Commentary

A new spirituality

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We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience– Teilhard de Chardin

There was a time when being worldly ruined one’s reputation. The implication covered various levels of the social structure—persons of ill repute, social butterflies, bohemians, fun lovers, even whores. They were all sinners for the world was evil and to denounce it was to be a good Christian.

“Pleasure” was a bad word, so Christians were admonished to make sacrifices, to practice self-denial, so as to strengthen their resolve against the world’s corrupt and evil elements. Suffering translated into an imitation of Christ’s agony and the saints’ immolation that led to their sanctification. Life on earth was a prelude to a life after death where pure joy awaited the faithful in heaven, our real home.

In my youth, I took these teachings very seriously because I believed they were a mandate from God through the authority of the Church. I was determined not to die in a state where I could end up in an infernal hole along with the dregs of humanity. Thus fearful, I became a model Roman Catholic, attentive to the rules and regulations imposed by my religion, and obeyed most of God’s 10 commandments as well as the Church’s five commandments.

Because I believed that availing oneself of all the sacraments of the Church earned for one an abundance of grace, I wanted to incorporate all seven into my spiritual life. But I wasn’t ready then for matrimony, wasn’t eligible for holy orders, and had to be dying for extreme unction. So I added to my sufferings and self-denials.

Lent was the best time to suffer—a gesture of sympathy and compassion for the crucified Christ. I abstained from fun activities like reading, socializing  and listening to the radio, unless it was tuned in to the Seven Last Words. The priests who delivered the message of Christ’s passion and death had the skill of drama for a performance that would bring the faithful to tears of compassion and repentance. I was among the weepers.

“Fasting and abstinence on the days appointed” was a golden rule, penance and communion were etched on my calendar, and even matrimony, had my parents allowed it, at the age of 12. I would walk on my knees from the main entrance of a huge church down the middle aisle to the altar, relishing the discomfort for suffering reduced the possibility of hell.

I went through many inanities in the practice of my religion for I totally believed in the Church, fully trusting that whatever it declared as truth was a mandate from the Holy Spirit. It was unthinkable that ecclesiastical pronouncements could be fabricated by God’s representatives.

We were born with a huge debt to pay, an original sin inherited from Eve who, to our misfortune, chose to eat the apple. This is the fall/redemption doctrine where a redeemer became a prerequisite for souls to be accepted in heaven.

Today when many humans have evolved beyond the mundane and inane, there is a glaring need for a new kind of spirituality. And a number of visionaries with distinctive credentials have visualized new forms of spiritualism like the “Cosmic Christ,” “original blessings,” and “creation spirituality,” from which we can draw precepts to suit our own needs.

Chardin spoke of an integration of nature and science for Christ is “as big as the universe and we are all living cells in this huge organism—the Cosmic Christ. Our species occupies a special place in the spiritual Universe and is evolving towards an omega point—the goal of humankind.”

Mathew Fox, a theologian and a member of the Dominican order for 34 years, graduated summa cum laude from the Institut Catholique de Pari with a PhD in spirituality. He is considered heir to Chardin because of a similarity in their doctrines. But his “creation spirituality” is focused on deep ecumenism—an acceptance of other spiritual traditions like Buddhism, Sufism, Judaism and Native American spirituality.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, expelled Fox from the Dominican order for his unorthodox Catholic theology—for example, his original blessings (life is a blessing, begins with goodness, compassion and creativity in the heart of the universe) vis à vis the Church’s fall/redemption teaching. Fox is now a member of the Episcopal Church.

What does this new spirituality tell us? How do we integrate it into our spiritual life, inured as we are in the practice of rituals and conventional prayers that we recite automatically?

I have translated my religion into a way of life in lieu of a ceremonial form of worship. Accepting people the way they are, without bias as to religion, race, sexual inclination, imperfections, etc. is the real meaning of Christianity.

Love, compassion and generosity should take precedence in our relationship with our neighbors. Substituting rituals, prayers and novenas for moral obligations has been a way of life for Christians for centuries. My neighbor, who gathers her family every night to pray the rosary, will terrorize the neighborhood with her crabbiness the morning after, while her children engage in crime.

Our prayers can be an intimate relationship with God, our own composition that gives meaning to our lives. For me, silence is a prayer, as are dancing and singing or gazing up at the stars and wondering at the immensity of the universe, realizing that we are all one with God in a cosmic experience that never fails to blow the mind.

Carmelita Roxas Natividad describes herself as a retired mother and active grandmother who likes to write, garden, and bake, in that order.

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  • buninay1

    Rat vs. Fox. Rat won.

  • Eustaquio Joven

    Evolution. It’s dynamic, and has no end.

  • josh_alexei

    And sometimes I wonder why we were all born with the organ between our two ears called brains, perhaps to think and rationalize things and the wonders of being for ourselves instead of wondering how others did them for themselves. We may or might end doing it better than them, matter not if we do not have a Ph D in something…

  • Jun F Teoxon

    Congrats to Mrs. Natividad for coming of age spiritually. She has evolved from being a devout follower of institutional Christianity into an individual with a broader, universal outlook that embraces all. May your breed increase! Incidentally, Mrs. Asuncion David Maramba has written in a similar vein ‘Spiritual but not religious’ which appeared in this section last summer.

  • perpetual7

    True, true believers wake up one morning in their lives to discover those unthinkable rites, pronouncements, practices and beliefs that are mere fabrication of men who represent God. But false, the clergy do not represent God though they can pray to God like any believer can; and another false, Catholicism is not Christianity.

    And if their deeds had muddled the understanding of the testaments, it was the searcher that was lost but His love remains, the majesty of His ways live on and the immense treasure of His wisdom awaits. Martha, Martha…

    • Eelap

      We are all perpetual beings. Jesus proved it. Search the net about afterlife topics and you will enjoy it.

      • perpetual7

        You mean search the wisdom of God in the bible or seach it thru the bible in the net and we will treasure it.

      • Eelap

        I mean the topic about life after death. It is more on research and testimonies, less on the religious side.

  • Mang Teban

    In my view, faith in God is not cosmic spirituality.

    Whatever spiritual or religious or philosophical influences one person has, it is all about that person and his/her fellow human beings and a Divine Being.

    Instead of copying or trying to imitate some well-known personality or mystic person who prescribes his own “spirituality”, it is not of any help at all to the wannabee.

    Faith is a personal decision to experience God who is unseen.

    But, just because Teilhard de Chardin postulated that “we are spiritual beings having a human experience”, we can interpret it to mean that -“wow, we are spirits in a human body”. Somehow, this kind of philosophy has been proven to be untrue.

    We are born with a body and a spirit. The spirit lives on and leaves the body that remains upon death and “turns into dust.” The spirit is given the same form of body in the afterlife but is either sent to eternal salvation or to eternal damnation. Hence, all our spiritual experiences on Earth are with the human body intact. No, we are not spiritual beings in this temporal world. We become spiritually pure or impure upon our death. Those who are sent by God to become spiritually pure are also called saints (canonized or not, they are with God in Heaven).

    The influences of other beliefs that speak of some cosmic experiences can really be intriguing and brings out curiosity for the uninformed. It is like imagining wonderment in some space and time. What for? God sent his only begotten Son to live among us as true human being, but Jesus was also true God. Why make another story for God’s plan of salvation for mankind? I think that it is a waste of time to do that. For so long through the history of man, many mystics mesmerized some people to believe in some phenomenon only to regret that there is another version that contradicts the first one. It shall go on and on like a cycle without truthful purpose.

    • Eelap

      Have you tried reading enough books about life after death? You might try to do so.

      • Mang Teban

        Please do not mislead me into believing that all books tell the truth. As a matter of fact, I would rather believe what is factual as in the Word of Life with Christ Jesus showing us about himself as the Resurrection. I have read some books on life after death as accounts of those who claim to have returned from dying. I believe some of them because there speak of a strong correlation of their testimonies with the experiences of “life after death” as those who rose from the dead in the scriptures. For example, the one that Elijah asked God to bring back to life of the only son of a widow lying dead after the widow fed the prophet Elijah. Similarly, Jesus saw a funeral procession of a young man, only son of another widow, where Jesus took compassion and stopped the procession to bring back the life of the dead youth. These are not imaginations but real historical accounts that Jews and Christians take to heart as evidence of the power of God. If you are referring to paranormal experiences, that is another thing that I would gingerly handle and not grab right away as factual.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Eelap never intimidated that all books tell the truth. He merely suggested that you might widen your perspective by reading some books related to the subject. We are free to believe in anything we want to, even the Bible. If and when Bible based preachers speak as one, I too might believe in it once more.

      • Eelap

        My gratitude to you brother.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        The favor, if it’s one, was meant for Mang Teban. You’re welcome, anyway.

      • Mang Teban

        I wasn’t inclined to respond to you because I respect your views and did not want to lengthen the discussion. However, I thought that you might as well hear from me what I think of the Bible.

        Aside from our freedom to believe, there is free will.
        If you believe that the Bible is useful but still do not will to live your life according to its teachings, your freedom has began and stopped from believing – perhaps with your mind and eyes and heart. Such has been described by Jesus as seeds that fell on rock, weeds, or shallow soil.

        But, if you believe in the teachings of the Bible and do something to amend your life to be that in accordance with the will of God, then, alleluia, you are a true disciple (follower) of God. Naturally, it is done overnight. It takes time and sometimes, you fall back. You got to stand up again and move with more determination.

        If you feel offended or suspect something is wrong with the preachings of some preachers, that is normal. What is more significant is that you seek God’s help through prayer. This way no one can influence you except yourself to keep open to the voice that shall speak through your heart and soul.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        This way no one can influence you except yourself to keep open to the voice that shall speak through your heart and soul.

        ——————–

        I don’t see anything wrong in being influenced by another. His voice could be that of God’s speaking through my heart and soul. He could even be you. I think Jesus’ message is clear on this when He spoke about love. Now, need we still join the cacophony of sounds that emanate from the Bible?

      • Mang Teban

        You may join the cacophony of the gnashing of teeth from the world of the dead who regret too late that they made malicious and sarcastic remarks only to find out that they were wrong.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        I was born and raised as an RC. Therefore, I was daily tormented by the specter of hell. What if I die with a mortal sin? Masasayang ba ang lahat na pinaghirapan ko? I insured myself from that by taking 9 consecutive first Friday communions. Our parish priest assured us that as a reward, we will be given a chance to repent and be forgiven before we die. I hope you are as assured.

      • Mang Teban

        There is no middle ground, I believe, for following our Lord God. However, God is a merciful and forgiving Divine Being ..there is no need to have a “daily torment of hell” as you mentioned.
        Just say Yes if you mean Yes; No if you mean No.
        Thus, if you receive Christ in the communion and sincerely believe that you have been forgiven because you have asked His forgiveness sincerely, then you have nothing to fear. It is a daily struggle though to resist falling into sin again. We are all tempted and run the risk of falling down again and again. Despite our sinfulness though, our God knows our inner selves. Because of our limitations, our God comforts us with His graces. Jesus has assured us that if we are weary with this world, all we have to do is “cast our burdens upon Him and He will give us rest”.

        A holy time in prayer with God, fasting to give up our comforts to resist evil and temptations; and doing good works or giving alms (or helping those in need) are the fundamental acts we can do anytime in our lives. Not difficult to do, is it not? Pray, fast, and do good works.

        His reward comes because we mean exactly what we say in prayer to Him. I am not sure where God will send my soul after I die. What I am sure though is that God listens now and forever. Not only at the moment of our last breath.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        God is a merciful and forgiving Divine Being.
        ————————–
        Has He already forgiven Adam and Eve? How about those who lived and died before Christ’s coming… Were their sins washed away too by Christ’s blood? Or were they forever condemned because of their original sin? Was Noah and Moses exempted from original sin? if not, how were they “saved” if ever.

      • Diepor

        Were is the historical account that Jesus brought people back from the dead? The bible is not facts, just stories. In your mind can snakes talk like in the garden of eden. I really hope you will recover and again be a rationale person with a sound mind.

      • Mang Teban

        Oh, you had misunderstood the story of Adam and Eve and the snake as a real account. No, it was a commonly-used literary device meant to make the early believers (particularly the Israelites) have a firm grasp of the relationship between man and God. Essentially, therefore, it was effective as parents relate to children the same story of humans created to be inherently good but are sidetracked by the Devil (who is real, alive and kicking until this day) and most of us fall into the snares of the Enemy (the Devil) and move away from the One who is Good. You probably learned that God did not make us robots and clueless non-thinking individuals that practically would have made us not needing help at all. Sadly, cynics and atheists think this way – they believe God does not exist and what for when there is evil around this world. Do you feel this way, too, like them?
        Next, the matter of the resurrection of the dead depends entirely to you. Do you want to live after this life on earth? Or, do you think like others who believe there is no other life after we die? If you believe in the resurrection, you have hope. Where do you suppose your soul will go if you have done evil and have not asked help from God? But, I can ascertain that God shall reward you if you have done good and have remained faithful to the commands from God.
        Again, if you do not care about the scriptures or the historical accounts on the life of Jesus on this planet, then it is really pointless to make you believe that the Bible speaks of the truth.

      • Diepor

        Is there any historical accounts that state he could bring people back from death? I mean other than the bible that was written houndreds of year after it supposely happened. There is a lot of different religions, every one with books they think is true. I belive in the Norse religion so I will go to valhalla when i die.

      • Mang Teban

        If you go to Valhalla, you might find Jesus…how is that?

        Jesus himself is the Resurrection as he came back from the dead. Lazarus was raised from the tomb after four days since he was buried. The apostles and Paul raised people who died just by calling Jesus’ name.

        Bible is more than 2 millenniums old if you think about it and most of them were verses and historical accounts taken in memory miraculously preserved even before the printing press was invented or the fashion of writing in ink and paper came about.

        But, with such consistency and accuracy, the accounts from hundreds of people transcribed by dozens of writers who know not each other and in different lifetimes and places compiled into books called the Bible speak of an extraordinary event that has not been disproved.

        Well, you can go on with your beliefs in the Norse “religion”, that is entirely your choice. Happy journey into the world beyond!

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Just like the story of Adam and Eve, the story about this guy who brought back people from the dead “was a commonly-used literary device meant to make early believers” gape in wonder at the awesome power of God. Yes, the snake really talked to Eve when it still has legs and walked the earth. In fact, it told Eve the truth that they would be as God who knows what’s right and what’s wrong if they ate of the forbidden fruit. And who was it that lied saying that they would die on the day they disobeyed Him? Ask Mang Teban. If Eve didn’t disobey God we wouldn’t have the problems experienced by rationale beings. We would be as contented cows in a pasture.

      • Mang Teban

        Mang Takyo, sarcasm will get you nowhere.

  • Jun F Teoxon

    I hope, guys, I don’t sound too self-righteous or contentious or preachy. But you know, we can argue till kingdom come about matters spiritual and still not arrive at a
    common agreement among ourselves. This is so because we are attempting to
    tackle an issue so immense that our limited mind cannot carry us very far
    towards a satisfactory resolution. To begin with, there is a need to clarify where
    each one of us is coming from—our vantage point. Then, we’ve got to draw our respective lines so that we would know exactly what we are talking about. For instance, we should distinguish between “knowledge about God” and “knowledge of God.” No one, I suppose, has the right to pontificate on matters pertaining to God as if s/he has a direct line to God. Has anybody any direct knowledge of God that s/he can speak on his/her authority about Him? Isn’t it the case that for the majority of us God is a second-hand affair, that is to say, info about Him being derived from an authority of sorts? Oh, well. Remember the story of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant? Or what the sage/seer Lao Tzu said: “The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.” Better heed the advice of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” I’ll say no more.

  • Eustaquio Joven

    Ms. Natividad, you are in a state of evolution, just like all of us. We shall continue as such because change is our nature, just like everything else in this cosmos. What makes us evolve faster, religion or lack of it?

    • Mang Teban

      “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Do you always easily dismiss something you don’t understand as stupidity? It’s a mark of stupidity.

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