Your quotations have demonstrated, among other things, that this debate has been done by others already. Much of our exchange so far is a rehash of past arguments. And for both of us, our interpretive viewpoints go back a long way in our educational and Christian formation -- years before our experience with Kundalini.
And on that note, I'd like to get a bit personal, if I may, in order to point out something you and I have in common: Both of us are in the process of integrating Kundlaini experiences (you further along than me, but still in process, I think). Both of us do daily spiritual disciplines to aid in our continued integration. Both of us were Christian before our energy experiences and both of us want to integrate our experiences in harmony with that faith tradition. If not for these things we have in common -- which is quite a bit in this fragmented world -- I would not have come to this forum, or read your book, Kundalini and Christian Spirituality, or stuck with this discussion for so long.
By and large, I have stayed away for the debate side of this forum, and put my energies into the support side. I entered the debate side because I have a background in Biblical exegesis. Now that I'm in it, I don't want to just drop out. But I also don't want to merely rehash old arguments where the sides have been laid out already by others more adept than us in the field.
So here is a new angle that comes to mind. I'll throw it out and see if it flies. What if we ask, "How does our experience in Kundalini energy awakening give us insight on the subject at hand that is different from the insights we could have had without such experiences?"
I'll start. For me, profound energy experiences have deepened my appreciation of Christian baptism, sometimes called fire baptism or Holy Spirit baptism. Baptism portrayed in Acts in terms of tongues of fire coming up from the heads of the believers.
Baptism has a lot of symbolic resonances in scripture. It can be understood as vicarious participation in the mysterious and transformative life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And "in the now," it gives us some sense of the "glorified body" Christians have always hoped for in the resurrection.
Thus, my background in Biblical exegesis, however "liberal" it may have been, did open the door to my renewed quest for a fuller integration of this experience of extraordinary grace, with biblical tradition. Likewise, I trust, it has given you some new insights into your "conservative" understanding of our tradition.
Arraj and you both share this Kundalini experience, I think. Did Arraj have a similar experience? Is that part of what lead to the formation of this particular book on the bodily resurrection of Jesus?
Ryan, Jim Arraj doesn't identify his experiences with Kundalini. He has a deep interest in contemplative spirituality -- Christian and Eastern -- but most of his works are exercises in academic scholarship. This topic is something of a follow-up to his earlier work, Can Christians Still Believe? where, in one of the chapters, he discussed "The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith."
I appreciate your turn to the personal regarding this topic. Spiritual growth, including the kundalini process, has helped me to believe more deeply in the reality of resurrection, as I experience this dynamic in my own life. What kundalini seems to touch is the physical part of our human nature, enabling an embodiment of higher states of consciousness.
I would not characterize my theology as "conservative" by any means. Twice have I been fired from Church jobs, mostly for liberal viewpoints. Liberal/progressive and conservative/traditional must both wrestle with the meaning of dogmatic affirmations if they are to faithful to what Christ has revealed (see this thread where I take up the importance of dogma). And that's what I've tried to do during the course of my spiritual journey, believing there is something distinctive to the Christian message that is important in my own formation.
One important help to me early on was the recognition of levels of explanation of the sort that Johnboy presented in another thread. Origen's sense of the fourfold meaning of Scripture was especially helpful. Quoting Johnbody from another thread:
For Origen and the early Christians, this approach was viewed as something of an antidote to the gnostic spiritualities that were also making use of the Christian message, but in a mostly analogical and mystical sense. By insisting on the reality of an historical dimension as well -- that it wasn't all just an allegory for spiritual experience -- they maintained a grounded, sacramental spirituality that was faithful to the meaning of the Incarnation. I've tried in my own life to hold to that approach in order to experience that kind of Christian gnosis. Sometimes, as you know, it's difficult to know just what the historical dimension was; other times, not so difficult. Same goes for the other levels of understanding/interpretation: sometimes the moral implications are ambiguous; sometimes not. The important thing, I believe, is to at least strive to hold these various levels of meaning in tension.
Re. the teaching on bodily resurrection, then, my approach through the years has been to examine these questions:
a.) is this what the Church actually believes?
b.) in what sense can we say that Jesus' body was raised from the dead? how was it different from a recussitation like Lazarus'
c.) if this is what is being affirmed at the historical/literal level, then what does that mean for the other levels? what is God telling us through this event?
You know my answers to a and b from this exchange. I think those answers have some bearing on our reflections about c, although many who differ on a and b still do believe in resurrection of some kind.
I've much appreciated your involvement there, and hope it will continue. This present discussion, as you've noted, is microcosmic, but it's a good modeling of respectful dialogue.
Thanks Phil for your response.
I too am on a journey of embodiment of higher states of consciousness. Even though the event I count as the onset of my "kundalini journey" involved the sense of an ascent of the soul into oblivion, the practical climax was returning to body awareness but with a higher state of consciousness.
I come from a Mennonite tradition where we are baptized at around 12. After my baptism, there was a foot washing service. Walking back to my place in the pew, there was a very memorable sense of joyful lightness, like my body did not weigh as much as it used to. And that feeling was echoed in my experience of my body after the ascent of the soul journey. Both were energy experiences. Subsequently, in my development of daily meditation I work mainly in terms of cultivating a marriage of inner silence and inner radiant energy.
The four levels of meaning of scripture have been particularly helpful in my journey through the practice of lectio divina. My wife and I went through the whole Goapel of John that way. In lectio divina, I have no problem setting aside questions of what "really" happened in historical critical terms, indeed I enjoy being unburdened of such questions. The literal is simply what the texts says. The end goal is communion (and union) with Christ through faith (and through experience), and if the text helps us in that direction, wonderful.
You took us there with you
arms splayed, naked before the world.
You took us there with you.
My brothers and sisters, and the bum
on the corner and the addict in the alley,
They were there too.
We were all there - exposed.
Thorn crowned heads hung
Too weary to life them to heaven.
You took us there with you,
each and everyone of us,
As the day turned to night and the vinegar
burned and we cheered and drew lots
And wept and watched.
You took us there with you;
Your last breath was ours.
My God, My God!
You took us there with you;
As you walked in the darkness
And confronted evil head on.
You took us there with you
As you returned to the Father
and took your seat beside
Naked no more.
You know the bodily resurrection... the empty tomb must have been just as much a shock and surprise to the disciples as it is to us today...in some ways even more so since they are the ones that lived that experience.
One of the pieces that has convinced me of the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the fact that the disciples actually spoke of it...recorded it as truth. I can't imagine that bodies disappearing from graves and dead people reappearing in crowded rooms or on the sea shore were any more "rational" 2000 years ago than today. What thoughtful human being then or now... could possibly believe this foolishness? So why tell it...why write it down... why include it as a central tenet of faith if it did not happen...if it was not true?
There are so many things that I do not understand..that don't seem rational to me...even the fact of my existance seems somewhat miraculous ... sure I am the result of the union of an egg and sperm but why that particular egg and that particular sperm...why this particular conbination of genes? Why of all the many things that have come together to form the person I am today did these specific things/experiences occur? Is this...the bodily resurrection of Jesus any more a miracle than my being myself or for that matter existing at all?
I must admit I have a bit of trouble with those whose focus is on the historical/literal reading of Scripture. In striving to learn the truth of the historical Jesus...the man who walked among us..it seems to me that the divinity of Jesus - the reality of God with us and for us - is lost. Affirming the bodily resurrection affirms as good - as holy both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus.
Good to see you here again, Wanda. And thanks for sharing your lovely poem.
You noted: What thoughtful human being then or now... could possibly believe this foolishness? So why tell it...why write it down... why include it as a central tenet of faith if it did not happen...if it was not true?
That's a great point! Sometimes I think modern exegetes assume that our forebears were stupid or naive and out-of-touch with the natural order of things. And I completely agree with you about the mystery of the "ordinary." We don't really know how it is that matter comes to live, even given our profound understanding of molecular biology. It's almost as though the more we know, the deeper we find ourselves staring into Mystery.
In your book The Meaning of the Resurrection, you wrote:
"... my faith has come to rest in a growing conviction that Jesus Christ is alive in my life. I know that when I pray, something amazing happens inside of me that is qualitatively different from when I just sit quietly, or read a book, or do anything else; I know that in the depths of my being I am not alone; finally, I know that when I live as Christ calls me to, I am happy. This is enough to dispel most of my residual agnosticism most of the time."
That transformative experience of Christ our lives is common ground -- that and "blind faith."
I agree, Ryan. Without some kind of experience of resurrected life welling up within oneself, the belief is resurrection is just a dogmatic concept having little relevance to the spiritual life.
Today I'm reading Life After Death, a book on the history of afterlife in western religion by Alan F. Segal. In his summary of Augustine's thought about afterlife, he says that Augustine thought of the afterlife as beginning with something like an immortal soul, then in the final reward, the immortal soul is reunited with a perfected body. Augustine saw this as analogous to the experience of ecstatic ascent followed by return to physical form. And so, "[Augustine believed that] wise and ascetic men in this world live as if they are already in the perfected world to come."
So, Phil, it seems Augustine was trying to show the relevance of the dogmatic concept for spiritual life.
Ryan, I think Augustine's was an early attempt to understand what happens at death and how that relates to the general resurrection at the end of time. This is not too different from the current teaching of the Catholic Church, which is that death brings individual judgment and the beginnings of heaven (perhaps via Purgatory) or hell. It is thought that the soul in this "intermediate state" can enjoy the beatific vision, but not fully exercise itself without its fully resurrected body. That will come at the end of time, whenever that will be, and in a manner that is sure to be enlightening.
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