Monday, February 7, 2011

Devotional reading 070211

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. It is great to have a day off after preaching in a weekend retreat. Praise God for speaking through me to this gathering of believers. Pray that God will continue to do His mighty work in the lives of these brothers and sisters that they will shine for Jesus in wherever they are. Praise the Lord!

Meditation is the laboratory of the soul. Like the physicist studying the atom, or a biologist working with the cell, or the psychologist trying to understand a complex, the person who turns inward learns about the realities that are found there, their patterns and how to relate to them. While this comes by experience, still one does not start from scratch, any more than a scientist would blithely forget everything in textbooks and try to reconstruct it all every time an experiment is performed. The scientist and the explorer in the spiritual world both need the accumulated wisdom of the past, even when it has to be questioned and sometimes brought up to date.

But one great difficulty in learning about the spiritual world today is that we have forgotten how to use much of the wisdom that is available to us. It often seems that the only place to go for guidance is to the Eastern religions which, it is true, can tell us much about our inner world. But when it comes to the practical effect of meditation on the things that are important in Western life, Eastern thought leaves a real gap. We are then faced with an undesirable choice. We can accept the Eastern idea that the outer reality of life is transitory or illusory and of no great value, or we can turn back to the standard values of our own world and go on leaving spiritual realities out of our calculations about the world that matters to us right now. What we in the West generally fail to realize is that we have another choice, although a difficult one, and that our task is to learn what our own tradition says about this question and then go ahead and try it out.

There are a few things, however, that all of us probably need to realize at die outset. First of all, a strong ego, a strong consciousness is indispensable if a person is to find relation to the spiritual world through meditation. Having an ego is not bad. It refers to having a strong and stable center of one’s personality. To go upon this way one has to give up the ego or self, and one cannot very well give up something that one does not have. The person who has never become established in the outer world is in no position to turn resolutely to the Risen Christ and allow Him to take direction. Our first obligation is to sink roots and find our point of view so that we are able to st? on course and take this kind of direction.

Much nonsense has been written about the spiritual world by people who were trying to open themselves to this realm before they were ready for it, without realizing that they were courting disaster. The most extreme example of this is the psychotic who encounters the spiritual realm…The psychotic has just as great religious experiences as anyone else, just as valid ones, but the problem is that he/she is not able to do anything about them except talk, having no life of his/her own into which such experiences could be integrated.

In taking this inner way of meditation, however, even the person with the strongest ego needs to realize that there are dangers, that one faces a vast world of contrasting and often conflicting realities. One might say that the mountains are higher, the oceans deeper, die colors even more vivid than in the physical world. Certainly the forces of light and darkness stand out far more clearly than we are accustomed to. And in the spiritual world we find not only greater beauty and creativity than in the physical one, but also the reality of destructiveness and ugliness, of evil itself.

One of the saddest misconceptions of the modern world is the notion that something which is spiritual must necessarily be good. In reality something can be truly evil through and through only when it is spiritual. It is usually in the spiritual world that such evil takes shape, when a subordinate or partial good takes over, pretends to be the central or the essential good, and becomes unmitigated evil. And there such evil is encountered, naked and direct, as the author of Ephesians described clearly when he wrote about putting “on all the armor which God provides, so that you may be able to stand firm against the devices of the devil. For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the super human forces of evil in the heavens” (New English Bible, Eph. 6:1).

The inner way, the way of meditation is dangerous. Any practice which brings us into contact with forces from the spiritual world in this way puts us into the middle of a mighty struggle. To enter this arena for curiosity or diversion can be disastrous. Indeed there is only one thing more dangerous than entering upon this way, and that is not entering it (assuming you have a developed ego), for you then allow the destructive forces free play. If you do not get into the battle yourself and try to stay in touch with the forces of light, you become a blind target. You allow the forces of destructiveness to enter and eat away at your own soul, or else you project them upon other colors or classes of persons. other races or other nations. Whomever the darkness seizes in this way becomes an instrument of destruction and cruelty, sometimes even sucking a whole nation into cruel and bloody acts.

I know of no way that this danger can be met and overcome except by the way of meditation, and this is not child’s play…the message of Christianity is that we will first try the inner way—dangerous as it is—and seek the kingdom God, we will find help on the road ahead. The way of Christianity, as we shall see, provides solutions, hope, and victory, and the Good News is for both outer world and the one we can find within…The spiritual world can be discovered and experienced by anyone who really wants to find it. One acquires this knowledge by making the same hypothesis that other have made, and then experimenting with life. Faith, on the other hand, is given; it is a gift of trust that one does not stand alone against the forces of darkness in that world, but will find them already in flight from the Powers of the Risen Christ. Faith is what gives one the confidence to go ahead and learn about the reality of that world, to use the practice of prayer and meditation to open oneself to it.

In Eastern mysticism or religious practices, we realize how the evil forces are at work in human souls. Without the power of the Risen Lord, genuine religious practitioners fell into the evil trap. The power of the evil forces are real and attractive to these practitioners. They appeal to the ego of human souls like Satan’s temptation to Eve in her first encounter of this spiritual reality, “once you eat this forbidden fruit, you will receive super-natural power like God.” Through prayer and meditation, we witness the reality of this kind of temptation battling within our inner world, but find assurance that the power of our Risen Lord has won the ultimate victory. We learn to submit to His Lordship and follow His guide, so that we can realize the beauty of our inner world in Christ that help shape our outer being. Praise God for His abiding presence that energizes our whole being each day.

With love in His victorious name,

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