#50 Living into a New Consciousness
The Holy Thursday Revolution by Beatrice Bruteau
Living Inside God: The Psychology of Love, and Friendship and Communion
Helene O’Sullivan, MM, has done a précis of this insightful book, and we share here excerpts adapted from Chapters 5 and 6.
Chapter 5 ~ Living inside God:
The Psychology of Love
In the Communion Paradigm, the basic recognition is that everyone is a child of God and as such is absolutely equal in dignity to everyone else. The “we” sense is thus unlimited. Our “natural feelings” are spontane-ously identified with the welfare and good feeling of all the others; there is no need to say to ourselves that we “ought” to do such and such; we quite naturally want to do so and do not even think about the fact that we want to do so as though it were a strange thing. We care for the other as naturally and unthinkingly as we care for ourselves. The feeling is of a greatly expanded self, of living a much larger life, of experiencing on a far wider scale than could be possible through one life alone.
Life in the Messianic Body
There is a story that illustrates this idea: The Hindu saint of the 19th century, Ramakrishna, was ill with cancer of the throat that had reached the point where he could not swallow food. His disciples begged him to pray for healing, but he was reluctant. He had not been used to praying for anything but devotion, but he finally consented. He prayed to God as Mother, saying, “Please make it possible for me to eat a little food.” He reported to his friends that She pointed out all of them to him, and said, “You are eating through all these mouths, and you want to eat through this one as well?”
This same saint Ramakrishna earlier in his life was quietly talking to his disciples when he suddenly fell down and began to cry out in pain. Welts and bruises appeared on his body. Someone went out on the street and found a man beating another man. The pain was experienced by Ramakrishna as his own. Life in the messianic body is supposed to be like that. This attitude of our mind and feelings is a step beyond what we are used to calling “morality.” This is divine love.
Love is more than justice. Justice consists of giving everyone what is “due.” But the ministry of Jesus shows us a love that is not a response to “worthiness.” The love that transcends justice is an original act, not a reaction. It is not measured according to the qualities or the behavior of the one loved. It is a creative act.
Chapter 6 ~ In the Days of the Messiah: Friendship, Communion and Politics
Jonah and Nineveh
Toward the end of Yom Kippur, when everyone is exhausted from the long fast, the Book of Jonah is read. Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh, to “cry out” against them for their “wickedness.” Now Nineveh was a serious and dangerous enemy of Israel. Jonah therefore did not want to do this and he ran “away from the service of God.” But God arranged that he be delivered, nevertheless, to Nineveh. And there Jonah proclaimed that in forty days Nineveh would be destroyed by God. But Nineveh repented, in sackcloth and ashes, with fasting and prayer.
And God forgave them and withdrew the “planned punishment.” Jonah was thoroughly disgusted and said to God, “I knew this would happen, that is why I did not want to come; I would just as soon be dead as see this happen. I knew you were a God of compassion and mercy and forgiveness and kindness.”
Why is this story set at the end of the Day of Atonement? Here is my interpretation. We have fasted and confessed and prayed and been forgiven and blessed for another year. Now we must be ready to carry the message of repentance and forgiveness and mercy and blessing to our worst enemies and be prepared to rejoice when God forgives and blesses them, and not resist their prosperity and honor in God’s sight. We all have our Nineveh’s, as individuals, as nations, as races as religions. Under the Domination Paradigm, in terms of its psychology, we resist the very idea that our enemies should find favor in God’s sight. We do not want to admit that they also are made in the image of God, so we struggle with God about it.
Historically we have not given up the struggle ~ the wars and the exploitations and the private quarrels are still going on. But God has not given up either. Special persons and sometimes whole traditions ~ we should call particular attention to Buddhism ~ keep arising with the same message: change your way of thinking-feeling-seeing, and that will change your way of living. It takes some effort to do it, but we can help each other. The Buddhists say that we can find refuge in the examples of those who have done it, in the teaching and explanation and the very structure of Being Itself and in the community of those who are trying to make the transition.
The Messiah Phase Transition
A phase transition means that a new state of being is entered into, a new set of operational principles begins to function, and often a new level of organization is achieved. It is because the change is so fundamental that I have called it a revolution. A revolution is a total social process and has to include worldview and social, political, economic, and cultural dimensions.
“Cultural” dimensions include education, religion, recreation, sport, art, science humanities, etc. When the basic outlook and principles change, all dimensions change. Unless their change is intended and provided for, you have not got a real revolution.
Changes in all these dimensions of our lives will not come about merely through loving attitudes. We have to have knowledge and creative talent and make efforts to design new ways of living together. Expertise will get a good workout; innovators will have a field day. This is where the spiritual lore that says that God intentionally made the world such that it had to make itself, and especially so that human beings had to exercise intelligence and free goodwill to create the stages they were active in, seems a prophecy fulfilled.
The World as the “Great Work”
The biblical tradition suggest that there may be a “plan” for creation, but it is a very general plan, something like:
“Let us make a world that can make itself, that will become conscious and that will consciously make the world further, creating more realities and exploring them.”
When we start to think in these terms, along these lines, we can see how narrow the life view is under the Domination Paradigm ~ it seems to have little imagination. When we look forward to the future, it is never a daydream; it is always a concrete, historical reality.
The hope of the future, what we call the coming of the Messiah, carries both ideal and practical dimensions, the Presence of God in the world with specific strategies for ushering in the next age of the creative work where we are, as Gregory of Nyssa said, “growing from glory to glory.”
The Healing Stories
There are several healing stories of Jesus about the transition from the world of the Domination Paradigm to the Communion Paradigm. The first is that of the man with the withered hand (Matt, 12:10ff.) Jesus finds him in the synagogue and calls him to stand forth. This is a brave thing to do, because “healing” (practicing medicine) can be construed as work and therefore should not be done on the Sabbath, but postponed until the new week begins. Jesus does not see benefiting life as contrary to the Sabbath and so he invites the man, “Stretch out your hand!” The man does so, and the usefulness of the hand is restored. The social interpretation says that the man with the withered hand stands for those who feel that their power of action is inhibited, restrained, even dried up, that they are not able to act effectively. This could apply to certain groups in a domination society, or even to a whole society under foreign domination, as Israel then was. The social situation is so difficult that people lose heart; they think that nothing can be done.
If someone suggests trying, other voices may be against it: do not do it now, wait a while. Jesus is generally a do-it-now type and urges against holding back or being shy or doubtful. “My God works until now, and I work” is one of his maxims. What he says to this man is, “Stretch forth your hand.” Take some action! The story is telling us that if you stretch forth your hand, you will find that the hand does have power of action in it. The story also warns the formerly powerless that the bystanders may not be altogether pleased that you have now become active, that your right hand is back in business. The phase transition from domination to communion can be expected to have difficulties. When the formerly powerless stretch forth their hands in normal strength, the power classes may be alarmed. Be prepared for that, but do it anyway. It is your right to have fullness of life!
There is a parallel story about a woman (Luke 13:10ff.) which also takes place in a synagogue on the Sabbath. The woman is described as bent over, unable to stand up straight. The Greek work for her state means powerless, oppressed. When Jesus saw her condition, he called her to him and declared, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” And “he put his hands on her and she at once stood up straight and praised God.” Again there was complaint against his having done this, but Jesus, in response, said that the woman was “a daughter of Abraham” equal to the sons of Abraham and that the condition of her not being able to hold her head up was a bondage laid on her. Jesus’ way of celebrat-ing the Sabbath included rescuing and restor-ing life, setting those who were bound free.
There is another story about the paralytic who was let down through the roof (Matt 2:3ff.). The context is that the state of being paralyzed (unable to act) is equivalent to being cursed for one’s sins. In this instance, Jesus denies that the paralytic is burdened with sin, and says, “Since you are not cursed and made inactive by God, stop being paralyzed. Get up and go about your business.” The message is to all the oppressed classes who imagine that it is God’s will that they should be dominated by the power classes: “This is not true. Stop believing that you cannot take your place in the human world and make your contribution!”
The phase transition from domination to communion will take place when we intend and will it, and the whole history of the cosmos supports it. We ourselves are the “elements” of the next creative union; thus it will not unite except as we unite. And we cannot thoroughly unite unless we are in touch with the deep self, the person, the transcendent one beyond the labels. Persons are naturally engaged in creation. When we know ourselves at that depth, we begin our conscious evolution.
For Private Circulation Only ~ May 2018
Maryknoll Contemplative Community