I am a second year student in the Living School, studying with Father Richard Rohr who teaches about non-dual consciousness. This is a concept I have been familiar with since high school. I have studied and experienced non-dual consciousness in pagan, Buddhist, and new age traditions. Before I came to the Living School, I had not encountered it in the Christian tradition (though as a kid, I had what Rohr would call unitive consciousness experiences in church – always with music.)
Long story short, I broke up with Jesus in high school in solidarity with my gay and Muslim friends. Flash forward 20 years and my mom died. It was really sad. And somewhere in the depth of the dark night of my soul, in all the grief, came a white light that lifted me out and I knew it be what my mom had always called the white light of Christ (something she would evoke when we were scared as kids.)
When I first came back to having my heart really affected by the Christian tradition, I sought out my college mentors, Bill & Karen Thompson, formerly of the United Christian Fellowship Campus Ministry at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. They are both Lutheran pastors who have been radicalized by mentoring and journeying young people all throughout their careers.
I visited my family in Ohio and drove down to B.G. and visit with them at their house. I felt pretty desperate when asking them for advice with the tensions I was holding and my faith which felt brittle at that time. My question was about reconciling the personal and impersonal god. Here I had been relating to god as the universe, as oneness or great spirit with more of a pantheist paradigm for the past 20 years. And having just lost my mom with some kind of spiritual cleansing going on that was centered this this awakened heart I had for JC – being called into a spiritual relationship. It was just weird to me.
So I asked.
Karen was so wise. She said, “In the spiritual realm, can you imagine that two opposing things could somehow both be true?” I thought about it said, “Yes, I can imagine that.” She smiled and said, “Holly, you are a people person. You love relationships. You are wired for a personal god.” This flipped a switch in me and I suddenly saw the reconciliation of this duality enfolding before me. It wasn’t that we were to negate the existence of either side, but to acknowledge each of their roles in the whole. I began to see the personal/impersonal god duality in the context of a larger system, or, the whole.
Isn’t God powerful enough to be revealed in various traditions, for the extrovert and the introverts among us? Isn’t God powerful enough to reveal herself in a variety of ways to meet the diversity and myriad of human wiring? In fact, if God has such a heart for humanity, wouldn’t the personal God pretty much have to be able to encompass all dualities? Therein lies my frustration about all the arguing about God!
I think when we nest a duality in the context of a larger system, we can see how the dualities fit together purposely. I am working on applying this system shift perspective into my activism. I am super influenced by the Living Systems work I have been learning from Pamela Wilhelms. It’s amazing how nature’s practices and spiritual principles mirror each other. I will try to do some blogging about living systems soon.