Letter 33: Unity in relationships

It is interesting to see how the attitude of the scientist and the theologian have converged in some aspects. Perhaps one could say there are more mystics amongst scientists, than amongst present-day theologians? Carlo Rovelli, an theoretical physicist exploring quantum gravity, who is resolutely anti religion and definitely would never see himself as a mystic, says in all humility in his book Reality is not what it seems:“A scientist is someone who ….accepts the substantial uncertainty of our knowledge…..accepts living immersed in ignorance and, therefore, in mystery…..accepts living with questions to which we do not know the answers.Perhaps we don’t know them yet or – who knows – we never will. To live with uncertainty may be difficult…To accept uncertainty doesn’t detract from our sense of mystery. On the contrary: we are immersed in the mystery and the beauty of the world.” Couldn’t these words have been spoken by one of the many mystics we know? The beautiful sense of mystery and awe and wonder at the Divine creation was considered by the early Christians to be the first step on the spiritual path.

Also the emphasis on the total interconnectedness of everything in the Cosmos that his scientific research has shown him and his colleagues is found in all the mystical Wisdom traditions. The Buddha’s teaching gives us a beautiful image: “In the heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself, but involves every other object and in fact is everything else. In every particle of dust there are present Buddhas without number.” (Avatamsaka Sutra)

If we really take this thought on board we also need to keep in mind that our every action, desire and thought have an effect on the whole. Therefore meditation/prayer, leading to the actual experience of Universal Love, the energy that holds the whole Cosmos together, is vital. In the words of John Main: “In discovering his own spirit, man is led to his creative centre whence his essence is being emanated and renewed by the loving overflow of the life of the Trinity.”

The psychological result of this new worldview of unity in relationship is the sense that each one of us is therefore an important valuable part of the whole and personally responsible for everything we do and accountable for the effect our actions have on others and our environment. We may only be a small part, but as we well know, if one cell of the body goes awry and develops cancer, the body as a whole is affected. Meditation helps us experiencing that we are much more than just a separate identity; the ‘ego’ is only one pole of our personhood, our surface consciousness, with another essential part of our being, linked with everything else in creation, forming the other pole, our spiritual ‘self’. The spiritual path is about bringing these complementary aspects of our being together, integrating them and letting one infuse the other. Meditation is seen by many as an integral path to get in touch with our total being and all Being.

Another result is seeing oneself in the other. It is the foundation of understanding, respect and compassion for others and creation, rather than competition and exploitation. The mind shift needed, however, is often not so much informed by the mind as by the heart. It often comes at moments of crisis in the life we are leading or in our interpersonal relationships. With our mind we have turned away from our true self, but our heart retains intuitively the memory of ‘more’. Doubts, a vague feeling of dissatisfaction and of unease result in a longing, a deeper intuition, that there is more to life than we are experiencing at present. Questions like: ‘Is there a reality beyond the one I can see with my ordinary senses?’ ‘Who am I really beyond all the roles and masks life has given me?’ ’Why am I here?’ ‘What is my meaning and the meaning of life?’ ‘Who, what is the Divine?’ seem to exert their pull. Sometimes we are consciously aware of these questions and sometimes they motivate unconsciously our search for a deeper way of being.

At one level we do know that we are more than just producers and consumers. We do know there is no real enduring satisfaction or ultimate meaning in being a workaholic or a shopaholic. The pleasure afforded is often short-lived: the shopping bag is emptied and the contents soon forgotten. The firm that was our career and life, and where we thought we were indispensable, has ‘let us go’; or we retired, not even to be missed.

And yet many try to ignore these thoughts and feelings, we find them too unsettling, too difficult and we take refuge in more work, more shopping, more possessions, more parties, entertainment, television and all the aspects of the on-line world: “Human kind cannot bear very much reality” said T.S.Eliot in the Four Quartets. Meditation and the personal experiences flowing out of it is for John Main and many of us, the way through these unsettling emotions into clarity of thought and feeling.

Kim Nataraja