Our Spiritual Evolution: A Response to Chris Dierkes on St. Paul’s Ode to Love
Prelude: 5 Brief Thoughts on Love and Our Human Spiritual Evolution
- Love is a verb.
- God Is Love. The Greek Scriptures (New Testament) tell us that “God Is Love.” (1st Letter of John 4: 8, 16)
- The poet Blake says, “And we are put on earth a little space, / That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
- We humans are meant to evolve, and grow closer to God. This is at the heart of Christian theology. The 2nd Letter of Peter says near its beginning that we are to become: “participants of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4). How might this growth happen?
Finally, here is a statement that seems simple, but is truly complex:
- “We all want to love, and we all want to be loved.” 1A clear echo of this truth appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 25: “Then happy I, that love and am beloved.” I have searched but not yet found if another has more of a claim on this saying than Shakespeare.
Part I: Evolution and the Divinization of Humanity
This reflection is a response to Chris Dierkes’ provocative article, “Love is Patient, Love is Kind: St. Paul’s Advice For Contemporary Esoteric Spirituality,” on 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s stunning ode to Love. I agree with much that Dierkes writes, especially his vision of the deep unity, and interdependence, of our human family, today and in the future. This unity and interdependence is a necessity for us, if we are to reach an indescribably bright future.
The purpose of this essay in response to Dierkes is this: I would like to add the element of human evolution—a Human Evolution that is also participated in by the Divine, and led and guided by the Divine—to the instruction and guidance that Dierkes has given us. 2With the term “evolution,” I am not referring to the various scientific theories that come under the umbrella of evolutionary biology. Scientific study of evolution is a young pursuit, and raises more questions than it answers. There is no clear picture of our biological evolution. Much work remains to be done. (For example, the fossil record still does not support Darwin’s theories, although Darwin said it would.)
When speaking of “evolution,” I mean human development in recent millennia, with a powerful Spiritual component. The Catholic Church held a positive conference on Darwin in 2009 at the Vatican, saying that evolution is a very possible way in which life developed on earth. Many Christians support “theistic evolution.”)
Our Evolution: Recent Beginnings
Until 11,000 years ago, our ancestors had to be, physically, ever-vigilant against great dangers. One constant threat, for example: Beware the saber-toothed tigers! These fearsome cats were all around the globe, for millions of years. Their tactic: ambush. Our ancestors were in constant danger from these and many other threats in their environment. Death was always close, ever only a misstep away.
Life was hard, certainly by our standards.
During ice ages, some groups of our ancestors survived because they were better at extracting bone marrow from the bones of animal carcasses, and eating it. God is bold.
Once I asked one of my vital teachers about these things. He smiled briefly and said, “Ah, those great dark mysteries.”
Today, my hunch is that these difficulties helped humanity to enter into our physicality. To learn, deeply, about our bodies, and about our physical environment. We have millennia upon millennia of deep concern for our physical existence in our collective unconscious, in our selves. Already, we see in this a beginning of wisdom, and of love. There was a healthy concern for life and self-preservation, and this even extended to the immediate family and clan of our ancestors. (We see in this “extension” of self the rough early roots of love, even altruistic love.) They had to help each other to survive. There was also basic curiosity and observation, and a trying-to-understand what was going on in the world. Another great teacher, in her class on the Scriptures, said, “When the farmer knows the time to plant the seed in the earth, that is already wisdom.” I guess that our wisdom starts organically, slowly.
Humanity learned and developed. Slowly.
Such recollections remind us of the immense gratitude we can have for our forbears. They got us here. And they have delivered far more to us than our mere physical existence.
These thoughts also remind us that our Humanity has evolved, and is still very much in a state of evolution. Although most of us have far more ease, and even many comforts, in our immediate physical environments, we are very much a Humanity on the move. And although we no longer have to be ever-fearful of saber-toothed tigers, there is still fear around us at times, as well as a lame partner of fear: pride.
Our development continued over millennia. At the end of the Bronze Age, there were advances in how society organizes itself and lives. The parts of the Code of Hammurabi and the Mosaic Law that curtailed violence were a leap forward, for their time. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Here there is shown a concern for keeping society healthy and united; there is a warning against being violent to others; there is a taught movement away from violence; and there is a lawfully controlled expression of violence, to curtail greater violence and societal harm.
Deeper than that, less mental energy is wasted on revenge. One is allowed to make an end to plans of retribution. This is huge.
We were beginning to learn how to focus our attention on Reality, and how to focus our attention in ways that participate in, and contribute to, Reality.
Thousands of years later, Shakespeare would take this up. A major theme of his poetry and drama is: We humans have the power to bless or to curse. Let’s bless. In every way, it is better to love, to bless.
Returning to our chronology: We arrive at the First Axial Period. Around the globe, in the first millennia BCE, there are deeper spiritual awakenings. Our societies had evolved enough to produce great literature and art. Systems of trade and record keeping. And quantum leaps forward in spirituality.
Although the family unit is still as close as a tightly wound ball of rubber bands, our psyches, slowly, begin to expand and to have inner space. (Romans 7 & 8 are about this evolution of our psyche: at the end of Romans 7, Paul shows how we finally arrived, historically, at the newly formed “inner person,” a huge development for Humanity. Paul’s early grasp of human history, 1700 years before “history” became a science, is amazing.)
Jesus arrives and tells us that it’s time to love each other. Thousands of years earlier, this would have been an impossibility, as we would have automatically attacked members of other tribes who were near “our land,” or stealing “our food.” Recall the Code of Hammurabi, from about 1750 BC, says “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This gets repeated verbatim in the Book of Exodus and the Book of Deuteronomy, two books of the Torah of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Deuteronomy 19:21 says “Show no pity; life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (The Hebrew word for “bread” is related to the Hebrew word for “war.”)
Jesus, however, presents pity, mercy, and love as the only path forward for our human evolution. 3For the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has declared this year (2016) as the Year of Mercy.
We see that positive changes in our immediate environment, and the possibility of leisure and deeper thought, allow for our further, and more potent, evolution. Good developments work together. Society becomes more proficient at ensuring our physical safety. Thought, art, music, and all manner of insights on how to make things better, happen. Spiritual breakthroughs can even occur in safer society, such as those brought to us by the Axial Period, and by Jesus. And these make society safer yet. There are positive cycles of evolution.
In the midst of this development, there is a pivotal evolutionary turning: We slowly, so slowly, see that we may let go of our fear and our greed, and we may love our neighbor. Nor is it smooth, this process: there are many forward and backward lurches and lunges. In the midst of this turning, all people in growing societies learn about something good: TRUST. Mutual trust occurs in better societies, even if not all people have found their way to love, yet. Trust and comfort with our society arrives on the scene. Again, this ‘trust’ is not total love and trust of individuals; it is more complex and nuanced—it is a trust, in part, that society will keep checks and balances on those who might do us harm. While there is some authentic ‘trust’, there is also shrewd judgment about how others will act under the constraint of societal rules and expectations.
Again, our evolution goes hand-in-hand with greater purposeful leisure and thought and the possibility of intentional spirituality. Monet would have never been able to paint the light when it was “just so,” if he was constantly worrying about the saber-toothed tiger that might be in the bush behind him.
So, Jesus began to spread the news that the time had arrived in our evolution where we could love each other. However, only ten days after Jesus left (at what Christians call the Ascension), and went UP to out-of-our-sight, Someone came DOWN to us. And this changed everything.
The Evolutionary Meaning of the Pentecost
Eleven confused and nervous men were huddled in the upper room. Their teacher had been resurrected, then left them without instructions about how to proceed. They had witnessed amazing things. They had no idea what to do. And the authorities were hunting them, to kill them for religious treason.
At that moment the Holy Spirit descended, and the terrified disciples suddenly had lights on their heads, as if they formed a 9-branched Hanukkah menorah, with more branches constantly being added. The work of the 2nd temple largely done, the Shekinah was leaving the “beit,” the old stone temple, and moving out into Humanity. The Holy Spirit was now entering the Human Person. As Paul says, “YOU are the temple of God,” and, “YOU are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.” People were surprised to hear such things said about human persons. However, God wants mutual indwelling: God in us, and us in God. But God wants us to help make this happen. When we try, God will act. 4If the reader notices a merging between anthropology and spiritual events portrayed in Scripture, that is precisely what is intended.
The 7-branch menorah was always in the old stone temple.5The first temple (attributed to Solomon) was destroyed by the Babylonians, at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. After the Babylonian Captivity, the great Iranian liberator of the Hebrews, Cyrus, allowed them to return to Jerusalem, and encouraged them to rebuild the temple. The second temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans. Both temples had extensive underground sewer systems to transport the blood of the sacrifices away. But much later, this menorah will grow. It will sprout two new branches, leave the temple, and take up residence in the human family.
The 9-branch menorah is in the human family, in the human home. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, takes place in the human family and human home, primarily. It represents the movement away from temple, to a presence of God in the Human Person, in the Human Community. This menorah is in the Mystical Psalm Structures, which shall be discussed below.
When the Holy Spirit enlightened the 11, and Mary, and others very soon thereafter, the 11 instantly became like supercharged pinballs bouncing all over the Eastern Mediterranean, founding churches, teaching people, strengthening communities, healing people. There were teleportations (see Acts 8:39-40) and many miracles. Their learning curve did not stop. As Jesus had promised them, the Holy Spirit came to them. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so thick and palpable, you could almost feel it in the air.
The Acts of the Apostles, an amazing action-packed Scripture, describes a bit of this awesome Spiritual saturation of the early community. This stunning new reality is the milieu in which Paul is writing that letter to the Corinthians.
Prior to his conversion, ultra-orthodox Paul was unsettled by the energy and compassion of this early Christian community. His powerful left brain had not learned to think outside the box. He didn’t even know that he had an anima.6In Jungian psychology, the “anima” is the collection of “feminine traits” that are in all people, including men. These “feminine traits,” for Jung, included compassion and tenderness. A goal of life is integration, through which a person harmonizes all their capacities in a strong and seamless spectrum. Jung loved John’s Gospel, a Scripture in which human integration holds a central place. At the Cross scene in John 19, the “woman” (Mary) reenters the man (Beloved Disciple), reintegrating the Feminine and Masculine after they had trod separate paths ever since Eve was born of Adam, as described in Genesis.
He murdered the Christians, who aroused great hate in him.7A bit of humor: Nietzsche, that witty misanthrope, says that the fact that 11 human persons stuck to the same story, even dying for it, proves that God is real!
Then he too saw the light. Saul became Paul.
And he bounced about even more than the others, teaching and building and healing and preaching and giving. Loving.
He really got the ways of the Spirit. His profound knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures was an ancient continent-sized dry parched sponge hidden in his soul. One bath with the Holy Spirit thoroughly soaked him, and he was so soaked and swamped that he needed a few years of Zazen in the desert to figure out what the new orientation of the universe was, and to integrate his movement to greater dimensionality. He learned new realities, deeper aspects of Reality. As he (or his students) writes in Ephesians 5, “two become one.” The Spirit sometimes operates in realms where logic, causality, and old systems of human relating are transcended. He started “at Gamaliel’s feet” (Acts 22:3) and went to being a star student of the Holy Spirit.
Was there a relationship between the Pentecost and our human spiritual evolution? Let’s return for a moment to the anthropological perspective. With the Axial Age, more interior space developed in us. This was great for creativity, but bad for old family structures. This results in breakdown of clans and tribes. On the positive side, inventions, technology, and much later, “job fairs” arrived to humanity.
This also results in INDIVIDUALITY, which is a crucial part of our evolution. (Dierkes mentions individuality, saying Paul’s letter represents a “total critique of Western culture’s pursuit of radical individualism.” I wish here to show how individualism is a needed, if only temporary, part of our evolution and person.)
Of course, we acknowledge that we also need community, now more than ever. But this will be, for the first time, a community of articulated individuals. A powerful, intelligent community. And fun, with art, with social style and real culture.
But as things develop, difficulties arise. There are emotional roller-coasters in evolution. The individual, alone and lonely, becomes more fearful and greedy. Even though our natural environment is much safer, we want to hoard money and possessions. Especially today. The New Testament, written when Humanity had already achieved a lot of progress, says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Indeed, the countless illegal and immoral and corrupt transactions that led to the subprime mortgage disaster of 2008 are a proof of this.
Again, fear and pride have a sloppy polarity with each other.
In Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lord of the Rings, Saruman the Lonely, who craves power and separation from humans, lives in a tower, above and cut off from human contact. His pride is stoked when Gandalf comes to him for help, and he descends and talks down to Gandalf, establishing his superiority over him, eliminating equal friendship and community.
Saruman the Lonely, in his conversations with his captives, captors, and orcs, is often seen to be oscillating between pride and fear. Opposite him, Gandalf loves, moves, communicates, cares, dances with hobbits, and, as a result of his human development and commitment, he is given even greater power yet.
The desert monks of Egypt, those great Ammas and Abbas, living in the intense afterglow of the Pentecost event, tracked the internal emotions with great precision.
The monks understood anger, for example. If anger is not given proper expression, and is suppressed or repressed, it contaminates reservoirs within us: Repressed anger can develop into fear, all the way to anxiety. Or, in a different direction, repressed anger can also develop into sadness, all the way to depression and despair.
Anger is a part of our world. If the Iliad of Homer is the first book of Western Civilization, then the first word of Western Civilization is “anger,” as it is literally the first word of the ancient text of the Iliad.
Part of our human relationships, and communal conduct, is helping people declare and express their anger in positive ways. Anger, worked with constructively and well, becomes the capacity for greater love. Paul knew this.
Suffering, worked with constructively and well, widens and expands our spiritual circuitry. We become capable of receiving more grace, reality, Holy Spirit.
Today, we can, and must, drop our fear and greed. Because today, we are being called to something….
We are being called to Love. Many people succeeded in figuring out the reality of love, and how it is singularly appropriate for human existence. Again, we see here a merging of two seemingly distinct storylines: The growth of Love fostered by our Scriptures, religions, and religious founders (Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad) does indeed merge into a “scientific or neutral” understanding of anthropology.
Christians, Muslims, and others invented our first orphanages, hospitals, and even education for poor children. These were shocking and revolutionary concepts. They changed our society and introduced far more Love and Compassion into our Human Family. Additionally, this individual-driven advance of our communities helps, in return, provide the societal setting for greater individual progress in the next generations. Individuals help community, and community helps all the individuals.
Indeed, the hard-won individual interior capacity for love is also manifested in greater communal concern. And a stronger community both allows and encourages people to be more loving.
So let us take our fear and greed, and transform it into a conscious concern for our community. Rather than shrink in fear and greed, let us reach out to each other in greater trust, awareness, respect, and love. This is our evolutionary vocation.
Part II: Now, and the Future
Humans are more complex today, as is our Humanity. We have more interior space.
In our recent quest for individuation, which was/is necessary, we have sometimes been seized by fear and greed—but some of this was bound to happen. It’s perhaps made more understandable by the bewildering speed and coldnesses of modern society, and by the potentially terrifying lack of integration and order, as things emerge in chaotic ways. As we recognize any fear and greed we’ve accrued, let’s be rid of it.
Today we have more access to traditions and to spiritual ways, but there are more distractions that would keep us from immersing into a discipline. There is less (positive) pressure to stick with one method. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said something like: “Pick one of the world’s major religious traditions, and do it.”8I have not been able to find where this statement was recorded; if I have erred, I ask pardon. To follow a tradition deeply has not been easy to do in today’s world. But, as always, the Divine will meet us where we are–and some of us have found growth and learning by moving among multiple traditions, and by engaging a combination of practices. The key thing is to practice and to love.
Our practice is an anchor in a world with so much going on. Our humanity is doing many things, some of which are wonderful, some less so. The wild openness of “things human” is all over the map today:
- We are becoming a charitable humanity, and the world responds (with mixed motives) by sending aid to a natural disaster in any part of the world. Bravo!
- Human rights are at an all-time high, at least in the law books. Bravo!
- The divide between rich and poor is the hugest ever, and growing. Oops.
- In this time of the growth of love, we have more and crueler and world-ending weapons than ever before. Oops.
- Our MSM (mainstream media) is not media, but corporate zionist neo-lib or neo-con factories of deceit that lie to us to keep us misinformed, distracted, and fearful. This intentionally works totally against the positive trends of our ongoing evolution. The MSM would take us back to the Stone Age. Oops.
And yet, amidst this vicious chaos (which is sometimes intentionally fostered by governments and media), the Spirit is here, guiding us, despite the demons who would corrupt our society.
1 Corinthians 13—Love Evolving Today: The New Pentecost, or, a New Axial Period
Chris Dierkes’ essay accomplishes an adroit transfer and application of 1 Cor 13 to today. Let us consider our contemporary context in the light of our spiritual evolution into the reality of love.
Above, we considered how Paul was the lead swimmer in the Spiritual flood of the Pentecost. Paul does not talk much about the historical Jesus. (Yet the Christ is always there as the context, in whom Paul lives and moves and has his being.) On the other hand, Paul talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. Paul gave his communities very much instruction in the ways of the Holy Spirit, especially when he was with them in person.
There is something similar to the Pentecost happening in the entire world today. Just as Dierkes sees echoes of the people of Corinth in us today, so too is our world experiencing an immense tide of the Spirit, as did Corinth.
The “Good Pope,” John XXIII, called today the “New Pentecost”—an astounding and shocking statement for a Pope to make.9Pope St. John XXIII called for Vatican II in a surprise statement at St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome, on 25 January 1959, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. He said this era would be a “New Pentecost.” Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., says that leading up to Pope John’s decision and announcement to convene the Council, “He was ‘provoked’ by the Spirit of God and by internal and external ferments that caused some discomfort.” What Cardinal Maradiaga has described is precisely how the Holy Spirit works today. The psychologist Carl Jung speaks of Synchronicity. This happens when our internal thoughts, dreams, or memories have a striking parallel to external events in our waking day. There is an alignment of our internal “microcosm” and the external “macrocosm.” The Holy Spirit often communicates with us, and teaches us, by Synchronicity. The fine article by Cardinal Maradiaga: http://americamagazine.org/issue/5153/article/new-pentecost
A New Pentecost means:
- a new immediacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit, and
- a rebirth of Christianity, and perhaps of all Humanity. Or, for non-Christians, we could call this a New Axial Period. One fruit of this time: The sharing between faiths, traditions, and religions is at an all-time high. How blessed we are.
There is something going on today. Something wonderful.
The great sage and mystic Bruno Barnhart said that we are on the threshold of a new Axial Period.
There are many mystics walking about our Earth today. Something is emerging.
A bit less than halfway through his essay, Dierkes recounts Paul’s list of the spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12.
Today, there are far more gifts. Really.
Today, spiritual gifts include advances in the ability to share our minds and imaginations, and so to effect profound psychic healing in wounded people. The expansion of our human psyche, aided by our evolutionary growth, has allowed the Spirit to develop greater gifts within us.
An example: I know a mystic woman and man. The woman had been abused as a child. The man imagined himself loving her, over a period of time. Their minds, memories, and imaginations merged. They did not touch physically.
The Divine respects the human person. The Divine could have instantly healed her. But that would disrespect human history. So the Divine situates us for an end-run around the historical reality.
The woman now has two sets of memories and imaginings to choose from. She can imagine sexuality in a new light. She can see herself being loved by a man who loves her. From that new vantage point, she has new emotional responses…. Already, her deep psyche is healing. Already, she knows new realities.
The woman was a mystic before the man was. They work together, even if they’re not on the same continent.
The woman is strong now (she was previously weak), and is a Spiritual TITAN. She is DEEP with the Holy Spirit. The man is of a lesser spiritual stature.
Nowadays, the man is led to new women, and is with them, psychically, not physically, for a short time or a longer time. There is often not much actual conversation between them. Often there is no normal communication between them. But the Spirit tells the man who his next neighbor is to be.
People are healed, and become mystics themselves. The psychic integration and healing in each person—the integration of anima with animus in all of us—allows for pronounced individual Spiritual evolution in a significant way.
This is happening today.
Perhaps you have your own experience of, or have received, Spiritual gifts.
There is evolution, even rapid growth, in Paul’s Ode to Love. This perhaps can be accelerated in the New Pentecost of today. Verse 13:10 speaks of an impending perfection, completion, or maturity. Then he says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child . . .” It’s unusual that he discusses a child’s “reasoning.” Perhaps he’s referring to less-evolved adults who constantly “reason” with fear and greed in the mix. Paul, who often speaks on multiple levels of meaning at once, would be happy to see an end of such primitive ways of social calculation. Bring on the love and the mature human beings! This verse continues with a rather rapid growth, from “child” (or even “infant”) to “man”: “But when I became a man (aner), I put away childish things.”
Childish things, such as fear and greed, now put away, what positive things are found in Spiritual adulthood, in our evolved human maturity? A direct mature relationship with God:
“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then, face to face.” (13:11)
Our evolution has a fulfillment in a far deeper love relationship with God.
John’s Gospel has a similar radically quick growth-evolution trajectory. John too discusses the evolution of humanity by using an image of the fast growth of a single human life. Chapters 13-17 of that Gospel, whose author learned much from Paul, are the Farewell Discourse. In this long talk, Jesus teaches his friends about the approaching arrival of the Holy Spirit, who will “teach you everything.” (John 14:26) Chapter 16 has a woman giving birth. The end of the situation is what we expect, but is also different from what we expect:
“The woman has grief when she bears, because her hour has come, but when she brings forth the child, she no longer remembers the distress, because of the joy that a man was born into the world.” (John 16:21, emphasis added) “Man” here is “anthropos,” which could also be translated as “human.” Again, we see a quick trajectory from “child” to “mature human person.” This is evolution.
More things, many more things, are happening today. Some of you know this. If you don’t know it, then meditate, or pray, and be at peace, and ask for the Divine to alight upon your shoulder.
Two paragraphs earlier, Dierkes says, “Esoteric or paranormal experience were apparently quite common in the Corinthian church.” Absolutely spot on.
Recall, this is in the sunburst of the first Pentecost.
Today, we are in the New Pentecost. And so there is much more Spiritual reality among us. And, we are also the beneficiaries of two millennia of human evolution that have happened since Paul wrote to Corinth.
Things are more complex today, and are meant to be more complex.
We need the Spirit today. It is our only Evolutionary Path forward—to walk with the Spirit.
We are getting into such complex situations, that a more evolved human person is needed. This is happening. A Divinized Humanity is emerging. God is real. God’s Spirit is with our evolving Humanity. Right now. (A religious sister, Dr. Mary L. Coloe, PBVM, speaking of John’s Gospel, says that the Holy Spirit wants to become part of our DNA.)
The future Humanity will all ‘believe’ in God because we will all have immediate knowledge and experience of God. As Paul hints at the end of 1 Cor 13, Faith will partially evaporate, in a good way. Faith will eventually be lovingly placed back on the tool shed wall (Rule of St. Benedict), because we will see face to face. With God. Bruno Barnhart said, “Gnosis is faith experienced.”
The reality of the Spiritual realm, as it becomes more undeniable to all, will affect many things in positive new ways. Even science will want to acknowledge this “newly proven Reality.”
The future scientist will, of necessity, be a mystic. Because of the complexity we are entering, the thunderous overwhelming array of choices that will be before us, the shocking spectrum of possible courses. With the Spirit, we will navigate this with ease.
The New Axial Period, the New Pentecost, will be a time of universal acknowledgment of the Divine. Nor will everyone be necessarily corralled into one religious camp, or forced into “the one and only” correct mosque, church, or zendo. Truth loves dialogue. There will still be endless learning before us. And endless dialogue as we journey together in Allah, in whom we live and move and have our being.
Some of the “proofs” of the existence of God are occurring right now. For example, I have been studying the Mystical Psalm Structures—a recent rediscovery. Another essay shall present them. These structures are hidden, by the Spirit, in the Psalms of David (which the Qur’an mentions three times as the Zabur of Dawood) of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Those who composed the individual Psalms were unaware of the Psalm Structures. Yet almost every page of the New Testament reveals their Christian authors consciously speaking of the Mystical Psalm Structures, but in intentionally concealed ways. The New Testament authors know of these realities, but do not quite place them plainly on the table for all to immediately see. They, instead, give many hints, clues, and innuendos. Once you have broken the code of the Psalms (and the Psalms should be the least organized book of the Bible!), then you see that the Mystical Psalm Structures are referred to constantly in the New Testament. Jesus of Nazareth knew the Psalm Structures. (Paul saw the Psalm Structures after his conversion, and taught almost all the other New Testament authors more deeply about them.)
These structures are not limited to the Judeo-Christian Bible. The Qur’an was given to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) by the mighty Angel Jibreel (Gabriel). The Qur’an is brimming, flowing over like a fountain of life, with mystical knowledge of the Psalm Structures (again, the Qur’an refers to the Psalms, the Zabur of Dawood, three times; the Qur’an also refers, sometimes positively, to Christian monks of Egypt, Italy Greece, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon (who knew the Psalm Structures deeply)).
Outside the Abrahamic traditions, the Bible and Qur’an’s mystical realities have connections to Chandogya Upanishad, the Bhagavad-Gita, and Taoist art, among possibly many more. Could this just be a wild accident? Or is there something more to these correlations? Forthcoming writing discusses this, and shows that it is not an accident.
Back to 1 Corinthians:
Paul shows us a light prism before such prisms were invented:
In Chapter 12 he discusses the Holy Spirit. In verses 4, 5, and 6 he mentions the Spirit, the Lord, and God, and so there is here a rare appearance of the Holy Trinity in the Bible. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity. The word “one” appears at least 13 times in this chapter, and its first appearance describes the Holy Spirit as “One.” But then the one light of the Holy Spirit shines through the prism, and a rainbow of Spiritual Gifts beams out of the triangular glass. Dierkes lists them, although the list has grown much longer today.
There is another discussion of multiplicity and unity, this time connected with the reality of the Body of Christ. We are all members of one body. This is not easy to wrap our heads around.
But then towards the end of the great hymn to love of Chapter 13, these gifts start to be pulled back into the Godhead. They will disappear, no longer needed. The many various gifts, these strands of light of every color, are rewoven with each other, gathered together, and are taken up and gone again.
The gifts disappear into another united group of three—but this time, it is not the Trinity. It is the HUMAN theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. The gifts have served their purpose by making humanity more like God, and more like the intensely hot relationship of love that is in the Godhead-Trinity.
The Body of Christ emulates the Trinity. We grow in Love. 1 John 4 repeatedly says, “God Is Love.” Therefore, the Spiritual gifts help us learn to be more Divine, as we make the Body of Christ, the Human Community, more like the inner life of God.10Genesis 1:26-27 opens a miraculous window into the inner life of God: “And God is saying, ‘Let us make humanity in our image, as our likeness….’ And God is creating the human in (God’s) image, in the image of God he created (the human), male and female he created them.”
Paul has another chiastic structure holding Chapter 13. The final verse of Chapter 12 is:
“But STRIVE for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
Then there is Chapter 13. Following Chapter 13, the first verse of Chapter 14 is:
“PURSUE LOVE, and STRIVE for the spiritual gifts.”
Both exhortations have the verb “strive,” which is related to our word “zeal.”
Paul adds something new, however, to the exhortation that appears after Chapter 13. He says, “Pursue Love.” We pursue God, we chase God as our divine lover or beloved. Paul encourages us to be more like God. We become beings of Love.
Again, the gifts return to Holy Spirit, but with something new: they return to God WITH US HUMANS, who are now mixed with the content of 1 Cor 13, which is Love. But later the New Testament says, “God Is Love.” Humanity is now partaking more deeply in God.
Remember that rainbow of light that is taken back into God? Well, it now includes us, all the members of the Body of Christ (or World Soul, nous-sphere, etc.).
The bundle of dancing colored light now includes God and Humanity together. The Divine-Human strand now enters back into the reality behind the prism, the Godhead.
God is in us now, and we are in God now.
The Second Letter of Peter says precisely the same thing. Peter says that we are to be partakers of the Divine Nature. This is shocking, and it’s right in the New Testament of the Bible. In the 4th verse of his second letter, Peter says that we are meant to be “participants of the Divine Nature.”
Eastern Christianity, such as the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox, have deosis as a central part of their faith. Deosis (and theosis) is the understanding that God wants us to evolve and grow and be lifted up by God into God. There are many versions and various teachings about deosis in the Eastern Churches. The Western Church also has deosis in its theology, but it does not receive the prominence that the Eastern Churches give to it. We progress in Divinity, and become more Human.
Spiritual People Today: Helping Love Evolve
In his article, Chris Dierkes addresses how some of the same personal and societal foibles that people had in Paul’s Corinthian community appear in us today. This is entirely to be expected, especially given the necessary, yet difficult, fracturing of society and family structure and relationships that modern society, with our recent adventures in individuation, has facilitated.
Before and after the great hymn to Love, Paul urges us to strive for the higher gifts. To want spiritual gifts, he says, is a good desire, a healthy desire.
The Mystical Psalm Structures have a lot to do with the education of desire, and with the varieties of love.
The Greeks had various kinds of love, and several words for love. Three of the important ones are philia (kind sisterly and brotherly love, communal love), eros (erotic love), and agape (profound Love, Divine Love, Humans Learning Divine Love).
Paul’s Chapter 13 is all about Agape. The highest form of Love.
This does not mean that eros and philia get left behind, no. They are found in and among Agape. But it’s good for us to really focus on Agape, and, sometimes, we may have to leave eros, and even philia, to the side for a while. We’ll be able to pick these up again later, in far better ways.
Let’s return to the statement in 2 Peter 1:4, where we are urged to become partakers of the Divine Nature. Peter does something astounding here. He takes the phrase “Godly/Divine Nature,” which in the Greek is 2 feminine words, and splits them, placing the masculine word “partakers,” or “participants,” between them. Masculine inside the Feminine. The Feminine contains the Masculine. There is a hint of Human sexuality with the Divine here. This is in accord with the stunning 26th verse of the Bible (see footnote 10).
Heaven is not milquetoast. The trials on earth serve to strengthen and prepare us to be able to, actually, sustain the ecstasy of heaven. To be near the Divine. Closeness to Allah requires tremendous strength, training, appetite, and desire.
Yet this same verse of Peter’s, 2 Peter 1:4, also has a warning about lust. [ ! ]
Peter is acknowledging that in the presence of the Holy Spirit being given to us, we must move with care and maturity in our lives. Such care leads to great rewards.
As we proceed on the journey, good actions are increasingly set closer to potentially bad actions. Our accuracy sharpens. The final Surah of the Qur’an, the amazing Surah 114, speaks of this. The struggle is often more internal. The purer and stronger our conscience is, the faster, further, higher, and deeper we’ll fly.
Let us be teachers.
Let us be astronauts, sailors among the stars, of Agape. This will lead us to a greater appropriation of the Earth, and the earth of our bodies. (Modern mystics also report having mystical experiences at the minute, even cellular, level of the body.)
Let us love our sisters and brothers dearly. Let us care and teach them. If we’re spiritual teachers, let us guide them perfectly. Let us ask the Divine for help in this.
As Dierkes says, the “question of the ethics of our psyches is absolutely crucial.” And how!
What if the future of Humanity is a shared mind? Paul says elsewhere, “Put on the mind of Christ.” He’s not kidding.
Bruno Barnhart, speaking of what has already begun in these our days, said, “It’s like one mind, and it’s like a billion minds.”
The Spiritual Gifts of today affect our psyches, souls, and hearts even more than in Paul’s day. This being the case, we owe it to the human community, and they to us, to be constantly refining our consciences, our springs of intuition. The conscience is vital! The conscience is the hinge of our connection to the Divine, for Divine Intuition and Divine Inspiration arrive to us through our conscience. If our conscience is inoperative, we will miss the Holy Spirit entirely. We’ll miss the boat.11For those new to this notion, the Examen of Conscience can be helpful. The Examen was begun perhaps by the desert monks of Egypt. St. Gregory the Great developed it further, as did St. Ignatius Loyola after him. The Examen can be a hugely insightful and transformative Spiritual practice. It aids our growth in self-knowledge.
People, if we are going to be sharing our minds and souls with each other, we want them to be as clean and as strong as they can be. Again, cleanliness here does not mean milquetoast. The phrase “Purity of Heart” has as its end the strengthening of our heart, the ability to take staggering amounts of Divine joy, to cleave into the radiant joyful furnace that is all good.
Additionally, if we would like to receive direct communication from the Holy Spirit–which is happening today–the crisp operation of our conscience is necessary. The Holy Spirit may teach us new languages to communicate with us.
If you are lost now, and have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry. Jesus tells us in the Farewell Discourse of John’s Gospel (Chapters 13 – 17) that when the Spirit arrives—when each of us receives the Holy Spirit personally—the Spirit will teach us what we need to know. I can say with confidence and experience that this is exactly what happens. It’s divine…and it’s human. It’s amazing. You will know when it happens. And today, it may be happening more than ever.
The Emergent Spiritual Community
If we want to bring all of our mind, heart, will, imagination, memory, and desire to this new body, this new community, this new Kosmos, this Body of Christ, this World Soul, then we want to bring ALL of something else to this gathering:
We need to bring all of the community.
We want everyone to be there.
Back in the Hebrew Scriptures, every single one of the great ancient prophets speaks of social justice. Every. Single. Prophet. Ever. Speaks. Of. Social. Justice.
Care for the poor.
Care for the orphan.
Care for the widow.
Care for the stranger.
Care for the indigenous.
Care for every single human person that is in the community.
In Psalm 72, which is both a Ladder Psalm and a Menorah Psalm, the best and highest leader is the one who cares for the lowest and the weakest and the most disenfranchised. Why? Psalm 72 has the answer to that as well:
When all people in a community are loved and cared for, then joy, for all, will be at a maximum. Mother Earth will know that her children, all of us earthlings, are at a maximum point of community. And She, Mother Earth, will be happy. The Earth can heal Herself. And she will. Harvests will be more bountiful than ever. There will be a global Thanksgiving. Kosmos will happen. A joyful universe, as Romans 8 promises.
Dierkes too mentions the periphery, the forgotten, the marginalized (in about the 43rd paragraph), as does Pope Francis in all of his documents. Dierkes writes: “….Paul reminds us that those who seem on the periphery, the forgotten, marginalized, and oppressed ones, are the indispensable ones.”
In the next paragraph, Dierkes says something vital, regarding community: “….Paul’s vision is one of radical interdependency or inter-being.” I’m considering getting that line tattooed on my forehead.
Paul says elsewhere that we are all parts of each other. Our evolution involves a deepening love for our community.
Dierkes then criticizes “radical individualism,” which I partially agree with; above, we discussed the evolutionary necessity of some individuation. I would entirely agree with Dierkes, however, that now we need to bring ourselves, as more articulated individuals, back to community, and joyfully immerse in our community(s).
With Dierkes’ article I have minor disagreements, regarding perspective and vocabulary. The only one I’ll mention here is towards the end, when he discusses love.
He says that love is wishing the best for others. That’s Step One.
And it’s proper for all of us, especially in early training periods that we go through, to have this attitude so it becomes a mindset for us. Yet Luke’s Sermon on the Plain develops this further, establishing a return motion too: “Give, and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall be poured into your bosom; for the measure you give will be the measure you receive.” (Luke 6:38)
John’s Gospel says that Fountains of Living Water will start flowing in our Hearts. This happens only after we have worked grown in giving, in loving others. (The Qur’an echoes this, speaking of Gardens under which streams flow….)
In these verses, our boot camp training and early efforts of love become smoother and more mature. We become builders of community. What’s more, there is a return of love coming to us.
This statement, disarmingly simple at first, is quite complex:
“We all want to love, and we all want to be loved.”
This speaks of multiplicity and complexity. They are 2 completely different action-groups, to love and to be loved! It seems both active and passive! And if we dare to love, then we are left in the vulnerable position of having to hope for reciprocation! Yet the two radically different actions are united by one love.
A going and a coming in one ellipse, one sphere.
If a huge new continent were to be discovered today on our wonderful Earth, we would be stunned and ecstatic. Imagine the rapture with which we would want to explore this new place that we never knew was here. “Truly God is in this place, and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16)
This new Kosmos is here. It is arriving. We must help with the delivery. The more we strive and pray and be and authentically love, the more it will be realized with us right here and now.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||A clear echo of this truth appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 25: “Then happy I, that love and am beloved.” I have searched but not yet found if another has more of a claim on this saying than Shakespeare.|
|2.||↑||With the term “evolution,” I am not referring to the various scientific theories that come under the umbrella of evolutionary biology. Scientific study of evolution is a young pursuit, and raises more questions than it answers. There is no clear picture of our biological evolution. Much work remains to be done. (For example, the fossil record still does not support Darwin’s theories, although Darwin said it would.)|
|3.||↑||For the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has declared this year (2016) as the Year of Mercy.|
|4.||↑||If the reader notices a merging between anthropology and spiritual events portrayed in Scripture, that is precisely what is intended.|
|5.||↑||The first temple (attributed to Solomon) was destroyed by the Babylonians, at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. After the Babylonian Captivity, the great Iranian liberator of the Hebrews, Cyrus, allowed them to return to Jerusalem, and encouraged them to rebuild the temple. The second temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans. Both temples had extensive underground sewer systems to transport the blood of the sacrifices away.|
|6.||↑||In Jungian psychology, the “anima” is the collection of “feminine traits” that are in all people, including men. These “feminine traits,” for Jung, included compassion and tenderness. A goal of life is integration, through which a person harmonizes all their capacities in a strong and seamless spectrum. Jung loved John’s Gospel, a Scripture in which human integration holds a central place. At the Cross scene in John 19, the “woman” (Mary) reenters the man (Beloved Disciple), reintegrating the Feminine and Masculine after they had trod separate paths ever since Eve was born of Adam, as described in Genesis.|
|7.||↑||A bit of humor: Nietzsche, that witty misanthrope, says that the fact that 11 human persons stuck to the same story, even dying for it, proves that God is real!|
|8.||↑||I have not been able to find where this statement was recorded; if I have erred, I ask pardon.|
|9.||↑||Pope St. John XXIII called for Vatican II in a surprise statement at St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome, on 25 January 1959, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. He said this era would be a “New Pentecost.” Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., says that leading up to Pope John’s decision and announcement to convene the Council, “He was ‘provoked’ by the Spirit of God and by internal and external ferments that caused some discomfort.” What Cardinal Maradiaga has described is precisely how the Holy Spirit works today. The psychologist Carl Jung speaks of Synchronicity. This happens when our internal thoughts, dreams, or memories have a striking parallel to external events in our waking day. There is an alignment of our internal “microcosm” and the external “macrocosm.” The Holy Spirit often communicates with us, and teaches us, by Synchronicity. The fine article by Cardinal Maradiaga: http://americamagazine.org/issue/5153/article/new-pentecost|
|10.||↑||Genesis 1:26-27 opens a miraculous window into the inner life of God: “And God is saying, ‘Let us make humanity in our image, as our likeness….’ And God is creating the human in (God’s) image, in the image of God he created (the human), male and female he created them.”|
|11.||↑||For those new to this notion, the Examen of Conscience can be helpful. The Examen was begun perhaps by the desert monks of Egypt. St. Gregory the Great developed it further, as did St. Ignatius Loyola after him. The Examen can be a hugely insightful and transformative Spiritual practice. It aids our growth in self-knowledge.|