Thursday, May 17, 2018

Keeping Us On Our Toes

“A God you cannot comprehend is a God you cannot manipulate.” – Carl McColman

I’m in the midst of reading Carl McColman’s great book, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality. And it is essential, in that although it's grounded in Christianity, it could apply to most esoteric traditions. We all know about paradoxes when it comes to the spiritual path, but why do they exist?

After a while, it becomes obvious that Truth shows up differently at the depth/height/breadth/length we see it. In other words, we can stand somewhere locally until we realize that another perspective may be on point. And the more perspectives we hold, the more challenging it is to traverse horizontally. We now have to step on the ladder and alter our vista to a nonlocal space.

And God wouldn’t want it any other way. He/She ;) likes to keep us on our toes. That is why no religious institution, spiritual path, or guide/teacher/guru has it all figured out. If you consider any of the paradoxes listed below, you’ll be able to point out how a particular person, community, or belief system emphasizes one over the other. No one can dance of the razor’s edge perfectly, and that’s why God can never be expressed perfectly in the world. 

From the relative plane, these paradoxes can make you feel schizo since they can't be reconciled. As such, “Christ does not resolve paradox; he simply transcends it.” Only you can decide to let go along for the ride.

McColman poignantly notes, “God tries to keep you on your toes not because he has a twisted sense of humor and wants you to feel uncomfortable, but because he knows that the best antidote for taking yourself (and your religion) too seriously is to fill your faith with all sorts of apparent contradictions. Sooner or later, you just have to throw up your hands and say: "Okay, God, I give up. There's no figuring you out." At that point, God comes to you "as a little child," laughs in your face, and says: "That's okay, I love you anyway! Let's go play!"”

Here are some of the tensions McColman comes up with that we can inhabit in that play (the only thing I would add is some of these paradoxes may have an asymmetric relationship where one side takes precedence over the other as one would be necessary for the other to exist; such as, a transcendent God is necessary for an immanent God to exist since creation came after that which creates). ...
Mysticism is the quest for God. You cannot seek God unless God has found you.
Mysticism is about experience. Mysticism cannot be limited to experience.
God is immanent. God is transcendent.
Mysticism involves significant, life-transforming events and changes in consciousness. A mystical experience may seem as insignificant as the Butterfly Effect.
You can do nothing to "earn" the mystical life. If you are passive, you will be thwarting the action of the Holy Spirit.
Mysticism is the "flight of the alone to the Alone." Christ is present "where two or three are gathered" in his name.
God is One. God is a Holy Trinity.
Christ is fully human. Christ is fully divine.
Seek the light. Embrace the dark.
Take delight in God. Accept even suffering.
God is all-merciful. God is uncompromising in his justice.
Seek holiness. Practice hospitality.
Plumb deeply the Christian tradition. Embrace all positive wisdom.
Love God's creation. Do not love the world.
Humankind is sinful. Humankind is invited to participate in union with God.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Perfect love casts out fear.
Place your hope in the future when you will find conscious union with God. Live in the present moment; that's the only place you'll ever find God.
Live by faith. Live the truth.
Authentic Christian mysticism conforms to Biblical and church teaching. Mysticism is following spiritual vision to greater freedom.
Pray methodically. Prayer cannot be reduced to a method.
Become like little children. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
God is Father. God is Mother. God transcends gender.
Mysticism is an intellectual pursuit. True mysticism is mostly about the heart.
The mystical life is like climbing a mountain; it's a lifelong journey to reach the place God is calling you. There's nothing separating you from the love of God-right here, right now.
The Ultimate Mystery is silent. Part of being a mystic is trying to express the ineffable through words.
Heaven is a gift freely given. Hell awaits those who reject divine love.