Presentation on theme: "Spiritual Care Australia 2014 Conference Bringing the Many into the One: Spiritual Practice Mediating Outer and Inner Identity Ven. Alex Bruce LL.B(QUT),"— Presentation transcript:
Spiritual Care Australia 2014 Conference Bringing the Many into the One: Spiritual Practice Mediating Outer and Inner Identity Ven. Alex Bruce LL.B(QUT), LL.M(Syd), MA(Theol)(ACU), Ph.D(ANU)
Particular Challenges Aggressively postmodern and secular culture; Highly multicultural society Suspicion of “institutional religious organisations” Hunger for the “spiritual but not religious” Spiritual supermarket – multiple religious belonging
A Very Postmodern Conundrum Rejection of cultural, religious and ethical meta- narratives; Suspicion of institutional authority; Rejection of religious institutions exacerbated by collapse of confidence in the Church; especially following sexual abuse scandal; Therefore, increased self identification as “spiritual” and not “religious”; Great interest in and desire for the transcendent or spiritual;
A Very Postmodern Conundrum Willingness to explore many different ways that are perceived as vehicles for spirituality; Significant religious illiteracy; very low level of awareness or understanding of the philosophical / theological tenets of established religions; Willingness to see all religions as proposing the same truth claims when the “dogma” or “institutional control” is stripped away; Therefore tendency to see religion or spirituality as a product to be chosen according to preference;
Characteristics of Postmodern Spiritualities Private and personal construct; highly idiosyncratic; Often lacking in philosophical / theological foundations; Content often very difficult to sensibly articulate; Emphasis on emotional satisfaction or “healing”; Makes no doctrinal, ethical or ascetic claims; Does not create relationships with community beyond common interest in different practices; What little content it imposes upon individuals can be modified or abandoned at will and replaced if that content becomes too difficult or challenging.
How Does this Manifest? Eclectic and mostly unstructured approach sometimes referred to as “smorgasbord spirituality”; yoga on Saturday, Vipassana on Sunday, Crystal healing on Monday evenings, Angel workshop on Friday afternoon etc; Where still connected with institutional religious organisation, demonstrated willingness to “pick and choose” – “Cafeteria Catholicism”, “Buffet Buddhism”; Extreme reluctance to admit to objective, transcendent moral truths; its all about personal experience; Blurring of distinction between self-help therapies and “spirituality”.
Contemporary Spirituality Summarised. Peter Phan describes it as a phenomenon in which a person: “looks upon various religions as a supermarket from which, like a consumer, one selects at one’s discretion and pleasure whatever myth and doctrine, ethical practice and ritual and meditation and healing technique best suits the temperament and needs of one’s body and mind, without regard to their truth values and mutual compatibilities.” Peter Phan, Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, 2004, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York at 62.
Does it Matter Anyway? The resultant confusion is identified by Sheldrake: “Spirituality as a field of study…is undermined by books that blend a superficial approach to the great traditions with pop psychology. At worst some of this writing is naïve. At best it perpetuates a theologically lightweight, individualistic, self-help approach to the spiritual quest.” Philip Sheldrake, ‘The Study of Spirituality’ (1999) The Way 162, 169.
Less Diplomatically “Most personal religion is rubbish – and never more so now, when idiocy is sanctified by the postmodernist doctrine that everyone’s opinion is as good as everyone else’s. People who tell you that they believe in God but do not believe what established religions teach are rarely able to give you a coherent account of their faith. They are the worst kind of egoists, preferring their own views for no better reason than that they are their own....We face a future in which increasing numbers of ungifted and self- satisfied people will credit themselves wiser than the saints and deeper than the doctors....” Professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto: “The Future of Religion” (p 47):
But to be Fair... Multiple Religious Belonging Peter Phan; Multiple belonging: “Refers to the fact that some Christians believe that it is possible and even necessary not only to accept in theory certain doctrines or practices of other religions and to incorporate them, perhaps in modified form, into Christianity, but also to adopt and live in their personal lives the beliefs, moral rules, rituals and monastic practices of religious traditions other than Christianity, perhaps even in the midst of the community of the devotees of other religions.” Phan, Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, 2004, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York at 61.
What’s in the Picture? Stamp of Jesuit Fr Ippolito Desideri (1684 – 1733) issued in 1984 for the 3 rd centenary of his birth. Fr Desideri lived with the Monks and studied in Sera Je Monastic University in Tibet from 1716 – 1721. He pioneered Christian – Buddhist Dialogue
Inner Values Mediating Outer Identities Primacy of Truth as Basis Inner & Outer Freedom as Path Love as Result
Basis, Path & Result Progression in spiritual traditions often presented in terms of: 1. Basis – progress starts in dependence on certain ontological or epistemological phenomena; 2. Path – that phenomena is employed on a structured path that leads to; 3. Result – the goal or telos of the respective spiritual tradition.
Truth, Freedom & Love Basis = Truth ‘You will know the truth and the truth will make you free’ (Jn 8:32). “These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom....” (Redemptor Hominis: John Paul II, 1979 at 12.)
Truth, Freedom & Love Path = Freedom Truth sets free from something: What? From sin, ignorance, addiction, captivity to selfishness – that is: “Every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom......In reality, freedom is a great gift only when we know how to use it consciously for everything that is our true good. Christ teaches us that the best use of freedom is charity, which takes concrete form in self-giving and service.” (Redemptor Hominis: John Paul II, 1979.)
Truth, Freedom & Love Result = Love Truth sets free for something: What? That self-giving and service referred to in Redemptor Hominis is the path that leads to the result of love in fulfilment of Jesus two-fold commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Jn 8)
How does it fit Together? Truly fulfilling Jesus’ two-fold commandment of love requires a tremendous inner and outer freedom from all those obstacles to genuine love. Those obstacles are largely created by us in pursuit of false or second-order freedoms. “Freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth; when freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself... no longer takes as the sole and indisputable point of reference for (personal) choices the truth about good and evil, but only subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his or her selfish interests and whim” (Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II, 1995)
What to Do? The idea is to take our instincts, ignorance and habits in hand and to cultivate generosity, justice, patience, discipline, concentration and wisdom to a degree sufficient for the fulfilment of Jesus’ two-fold commandment of love. Our love must be underpinned with wisdom. Wisdom enables us to overcome the ignorance behind the partiality that prevents us from developing the freedom and capacity to love unconditionally.
Not Linear but Spiral... Spiritual paths to perfection; seeking the truth that makes us free to love God and neighbour unconditionally, is not a linear, but a spiral process. Each practice represents a certain experienced state of mind; each state is reflected in appropriate action. A well-developed ethical life, purged of selfishness is a necessary basis for meditation / prayer that illuminates the development of a wisdom or truth that dissolves the barriers to our inner and outer freedom to love; Therefore the exercise of purgative discipline in thought, word or deed that eliminates selfishness produces a more illuminated state of mind that allows us to love and opens us to meditation and prayer. And in this meditative and prayerful state, wisdom can be appreciated a little more clearly and deeply. In turn, a wiser, more compassionate view of the world leads to a clearer insight into how best to purge selfish obstacles to love and the spiral starts another turn a little higher.
Buddhism as Example: Progression to Enlightenment as Purification and Transformation The Basis of Purification and Transformation The basis of purification is our fundamental Buddha Nature conceptualised as: The clear light nature of the mind – a positive phenomena; and The emptiness of inherent existence of the mind – negative phenomena. Dharmakirti: Commentary on Dignaga’s Compendium on Valid Cognition (Pramanavarttika)
Buddhism as Example The Path of Purification and Transformation Mahayana Buddhism – The Path by which purification and transformation occurs involves the systematic development of : (1) Wisdom and (2) Bodhichitta: Necessary to develop a wisdom consciousness realising the absence of inherent existence to the point where it can serve as an actual antidote to the afflictive obscurations. Necessary to empower and enhance that wisdom consciousness through the Bodhisattva practice of the altruistic deeds of giving, ethics, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, concentration and wisdom in order that such a wisdom consciousness can act as an antidote to the cognitive obscurations
34 Buddhist Eightfold Path Higher Training in Ethics: 1. Ethical Conduct 2. Ethical Speech; 3. Ethical Work / Livelihood; Higher Training in Concentration: 4. Consistent Effort; 5. Cultivating Mindfulness; 6. Deepening Attention Span & Concentrative Ability; Higher Training in Wisdom: 7. Developing Correct Wisdom into reality; 8. Cultivating Realisations from Wisdom.
Buddhism as Example The Result of Purification and Transformation Mahayana Buddhism – Result is attainment of Enlightenment – Buddha Bodies or “Kayas” Wisdom Truth Body – Dharmakaya; Enjoyment Body – Samboghakaya; and Emanation Body – Nirmanakaya
36 A Beautiful Parallel ? “Memory & Identity” - Pope John Paul II “The call ‘Follow Me!’ (Matt 19:16-22) is an invitation to set out along the path to which the inner dynamic of the mystery of Redemption leads us. This is the path indicated by the teaching, so often found in writings on the interior life and on mystical experience, about the three stages that are sometimes called ‘ways’. We speak of the purgative way, illuminative way and the unitive way….these are the (ways) along which Christ calls everyone.” (p.30).
37 A Beautiful Parallel ? The Purgative Way “Observance of the commandments, properly understood, is synonymous with the purgative way; it means conquering sin, moral evil in its various guises. And this leads to a gradual inner purification. It also enables us to discover values.”
38 A Beautiful Parallel ? The Illuminative Way “And hence we conclude that the purgative way leads organically into the illuminative way. Values are lights which illuminate existence and, as we work on our lives, they shine ever more brightly. So side by side with the observance of the commandments – which has an essentially purgative meaning – we develop values. For example, in observing the commandment: ‘You shall not bear false witness’, we learn the virtue of truthfulness. And living this in the truth, we acquire in our own humanity a connatural truthfulness. With the passage of time, if we persevere in following Christ, we feel less and less burdened by the struggle against sin, we enjoy more and more the divine light that pervades all creation.”
39 A Beautiful Parallel ? The Unitive Way (Escaping the burden of sin) “enables us to move with ever greater freedom within the created world. Thus the purgative way and the illuminative way form the organic introduction to the unitive way. The soul experiences a special union with God and is realised in contemplation of the divine being and in the experience of love which flows from it with growing intensity. In this way, we somehow anticipate what is destined to be ours in eternity, beyond death.”
40 A Beautiful Parallel ? Purgative Way / Higher Training in Ethics Conquering our addictive drives, sin and “moral evil in its various guises”. Leads to inner purification and space for wisdom and compassion to flourish; Illuminative Way / Higher Training in Concentration The space we have created allows us to discover reality a little more clearly by the illumination of values connatural with union with God / Enlightenment. Unitive Way / Higher Training in Wisdom Penetration of subject/object illusion, unity in wisdom and compassion, experience of state of enlightenment that is beyond conventionalities, anticipation of supra-existential state following death.
Who will show us How? In the Catholic Christian Tradition: Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange: The Three Ages of the Interior Life (1938); The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life (1938); Christian Contemplation and Perfection (1937). Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey: The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology. (1930)
Who will show us How? In the Catholic Christian Tradition : Rev. Alban Goodier: Spiritual Excellence: How to Make Progress in Prayer and Love (1947); Ascetical & Mystical Theology (1938); An Introduction to the Study of Ascetical & Mystical Theology. (1938) Fr Jordan Aumann: Spiritual Theology (1962)
Who will show us How? In the Orthodox Christian Tradition Philokalia (4 th – 15 th Centuries) “The Philokalia of the Neptic Saints gathered from our Holy Theophoric Fathers, through which, by means of the philosophy of ascetic practice and contemplation, the intellect is purified, illuminated and made perfect.” Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts p viii
Closer Look at Orthodox Christianity Philokalia: Traditional three-stage progression in the spiritual path: Praktikos - The basics of moral and ascetical discipline are pursued. These are basic matter of ascetical technique and preparation in the life of prayer. They are concerned with the need for disciplined attention and development of skill for scrutinising the mind; Theoretikos – Once the basics of moral and ascetical discipline were in hand, the seeker explored blocks to progress and strived to attain spiritual virtuosity; Gnostikos – The acquisition of higher mysteries.
Closer look at Orthodox Christianity The focus of praktikos is spiritual formation through the disciplines of askesis or ascetic practices. This involves both mental and physical practices. The exterior disciplines of praktikos includes a rhythm of activities integrating prayer, learning (memorisation), scriptural studies, stillness, physical labour, fasting, sleep deprivation through vigils, celibacy, poverty etc. The idea of praktikos is to transfigure logismois the thoughts and images that distract a person and lead them away from the contemplation of God.
Closer look at Orthodox Christianity In this way praktikos encourages growth in nepsis, a form of inner and outer watchfulness or vigilance. Nepsis requires the seeker to be completely present to their thoughts and feelings and to watch for the approach of logismois that seek entrance to the heart. Through askesis and praktikos, the seeker is led to a state of apatheia which is a state in which all the strengths of the passions have been crucified and transfigured and the person “radiates the peace of paradise.” Apatheia in turn, leads to a deepening of hesychia which is an inner stillness or tranquillity. It is a silence that allows the seeker to descend with the mind into the heart and there to stand in the very presence of God.
Closer look at Orthodox Christianity A clear mind is illuminated by the knowledge of God; (unification / Theosis) A mind that is unrefined / obscured / inflamed / preoccupied, does not have the capacity to permit this unification; An unrefined mind is one that is disturbed by logismois – thoughts and passions and their seeds; To guard against logismois; one requires watchfulness or mindfulness (nepsis);
Closer look at Orthodox Christianity This capacity to watch the mind is achieved through askesis – ascetic practices designed to create the inner and outer conditions necessary to apprehend and watch the thoughts; thus developing the capacity for nepsis; A sufficient “detachment” from logismois and negative behaviour leads to a state of apatheia or equanimity; Apatheia leads to a deepening of hesychia – an inner stillness; Hesychia then allows the mind to be illuminated and achieve union with God (theosis).
Who will show us How? In the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition: Shantideva: Bodhisattvacharyavatara (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) c 7 th Century CE 1. The benefits of bodhicitta (the wish to reach full enlightenment for others) 2. Purifying negative karma 3. Adopting the spirit of enlightenment 4. Using conscientiousness 5. Guarding awareness 6. The practice of patience 7. The practice of joyous effort 8. The practice of meditative concentration 9. The perfection of wisdom 10. Dedication
Who will show us How? Nargajuna Mulamadhyamakakarika (Root Verses on the Middle Way) Chandrakirti Prasanapada (Clear Words) and Madhyamakavatara (Commentary on) Nargajuna’s Root Verses on the Middle Way
How does it fit Together? Purgative Way = Conquering our addictive drives, sin and “moral evil in its various guises”. Leads to inner purification and freedom for wisdom and compassion to flourish (freedom); Illuminative Way = The space we have created allows us to discover the truth more clearly by the illumination of values connatural with union with God / Enlightenment (truth); Unitive Way = Penetration of subject/object illusion, unity in wisdom and compassion, experience of state that is beyond conventionalities; love as key (love)
How Does it Fit Together? PurgativeIlluminativeUnitive 1 st Conv2 nd Conv3 rd Conv (Beginner)(Proficient)(Perfect) EthicsConcentrationWisdom PraktikosTheoretikosGnostikos AskesisNepsis Hesychia Apatheia Theosis