RCMR SHORT ARTICLES
INTRODUCTION TO RCMR SHORT ARTICLES
In these brief articles there is no way to begin to cover the numerous angles of these RCMR subjects. I am only scratching the surface. For more in-depth treatment of these subjects see the “ RCMR Expanded Articles” below.
CENTERING PRAYER, a term first coined by Thomas Merton, is a method of silent prayer with deep historic roots, preserved in Western Contemplative Tradition, most notably in The Cloud of Unknowing and in the teachings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.
CENTERING PRAYER was made contemporary in recent decades by Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, William Menninger, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, David Frenette, Phileena Heuertz, Richard Rohr, and many others. Perhaps the fourth century monk, Evagrius Ponticus, gave the best description of CENTERING PRAYER: “the shedding of thoughts.” In other words CENTERING PRAYER trains the mind to become free from distractions so it can “rest in God.”
A primary evangelical arm, so to speak, of contemporary CENTERING PRAYER tradition, is Contemplative Outreach, Ltd, which produces numerous resources, facilitates CENTERING PRAYER retreats worldwide, and administers a website, et cetera.
The best advice about CENTERING PRAYER that I’ve received from seasoned practitioners over the years: A) Do CENTERING PRAYER at least twice a day for at least twenty minutes each time (the second time exponentially increases the long term healing effects) B) Do CENTERING PRAYER at the same times every day on an empty stomach C) Daily silent prayer has a cumulative effect and requires years of steady practice for deep healing to take place. Give it time! D) A regular exercise program speeds up CENTERING PRAYER’S long term healing process E) Do at least one extended six to ten day CENTERING PRAYER retreat yearly. This too, catapults progress.
NEW MONASTICISM is also referred to as neo-monasticism or lay monasticism. This term refers to people who have a regular practice of silent prayer, but who don’t reside in a monastery or cloister. Regular intervals of solitude, silence, stillness, and service eventually lead to experiences of Christian Mysticism.
Accusations of derangement seem to be an occupational hazard of Christian Mystics dating back to at least the sixth century. Maximus the Confessor writes, “For he who has been united with the truth has the assurance that all is well with him, even though most people rebuke him for being out of his mind. For without their being aware he has moved from delusion to the truth of real faith; and he knows for sure that he is not deranged, as they say. . .” (Palmer, et al., The Philokalia Vol. 2, 282).
New monastics include self-identified monk-priests, monk-ministers, monk-bishops, monk-accountants, monk-lawyers, et cetera. These people have demanding occupations of various kinds, yet remain devoted to consistent silent prayer and other devotional practices traditionally associated with the monastery or cloister.
To make progress in silent prayer the recommendation of centering prayer communities is to practice at least twenty minutes twice a day (forty minutes total) and to do at least one silent prayer retreat per year. Denominations that prioritize, encourage, and develop silent prayer and NEW MONASTICISM are The Quakers (FGC), The Church of the Savior, Episcopalians, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics. RCMR’s hope is that more leaders of Protestant denominations will support NEW MONASTICISM within their congregations and judicatories.
I prefer the phrase CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM to the term Contemplative Christianity. Yet, I shy away from these terms unless they are made more precise. For me, the words that give CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM disciplined specificity are The Jesus Paradox and The Alexandrian Mystics (The Alexandrian Fathers). These terms ground CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, free it from nebulous hearsay, and give it tangibility, lineage, and integrity.
CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM is not an esoteric science that occurred among some isolated mystics outside of mainstream Christianity. It is Christianity’s historic essence and core. The aim of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM is to understand, silently behold, and experience the greatest mysteries of the faith: The Trinity and The Incarnation.
CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM is convoluted in people’s minds because of wave upon wave of controversy that surrounds its root concepts. For me, a basic vocabulary of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM includes The Jesus Paradox, The Trinity (according to the Cappadocian Fathers), Hesychasm (Silent Prayer), The Mystical Theology and Divine Names of Denys, and The Philokalia.
What all these subjects have in common is that they’ve been surrounded by controversy. The reason for the controversies are that mystics and mystical concepts are easily misunderstood and misrepresented. They also threaten people who are unfamiliar with mystical experiences, especially church authorities. Because there is so much controversy around CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM’S root concepts, most Contemplative Christians have steered clear of these terms. This is one of the tragedies of Christianity. And as a result, in many people’s minds, there is no unified and deeply rooted lineage of Christian Mystics, nor a core of mystical concepts that hold the legacy together. As a result, many Christians who are mystically inclined turn to new age experiments or to other religious traditions that have well developed mystical legacies.
Yes, Catholic and Protestant Christianity has taught the mystics piece meal—this isolated mystic here, that one over there—The Cloud of Unknowing that happened to pop up there. Yet, the deeply rooted legacy dating back to the earliest Christians is generally lost on Western tradition as a whole. To make matters worse, people genuinely inclined toward mysticism in contemporary western society are most often dismissed at best or accused of being deranged at worst, by those who have made reason and dualistic thinking their ultimate authority.
In this post-modern era, with its distance from the ancient controversies, and with its pioneering spirit, I hope many will return to CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM’S deeply rooted historic foundations. Mysticism is the deepest expression of any faith and any mysticism worth its salt must rest on a firm historic lineage and legacy.
THE JESUS PARADOX
THE JESUS PARADOX (Miaphysite) is a holistic way of seeing Jesus rooted in the lineage of monk-bishops, who resided in Alexandria, Egypt between 312 and 454CE, especially Cyril of Alexandria.
Cyril’s phrase “at once God and human” is the essence of THE JESUS PARADOX. This phrase means that I cannot say Jesus is God period, without qualifying that: God in human form. If I am a believer, I can’t say Jesus is human period, without qualifying that: the human incarnation of God. The Divinity with an upper case D and the humanity with a lower case h are always united and can’t be separated. They are a dynamic union.
The JESUS PARADOX is the core mystical theology of the Oriental Orthodox Church and its eighty-five millions adherents worldwide. It is rooted in scripture. In John 10:30 Jesus says “God and I are one.” Jesus says in John 10:38: “God is in me and I am in God.” Paul says in Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” This core theology emphasizes unity (Miaphysite), not duality (dyophysite). In other words, Jesus Divinity can never be separated from his humanity and vice versa.
THE JESUS PARADOX is the crown jewel of the Alexandrian Mystics (Alexandrian Fathers). It is the center piece that holds the various strands of Christian Mysticism together. The JESUS PARADOX is none other than the non-dual essence of Christian tradition—Christianity’s mystic core.
NONVIOLENCE TOWARD PEOPLE AND THE EARTH
Before we delve into the subject of Nonviolence it is important for us to state emphatically and definitively that we cannot judge warriors of the past (Luke 6:42). As the human family continues to evolve we can only hope for a brighter future, with fewer and fewer occasions for war, and fewer and fewer excuses made on war’s behalf (Isaiah 2:4).
Jesus’ words echo through the generations: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
Christians are called to respect the dignity of all people, even the perpetrators of violence. This principle of finding God-given worth and dignity (no matter how buried in dysfunction) in all people, leads us to “reduce the violence” in all situations (Genesis 1:27, Mathew 5:44). This is the faithful response to the golden rule (Matthew 12:31).
Reducing the violence is not about pacifism or not using physical force under any circumstances. Reducing the violence is also not necessarily about the absence of violence. It is, simply put, to reduce the violence in any given situation. “Reduce the violence” is NONVIOLENCE’S starting point.
It is important to state clearly and repeatedly that NONVIOLENCE includes eco-justice. In our time NONVIOLENCE toward the environment is paramount and there can be no understanding of NONVIOLENCE outside of ecological conservation. We face the scientifically verifiable rapid extinction of species, the disastrous effects of global climate change, deforestation, overpopulation, and radio-active waste, to name a few calamities. So, our understanding of NONVIOLENCE begins with “reducing the violence” to the planet and its violated and contaminated ecosystems.
NONVIOLENCE has a long legacy among Christianity’s historic “Peace Churches:” the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonites, and the Quakers (FGC). These traditions believe that primary testimonies of Jesus and the Gospels are NONVIOLENCE and peacemaking.
Author Walter Wink writes cogently about how many of Jesus’ Gospel teachings advocate what he calls Jesus’ Third Way, also known as the Peace Testimony. Jesus’ Third Way is not fight or flight. It is a way that is both assertive and nonviolent. Select Gospel passages, when interpreted correctly, illuminate Jesus’ Third Way. Exemplary passages include Matthew 5:39b, Mark 15:21, and Matthew 5:40.
When I think of Jesus’ Third Way, French philosopher Renee Girard immediately comes to mind. For Girard, the Christian Cross is the definitive subversion of society’s generations-old recurring habit of systemic scapegoating and violence.
RCMR OVERVIEW OF LONGER ARTICLES
One of the greatest callings for a human life is the aspiration to develop intimacy with God through an established Centering Prayer practice. After years of training this practice can lead to Divine Union–the summit of Christian Mysticism. Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots (RCMR) is an unfolding dynamic process of greater and greater intimacy with God. After intimacy is established through Centering Prayer, the aim is integration into every aspect of life in the twenty-first century, from lifestyle, to study, to theology, to ethics, to social and environmental activism.
Seek first the dominion of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. -Matthew 6:33 (for more references see the RCMR website “RESOURCES” tab)
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
“There is no substitute for an established Centering Prayer practice, day in, day out, rain or shine.” –Thomas Keating
“I believe that the combination of human action from a contemplative center is the greatest art form.” Richard Rohr
Ancient Historic Exemplar
George Fox (1624-1691)
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)
Fox, George. The Journal of George Fox. Richmond: Friends United Press, 2006.
Recover and put into practice the most vital and life giving mystic roots of Christian Tradition, then teach them to your community.
Before delving into the various aspects of RCMR, I want to set my intention. What is my motivation in this work? My intention is to share the most life-giving gems I have found in my life and ministry. Let’s clarify that you can make RCMR as simple or as elaborate as you choose (that’s the reason for a synopsis of each subject, a primary resource, et cetera). The foundation of it all is the daily practice of Centering Prayer and the yearly Centering Prayer retreats. The other aspects are ways of holding the practice and integrating it into everyday life.
During my twenty-five years of seeking that led to extended travels in Bali, Indonesia, East Africa, the former Soviet Union, India, and Mexico… After fifteen years of pastoral ministry… And after twelve years of consistent Centering Prayer practice along with extended yearly Centering Prayer retreats, I have come upon the treasure that will be the subject of my teaching and writing as long as I have breath. That treasure is Christian Mysticism (Matthew 13:44; 6:21).
RCMR (Recover Christianity’s Mystic Roots) defines Christian Mysticism as “Intimacy with God that leads to Divine Union.”
According to RCMR there are five primary roots of contemporary Christian Mysticism:
- 1. The ROOT daily DISCIPLINE of #CenteringPrayer
- 2. The ROOT life CALLING of #NewMonasticism
- 3. The ROOT study & EMULATION of #ChristianMysticism
- 4. The ROOT mystical THEOLOGY of the #JesusParadox
- 5. The ROOT ETHIC of #Nonviolence toward people & the earth
For years I have dreamed of an informal cluster of new-monastics dedicated to recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots, new-monastics who lead normal lives in the twenty-first century, who have a common holistic vision of Jesus, a common identification with the root texts of Christian Mysticism, a common discipline of Centering Prayer with its established retreat schedules and retreat centers worldwide, and a common dedication to Nonviolent principles that can transform us, our society, and our ecology.
These five roots form an integral whole—they reinforce and complement each other. Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots is not passive. It requires action. So at the end of the following sections you will find “actions.” We encourage you to start by simply following through on one action that speaks to you. Then you may choose to take other actions in time. When you commit to an action please let us know about it (RCMR website “CONTACT” tab). (I’m still working on some of these actions myself!)
We live in a sound-bite culture and some have asked me, “What is your theology in a nutshell?” My response: Jesus is the lens through which I interpret the rest of the Bible (as Fred Craddock has said, “Jesus is the knothole through which we pull the rest of the Bible”). The Alexandrian Mystics (Alexandrian Fathers) are the lens through which I interpret Jesus’ essence (Jesus Paradox). So, I am a follower of Jesus. Yet, my interpretation of Jesus differs from mainstream Christianity. For me Jesus is three things above all else:
1) The Unique human Incarnation of God (paradoxically God and human at the same time (Jesus Paradox/Miaphysite))
2) The Ultimate Mystic (may they be one as we are one/John 17:22)
3) Prophet of Nonviolence, Justice, and Inclusive Compassion (love your enemies/Matthew 5:44, He touched the leper/Matthew 8:3)
The Jesus Paradox refers to point number one. New Monasticism, Centering Prayer, and Christian Mysticism refer to point two. And Nonviolence refers to three.
For me and my sisters and brothers in the Eastern Church, the most compelling Christian model is “incarnation | transformation | inclusive compassion.” Some may say incarnational theology and mysticism are scary. Here I refer to Richard Rohr: “Don’t let the word ‘mystic’ scare you. It…means one who’s moved from belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience.”
The roots of RCMR’s approach are the Bible and Jesus. We simply take a more mystical angle on both. Instead of a hard line literal approach to the Bible, we prefer the personal/metaphorical approach (what is this sacred text saying to me personally today?) This approach is mixed with acknowledgment of the authenticity of the Gospels, which by-and-large depict actual events.
The approach of the Alexandrian Mystics is primarily about the incarnation, communion with God in prayer, and solidarity with humanity in service. From RCMR’s perspective Jesus saves us from alienation from God, alienation from our true selves, from binary dualistic “us and them” thinking, and from violence, injustice, and hatred. This is Jesus’ primary saving activity, which continues to this day. This leads us to a deep conviction expressed well by Brian Zahnd: “Jesus was trying to lead humanity into the deep truth that there is no ‘them,’ there is only us.”
After the above sentences, some of my friends and colleagues have pressed further and asked, “Okay can you distill this down to one or two sentences?” At that point I say, “In the depths of consistent silent prayer we discover a transforming ‘Loving Presence.’ Jesus exquisitely translates and mediates this Presence for us.”
There are three sections at the end of this webpage: RCMR Essence, Footnotes, and Bibliography. The first is an attempt to articulate RCMR’s distilled essence. The “Footnotes” section was necessary because each of the five RCMR root subjects have numerous layers. And there is no way to touch on all these layers in the brief articles below. So, the notes explore some layers and related threads of thought of each subject. The Bibliography references key texts that informed the articles, with primary texts starred, if people are interested in further reading.
RECOVER THE ROOT DAILY DISCIPLINE OF CENTERING PRAYER
Centering Prayer is an ancient form of Christian meditation that has surprising transformative power, especially within the context of a consistent practice. It is made contemporary today by teachers such as Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgault, David Frenette, and many others.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to God, who is unseen. Then God, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. -Matthew 6:6 (for more references see the RCMR website “RESOURCES” tab)
“Practice Stillness and know God” –Philokalia rendering of Psalm 46:10
“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.” –Thomas Keating
Ancient Historic Exemplars
Anthony of Egypt and The Desert Fathers & Mothers
The Cloud of Unknowing, Basil Pennington, William Meninger, Thomas Keating
Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.
Keating, Thomas. Contemplative Prayer. Louisville, Colorado: Sounds True Audio, 2004 (this is the best synopsis of Centering Prayer practice and its background that I’ve found).
There is no substitute for daily Centering Prayer Practice (twice a day for twenty minutes each session).
Thomas Keating refers to CENTERING PRAYER sessions as “heavy dates” with God. A “heavy date” with a spouse usually includes physical intimacy. A “heavy date” with God includes intimacy with God’s most essential and primal being: stillness and silence.
Silent prayer is a principal practice of Quakers, CENTERING PRAYER practitioners, Prayer of the Heart practitioners, and monastic Christians from East to West. Western Christian tradition refers to silent prayer as the prayer of faith, the prayer of simplicity, the prayer of simple regard, contemplative prayer, and silent worship. It is also referred to as blessed stillness, watchfulness, and noetic stillness in the writings of the Eastern Church. Resting in God’s pregnant silences is the common ground of Christian mystics.
There are other forms of Christian meditation aside from CENTERING PRAYER, such as “Prayer of the Heart.” I’ve settled on CENTERING PRAYER as a primary root of Christian Mysticism because of its familiarity, popularity, accessibility, breadth, history, and well established centers of instruction and retreat throughout the world.
“Resting in God” is a phrase Gregory the Great (d. 604) used to summarize the essence of CENTERING PRAYER. This was the classical meaning of contemplative prayer for Christianity’s first sixteen centuries.
Thomas Keating writes:
Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart—our whole being—to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing—closer than consciousness itself. Contemplative Prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union (Keating, Method of Centering Prayer).
CENTERING PRAYER begins with Jesus. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus says “Go into your room and shut the door and pray.” In Jesus’ day homes were simple, usually consisting of two rooms, with no closets or closet doors. The two main rooms of the house were usually bustling with the activities of a large family. So, in Matthew 6:6 Jesus isn’t referring to an actual room with an actual door that can be shut.
“Go into your room and shut the door and pray” is a metaphor about closing the doors of the senses (not engaging senses of smell, touch, sight, hearing, or taste). Jesus speaks of closing the door to all sense activity including thoughts and imagination, to wait for God who is beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. This interpretation of Matthew 6:6, passed down through generations of mystics, is CENTERING PRAYER’s scriptural basis. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus gives basic instruction on prayer, which he invariably elaborated on to his disciples. We wish we knew what the elaborations were. The Gospel of Thomas gives us clues. Other scriptures say Jesus “prayed all night” or regularly “retreated to a lonely place to pray.” (Mark 1:45b; Mark 6:31, 46; Luke 5:16).
The early Christian mystics retreated from all worldly preoccupations. They sojourned into the desert to behold blessed stillness. And Quakers through the ages have written that deep listening to God requires stillness and silence.
The nature of the untrained mind is like a wild monkey, jumping from branch to branch. The mind is always clinging to one thing or another. Rarely, will it let go of the numerous stimuli and settle into silence. Because of the mind’s distracted nature, it takes time to train it to remain silent and still.
Training the mind to quiet down is less tangible than training for a marathon or practicing a musical instrument. Training the mind to let go of all stimuli and rest in silence is more primal and less concrete than other kinds of training. Because it’s insubstantial and doesn’t produce any immediate measurable results, the Western mind usually dismisses it as “navel gazing” or “self hypnosis.” “Don’t you have something better to do?” Yet, the mind is the root of our existence and our experiences. Our state of mind is everything. So changing habits of the mind is powerful! At times it will feel tedious-—as if anything else would be a better use of time. Yet, mystics the world over tell us this kind of training is the key for dismantling hidden addictions and the key to freedom.
In CENTERING PRAYER we sit comfortably with our backs straight. Then a sacred word is introduced, which is a symbol of our intention to set aside all interior dialogue in anticipation of God’s presence and action within us. The sacred word is a gentle reminder to return to our silent center. Whenever distractions arise during CENTERING PRAYER, I “ever-so-gently” and inaudibly recite my sacred word to redirect focus to the pregnant silence.
CENTERING PRAYER has roots dating back to the third century and is made contemporary today by the work of Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, David Frenette, and many others. The point of silent prayer in all its various forms is to achieve naked awareness/stillness of mind.
In the beginning, the untrained mind will get distracted every few seconds. With training, our level of concentration gradually lengthens. During periods of extended relaxed awareness free from distractions, spaces between thoughts get longer until minutes can go by without a single thought entering the mind.
An analogy for CENTERING PRAYER practice is training a puppy to sit in the center of a circle. At first the puppy cannot sit still for even a moment. It habitually wonders off again and again and again! The point is to gently and repeatedly bring the puppy back to the circle’s center. This process is tedious. But, with much practice, eventually the puppy sits still for a few moments without wandering—-a triumph. Finally, with months and years of practice, the puppy sits in the center of the circle for two, five, ten minutes…
It’s amazing how much of our energy is wasted on distracting thoughts and daydreams. These distractions are habitual, recycling our same thoughts and reactions over and over. Habitual distractions of mind are a part-time job for most people–something which keeps us preoccupied for countless hours. This waste of energy stifles our potential.
Once we’re able to still the mind, amazing things begin to happen. Old tensions from long ago held in our spine, jaw, or shoulders begin to dissipate and we experience renewed vigor in all aspects of our lives. Our minds get sharper and concentrate more easily for longer periods of time. Our ability to drop pet projects at will and to take up despised projects with the same ease is another benefit of this training. Shunned projects become more and more effortless. The mind experiences liberation; is no longer compulsively drawn to pet projects or repulsed by despised ones. Habitual aversions to cleaning the bathrooms or facing conflict slacken. What freedom!
How can we love God with our entire mind when we’re distracted? First we need to still our minds. Then we can experience what God wants to impart. Deep communion with God requires our full undistracted attention. Perhaps Saint Maximos puts it best: “He (she) who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he (she) who prays entirely without distraction loves God truly. But he (she) whose intellect is fixed on any worldly thing does not pray without distraction, and consequently he (she) does not love God” (Palmer, et al, The Philokalia Vol. 2, 65).
1) Read the “Centering Prayer Method” link below and start practicing CENTERING PRAYER. This is a tri-fold pamphlet that can be distributed. Begin with at least two 10 minute prayer times per day. Then move to 15 minutes after a week and the standard 20 minutes after two weeks.
2) If you have dabbled in CENTERING PRAYER and have some familiarity, now begin a firm commitment to at least two 20 minute sits per day.
3) Click on the “Centering Prayer Retreats in your area” link below and find a CENTERING PRAYER retreat in your area that works for you, make the reservation, and attend.
4) Click on the “Centering Prayer videos on Youtube” link and watch some videos.
RECOVER THE ROOT LIFE CALLING OF NEW MONASTICISM
New Monasticism is the understanding that prayer practices traditionally associated with the monastery can be integrated into a normal every-day twenty-first century life.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Matthew 6:21 (for more references see the RCMR website “RESOURCES” tab)
“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” -Richard Foster
“Of all the Jungian Archetypes, such as Warrior, Lover, Magician, Queen/King, the archetype of the Monk is the most overlooked and has the most profound transformative power.” –Amos Smith
Ancient Historic Exemplar
Brigit of Kildare, The Beguines and Beghards, Brethren of the Common Life, The Quakers (FGC), The Bruderhof, Koinonia Farm, the Catholic Worker (and others–too many to cite)
-Richard Rohr & The Center for Action and Contemplation
-Phileena Heuertz & Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism
-Shane Claiborne & The Simple Way
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper, 2002 (especially chapters 2, 4, 6, and 7).
Edwards, Tilden. Living Simply Through The Day: Spiritual Survival in a Complex Age
Contemplation requires Sabbath time—regular time set aside for solitude, silence, stillness, and other spiritual practices.
NEW MONASTICISM, also referred to as Neomonasticism, and Lay Monasticism, is a Christian movement that’s attempting to recapture disciplines of the monastery, such as simplicity, silence, solitude, stillness, and service. These practices, which embody the spirit of the monastery, don’t depend on the outward forms of the monastery.
NEW MONASTICISM is broad with many contemporary communities going by that name. These communities live radically, settle in abandoned sections of society, share incomes, serve the poor, and practice spiritual disciplines. RCMR’s focus is on the “spiritual disciplines” angle of NEW MONASTICISM. This is the key that unlocks the other doors. When there is genuine committed spiritual practice, there is authentic personal transformation, which then gives someone the bandwidth to take on more responsibility and help heal and transform society.
I consider myself a new-monastic, which means that over the last several years I’ve committed myself to disciplines that can be labeled “monastic.” One of my disciplines is Centering Prayer three times a day… before breakfast, before lunch, and before dinner. My family and work colleagues are now used to me disappearing before meal times for Centering Prayer. I started with the prescribed minimum that Benedictine Monk Thomas Keating and others recommend of two twenty minute sessions of Centering Prayer per day. Then, with time, and as my practice deepened, I tailored my practice. I’ve found that three times a day is more effective than twice a day. Twice a day is a minimum. (I’m married with children, so I appreciate the challenges of incorporating such a discipline into daily life! It’s challenging, but doable. One example…when my five year old barges in when I’m doing Centering Prayer I say, “Daddy is taking a time out.” It has taken time, but now he understands and respects my routine.)
In addition to daily Centering Prayer, RCMR’s understanding of NEW MONASTICISM is built on the foundation of “at least one 6 to 10 day Centering Prayer retreat per year.” These daily and yearly practices build on each other and accomplish tangible results, which ultimately lead to the transformation of consciousness and of the body’s nervous system. This transformation is characterized by solidity, peace, and freedom. One experiences abiding joy, not the roller-coaster of conflicting emotions that characterizes the human condition. This transformation also enables a person to drop pet projects and to start despised projects at will, free of charged emotional attachments and aversions (still working on this one!). Abiding positive emotional states and interior freedom then cause ripple effects throughout our relationships and communities. Daily Centering Prayer practice and yearly retreats catapult the spiritual journey. They are the two wings of the butterfly!
I was convinced of the cumulative effect of these two practices after a ten day retreat I did in January of 2009 at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. The retreat was deeper than any I had ever experienced until then. I realized that the reason for the depth was that I had trained every day for the two months leading up to the retreat… A runner trains for a marathon by running daily for longer and longer distances as the race nears. In the same way, a Centering Prayer practitioner goes deepest into the practice when she practices Centering Prayer daily for longer and longer periods leading up to a retreat.
The aim of NEW MONASTICISM is to establish intimacy with God through regular spiritual practice, which develops holistic consciousness, insight, and a synthetic mind that has the capacity to integrate the fragmented twenty-first century self. From the axis of that integration, one can help defragment one’s family, community, county, state, nation, and world.
After Centering Prayer retreats I have heard new-monastics swap advice on what has helped deepen their silences. As a result of this shop-talk their respective practices become more effective, with greater results in daily life.
New Monasticism will take different forms depending on the individual and the community. The following points have been significant for my particular journey, and may or may not be significant for you.
Insights that guide my NEW MONASTICISM:
- Regular exercise deepens Centering Prayer.
- Doing Centering Prayer on an empty stomach (before meals) deepens concentration.
- Doing Centering Prayer at the same time and in the same place every day deepens the habit.
- A weekly Centering Prayer Group deepens the practice!!
- NEW MONASTICISM is more integrated and holistic when one is connected to a faith community of some kind (church, monastery, intentional community)
- Spending commute time in prayer such as the Jesus Prayer (I prefer the innovation provided by Kallistos Ware on the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us”) instead of talk radio, et cetera, deepens NEW MONASTICISM. (A prayer rope or “chotki” is helpful for this practice.)
- Reducing food intake and/or periodic moderate fasting deepens NEW MONASTICISM (this can include a juice fast one day per week, a daily liquid shake for breakfast, or a big salad for lunch instead of the usual).
- A relatively low-stress occupation complements NEW MONASTICISM. It is possible to integrate a high-stress occupation, but this is the graduate course in NEW MONASTICISM.
- A rural environment that poses fewer demands on one’s time complements NEW MONASTICISM, especially in the beginning, when one is attempting to establish consistent daily Centering Prayer.
- Good spiritual direction compliments NEW MONASTICISM
- Volunteer service to those in need or to an environmental cause complements NEW MONASTICISM.
These observations are the result of trial and error over years of practice and are the essence of NEW MONASTICISM. It’s helpful, especially in the beginning, to have a new-monastic community for accountability and to share experiences. I use the term “new-monastic” very broadly–you may have to start this community yourself and call it by that name!
The heart of monasticism is not the outward structures of the monastery walls, sanctuaries, robes, vows of celibacy, et cetera. These can be a great boon to deepen the life of prayer and are an excellent option for many. Yet, the heart of monasticism is the desire for deeper and deeper intimacy with God in silent prayer. That is what counts more than the rest. Maximos The Confessor expands…
He (she) who has renounced such things as marriage, possessions and other worldly pursuits is outwardly a monk, but may not yet be a monk inwardly. Only he (she) who has renounced the impassioned conceptual images of these things has made a monk of the inner self, the intellect. It is easy to be a monk in one’s outer self if one wants to be; but no small struggle is required to be a monk in one’s inner self (The Philokalia, 4th Century on Love, 50).
Of all the Jungian archetypes, such as Warrior, Lover, Magician, King/Queen, the archetype of the Monk is the most overlooked and has the most profound transformative power. The archetype of the monk is accessible to anyone who desires intimacy with God and has the necessary commitment to spiritual practice.
The desire for intimacy with God can be fulfilled in the context of a normal life. This is the core assertion of NEW MONASTICISM. Granted, life outside the monastery poses many challenges to the life of prayer. Yet, after progress is made in prayer, life in the world can actually help a person to integrate their spirituality into the multiple layers of daily existence, which includes spouse, children, job, extended family relations, household responsibilities, et cetera.
Throughout history NEW MONASTICISM has had exemplars. One was George Fox, who lived in community and was married, yet had a deep interior life. In the case of Fox and other new-monastics, the deeper one goes into silence, the more one is inclined to fight for social justice, economic justice, racial justice, and eco-justice. The historic Quakers (FGC) are a case in point. They helped accomplish extraordinary social reforms (including broad-scale prison reforms in England and the abolition of slavery in the United States) with relatively few numbers.
Other more ancient exemplars of NEW MONASTICISM were The Brethren of the Common Life (14th century) and Brigit of Kildare (5th & 6th century). The Brethren of the Common Life lived normal lives in The Netherlands, yet had strong ties to a monastery, supported a monastery however they could, and followed many monastic observances. Brigit of Kildare established monasteries in Ireland, including one that housed married monks and nuns who had families and children. (There are numerous other examples of New Monasticism such as the Beguines and the Beghards)
Simplicity and dedication to silent prayer are hallmarks of NEW MONASTICISM. So, containing sexual impulses within reasonable boundaries is another aspect of NEW MONASTICISM. This will mean different things for different people. On a basic level it means observing either celibacy or monogamy.
NEW MONASTICISM is often associated with Shane Clairborne and The Simple Way (thesimpleway.org), yet RCMR sees NEW MONASTICISM within Wikipedia’s broader definition:
NEW MONASTICISM, Neomonasticism, or Lay Monasticism refers to a modern movement within Protestant Christianity modeled on a monastic way of life in a contemporary context to expand the way of life of traditional monastic communities to lay people.
NEW MONASTICISM rightly understood is a form of asceticism… Asceticism has received a bad reputation in the West. Yet, asceticism rightly understood is profoundly liberating…
In order to make room for the pregnant silences, in which God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV) can speak to us in the depths of our hearts, other less important priorities are intentionally set aside. This laying aside of sense attractions, is asceticism rightly understood, which is not repressive, but freeing. We deny our senses in order to enter the deep silences that open up our intellect to perceiving God’s subtle presence and action within us.
The extreme deprivations associated with asceticism in the ancient past need to be recast. Yet, the primary insight that periodic abstinence from sensory stimulation (solitude), from auditory stimulation (silence), from food (fasting), from sex (abstinence), from incessant activity (stillness), et cetera, is liberating. The compulsive addiction to sensory stimulation is what is actually repressive and enslaving. Spiritual freedom begins with freedom from the compulsions of the senses.
There will be ongoing challenges to NEW MONASTICISM and its principles. The most common criticism that I’ve heard is “monks, hermits, and monastic ways don’t help society!” Those who make this claim don’t understand the subterranean nature of reality, the subconscious layers of the mind that influence society in invisible, yet profound ways. Most in the West don’t understand the power of prayer and the power of spiritual presence, which can subtly transform individuals, communities, and nations.
NEW MONASTICISM is an anecdote to the excesses of our caffeinated, multitasking, cell phone fixated society, which can put us in touch with the deepest leadings of our souls. NEW MONASTICISM can transform our individual and collective selves from the bottom up and from the inside out!
NEW MONASTICISM IN COMMUNITY
Up to this point I have been writing about a pattern NEW MONASTICISM as a pattern for individual life. NEW MONASTICISM is also a pattern for life in community, which I will address here.
One of the ways that NEW MONASTICISM progresses is that it takes the form of small communities. Some may have the unfortunate idea that churches need to close their doors and move toward a NEW MONASTIC model of community. But this is not the point. The point is to take spiritual practices and to bring them into your small community (whatever the outward form of your community). My denomination is the United Church of Christ and the great majority of its roughly 5,000 churches nationwide are small churches averaging just over 100 members. If you have had the privilege of serving as a small church pastor as I have you will realize that there is something amazing about the small church—the depth of community, sharing, and honesty is remarkable.
So I think the challenge of NEW MONASTICISM, whatever context we find ourselves in, is to transform our groups into authentic spiritually based small communities. So if you’re in a mega-church it means fostering and emphasizing small groups. If you’re in a small church it means increasing the level of honesty and authenticity in the church so it’s not a pseudo-community, but a genuine one where people share with one another from the heart instead of just coming to church and talking about sports and the weather (there’s nothing wrong with small talk, but if the conversation stays at that level it’s not genuine community).
It’s erroneous to think that one can only find community in NEW MONASTIC settings. NEW MONASTIC communities are a wonderful resource and option for a great number of people. Yet, even a NEW MONASTIC community can become a pseudo community, unless there’s genuine spiritual practice, honesty, and caring. All communities, without spiritual practice and grace, which is the leaven in the loaf of the community, can degenerate into sibling-rivalries, power-struggles, and scapegoating. Some have grown up in families that are pseudo-communities, where people don’t really support each other, where they don’t really care about one another, where there is shaming that goes on in the family. So, I think we have to be careful not to just give a wholesale affirmation of communities in their different forms, whether they are small churches, mega-churches with small groups, monasteries, families, et cetera. What matters is not the form of community so much as the genuineness and authenticity of the community. Is it a pseudo-community or an authentic community? That is the primary question. Is there is honesty, dialogue, listening, compassion, humble introspection, the offering and receiving of forgiveness, and opportunities for reconciliation (which sometimes require conflict mediation)? These are the primary questions. If, instead, self-righteous zeal and scapegoating are going on in a community, it is not an authentic community. Those are the marks a toxic will for power, control, and domination going on among leaders of the community.
I think writers of The Philokalia nailed the essence of New Monasticism: “self-discipline and patient endurance.” That’s the name of the game. That’s what it’s about. We are disciplined. We are disciples. We are like athletes in training for a race (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Yet, when it comes to dealing with the shortcomings of others we exercise patient endurance. Our discipline and rigor is inwardly focused. It doesn’t make demands on others with whom we are in community. So inwardly we are disciplined and outwardly when we encounter the foibles of others we exercise patient endurance (Galatians 6:2). This is a gold nugget of The Philokalia—a profoundly concise recipe for discernment in the handling of self and others.
If we find ourselves in a family or a church, as I do, NEW MONASTICISM can transform the way we see our family life and our community life. We see our communities in the context of a monastery or ashram. We remind ourselves “this is a sacred community.” It’s how we see the community and how we cultivate it that makes the most impact.
The most long lived communities on the planet are spiritual communities. So, it behooves all of us to take on a spiritual practice that’s suitable to our temperament. This practice will have ripple effects in whatever community in which we find ourselves, whether it is a relationship or marriage (a community of two) or some other form of community.
Something needs to be done in the public sphere as well… I have always thought it would be good to offer a class in high school called “Relationships 101.” This class would offer videos that model good and bad communication so that high school students can learn the difference. Unfortunately, many high school students don’t learn good communication skills at home. This class could also present the brilliant research and findings of John Gottman and the Gottman Institute. After decades of research The Gottman Institute has uncovered the most fundamental characteristics of good communication, which is the cornerstone of all relationships.
1) TAKE RCMR’S NEW MONASTIC CHALLENGE!!
1a. COMPLETE TWO YEARS OF DAILY CENTERING PRAYER (TWO 20 MINUTE SESSIONS PER DAY)
1b. COMPETE TWO 6 to 10 DAY YEARLY CENTERING PRAYER RETREATS (CLICK HERE FOR RETREAT SCHEDULE: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/events)
1c. ATTEND A FAITH COMMUNITY FOR THOSE TWO YEARS (AT LEAST MONTHLY)
IF INTERESTED, CLICK ON THE “NEW MONASTIC CHALLENGE” LINK BELOW.
2) Click on the “New Monasticism Videos” link below and watch some videos.
RECOVER THE ROOT STUDY & EMULATION OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
It is important to identify and study the root texts of Christian Mysticism. The most comprehensive root text is The Philokalia of the Eastern Church.
Be still and know that I am God. -Psalm 46:10a (for more references see the RCMR website “RESOURCES” tab)
“He (she) who has renounced such things as marriage, possessions and other worldly pursuits is outwardly a monk, but may not yet be a monk inwardly. Only he (she) who has renounced the impassioned conceptual images of these things has made a monk of the inner self, the intellect. It is easy to be a monk in one’s outer self if one wants to be; but no small struggle is required to be a monk in one’s inner self.” –Maximos the Confessor
“He who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he who prays entirely without distraction loves God truly. But he whose intellect is fixed on any worldly thing does not pray without distraction, and consequently he does not love God.” –Maximos the Confessor
Maximus The Confessor (580-662) and the authors of the Philokalia (and others–too many to cite)
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
The “Living School” of the Center for Action and Contemplation
–The Philokalia: The Complete Text Volume 2, compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth. London: Faber and Faber, 1983-95.
-Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions; Reprint edition, 2007.
Primary religious experience (mystical experience) is the basis of resilient faith and abundant life. Studying the Christian Mystics fans the flames of our own innate mysticism.
For me the starting point for CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM is Matthew 4:2a: Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights. This is the scripture upon which everything else depends. The ancient enduring tradition that this scripture represents goes unnoticed, yet for me this scripture is the epicenter of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM.
So, What’s the big deal with this scripture? Here is the big deal… I take the forty day fast at face value. There is no reason I shouldn’t. All of the Gospels refer to it. This story is no metaphor. It is no yarn spun by the ancients. It is the stark fact of how Jesus came to the ministry. Jesus came to the ministry by way of a forty day fast in the desert.
The only way a person can survive a forty day fast is years of training. If you or I were to attempt a forty day fast without training we would be hospitalized or die of toxemia. The body needs to build up to a forty day fast. One starts with a five day juice fast, then goes to a five day water fast, then goes to an eight day juice fast, et cetera. It’s similar to how a marathon runner prepares. The runner begins with five mile runs. Then when the race gets closer, one runs fifteen to twenty miles. If a runner attempted a marathon without training, she would never succeed and would damage her body. Okay, what’s the point? The point is that Jesus did ascetic training to build up to the forty day fast. Jesus was a spiritual athlete-—the spiritual equivalent of an Olympic athlete. Only the most adept ascetic practitioners would attempt a forty day fast in the desert.
Jesus’ forty day testing and transformation in the desert didn’t occur in a vacuum. It occurred in a highly disciplined systematic effort. Jesus lived for 33 years and the Gospel only records two and a half years of ministry. What was Jesus doing in those silent years? There are many speculations about what Jesus was up to during those years. One thing is clear: Jesus spent a portion of those years in ascetic practice and training for the forty day fast. In other words Jesus was an ascetic, a monk. What strengthens this understanding of Jesus’ identity and roots is his relationship with John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was most likely from the Jewish monastic community of Qumran. Why? Because there is no way that John the Baptist could live in the desert without the support of an ascetic community, at least to bring John regular bread and water. Jesus’ forty day fast in the desert didn’t happen in a vacuum. In the same way, John the Baptist didn’t appear in the desert in a vacuum. John most likely was part of an ascetic community or order. The community at Qumran is the most likely candidate because Qumran is within walking distance from the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John (Matthew 3:13).
If we dig deeper, we discover that Qumran was an Essene community. The practice Essenes were most known for was the forty day fast! This was the crescendo of Essene ascetic practice reserved for their elite spiritual athletes. And the forty day fast was not just a fast from food. It was a fast from words and from thoughts. The only way to survive the forty day fast was to conserve all life energy, including the energy required to think and to speak. This is the renunciation of the adept monk. All things, including bread, speech, and even thoughts, are renounced in order to eliminate all distractions and commune with God, who is ultimately beyond the realm of the senses. Intimacy with God requires silence and stillness (Psalm 46:10).
The New Testament often records that Jesus went to lonely places and prayed. Jesus was also known to “pray all night” (Matthew 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12). This is Christian tradition’s epicenter. This is where the juice is. And it’s from this root that we trace the tattered lineage of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM through the ages.
After Jesus came the monastic apostle: Mark. Mark took the Gospel to what is now Cairo, Egypt and founded the Coptic Church there. The Copts from inception have emphasized monasticism. The heart of Coptic Christianity is the monk, not the hierarchy of the clergy. It is direct personal experience between creature and Creator that is most highly valued in Coptic tradition to this day. Most Christians in the West don’t realize that there is another papacy aside from the Roman Papacy. There is the Coptic Papacy of Mark. And this Papacy, based in Alexandria, was considered the theological head of Christendom through the middle of the fifth century.
A unique characteristic of the Coptic Papacy is its emphasis on monasticism. Monastic experiences of solitude, silence, stillness, simplicity, and service, are so highly regarded that in order to become a Coptic Pope several years of monastic experience is required. As a result of this emphasis there have been many well known mystic Popes through the centuries, including Pope Cyril VI (1902-1971).
Through the asceticism of Jesus and John the Baptist in the Palestinian desert through to the monastic apostle Mark, who established the Coptic Church steeped in monasticism, we see a coherent legacy of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM. Then it is no coincidence that the desert outside of Alexandria in Egypt became a city of monasteries, the likes of which Christianity had never known before or since. And here the primary protagonist of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM came onto the scene: Anthony of Egypt (251-356).
Around Anthony sprung over 200 monasteries in the Egyptian Desert. During and after Anthony’s life, arose the much celebrated writings of The Desert Fathers and Mothers. And after the Desert Fathers and Mothers there came many mystics through the ages, which I won’t name here, because I don’t want to leave any out.
My point is that CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM has had a decipherable legacy beginning with John the Baptist, Jesus himself, The Apostle Mark, Anthony of Egypt, The Desert Fathers and Mothers, et cetera. CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM also has geographic epicenters: the 1st century Palestinian Desert, the 3rd through the 5th century Egyptian Desert (and other surrounding desert regions), and Mount Athos in Greece from the 3rd century to today.
CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM is not a patchwork quilt with this obscure mystic appearing in a vacuum over here, and that obscure mystic appearing in a vacuum over there. To bring back more clarity and cohesion to the legacy of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, we need to name the key geographies, the key players, and the key texts of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM. Yes, there are key texts of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM passed down through the ages. These must be named, deciphered by practitioners who can relate to them experientially, and made accessible to seekers. CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM has a decipherable written legacy, a living lineage, and a sacred topography.
When it comes to patristics, I consider myself neo-patristic. In other words, I don’t accept any one lineage hook, line, and sinker. I pick and choose. When it comes to kataphatic mysticism, I resonate with Gregory of Nyssa, Basil The Great, Denys, and Maximos The Confessor. When it comes to articulating the exquisite symmetry between kataphatic mysticism and Jesus as presented in the Gospels, I look to the Alexandrian Mystics (Alexandrian Fathers), especially Cyril. And when it comes to the interpretation of Cyril (The Jesus Paradox/Miaphysite) I look to the Oriental Orthodox Fathers.
Lest we venture off on too many byways, let’s remember that CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM begins with the Bible. Bernard McGinn writes: “The Bible has been both the origin and the norm for Christian Mystics down through the ages. The very term mystical (Greek: mystikos; Latin: mysticus) entered Christianity primarily as a way to describe the inner sense of the Bible.” This is the thrust of my next book, Primordial Freedom: Biblical Passages of Christian Mysticism, scheduled to come out in 2016.
Now, I come to an unusual assertion for a Western Christian… The Philokalia of the Eastern Church, compiled by Nicodimos and Makarios, is the most comprehensive, thorough, and integrated legacy of Christian mystical writings available today (East or West). If we can make sense of these writings we can plumb the depths of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM.
The English translation of The Philokalia published by Faber & Faber comes in four volumes (about 1,500 pages), so I think it’s important to identify key authors within the text, most noted for their mystical insights and clarity. For me the key Philokalia authors are Evagrius the Solitary, Hesychios The Priest, Didachos of Photiki (Volume 1)/ Maximos The Confessor (Volume 2)/ Peter of Damaskos, Makarios of Egypt (Volume 3)/ Nikitas Stithatos, Gregory of Sinai, and Gregory Palamas (Volume 4). (An aside here… I wish The Philokalia was available during the time of Thomas Merton. He would have devoured it, relished it, and publicized it in the West!)
There are many other root texts of Christian Mysticism, but in the estimation of RCMR, these noted Philokalia writers are the place to start for a thorough and integrated overview of texts of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM.
Yes, it is easy to spiral out from there. But, our aim is not to go on a head trip. That’s not what CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM is ultimately about. Texts of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM are most appropriately utilized as a spring board for our own spiritual practice and our own mystical experiences.
If the beginning student of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM wants a zinger phrase that taps the roots of Christian mystic phenomena, the French Philosopher Gaston Bachelard has three descriptions that top other verbal attempts: Intensity, Intimacy, and Immensity. These three adjectives do some verbal justice to describing mystical experience.
If the beginning student of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM wants some cliff notes on Christian mystic phenomena, the best summary I can think of is the “Zinger Quotations of Thomas Merton” from New Seeds of Contemplation, offered in the resources section of this website. If you would like to read those quotations you can click on that button below.
For the student of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM who has gotten an introductory taste, I would move on to read the Philokalia writers above. That will provide a wonderful foundation. From there, I would recommend The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn. This accessible anthology allows the reader to identify the zinger texts, which will be different for each reader. Then those texts can inspire further reading along the lines that most interest the reader. Some RCMR favorites, in addition to the noted New Seeds of Contemplation and Philokalia writers, are The Divine Names and Mystical Theology written by Denys, The Cloud of Unknowing written by an anonymous author, The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, George Fox’s Journal, The Gospel of Thomas, and the writings of Julian of Norwich.
The study of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM implies study of contemporary mystics, seeking mentoring relationships with contemporary Christian Mystics, and sometimes seeking formal spiritual direction from contemporary Christian Mystics. The point is that there is a cloud of witnesses that has gone on before us and that goes before us in this present age (Hebrews 12:1). We are not on our own. We stand on the shoulders of generations who have preceded us and contemporaries who blaze the trail in our time!
RCMR affirms that study is powerful, filling our minds with thoughts that can transform us. This is especially true when it comes to the study of texts of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM.
1) Click on the “ZINGER MERTON QUOTATIONS” link below and read through the quotations. They are awesome!
2) Click on the “Christian Mysticism Videos” link below and watch some videos.
3) Click on the “RCMR TWITTER PAGE” link below to get a better sense of what we’re about.
4) Click on the “RCMR STUDY RESOURCES” link below. Click around and check it out!
5) Click on the “CONTEMPLATIVE COURSE OFFERINGS” link below to see some of the best educational programs available from Contemplative Outreach, The Center for Action and Contemplation, and The Shalem Institute.
RECOVER THE ROOT MYSTICAL THEOLOGY
OF THE JESUS PARADOX
The Jesus Paradox (“Miaphysite” in Greek) is the core mystical theology of Christian tradition. It has been preserved through the ages by the Oriental Orthodox tradition and its 85 million members worldwide.
God and I (Jesus) are one. -John 10:30 (for more references see the RCMR website “RESOURCES” tab)
“Jesus is ‘at once’ God and human.” -Cyril of Alexandria
“It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and is still a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security.” –Thomas Merton
Cyril of Alexandria (376-444) and the Alexandrian Mystics (Alexandrian Fathers)
Members of the Oriental Orthodox Church, who adhere to Miaphysite (Jesus Paradox) Theology
-Cyril of Alexandria. The Unity of Christ. New York: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000.
-Smith, Amos. Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2013.
Cyril of Alexandria proclaimed Jesus is “at once God and human.” This means we cannot refer to Jesus as God period, without qualifying that: “God in human form.” Believers also cannot say Jesus is human period, without qualifying that: “the human incarnation of God.” This is the Jesus Paradox (Miaphysite), which is the core theology (non-dual essence) of Mystic Christianity, which presses dynamic unity instead of static essence.
THE JESUS PARADOX is a holistic way of seeing Jesus rooted in the lineage of monk-bishops, who resided in Alexandria, Egypt between 312 and 454CE, especially Cyril of Alexandria.
Cyril’s phrase “at once God and human” is the essence of THE JESUS PARADOX. This phrase means that I cannot say Jesus is God, period without qualifying that: God in human form. If I am a believer, I can’t say Jesus is human period, without qualifying that: the human incarnation of God. The Divinity with an upper case D and the humanity with a lower case h always go together and can’t be separated. They form a dynamic union.
The JESUS PARADOX is the core mystical theology of the Oriental Orthodox Church and its millions of adherents worldwide. It is rooted in scripture. In John 10:30 Jesus says “God and I are one.” Jesus says in John 10:38: “God is in me and I am in God.” Paul says in Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” This core theology emphasizes unity (Miaphysite), not duality (dyophysite).
The JESUS PARADOX invigorates and clarifies the essence of the Christian testament found in scripture. When Jesus cursed the fig tree–that’s something I would do on a bad day. It’s an entirely human thing to do. Then there’s the time that there is so much power flowing from Jesus that a woman touches the edge of his garment and she comes away whole! The JESUS PARADOX leaves us guessing. In this moment, is this Jesus’ humanity or Divinity in action? This guesswork restores dynamism and layers of subtlety to scripture reading. When we read scripture in this way, we read with the wide-eyes of the mystic, which allows for depth, breadth, and mystery.
When it comes to contemplating Jesus’ humanity, it’s important to keep the following quotation from womanist author Jacqueline Grant in mind: “The significance of Christ is not his maleness, but his humanity.” Otherwise the contemplation of Jesus can degenerate into a patriarchal project.
Jesus’ Divinity with capital “D” and humanity with lower case “h” are in dynamic union. This is the great mystery of Christian tradition that Cyril of Alexandria called “the unity of Christ.” If we discount Jesus’ Divinity then we discount two thousand years of witnesses who claimed that something entirely unique happened with Jesus: God’s human incarnation. Then with new age Christians we claim that Jesus was simply another wisdom teacher who founded a world religion. If we discount Jesus’ humanity then we move toward absolutism/fundamentalism, claiming that Jesus is God, period, end of story.
The JESUS PARADOX is the tightrope walk between the extremes of new age and fundamentalist Christianity, which offers a dynamic and nuanced vision of Jesus for the Twenty-first Century and beyond. The JESUS PARADOX is a paradigm shift that changes the way we read the New Testament. It beholds the “creative tension” between Jesus’ Divinity and humanity found throughout the Gospels. This opens our minds to beholding creative tensions in our lives, for life is full of contradictions. It opens our minds to the paradox of the frontiers of space billions of light years away on the one hand, and God’s concern for the details of our lives on the other hand. The dynamic of The JESUS PARADOX opens us to wonder and saves us from the heavy cultural conditioning of either/or, us and them, winners and losers. The JESUS PARADOX is the ultimate manifestation of what Richard Rohr refers to in his writing as Non-dual Awareness or New Mind. Instead of choosing a side and digging in, we remain on the uncomfortable horns of the dilemma. We wait there. We stay there, until new light is revealed.
The JESUS PARADOX (Miaphysite) is the core mystical theology of the Oriental Orthodox Church today, and rightly understood it is the core mystical theology of Christian tradition. The JESUS PARADOX is the theology of Jesus espoused by the earliest lineage of Christian Mystics who resided in and around Alexandria in Egypt between the fourth and fifth centuries, who I call The Alexandrian Mystics (It is of course admissible to refer to the Alexandrian Mystics by their more precise and commonly known name, The Alexandrian Fathers. There were some monks in the Alexandrian desert whose theology did not adhere to the JESUS PARADOX taught by Cyril of Alexandria, but they were a minority). The Jesus Paradox is nothing short of the non-dual theological essence of Christian tradition.
In the divided Church of the Twenty-first century the non-dual awareness saves us from the extremes of fundamentalist and new age Christianity. Another name for the JESUS PARADOX is non-absolutism. We don’t settle for the dualistic absolutes of the Christian hard right or hard left, who only acknowledges one aspect of Jesus or the other. The JESUS PARADOX saves us from static essence and humorless finality and moves us toward infinite dynamism. The JESUS PARADOX’s holistic essence saves us from gridlock and restores flow, nuance, and mystery to Christian theology. It does this by not trying to pin down the mystery of the incarnation, but rather beholding the moving target!
In a recent Youtube video I watched by Cynthia Bourgault, she said that “Centering Prayer leads to a transformation of consciousness. That transformation is characterized by what we can call non-dual awareness.” Non-dual is a relatively new mystical word–new to the English language. We have some sense of what it means in the context of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Yet, it can seem foreign to Christianity, especially Western Christian Tradition. Oriental Orthodox mystical theology changes that! Christianity has its very own epicenter of this mystical word: the JESUS PARADOX. This is the authentic Christian starting point for the profound term, non-dual. Non-dual is not something we have to search for in Eastern traditions. Christianity has its own Eastern Tradition!
The JESUS PARADOX is the crown jewel of the Alexandrian Mystics, which is the central focus of my book, Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots, which was published by Wipf & Stock in 2013. The JESUS PARADOX is the focus of Cyril of Alexandria’s classic text entitled The Unity of Christ. The JESUS PARADOX (what Cyril calls “The Unity of Christ” in his book) is the centerpiece that holds the various strands of Christian Mysticism together. The powerful theology of the JESUS PARADOX gives our faith both a viable foundation in the past and hope for the future.
Author Kenneth McIntosh writes, “There are so many suggestions in publication re: a direction for Postmodern Christianity, most of them contradicting one another. All feel like a stab in the dark…the Jesus Paradox…is Christian Mysticism’s theological core and the way forward for Postmodern Christianity.” Yes, the JESUS PARADOX transforms our dualistic minds and heals a divided Church!
An extraordinary quotation regarding the JESUS PARADOX is from Athanasius of Alexandria. Someone asked Athanasius, “How is the Son (Jesus) equal to God?” Athanasius’ response: “Like sight is equal to the eyes!” Thomas Merton offers another penetrating contemporary quotation: “It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and is still a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security.”
The JESUS PARADOX is a road map of the dynamic core of reality. For Christians the JESUS PARADOX is the dynamic ground of all being. One way to try to behold and contemplate this mystery is to engage Jesus’ eyes in the icon below. You can visualize “Divinity” occupying Jesus’ left eye and you can visualize “humanity” occupying Jesus’ right eye. In the infinite dynamism that is the JESUS PARADOX, when one arrives at the essence of humanity one is back at Divinity. When one arrives at the essence of Divinity one is back at humanity. This is the circuitous mystery of Jesus’ dynamic nature. The symbol just below Jesus’ eyes may shed light on the dynamism of the JESUS PARADOX. The words “Divinity” and “humanity” are interchangeable with ineffable and effable, Creator and creature, absolute and relative, eternal and temporal, transcendent and immanent, God and human, Spirit and form…
Carefully examining and celebrating the Jesus Paradox is also about celebrating the plumb line of faith, which is Jesus for me and for most Liberal Mainline Protestant and Catholic ministers. Anything in the Bible that conforms to the inclusive love of Jesus found in His dynamic unity of Divinity and humanity and in His words in the Gospels, is accepted. The few areas of Paul and the Hebrew Scriptures that contradict that spirit of inclusive love, we take to be culturally conditioned and outside of the primary Gospel revelation.
The above approach reflects John Wesley’s four sources for coming to theological conclusions: 1. Scripture 2. Tradition 3. Reason and 4. Experience. For Evangelicals the Bible is primary. For most Liberal Mainline Protestants all four sources are important and play a role.
Selling daughters into slavery is allowed by Exodus 21:7. Contact with women during their menstrual cycle is forbidden in Leviticus 15:19-24. Leviticus 25:44 allows the purchase of slaves as long as they are from other nations. None of these scriptures conform to the teaching and spirit of Christ, so as a Liberal Mainline Christian I reject them.
I think the Bible is important, and we have to have a well thought out way of interpreting the Bible. I can respect the Evangelical way, which seems to see the Bible as an integrated unity without any contradictions. My way, and that of most of my Mainline Protestant and Catholic colleagues in ministry, is to acknowledge that the Bible has contradictions, such as the scriptures cited above. Then we affirm that Jesus and his teachings are the plumb line for interpreting the Bible–the standard for reconciling contradictions in the Bible.
1) Click on the 11 minute “Jesus Paradox Powerpoint” link below and watch it today.
2) Read Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots over the next 30 days
3) Identify someone you know in prison, in a juvenile detention center, an Alzheimer’s unit, a mental hospital, on hospice care, or in a nursing home. Then visit and have a conversation with that person twice over the next two weeks, for at least 45 minutes per visit.
4) Identify the person you know who makes you more uncomfortable than anyone else (for non life-threatening reasons). Then visit and have a conversation with that person for at least 45 minutes.
5) Click on the “Jesus Paradox Videos” link below and watch some videos.
RECOVER THE ROOT ETHIC OF NONVIOLENCE
TOWARD PEOPLE AND THE EARTH
After years of spiritual practice we realize the profound inherent dignity and worth of every human being (no matter how buried beneath layers of dysfunction) and of the natural world. From that standpoint, to turn around and willfully destroy another person or to contribute to the destruction of an ecosystem makes no sense.
So God created humankind in God’s image… God saw everything that was made (the entire natural world), and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:27a, 31a (for more references see the RCMR website “RESOURCES” tab)
-“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of Justice” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
-“There is hope for the violent man (woman) to become nonviolent. There is no hope for the coward.” –Mohandas K. Gandhi
The Historic “Peace Churches” (Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren)
Recent and Contemporary Exemplars
Mohandas Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Al Gore, & Lester Brown (and others–too many to cite)
-Wink, Walter. Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
-Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures, 2006.
-Brown, Lester. World on The Edge: How to Prevent Environmental & Economic Collapse. W W Norton & Co., 2011.
Gandhi said “There is hope for the violent person to become nonviolent. There is no hope for the coward.” This means the highest ideal is nonviolent resistance to injustice (toward people and the earth), a distant second is violent resistance to injustice. There is no place for cowardice.
Before we can even approach the lofty ideal of NONVIOLENCE, we need scaffolding to get there. We didn’t start out running as toddlers. First we learned to crawl, then walk. Similarly, before we can approach NONVIOLENCE, first we need to find ways to “reduce the violence.”
Christians are called to respect the dignity of all people, even the perpetrators of violence. This principle of finding God-given worth and dignity in all people (no matter how buried in dysfunction) leads us to “reduce the violence” in all situations (Genesis 1:27, Mathew 5:44). This is the faithful response to the golden rule (Matthew 12:31).
Reducing the violence is not about pacifism or not using physical force under any circumstances. Reducing the violence is also not necessarily about the absence of violence. It is, simply put, reducing the violence in any given situation.
So, when the Christian minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, took part in a plot to assassinate Hitler, he was attempting to reduce the violence in Germany’s situation. He understood that if he was able to kill the madman Hitler, this could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives. Bonhoeffer is an example of reducing violence in a very messy complicated world (I realize Bonhoeffer’s motives and times were complicated and this is a convenient over-simplification). Bonhoeffer took carefully thought out steps to reduce the violence in Nazi Germany.
The most practical application of Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor” (Matthew 12:31) is to reduce the violence in every situation.
Will our action in any given situation reduce the violence or escalate it? As people of faith, if our action will reduce the violence, we are in the right. If our action will escalate the violence we are in the wrong. Carrying out this principle is the faithful response to violence in our world. It could begin with simple steps such as refusing to go to movies that celebrate gratuitous violence or taking a class on nonviolent communication. The point is to start on the journey and to put one step in front of the other. We start where we are in our particular situation. If I find myself working for the Pentagon, I challenge policy makers to advocate for war as an absolute last resort after all diplomacy has been completely exhausted. (Here, someone will interject, “Do you support our troops?” “Yes or no?” My answer: “Yes!” “That’s why I don’t want them to die in unnecessary wars.”)
In Christianity’s first two centuries, Christians were forbidden to wear the uniform of any army (this is confirmed by writings of Tertullian). Then with the gradual assimilation of Christianity into the militaristic Roman Empire, Christianity gradually lost its original moral high ground. Yet, now many Christian communities are re-connecting with the original Christian NONVIOLENCE witness. The historic Peace Churches (Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker (FGC)) maintained this witness from the beginning and always saw NONVIOLENCE as part of the core Gospel witness. Yet, with time this witness was lost on most Christians.
Some spokes-people for the NONVIOLENCE witness of Jesus have noted that two of the most inspiring social movements of recent decades were the Civil Rights Movement and the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. Both of these movements drew on the wellsprings of NONVIOLENCE witness that began with Jesus. Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies,” are the three most counter-cultural and revolutionary words of the Bible, which form the basis of Christian NONVIOLENCE witness (Matthew 5:44).
In recent decades nonviolent resistance has been extremely effective, and again many of the examples drew on Christian foundations. Walter Wink expands on the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance…
Nonviolent general strikes have overthrown at least seven Latin American dictators: Carlos Ibanez del Campo of Chile (1931), Gerardo Machado y Morales of Cuba (1933), Jorge Ubico of Guatemala (1944), Elie Lexcot of Haiti (1946), Arnulfo Arias of Panama (1951), Paul Magliore of Haiti (1956), and Gustavo Rojas Pinilla of Columbia (1957). In 1989-90 alone, fourteen nations underwent nonviolent revolutions, all of them successful except China, and all of them nonviolent except Romania. These revolutions involved 1.7 billion people. If we total all the nonviolent movements of the twentieth century, the figure comes to 3.4 billion people, and again, most were successful (Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way, 2).
Those who have gone into the depths of silent prayer often emerge from deep silences promoting NONVIOLENCE. The Quaker Communities in England and the United States were shining examples. It was the silent meetings for worship that convinced Quakers of the veracity of NONVIOLENCE. For in the depths of prayer, we experientially discover that we are made in God’s image. We then recognize on an experiential level the God given dignity of every other sister and brother who is also made in God’s image. It follows that to destroy another human being, destroys God’s image within that person (Genesis 1:27). From this perspective, violence against another person makes no sense.
NONVIOLENCE is the ethic of Christian Mysticism. This ethic has an edge that stands against the principalities and powers of militarism and against the expansionist military aspirations of nations (Ephesians 6:12). In the case of Quakers in England, this ethic stood up for the rights of prisoners and eventually accomplished broad-scale prison reform from filthy disease-ridden conditions to more humane standards. This same ethic led the Quakers to emerge from silent meetings for worship to champion the abolition of slavery in the United States (when it came to abolition, John Woolman was a star).
Gandhi succinctly defined NONVIOLENCE as “non-cooperation with anything humiliating.” NONVIOLENCE requires non-cooperation with humiliating and violent elements in our society and in the world. A broad understanding of NONVIOLENCE, not only decries the preemptive military strike on Iraq by the United States, but also decries predatory lending. It not only decries torture at Abu Ghraib prison, but also decries deforestation.
For RCMR, NONVIOLENCE is the core ethic of contemporary Christian Mysticism, which leads to social justice, racial justice, economic justice, and eco-justice. This is integrated mysticism or engaged mysticism, of which the Quakers were luminaries. Contemporary lights include The Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico and The Church of the Savior based in Washington D.C.
NONVIOLENCE easily acquires a bad name, especially in the West, so it’s important for us to unpack what it means. It most certainly does not mean cowardice! Gandhi clarified this when he said: “There is hope for the violent man (woman) to become non-violent. There is no hope for the coward.” This is my understanding of these words…
- Non-violent resistance is the highest moral ground, but at this time in history not all are capable of it.
- Measured violent resistance to gross injustices is preferred to cowardice.
- The worst response to gross injustice (worse than violent resistance) is cowardice.
It is important to state clearly and repeatedly that NONVIOLENCE includes eco-justice. In our time NONVIOLENCE toward the environment is paramount and there can be no understanding of NONVIOLENCE outside of ecological conservation. We face the scientifically verifiable rapid extinction of species, the disastrous effects of global climate change, deforestation, overpopulation, and radio-active waste, to name a few calamities. So, our understanding of NONVIOLENCE begins with “reducing the violence” to the planet and its violated and contaminated ecosystems.
As Lester Brown and the Earth Policy Institute has determined, NONVIOLENCE toward the earth includes cutting carbon emissions by systematically raising world energy efficiency, by restructuring transportation systems, and by shifting from burning fossil fuels to tapping the earth’s wealth of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. It also includes banning deforestation worldwide, as some countries already have done, and planting billions of trees to sequester carbon.
NONVIOLENCE includes advocating for conflict mediation as opposed to litigation, regularly volunteering at the local soup kitchen to feed the homeless, making wise consumer choices including investing in solar and geothermal technology, and volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity build. Nonviolence also means advocating for mandatory primary school education for all children worldwide, which will bring the population rate down, promote health, and increase economic stability.
I don’t think we can talk about NONVIOLENCE in the twenty-first century without talking about the so-called “defense budget” of the United States. This grotesque budget exceeds the defense budgets of the next thirteen largest national defense budgets combined! Now, in my wildest imagination I can fathom a “defense budget” that exceeds the next four countries combined. But, the next thirteen countries combined! The enormity of the budget tells us that it is no longer about defense. It is about something else… fear, the need for total unparalleled military domination… You can fill in the blank. But, let’s not kid ourselves! This budget is not about defense. And it scares the wits our of other countries who have come to terms with the numbers. During the Iraq war, when surveys were distributed in Europe asking, “What is the most dangerous nation in the world?” The overwhelming answer was: “The United States.”
When we contemplate all the angles of NONVIOLENCE in the context of our times it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. For, NONVIOLENCE, as defined by RCMR, is broad. It includes life-giving theology that refrains from sewing seeds of absolutism and violence into people’s minds and hearts. It embraces NONVIOLENCE toward the earth. It includes treating prisoners of war, refugees, and illegal immigrants humanely. It embraces housing the homeless, training the jobless, caring for abused dogs and cats, advocating for access to affordable health care, treating war veterans with PTSD, taking a stand against bullying in schools, sending goats to struggling families in Uganda so they can send their kids to school. A hardened heart denies these needs (Psalm 95:8-9). To meet these needs where we can requires a soft compassionate heart, which is the essence of the Gospel. Some might ask, “Well what about humor and music Amos. People need these too!?” I realize NONVIOLENCE broadly defined, can be taken too far. Our focuses are the essential needs that grant people and ecosystems their God given dignity.
When it comes to applied NONVIOLENCE I must narrow my focus according to my particular calling, skills, networks, and life opportunities. I am inspired by my uncle who has devoted all of his considerable philanthropic efforts toward eradicating hunger throughout the world. Among the kaleidoscope of needs, this is his particular calling, which is reflected in his life long service to Bread for the World and Interfaith Hunger Initiative.
NONVIOLENCE, among other things, is a state of consciousness, which affirms along with George Fox: “I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of wars” (George Fox Journal Chapter 4). This state of mind leads us to resist the heavy-duty cultural scripting of thousands of Hollywood movies which tell us our problems can be solved with violence, that violence is redemptive, and that fully automatic weapons are super-sexy. Naming the lies opens the gate to higher truth! George Fox’s holistic mind leads to a total revolution. Some pertinent words from Gandhi:
If great nations can shed the fear of destruction, if they disarm themselves, they will automatically help the rest to regain their sanity. But then these great powers will have to give up their imperialistic ambition and their exploitation of the so-called uncivilized nations of the earth and revise their mode of life. It means a complete revolution. (Gandhi, Nonviolence in Peace and War, book 1, 158)
NONVIOLENCE begins with dismantling persistent dualisms and the fragmented thinking they spawn, which are the subtle roots of violence (The Jesus Paradox). It proceeds to Nonviolent Communication, then to Nonviolent Resistance. It finds refuge in mysticism (Centering Prayer), which leads to an undivided life that refuses to project one’s demons onto other people and nations.
Nonviolent Resistance doesn’t end with protests, marches, and lobbying campaigns. It goes the next courageous step of thinking about the big picture and brainstorming creative synergistic solutions to global problems. I have heard tech-savvy engineers talk about the possibility of developing technologies that will leach carbon molecules out of the air and reverse global warming. After the dismal reading I had been doing about environmental cataclysm, this gave me hope (of course environmental activism depends on both changes of habit and on technological engineering).
Rightly understood, NONVIOLENCE is a comprehensive vision that draws from all disciplines. It begins with seeing holistically, then moves on to enlarging the banquet table beyond “me and mine” to this planet, its people, and the profound and complicated problems we face.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
Some people have asked me about World War II and ISIS. How do we respond to showboating and extremely violent terrorists? How do we respond to Nazis? I think that it is our obligation to resist such groups by military means. In other words there are exceptions to every rule. To be effective, we couple our idealism with pragmatism. Yet, we must never succumb to killing as a solution. If we do we are reduced to the depravity of these extremist groups. Killing must always be approached with trepidation and anguish, as a very last resort. And a military that holds to this high ideal will seek large scale surrender and imprisonment, not slaughter. This will require investing in costly prison technologies appropriate to the battle field. All high ideals are worth our investment, better our humanity, and increase our integrity, and therefore influence in the world. In order to avoid repeating past injustices these prison systems and technologies would need to be owned and operated by contractors outside of the United States Military.
Along these same lines, war and the weapons of war should never be celebrated. Military machinery should not be a part of parades where there is cheering and fanfare. War and its implements are a solemn business, like funerals.
ACTIONS (some of these are bold!)
1) Click on the “Nonviolence Videos” links below and watch some videos.
2) Install solar panels to diminish your household reliance on energy from the grid by at least 50%.
3) Commit to having no more than two biological children. If you choose to have more than two children, adopt!
4) Give 5% of your post-tax income to a charity of your choice that contributes to nonviolence toward people and/or toward the earth
5) If you own guns, other than one or two you use for employment, hunting, or target shooting, sell them in a buy back program or to a dealer.
6) Work with local organizations to take a stand against bullying in schools.
7) Click on the “Nonviolent Communication Trainings” link below, find a Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) training that works for your schedule, make the reservation and attend.
8) Click on the “Conflict Mediation Workshops” link below, find a Lombard Mennonite Peace Center (LMPC) training that works for your schedule, make the reservation and attend.
9) Drive your car less!
10) When you fly, buy carbon offsets ($18 per 1,000 mile flight, $36 per 1-4,000 mile flight, and $54 per flight over 4,000 miles). To buy carbon offsets click on the “Carbon Offsets” link below.
11) EXTRA CREDIT 🙂 If you are an engineer, work on finding an efficient way to leach trillions of carbon molecules from the earth’s atmosphere.
What is the point of these mystic roots? Where are they leading? They are leading to what George Fox and the Quakers call the “divine light within” or “that of God within” each person, or “the light of Christ” in each person (Genesis 1:27, Luke 17:21, Acts 9:3-4). These mystic roots are leading to what the Philokalia refers to as our “original nature” or our “original purity,” what Thomas Keating and the contemporary Centering Prayer movement refer to as the “divine indwelling,” and what Paul refers to as “the Mind of Christ.” These are all different references to the same experience. I refer to the essence of this experience as entering into or awakening “the Mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
The primary way we enter into “the Mind of Christ” is “self emptying.” In Philippians 2:7, which is probably the most famous verse of Christian Mysticism, Paul says “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, emptied himself taking the form of a servant.”
Contemplative author James Finley, who was a student of Thomas Merton, often refers to “entering the Mind of Christ.” This self-emptying is sometimes referred to as Christification in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox circles. We “self empty” of our own agenda, our own ego-based needs and programs, and we surrender to God’s agenda, which has yet to be revealed to us in full. When we do this we find ourselves groping in darkness. We find ourselves in a “cloud of unknowing.” It is then that, like Abraham and Sarah, we leave the land that we are familiar with and set forth to a land that we do not yet know (Genesis 12:1). We leave behind over-reliance on our reasoning minds, let go, and let God. It is in that space that “the Mind of Christ” begins to dawn on us layer after mysterious layer. It is a journey… And we journey with Christian mystics who have gone on before us.
After years of consistent CENTERING PRAYER practice we come to realize the Mind of Christ within us (It may be hidden beneath layer upon layer of dualistic win/lose cultural scripting and dysfunction, yet it is there to be discovered! (Matthew 13:44-46)). Then in NEW MONASTICISM the mind of Christ is reflected and integrated into our life and habits. The study of CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM reveals the Mind of Christ experienced by Christian Mystics through the ages–mystics who we can emulate. The JESUS PARADOX beholds the distilled essence of the Mind of Christ in Christianity’s ultimate exemplar: Jesus. And NONVIOLENCE is about recognizing and protecting the Mind of Christ as reflected in other people (Matthew 25) and in ecosystems (Genesis 1:31).
The Mind of Christ is a dynamic unitive state of awareness that is available to us first in the depths of silent prayer. When we recognize the Mind of Christ during prayer we begin to recognize and cultivate it elsewhere. We cultivate it in our lives and habits. We also recognize it in the legacy of Christian Mystics ancient and contemporary, in Jesus and the theology that’s big enough to behold His non-dual essence (Jesus Paradox).
The holistic vision of the Mind Christ–the primordial Word at the beginning (John 1:1), changes the way we see everything. When awakened, the primordial freedom of the Mind of Christ transforms us from the inside out, then starts to transform our relationships and communities. (An aside here…people have asked, “Is our experience of the Mind of Christ a difference in kind or a difference in magnitude from what Jesus experienced when he walked the earth?” I would say it is a difference in magnitude. Jesus is the stadium floodlight, we are the candles. Both reflect the same light at different orders of magnitude. In the beginning was “the Word,” the “original purity,” “the Mind of Christ.” This essence became most powerfully distilled or magnified for a brief period of time in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire in Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, that same essence is available to us today!)
The Mind of Christ is ultimately not one more position to assent to, believe in, or insert into a creed. It is first and foremost an experience that is glimpsed on occasion, then eventually through consistent discipline, becomes an abiding state of consciousness that is kneaded through all the dough of our lives (Matthew 13:33), then it spills over into our communities.
The regular habit of Centering Prayer is the laboratory for discovering and cultivating the Mind of Christ. Everything else is a way of holding and integrating that Presence. In other words, the cultivation of the Mind of Christ starts with a consistent Centering Prayer practice (or other silent prayer form). Then in time it is reflected in everything else until the unitive Mind of Christ becomes all in all. Perhaps Saint Patrick’s poem says it best:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise…
Along the same lines here is a poem I wrote (“Beloved” is a poetic reference to the Mind of Christ and “Butterflies” is a reference to Christian Mystics):
First I caught glimpses of my Beloved skirting by
Then I encountered my Beloved standing before me
Then we rolled on the ground, legs, arms, and mouths intertwined
Then I was engulfed
Now I swim in my Beloved
When I come up for air–my Beloved
When I walk the earth my Beloved caresses my soles
Submerged or gulping air, dreaming or waking—my Beloved!
Now everything blazes with a luminous fire!
Moths lust for the flame, are scorched and burned
Butterflies flutter on the perimeter
1) Read the “Method of C.P. Pamphlet” link below and start practicing CENTERING PRAYER. Begin with at least two 10 minute prayer times per day.
2) If you have dabbled in CENTERING PRAYER and have some familiarity, now begin a firm commitment to at least two 20 minute sits per day.
3) Click on the “Upcoming C.P. Retreats” link below and find a CENTERING PRAYER retreat that works for you, make the reservation, and attend.
NEW MONASTICISM FOOTNOTES
*1 Moses serves as a model for NEW MONASTICISM because his journey was so circuitous, with many false starts, bends in the road, and wilderness wanderings. This is a common thread I find when talking with neo-monastics about their spiritual journeys.
*2 Many feel closest to God when they are involved in a creative project. So for many, New Monasticism will emphasize artistic expression. This has precedent with early monastic communities, where monks painted, threw pots, did calligraphy, and made furniture. I am particularly impressed by Shaker furniture of the nineteenth century.
*3 NEW MONASTICISM is not contrary to family life (an aside here: once someone approached Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikhs) and asked, “Don’t you need to be celibate in order to reach enlightenment? Nanak’s surprising and memorable response: “You can’t be fully enlightened unless you’re married”). NEW MONASTICISM helps temper the frantic pace of contemporary American life. Of course, Centering Prayer and retreat time has to be negotiated with one’s spouse and their needs to be give and take. There are also practical recommendations to take into account, such as one shouldn’t disappear into the meditation room upon arrival at home. It’s best to do a session of Centering Prayer at the office before coming home. And flexibility when it comes to interruptions and noise is essential…
*4 One of the best ways to understand NEW MONASTICISM is to study new monastic movements. Three prime examples that come readily to mind are The Bruderhof in Germany, Koinonia Farm in Georgia, the Catholic Worker (Dorothy Day) in American, The Simple Way in Philadelphia, and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA).
CENTERING PRAYER FOOTNOTES
*1 I have great respect for other forms of silent prayer in Christian Tradition other than Centering Prayer, especially “Christian Meditation” as taught by Laurence Freeman, John Main, and The World Community of Christian Meditation (wccm.org).
*2 During centering prayer periods it is important to differentiate between “passing thoughts” and “trains of thought.” An example of a passing thought is “lunch.” The thought comes and goes along the stream of consciousness. This is normal. Passing thoughts don’t require any response on our part. We simply observe them come and go. “Lunch” becomes a “train of thought when I start to wonder: “Are the avocadoes ripe yet? Is my favorite knife in the dish washer or is it available? Is there any of that good organic bread left, or will I be stuck with the white bread?” When our mind is caught up in a train of thought like this … That is the purpose of the sacred word. The sacred word is designed to gently derail trains of thought and bring us back to our intention to wait for God presence in undistracted silence and stillness.
*3 There is a strong physiological component to centering prayer. Many people think that centering prayer is only about the mind. This is incorrect. The physiological component is why the purifying work of centering prayer is greatly assisted by regular exercise, such as running, hiking, and yoga (I run two miles every other day). It is also complimented by various forms of massage.
*4 Centering Prayer has a strong neurological component. In other words, it effects the nervous system of the entire body. When the mind is trained to let go of thoughts the body begins to let go of tensions … During centering prayer muscles will spasm (this parallels the experience of Charley horse, which can be painful). For many practitioners, this becomes a recurring phenomenon.
*5 A weekly centering prayer group is a great support, especially when one begins centering prayer. Contemplative Outreach has regional websites and contact people to help you locate a centering prayer group in your area or to give you resources to start your own centering prayer group.
*6 I have found that doing centering prayer on an empty stomach (before meals) deepens concentration.
*7 I have found that doing centering prayer at the same time and in the same place every day deepens the habit.
*8 In centering prayer consistency is the key. It is the daily practice week in, week out, which brings progress. For this reason, I encourage people to make a daily commitment. When there are competing demands on our time, one way to address them, is to go to our centering prayer cushion or chair and tell our excuse to our chair or cushion. A friend of mine does this and it has made her practice more consistent, because when she gives her cushion a lame excuse for not sitting, she is convicted to return to her cushion and to honor her commitment.
*9 Centering prayer retreats should be a required part of the training of clergy in seminaries. Without retreat experience there is no deep foundation for spiritual formation and teaching.
*10 Centering prayer is closely related to the twelve step movement. Centering prayer weans us from dependency on our pet thoughts and pet thought processes. It trains our minds to let go. Twelve step programs, which represent American spirituality at its best, are about letting go of dependency on chemicals. Both paths are closely related and lead to different levels of freedom.
*11 The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) emphasizes orthopraxy, as opposed to orthodoxy or “verbal correctness.” The point is if we do a practice, such as centering prayer (not think about it, but do it!) it will change our consciousness. In other words, we don’t think ourselves into a new way of living. We live ourselves into a new way of thinking. This is how I came upon the mystical theology of the Jesus Paradox (the subject of my first book). I practiced centering prayer for a decade, then the Jesus Paradox made more and more sense and finally resulted in my book, Healing the Divide.
*12 Centering Prayer is a form of silent prayer, and disciplined silences are the common ground of the monastic elements found in each of the world’s religions. So, silent prayer serves as a foundation for finding and developing common ground among the world’s religions.
*13 In centering prayer we let go of all thoughts, images, and concepts of God. Apophatic theology, Especially The Divine Names and Mystical Theology of Denys, compliments centering prayer’s emphasis on letting go of ALL thoughts.
*14 With competing demands on our time it’s important to get creative with our centering prayer. One person I know of goes to his car on his lunch break and does centering prayer there before lunch. Another friend of mine lives in a small house with kids, and it’s impossible to escape the noise, so she meditates with ear plugs and has learned to block out the background din. Another friend has found that 16 minute centering prayer sessions three times a day before meals to be most effective. Get creative. Tailor your practice. Where there is a will there is a way!
*15 I would essentialize the centering prayer journey with three words: escape, recovery, and consolation. First we escape from incessant compulsive thoughts. Then we recover from the tyranny of monkey-mind. Finally we are consoled with increased focus, awareness, peace, problem-solving ability, physiological healing, neurological healing, and deep faith.
*16 Some have asked me how centering prayer relates to the Jesus Paradox (that Jesus is at the same time God and human). Here is how I explained the relationship in my first book, Healing the Divide:
During prayer we don’t name the silence. It’s beyond names. But when we return from the luminous silence, we exclaim the holy name: Jesus. The Jesus Paradox becomes the best phrase we have for penetrating the silent mystery. Jesus has two aspects, absolute God and relative human. In the deepest forms of prayer we move beyond the bodily fatigue, various distractions, and pain to the absolute or non-dual aspect of Jesus (Jesus’ Divinity). When we return from prayer we experience the relative or dualistic aspect of Jesus once again (Jesus’ humanity). These are the two aspects of The Jesus Paradox: absolute (Divine) consciousness beyond names and forms and relative (human) consciousness steeped in language. At the deeper levels of divine union the creative tension between these two aspects of experience become a dynamic unity/flow.
CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM FOOTNOTES
*1 CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM begins and ends with the primary insight of the Greek Fathers, summed up by Kallistos Ware as follows: “A God who is comprehensible is not God.”
*2 We live in amazing times when science (quantum physics in particular) is revealing the same truths about the underlying unity of the universe that mystic have celebrated for generations. So, what the Christian mystics apprehended through intuition, scientists are confirming through experimentation (experiments involving particle accelerators in particular). For a brief wonderful introduction into this area I highly recommend The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion by Barbara Brown Taylor.
*3 It’s important to offset Christianity’s male bias by lifting up prominent women mystics. Among the many prominent women mystics through the ages, RCMR most highly celebrates the works of Julian of Norwich. It is also helpful to lift up historic mystics who were characteristically egalitarian in their approach (not patriarchal/ hierarchical), such as Francis of Assisi. Notable contemporary women mystics include Kathleen Norris, Sister Joan Chittister, and Cynthia Bourgeault.
*4 CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM begins with the Bible. Historian of Christian Mystics, Bernard McGinn, writes “The Bible has been both the origin and the norm for Christian Mystics down through the ages. The very term mystical (Greek: mystikos; Latin: mysticus) entered Christianity primarily as a way to describe the inner sense of the Bible.”
*5 Many of Saint Paul’s statements can be interpreted in a moralistic, even a finger-shaking way. Paul had his good days and his bad days. But that’s not the majority of his letters. If we can excuse Paul his bad days, so to speak, we come to realize that he was in fact a profound mystic.
*6 The “Natural Mysticism” of Christian Tradition is epitomized in the writings of Saint Francis, Saint Patrick, and Celtic Christianity, who show profound reverence for the natural world. For these writers the way of devotion to the Creator is to fall in love with creation. This same feeling is present in many Protestant Hymns such as “How Great Thou Art” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” In his book, Mysticism Sacred and Profane, R.C. Zaehner draws a hard and fast distinction between religious and natural mystical experiences. I don’t think it’s possible to make such a sharp distinction. For Mystics like Francis, religious and natural mystical experiences flowed together.
*7 Some CHRISTIAN MYSTICS through the ages have made the mistake of looking down on Judaism and seeing it as “less than.” Hence the Hebrew Scriptures were referred to as “Old Testament” and the Christian Scriptures were referred to as “New Testament,” as if the Hebrew Scriptures were out of date. It is important for contemporary mystics to correct this arrogance, to walk with humility before God (Micah 6:8), and to use the phrase “Hebrew Scripture” whenever referring to the Hebrew Testament.
*8 John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Hildegard of Bingen, and many other CHRISTIAN MYSTICS through the ages have envisioned a hierarchical order of angels, a stairway, or a ladder toward the Divine (Genesis 28:12). I see Ken Wilbur’s Integral Theory or Spiral Dynamics as it’s variously called, to be the most sophisticated post-modern rendering of this primal insight of mystics through the ages. Wilbur is a genius and Integral Theory has so much perspective to offer the human family on numerous levels, yet we should acknowledge its early drafts heralded by Christian Mystics.
JESUS PARADOX FOOTNOTES
*1 People come to Jesus from many different angles depending on their upbringing. I have talked with gang members and drug addicts who tuned their lives over to Jesus, broke their addiction, quit the gang, and started a new life holding down a full time job and supporting a family. I respect every person’s unique approach to Jesus, as different as each individual follower. The JESUS PARADOX speaks most deeply to me given my background, but it is by no means the only way people experience the grace of God through Jesus.
*2 The JESUS PARADOX is closely related to NONVIOLENCE. The JESUS PARADOX breaks down the dualistic wall between Jesus’ Divinity and humanity, helping us to see holistically. Similarly NONVIOLENCE breaks down the dualistic wall between us and them, so we see clearly with spiritual eyes: there is only US.
*3 Much of the genius of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was his recognition that the human psych has a primal need to reconcile opposites, to make peace with one’s shadow, to behold paradox. This is also the genius of the JESUS PARADOX of the Alexandrian Mystics.
*4 The term non-dual (familiar to Eastern Mystical Traditions) has become popular in many circles exploring spirituality today. What many fail to grasp is that the Eastern Church (Oriental Orthodox Church in particular) has celebrated non-dual awareness from its beginning. The JESUS PARADOX (Miaphysite Theology of the Oriental Orthodox Church) is Christianity’s very own non-dual mystic essence! The JESUS PARADOX forms a necessary bridge between East and West.
*5 Many have asked me where God’s revelation through Creation fits in with the Incarnation. Short answer: Creation is the macrocosm and the Incarnation is the microcosmic pinnacle of evolution (Romans 1:20, Job 12:7-10).
*6 When the JESUS PARADOX is central, the Gospels are central and essential for unfolding layer upon layer of the mystery of the Incarnation. The mystery leaps forth from the Gospel narratives. I think the “red letters” of the Gospels are particularly revealing of the JESUS PARADOX. Along these lines I would highly recommend The Red Letters: The Sayings and Teachings of Jesus by Timothy J. Beals.
*7 The creative tension and dynamism between the Three & One (Trinity) and between the Divinity and humanity (JESUS PARADOX) is what is most real. The so-called opposites of “this” and “that” are often two sides of the same coin, which leads to an endless circle of argument.
*8 The JESUS PARADOX is directly related to the Trinity.The theology of the Trinity pressed the “hypostatic union” of the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit (both One and Three at the same time). While distinct in their relations with one another, they are One. Athanasius, Cyril, and the Alexandrian Mystics pressed this same “hypostatic union” of Jesus’ Divinity and humanity. While Jesus’ Divinity and humanity are distinct, they are one.
*9 One of the paradoxes of Jesus was his Servant Leadership–that the greatest among us is the servant of all (Matthew 23:11). Servant Leadership is an important piece of the paradoxical legacy that Jesus left us. An excellent study of this subject is the book, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert Greenleaf.
*10 Of the five mystic roots of Christian tradition that RCMR has identified, the JESUS PARADOX is the least developed of the five and is still virtually unknown in the West. In order to develop the JESUS PARADOX and its vast implications, the next step is to translate the primary texts of the JESUS PARADOX from the Coptic, Arabic, and Ethiopian sources (Oriental Orthodox) into English.
*11 The myth of perfection and subsequent superiority leads to the poison of absolutism. Absolutistic zeal led to Nazism and ISIS. Absolutism was the first domino that started the chain reaction, which ended in with the gas chambers of the Nazis and the axes and burning cages of ISIS. At its core the JESUS PARADOX is about non-absolutism. This distinction (between absolutism and non-absolutism) determines whether the mind is susceptible to violence or whether the mind steers toward Nonviolence. The JESUS PARADOX and NONVIOLENCE go hand in hand. The mystical non-dual elements of the world religions safeguard us from the poison of absolutism.
*12 The JESUS PARADOX and the non-dual thinking it spawns helps us navigate the minefields of our polarized political situation in the United States. In all the churches I have served as pastor there have existed factions on the right and left. Navigating polarized positions requires an appreciation for paradox, for holding “opposites” in creative tension, and patience with ambiguity. A great resource for navigating polarized churches is the book, Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them, by Ken Howard.
*13 The Jesus Paradox in particular and Paradox in general has far reaching applications, including business applications. Deborah Schroeder-Saulnier’s book, The Power of Paradox: Harness the Energy of Competing Ideas to Uncover Radically Innovative Solutions, chronicles business leaders, with whom she has consulted, who have succeeded in business by harnessing the power of paradoxical thinking.
*14 Cyril of Alexandria presented the Eucharist as the principal site for human participation in the divine incarnation. Cyril viewed Holy Communion as a way to participate in the mystery of the JESUS PARADOX (See Coptic Christology in Practice: Incarnation and Divine Participation in Late Antique and Medieval Egypt by Stephen J. Davis).
*15 THE JESUS PARADOX is closely related to Process Theology, as taught by Al Whitehead, John Cobb, Marjorie Suchocki and others.
*16 The Gospel of Thomas is the most respected and historical of the so-called Gnostic Gospels. It is also a repository of non-dual thought in Christian Tradition.
*1 NONVIOLENCE is closely related to the JESUS PARADOX. NONVIOLENCE breaks down the dualistic wall between us and them, so we see clearly with spiritual eyes: there is only US. Similarly, the JESUS PARADOX breaks down the dualistic wall between Jesus’ Divinity and humanity, helping us to see holistically.
*2 What goes along with NONVIOLENCE toward the earth is acknowledgement that the first Bible is Creation itself. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) said it best: “Creation is the primary and most perfect revelation of the Divine.” When we see Creation as a reflection of the Divine we will treat it with the respect it is due. Saint Patrick and Saint Francis are ancient exemplars of this path. Contemporary exemplars are Mary Oliver and Annie Dillard, among others (See Daniel 3:74-81, Genesis 1:31, Book of Wisdom (Apocrypha) 13:5).
*3 NONVIOLENCE toward the earth must move beyond “reduce, recycle, reuse” to a more significant personal commitment such as converting the house to solar, becoming a one car or no car household, or making a regular financial commitment to environmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy. I have an affinity toward the Nature Conservancy because it purchases or leases large tracts of wild lands, protecting them from human encroachment, which accomplishes a number of environmental objectives at once, including conservation of habitat for species that require a large range.
*4 NONVIOLENCE toward the earth requires eating organic produce, cage free/free range animals and animal products whenever possible.
*5 NONVIOLENCE toward the earth means living simply and breaking the habit of over-consumption, which is so pernicious in western nations.
*6 A giant in the area of NONVIOLENCE toward people is the brilliant work of French Philosopher Rene Girard. Through world studies in mythology and anthropology Girard uncovered the recurring pattern of scapegoating, which has repeated itself for thousands of years (the ancient equivalent of “ethnic cleansing”). Girard astutely observes that Jesus of Nazareth is the only example in world history when the scapegoat (the crucified Jesus) becomes the hero. This turns the recurring phenomena of scapegoating, and the genocide that often follows, on its head. Scapegoating on pretenses of ethnicity, religion, handicap, et cetera, continues to stalk us today (ISIS for example). Before we can make any headway with NONVIOLENCE, we must begin by exposing the recurring evil of scapegoating in human history. Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard by James Warren is a great popularization of many of Girard’s key concepts like scapegoating, scandal, mimetic desire, and sibling rivalry.
*7 Most industrialized nations including all of Europe (140 nations total according to Amnesty International) have abolished the death penalty. The United States is one of the last industrialized nations to hold on to the death penalty in both law and practice (along with 40 other nations). One of the best way to move forward on NONVIOLENCE toward people in the United States is to work toward abolition of the death penalty.
*8 An important part of NONVIOLENCE toward people in our American context is to reach out to veterans coming back from war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan. Two good resources for addressing the soul injuries of soldiers coming back from war are Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War by R. N. Brock and G. Lettini and They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars by A. Jones.
*9 The world religions all acknowledge that Jesus was a teacher of NONVIOLENCE. It is curious that Christians are often the last to realize it!
*10 Liberation Theology makes profound contributions to the study and practice of NONVIOLENCE toward people. Liberation theology does not legitimate the status quo. It prophetically tries to read the Bible, reality, and history, not from the side of the powerful, but from the side of the disenfranchised and marginalized–those in pain. For Americans an excellent beginning for understanding history from the perspective of those on the margins is A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
*11 Acts of service are essential to the Christian life. The most foundational acts of service protect people and our environment from acts of violence.
*12 The principle of NONVIOLENCE does not exclude military and police. Higher ranking military personnel can strategize in favor of forcing surrenders and taking prisoners as opposed to slaughter. Higher ranking police can advocate for the development of taser gun technology and its broad application as a viable alternative to killing under specific sets of circumstances.
-Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan, 2006.
-de Caussade, Jean-Pierre. The Sacrament of the Present Moment. Harpers, 1989.
-Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Harper, 2002 (especially chapters 2, 4, 6, and 7).
-McColman, Carl. Answering the Contemplative Call: First Steps on the Mystical Path. Hampton Roads, 2013.
-Talbot, John Michael. The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics. Liturgical Press, 2011.
-Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. Baker, 2008.
-Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church. Brazos, 2008
-Bourgeault, Cynthia. Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Cowley, 2004.
-Finley, James. Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God. HarperOne, 2005
–*Frenette, David. The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God. Sounds True, 2012.
-Johnston, William & Smith, Houston. The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling. Image, 1996.
–*Keating, Thomas. Contemplative Prayer. Sounds True Audio, 2004.
-Keating, Thomas. Open Mind, Open Heart. Bloomsbury Academic, 2006.
–*Dionysius the Areopagite. The Divine Names and the Mystical Theology. Translated by C.E. Rolt. Dover, 1994.
-Markides, Kyriacos. The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality. Image, 2002.
-McColman, Carl. The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality. Hampton Roads, 2010.
-McGinn, Bernard & Patricia Ferris. Early Christian Mystics: The Divine Vision of Spiritual Masters. Crossroad, 2003.
-McGinn, Bernard. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. Modern Library, 2006.
–*Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New Directions, 1972.
–*The Philokalia: The Complete Text Vol. 1-4, compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth. Faber and Faber, 1983-95 (I would start with volume 2, which focuses on Maximos The Confessor).
–*Rohr, Richard. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. Crossroad, 2003.
–*Rohr, Richard. The Immortal Diamond: Searching For Our True Self. Jossey-Bass, 2013.
–*Rohr, Richard. The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Crossroad, 2009.
-Rohr, Richard. What The Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self. Crossroad Publsihing, 2015.
-Taylor, Barbara Brown. The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion. Cowley, 2000.
-Ware, Kallistos. The Inner Kingdom. Saint Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000.
–*Ware, Kallistos. The Orthodox Way. Saint Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1995.
-Beals, Timothy J. The Red Letters: The Sayings and Teachings of Jesus. Crossway, 2009.
-Chittister, Joan. Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life. Image, 2015.
–*Cyril of Alexandria. The Unity of Christ. Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000.
-Gebru, Mebratu Kiros. Miaphysite Christology: An Ethiopian Perspective. Gorgias, 2010.
–*Greenleaf, Robert K. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. Paulist Press, 1977.
–*Palmer, Parker J. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. Jossey-Bass, 2004.
–*Palmer, Parker J. The Promise of Paradox. Jossey-Bass, 2008.
-Robinson, Anthony. What’s Theology got to do with it?: Convictions, Vitality, and the Church. The Alban Institute, 2006.
-Samuel, V.C. The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined. British Orthodox Press, 2001.
–*Smith, Amos. Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots. Wipf & Stock, 2013.
-Thiede, Carsten Peter. and d’Ancona, Matthew. Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence about the Origin of the Gospels. Doubleday, 1996.
NONVIOLENCE TOWARD PEOPLE
-Blumhardt, Christoph Friedrich. Everyone Belongs To God: Discovering The Hidden Christ. Plough Publishing, 2015.
-Brock, Rita Nakashima and Lettini, Gabriella, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War. Beacon, 2013.
-Hedges, Chris. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Public Affairs, 2014.
-Jones, Ann, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars. Haymarket, 2014.
-Merton, Thomas. Gandhi On Nonviolence. New Directions, 2007.
-Trocme, Andre. Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution. Plough Publishing, 2003.
–*Warren, James. Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene -Girard. Christian Alternative Press, 2013.
–*Wink, Walter. Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. Fortress Press, 2003.
NONVIOLENCE TOWARD THE EARTH
–*Brown, Lester R. World on The Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. W W Norton & Co., 2011.
-Christie, Douglas. The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology. Oxford University Press, 2012.
–*Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Rodale Books, 2006.
-Marshall, George. Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Bloomsbury, 2014.
-McKibben, Bill. Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families. Plume, 1999.
*Books with asterisks should be read first.