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Father Thomas Keating: Complete Interview

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global oneness project A Talk with Father Thomas Keating - Oneness and the Heart of the World - Boulder, CO In oneness, I think we can say, there are many onenesses. That is to say, this oneness maifests itself, or we come across it in almost infinite number of ways. While it always remains, in a sense, the same, it is always a different oneness. Perhaps this is because God is always happening. Some theologies think of God as a kind of static or abstract of one kind or another. An this is useful information as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. [audience laughter] For instance, God is so dynamic, it goes so fast that you can never see him. In other words, He's always on the move, faster than light, which is pretty fast. And perhaps that's why Elijah on the mountain only saw him from behind. [audience laughter] He'd already gone by [more laughter] And so this is one problem to address something Lewellen said, you certainly need to remember God in every moment. But it also has certain difficulties in doing so and one is the speed at which God goes by. You can't catch him, and yet there's nothing to catch because He's already here. Otherwise, it goes by so fast, that by the time you take a peek, He's already back here. [audience laughter] So they say that God is change-less. That's the old theology. But it would be better to say, I think, that God is changeless, but what doesn't change is, He's always changing. [Keating laughs] So at every moment this oneness is offered to us in a different way, in a new way. A charming way, sometimes a difficult way, sometimes a challenging way. But everything, then, from this contemplative perspective, or at least from the perspective of a cosmic consciousness, we're sensitive or alert to this dynamism in which God seems to be constantly playing hide-and-seek and seeing if we can catch up with him, or see him, or spot him in a new set of circumstances. So human experience needs to be very diverse in order to adjust to the diversity in which God is oneness. This is especially significant, it seems to me, in the process of contemplative prayer for which centering proposes Or, some other word...I'm thinking of the various ways in which silence overtakes us in prayer. And silence refers of course to both our desires as well as to our words and thinking. It's not that we have no desires, or no words and no thinking. But that we see them as simply symbols of this oneness that is approaching us without a name or invitation. So there's no way to grasp what is always happening, because as soon as you do, you're unable to open your hand fast enough to receive the next gift of God. So that, how to grasp something with your hands always open is the paradox of prayer. One of the things that is so interesting about Zen is, at least in my view, is that it approaches oneness through each of the five senses, and through a number of other ways too. Now the Buddhists here are welcome to contradict me when we get to the questions, or correct me, I should say. It was a significant experience I had with Zen, with Joshu Sasaki of Mount Baldey who is now over a hundred, and doing well, gives me some hope for the future. [clears throat, audience laughs] But the coins, at least he gave me consisted of going through each of the senses. and losing, or trying to lose, expressing your loss of, is perhaps the best expression... of the I am seeing, I am hearing, I am tasting, I am...what the other senses are [laughter] Touching, touching and smelling. It might be interesting to remember that one of the most important of the spiritual senses of which external sense experience are kind of metaphors or pointers is the sense of smell. So when you say to somebody, "You're a stinker," [laughter] It's really a compliment. [more laughter] In the spiritual sense of smell, smelling is the first mystical experience, according to some of the fathers of the church who ellaborated on this in the early centuries of Christianity. But...if you could think of a room that is celebrating an anniversary, your birthday, your marriage, or something else, and your dearest friends have provided this enormous bouquet of roses But they are hiding it behind the sofa in your living room, and so when you come in it's kind of a surprise party. Before they show you the roses, all you can do is smell this fragrance, but without being able to identify where it comes from. But there's an inevitable spontaneous reaction towards this delicious odor that is emitting from somewhere. It may fill the room, or it may be somewhat localized, but it's the attraction to something that you can't see or hear that is delightful in it's own way. So the attraction for silence or solitude.. I'm not referring to all the time, but the attraction that provides most faithful meditators with the motivation to keep going back, rain or shine, is this faith driven and love smitten desire to embrace the roses, or at least to investigate where this delicious smell is coming from. And so this smell doesn't involve the external sense of smell, and so in periods of prayer when you don't want to go there, when you have other things to do, or when its a dry period or when its a very challenging period, or when you are unloading the conscience like a sewer [laughter] The roses, the mystical roses are still smelling. And what they are giving you is the healing of the unconscious... ...the oneness of attraction without seeing an without full satisfaction. Another sense that is very important is the awakening of the third eye, which is faith. Faith becoming not just an acceptance of belief systems of one kind or another, however enlightened, but rather the movement of trust in the mystery, in the ultimate reality. In the oneness, dimly perceived, and perceived not even as oneness, but nevertheless, enabling one, little by little, to be sensitive to the divine prescence in all creation and in every detail. And in all the quarks in particle physics if you could see a microscope. We have to remember that this God who is always happening is relating to everything that happens too. Take our own body at every level of our being, God is in relationship with that level. In other words, with our atoms, he's an atom, with our molecules, he's a molecule, an all the way up to human consciousness, and then the highest states of consciousness God is simply relating in a new kind of oneness that is more integral and accurate and just includes all the others. So that the other that Lewellen has referred to before, is not just us, but it is everything in us and everything in creation that God has made, or that is evolving, and to other happenings, we don't know quite how, but there's all kinds of evidence that it is happening and that human beings, especially, are the focus of the realization of this oneness, and for the first time in creation, or since the Big Bang, at least. In other words, we're moving into oneness, a oneness that we already have but at various levels of our being , and hence we're aware of the oneness in different ways, and in different intensities, and in different levels, and able to respond as our awareness of this presence keeps evolving. The presence keeps expanding, becoming more penetrating, more enveloping, more involved with each of our bodily mental, physical, and spiritual activities or capacities. So we are always experiencing this oneness. But when does it become that something thats descibed as their being no other? This is something that maybe we could talk about tomorrow after a good night's sleep. [laughter] Is it realistic to talk about experience of no other that is really very advanced, and has few, as far as we know from reports, people who actually experienced it as a permanent state of awareness Now this doesn't in any way deny the distinction between God and us, which is infinite. It does deny the separation and so this is why all spiritual wisdom is so paradoxical. We say that the ultimate reality is not this, not that, well what the heck is it then? [laughter] That God is not one, not two...It's because we can't in our human empowerment , at least does of now in human spiritual evolution, encompass two infinitely opposing reality and resolve them within our own consciousness at the same time so that they become one. All of these levels of human potentiality have to be gradually transcended without omitting any one of these steps in between. So that our transformation is integral, because it's not just our spirit that is being transformed but it's the whole of our human nature, including our social side. So our happiness, or our oneness is somewhat dependent on everybody else being one too. The human family is one, it is one species, what happens to you happens to me, my virtues are yours... or I should say, my vices are yours, and your virtues are mine. [laughter] Everything is held in common and everybody is equal, and there's a good deal of evidence, certainly the Buddhists think that all creatures are one, every living thing is our brother, our sister, or us, so this commonality is totally against the present ideas as Lewellen pointed out, the individualism that penetrates western culture and probably all the other cultures as they become westernized to. So what does that mean? It means that since the enlightenment, which itself was a reaction to over-dependence on communities, and droves, and groups, that was necessary to overcome that. But now its gone so far that it is hard for people to feel their solidarity or oneness with others, and without that we don't perceive the oneness of God in everybody else, it's not just a private project. Transformation, however wonderful, and however powerfully it contributes to the transformation of others, still remains incomplete. Christianity, this is called the mystical body of Christ. Some of the members are fairly new, fairly immature, or downright damaging, have a virus or something else. This is a living happening, a living thing that is going on, but its an insight, not only to the oneness of all humans but no one has ever believed it yet. In other words, as humans, as we approach, lets not claim to be fully rational yet, we are moving in that direction, technology manifests it, but we are very far from having intregrated the lower forms, or the previous levels of life that we pass through as a human race , and that each of us, more or less, recapitulates, in the development stage of infancy, so we've been in the magical stage that our ancestors have been in and feel represented in the population I guess, and we've been over-identified with our group, with this mythic membership. And we've begun to access rational consciousness, but in any crisis, its easy to slip back in what we know, to conflict the problem, rather than respond in a fully human way. This is where any means we can use to remember God's presence in us and in everybody else and how many ways God presents himself to us, and how direct and immediate all of the possibilities of this communion. In other words, God really wants to live our human life if we allow Him, in us, with us, and for us. And so, just to complete a look at the senses in regard to contemplative prayer that I started to describe there is also listening or hearing. How do you manifest God when you hear something? Cohen would say just hear it, answer with your experience. But as long as there is a reflective I am saying, I am having this experience of listening. Its not it, its not oneness, its twoness, its duality, and this is the battle ground between the movement from duality, into non-duality which is the area in which otherness not only becomes the other, but is the other. More intimate, even than listening, in which we are kind of vibrating to the initial word of God that started all creation and being, so that as we enter into silence, its not words that you are using to respond to this presence or the eternal word, but rather the vibrations of your own brain and heart, to the mysterious hum of the universe. As you know, the Hubble Telescope picked up this hum and even took a picture of the first moment after the Big Bang. It is a reminder that science today is telling us what the mystics have said, that scientific language that it is often as profound and mystical without realizing that there certainly is time to realize that science is that other book of revelation that Christians have always believed was an accompaniment of the Bible and equally a revelation of the ultimate mystery. Touch is that spiritual experience in which in prayer, one feels enveloped in the divine presence. It descends upon us, or we are embraced by it, or it rises up from the ground of being within us as a mysterious but real atmosphere of attentiveness, sweetness, and surrender. Finally, the most intimate of the mysical experiences seems to be taste. In which we receive so to speak, the kiss of God in our innermost being spirit who is the most sweet kiss of the Father and the Son in trinitarian terms, pours into our innermost being, the fire, the light, the life, and the love of the trinitarian exchange of total self surrender in their relationship of unconditional and infinite love. which is the ultimate source of creation of the universe. What God is doing in any metaphor of spiritual taste is asking us to receive the spirit as he breathed on the disciples, poured into their hearts, interestingly enough, appropriately. The Sunday for Christians is the feast of Pentacost which is pinnacle of all of the mysteries of Christ's life, and teaching in which the love of God that is communicated between the Father and the Son, internally in the Holy Spirit is really and truly transmitted through the gift of the Spirit in the form of divine breath or wind, both of which are words for the Holy Spirit in some of those biblical languages. There's one final, since the onenesses are many maybe its adventurous to say one final Perhaps this can be communicated by this story, which it seems to me the Buddhists writer has captured exactly I don't know Buddhist numerology well enough to know what that means. And they met on Vulture Peak, and there's the Buddha, chose a lotus as you know, a very important symbol of human transformation in the Buddhist and Hindu tradition, and so, somewhat like a eucharistic celebration, he raised this lotus flower and all the monks and nuns, I presume, gazed upon this symbol of unity and spiritual oneness and forgot themselves, or lost themselves in the deepest silence of communion with the absolute and with each other. and because of their number, the intensity of the divine communication was unsurpassed. And as this deep silence trickled deeper and deeper into the innermost being of all those monks, one of the senior monks standing beside the Buddha, perhaps fanning flies or something to keep them away, so he went into this bellowing of laughter that resounded off the mountain peaks and shocked all of the monks into a spiritual stupor. So that their silence of the spiritual kind was utterly shattered. So, as he lowered the lotus, the laughter subsided. He turned to this senior student and he gave him the fullness of the darma. That is to say, the ultimate enlightenment. Of course, the Zen people never tell you what it means. [audience laughter] And so, I speak certainly as someone less wise, but I have my ideas, so I'll share it with you [more laughter] That's exactly what it means when you say there is no other. In other words, the divine oneness is so unique, no word, no concept can come anywhere close to it. Nor can any experience, even the highest kinds in this life, and probably in the next. In other words, its so transcendent and imminent at the same time, that it blows you away. The only possible response when that experience of oneness has reached its peak, is to laugh. Nothing is sacred compared to this experience, however sacred we try to make it. It just means God is. There's nothing else to say or do in that, and yet at the same time, this very experience, because of God's infinite diversity, its the source of every true ministry, or service, or love, or heroism. But the acts are nothing compared to the source, to the love that just is and is always happening. Nothing can take anything away from it, nothing can add to it. It is into this reality that we poor little creatures barely evolve from the vegetables and the animals. [audience laughs] If you believe it, what does that say about the ultimate myth? It must be that God is so humble, he doesn't want to be God. He's ready to throw it all away. Of course, in Christian terms, this is what the incarnation means. Paul says explicitly the Son of God didn't consider being equal to God. Something to hang on to; the hell with it. [audience and Keating laugh] That means that God is so close, that nobody is uninvited to this banquet of divine love no matter who the hell you are, or what you have done. Hope, the theologic hope, is not about the past, whether you did well, it doesn't matter, whether you did sins. Its not a future because we don't know whether that will exist. Its right now. God, the ulimate host , is offering us this hospitality, which goes to the extent of giving himself away totally to each of us on condition that we consent. So in this perspective, being is more important than doing. Being is more apostolic or evangalized, to use those terms, than silence. Sacrifice is the meaning of this universe. In heaven, the total giving away of all that one has is delightful. In this world, its hell. [audience laughs] But you can't change God. The dynamic of manifesting this infinite humility of God involves the total loss of self. Not just the false self, but of any attachment to an identity that is not God. If reincarnation really exists, its not us who are being reincarnated, but Christ, or whatever term you have for God.

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Duration: 34 minutes and 41 seconds
Country: Andorra
Language: English
Views: 2,212
Posted by: global on May 14, 2008

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