Towards a contemplative Christian faith and model of spiritual formation which acknowledges and circumvents the logical problems and moral hazards associated with the teaching of biblical inerrancy and eternal conscious torment:
- We are of two minds: 1) The Empirical/Dualistic Mind, on the one hand, and 2) Transcendental/Nondual Awareness, on the other.
- Within the confines of the empirical/dualistic mind, a conventional, egoic identity develops through which we experience life in alienation from God (SEPARATION/SIN/DEATH).
- Transcending the confines of our conventional, egoic identity, however, we “put on Christ” and are reconciled to God in transcendental/nondual awareness (UNION/LOVE/LIFE).
While the empirical/dualistic/egoic mind rules our lives, we live in alienation from the true meaning and purpose of our existence. This is referred to traditionally as “the fall of man” and is attributed to our first parents (cf. Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:22 ). The mind of fallen humanity is referred to in the Christian scriptures as “the carnal mind” or “the mind of the flesh” (cf. Romans 8:5-7).
Our empirical/dualistic minds represent the world “horizontally”–slicing and dicing it into spatiotemporal pieces that appear to relate to one another causally/deterministically. This seems to give us (as “separate selves”) some measure of knowledge and control over our environment– so far, so good –but approaching the world exclusively in this way (SEPARATION), we live our lives in fear of death and in bondage to sin as we endeavor to evade our inevitable destruction (or somehow anesthetize ourselves to it) rather than facing it lucidly and soberly. As such, we live in ignorance of our truth and being in Christ (UNION), the knowledge of which constitutes the true meaning and purpose of our existence which, alone, can liberate us from the bondage of sin and death as we, by grace, discover ourselves to be reconciled to God, to one another, and to the rest of creation (cf. II Corinthians 5:16-19).
Having “eaten of the tree of (dualistic) knowledge”, therefore, we can (in some respects) understand the “horizontal” relationships that obtain in time and space (“the cause IN appearances“, as Kant puts it). But so doing, we tend to be oblivious to “the cause OF appearances” which can only be apprehended “vertically” (i.e. spiritually—cf. I Corinthians 2:14). To repeat, our empirical/dualistic understanding gives us no access to our transcendental/nondual “ground” (i.e. the Divine intelligence, Logos, or mind of Christ).
Nevertheless, these two aspects of reality—the “horizontal” (empirical) and the “vertical” (transcendental) –constitute an integral whole that is, Christ-like, both human and Divine. Recognizing and honoring both aspects of our lives, we can, on the one hand, trace our natural history and genealogy empirically (“that which is born of the flesh is flesh”), while at the same time realizing our intimate relationship to God transcendentally (“that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”). “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ” (John 3:7).
Living in ignorance of the vertical aspect of our lives, however, our world seems out of joint, our lives absurd, and all our efforts ultimately in vain. The good news, however, is that the kingdom of heaven is within us, among us—at hand:
Luke 17:20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
“His disciples said to him: On what day will the kingdom come? It will not come while people watch for it; they will not say: Look, here it is, or: Look, there it is; but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it” (Gospel of Thomas 113).
With this in mind, then—and as illustrated by the arrangement of images on the next page —let us take up our cross (Le Pendu), open our hearts to the abundant life of the Spirit (The Aces of Chalices and Batons), become like little children (Le Soleil), and enter into the kingdom NOW (Le Monde).
“The Now is no mere nodal point between the past and the future. It is the seat and region of the Divine Presence itself…. The Now contains all that is needed for the absolute satisfaction of our deepest cravings…. In the Now we are at home at last” (Thomas Kelly, “A Testament of Devotion”).
[Editor’s Note: Click here for a “key” to the arrangement of images, below…]