a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
“Jesus was a mystic not a moralist.”
Operate society/life with a set of all-powerful levers?
Push this lever up and that will expand, pull that lever down and this will contract. Move that lever right, and slow the process down, move this lever left and speed the process up. Even if we had all that control over what happens at our fingertips, more than ever, we would still need to have some way to think about whether this or that should happen or not. As we work with Graves/SD (clean), how do we discern what is evil and what is good, what is right and what is wrong?
While our Graves/SD analysis of human reality is indeed very complex and high-resolution, our morality metric needs to be as clear and straight-forward as is humanly possible. However, what’s needed is something a bit quantum-like, as light having both a wave and particle nature. Jesus was a mystic not a moralist, still, he forms the contextual basis that breathes meaning into our one-word morality metric. Please allow me to unpack that a little bit.
Friar Richard Rohr writes (cf. Mysticism and Eco-Spirituality):
“Moralism is the task of low-level religion, concerned with creating an ego identity that seemingly places us on moral high ground. But moralism is normally not a primary concern for love, the focus of mature spirituality.”
That said, Jesus’ wisdom knew that low-level religion, with its black and white clarity regarding right and wrong, is a necessary part of growing and developing mature human capacities—e.g., first-half-of-life spirituality.* The evangelist, Matthew, reported Jesus saying: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” [Matthew 5:18 nrsv].
*See, Friar Richard Rohr, “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” and “Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.“
So, clearly, while we have the intrinsic evolutionary capacity to develop the mature ethical metrics of grace over legalism, this natural, evolutionary path is developmentally dependent. When we reach there developmentally, Spirit is sufficient guide. However, early on, as pilgrims along the way, we need a black and white clarity to discern our best course. So, as Graves/SD (clean) practitioners this presents us a problem outlined in the theory itself. Do we install a legalistic ethical metric appropriate to tier-one perspectives? Or, is there a higher-order ethical metric we can use that also works for tier-one perspectives? Is there another way to authoritatively assess right and wrong?
A ‘rule’ for clarity’s sake
A single-rule deontological ethic is arguably the most simple, straight-forward, and clearest form of moral-metric. For this reason my proposal does incorporate this form. However, in order to include a mapped-out path to tier-two discernment, our single rule (single-word rule) is a verb:
L O V E
OK, a single-word rule with which to discern right and wrong. The rule is love (verb).
So, we can pack-up and head home now as we’re all set, eh?
One might think so. However, that formulation does create a significant yet subtle-seeming problem:
What does “love” mean?
That’s precisely why, last week as a foreshadowing, I wrote: “I turn to Jesus for that.”
So, that ought to clear it up, then.
What, it doesn’t clear it up?
Alright, well, I reckon some more unpacking is in order then. What is the shape of Love?
Rule clarification ~ Definition, please
OK, there are two wisdom lenses we need to integrate so as to gain an operational grasp of our single-word metric. So, how are we to define Love? ….
- Internal reference — I have talked before about Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (here) (and here) and how his mystical insight regarding the first degree of love in divine union is the one we all immediately, experientially know; e.g., natural narcissism, the love we organically have for ourselves. Simply stated, we are able to know what love is through the self-love we know for ourselves. “Love” (in any context) is a verb and means that the kindness, grace, hopefulness, best intentions, mercy, forgiveness, and benefit of the doubt that we faithfully afford to ourselves is our committed intention and practice for others as well. Perhaps surprisingly, this internal reference point, while necessary, is not sufficient. As the Eurythmics brilliantly exposed in their song Sweet Dreams (sometimes as the result of trauma), “….some of them want to be abused….” I say “brilliantly exposed” because the golden rule has the same problem. So, in good möbius fashion we also require an external reference point, i.e., what would Christ (Love) do?
- External reference — Jesus, the person who embodied divine Love (a.k.a. Christ) in his Jewish flesh, e.g., Love known in Jesus’ life and his story. Along with Saint Bernard and our experiential knowing of love, we also take as given (our given assumption, e.g., the ‘turtle’ we are going to stand on) that Jesus is the exemplar of embodied love in action (e.g., the “human one” embodying the praxis of divine Love). While ‘Jesus was a mystic not a moralist,’ his embodiment of divine Love makes for us a holistic means to define and animate our single rule ethic, Love. If we know Jesus then we know Love. We have four magnificent portraits as our windows on Jesus’ life and story: Matthew; Mark; Luke; and John. Just over 64,750 words total in the four “gospels.” —I note that knowing Jesus through the gospels is excellent. It is necessary, but not sufficient. Knowing the stories in the Hebrew Bible adds great depth and it breathes life into our understanding of Jesus in the appropriate context of his Jewish tradition.
Jesus himself sealed the deal
If Jesus had simply said: ‘Love one another,’ and left his “new commandment” at that, then Saint Bernard’s guidance and our own experience would really be all that we have to help us understand Love. While Jesus was not a postmodernist, per se, what he actually said in his new command to his disciples reflects the deepest wisdom given us in postmodern thought, e.g., all meaning is contextual. The fourth evangelist reported that Jesus said:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. [John 13.34, nrsv]
Love contextualized and thus rendered meaningful. Making Jesus (the person, life, and story) the definition of Love, that is, our rule, transforms our deontological ethic into a teleological one. This move allows for a more quantum-like (particle/wave; legalism/grace) methodology for our morality metric. While many tier-one perspectives would far prefer a more binary, black and white (legalistic) approach to moral discernment, this person-as-exemplar methodology opens the door to first and second tier collaboration and an explicit, exoteric, holistic path to growth.
This argument about enlisting Jesus to define Love is not a religious one, it has nothing to do with metaphysical woo-woo, pie-in-the-sky rewards, or a rigid legalistic structure of moralistic control. Sadly, however, bigotry towards religion will splash on this and prevent many from even hearing the argument here.
And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ [Matthew 13:52, nrsv]
Of course, Siddhārtha Gautama could similarly be applied to a metric and that would cover many different contexts outside the Christian point of reference. I am grateful that Jesus, and apophatic and cataphatic Love traditions flowing from him, offer us very sturdy exoteric metrics with which to inquire and discern along the moral axis.
“Institutional religion” aside, we need Jesus to help us *rightly* co-create the blue line in this illustration —Note: I would have used ‘spheres’ if I could have as it would then be easy to show that evolution is a subset of Spirit by putting one sphere inside the other (e.g., panentheism). However, illustrating ‘orthogonal spheres’ is no mean feat, so, ‘planes.’
No guarantees we’ll always agree
Having Jesus as the definition and exemplar of our single-rule deontological/teleological moral metric, e.g., Love, provides no guarantees that in every case of Graves/SD analysis our discourse on reality will indeed find consensus on what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. Life is extraordinarily complex and we might not be able to gain full consensus on how Love applies in every instance.
What I am arguing, though, is that using Love as our metric on morality does guarantee we’ll be in the right ballpark in every instance. Using Love as our moral discernment metric in our Graves/SD analysis does include both sense and soul.
Next week: … More on differentiating “vMEMEs” (e.g., themes) and “memes” (e.g., schemes). Come and see.
[this post approx. 1,575 words (6 min. read)]
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).