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I often listen to Gregorian Chants to start the day.  It separates me from the world – its chatter and foolishness.  I recommend it.  It connects you with what is calm and eternal.
Who after all wishes to sail on “a ship of fools?”

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We have committed ourselves to exile, that is, we are outside secular boundaries … (Emphasis added.)

Life of Syncletica, in Monastic Wisdom: Writing on the Contemplative Life

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When a culture gives you disorder and the company of fools and “disassemblers” – those who find truth a stranger to them, is it not better to remove yourself and maintain both peace and sanity … contact with what is true and divine?

When you separate from a sick culture, your values are sustained, you retain autonomy, dignity, sanity, integrity, virtue, peace and contentment.  More so, you live as a mortal within eternal reality.  You remain calm and free of the nonsense, destruction and duplicity that is a godless culture.  Yes, you leave the inmates in their self-made asylum.

Enter Gregorian chants.

In separation we are cognizant of the falsity and chaos of the existing culture – but we do not concede its rule over us.  We remain free to be who we were made to be – contentment follows.

In separation we reside in our own cloister, our mind and heart prosper – our soul lives in us and in our thoughts and deeds.

In separation, we dismiss the gossip of the culture, its useless and truth-less “news,” its imagined celebrity status and faux leadership class.

In separation, the cyber world is an option, but trivial – never a master.

In separation – reading and prayer, thinking and quiet, silence and nature, caring and love of others come to form.  God is nearer, beauty is alive.  Hope prevails despite the best efforts of others to destroy all tranquility and our irreplaceable inheritance.

Separate.  Sustain what is sacred and sane.

Shalom.

 

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Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral …

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works

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Jung knew the importance of seeing the spiritual content of life and life’s events.  We are not so readily inclined.  He derived meaning and understanding from this.  Our inability to do so, leaves us confused and, in the worse cases, destructive of self and others.

It seems to me this is where we are today.  Likewise we have few (if any) commentators who are capable of seeing and discussing the spiritual and psychological elements of our present moment and its fractious nature.

This circumstance makes me think of Mary and Joseph and their newborn child’s flight into Egypt.

You may recall that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and urged him to flee lest Herod kill the child.  This itself has meaningful value as a simple story.

What we see in this is the fear felt by the ruling authority vested in a rigid status quo – the fear that “change” other than what they offer or demand, however aluminating otherwise, may be costly to their status quo.

Thinking of today – this may well explain the daily hostility we see aimed at President Trump by media, comfortable elites and his political adversaries.  His presence disturbs their psychological comfort, their status, the world as they have come to know it.

It is always wise to ask deeper questions when one sees reactions at that are overt, persistent and hostile.  Such reactions signal that a fundamental cord has been struck, i.e. something important is afoot.

Likewise when ones sees those sworn to serve lawfully acting in a lawless manner – one confirms again – this is a significant moment.  I think, in particular, of the challenges to the U.S. Constitution – another grave sign that fundamental stakes are at play.  And I think of legal guardians acting unlawfully.

More to the point, when the Constitution is easily attacked its opponents tell us they do not realize that this document is as much a spiritual document as it is a political document.

Indeed, seeing only with political eyes produces destructive consequences for the Constitution is by all measure a document that reflects the soul and identity of a free people and their nation.  Damaging it, damages our individual and collective self – our identity and relationship to one another as one people united and free.

So often we miss the spiritual and psychological aspects of life in one’s historical moment.  Such a mistake is always costly and wrought with conflict that could be avoided if we just recalled our larger context – namely, the narratives of our heritage and what they tell us.

Shalom.

 

If we remove the obstacles, the ego-self with all its paraphernalia, and surrender to God, we penetrate through the layers of our psyche until we reach the center of core of our being.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Quiet begets interior silence.  In quiet being itself appears as thoughts fade.  In quiet we hear the sound of silence that is deep inside us.  In this is God, awareness of God.

In interior silence social need falls to the Spirit – without others we are nearer our own being and that of all things and beings.  In interior silence eternity exceeds mortality – yes, reality becomes eternity, and all things now and beyond are of God and God.

This interior silence has no words nor need for words.  It is.  IT SIMPLY IS.

In interior silence we are subsumed with the “IS” and its inexhaustible ALL.  This: the experience of the Triune God – our center – the center of being here and beyond.  There is in this eternity and tranquility – our meaning, our purpose, our reason for being, peace and certainty – ease of being, the exceeding of all doubt or pain.

Shalom.

 

… it came to pass … that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world would be taxed …

Lk 2:1

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This census, of course, required each person in the Roman Empire to assemble in their ancestral village or town … and this was a prelude to Jesus birth in Bethlehem as Joseph and Mary journeyed from their home in Galilee in accord with Caesar’s directive.

How many note the significance of Jesus being born at a time when the entire Roman population was assembled as a whole?  My point being that the birth of Jesus has characteristics to it that proclaim something quite special in this birth.  Illustratively, the birth of Jesus heralded the assembly of all.

Yet, there is more.  Jesus birth in a manger among farm animals makes the statement that the child’s presence exceeds mortal reality – but rather speaks to all creatures and creation.  Yes, Christ is for and of the whole of this world and the next.

Indeed, shepherds and kings come to his place of birth.  Is this not a proclamation that in Christ the humble and exalted are but one in the same?

Yes, the circumstances of this birth speak to us of its universal and eternal importance – but do we think of this in our own time?  Is this a point of reference for us?  Does this magnificent birth inspire us?  Motivate us?  Lead us in our daily existence?  I dare say: “it does not.”

Does not the star that led others to Bethlehem speak to the cosmic significance of this holy birth?  Does it not say that each birth is God’s intention?  Yet, who are we now?  Do we see these things?  Are we comforted and governed by them?

Shalom.

 

We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given by God.

1 Cor 2:12

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The foundation of our health and human prosperity is in the Spirit.  Yet, the culture we live in promotes the mind as if our well-being resides in the head.

Nay, it resides in the heart and in the soul.

A full life relies on our spiritual development, not our intellectually development.  I say this as one who was a college degree, a law degree and two graduate degrees (one in international affairs – American foreign policy and economic policy, and the other in theology).

That said, I make this point: in my career and in my personal life – seeing with the eyes of a Believer made the greatest contribution to my personal and working life.

Plainly speaking – the experiences of my life were more revealing and more instructive because of my spiritual life and its development.  I found greater understanding and greater peace – and yes, wisdom – because I cultivated my spiritual development, became more faithful, placed an importance on worship and directed my reading to those things that would help me grow in the Spirit.  In doing so, novels revealed truth to me, psychology and cultural criticism, philosophy, comparative mythology, and history opened for me.  Likewise biographies of those who traveled hard roads and experienced God were a great help, as were the words of Carl Jung, M.D., and Thomas Merton and Joseph Campbell, and St. Augustine, Thomas Keating and others, and, of course, Scripture.

What is my point?  Our culture would have us confine our self to the head, but the brain is a secondary organ and does not lead us exclusively to the greatest and most significant understandings.  The heart and soul are the key to a good and satisfying life.

It is the Spirit upon which we ultimately rely and the Spirit enlivens the heart and soul.

Attend to the Spirit, for we are of God – and God is pure Spirit.

Shalom.

Democrats – Another Democrat public official (the Attorney General of New York) resigned because of his history of physical abuse of women.  He adds to the list of Democrat money-raisers and politicians who have been exposed as women abusers yet claimed to be champions of women.  It would be nice if this was a surprise – but it is not.

 

I urge you … that there be no divisions among you but that you be united in the same mind and same purpose … Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? … The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Cor: 10, 20, 25

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What St. Paul said so many centuries ago speaks to us today.

We seem to have the habit of nudging God from the picture.  Claiming belief, we fashion results as the author of what is good.

Humans are prone to produce division – often in the name of what is “good” or (worse yet) of our professed faith.

Wither ideology and all sorts of odd ideas like “social justice” – a cover for individual responsiblity and evidence of our pride and sinfulness.

Too many of our ideas, and the manufacture of ideology, dodge God and His instructions.  Divided from God we divide ourselves from one another.  Discord, estrangement and hostility flourish.

We make what is direct obscure.

We change the names of magnificent things like pregnancy – infanticide becomes “choice,” Holy Matrimony is befitted with fiction to excuse disordered behavior, gender is redefined and multiplied.  Absurdity abounds.

Corinth was “full of devotees of various pagan cults and marked by a measure of moral depravity.”  We are Corinth.  It best NOT be so.

Less government would be an improvement.  Less reliance on government – less political division and more individual responsibility … more space for faith and for God, and for humility and gratitude.

Shalom.

The Iran “Deal” – If Mr. Kerry wanted to see the Iran Deal made a permanent (while idiotic) achievement he’d best have encouraged Mr. Obama to make it a Treaty and get Senate approval for it.  But that would have required work.  However that didn’t seem to be Mr. Kerry or Mr. Obama’s inclination.

The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

Easter Morning, 2018

Christ has Risen!!!

It takes very little to grow good people.  Very little.  And bad people can’t be governed at all.  Or if they could I never heard of it.

Cormac McCarthy, in No Country for Old Men

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The road to “good” is the road to God.

In the book and in the movie made of McCarthy’s book, the central question is this: where is God and the good that is God in this fractured, violent world?

Only one figure in the book and movie asks this question.  That person is the rural Texas sheriff.

The book and the movie is a saga in which one man seeks “the good” and God among the killings and violence that unfolds in the arid circumstances and environment of West Texas open spaces.  Yes, violence in God’s natural creation.  God dishonored in God’s Creation.  Rebellion.

Look around.  Is this not the question for us in the present time?

Brings to mind Jesus and the man who seeks eternal life.  You remember the story in the Gospel of Mark (10:17-10:18).  The man comes to Jesus and falls on his knees and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And, Jesus responds, “No one is good except God alone.” 

Those who seek good defer to God.  Those who cultivate what is bad rebel – reject God in favor of themselves.

We live among rebels, more so in the rank rebellion and hostility in politics today – the division and disorder is the mark of the rebellious – those who seek for self, not God – seek not good but its opposite.

In Christ risen is proof of God and our offer of what is good … but how do we respond?

Seek God above all things, and good follows.

Shalom.

Easter Saturday, March 31, 2018

The single most common complaint I hear from psychotherapy patients about their therapists ( … [including] secular-minded psychologists and social workers …) has been that they did not or would not listen to the spiritual aspects of their lives.

M. Scott Peck, M.D. in Further Along the Road Less Traveled

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Peck is identifying here what is missing in psychiatry and what I see as a reality in American secular culture at large: we dismiss spiritual existence – its place in the life of human beings – in the health, happiness, stability and prosperity of human beings and the citizen within the dominant and demanding secularized state.

Peck proceeds after the above to tell of his work with a schizophrenic patient who had been hospitalized for a number of years.  The patient suffered from bouts of depression, delusions, social isolation, apathy and severe suspiciousness.  She was unable to maintain employment or social relationships.  She manifest a profound ambivalence, flat affect and extreme social mal-adeptness.

Her failure to improve under psychiatric care labeled her “a lost cause.”  Yet, in the course of her confinement she began to engage religion, at first in a very tentative way – but over time she became a person whose faith gained depth.

A regular attendant at Mass, her theology was normal and her understandings of her faith was (according to Dr. Peck) “quite sophisticated.”  Ironically, she prayed regularly for Peck and while he reports that there was no significant change in her schizophrenia or social skills – she (as Peck observed) made “immense growth in her soul.”

The analogy, of course, between this patient and our present day culture is clear.  Shunning faith and spiritual existence, we show no improvement – indeed, we continue to deteriorate.  Is this not a “wake-up” call on this Holy Saturday?

Remember Mark 5:1-20, the story of Jesus and the Man Possessed.

Shalom.

 

A Quiet, Peaceful Sunday

… of the things in life … which is the thing you believe to be most valuable?  (Emphasis added.)

William B. Irvine, in A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

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We seldom stop to think about who we are and what would most satisfy us in this life.  Most people just respond to the noise and impulses of the culture.  Hard to imagine a contented life might result from that default setting.

No wonder there are so many discontented people, so many who submit willy-nilly to the noise, fashion, ideology, stimulus, fear or fancy of the day.  Yes, we play the lead role in our own confusion and discontent.  Few live a considered existence.

Given the opportunity to live a contented life of inner satisfaction and peace – many live in perpetual distraction, anxiety, turmoil and unhappiness.  Seems like such a waste.

In the manner we think about the world and ignore our humble place within it, the more chaotic our life is likely to be.

Author William Irvine reminds us that the Stoic philosophers sought to live a life without negative emotions, a life of tranquility – one absent fear, grief, envy and anxiety.

In pursuit of tranquility, the Stoics saw the mortal world as transitory.  They sought to minimize desires.  In contrast they sought to live courageously, in a temperate manner, with self-discipline and virtue, with joy.  In this they foretold of Christ.

They examined their life, sought to control their attitude and expectations – but nothing beyond their reach.  They did only what they could.

This: a descent prescription for today.  Yes, separation from the chaos and decay requires knowing what it is you intend with this sacred existence you have been granted.

Use the gift of life wisely.  Listen discretely and avoid crowds of the confused and contentious.  Yours is a sacred calling.

You’ll remember me when the West wind moves among the fields of barley …

Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley.  See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold.

Fields of Gold

Shalom.

 

 

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