Awaken us to the Oneness of all things,
to the beauty and truth of Unity.
May we become aware of the interdependence of all living things,
and come to know You in everything,
and all things in You.
For as we attune to your Presence within us,
we know not separation,
and joy becomes our dwelling place.
- Psalm 106, Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying
Over the last two months, Fr. Thomas has been leading us through some very useful ways to engage and understand our spiritual journey. Now is our opportunity to pause, to rest and to review.
The Four Consents
In this section, Fr. Thomas illuminated the pathway of consents drawing us through each stage of a conscious life, from infancy to old age to death.
First, we're invited to consent to the basic goodness of our being — to the profound truth that we are loved and loveable before we do anything. Second, we consent to the full development of our being, with all of our talents and creative energy. Third, we consent to the diminution of self that occurs through illness, old age and death, and the letting go of everything we love in this world, whether persons, places or things. Fourth, we consent to let go of all that is left, in other words, to the death of the self itself.
We can think of the evolution of our lives as a breath. In the first half we inhale — we consent to be filled up with God's affirmation of our goodness and the activation of our individual gifts. We must become, in the terminology of the Work of Inner Christianity, good householders, living ethically and responsibly, paying our way in life, even as we don't believe in life as our ultimate source of meaning. We are in the world, of it – yet that is not all. Suffusing sense-based reality there are worlds within worlds. In the second half of life, we exhale — we consent to surrender everything. The Work of Inner Christianity teaches us to non-identify (to detach our feeling of "I" from all that has been acquired and all there is to do) and Self-Remember (remember our true identity in Christ.)
Purification: The Archeological Dig and Spiral Staircase
Each cycle of purification in our spiritual journey is a course in self-knowledge. The Divine Therapist — Holy Spirit — begins the healing process in us at the surface with our present relationships and behaviors. In the beginning of the spiritual journey, we experience a degree of freedom as our disordered lives begin to come into balance. Over time the Holy Spirit progresses to deeper levels, corresponding to the emotional chronology of our psyche. This is the real work of the spiritual journey, aided immeasurably by the alchemy of both Centering Prayer and the Work of Inner Christianity. In the prayer, we invite and open to God's presence and action within, allowing the process of divine therapy to occur within a deepening relationship with Love Itself. With the practice of the Work, we participate with God in the purification of the emotions and what Fr. Thomas calls "the unloading of the unconscious."
With the analogy of the spiral staircase, Fr. Thomas illustrates that, though we may feel that we are encountering the same issues over and over, each deeper level brings us to a new, deeper understanding. As we move downward, at the same time we are moving upward to new levels of freedom, growth, creativity, humility and trust. We become more capable of consenting to the goodness of life as it is. We begin to see with new eyes — ourselves, others, the world and God. A new creation is being born.
The Beatitudes and The Spiritual Senses
The Beatitudes are highly-condensed remedies for the progressive healing of the wounds and paralysis we acquired. We explored the prescription of the Beatitudes as the emptying out of all that no longer serves us so that the obstacles to the free flow of grace are removed.
As intimacy with God deepens, we are drawn upward through the dark nights, through the various levels of consciousness — from attraction to interior silence to the desire to rest in the Presence, to the experience of being embraced by God, when the Spirit pours divine love into our being, to divine union, in which as Fr. Thomas writes in Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love, "God arises not only as an irresistible attraction or embrace, but as a unifying presence in our inmost being … When our whole being is rooted in God, we see [God] in everything and everything in [God]."
At these evolving levels of consciousness, we have access to Higher Centers or Real Conscience – the Work terms for the divine influences that are always with us, but are imperceptible, unless we have "eyes to see and ears to hear" — with what the Work calls, "Observing 'I'."
Through commitment to the journey and fidelity to a life of practice, all obstacles to pure faith are removed and we begin to live our ordinary lives with evolving sensitivity to the Divine Light, Life and Love manifesting itself in us and as us.
Reminder: The Spiritual Journey email program will be paused during July and August, to resume again on Monday, September 2. Here are some suggestions for continuing your study and practice during the next two months:
Examen: Reflect on what you have been experiencing the past six months. Do you notice any changes in your thoughts, feelings, perceptions and relationships? What will be your focus, your point in the Work, for the next few months?
- Review any emails, video excerpts or transcripts you found particularly helpful or you wish to take in again more deeply. You will find the videos and transcripts here. An archive of previous emails may be found here.
- Choose an affirmation and/or a Work idea to guide you during these summer months.
- If you reside in Austin, attend the Thursday Work class, the Saturday Scriptorium, or the Wednesday evening contemplative service.
- If you are unable to attend these offerings or live outside of Austin, free recordings are available for the Wednesday and Sunday services here.
- Recordings are available for the Thursday night work class for a small fee - $6 for a CD and $4 for an mp3 instant download. You can find these recordings here.
- If you would like support for your daily Centering Prayer practice and engagement in a contemplative community, the Meditation Chapel Zoom groups are free and open to all. Find out more and register here.
- Each Journey Group is free to discern whether they will continue to meet, take a break or something in-between.