#51 Living into a New Consciousness
The Holy Thursday Revolution
by Beatrice Bruteau
Mysticism Without Mist~Chapter 7
Helene O’Sullivan, MM, has done a précis of this insightful book, and we share
here excerpts adapted from Chapters 7.
Chapter 7 ~ Mysticism Without Mist
I wish to use the word ‘mysticism’ in its original and proper meaning in Greek, which means to have eyes or lips closed or to be initiated into sacred rites and doctrines. In Greek philosophical religion, it came to mean a truth that was seen with close eyes and told through closed lips. In other words, something which transcends finite objects and particular ideas.
The dictionary says that mysticism is: “The experience of direct communication with ultimate reality.” It implies union with ultimate reality and that is the critical note in the definition. In metaphysics, this would be the Ground of Being, Being Itself ~ an all-inclusive reality, which has no environment, no opposite, no alternative, which is “One without a second.” It must be a subject rather than an object. A Subject must be known from the inside, in its subjectivity. You cannot “look at” it, you can only realize your own “location in” it.
How do we go about doing this?
Basically, by seeking the self that is not contingent on the various conditions in its environment, which include one’s body, history, personality, social relationships, and beliefs. The key is gaining the security that will enable us to free ourselves sufficiently from self-protection and self-advancement so that we can engage in neighbor-protection and neighbor-advancement.
How do we free ourselves from self-protection and self-advancement?
There is sitting practice, when we do nothing but search within, and there is work-practice, when we try to act from the deepest and truest place in ourselves that we have yet found. The two practices help each other. Meditation practice brings us to self-discovery. It is important to repeat that this is not a matter of believing in a theory. It has to be an actual experience strong enough to reposition the general outlook of the person. When this is the case, a further discovery is made. The “name” of the discovered self, is I AM, one of the divine names because it is unconditioned, it needs no protection and no aggrandizement. If this is so, then all the energy – physical, emotional, intellectual, moral, and spiritual – that was going into those efforts at protection and aggrandizement suddenly becomes available and it is an enormous amount of energy.
The further discovery is that this energy goes naturally into care for others. As soon as one discovers and says I AM, one says MAY YOU BE. It is the second divine name. These two divine names are the central words with respect to Being. They are almost the same word, so close are they to one another.
Michael Lerner relentlessly preaches the God who is the power of transformation; the possibility of being radically transformed. That is what is meant by a “living God,” who says such things as “Watch! We are going to make all things new!”(Isa.43:19) In this tradition, we are partners in all this making, all this newness. Transformative energy moves us to come out of our constricted views of ourselves and our world; to transcend our alienated separateness and join in transforming reality. This is the message of the story of Sinai, with its proclamation of liberation from the old paradigm and an invitation to live by a new set of principles.
Story: The Revelation at Mount Sinai: A Phase Transition
The giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai is the greatest moment in Jewish religious history. Torah means “instruction” or “teaching.” The revelation at Mount Sinai was to all flesh. Usually we think of revelations as being to individuals. What is unique about the revelation at Sinai is that it had no limits. It was to all people and even to all creatures. The reality and glory of God were not withheld from any being. At Sinai, self-conscious, God-conscious people deliberately undertake to live a supernatural life, a life in which the self-consciousness and God-consciousness meet.
Stealing, deceiving, and killing have worked well up to now. All animals and even plants do these things. The roots of our “sins” go back to the very beginning. But now the Big Brain that the genes have evolved has become capable of something else, capable of seeing from the other’s point of view and empathizing with it. We acknowledge that developed human consciousness really is something new, over-the-sun new.
Two powers especially characterize the Revelation at Sinai:
the capacity for empathy with other beings, and the ability to conceive the Infinite.
The revelation at Sinai is a proclamation
of this reality.
The Proclamation of Liberation
For this reason I like to present the Decalogue as the Proclamation of Liberation. I am going to suggest that these ten statements are not “commandments” but announcements. They declare what the new state of affairs is, what the meaning is, and what the new set of operating principles is. A sample of these announcements:
The Fifth Announcement: Honor your father and your mother.
Honor your Divine Source, your parents on Earth, all your predecessors in the universe process, the way by which you have come to this point of life, do not despise that path. Nevertheless, you are now going to transcend it and the path by which you have come is no longer the path by which you will go. For you are now ready to become God’s people on Earth, a special presence of the Holy One.
The Seventh Announcement: You shall not commit adultery.
Biological evolution frequently rewarded both rape and promiscuity. The freed human no longer has to live that way. Even your biological activities partake of your place in the Divine Life. Not instrumental, not objectifying, not demeaning, they honor God and one another and become occasions of worship and joy.
The Eighth Announcement: You shall not steal.
This announcement declares that, when properly used, Earth provides plentifully for all. There is no need to steal goods, people, status, or any value from another. In our awakened consciousness, you rejoice in arranging for the distribution of all goods to the benefit of all. It is a way of your expressing your divine qualities of creativity, wisdom, generosity and goodness.
The Purpose of the Torah
The Torah, unlike an ordinary code of laws, is not to preserve orderliness, or even to establish justice, but to permeate every aspect of our daily life with the consciousness of God and to make everything we do sacred.
God is clothed with the physical world. So how shall we live with God in the world? Rabbi Heschel says: When we first began to leave Egypt, we knew we had to do it together. That is the first point.
The second is that we must do it by universal principles. The Torah is given in the wilder-ness, not in any particular place, but in an undefined space that could welcome all the peoples and did.
The third point is that now we have to build that dwelling for God in our midst. God has given the general principles; now we who are the images of God have to apply our own creativity to working out the details of the implementation and construct the divine dwelling.
These three points, together with the Decalogue, indicate a relationship between God and people that we call the covenant. It is a bonding relation between God and people and among the people themselves.
The covenants we make with each other follows the same principles as the covenant between people as a whole and God.
My thesis is that the Holy Thursday Revolution is a reaffirmation of this covenant relation and the Proclamation of Liberation. Jesus is applying Torah traditions to the problems of his day and in so doing is developing a general teaching that we can appropriate, apply, test and adapt to our situation.
The last part of our study will be devoted to the implementation of the Torah and the renewal of the covenant community as a social transformation that is still needed today.
I used the Holy Thursday story to illustrate my assertion that humanly induced ills are so many different instances of what I call the Domination Paradigm. I argued that there is an alternative to it which I call the Communion Paradigm and I quoted the biblical text, “I will no longer call you servants but friends” (John 15:15).
The reorientation of outlook characterizing the Communion Paradigm was so radical that it provoked strong arguments that it constituted changing human nature and that it could not be done. I rebutted this claim and examined the source of our transformation in mystical experience. But now we are going to look at how we can actually transform our relationships from the one-to-one scale to the global.
In that context, I want to look at the possible historicity of the Jesus story, not for specific incidents but for the conditions of the times, the resistance movement in Palestine and the general principles of what we may call the Jesus program. (This will come in the next issue, #52.)