Dancing Between the Old and New Can Lead to Depth (When We Ask the Right Questions)

Doug Esse

The following is my redaction of some responses I shared with some friends as we dialoged about how to live out the Law of One with integrity and depth.


Friend:

I have a friend/co-worker of mine that was big into new age type concepts and oneness philosophy, but has recently reached out to me letting me know they have converted into more of a fundamental perspective of Christianity because of some videos they came across on YouTube. I’ve seen these videos already many years ago as I was going through a similar conflict and this has certainly dredged up a lot of things I feel were not healed fully. I suppose the main reason I’m reaching out is for fresh perspective on how to see this situation and either help myself/they as they go through this.

Doug:

If you are trying to be of help to her, I’d say being Christ to her as a loving and witnessing presence wherein you validate her journey and affirm her, especially if she feels more at peace now.

If she is trying to steer you back “into the fold,” then that’s a loving gesture on her part. But it’s not a gesture without a lot of fear and confusion. 

What has helped me in my own journey as well as quite a few people I’ve come across in this vein is to learn about developmental stages of consciousness.  Many New Age beliefs and adherents are fairly “postmodern,” which is certain worldview. It can be freeing for many, especially if they felt that traditional belief systems were oppressive in their younger years.  But for others, esp those who didn’t have a robust theological grounding, they may only practice a “skin deep,” surface-level spirituality but mistake it for enlightenment.  New Agey things can lack grounding and if someone is not ready for more of a nondual perspective (which incorporates good dualistic thinking), then they will almost always struggle a lot when they encounter suffering, pain, and the absurdity. This is also true of the collective. 

Postmodernity finds its purpose in (often constructively) critiquing systemic powers but it doesn’t offer a way out of the crisis of meaning that it creates.  Then, when one is crucified upon the cross of the absurdity of their lives, if they don’t possess the  depth of a mind which is well-practiced at the art of living in liminal space (that place of the dark night of the soul), they can get stuck really easily.

As the urgency of their need for meaning and coherence grows stronger, formerly postmodern people  (usually progressive in their political thinking) often dive into the rigidity and structure of the traditional worldview. For such a person, it can feel so relieving and meaningful to have well-defined guard rails that help them walk the straight and narrow.  But there is a big price to pay. 

Sometimes the re-convert is doubly zealous when they experience a powerful state of connection with Christ but mistake that for a higher stage of consciousness.    In the final analysis, it may be the common case whereby one renounces  their  new age zealotry for new agey beliefs and makes a lateral move to become zealous for a traditional interpretation of the world.  And that newly rediscovered traditional worldview isn’t necessarily the conventional conservative mindset, but rather a strident authoritarian theocratic bias that has gained greatly in popularity since 2016.

Friend:

I’m gonna take some time and unpack your well thought out message. But to answer your question, her sending these videos and what she’s going through is dredging up old wounds from when I was first transitioning into the widened perspective I have today. I struggled DEEPLY with giving up a lot of my fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Lots of fear, grief, and anxiety. Just hitting pretty close to home for me. I’d imagine it isn’t an accident though, I believe the Creator does tend to show us where we are not free.

But I do not want to impress certain things upon her to just try to assert my newfound beliefs as “right”. I want to support her as she goes through this as well as I can.

I would like to sit down and really allow these negative feelings to pass and clear this trauma however personally so I can move on with my life because it’s bringing up those same old feelings of anxiety and confusion I probably didn’t deal with effectively when everything first went down.

Doug:

I sure do honor that impulse to sit with the feelings. I have danced that dance between the old and the new for years. Still do. It’s why I write what I do. The postmodern mind often rejects the traditional with a kind of haste. It’s not a clean break. Lots of stuff moves down to the shadow, and will arise when you’re ready.

But the music you’re dancing to is called “love.”  It’s the stuff of union, unity, and the integral worldview. For me, I’m lucky that my traditional Catholic belief system is like a river. Towards the edges it’s shallow and safe. A lot of people with fundamentalist worldviews swim here.

They are correct that what they believe is the Tradition, but they don’t know what they don’t know (which is true for all of us, i guess). The center of the river is really deep, mysterious, mystical, very Law of One. Very  few on the side of the same river would accept or believe the strange life at the bottom of the depth. But those at the bottom understand those at the edge and trust that the flow which carries all of us will carry them down and in, eventually. Union of Heart to Heart seduces, “deep calls into deep” (Psalm 42.7).

In the early years, every time I stepped away from new agey stuff, I returned to the mystics and depth of my tradition. But I was ruined! I couldn’t unknow what I knew. Mystics, especially in the Franciscan tradition, were Law of One-ish!

I’d re-encounter the Law of One in and through their message. And then I’d engage with the Law of One again (when I was ready) and there, I’d encounter the depth of Christian mystics saying to me, “See now? Look here! Same! Same!”


If you like, here are two interviews with Christians who swim at the depths. See if their words intrigue?

Franciscan sister, Ilia Delio: https://christogenesis.org/

And

Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr: http://www.cac.org

….

Doug (responding an hour later):

If you’ll forgive my over-posting here, I just attended Mass at a church located down the block of our hotel in Philly. It’s run by the (Capuchin) Franciscans, believe it or not. I took 3 pictures of the outside of the church after Mass which speak to me of the Law of One. See what you think?

All in all, it’s important to get our questions correct. Open-ended questions are magical. They lead to the answers. Asking the right questions to ourselves or our teachers is more important than the answers (often). The following quote is one of the most important in my life. Few say things as deeply as Rilke did here: 

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 

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