Stretching Christianity

At an enjoyable meeting yesterday evening when we listened to the Eckhart Tolle ‘Awakening in the Now’  DVD .. we listened to about half of it and in it Tolle twice speaks of Jesus’ sayings: one is that famous verse from John 10 v 10 that he comes to bring us life in all its fullness or abundance.  Tolle equates this to living in the present moment which is essentially non dualistic. I find Tolle who ascribes to no particular faith or religion – for him these would be mere forms and thought forms or objects that can obscure living in the present moment – ‘speaks to my condition’ as the Quaker George Fox put it. And as my condition is Christian his words nurture that experience. Someone else at the meeting, a Buddhist suggested that I was stretching Christianity. I think he meant that Christianity is an I-Thou religion and in that sense dualistic. Certainly the forms of Christian worship strengthen that perception but they also obscure the deep mystical tradition found in the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the medieval mystics and the Spanish mystics. Thomas Merton wrote about crossing the Red Sea of separation. He is saying that we have to cross the abyss that separates our surface consciousness from the deep realms of the spiritual unconscious (note the psychoanalytic terminology he uses -this offers for me an added richness to his thinking). He continues that when we cross over we become our true self but at this point all dualistic language breaks down as who is it that crosses the abyss? For of course there is no crossing over and no one who crosses. The true self simply IS … it was always there and had to be awakened.  Which is what Tolle is also saying.

As Merton writes from the Christian tradition he sees our subjectivity moving towards union with God – what he calls a state of radical dependency… knowing ourselves we know God. Now that’s the stretching to which we are invited to surrender.