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Protest as Prayer (Part 15): Did he blow out the candles?

Candles Flickering

By Marc Gafni

This post concludes the “Protest as Prayer” series. It is continued from post 14.

It was late one Friday night, with the Sabbath candles flickering in the darkness, when the Rebbe stood up. He had been especially pensive this night: wrapped in thoughts and prayers of his own. He walked purposefully to the table, spat on his hands and snuffed out the Sabbath candles. In the sudden darkness the shocked Chassidim heard the cold fury and despair in their Rebbe’s voice resounding in the gloom as he intoned: “There is no Judge, and there is no Judgment.”

Rebbe Menachem-Mendel of Kotsk then walked out of the synagogue, locked himself in his room, and never came out. For over twenty years until his death he remained in isolation and spoke not another word. But his Chassidim did not reject him as a blasphemer, nor a madman. In his silent solitary rage the Rebbe of Kotsk became more respected, more loved than ever before, as the Kotsker Chassidic tradition flourished in all its contradictions.

Somehow the Chassidim understood that ultimate Doubt, ultimate challenge, when conducted from within deep relationship, paradoxically can become the ultimate service, the ultimate worship.

Photo Credit: Dey

Protest as Prayer (Part 14): Three Truths

Job

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 13.

We began with three truths. God is good. God is powerful. Good people suffer. These are the three truths of Job. We hold all three. We can live in the deep and painful uncertainty of not always knowing how all three fit together. Those unable to hold the uncertainty emasculate God. This is Harold Kushner’s basic move. God can’t do anything about evil — God is nice but not powerful.

Others, unable to hold the uncertainty, emasculate man. That is pious orthodox thinker Gottlieb’s move. He has theo-logically solved the problem of suffering. He denies the rage, the protest, the unanswered question which defines Jewish text. He cannot live with the uncertainty of the question so he must argue that certainty has been achieved and the question answered.

To improve at your sport, always be in a state of leaning in

Deer

By Kristen Ulmer

If you really want to improve at your sport, it’s important to always be in a state of reaching, or leaning in. You may be surprised by what that means.

The simple part is: You play tennis on your front foot, not your back. Great skiing happens when you’re reaching for speed, not resisting speed. If you’re running and sense the wind pushing you back, you’re not leaning in. Lean in and you’ll sense the wind pushing you forward.

Leaning in is all about yes; to everything. And here’s where it gets hard. Everything means … everything. Lean in to all of life, not just the good stuff.

I know you love your sport, what about leaning in to those times when you hate your sport? How about reaching for frustration when it comes up? Reach for disgust. Boredom. Arrogance. Reach into the lessons of your injuries and pain. Reach for what ever is true for you at any moment. Each moment then passes and there’s a new experience revealed.

In this, passion remains. Not always the passion for your sport, but the passion for your life as it evolves and unfolds, faster than the speed of light. In this you will remain open and available to learning and improving.

Resist any of it though, and learning and improving stops immediately. You become stuck.

The most common way athletes become stuck is by repressing or leaning away from their emotions: such as fear, anger and sadness. If you try to block these emotions out, that effort may free you for a day but it will lock you into a war with that emotion.

Imagine a base jumper trying to resist gravity. Crazy! Humans trying to resist emotion is the same. Embrace that emotion, and land a few minutes later having had a great and quick adventure. Avoid and the emotion will torture you, sometimes for decades.

Another example: Consider a deer. If a deer is feeling fear, she startles and runs. She doesn’t argue with herself about whether the fear is justified, or tries to get rid of the fear, or wishes she didn’t feel the fear, she simply expresses it and uses it for strength and motivation to run magnificently through the forest. Then the fear is gone and she’s back eating in a meadow 2 minutes later. She doesn’t get emotionally stuck. She doesn’t need therapy. And she doesn’t get sick or have knots in her shoulders because of the effort to repress her fear.

So lean into it all: Passion and boredom, glory and pain, love and hate, and you will always grow, effortlessly express yourself, improve and evolve.

Each experience and emotion is like a drop of water. Let them flow and you’re on your way to becoming a mighty river …

Protest as Prayer (Part 13): There is a Spirit in Man

Wisdom

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 12.

One of the most striking formulations of the Yehuda Moment in Chassidut is the movement’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov’s, teaching on a verse in the Book of Job. The verse in Job reads “There is a spirit in man — the breath of God — which gives wisdom.”

These words, which appear towards the end of the book, are spoken by Elihu in rejection of the ‘punishment for sin’ theodicy offered as a certainty by Job’s friends. The Baal Shem Tov interprets the verse: ‘The breath of God is the spirit of man’.

This is the intent of the prophet-poet writing in the sixth century before the Common Era. Jeremiah is describing redemption when he writes:

This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel in the ultimate days … I will give my Torah through their inner selves, I will write it in their hearts … and no more will a man teach his neighbor and every man his brother saying, ‘Know God,’ for they shall all know me. From the least of them to the most of them. (Jeremiah 31: 32-3)

Indeed R. Kook, philosopher-mystic of the early twentieth century whose writings we have had occasion to visit, in his spiritual journal, ‘Mists of Purity,’ published after his death, refers to the Jeremiah text in precisely this manner. No longer, he writes, will sources of spiritual authority and knowledge be outside of ourselves. Certainty is not taught. It rather comes from the inner certainty of the spirit which is the sacred birthright of every person. The below passage from R. Kook is just too beautiful to relegate to a footnote.

Anything that enters the soul
from the outflow of a sister soul
even though beneficial in some aspect,
for in the end the receiving soul acquires some knowledge,
or sometimes a good or useful feeling
at the same time it also damages her
in that it mixes in an alien element into her essence.
And the world cannot come together in wholeness
except through a stance of negation of the alien influence:
“No longer will man teach his fellow
or a man teach his brother, saying: ‘Know God.’
For all will know Me, from the smallest among them to the greatest.”
With regard to each individual,
the process that negates alien influence,
even though it seems to take destructive form, this very collapse
is what leads to the most lasting and perfected structure.

And this is the only gateway to the World to Come,
for the Holy One Blessed be He makes a separate Eden
for each individual:
‘Your Eden’ is not written, rather ‘Your Edens.’

The communal consciousness of the Nation
to guard against alien influences
is the essence of its revival.
It penetrates as individual agitation
which generates destruction,
makes revolutions
and builds new worlds,
everlasting and shining.

This is the Yehuda Moment — this is core certainty which allows us to hold the light of our uncertainty — without the vessels shattering.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney

Greetings from Venwoude’s community days event

Venwoude SquareBy Chahat Corten

Hello dearest friends,

Sending you all love and blessing from Venwoude in Holland. This is the first blog post from the Venwoude community days in Holland. In the first couple of days, we had an ecstatic evening with chanting, a teaching on chanting and storie-telling. Ecstatic and passionate ending!

Simply said Marc Gafni has been working round the clock since he got here. First he created a new World Spirituality process which he called “Growing Up,” which was four four-hour sessions in which he guided the community a brilliant and beautiful exploration of what he called Evolutionary We Space.

The process guided people through seven levels of consciousness in which Marc would describe the level and then put us in the voice of that level of consciousness and have everyone talk in first person about they experienced god, community, love and integrity from that level of consciousness.

It was awesome to see, how Marc used this process to kind of surprise everybody into engaging and enacting all the issues on surviving, belonging, power, rules and the great topic of autonomy and community. All the hidden issues were surfaced in away that inspired everyone, made no one bad and gave great honor to each person and the whole community. It was really awesome awesome to watch. It reminded me again of what Center for World Spirituality is so precious.

We have been recording the whole process and there will be some great clips coming from this!

Tomorrow Marc will have a day of conversations (and some students in between) and then Monday-evening diving in 3 days of visioning process, with the leadership group of our community….. I have the sense that something really will shift these days…. :). It also awesome to watch Marc’s love as he makes the issues and dynamics of our community “his issues” and holds everyone with so much care and love and with firmness and direction.

I’ll have another blog post for you soon.

Sending Love,

Chahat

Protest as Prayer (Part 12): On Secrets

SecretBy Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 11.

That this is true is mystery and mystery is esoteric — it is secret. Secret, not because, as it is usually explained, it is forbidden to reveal the mysteries to the uninitiated; rather, secret because it is not possible to reveal the mysteries at all. For if the soul is not ready to receive the mystery then the secret cannot be transmitted. The holy energy of uncertainty is in the realm of mystery. I cannot fully explain. Yet two guidelines for those who would struggle to understand are in order.

The Rebbe of Kutzk teaches about the old man and the young baby. They both ask the same questions. ‘How, When, What, Where – Ayeh?’

Though the words are the same, worlds of wisdom separate them. For the baby asked his question and received an answer. That answer led to him ask the same questions again — only at a higher level. He received answers — which in turn created a new set of questions — the same as before and yet so much higher. And this process repeated itself through the years until the little baby was an old man. At the end of his life the old man asks, How — when — what — who — Where ‘Ayeh’?

In every question there are a thousand answers. Every uncertainty embraces a thousand certainties. The uncertainty is the highest expression of all the certainties and …beyond. This is what the old man finally understood.

What does the old man know as he formulates the uncertainty of the end. He knows that he is uncertain. He knows also that no lower certainty can contain his soul. Only uncertainly can sing the praises of his God. It is a song of relationship. For uncertainty is about loving. Loving means to care enough to be uncertain.

At this point the Yehuda Moment of core certainty merges with the Israel Moment of uncertainty. The affirmation of the question comes from a profound affirmation of core certainty of self. Specifically we affirm the dignity and validity of our rage.

We recognize that the rage is indeed holy as it wells from the deepest recesses of our being. We refuse to invalidate our core certainty of self. We refuse to deny the holiness of our moral intuitions. We embrace the sanctity of our ethical knowing. We are capable of calling evil by its name. We do not need to deny self by refusing to identify evil by its name because somehow to deny is to damage faith principles which are not of our selves. We refuse to deny our rage. We understand that at the deepest place our anger is God. It is holy anger.

The inner voice, which refuses to accept the cruel certainties of the theological answers to why bad things happen to Good people, is indeed the voice of God. The ultimate paradox: the core certainty of self allows us to hold the holiness of radical uncertainty in the face of evil. And at the same time — radical rage in the face of evil affirms our core certainty about the divine in world and most importantly, the divine in ourselves.

This is the certainty of the Yehuda Moment. This is the teaching of the Book of Job which we have unpacked throughout the book, “through my flesh I see God.” (Job 19). In Post-Renaissance mystical teachings, particularly in the works of the Chassidic masters, this means that my core sense of self is real and it needs to be taken seriously. Forced theological constructs should never be allowed to overwhelm my primal intuitions.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney

Protest as Prayer (Part 11): God’s Language

Hebrew Books

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 10.

The Zohar writes that the Shechina is called “I”. This is a particularly dramatic way of expressing the idea that the Shechina speaks through the human voice. This means that whenever a person finds their voice on the deepest level, they are finding the voice of the Shechina. The human cry to God “Please be King” is also God crying out through the same voice, “Please I am trapped — bound in chains — free me and let me be King.”

God’s voice and our voice are one. The language of God is man.

Precisely the same spiritual dynamic is at play when the human being cries out in question, in protest and even in rage against the evil and suffering that so defines our reality. The question is not against God. The question Is God. God is speaking through his creatures. The cry of question is the Shechina in exile crying out for redemption. Our question, rage and protest are our ‘participation in’ and ‘expression of’ the cry of the Shechina.

We allow God’s voice to resound in ours when we refuse to accept facile solutions to the great question of human suffering and instead cry out in protest and anger. This is the deepest meaning of the Zohar’s declaration — “the shechina which is called I.” God’s voice and the human voice merge into one. Our protest is God’s protest. Our rage is divine rage. In some mysterious sense our question is God’s question.

Now we can finally understand the hidden implication of a seemingly straightforward teaching in the Zohar.

The teaching – ‘When texts refer to God as the King — Hamelech — reference is being made to the upper three sefirot.’ At first blush this is a typical Zoharic statement which identifies each Biblical name of God with a different sefirah or set of sefirot. That is, until we remember what Luria taught us – that the word Ayeh, where, as in ‘where is God,’ also refers to the upper three SefIrot. Then we have to add our understanding, based on a close reading of mystical sources, that the cry “Hamelech’ is the merging of human and divine voice in a plea for redemption.

I would suggest that Luria’s source for the poignant cry of Ayeh as the three upper sefirot is indeed this Zoharic teaching about Hamelech. The Zohar, far from being innocent, supports our radical understanding of the Hamelech of High Holy Days liturgy as being not a statement but rather a question, a plea — God, Hamelech, where are you, Ayeh?

This means that God’s title itself, Hamelech, expresses not only certainty, but also the question. This last radical notion can be sourced in bold relief in a Zoharic teaching in Genesis. There the mystical text points out that the divine name Elohim  is made up of two distinct Hebrew words — Eleh and Mee (Eloh-eem). The first three letters spell ‘eleh’ –- which means ‘this’, and the last two letters spell ‘Mee’ – which means ‘who’. ‘Eleh – this,’ indicates knowledge and clarity, while ‘Mee – who’ is a question, expressing the uncertainty rooted in the divine name Itself.

The divine dances between the Judah Moment of certainty and the Israel Moment of question…. And we dance along with it.

Photo Credit: chany14

In defense of complexity

Fractal Blue

By Joe Perez

Who’s winning the war over simplicity and complexity? The Daily Dish gives voice to an interesting discussion of evolution and culture. It began yesterday when Andrew Sullivan quoted Robert Bellah, the sociologist of religion, on a scientific matter:

Simplicity has its charms. Some relatively simple organisms have survived in more or less the same form for hundreds of millions of years. The more complex the species, the briefer its life. In some cases this is because species have changed into even more complex forms, yet extinctions have been massive. There have been several species of the genus Homo; now there is one. The one remaining species may be partly responsible for the extinction of its last remaining relative, the Neanderthals. The more complex, the more fragile. Complexity goes against the second law of thermodynamics, that all complex entities tend to fall apart, and it takes more and more energy for complex systems to function.

Today, a reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog responds:

Utterly untrue. Bellah is making the fundamental mistake of confusing the fate of the individual entity with the fate of the larger dynamic system of which it’s part. A quick glance at the overall arc of the 4.5 billion year evolution of life on earth shows the inevitable march of complexity. Complexity does not “go against” the second law, any more than does the metabolism of your individual body—it uses it, through a related, albeit higher-order mechanism, to advance higher and higher stages of self-organization.

More complex systems are in fact far more efficient in their use of energy than less complex ones, which—from the thermodynamic perspective—is precisely what drives evolution (biological, social, technological and mental). Dawkins might not like it, but from the system’s science perspective, evolution is not directionless: Increasing complexity is built into the fabric of the universe.

Bellah not only has it deeply wrong on the science, he has it deeply wrong on the implications for philosophy; at least to judge by this short snippet you quote: more complex is not more fragile, it is more robust.

His outlook reads as dour and pessimistic. That’s not the world as it is—that’s Bellah’s projection onto it, based on a deep misreading of the interplay of thermodynamics and biology. The truth may be something almost 180 degrees different—something much more akin to Malick’s vision in “The Tree of Life:” not only is the evolution of biological complexity inevitable, given sufficiently propitious initial conditions, so is the evolution of mental, emotional and spiritual complexity—including consciousness, empathy, compassion, and grace. To cite Einstein, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

Bellah’s science—again, to judge by a very small snippet—is inherently hostile, at least from our human perspective. Were his science right, we would all perforce become mid-50’s French existentialists. But it’s not. The applicable science is in fact friendly—I would say, grandly, magnificently friendly, even if, from the individual human perspective, humbling, awe-inspiring, or, like Krishna in his cosmic form, or Yahweh in the whirlwind, sometimes terrible to behold.

The anonymous Dish reader gets the better of the famous sociologist here, I think, striking notes that remind me of some of Ken Wilber’s twenty tenets of all holons. It’s so difficult to think about scientific principles such as evolution or entropy without our conscious and unconscious beliefs about the nature of reality sneaking into the equation. A dour-minded existentialist is prone to believe that everything is winding down and dying in a massive frozen heat death. An optimistic-minded American pragmatist is prone to believe that progress is inevitable and the world is what we make of it.

An Integral theorist is inclined towards appreciating that both pessimists and optimists have a piece of the truth, and the truth cannot be separated from the way that individuals construct their beliefs about reality in complex interactions of meaning-making and enactment.

Photo Credit: Fábio Pinheiro

Protest as Prayer (Part 10): God’s Emotions

God emotions

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 9.

To go one step further — God feels the pain of the sufferer through the agency of human beings who feel the pain of other. God feels, not only but also through, human agency. We are God’s emotions.

Based on this understanding a number of mystical writers provide us with the vocabulary to re-think the idea of God’s Kingship. It was with this quandry that I introduced the problematics of God-language in a world that suffers. How can we call God King?

Borrowing a text from the Songs of Songs, early Hasidic writers describe God as a “King bound in chains.” God may be King but he is bound — waiting to be redeemed. The image of a King bound in chains refers to the Shechina in exile.

In light of this tradition we can now understand the ostensible proclamation of Gods Kingship — “Hamelech” which begins the morning prayer service of the Jewish high holy days. If it is interpreted simply as a declaration of God’s kingship then it is profoundly difficult to understand. For, as we noted at the beginning of our discussion, King means more than just relationship. Kingship is an expression of control. Kings rule overtly. They are not hidden. Kings decree and the decrees are obviously implemented.

If God is King and his desire is for Good (God =Good) then it is difficult to understand how we can declare God’s kingship in a world ravaged by distended stomachs and unparalleled brutality. If God loves truth, and truth means that our theological language needs to be true to our experience of God in this world, then we cannot yet declare God to be King.

Indeed I believe that the cry of “Hamelech” at the beginning of the Liturgy is not a declaration by the human being of God’s Kingship. It is far more profound. It is a human cry pleading with God to be King. “God,” cries out the human being, “reveal yourself as King!” It is a plea for the redemption of world. Deeper still, it is a human plea for the redemption of God. Echoing in Hamelech, however, is a second voice of overwhelming power.

“Hamelech” is the cry of Shechina, of God, re-sounding through the mouths of human beings.

The Shechina cries out to the assembled congregation – “Please, I beg of you, Let me be King … I am caught, bound in chains, free me, redeem me!”

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs

Exploring the Unique Self and beyond … Discovery and Gratitude (Part 1)

Hands Reflection

By Hans Jecklin

When, more than 40 years ago, I undertook my first steps into the cosmos of Jungian psychology, I was soon confronted with the opposition of an “I”, the person I am in this life, and the “Self” that Carl Gustav Jung understood as both the source and fulfillment of the “I” or as the prior source of potentials for the “I” to manifest in life. Jung was aware of the danger for the “I” to identify with this “Autonomous Reality” or “Divine Archetype” and warned of ego-inflation when a person would – even unconsciously – try to occupy or control that higher reality.

This mostly intellectual differentiation of “I” and “Self” accompanied me for a long time after I started my spiritual search. The longing for the direct experience of God had not only led me beyond psychology, but also to quit the reformed (Christian) church that had been my parents’ choice. I then spent nearly twenty years of practicing Zazen, Tao Yoga and Kashmir Shivaism and went through many dis-illusions, having mis-taken the impermanent for the eternal, until finally grace took over.

Tired of the year-long search through cultures and places, I had at one point asked my Self to make no more fuss and take me over to the Siddhis: “This is like dying” it responded and faster-than-I-could-think a chorus of inner voices exclaimed “This is what we have been waiting for!”. When after a seemingly endless fall through extreme darkness, I ended in indescribable bliss, I realized that this was the unconditional love I had always been looking for and that the irresistible longing that had led me through this labyrinth of temptations is the nature of GRACE.

The natural wish to bring this deep experience into my life of a family-father and business-man soon brought me to understand that — yes! — one hand there was nothing more to search for, but that, on the other, this was just the beginning of the real exploration into spirituality, one that might never end in this life-time.

Happily enough, my longing and curiosity had also led me to a form of past-life therapy where I could experience the “Inner Self” as an undeniable reality: as the presence of eternal, all-encompassing love and wisdom within me. Within this setting, I learnt to surrender to its guidance as an ever-present source that would not only send showers of love through my cellular, emotional and mental bodies but was capable to help me understand and transform traumatic imprints that had been limiting the unfoldment of my life purpose: Unconscious imprints or conditioning, resulting from this lifetime and — depending on our understanding — from cultural heritage (familiar, ethnic, racial, human) or past lifetimes.

Having become a facilitator of this transformational work — which I do not label as strictly “past-life” anymore — I  have over the years been enriched by so many experiences that I can gladly surrender to it, without any doubts about its unique power of love and wisdom. It is my supreme inner guide that not only carries the potential to manifest my unique role on this planet (or in the universe?!) but its wisdom is constantly guiding me into perfect circumstances and moments, right people, books and teachings that I need at a given moment to better respond to the challenges of the ever-evolving present.

I have learnt that I can grow into such subtle intimacy with this endless source of love and wisdom that it has become a supreme partner of dialogue  It may — at my request — permeate and transform or expand my consciousness by its love and wisdom in order to more completely perform my role in the favor of humanity, our planet and the cosmos.

I know that the “Unique Self” that manifests through me is but an aspect of what I would call a “Prior Unity” of all possible potentials, ready to manifest in this or other universes. These potentials constantly arise from the “ONE undivided and eternal presence”; they must originate from before the singular event that we assume as the BigBang and — according to limited human understanding — have evolved through the play of eros and agape ever since.

I have been shown by GRACE how to knock at the door of the “ONE”  that as to my present understanding might be my eternal home, but I know at the same time that NOW my role within this life will be guided by the “Unique Self” that is constantly present within and beyond me.

————

I am open for additional inspiration to enlarge my present view which — as we all know — is provisional. Please also do not hesitate to ask whenever my limited capacity of writing in English needs support.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

Protest as Prayer (Part 9): “The Shechina which is called I” (Zohar….)

Doorway

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 8.

“The Shechina which is called I” (Zohar….)

The implication of this Kabbalistic strain of thought needs to be unpacked more fully. One of the core ideas in the Lurianic understanding of the religious act is the need to identify with the pain of the Shechina in exile. According to the Talmudic masters the divine presence  — the Shechina — is exiled with the Jewish people. In one of the most daring affirmations of divine intimacy, the Talmudic teachers and later the kabbalistic masters insist that the transcendent God of the Bible becomes incarnate in the suffering of the Jewish people (and, I would add, of all people).

Indeed the actual term for Shechina in many kabalistic sources is kenesset yisrael — the community of Israel. The community per se is an embodiment of the divine. This identification achieves its most extreme form when God is described as suffering the pain of the people. Emerging from the verse in Isaiah, “In all your pain — he is in pain,” the mystical writers develop at great length the very powerful notion that God suffers together with every person in pain. For the mystic there may be much quiet desperation in the world but there is no lonely desperation. And being “with” is always the beginning of redemption. One mystical writer turns God’s infinity — which is understood by the medieval rationalists as being the expression of divine perfection — on its head and talks not about infinite power but of the infinity of divine pathos, intimacy and love. God loves us so much that when we suffer he experiences our pain — infinitely. This explains why God is hidden in world. For if God’s infinite pain were to be revealed — if one divine tear were to fall, it would surely destroy the world in an instant.

This notion of divine intimacy — together with a combination of two major ideas — one from Cordevero’s and the other from Luria’s Kabbalah — need to be transformed into a mandate for human spiritual activism. Luria teaches that a major raison-de-etre for the performance of Mitzvah is to participate in the pain of the Shechina in exile. When I perform a ritual act says Luria I am engaging in far more than the fulfillment of a divine command — I am rather empathetically identifying with the Shechina in exile. Through this identification I contribute to her redemption.

This idea brings us full circle. The human being suffers. God abandons the heavens, risking his transcendence in order to create intimacy with the sufferer by fully participating in her pain. Even for God there is no intimacy without risk.

Yet intimacy demands response. We are called on to participate with God in her pain. The act of Mitzvah is interpreted by Luria as a sort of participation mystique. For example, when we give charity it is not only an act of social justice. It is a movement of redemption — namely the redemption of the Shechina (who is called “the poor one”) from her exile. According to Jewish Law the dispenser of charity to the poor is commanded not only to give charity but to empathize with the pain of the poor person. According to Luria we experience the pain of the poor one on two levels, the actual poor person and the Shechina who is called the poor one. God’s redemption, according to Luria, takes place through our participating in God’s pain.

Cordevero in his classic work the Palm of Devorah teaches that Imatatio dei — the imitation of God — applies to all God’s revealed characteristics. All theology — i.e. knowledge about god — is a challenge to imitate, to be like, God.

Therefore the knowledge of God’s ways passed down by the spiritual visionaries of the generations — that God emerges out of Herself to participate in human suffering — demands that we imitate God. Just as God merges infinity into finity by participating in human suffering, so do we merge finity into infinity by participating in divine suffering.

How do we accomplish this? Clearly in the same way that God does … by participating in the pain of the other. Divine suffering is human suffering. We meet God in the pain of the other. God participates in the pain of suffering human beings. If we are challenged to imitate God by participating in divine suffering — then we meet the challenge by feeling the pain of other. Human beings meet God in pain — not, however, in our own pain, but in our ability to expand the narrow boundaries of self and fully identify with and experience the pain of other.

Self-confidence: a sign that you have arrived spiritually

Andy Houghton

By Joe Perez

Self-confidence is a sign that you have arrived spiritually, according to syndicated columnist Norris Burkes. In “Spirituality: Be your own person,” the Air National Guard chaplain writes:

Jesus …  flat out ask[ed] his adoring crowds, “Who do people say that I am?”

The throng fired back some wild-eyed guesses, as some even said he was the ghost of an old prophet.

Others said he was a lunatic, but Jesus brushed those speculations aside and turned to those who were important in his life, his students, and asked, “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter stood and set it straight. “You da man!”

OK, he didn’t exactly say that. Peter said, “You’re the Christ.”

Jesus responded to this astute conclusion with an astounding command. He told them to not tell a soul.

Why would Jesus ask for such anonymity? Some scholars say that he was trying to avoid being crucified prematurely.

I think it was much more.

I think Jesus had arrived at the moment in his life where he knew that he didn’t need to “proclaim” who he was.

His walk, his breath, his talk exuded the confidence of one who was truly different.

He knew his purpose, and he knew he was the only one who needed to feel contentment in that purpose.

Read the whole thing.

World Spirituality suggests that Burkes has identified an important principal of enlightenment, that moment which he says you stop trying to proclaim who you are and just put your effort into being who God wants you to be. Of course, there are many different ways of interpreting what God wants, and I am using this expression as another way of pointing to the Thou in the I/Thou relationship we all have with All That Is.

Norris says of Jesus: “His walk, his breath, his talk exuded the confidence of one who was truly different.”

Or … He exuded the confidence of one who was truly himself, fully realized in Unique Self.

Photo Credit: Andy Houghton