Summary of Reflection:
The early Christian insistence that Jesus and God’s substance was different than that of creation was a three step forwards movement at that time. It was good. Yet now the insistence may be moving towards the two-step back movement with our current scientific understanding of quantum physics and the unity of all things. I posit that one can observe mystics (old and current) contemplating and intuiting the same oneness of all things, yet the Christian sacred cow of holding Jesus firmly “up there” with God in a state of homoousios (same substance), has not been challenged.
- Ordained priesthood would not understand itself to be ontologically different after ordination.
- Reincarnation is introduced as a part of the Pascal Mystery and overall soul’s metanoia through lifetimes towards gnosis-of-oneness.
- An emphasis on following Jesus rather than worshipping him would empower people to be more Jesus-like (ironically!).
- Notions of the “saved” versus the “unsaved” would fall away…
- Ecumenical movements are much more efficient because Christianity as a whole would be more interested in helping people discover their own inherent oneness with God rather than demanding that belief in Jesus’ divinity is the prerequisite for entering heaven.
- The path towards gnosis-of-oneness could include reflection upon the profound insights of people like Ken Wilber (Integral Theory), Clare Graves (Spiral Dynamics), Bill Plotkin (Soulcraft), Richard Rohr (9 levels of spiritual development), Eckhart Tolle (Power of Now), Thomas Keating and Cynthia Bourgeault (Centering Prayer), Law of One Material
Usually the development of a good theology follows the same three-step forwards, two-steps backwards movement that characterizes the spiritual journey–and the Biblical narrative–of individuals and the collective. An honest and humble theological framework’s “job” is to help people continually cleanse their lenses of their seeing so that they can ever more expansively: 1) Love God with all of their heart, and 2) Love their neighbor as their own Self. Good theology is not the telos or end in itself but rather the finger pointing to moon. Once you are on the moon, you are thankful for the structure of good theology AND you see it for what it was: very helpful and by its nature, limited. It was a necessary container.
Another way that theological development often evolves is that the three-steps forward movement was a new revelation or discovery about the nature of God (Reality). The development of doctrine then tries to encapsulate this new revelation. When making hard and fast pronouncements, theologians often cannot see what other frameworks are at play in their understanding of a new revelation. God does not send letters down from heaven that read, “I am like this… or that…” Rather, humanity learns to see God using the constructs that we have, the philosophies that we have, existing theologies whose containers may be too small now but still influence the construction of the new, larger container. The three-steps forward in theological development is always about expansion of the container to take in more and more reality and to provide a pathway for people to follow so that they, too, at their own individual and collective paces, can see with expanded vision.
The two-step backwards movement of theological development is both normal and necessary. It is normal because it takes a while for some people to catch up to others in their seeing. We all transcend our paradigms at different rates. It is necessary because the two-step backwards movement allows for the three-step forwards contingent to continually develop and add nuances along with good modeling that help bridge the two parties. This invites those on the “two-step side” to inch forth and join the “three-step side” over long stretches of time. This sliding and walking happens over centuries and its pace often undetectable to the average person.
It is of note that what often happens is that as theological frameworks expand, what was the three-step forward movement, over time, becomes the two-step backwards. This is so because we humans fear the unknown and what seems like a new development or “far out there” fringe, makes us rally around our existent belief systems and defend it from perceived attacks. This is also normal and as mentioned above, is necessary in the overall evolution.
Sometimes, it is possible to step outside the movement all together and observe both parties. This stepping out is quite difficult because it requires a person to hang in there with the whole dance, love the dance, but see it more objectively and not get caught up in the sweep of it all. This ability to stay in there but not get swept up in the movement requires significant personal spiritual development so that their center of authority is itself an ongoing dialog between the outer Tradition and their own inner voice. Usually these kinds of people don’t “have a place to rest their head,” but they’ve done their inner work enough so that their okay with being on the periphery. They can deal with the loneliness of that position because the view from out there is spectacular.
I mention all of this because I believe that if we can stand outside the dance and look at it objectively, we may be able to see a shift is about to occur within Christianity. The shift will take a while but it also has been going on for some time. What the rest of this reflection attempts to do is to outline what this author perceives as a snap shot of the Christian theological dance in mid stride regarding a central tenant of Christianity. After reading this, the reader may conclude that I’m wrong or that others have written about it before. This is all okay. If I’m late to the party, at least I got there. If I’m wrong, that’s okay, too. Actually, I already know that I am wrong, I just hope that I’m less incorrect than before.
Mainline Christianity, including my own Catholic denomination, posits that Jesus is God. Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, and He incarnated on Earth to redeem humanity and all of creation. God the “Father” and God the “Son” share the same substance. Early on in Christianity, during the Council of Nicea, the Church pronounced that Jesus was of one substance with the “Father” and that the Godhead was of a triune nature. The fancy word for this sharing of the one substance is “homoousios.”
Over time, an interesting theological development emerged whose impact is surely experienced today. Mainline Christian theology goes something like this:
- God as “Father” consists of a divine substance
- The created world consists of a material substance that is ontologically different than God’s substance.
- Humans are creation endowed with self-awareness. We are creation looking back towards the sky trying to meet that gaze of the creator deity. We searched and longed and remained restless. There seemed to be no bridge between this “valley of tears” and a divine God.
- God incarnated on Earth as Jesus. He became known as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, and thus shared the same substance of God.
- But, because Jesus was also human, his nature was also material. He, therefore, “bridged the gap” between the God and creation. The fancy theological word for Jesus’ simultaneous human and material nature was called the hypostatic union.
Implicit in this viewpoint of the person of Jesus is a duality between the Godhead and God’s creation. Where did this duality come from? What kind of lenses did the early Church, and for most of Christian history for that matter, use to view God and matter? This lens was Greek philosophy. The Western mind perceived(s) that matter and the divine are different and separate.
Theologically, putting Jesus in between God and creation as a bridge or mediator was a huge three-step forwards at that time. It allowed for humanity (and creation) to be redeemed and have their lesser nature be “divinized” and finally achieve union with the Godhead. Jesus provided a way out, as it were. Viewing Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity who through the Incarnation put both natures (creation and God) together in one being allowed for a radical enough paradox that humanity has spent the last two thousand trying to wrap its collective mind around it. And the fruit of this perplexity has borne wonderful insights.
Writers and thinkers like Bonaventure, OFM, John Duns Scotus, OFM, Karl Rahner, SJ, Ilia Delio, OSF, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr, OFM, Teilhard de Chardin,SJ, Diamuid O’Murchu, SHM, and others have courageously and insightfully articulated the notion of the Cosmic Christ as being the first idea in the Mind of God, and the first Incarnation, as it were. They saw and invited others to see that God has been dying and rising since the very beginning through creation’s own progression as energy increasingly expands in greater and more complex and more fantastic forms. They, standing with St. Paul and John the Evangelist, saw that the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word then became flesh as the waves of Love’s throbbing ecstatic union within God’s own inner triune Being thrust outward as Light. Creation is God’s divine life come to it’s logical fullness and completion.
The Incarnation, they argue, first happened with the birth of the cosmos when God’s divine life poured out as manifestation. Then most of Christian writers posit that God incarnated again two-thousand years ago. The more mystical writers have begun to understand that the major role of Jesus was to reveal to the world what God has been doing all along. We needed a living person who put together the entire cosmological process in one lifetime, in one place, in one historical context, so that humanity could see it there and believe it there. Once the pattern was seen and understood by seeing it in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, then the pattern could be seen everywhere else, too. They posit that Jesus saves us not by atoning for our sins and thus appeasing a wrathful God, but by showing us that God is radically vulnerable and in love with creation. Richard Rohr, OFM, sums up the powerful role of Jesus’ life and death this way:
Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. God in Jesus moved people beyond the counting, weighing, and punishing model, that the ego prefers, to the utterly new world that Jesus offered, where God’s abundance has made any economy of merit, sacrifice, reparation, or atonement both unhelpful and unnecessary.
Mystics of our age, along with mystics of every age in Christianity, continually speak about God’s love affair with creation and that God’s own Body is creation itself. They are able to contemplate these things because of the implications of the Incarnation. God must love creation since God became human (a creature) to bring creation back to God. Yet, the reader does not have to speculate hard to see that this still seems to be a dualism at play here. How can God’s own Body be the cosmos, which some courageously tout, while God sent Jesus to Earth to redeem creation? Maybe I am trying to view something that is not there, but it seems to me that some good questions arise:
- Why would creation even need redeeming if it always intrinsically part of God to begin with?
- If Jesus showed the world God’s own heart whose love pulses out as the Pascal Mystery, was not the main reason God sent Jesus to Earth was to make a 33 year-long, live-action statement: “There is no separation between God and creation!”
- If this is so, does Jesus “need” to be God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the unique Incarnation of God in Earth?
- And for that matter, were there two Incarnations, then? One at the beginning of the Cosmos and another with Jesus? Why would there need to be two Incarnations?
These questions are trying to get at an inconsistency that I see in terms of understanding why God and creation need to be of two different substances while some mystics and modern science are saying that materiality is a configuration of light, and light is spirit manifesting. There is no need for material redemption because it is already and has always been, divine!
What Is The Difference Between God and Creation?
- God is in me and beyond me.
- My deepest me is God!–Catherine of Genoa
- Your core, your deepest DNA, is divine– Richard Rohr, OFM
- God is immanent and transcendent
- [God and creation are] not one but not two either
- God is out there and God is in here
- We are One Body (Romans 12:5)
- God comes to us disguised as our life. —Paula D’Arcy
- The Immanent Trinity is the Economic Trinity and the Economic Trinity is the Immanent Trinity–Karl Rahner, SJ
As we have mentioned above, up until now, Christianity has stood upon its early theological foundation that God and creation are of two different substances, and this assumption arose out of the Greek philosophical mind that posited that divinity and materiality were separate and distinct. Jesus’ divinity and his humanity together in the hypostatic union provided a ladder in which creation could climb up to God and join in God’s own divinity in theosis or divinization. Jesus bridged the gap between God and humanity, and as such, was understood as the only mediator between the “Father” and creation.
Yet, the early church mystics who intuited the marvelous triune nature of the Godhead did not have access to modern science. They only had the Greek duality to stand upon. They had no idea that quantum physics existed, for example. They had no idea that matter is actually energy in a “frozen-like” state. They didn’t know that the nature of this energy is light. They could not conceive that the nature of light is spiritual. How could they have understood that light itself is God’s own manifested Body and the action of Free Will upon Love within the very Godhead, Itself?
Rather than the Godhead and creation being of different substances, they may have been able to articulate what we now can see more clearly. God and creation are one in the same and the difference between God and creation has nothing to do with substance at all. The difference lies rather in the gnosis (experiential knowing) of this oneness.
Stated differently, creation has always been divine. Materiality is divinity expressed in form and there are “parts” of the material world who enjoy total omniscience and union with the Infinite Creator, as the Infinite Creator’s “Many-ness”, and there are “other parts” that have intentionally passed behind a veil of forgetfulness so that what is perceived is not oneness but rather limitedness and separation.
I posit that the understanding of Jesus and God sharing the same divine substance which is essentially different than that of creation was once a three-step forward movement and a needed insight at the time when it was developed. However, given what we know now in both science and spirituality (including many New Age intuitions, not to mention Eastern religious sensibilities) continually insisting upon the substantial separation between God and creation may now be a two step-back posture.
It seems to me that many Christian mystics are one the verge of saying what I now offer: The difference between God and creation is not substantial (essential or ontological) but rather gnostic in nature. This gnosis can be defined as an experiential knowledge of unity and oneness of all things. The Infinite Creator and creation are one and the same because creation makes up the Body of the God. This is the basis behind the Law of One Material: All is One.
Yet, the Infinite Creator conceived of an concept that I call elsewhere, Finity/Christ. Finity/Christ allows for the Infinite Creator to experience Itself in the worlds of separation. The impulse for doing this is Love and the result of experiencing the worlds of separation begets more Love. It is indeed, all One, and the flow of that Oneness is Love!!
There does seem to be an experience of an indwelling that occurs wherein God or Christ dwells inside me and you and we reside in God. But rather than the basis for the mutual indwelling needing to be substantial or ontological in nature, maybe we could say rather that two gnoses-of-oneness interpenetrate each other? What am I saying here? The divine dance of the Trinity extends all the way to creation without a separation or distinction between the Godhead and God’s creation. It’s a seamless garment!
I propose that we get rid of the idea of substantial difference between God and creation altogether. It is no longer needed now even though it was a breakthrough at the time the notion was conceived. Note that I’m not saying to get rid of the God’s transcendence, only that there is a divide between divine and materiality and only Jesus could bridge this gap. Rather, the Cosmic Christ sent Jesus to reveal to the world what has always been: God and creation are one and the nature of materiality is divine.
What is the difference between the Godhead including those Holy Beings that make the “omniscient” parts of God-as-the-Many and the “non-omniscient” parts of God-as-the-Many? The difference lies in the gnosis (experiential knowing) of oneness of all things. We can affirm with Richard Rohr in saying, “You are all objectively Sons and Daughters of God. The only difference is between those who know it and those who don’t.”
Absolute-Gnosis and Relative-Gnosis
If theological words are at helpful in constructing helpful nuances in our understanding of reality, then I propose two new terms. Instead of “homoousios” as describing the substance shared between the “Father” and “Son” which is different than the substance of creation, why not use a terms that describes a differential of an “experiential knowledge of oneness of all?”
Absolute-Gnosis means “complete and total experiential knowing of oneness.” It includes omniscience but contains an emphasis on heart knowing and a lived experience of oneness; of total union. Absolute-Gnosis never dips below the threshold of Infinity. Those Beings who posses Absolute-Gnosis with the Infinite Creator enjoy total omniscience, omnipotence, and in fact, are the Infinite Creator in God’s Many-ness that are not under the veil of forgetfulness.
Relative-Gnosis is defined as “relative experiential knowing of oneness that it on a continuum from total duality to total non-duality.” When one experiences a metanoia, they fall through their former ways of seeing and now view reality from a more transcendent place. Beings who possess Relative-Gnosis include all of creation that is on the spiritual journey towards recognition of union with God. There are various veils and limits of perception of unity within this category.
In truth the words are not important and I hope are not a distraction. The concept is what is important to which the words are attempt to point. So just to recap on the three new terms and their concepts.
- Panambitheism is defined as a kind of pantheism that takes into account traditional pantheism and panentheism. Panambitheism holds that both of the following are true: God is all things and God is in all things.
- Absolute-Gnosis is defined as subsisting in total omniscience and omnipotence with full experiential knowledge of total unity with the Godhead, as the Infinite Creator in God’s Many-parts. Examples would be Holy Monads, Galactic Logois, and sub-logois such as individual stars like our suns. High angelic beings who are 8th density and above would also fall into this category.
- Relative-Gnosis is defined as relative gnosis of oneness that spans the continuum of awareness that a being understands on an experiential level the unity of all things; the inherent oneness of all.
Jesus clearly taught the twelve disciples about surrender, the necessity of suffering, humility, servant leadership, and nonviolence. The men resisted him every time, and so he finally had to make the journey himself and tell them, “Follow me!” But we avoided that, too, by making the message into something he never said: “Worship me.” Worship of Jesus is rather harmless and risk-free; actually following Jesus changes everything.