Living Spirituality

There can be no doubt that we are living in a time of transition. A new human community is being born in us and through us—all 7 billion of us—as we respond to the challenges that flow from impressions of wholeness. In a transition time nothing is certain and the future is unclear. The wholeness vision disturbs as well as inspires; it leads some to want to move forward too fast into an idealized world and others to do everything in their power to resist the momentum towards the new. It awakens fears of uncertainty alongside unrealistic assumptions of where we are. What it comes down to is that we can choose how we respond to the new. For many, particularly for readers of Kosmos, this means a choice to act with varying degrees of focus to help to give form, interpretation, and moral substance to the newly emerging sense of Oneness.

And so it is that through the climate crisis and all the crises that accompany our interdependence, life is presenting more and more of us with the challenge to embody wholeness—personally and collectively—no matter how uncertain we may feel about where to begin in responding to this challenge or even what right response might look like.

While for vast numbers the challenge is still unconscious or repressed, Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest reminds us that the size of the worldwide movement for social and environmental change is unprecedented in history. This demonstrates that millions of people are seeking to respond to the impulse to embody wholeness, organizing from the bottom up in every town, city, and culture on the planet; most importantly, these people are organizing some sort of intimate, private spiritual response.

Aligning With the Energy of Life Itself

At its core, the challenge to embody wholeness is producing a new kind of spirituality, a ‘living spirituality.’ I tend to think of this as a resurrection of the Spirit in the mind and heart of the human. It is as if Life itself—abundant, universal Life—is flooding into and through all the pores of our humanness. For those of us who sense that this is happening, the challenge is to align ourselves with the Light and the Energy of Life itself. There is an inner pressure to do this purposefully, with focus, intelligence, and full-heartedness.

There are particular movements in particular epochs in which the Divine Force manifests itself with supreme power shattering all human calculations, making a mock of the prudence of the careful statesman and the scheming politician, falsifying the prognostications of the scientific analyser and advancing with a vehemence and velocity which is obviously the manifestation of a higher than human force. The intellectual man afterwards tries to trace the reasons for the movement and lay bare the forces that made it possible, but at the time he is utterly at fault, his wisdom is falsified at every step and his science serves him not. These are the times when we say God is in the movement, He is its leader and it must fulfill itself however impossible it may be for man to see the means by which it will succeed. ~ Sri Aurobindo

There is a shift in the relationship between the Mysteries that lie at the core of Self (those spaces of mind and heart where we encounter the Divine) and our more strictly human identity. Something is moving in this space—it is becoming alive, electric, and rich with potential. It is important that we notice this movement within ourselves and within the world—that we honor it, care about it, and bring it into our imaginative life.

Inevitably, our own lives today are closely connected to the lives of like-minded friends and spiritual companions who share similar concerns. Together, through these groups of affinity, we are each linked in to the wider spirit of dynamic livingness sweeping through the collective.

A Generous Spirit of Service

This sense of being part of a wider whole produces a spirituality in which there is a growing quest for selflessness and a self-forgetfulness expressed in a generous and freely given spirit of service. It is perhaps not surprising that at a time when personal ego is more empowered in the dominant culture than at any other period of history we are seeing an emergence of the will to serve— selflessly, without repression or contrivance, as an outpouring of love that comes from a deep well. It is in the new culture of service that we see Life most clearly sweeping away all the veils of mind and heart that cut us off from Reality. Fiery movements like 350.org or Transition Towns provide group experiences and lessons that help participants develop their ability to serve with wisdom, maturity, and balance. By stepping into these movements many are led to the realization that in order to grow in their ability to serve and be useful they must take their spiritual life seriously.

Teufelsbrücke Kromlau Rhododendronpark, Rakotz Bridge, Germany. “In many ways, ours is a time of experimentation as we learn how to purposively bridge between the abundant riches and beauty of the inner life and the messy incomplete realm of the personal and the communal.” ~ Steve Nation. photography | ralf3yer, CC
Teufelsbrücke Kromlau Rhododendronpark, Rakotz Bridge, Germany. “In many ways, ours is a time of experimentation
as we learn how to purposively bridge between the abundant riches and beauty of the inner life and the messy incomplete
realm of the personal and the communal.” ~ Steve Nation. photography | ralf3yer, CC

I remember being at Occupy with some young people from our community during the protest. I felt there a certain kind of energy, a kind of spiritual and moral power. It felt like we were able to come together in a way that created an opening for this energy to enter the world. It literally felt like the world cracked open and let this moral, soulful force come in and do its healing work. I remember marching the streets and looking around at the bankers and corporate executives standing there in their suits, watching us. I saw that they too were feeling this energy. They could see that this was not just another dress-up game of angry and frustrated college students. It was a manifestation of moral authority that was here to change things. I swear I saw a recognition in them that things would change.
~ Adam Bucko

Impressions and intuitions of what seers through the ages have referred to as a Higher Wisdom are again flowing into the psyche. In the past, this has produced religious revivals—in all the religions. Today, the muses, ancestors, bodhisattvas, and communion of saints are touching people in all sorts of ways. Religious institutions are no longer the central pivot of this process. The New Age movement is one popular mass response to what is happening in the spiritual life, but it is only one response amongst many. The real awakening to Spirit is much wider and more inclusive than this, reaching into every field of life: the professions, arts, community building, agriculture, and science and academia, for example.

So it is that we read in Time magazine of not ‘A’ Mindfulness Revolution but ‘The’ Mindfulness Revolution. We learn of international academic conferences on Contemplative Studies and we observe the formation of a new Academy for Contemplative and Ethical Leadership because many hunger for leadership marked by the consciousness, conscience, and capacity to catalyze and influence the larger systemic changes now needed. So it is that new approaches are emerging to mythological and symbolic approaches to reality fostered in the wisdom traditions of all cultures. And so it is that a journal like Kosmos exists and inspires.

Bridging Between Inner and Outer

All of this reflects a new sensitivity to the hidden, esoteric depths. Wisdom, insight, and spiritual potency develop to the extent that we craft ways of approaching these depths. This is how the loving mind emerges and becomes conscious. In many ways, ours is a time of experimentation as we learn how to purposively bridge between the abundant riches and beauty of the inner life and the messy incomplete realm of the personal and the communal. One of the huge plusses of having passed through an age dominated by scientific claims to reason and rationalism is that there is a healthy skepticism in the modern mind. In past decades, this may have led many to reject encounters with the mysteries of the Higher Self and the ‘Other’ languages employed by that Self— myth and symbol, Presence and Being. But today this skepticism plays a healthier role as it leads to a quest for authenticity and a deep pondering of experiences in order to differentiate between the real and the unreal and to help bring meaning and purpose into daily life. The quest for authenticity means that as Life pushes its way through into consciousness, all that is revealed must become objective—must be lived out and given incarnation in our experience of ourselves, in our relationships, and in our participation in the crafting of a new civilization.

Perhaps it is this process, this Work of bridging between the impulses of Life (bountiful, abundant, and eternal Life) and the human dimensions (emotion and mind together with the more elemental forces of instincts and glands) that is reshaping our understanding of what it means to be a human being. For many today, there is less concern about what it means to be American, British, Chinese, or Nigerian, and more focus on being a member of the human species with something approaching a universal identity.

I’m interested not only in the realization of the transcendent aspect of ourselves, the ever-present awareness, but also in finding out how it informs life, moment to moment, and how it manifests in the creative or evolutionary process of life and in all the levels or structures that come out of it. Finding and realizing the answer to that question appears to be a very radical, challenging, and demanding matter for us.
~ Thomas Hϋbl

A Plurality of Teachings and Pathways

Doctrines, philosophies, and teachings remain important in the spiritual life to give definition and discipline. But their role is changing in response to the ongoing process of living in the midst of an encounter between Life and Consciousness. There is recognition that no one Spiritual Teaching or Pathway is right for all. This can mean that the greatest challenge in finding one’s focus and deepening concentration in treading the Path is in finding the Teaching or Practice that is right and alive for us. There is value in expecting the Soul, the Christ or Buddha nature, to take the lead while at the same time using the mind and common sense to discriminate between that which truly helps in the bridging work and that which is illusory.

Contemplation is life itself, fully awake, fully active, and fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent, and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes beyond reason and beyond simple faith. It is a more profound depth of faith; a knowledge too deep to be grasped in mere images, in words, or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said, and denies what it has affirmed.
~ Thomas Merton

What Works?

This is a very practical time so a primary question being asked is: what works? What works for me in my life, my community, and my nation? What helps me in my efforts to build a relationship between soul, personality, intuition, mind, and heart? How can I best enable the energies of spiritual abundance and beauty to flow through me, through my group and my organization, and out into the world? In approaching these questions, we will learn that spiritual livingness emerges through time and over time. It cannot be rushed. Love, patience, and persistence—all are needed if life is to blossom. Shifts in orientation emerge over years and decades rather than days or weeks.

What we seek is an experience that transforms our lives and incorporates us into the destiny of the universe. We are looking for an intuition capable of giving us an orientation in life, even if for the time being, for our being in time. ~ Raimon Panikkar

Let us rejoice in the fact that we live at a time when this reorientation and resurrection of the Spirit is emerging into human awareness. Only in us and through us can the bridge be built between the Higher Worlds of life and consciousness, the human worlds of psyche and society, and the Earthly worlds of animals, plants, minerals, and soils. Life is giving us this opportunity to become more fully and richly alive ourselves. As we respond, willingly, purposively, and with heart to the challenges of climate change, social inequality, prejudice, and dis-empowerment, we find a fresh living spirituality impressing itself into our being. As this takes hold in groups, communities, towns, and cities, as relationships begin to take on a quality of wholeness and health, then we can expect that the animals, plants, and perhaps even the rocks will sense the new livingness in the air—a livingness that they have been waiting for.