FROM THE SPIRAL PATH TO THE UNITIVE WAY

To the extent that we become whole in our way of seeing and being, then

                our vision of oneness deepens -- we see the beauty of whole and parts,
                our ability to reconcile opposites increases -- we learn to love more deeply, and
                we rejoice in "our place just right" -- in the web of all beings, in our service.

William Blake: "Everything that lives is holy."

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Centered in the Love that moves the Sun and other stars,
                                we see ourselves as pearls of great price in the unfolding web of life.

At the core,
    we exchange self-enclosure for the largemindedness of All That Is.

Countering the three root distortions,

        we exchange prideful superiority for awareness of our true size and homeplace. (Pride to Humility)

        we exchange a sense of lack and envy for generosity of attitude and speech.  (Envy to Generosity)
 

       we exchange opposition and anger for peace-making with a forgiving heart.(Anger to Peace)

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Thus recentered in seeing and being, we choose to relate appropriately to
            the energies of life, (Sloth to Enthusiasm)
            the wealth and power of life, (Avarice to Liberality)
            the nourishment of life, (Gluttony to Temperateness)
            the sexual energy / sexual intimacy of life. (Lust/ Sexual Manipulation to True Intimacy)

            in order that -- we and all beings -- may be

                        FREE, UPRIGHT AND WHOLE --
                                                            ready and willing to enter upon the Unitive Way.
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A QUESTION FOR EACH OF THE THREE ZONES
Teaching Story: The Samurai Warrior and the Monk

First, there is the Hell Question:  How do we, by our attitudes and actions, create hell in this life?
         To answer this we need to "Go through hell" together.

 Second, there is the Purgatory Question: How can we acknowledge and let go of the old habits, root disorders
                                                and subtle obstacles that block us in the process of gaining maturity in love?
        To answer this we must go through the spiral path of the 7-storied mountain.

 Thirdly, there is the Paradise Question: How can we bring the qualities of heaven (especially grace and gratitude)
                                                                to our life here and now?
         To answer this we must journey through the planets to a deeper Oneness.
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DANTE'S JOURNEY -- THE PARADISO -- TRANSPERSONAL RETURN TO THE SOURCE

 Cantica I ---- Inferno:        Vestibule of Hell plus 9 Circles = -------------------------------->  10
 Cantica II --- Purgatorio:   2 terraces ante-purgatory + 7 cornices + earthly paradise =  10
 Cantica III -- Paradiso:      9 spheres + White Rose = -----------------------------------------> 10
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 We begin from the earthly paradise with our inner companion. We are "free, upright and whole;" we have forgotten through Lethe and remembered through Eunoë.  We have become fully human. Yet there is further to go -- to become more-than-human, transhumanized, to dwell in mystery, to realize that we and all things in the web of creation are “ infinite/finite God-bearing images of the whole.”

 In Dante's imagery, we are called to think symbolically of the PLANETS WITHOUT and PLANETS WITHIN. Macrocosm -microcosm.  Our movement through the spheres teaches a reversal of centers -- from an anthropocentric standpoint to a God's eye standpoint -- beyond good and evil, beyond all "either-or" dualisms.  A view of the world out of time and in time.  No-where is now-here.  From “true human being” to “universal -- human and divine -- center”  Ever toward a Oneness which makes each being even more itself.

     1) Spiritual deepening is all about LOVE

      LOVE is best seen in the two great commandments:
                    1) Love God (or the Great Mystery) with your whole mind and heart and strength;
                    2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
 

 i) To love your GOD with your whole mind and heart and strength. ---

          To love that which most deeply joins us --  the Great Mystery; the Ever-Present Origin;
            the All in All; the TAO or Pattern which connects; the great SELF; the depth dimension
            of all things  -- with our whole mind and heart and strength.
 
 ii) To love your neighbor as yourself. Dt. 6:5 also Mk 12:29-30

         The process of moving beyond the human is all about love -- all about moving from the circumference
        of the circle to the center where Love is.  Everything is a song of Love.


      2) Spiritual deepening is increasingly recognizing and appreciating our COMMUNAL or ECOLOGICAL
                                                                                                                            INTERDEPENDENCE.

  We are not simply "skin-encapsulated egos;" we belong to the great web of life -- which includes past, present and future generations.  In medieval terminology, the Mystical Body of Christ or the Three Churches: Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant.

  To say that all is love reminds us that spiritual deepening doesn't belong to "me" as a solitary individual.  Rather it is my increasing consciousness of being a jewel in a great net where every jewel reflects every other jewel. (Indra's net)

  Using Charles Williams' phrases, we can say that the process of deepening is toward the "in-othering" and "in-Godding" of all things.  Williams calls the great web the "co-inherence."  Dante is familiar not with the words but with the notions.
 

     3) Spiritual deepening can be THOUGHT OF AS INVOLVING STAGES OF CONSCIOUSNESS;
                        Dante's deepening is SYMBOLIZED AS A MOVEMENT THROUGH SPHERES.
The planetary and other spheres are described in terms of light, color, music, dance and concrete poetic images. In truth, the heavenly splendors are beyond space and time -- in the Rose.  They simply appear in the spheres of the planets for Dante's learning.  Dante knows he has changed his stage of consciousness by the increased beauty of Beatrice's smile and eyes.
    4) Spiritual deepening BRINGS US FACE TO FACE WITH PARADOX.
 Paradox shows up again and again in the contemplative journey.  The ultimate paradox: Everything is quite alright; our worth secure and true. AND Everything's NOT quite all right; we've worthy work to do. Alright exactly as it is -- from a mystical perspective: from a view outside space and time AND not alright exactly as it is -- from a moral point of view, from within time and space.  Thus, BEFORE AN ACTION, we give advice from the moral (Quid agas) or action-guiding point of view; but AFTER THE ACTION is done, we accept unconditionally. [e.g. accepting our child -- no matter what]  When we see the mystery, we recognize that all things are what they are and more.  And all persons are their actions and more than their actions.
    5)  The aim of the mystic is TO SEE AS GOD SEES.
 
  This great transformation of centers -- from a human-centered to a God-centered point of view --
  occurs in the sphere of the Primum Mobile.

 What does it mean to see as God sees?  It is to see
     BEYOND SPACE AND TIME,
     BEYOND MORAL CATEGORIES (right-wrong/reward-punishment),
     BEYOND DUALISMS ("either-or" dichotomies of any kind).  Everything is already redeemed.         Everything is exactly as it should be.  The drama and everything about it is perfect just as it is.

 In Paradise, we are still in training for love.  However, the inner work is shifting -- from the moral /political perspective of Hell and the moral/ therapeutic perspective of Purgatory -- to -- the mystical, the trans-human or "God's eye" point of view that, in being beyond space and time, can be everywhere at every time -- NO-WHERE and NOW-HERE.  Each event increases the love.

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The Paradiso -- A Journey Beyond Opposites -- into the Here and Now

                                                                           Overview I

    The Three Shadow Spheres:

            The first three spheres are still in the shadow of the earth.
            Consider them as a first sketch of faith, hope and love.
            The deeper purpose here might be seen as helping us to LET GO of moralistic judgments,
                            perfectionism, and future rewards.

       Beneath the conventional dualisms of right and wrong, we confront mystery. Thus, there are:

            1) In the Moon -- faithfulness tensions of dedication and a commitments;

            2) in Mercury -- hopefulness tensions of leaderships with mixed motives & unjust rewards;

            3) in Venus -- mixed loves tensions of passions and sensuality (can't live with them and
                                                                                                                            can't live without them).

        All of this invites us deeper -- neither acting out nor repressing, but entering at a different level.
                    Greater compassion and openness are the fruits here.

     The Four Spheres of the Cardinal Virtues:

                The next four spheres are TEACHINGS in taking natural virtues -- wisdom, courage, justice and
            temperance -- into a more wholistic framework.
            (In medieval thought, we could distinguish between the same virtues seen as natural and as supernatural.)

        The images: the double ring of flames, the equal-armed cross, the great eagle and the golden ladder.
        The archetypal figures: teachers, warriors, rulers, and contemplatives.

         4) The Sun: Wisdom Learning for Simplicity and Service

         5) Mars: Courage Opportunities for Sacrifice and Reconciliation

         6) Jupiter: Justice Vision of Just Governing of Individuals and Communities

         7) Saturn: Temperance The Purgatorial/Mystical Path toward Enlightened Love

8) The Fixed Stars: The Place of the Great Examination:

            In this sphere, there is the pageant of the Church Triumphant. Then Dante (and we) are given an
        EXAMINATION on FAITH, on HOPE and on CARITAS by Peter, James, and John.
                        Finally, Adam joins them.

9) The Primum Mobile: The Great Reversal of Centers:

No longer is earth (in the sense of surface egoism) the center. God, seen,  in T. S. Elliot's phrase, as "the still point of the turning world" is and has always been the center. All ripples out from God as Center to the earth as furthest circumference. All the circles are invisible ones -- angelic love and intelligences. All is seen from beyond space and time -- sub specie aeternitatis -- in terms of the total and simultaneous presence of the fullness of life, making every point the center. God as a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
            In the story The Little Prince, the fox tells the prince his secret. "Good-bye," said the fox,   "And now
            here is my secret, a very simple secret:
                                        It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
                                        what is essential is invisible to the eye." (p.87)
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THE JOURNEY THROUGH PARADISE AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Overview II

        Dante's journey through the 9 spheres is a journey of consciousness.

        Step by step, Dante's level of awareness and appreciation of the real is expanded and deepened as he moves

                from an earth-centered (ego-centered) consciousness

                                                            into a God-centered (larger Self-World) consciousness.

            Suppose that what needs doing is letting go of a surface, culturally conditioned, moralistic Either-Or point of view and coming to a deeper experience of the whole.

The First Three Spheres -- The Shadow Spheres (Moon, Mercury, Venus)

Let us suppose that here the teaching is to let go of a MORALISTIC (should/should not; good vs bad) VIEWPOINT and enter a world free from conventional moral assessments.

           The Image         The Prompting Paradox         The Mysterious Third-Space

M         As within a         Faithfulness-Unfaithfulness
O         pearl -- two         Being "religious" vs being         A deeper direction - like a
O        women -- nuns      pulled away from religion        -- current running to the sea --
N         forced out of        Keeping commitments vs                 a path with a heart.
         convent to marry   not keeping commitments

        "E sua voluntade è nostra pace." = "His will is our peace." III, 85
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M      In the quick-       Perfect work vs imperfect work             A deeper sense
E        silver planet,               Other-regarding vs                         of Serving the Task
R       Emperor Justinian     self-regarding motives.                    in the midst of
C       and Romeo -  the                                                                   imperfect organizations
U       eagle of world order    Merit acknowledged &
R       is falsely made the      & merit passed over.                      At times, it
Y       banner of a party &                                                                seems worthwhile
          falsely opposed by                                                                   & fills the heart
          another party.                Work in school can
            Mixed motives             present these tensions.
            Mixed rewards
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V     In the planet of love,     Making wise sexual                     A deeper sense
E     we see passion and         & romantic decisions                  of a passion for life
N     sensuality. Two men:       vs foolish sexual                       that goes beyond rules,
U     a kingly friend &            & romantic decisions                  yet contributes
S     troubadour and two               Love as                                  to opening the heart.
        women: the wild               the paradox that
        Cunizza and the                   frustrates all
        harlot, Rahab.                     recipes
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Perhaps our deepening is not a striving for perfection but rather a movement toward completion -- leading us to embrace and acknowledge all aspects of ourselves exactly as they are. The carpet left imperfect. The tea bowl with imperfect glaze. The liberty bell with a crack "to let the light get in." An older face, wrinkled by life.

The Next Four Spheres -- Four Archetypal Guides for the Mystery

Wise Teacher         Courageous Warrior         Just Sovereign                 Holy Seer

    Light                             Blood                         "Cuique, suum"             Loving Union

(Deeper Wisdom)   (Wider Courage)                               (Fuller Justice)           (Temperate Living
                                                                                                        arising from mystical vision)
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         The Image              The Prompting Paradox                  The Mysterious Third-Space

S         Two circles of             Tensions of learning:                            The mysterious
U         12 lights each,                                                                                  third-space
N         focus on 5 souls:         Learning in school vs                         where learning &
                                                   learning from life                                    teaching are
                                                                                                        seen as a path of the heart
 Thomas          Bonaventure
                                                   Learning for others vs
                                                      Learning for self                             Francis' kinship
 Dominic          Francis                                                                          Dominic's service
                                                                                                               Solomon's song
                                                 Mind (Accuracy) vs
                                                     Heart (Feelings)
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M        An equal-armed             Responsible to myself                  Sometimes I
A         white cross on                 vs responsible to my                     move beneath
R         field of blood red:             ancestors -- what is                     winning and
S         conflicts resolved,             worth sacrificing for?                  losing to see
        warrior's courage,                                                                     what we are
        ancestors' sacrifices.         Why is our way marked                     all about,
        "O my blood," says                 by conflict,                             by seeing the human
        great, great grand-                 winning and losing?                     face and what
        father, Cacciaguida                                                                     really matters
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J         The letter "M"             I am Many and I am                     Wrestling with
U         becomes the Eagle         One. I become We.                     being alone &
P         of Justice -- all                                                                      being with others
I          speak as one -- the         How to be an individual                 at times I
T         great lawgivers are          yet at the same time                     glimpse a
E         here in the eagle.             a participant in the                       place where
R                                                 larger communities?                     the words "I"
                                                                                                            and "You" no
                                                    Private vs Public                                longer hold
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S         The Golden Ladder             The tension of                         At times, we
A         with contemplatives             Being vs Doing                     become aware
T         ascending to the Good                                                         that only
U         and descending to be           Tending the depth                   out of the
R         a compassionate                 and not forgetting                   mysterious
N         presence in the world.         service at the                         third-space
                                                               surface                             can there be
            St. Peter Damian and                                                             effective
            St. Benedict, founder      Transcendence vs                     teaching/learning,
            of Benedictine monks         Immanence                         healing of conflict,
            "Orare et Laborare."                                                     giving of guidance.

                        Holiness, healing and wholeness are all from same root.

    a) Sun -- Listening and speaking;               (b) Mars -- Receiving and Giving;
    c) Jupiter -- Ruling as tending a garden     (d) Saturn -- A path with a heart
                                                                                            involving being and doing
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                                                                                                                            Copyright John G. Sullivan 1999, 2002

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