unfolding intimations. I don't know.


That's possible, as the Buddhists and advaitan Hindus give witness to, but you're doing to have to pay a huge price. You're going to have to sustain an intense spiritual practice to keep your "illusion-bound" human consciousness deconstructed--counting breaths, repeating mantras, doing yogic postures, and all sorts of other exercises intended to frustrate the re-integration of the mind with the body and spirit. If that's what you want, go for it.

--I'm not predisposed to this sort of practice; I have done a lot of practice in the past. But I am being guided now into the world; and world which I don't believe in for the most part, because when I communicate with other people, I find that I have little to offer them and they have little to offer me. At times, I wish only for silence, without the complexities of speech, without needless roles to play. I know I have to cultivate forgiveness and compassion, perhaps that is what I am moving towards in the world. I'm scared as my mind often goes blank in the middle of a conversation and I have to force myself to be engaged. But I'm not sure if I am doing the right thing here, so I generally avoid social interaction.

Christian spirituality is not about all that, however. We are about renewing the human person in Christ, and of finding the divine in our ordinary human experiences.

-when I had that experience, the world was seen as an unfolding black and white movie. Everyone whom I saw was this emptiness of self; I couldn't understand on one level how they couldn't notice this. They played their roles as I played mine, and it was humerous, the whole thing--humerous and absurd and sad when I think over it now.

The essence of Christian spirituality, even in its most apophatic contemplative manifestations, is relationship: with God, other human beings, creation. Relationship implies duality--a very ugly word, I know, but we take it for granted that creation is real, that I am real, that my wife and children are real, that I am not them, that they are not me, that we are not God, and in the end, that this is all very good, for it makes possible relationships. Even the God we worship is essentially relationship, as are all things in the universe in relationship. Goodness is not unity, but quality of relationship. When this quality is unimpeded by selfishness and infused with active willingness, unity emerges on its own. This unity is not of the sort where existents lose their identity in "The One," but where they are more themselves than when they are isolating in selfishness. Unity in love differentiates. Duality is real, but it is duality in God, who is also duality, or Trinity, even while Being One.

-yes, I agree with this on a mental level and would follow such a pathway if I could.
 
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<Asher>
posted
Wanted to say that there is still differentiation in this state. These different layers/roles do not have to be seen as illusion. That is simply an interpretation and the Hindu/Buddhist have done much to distort this, unfortunately, although I respect them both.

The human element is seen as forces of nature moving towards unity; many times I saw the human as the form of the Blessed Mother/Mother. Both can be seen at once: the human and the emptiness and it requires an act of subtle will to return these energies to their emptiness. To see the emptiness in another is an act of compassion, as far I can see. But one that doesn't wave a flag. It doesn't deny the human, but works with it, laughs with it, at it, in it. And the emptiness is filled with a rarefied joy.

So I just wanted to clarify this. This movement towards "no I" doesn't have to reject the fact that people are "real." It can see both sides at once, and this seeing both sides at once is relationship, as far as I know.

In terms of God, I feel that He is both the emptiness and the process of becoming the emptiness, so that includes everything that changes. I didn't read this somewhere; the feeling-texture of the experience is returning to me.

You say:

"Goodness is not unity, but quality of relationship. When this quality is unimpeded by selfishness and infused with active willingness, unity emerges on its own."

This is beautiful.
 
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Asher, you wrote: From my experiences recently, all I can say is that the mind is a bundle of memories that depends on memories for its own surivival. Recently, there is a feeling in me of being completely forgotten by everyone and everything--and the mind seeks to be remembered. However, the paradox is that the mere remembering of an experience, can bring the essence of it back, can provide a doorway. The mind hence, can be used for it's own undoing in time.

My experience of mind is that it is much more than a "bundle of memories." Memories are part of its database, but the intellect goes beyond memory in its effort to comprehend truth. I would even go so far as to say that the intellect is part of our spiritual nature, and that it goes with us into eternity. In its lower operations, it is closely tied to memory, sensation and emotion, but in its higher, it is open to intuition.

You also write: If it is "enlightenment" that seeks us, then shouldn't we align our will to the unfolding intimations of that truth? Maybe I'm imagining all this, but then why would this process begin when I sit and feel the Blessed Mother, and then suddenly this movement away from her, in consciouness itself. Very subtle, and perhaps, I must rivet my attention to Her, as I want to serve in the world no matter how incapable I am.

I do understand that there are times when the pull is toward enlightenment experiences. I experience that as well, only there seems to be another movement as well, toward relationship with the divine. What I'm saying here is that enlightenment doesn't provide the most definitive insight into reality, only a perspective. And so for one to seek enlightenment as the goal of the spiritual life, and to undertake practices that enhance its realization is sure to lead one down a different road than if one were to practice a different kind of spirituality.

when I had that experience, the world was seen as an unfolding black and white movie. Everyone whom I saw was this emptiness of self; I couldn't understand on one level how they couldn't notice this. They played their roles as I played mine, and it was humerous, the whole thing--humerous and absurd and sad when I think over it now.

The perspective from which you viewed reality brought that experience, but why assume it is real, or the truth about anything? You see absurdity and humor in the way people live and "play roles," but they probably see themselves as living their lives, which is also a valid perspective. Depressed people see the world as a place of gloom and meaninglessness. Are they correct? So who sees things as they really are? (Trick question . . . enticing JB to join the discussion).

In terms of God, I feel that He is both the emptiness and the process of becoming the emptiness, so that includes everything that changes.

Why call that God? "Everything that changes" is actually a good way of defining creation.
 
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Asher and Phil, thank you for your enlightening exchanges. I want to add something to your exchanges.

First of all I want to clarify that I don't belong to either enlightenment or relational union with God. What I know and what I can confess is my naked eyes towards the unknown. The unknown arranged my encounter with Christ and Maria, I embraced it. Because I encounter Christ that doesn't necessary mean I'm towards relational unity with God. I don't deny the existence of my mind with its full movements of thougt. In the realm of spirituality I don't lead by it. To be honest I don't know where I'm heading towards. Since I'm very content with my spirituality I don't bother where I'm going to. I don't sketch any goal, I have never tried any spiritual excercise to attain something. In my case thanks God everything unfolds unexpectidly in a very beautiful way.

Phil wrote "What we need to ask is if we want to know what Jesus Christ came to reveal to us? If the answer is yes, then you're on the Christian pathway, and you'll have to embrace those "ugly realities" like Christian community, learning the Bible, etc." The question you asked is very important question for me. But, I don't have to follow those "ugly realities" you mentioned. I have a lively contact with Christ everyday and every second but I'm very far away from those ugly realties not because they are ugly but my Spirit seems is not interested in them and I follow strictly what my Spirit want to do. I know this looks like very subjective. Earlier on we discussed Spirit in relation to mind/thought and I hope you understand me what I mean by Spirit. As Asher pointed out correctly "Sometimes the path chooses us, and we have little choice in the matter. This means that we must follow these cues--not seek to replicate, or re-experience something, or regress back to another point in time."

After discussing the kind of practice one embraces Phil contend "So one must ask oneself what one is really seeking, and why?" Before my first visible spiritual experience back in 1998 I was seeking after Truth. But after 1998 my primary focus has been to follow the Spirit and this Spirit leads me to Christ. Where is my next destination? I don't know really. If you asked me do you seek my answer is no. For this simple reason I didn't ask the question what and why I'm seeking. One can ask what I'm doing in the spiritual journey if I'm not a seeker? Again I have one simple answer, I don't seek I experience instead. What makes me to follow this spirit? The answer is unshakable Faith.
 
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<Asher>
posted
Thanks to Phil and Grace for responding!

The pattern of my life path has been very similar to Grace's statement:

"Where is my next destination? I don't know really."

Except I don't have unshakeable faith. Usually, experiences, the people I need to meet to progress, come to be without a conscious effort of will. This is a question I've been struggling with and perhaps it relates to creating paradigms whether Christian, "enlightenment," advaitic or whatever: How much should one do besides resting in silence and allowing the process to unfold? Should one project an end? Should one make conjectures or have blind faith in scripture? Should one live in a framework, in other words?

I am generally adverse to all religious, cultural, spiritual paradigms and choose instead a way that I can only call "process." If I make a conjecture about where I am headed, it is b/c the experience came before, like seeing a light at the end of a dark tunnel; yet I am reluctant to put the experience in any paradigm.

Tonight I was fooling around with some intentional/active meditations, and I see an inherent value in them, for instance repeating "God is love" and then the energy of love descends into the brain centre and percolates through the body. This was done out of inspiration and it brought on a lot of weeping. I am beginning to see the merit in this form of prayer as it provides a necessary interface with the world. Before I focused only on the silence in the brain centre and allowed whatever to happen--energy etc, without involving myself in it. Both are necessary, I think. Phil puts this very nicely in his book(s).

However, I suspect all set forms, and am inclined towards what Grace calls "faith." What does this mean in terms of religion. I feel I am the Blessed Mother's son and that my life is in her hands, no matter how inane I am at present. Does that make me a Christian? I don't really know.

These two experiences: the movement/intimation of "no self" and "Blessed Mother" seem not to be at daggers ends or in need of being put into a discernable paradigm. Rather they seem to complement each other...if I give too much attention to one, I seem to falter though.
 
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<Asher>
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I think genuine religious dialouge will come when we say "I don't know. Not either making broad generalizations or delineations. I think it comes more from heart-to-heart transmission, rather than intellectual discourse, personally. There are clear energtic differences between pathways; this is for sure, but maybe it comes down to seeing the same thing from slightly differnt angles. I know this is gonna sound simplified. Perhaps certain people have a destiny to create intelletual bridges, though, to aid in this heart-to-heart transmission of different faiths/viewpoints/perspectives.
 
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<Asher>
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Phil said: "I do understand that there are times when the pull is toward enlightenment experiences. I experience that as well, only there seems to be another movement as well, toward relationship with the divine. What I'm saying here is that enlightenment doesn't provide the most definitive insight into reality, only a perspective. And so for one to seek enlightenment as the goal of the spiritual life, and to undertake practices that enhance its realization is sure to lead one down a different road than if one were to practice a different kind of spirituality."

I struggle with this statement although it may well be true. First off, the enlightenment experiences are certainly as you say a perspective.

One can say being addicted to drugs is a perspective. However, one who is more happy/able to serve/capable of loving is better off than an someone addicted to drugs. I think there are more and more refined states of consciousness/union that offer better perspectives of God's workings.

In saying this, I am not undermining relationship to God. After Ramakrishna was enlightened he chose to continue to be a devotee of the Divine Mother.

I am beginning to see the importance of both and yet at the same time, I tend to give more importance to the movement away from a personal God.
 
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<Asher>
posted
This article may be of interest in this discussion:

http://www.bedegriffiths.com/Golden/gs_2.htm
 
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<Asher>
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OK, I hate to appear like I'm hoarding this discussion, but I wanted to clarify each of the points that Phil raised. And again, I will only answer the questions raised with my personal experience and not philosophy which I know little about.

My experience of mind is that it is much more than a "bundle of memories." Memories are part of its database, but the intellect goes beyond memory in its effort to comprehend truth. I would even go so far as to say that the intellect is part of our spiritual nature, and that it goes with us into eternity. In its lower operations, it is closely tied to memory, sensation and emotion, but in its higher, it is open to intuition.

--yes, I agree, the idea of mind being a "bundle of memories" was a generalization; I wrote that b/c generally that's where I'm currently at. I do see/feel/understand the interfusion of mind with intuition. And yes, I agree that you take that with you. Interestingly, Aurobindo once remarked that PB Shelley had an "illumined mind" and that that part of his mind would go with him when he left his body. There is also a part of the mind that I see as useful, and it is an incisive, cutting, penetrating light that brings with it a discrimination of real/unreal. At least it penetrates through people and their unconscious motivations as well as my own unconscious motivations. It hasn't been working all that well lately, but strangely enough, it comes when I read a newspaper.

You also write: If it is "enlightenment" that seeks us, then shouldn't we align our will to the unfolding intimations of that truth? Maybe I'm imagining all this, but then why would this process begin when I sit and feel the Blessed Mother, and then suddenly this movement away from her, in consciouness itself. Very subtle, and perhaps, I must rivet my attention to Her, as I want to serve in the world no matter how incapable I am.

I do understand that there are times when the pull is toward enlightenment experiences. I experience that as well, only there seems to be another movement as well, toward relationship with the divine. What I'm saying here is that enlightenment doesn't provide the most definitive insight into reality, only a perspective. And so for one to seek enlightenment as the goal of the spiritual life, and to undertake practices that enhance its realization is sure to lead one down a different road than if one were to practice a different kind of spirituality.

--but your own experience (from what I've read) seems to suggest this movement?

when I had that experience, the world was seen as an unfolding black and white movie. Everyone whom I saw was this emptiness of self; I couldn't understand on one level how they couldn't notice this. They played their roles as I played mine, and it was humerous, the whole thing--humerous and absurd and sad when I think over it now.

The perspective from which you viewed reality brought that experience, but why assume it is real, or the truth about anything? You see absurdity and humor in the way people live and "play roles," but they probably see themselves as living their lives, which is also a valid perspective. Depressed people see the world as a place of gloom and meaninglessness. Are they correct? So who sees things as they really are? (Trick question . . . enticing JB to join the discussion).

*yes, their experience is valid and true to them, but as stated in a previous post, there are assuredly more refined states of being and this experience was interesting b/c it was a continuation of a dream, in which consciousness itself (which I was) was observing the dream. Then when I awoke, this observing continued, with all my activities appearing obvious, and yet like a dream (I used the analogy of a black and white film). Who sees things as they really are? The person who abides in no "I" sees things as they really are, and has the capacity to see/be/live all other states as well. I recall a Hindu sage saying one day that he felt himself as thousands of bodies drowning off the coast of Japan. It was confirmed later that a boat had sunk that day off the coast of J.


In terms of God, I feel that He is both the emptiness and the process of becoming the emptiness, so that includes everything that changes.

Why call that God? "Everything that changes" is actually a good way of defining creation.


Why call that God? because that's everything! Both the Void and the Changing.

I expect a good rebuttal!

Best,

Asher
 
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"...when I communicate with other people, I find that I have little to offer them and they have little to offer me. At times, I wish only for silence, without the complexities of speech, without needless roles to play."

It is precisely so I feel at this moment of my life. I relate with you completely. A strong urge to withdraw in solitude has meaning. For me it is an indication to give enough space for the unknown to unfold fully. The unknown has its own way and if we obstruct its way unknowingly the unknown shows us its instructive message. This message can be painful sometimes because our mind (the mind of humanity) has difficulty to accept the unknown and it always resists. The mind is always scared of the unknown. From this perspective we can see only a terrible scenario. Fortunately the Spirit don't leave us totally alone. It saw the seed of faith in ourselves and we become determined and strong regardless how much the mind resisted. However, we can't cultivate this faith it must come directly from the Spirit.

The pattern of my life path has been very similar to Grace's statement: "Where is my next destination? I don't know really."

Asher, although you are inclined to relate with the above statement you said you don't have unshakeable faith. I don't know how one can stick to spirituality and say I don't know without faith. Anyway your posts reflected you have some kind of faith which sustain your spiritual journey. May be you call it "process".

All the statements I made in this post are excerpted from my experience. I don't have any intention to generalize.
 
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Asher, in your posts it's not clear what part is yours and what is from others. Use the Reply button at the top of the page or click the quotations icon above a post to have access to the formatting features. See, for example, how Grace has set your quotes off in italics above; that helps. Just a suggestion, since you've shared that you're a newbie to these kinds of Internet discussions. Smiler

-----

It seems that the response to my opening post has become a sharing of experiences, and that's fine. I'm certainly not intending to be criticizing anyone's experiences, here, especially those which communicate a sense of God and which seem to have come from an authentic search.

What I am asking, however, is whether one's personal experience really tells us anything about truth and reality. Granted, an experience is "one's truth" and "one's reality," but as the experience changes, so will the perception of truth and reality. In the case of enlightenment experiences, where one has a sense that "no one exists, including you," it is tempting to say that one has at last come upon the great insight, and that all else is illusion. But why believe that? Our entire consciousness--developed out of millions of years of meticulous evolutionary processes, guided by the Spirit--tells me that I am real, you are real, I am not you, you are not me, etc. So why should everyone have such a perception of dualism (in a philosophical sense)? Because we are deluded? Is it not just as likely that the so-called enlightened person, who has likely spent hours doing all sorts of exercises to deconstruct the functioning of the faculties of consciousness, the one who has the erroneous "take" on reality? As there are so few enlightened, cosmically conscious people, why believe that what they say is the great truth? Why believe creation isn't really real, but monism is? Why believe their ideas about God have any more validity than an idiot's musings?

Consider this: if there really is a God--a being superior to us--we cannot, in principle, really know anything about God for certain, for we are inferior beings. Creation suggests something, as do the operations of our consciousness, but this has not led to any universal convictions on the matter. Nature is enormously complicated, intricately balanced, and orderly, but it is also impersonal and monstrously cruel. The human mind can extrapolate about God using principles derived from observing nature, but this has, historically, brought the result of animistic, polytheistic religions. Rejecting nature as a resource for learning about the divine, one can follow awareness and will to their roots in the depths of the human soul and come to enlightenment-like experiences, but why believe that this has anything to do with God? Why not just see it as a non-rational perspective?

If there really is a God, then we cannot, in principle, know very much about God unless God chooses to reveal him/her/itself in some way. I am positing a personal God, of course, and by this I mean a being who possesses intelligence and freedom, and who, therefore, can be related to and who can relate, in turn. I categorically reject the notion of an impersonal God as the universe itself strongly suggests intelligent design and even something of a sense of purpose; also, the fact that human beings possess intelligence and freedom suggests that a superior being must also have these qualities, though in a vastly different way, granted.

So what can one really know about a personal being? You can observe other people and surmise something from their behavior, but you can't really know who they are unless they reveal themselves to you. This revelation makes possible an "inter-personal relationship," which is, in many ways, a kind of reality as well -- a "we" that encompasses the two who are relating.

Applying all this to God, what we can say is that we don't really know anything about God unless God reveals Godself to us. It's possible that God will do this during the course of an individual's spiritual practice, so we can't discount that. What the Judeo-Christian (I'm leaving other religions out, for now) tradition is saying is that God has Self-disclosed through the history of the Jews and through Jesus Christ. Discerning this revelation has been a story in itself, but the final exclamation point is the resurrection of Jesus, which one might view as the supreme authentication and confirmation of God's Self-revelation in and as a human being. Furthermore, the ongoing work of the Spirit in the Christian community has helped us to clarify the meaning and even content of God's revelation in human history through the Jews and Jesus. Through this religious tradition, the self-disclosing God continues to communicate with human beings, and they with God. In light of this tradition, one can evaluate whether one's own personal experiences are in line with what has been revealed by the self-disclosing God, or whether they seem to be leading off in another direction.

When it comes to Christian spirituality, then, there needs always be this fundamental orientation to Christ and to the truths conveyed about him by the Christian Church as these are considered essential for encountering the God whom Christ came to reveal. When one deviates significantly from these teachings in one's beliefs, one's spiritual receptivity will be significantly changed, so that it's quite possible that their spiritual experiences, while marvelous, have no connection with Christ or the Spirit he breathes on his disciples. On the Christian spiritual pathway, one can never use one's experience alone as the guide to truth and God; we allow our receptivity to be formed by Christian doctrine, and we test our experiences in the light of Christian teaching. While this might seem constraining to some, it is so in a freeing kind of way, for there really are boundaries inherent in any relationship and these must be understood and maintained for the relationship to develop. If I say that loving another woman and having sex with her helps me to love my wife better, I am asking for trouble. Parallels can be drawn, here, with respect to our relationship with God.

This will be my last long post on this thread, as I'm aware of the demands on time and attention made by long reflections. But I'm stating what I consider to be fundamental distinctions in this post and the opening one, and will refer to them as we continue the discussion.
 
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<Asher>
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Morning:

I'll keep this short to encourage other people to join!

Yes, I can relate to what you say about the validity of doctrine. When I was with a spiritual teacher, whatever experience I had, I put in his context; I read his books and found parallels, disowned the experience, as it were. But more importantly tried to see it through his eyes and teaching.

Now having no clear teacher or no clear path, I wonder if its possible to walk in this way.

What are people's impressions of Father Bede's advaitic experience? There he clearly writes of it in Christian terms and aligns it with Christ, I think?

Does one have to be baptized to follow a contemplative Christian path? I asked Father Keatings this and he never answered!

Any impressions from Grace, Phil and others would be greatly appreciated. Again, I hope I'm not inadvertently killing the thread and Phil's perspicuous comments.

Asher
 
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Asher, I'm not sure why Fr. Keating was reticent on this issue. The term, "contemplative Christian path" implies a commitment to Christ, which means being baptized as a member of his Church. There's just no authentic Christianity without belonging to a Christian community of some kind.

When it comes to baptism, one shouldn't really be baptized unless they believe what the Church teaches and are ready to become part of a Christian community. Obviously, this is a big decision, and so one ought to carefully pursue the option. There are inquiry classes at most Churches.

----

Re. the article about Fr. Bede, I enjoyed it. I'm very familiar with his writings and found him speaking much moreso from the Christian contemplative tradition than the Hindu advaitan. Fr. Bede's theological formation was such that I think it helped him integrate his encounters with Hinduism in a Christian context.
 
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"There's just no authentic Christianity without belonging to a Christian community of some kind."

Phil, I think belonging to Christian community and follow the rules and regulations of the Church has to do with the form than with the content of Christianity. Usually the person who undergo dark night of the soul is not interested in worshipping God traditionally. Does this person disqualified to be a Christian? I just wonder, correct me if I'm wrong.
 
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Grace, I don't know how one separates form from content. I'd also say that being part of a Christian community is a great deal more than following rules and regulations. It's actually a means through which one encounters Christ.

I'm not discounting that one can pray to Christ and look to Christ for guidance without being a member of the Church. People from all walks of life do this, including people from other world religions.
 
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<Asher>
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Grace--

You raise some interesting and pertinent questions, as does Phil. Two different points of view, it would seem. I'm would be intersted to know, Grace, if you were a church going Christian, baptized etc. before your unfolding/experience/awakening began?

I've recently returned from India and Pakistan and b/c I was born a Moslem, I tried to learn how to say prayers in my tradition while in Pakistan. The whole thing was very meaningful when I did it alone, but when in a group, I seemed to be affected by the group consciousness which felt like a sort of mass brain washing. So I refrained from going to the mosque. One becomes part of a group consciousness and I only want to be in the divine truth. This is impossible in the Islamic religion as one must go to mosque, learn all sorts of rules, which I frankly don't believe in and can never believe in. It would be a lie to me.

Yes, it would seem I'm a bit of a scatter brain in terms of finding one suitable path. I was very happy being on the path I was on for 8 years with my Christ-like teacher. But he would not allow me to get married and so I had to live as a monk if I was to stay with him. It was assuredly the most blessed time of my life, working in community, praying in community, meaningful social interaction. Than there came a point where I couldn't move and so I went to a church and sat down and wept to the Blessed Mother to tell me what I should do. That night I had a dream of her and she told me in a vision that I can't describe here that marriage is blessed by God. Than the next night I had a dream of Christ--and the same vision of marraige being blessed. Finally I had a dream many years back where Christ said to me "every sheep returns to his fold". I have no idea what this all means, but for years I had dreams and visions of Padre Pio, St Francis, Christ, Mary, Joseph etc and at times Mary would appear to me while I was in a state between sleeping and waking.

Anyway, so I left my blessed Master, and followed that guidance...and leaving that support system brought out all my insecurities and also the need to trust God alone and walk on the ground of faith. What I'm struggling with now is whether to join another group/paradigm. I feel that it would be regressing backwards. I want to put my whole trust in the Blessed Mother and the process itself and move alone, if that is possible for me. Otherwise, b/c of the current turmoil I'm in, maybe I will get baptized or join another path. Maybe an inner intention to love Christ is enough. I don't know.

All I know is that one path is necessary, one cannot walk two paths at once, this is certain. It causes energetic complications and confusion. And it's not like I'm all into Guru/path seeking, I was so happy with my Master for the years I was with Him and under his Grace.

Phil raises some points that it is not possible to follow a Christian contemplative path unless one is baptized and lives by certain etiqutte. I dunno. I think this would kill me.
 
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<Asher>
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Yes, Phil said something insightful about community being a place where one encounters the divine. This was the case in our community, as well. I hate to sound like I'm diluting Christ's community, but there are parallels, I think.

I would work as a cook in a kitchen and for many hours of the day would be in the flow of the Masters Grace, without hardly the slightest intention. Then I later found myself asking for real transformation, not just the presence that comes and goes, but that which is eternal, everlasting, un changing. That is what I wanted with my whole heart--no more experiences, except radical understanding or transformation. This is now all I want, and it comes in flashes usually when I don't seek it, ironically.
 
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Phil,

Everything you see in Church beggining from the building, the Eucharist, Mass, images etc. are symbols representing God in different forms or ways of worshipping God in different forms. About some of those symbols Thomas Merton have described them beautifully. For me all those symbols represents a formal side of Christianity. Contemplative life, prayer in solitude represents the content and mystical part of Christianity. Form and content are like two sides of the coin. Like apophatic and kataphatic the form and content intermingles with each other. I can see a flowing movement from form to content and viseversa.

Usually Christians begins the journey by highly involved in the formal part of Christianity. Gradually, it depends how this fellow Christian is serious, one moves to the real content of Christianity, i.e. begining to have the Dark night experience, drawing to contemplative life etc. After one realized his/her True self she/he came out very enlightened from the content of Christianity and this person come back to the formal part of Christianity with deep understanding of the symbols. I think it is this period between form and content which John of the Cross characterize as Dark night. During this period the person is totally withdrawn from worshipping God traditionally. So, the formal side alone can't be a criteria to be authentic Christian. Authentic Christian is the one who embrace both the form and content of Christianity. Overemphasize the formal part of Christianity, as many Christians do, is I think an impediment to the content of Christianity. Anyway this is my understanding of form and content of Christianity. I don't know either if there is any such distinction in Christianity at all. As usual my understanding of form/content is based upon my experience. I'm open to other suggestions.

Asher,

You asked me if I were a church going Christian and baptized before I began to have this mystical experience. I was born in a very devoted Catholic family and obviously I'm baptized. Until I was 18 I was involved in the activity of youth organisation in Church but was not interested in the works of the Church. What drawing my attention to this organisation is the ability to improve my writting interest. Otherwise I had very little interest in the activity of the Church.

I would like to ask you some questions. Was your Master Christian? You seems to be in desperate need of some paradigm. Why?
 
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Grace, I see what you mean when you use the terms form and content, and that's very different from the way I've understood them, which is that they are practically synonymous--i.e., it is the content of Christian revelation that gives Christianity a specific and distinctive form. Maybe the better distinction would be between the exoteric and esoteric dimensions--at least that's what I'm hearing you refer to: the outer and inner. What I'm saying is that the two go together and exist in a kind of dialectic, so that the exoteric dimension creates the receptivity for the inner experience. I agree that when the exoteric is over-emphasized, you have a bad situation--religion devoid of spirituality, really: moralism, dogmatism, phariseeism, authoritarianism and a few more, I'm sure. This is quite common and it's easy to see how it happens, as the doctrinal content of the faith is easier to pass along than the inner experience to which it is ultimately referenced. The other side of the coin -- pursuing the inner without proper formation in a religious tradition -- also leads to some bizarre manifestations, at times, none the least of which is ego inflation. Where there has been proper formation in a tradition, however, the mystical experience won't conflict with the doctrinal tradition, as the doctrinal tradition has formed a kind of unconscious infrastructure to support the receptivity of the mystic. The mystic has internalized the doctrinal tradition, and is realizing the inner reality from which it was given expression. Granted, that we will see variations among individuals concerning the depth of formation needed, much of this depending on the range of their life experience, brokenness, and the intensity of their questioning.

----

I'm sure Asher will reply to your question about the need of a paradigm, but I will reply as well, based on my own experience and from doing spiritual direction with many people. The answer, I believe, is related to what I wrote above about the relationship between the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of a religious tradition. Without formation in the exoteric realm, the esoteric/inner realm can pull one in all kinds of directions and this can wreak havoc on the psyche. With proper formation, one can expand and revise the paradigm to accommodate new experiences, ultimately settling on a paradigm that is open-ended.

- - -

Grace, in your post above, you continue to speak of an unconditioned mind. As I don't believe there's any such thing, given that the simple fact that living on earth in a culture, speaking a language, etc. presents an unavoidable conditioning, I'm wondering what you mean? I've taken that to mean a mind that is open, free from harmful attachments and preconceptions, and willing to love. I do believe God is attracted to one in whom such a mind has been formed, and such formation can even be the outcome of what I've been calling an exoteric tradition, in this case, good spiritual teaching. So is that what you mean by an unconditioned mind? If so, that's very much along the lines of what Jesus taught about poverty of spirit and purity of heart in the beatitudes.
 
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<Asher>
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Grace--

LOL, you're right, I am, as you say, in desperate need of a paradigm.

The teacher I was with was a Hindu. He developed his own unique path which I followed for 8 years. This path cultivated the heart as well as offering a dynamic spiritual sadhana through running, exercise, plays, reading, athletics. Indeed, it was a whole intense spiritual culture into which I threw myself into working, devoting my life to. He was profoundly connected to Christ, and wrote plays about Christ, met with Mother Teresa, both the Popes. Interestingly, the previous Pope is to have said that "the Christ has returned." So he was a profoundly enlightened being; and in all my travels, I have never in my life come across any one of that level of attainment and the ability to infuse my life with Grace. It is quite different having a living Master, I think, and very demanding!
 
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<Asher>
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Well, I obviously have gotten my answer in this forum thanks to both of you. I need a framework and I must choose. I take Phil's insight on being pulled in many directions by the esoteric realm seriously! Thanks you to you both for aiding in this. I'll touch base with you when I decide what form my practice will take, and perhaps continue sharing here!
Huuu

Asher
 
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<Asher>
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I see God's Wisdom-Grace works through the internet as well!:-)
 
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sorry, should clarify myself about the physical presence of a Master, as it could be misunderstood. It seems that when a Master is on earth, one becomes extentions of their body, and b/c they are in the physical, there seems to be an added intensity in the physical dimension. A sort of high speed in the sadhana/spritual practice. This is something that seemed to happen in the presence of this Master--everything moving very rapidly inside--but not on a Kundalini/emotional/astral level, but everything unfolds in the heart. The subtle body itself, emotions, breath begin to unfold in the heart.

However, I don't mean to undermine people like yourselves who are have a deep and profound link to Christ/Mary and the Church. But if Christ was actually present in body, I think there would be
an added intensity in the earth atmosphere!!

And all those cloistered monks would be ****ting their pants. I remember one master saying "Dead Masters don't kick butt." hehe.
 
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Phil, I think we have the same understanding on unconditioned mind. You wrote "I do believe God is attracted to one in whom such a mind has been formed, and such formation can even be the outcome of what I've been calling an exoteric tradition, in this case, good spiritual teaching." I agree, this is the purpose of spiritual teaching but when I see in practical life many, I would say a vast majority of Christians I know, are very dogmatics and have very little understanding to the one I called the content of Christianity especially if you are not their member. This makes me worry and thought if the mind is attached to sugar-coated spirituality. So, my understanding of unconditioned mind includes even the mind of Christians who thinks they are blessed because they are the member of one community.

Asher, from your post above I assume you inclined to follow Phil's advise. Good. I would advise you to listen your Spirit attentively before you decide, it is our best teacher.
 
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