(This post is originally from the Contemplative Society's Blog)
As we celebrate this season of mystery, and at the end of a year which seems to have dissolved into tragic chaos, it is good to reaffirm the spiritual reality in which we journey.
Here are words from Cynthia Bourgeault’s Sounds True Audio Learning Course “Encountering the Wisdom Jesus,” 2005 in which she calls us back to the heart of the spiritual life.
What do we make of our human task here? Some traditions say that we’re here to be good, to engage in spiritual warfare to mind our ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s’ so later we have the right to go home to where we’ve come from. Some traditions will say that we’re here to work off past karma and that when we have finally worked off our past karma and emerged whole and fused in our being, we can leave this endless cycle of birth and death and heaviness and density.
But the gist is always the same. Wherever you go in spiritual tradition it seems that here is not home, that our task is somehow to realize our way out of the illusory bonds and get back to where we belong. That message is filtered to us even through our Christian tradition where heaven has come to represent so much that place that we go to after we die if we’re good.
But is there another way of looking at this?
I believe there is. And I believe this is actually what is at the heart of that beautiful intimation “For God so loved the world.”
Yes this is a very heavy frustrating difficult density. It seems as if by the very binary finite nature of the mind that we’re always bumping into sharp edges. It seems that our walk in time is diminishment. We are always having to choose. To do one thing means we can’t do something else. To love one person means we can’t love another. And our sharp edges, our boundaries as human beings bump against each other and we age. And we diminish. And we finally have our hearts broken. It’s a hard place. It’s a frustrating place. It’s a difficult place.
We come into constriction. But is that as punishment? I believe not. I believe it’s as sacrament.
“I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known.
And so I created the realms.”
In this realm, by its very dense nature, by its very dualistic, binary, jagged-edged nature, it becomes specifically the dimension to express certain aspects of the being of the Divine that can only be expressed in these boundaried conditions. It shows us what love is like in a certain terribly particular and intense way. It accentuates those dimensions of divine love in which love becomes costly and therefore becomes precious.
So the very sharp edges that we experience as constriction are in fact the opportunity to show forth some of the exquisite dimensions of the nature of love that can only be manifest in finitude.
Since love requires your heart being broken, we begin to see qualities such as steadfastness, tenderness, commitment, forebearance, fidelity. These beautiful subtle savours of what love is like have no real context where there’s no edges and boundaries, when all just flows. But when you run up against the hard edge and have to stand in love anyway, what comes forth is a most precious nectar of the quality of divine being.
I’ve sometimes said, and I don’t mean this entirely in jest, that the most profound product of this world is tears. Tears express that vulnerability when we can stand having our heart broken, and still love. In the tears flows out a sweetness, a warm-heartedness to the Divine which has been known in our tradition as the divine mercy, the divine compassion.
This is the realm, I believe, in which this mercy, this compassion is most deeply, harrowingly, excruciatingly, and beautifully released.
That’s our business down here. That’s what we’re up to.
And I think this has some very important implications.
It’s not about punishment. It’s not about coming down here as a sort of high school or proving ground for further rewards. But right here and now, we are in the process of co-creating with God the manifestations, the revelation of God’s most secret and intimate name, the heart of God. That’s a difficult assignment. In some way we chose it. We elected or consented to be part of it.
And so, in a sense our deepest opportunity is not to look at how we can get out, how we can get home, just as for Jesus, crucifixion wasn’t the hard thing, Incarnation is, so for us. And to realize in some conscious or deeply trans-conscious way, we are bearing our part in the suffering of God, in the suffering, the costliness that’s involved in the full manifestation of the Divine Name, of the Divine Love. And we’re doing it right here and now, and that these conditions as fragile and as frustrating as they are, are precisely and perfectly the only conditions in which that love can be fully manifest.