Why not human unity?
And so this column on spiritual development begins its second year.
The month of January is spiritually known as a time to gather for celebrations of Christian Unity. There is however another project humming in the Universe which is the unity of world religions, native traditions, and spiritual paths based on the apprehending of mystical awareness. Thirty years have passed since Hans Torwesten writing in Vedanta: Heart of Hinduism stated, “It is not always easy to build bridges between Eastern metaphysics and mysticism, on the one hand, and, on the other, Western Christian ethics. Albert Schweitzer considered the two worlds ultimately irreconcilable, however much he admired the one and lived in the other. But can we live forever in a world thus divided? True Advaita (Oneness) will probably become fully incarnate here on earth when the impulse of Christian neighborly love and the infinite breadth of Vedantic mysticism have joined to transform the face of this earth.”
I would nuance Torwesten’s thinking. Christian neighborly love has its roots in the millennia old tradition of Christian mysticism preceded by the impressive mystical awareness of the Jewish Kabballah and accompanied in overlapping centuries by the dawn of Buddhist mindfulness, as well as the emergence of the Hindu Vedas, and the flowering of Persian (Islamic) mystical poetry. So it is not that unity will occur when good Christian neighbors merge with Hindu mysticism but that both Christians, Hindus, Jews, and all others will merge when they realize that they are already one in the heart of their being.
For Christians the great challenge is to step back from a style of loving one’s neighbor that has devolved into the “protestant” work ethic. The work ethic in turn has devolved into workaholism which in turn has made it difficult for humans to be still, a phenomenon now viewed by many as being Idle.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk writing in Creation Spirituality magazine in 1992, states, “Basic to the New Age movement is a growing awareness that everything is connected to everything. We are learning this more and more. To act upon this basic thought leads us into a New Age.” Buddhists, Native Americans and shamanic traditions have long held the same view, based not in academic learning, but in lived experience, including inner experience.
The great Holy Ones: Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, all realized this truth not from academic study but from within themselves, spending time being still and looking deeply within. They knew that this knowledge was an affair of the heart and not an exercise of doctrine to define and divide people from one another across an intellectual abyss.
A valuable step toward mystical awareness is evidenced in the growing prevalence of meditation. Parade magazine in the Washington Post this past Sunday had a cover story on meditation entitled, “The #1 Health Booster in 2015” And AARP magazine for December 2015 features an article, “Mindfulness Matters: Goldie Hawn’s Prescription for Inner Peace.” (If you would like information on my meditation class later this month, write to the email below.) Happy New Year, everyone!
(Bill O’Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )