Editor’s Note: This essay also appears in a series of illustrated installments:
- Escape To Reality
- Reality is One
- Reality is Intelligent
- The Manifold Appearance of Reality
- A Body You Have Prepared For Me
- Hidden In Plain Sight
- Jesus Is Calling…
- Reconciled To God
The entire essay, without illustrations, appears below…
One Life Divine
For those who truly live within the Christian tradition, this paragraph from the The Roman Catholic Catechism offers a beautiful schematic representation of the REALITY of human existence:
813 The Church is one because of her source: “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” The Church is one because of her founder: for “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, … restoring the unity of all in one people and one body.” The Church is one because of her “soul”: “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.” Unity is of the essence of the Church.
While some elements of this schematic may seem (at first glance) exclusive and sectarian, the TRUTH to which it points is, in the words of St. Augustine, common to all and chaste to each:
[Truth] welcomes all her lovers who are in no way envious for her, and is common to all and chaste to each one ( On Free Choice, book 2, chapter 14).
It is common to all and yet there is no guarantee it will be seen simply because we confess the name of Christ (or are baptized; or adopt a Christian creed; or believe as we are told regarding Jesus or the Bible). Conversely, this same truth seems to be intuited by many who are not all inclined to say, “Lord, Lord” — whether they prefer to remain nominally unaffiliated, perhaps; or whether they have been born and raised in another tradition, entirely, and have hardly heard the name of Christ.
To be sure, the meaning of the word “Church” cannot be restricted to any organized, institutional religious body; and the precise meaning of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” may remain somewhat elusive. Nevertheless, whatever the circumstances in which we find ourselves– whether we are nominal Christians or not; whether we are ignorant of this tradition or not –the Truth toward which it points is nonetheless universal. It can be summarized as follows:
- Reality is One
- Reality is Intelligent
- Reality Appears Manifold
Let us examine each one in turn:
1. Reality is One. In Christian terms, God is One–the source of all things and, as such, supremely worthy of our love.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 KJ 2000).
“I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it” (Isaiah 45:5-8).
One of the scribes came near and . . . asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:28-30; cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
Not only does Jesus acknowledge God to be One– and to be supremely worthy of our love –he refers to God very intimately as his Father. Moreover, he refers to himself as being the only point of access to the Father, with whom, he goes to say, he is One:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (John 14:6-10).
I and my Father are One (John 10:30)
- Reality is One, but can be conceived as the source of all that appears;
- Reality is supremely worthy of our love;
- and that which reveals Reality to us– our point of contact with Reality –is, in fact, One with Reality.
2. Reality is Intelligent. Reality is intelligent inasmuch as it is both Conscious and Creative. In Christian terms, Christ, who is One with the Father, is also portrayed as the Divine Intelligence (Gk. Logos) through which the power of God is manifest in Creation:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3 KJ 2000).
In these last days [God] has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:1-3).
This is consistent with the oft quoted Psalm which also emphasizes the revelatory nature of creation:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Psalms 19:1-4 KJ2000).
Thus, Reality is Intelligent – Conscious and Creative. And this Conscious, Creative Intelligence reveals itself, through its own activity, to be both the source of all things and to be supremely worthy of our love.
3. Reality Appears Manifold. Reality– which is One Creative Intelligence –does not create something outside and apart from itself. It is not extrinsic to (and merely reflected in) creation. Rather, there is a sense in which Reality actually projects itself, by means of its own creative intelligence, into an apparent world of time, space, and matter. The resulting creation is simultaneously a Divine incarnation and revelation which ultimately comes to light as the dwelling place of God among human beings: One Body — Many Members — Bound Together in the Unity of the Spirit:
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many (I Corinthians 12:12-14).
We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another (Romans 12:5).
So then . . . you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God (Ephesians 2:19-21).
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Moreover, the incarnation of God into this manifold unity, referred to as the body of Christ, ultimately extends to the whole of creation:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:18-21).
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ (Ephesians 1:9-12 KJ 2000).
And while the texts, above, may appear to relegate the true life and unity of creation to the future (and, per chance, to wishful thinking), their future aspect makes perfect sense when speaking to those who do not feel reconciled to God and who do not realize the union that exists between themselves and the whole of creation. Indeed, Paul himself indicates that the truth and being of creation, which appears in time to be manifold and subject to decay– but which we know by faith, to be One in Christ and eternal –is revealed to us, here and now, through the Spirit of God which he describes as the earnest of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). This is the same Spirit which, in the fourth gospel, we are told will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Paul elsewhere writes:
“as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. . . . we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:9-12, 16).
And thus having the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ,
“we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
By faith, then, we dwell in the kingdom, here and now, trusting in and relying on this timeless, living REALITY which is always at hand; within us; among us–whatever the future may hold (Matthew 3:2; Luke 17:20-21).
Having said all this, it must be stressed that the map, is not the territory–just as the word “water” is not the substance that quenches our thirst. All of the above are just words, words, and more words until the Reality toward which they point is seen–the Intelligent Creative Reality in which these words are appearing, here & now. In the words attributed to St. Francis, “What we are looking for is what is looking.”
As such, the essence of this Reality is the light of the World that is hidden in plain sight! It is not a concept to be grasp or a doctrine to confess, but is, rather, the Way, the Truth, and the Life that we ARE– in Christ –in the unity of the Spirit. It is the “I Am” presence which animates the whole of our experience. It is THIS REALITY which can only be realized by forgetting the little “me” and its fictional story-line (full of imaginary hopes and fears; trying to redeem its past and secure its future); and by abiding here and now in the aware presence and alert stillness that binds everyone and everything together– the aware presence and alert stillness that we are –the Conscious, Creative Reality that I Am.
Although hidden in plain sight, this Way is seen by relatively few and seems quite difficult at first:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
But with just a glimpse of ______________________, a choice appears to open up.
1) We can continue on our separate way, pursuing an illusory vision in which we imagine ourselves, in time, to be securing our good and avoiding our evil (conceived of as separate and distinct from God, from other human beings, and from the whole of creation).
~ OR ~
2) We we can recognize the light of the World as the narrow gate which has been there all along, but which for any number of reasons has been neglected or rejected:
“This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:20-24; cf. John 14:6-7).
This narrow gate is the Conscious, Creative Reality in which we live and move and have our being. This Reality– here & now –is the Way, the Truth and the Life that is available to all, but almost universally neglected. Like the prodigal son in the parable, we have left our Father’s house and are foolishly lost in thought. But Jesus calls to us as follows:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Simply notice the aware presence or alert stillness that you are (prior to and in between each thought that arises–in the silence between each breath you breathe; in the stillness between each heartbeat). Consider, in this light, Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6 to “take no thought”:
- Take no thought for your life… (v.26 KJ 2000)
- Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (v.27)
- And why take you thought for clothing? (v.28)
- Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or How shall we be clothed? . . . your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (vs.31,32,33)
- Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought of the things for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (v.34)
For those who respond to his call and heed his admonition, he prays:
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us . . . The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one” (John 17:21,22,23).
With just a bit of reflection, it soon becomes clear that our sense of separation, along with our idea of a past that must be justified (or redeemed) and a future that must be secured is indeed, a shadowy illusion. If and when we have had enough of this prodigal adventure, we are always free to turn toward the light and leave the shadows behind us. We need not fear that we are unworthy–the Father is always alert for our safe return and always pleased to welcome us home (cf. Luke 15:11-24); the light of the world is always on for us–as is obvious to anyone who has the presence of mind to look for his appearing. Indeed, the scriptures proclaim this truth in a variety of ways:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23)
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men . . . the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world” (John 1:4,9).
And as is so often the case, we find this New Testament truth clearly anticipated in the Psalms:
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
As indicated above, this is consistent with our understanding of God as the One in whom we live and move and have our being:
“Indeed he is not far from each one of us. . . . as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring’” (Acts 17:27-28).
As such, if we continue to turn away from Him, it is only because we are not yet willing or able to receive the grace that is proffered:
Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe (John 6:32-36).
“If you knew the gift of God . . . you would have asked [me] and [I] would have given you living water . . . Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:10, 14)
Not everyone, it seems, is willing to trust and rely on that which is universally present. Not everyone, it seems, is able to receive the gift of God.
The true light, which enlightens everyone . . . was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him (John 1:9-11).
“The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19).
To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).
Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. Whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17)
For those who do, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children (Revelation 21:1-7; cf. 11:15).