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11/03/2006

SAINTLY VIOLENCE



In worship, we each experience the formless God through a form: person to Person. It cannot be otherwise. The intellect may insist that God is impersonal. But for the heart, it is as absurd to claim that God is impersonal as to say that one's husband or wife is impersonal.

When the Infinite becomes a Person to my heart, I surrender. Love longs for a finite form to whom the heart may surrender in personal relationship. Spirituality without this personal relationship to God is like dough without yeast, like bread without salt, like ice cream without any sweetness. There is no love-relation with the Impersonal.

The Personal becomes a doorway to the spaciousness of the Infinite. And there is no conflict between the personal form of God and God's formless radiance. Is there any conflict between a doorway and the space you enter through that door? God's face is the door, and the act of moving in and out of the Infinite through the doorway of God's personal form is devotion. It is the ultimate delight that sweetens every other aspect of our lives.

Yet in such delight is also danger: a possibility of the most refined level of human violence. Yes, violence is possible even in the saintly heart. A devotee may abandon every stroke of hatred, jealousy and vengeance, embarking on the final journey over the sea of Grace, yet still carry a poisonous germ.



The germ of violence springs to life when I am tempted, for
the good of others, to insist that they worship the same form of God that Grace reveals in my own heart. I think that I am saving people. I think that I am spreading the Good News. But I am actually robbing persons of their original freedom: and this is what Christ called the unforgivable sin, the sin against Spirit itself. Insisting that there is only One Way is the seed of violence which bears fruit, later, in persecution and war. Indeed, the first sign that I have lost the way is when I declare: "My way is the only way."

Let us mature. The peace of the world depends on our growing up, spiritually. Spiritual maturity is the capacity to embrace paradox: God is the formless One, yet in boundless mercy, the One reveals many personal faces. The ancient Vedic scripture declares, "Ekam Sat vipra, bahuda vedantahih": "Truth is One, yet the wise have called it by many names." Unity is God's glory: diversity is God's Grace. Yet each time we insist that others worship as we do, we crucify our Lord again.

The exquisite Truth is that we may worship the formless radiance of God in the form of Christ, in the form of Krishna, in the form of Divine Mother, in the Tao of nature. Yet all are intimate crystalizations of the One. Water vapor is dispersed throughout the sky: yet at the right temperature, it crystalizes into snow flakes, each a unique form of infinite mathematical intelligence. So each human heart receives its personal revelation of God. A loving father has one intimate face for his eldest son, another face of intimacy for his daughter, another with his infant child, and another with his wife: yet all these relationships are facets of the same father's love. "In my father's house are many mansions...."

God's grace is boundless, but nearly as boundless is my capacity for pride. At the pinnacle of my spiritual enlightenment, I may claim ownership of God. I may abscond with God's glory and claim it as my Gnosis. "I know. My knowledge is supreme. My vision of God must be THE vision of God." From the highest rapture, I fall through a single breath of religious intolerance.

Why would a lover insist that others marry his own beloved? No two lovers can have the same love.



God reveals the secret form of the Beloved in the bridal chamber of my heart. This is, as Sufis say, "my secret to myself." There I surrender and delight in communion. In the words of the Song of Songs, I sigh, "Your love is sweeter than wine; your name is perfume poured out!" Yet I know my surrender is incomplete until I relinquish every desire to convert you to my vision.

Spiritual friendship has nothing to do with convincing you to follow my path. Spiritual friendship is helping you find yours...