Jesus as Post-Modern

"The Gospel of Thomas, once restored to the world, caused a great deal of interest, both scholarly and popular. Numerous studies were published, followed by defensive dismissals of its contents by conservative Christian scholars. Even now, after nearly fifty years, this amazing work continues to challenge and intrigue Christians and non-Christians alike.

"Jesus' teachings in this Gospel have a decidedly post-modern ring to them, emphasizing internal over external authority, and promoting a unitive consciousness that is in many ways indistinguishable from the goal held up by many Eastern traditions. In fact, once could argue that the Thomas school is a native Jewish school of Buddhism — a shocking but completely plausible suggestion."
The Way of Thomas


"There is only one thing in the universe, and you are that thing. Call it God, call it Unity, call it what you will. All names fall short (although the Hebrew name for God, YWHW, which translates, 'I am what I am becoming,' is not a bad one). All distinctions are illusory, and suffering and sin are visited upon us as a result of our buying into this illusion. All is One, and you are that One.

"This is nothing new, of course, to students of mysticism of any variety. Thomas falls squarely into the same camp as other unitive schools of thought such as Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Thomas' Jesus is trying to prod us into a state of unitive consciousness, in which we realize: the unity of God with all things (including us human beings), unity within the self, and our mystical unity with one another. All of these are aspects of a single phenomenon of Oneness, simply viewed from different perspectives: from the outside looking in, from the inside looking out, and the horizontal view, as illusory aspects of reality relate to one another. The Gospel of Thomas focuses on each of these perspectives, and in the process, relates a sublime truth that is at once slippery and simple."
The Way of Thomas

Embracing All of Your Parts

"1. Practice embracing all of your parts. Every time you become aware of a part of yourself — an attitude, a talent, a fault, even a hint of meanness, say to this part, 'I embrace you and love you.' Say this especially about all the things you really hate about yourself. This will be extremely uncomfortable, but utterly transforming if you can keep up the practice.

"2. The Hindus have a saying, 'Tat Tvam Asi,' which means 'Thou art that,' or 'This is you, too. 'As you go about your workday, keep this saying on your tongue. Whomever or whatever you encounter, say to yourself, 'You are that,'before you engage with him, her, or it. Let the truth of your unity with these people, animals, and things you encounter sink in. Trust the truth of it, and practice, so that you encounter each new person or thing with an awareness of your unity with him, her, or it."
The Way of Thomas

Seeds of Peace

"The seed of peace that mindfulness plants in us has an effect on the world that is often difficult to fathom. Just as rage escalates from person to person, and what begins as an annoyance can spin out of control into a crisis for a whole community or even a nation, so peace can likewise be infectious. But while rage is uncomfortable and easily noticed, peace is often invisible to us. This is because, unlike human beings — who are exiles from the Kingdom — nature is a permanent resident. All plants, rocks, and animals (all who are not self-reflexive, that is) live in the Kingdom full-time . . . None of them spend their time obsessing over the past or the future, but live fully present in the here-and-now. The Kingdom is indeed 'spread out upon the earth, but people do not see it.' Jesus invites us not only to see it, but to join the rest of the created order in living there. The peace that results is not only a gift to us, but to creation itself, not least because we are far less likely to disturb its peace if we are content with what we have."
The Way of Thomas

Thomas' Jesus

"The Jesus of Thomas does not ask me to take a stand. I can embrace him as the profound mystery that he is, just as I seek to embrace the deep mystery that I am. This is far from an easy path however. It is very tempting to take the easy way out, to take sides in this great theological battle that has been raging for two millennia. Thomas must have felt very much like the odd man out when he confessed that his 'mouth is completely incapable of saying,' what Jesus is like. It was not a popular position then, and it is not any more popular, now.

"But Thomas harbors no illusions about this being an easy path. Indeed, following the Jesus of Thomas today means being bold enough to make our own way in the world, spiritually. It requires a certain degree of courage, a willingness to be a spiritual adventurer, spelunking the darkened corners of the spirit where others fear to tread. It also means embracing mystery, and having the spiritual humility to realize that we do not have all of the answers. And it also invites us to seek out those answers for ourselves.

"The Thomas Christians believed that the answers they sought were not contained — nor containable — in any book. But by meditating on the sayings they collected and venerated, they believe they might be ushered into that ineffable mystery they so thirsted for. That same promise is held out to us today."
The Way of Thomas

What is Taoism?

"This is the simplest of questions, and as a typical example of Taoist paradox, almost impossible to answer — mostly because there are many answers. When Thomas Merton was asked, he replied that the only correct is 'I don't know.' Alan Watts, in his excellent book Tao: The Watercourse Way, offers a simple and sufficient definition: Taoism is 'the way of man's cooperation with the course or trend of the natural world.' That's it. There is nothing inherently spiritual about it. There is nothing in Taoism that relies on some form of divine revelation, nothing that any sensitive human being could not learn by simply observing nature. And that is part of its magic: simplicity. Lao Tzu was not a man to be impressed by political status or educational degrees. To him, maids or stable boys who were true to their own instincts were the noblest sorts of creatures."
God as Nature Sees God: A Christian Reading of the Tao Te Ching

Not Self- Glorifying

"Hand in hand with self-righteousness is self-glorifying, which is the opposite of humility. The word humility comes from the Latin word 'humus' meaning earth. Lao Tzu tells us that we are to live 'close to the Earth.' This is as true in our attitudes as it is in our literal, bodily existence. Hildegard of Bingen said, 'Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly.' What is earthly is what is in its natural state, not perverted by human contrivance. We should be earthy, most especially. This means being honest, even if we really want to impress someone; even if it is painful. This means being honest with ourselves about our motivations. If I were to give to a charity, would I being doing it out of philanthropy or out of a need to be affirmed that I am good? Too often, I fear, for myself the latter is usually the case."
God as Nature Sees God: A Christian Reading of the Tao Te Ching

Spiritual Eclectics

"Spiritual eclectics see the Divine at play in all things — all peoples, animals, plants, planets, and stars. Their path is to view themselves as part of this great and holy Whole, and they are invested with a sense of responsibility for protecting the integrity of the Web of Life, the fragile biosphere that gives us birth and sustains our life. Those guiding Eclectics must be sympathetic to their egalitarian values, unoffended by their iconoclastic impulses, and open to their wide-ranging approach to spiritual authority and imagery. For Eclectics, spirituality is always an adventure, and guiding them can be quite a journey in itself.
Faith Styles

Spiritual Eclectics At-a-Glance

"1. How is the Divine imaged? As a spiritual force animating all of nature.
2. What is the nature of one's relationship with the Divine? Panthesitic — there is no distinction between creation and the Divine.
3. How does one construct meaning in the world? By protecting the biosphere and all creatures, and by promoting greater consciousness.
4. What are the accepted sources of spiritual wisdom? Spiritual wisdom of every tradition, in one's own experience, and in the body.
5. How is spiritual growth assessed? The degree to which one can see through the illusion of separateness and realize one's unity with all being.
6. Practices? Prayer, meditation, ritual, sacred reading, art, exercise, being in nature, and activism.
7. Advantages? Diversity and spiritual generosity.
8. Disadvantages? Gullibility and a lack of groundedness."
Faith Styles

Spiritual Migration

"Most spiritual guides would agree that trying to 'convert' a client from one faith style to another is a form of spiritual violence and is always abhorrent. This kind of spiritual arrogance is almost always harmful to the client and has no place in spiritual guidance or ministry. However, it is not uncommon for a client to instigate such transition themselves. This can be a time of scary revelation or exhilarating epiphanies, and either way the companionship of a soul friend can be very helpful to ground, guide, and normalize the client's experience.

"Many things can precipitate the migration from one point on the circle to another — serious illness, grief, unprecedented life experiences, spiritual epiphanies, exposure to other cultures and beliefs, or simple the curiosity and growth that is a normal part of human living. Whatever the catalyst, it is our duty as spiritual guides to give the Divine the benefit of the doubt — that the Divine knows what it is doing and that such migration is in the service of the health and wholeness of the client. The shift from one point to another may be an exploratory phase, it may be a life change, or it may simply be a temporary resting point on the way to another point on the wheel."
Faith Styles

Deep Ecumenism

"An overarching assumption in this book is that no religious tradition is superior to any other. Every tradition is a valid and valuable expression of the Divine, couched in the cultural language and symbols of a certain people in a particular place and time. The Divine is Divinity no matter where you find it, but the cultural clothes in which Divinity is dressed are, to some extent, arbitrary. This is not to say that these arbitrary clothes are not beautiful, profound, soulful, or instructive. They are all of that, and more. They are unique, wise, relevant, grounded in the earth and human culture, and doubtless have great sentimental value for both adherents and sympathetic lookers-on. But every tradition also possesses its share of injustice, misogyny, prejudice, intolerance, and other evils. To ignore this reality and pretend otherwise is not honest.

"This book does not take a critical approach, yet neither does it exalt, idolize, or otherwise revere any particular expression of the Divine. They are all flawed, and they are all fabulous. They are all worthy expressions of spiritual life, and valuable guides on the journey. Every person must decide for him- or herself what sources of spiritual wisdom make sense to him or her, and we cannot effectively guide them if we allow our own prejudices to influence our guidance. This is no small feat. Nevertheless, it is what is required of us if we are to be truly interfaith spiritual guides. We must neither demonize nor romanticize religious traditions when we sit with our clients."
Noticing the Divine

Epistolary Guidance

"Epistolary spiritual guidance is not simply an artifact of history, however. It continues to be a very popular form of spiritual guidance, especially since the advent of e-mail. Like mentoring, epistolary spiritual guidance can be a formal or informal arrangement. Informal epistolary guidance is most common today, but this method is experiencing a rebirth as a formal practice.

"I myself have had three e-mail clients, and can attest from personal experience that it can be just as engaging and fulfilling as other forms of spiritual guidance. It is not for everybody, of course — no one form of spiritual guidance is — but for those who enjoy writing, and who benefit from the long periods between letters to ruminate over their replies, it can be a very effective form indeed."
Noticing the Divine

Sacred Stories

"Just as the native traditions provide for us an endless assortment of sacred stories that continue to speak to our lives today, so there is unfolding before us an equally endless variety of venues in which these sacred stories — including the sacred stories of our own lives — can be told and held with respect and compassion, and where meaning may be sought and made. The simple model of the circle of storytellers around the campfire has given way to a kaleidoscope of methods, yet the function has remained the same: to enter into sacred conversation, tell our stories, evoke the Divine, and draw near to the Heart of Heaven."
Noticing the Divine

Doing it Ourselves

"A gift of the Tao Te Ching is giving us not only words to describe our experiences, but illuminating what we already know. Lao-Tzu might be speaking specifically about a spiritual guide when he writes, 'The sage who leads says: "I practice 'not doing' and the people transform themselves. I enjoy peace and the people correct themselves. I stay out of their business affairs and the people prosper. I have no desires and the people, all by themselves, become simple and honest." '

"Lao-Tzu also advocates good spiritual guidance technique by suggesting that we let clients make their own discoveries. Instead of telling them what they need to know, it is far more effective for seekers themselves to make the associations and experience the epiphanies. As Lao-Tzu says, 'The best leader puts great value in words and says little, so that when his work is finished the people all say, "We did it ourselves!" ' "
Noticing the Divine

God, the Great Thief

"There is a wonderful story in the Desert Fathers. Some bandits come to raid the cave of one of the hermits. They hold the old man at knife point and tell him, 'We've come to take everything you own.' 'Take whatever you see,' says the hermit. So they pile everything they can find on their donkey and go on their way. But they unknowingly leave behind a little bag that had fallen behind a rock. Seeing the bag, the hermit picks it up and runs after them, shouting, 'Hey, you forgot this!'

"God is the Great Thief, ready to take all that is not Real. So when you are ready to hand back, with a smile, everything you have ever known, then we can get serious about this Detachment thing. Are you there yet?

"Don't worry. If you are serious about the spiritual path, if you are sincere and have brought your desire to God earnestly, then it is already underway. Quietly, slowly, in doses we can tolerate, God is revealing to us the unreality of our lives. We have only to decide whether we will cooperate, whether we are willing to let go of what's not Real. Usually we don't notice it, but God is working on us all the time. That's a comforting fact that you can trust."
Growing Into God

Quiet Deprivation

"It occurred to me that I felt utterly alone. I felt like someone had cut a hole in the sky and sucked God and everything sacred right out of the world. Once I was able to articulate that, I realized that God had not, in fact, been vacuumed out of the universe — thank goodness. I was just too busy to notice that he was there.

"At this realization, my whole body relaxed. I didn't have too much to do — I always have a lot of projects. The problem was I was too busy, which is a different thing altogether. Once I just stopped and noticed, made room for some Quiet, for God, everything shifted. As I relaxed, as I sank into Quiet, God showed up again. 'For God alone my soul waits in silence,' and the Lord was there. And then everything else seemed to fall into place, too. My overwhelm subsided and my calm returned.

"The mystics call this stage of Quiet 'Deprivation' and they describe it as a kind of death. And it is. It is death to the constant, obsessive busy-ness our culture insists upon. It is death to the illusion of the solitary soul. For when we wait in silence upon God, no matter how bad things seems, no matter how far away God seems to be, no matter how devoid of anything even remotely sacred the world seems, this silence brings with it a healing balm, an awareness of the 'goodness, deep down things,' as Hopkins put it. We gain an awareness of the presence of the Holy, whispering to us, if only we will listen, comforting us and telling us that 'all is well, all is well, and every manner of thing will be well.'

"Not only do we become aware of God's presence, we learn to enjoy that Presence. The Holy becomes not only noticeable, but comfortable, desirable, lovely — enjoyable. It may be hard to discern at first, but once we do, we can lean into it, indeed we lean on it."
Growing Into God

Getting Quiet

"Get quiet with a friend and by yourself. Ask a friend to go out into nature with you, and sit together for an hour in silence. Notice how it feels to be sitting with your friend without speaking. Notice how you can feel his or her presence even when you are not looking at him or her. Go for a walk and discuss what you noticed. A day or two later go out again and sit for the same amount of time by yourself. This time, however, focus on the fact that you are sitting with God, and keep your awareness focused on God's presence."
Growing Into God