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#2556 - Thursday, August 17, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz

This issue features an excerpt from a new book which could be called a work on nondual Christianity. Included is part of Chapter One. In the next issue further excerpts will be given.  

This book is packed with biblical quotations, a thorough index, and an inclination toward the nondual teaching of self-inquiry and surrender. Anyone grounded in Christian tradition who is drawn toward nonduality and the writings from Eastern traditions will find this book useful and satisfying.    


A Church Not Made with Hands:
Christianity as Spiritual Experience

by Michael Roden   "Look inside" at  


Internal Experience in Christianity

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
                                                  —Isa. 35:10

Hidden Christianity
     Hidden away in the most interior reaches of Christianity is a powerful means of transformation of mind and heart. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he had not given them the full spiritual teaching of Christ because they had not been ready to receive it:

     But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh (1 Cor. 3:1–3).

     In this passage, Paul notes the existence of two forms of Christianity: one for the surface world, those “of the flesh,” and another for those who are open to full spiritual understanding. In the same letter, he says that, although he had previously come to them preaching the simple creed “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2):

     Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. . . . [A]s it is written,
            “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
            Nor the heart of man conceived,
            What God has prepared for those who love him,”
            God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God (1 Cor. 2:6–7, 9–10,).

     Paul declares that he and his helpers “impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God” among “the mature,” or those who are made aware of the depths of God in the Spirit. As you shall see throughout this book, the mystical (literally, “hidden,” in the sense of internal and spiritual) element is prevalent in the earliest sources we have of Christianity, the books of the New Testament. Why it has not been more fully accepted by Christians is a matter for debate.

     The human being has a dual aspect. Much of what it means to be human, in fact the entire inner world, is hidden beneath the surface. Behavior provides information, but cannot represent everything about a person. Intention rules behavior, and the mind chooses what will be valued before it decides what will be done. Thoughts are as real as the person who thinks them, so that there is a hidden reality within.

     Paul says that the secret and hidden wisdom of Christianity is “revealed to us through the Spirit,” that is, through spiritual experience. Experience that transforms not only behavior but also intentions, not only intentions but also will, and not only desires but also deep-rooted values is truly mystical experience. The Christian religion for Saint Paul was no mere guide to behavior; it was in all its aspects a spiritual initiation into “the depths of God,” from which point guidance would naturally step in. Jesus, too, indicated that he saw the heart of religion and the soul of humanity as abiding behind and beyond behavior, beyond rules and laws, beyond creeds and beyond religious authorities, as it rose all the way up to God Himself from Whom it came.

     Where would such a secret wisdom be hidden? In inner chambers that could be accessed only by the Holy Spirit, in parts of the self known only to God. Where are “the depths of God”? No one can say because words cannot convey these depths, the mind cannot think of them from outside them; but one may experience some at least of the depths of God through His Spirit. Jesus is portrayed as informing his disciples that there was a truth they could not yet bear to hear, but he promised them that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12–13). Early Christians believed in Spirit because they experienced it. They believed in allowing themselves to be led and changed by the Spirit into the all-knowing, all-encompassing truth that they in Spirit shared with God.

     There is great experience “hidden” in Christianity, spiritual experience of a kind that can transform lives and heal that which is broken. But it is not hidden well. Though such experience cannot be described fully in words, spiritual experience suffuses the scriptures and earliest teachings of Christianity. In fact, the New Testament’s mysticism is so pronounced that it would be difficult not to emphasize it.

     The Bible is filled with keys to the spiritual and living kingdom of God. The Gospels show Jesus to be charismatic, compassionate, intelligent, prayerful, and miraculous, yes, but, even more, connected with God through a shared Spirit and reaching out to touch the world through this same Spirit. The evidence we have shows that Jesus was led by experience of Spirit. Paul and John and other New Testament writers show his transformative effect to have been as far-reaching as it was deep. These early Christians shared experience of the Spirit and felt connected with Christ and with God in being so directly associated.

Jesus showed himself to be spiritual from the depths of his very being. It was as if he lived in a different dimension, though he partook of this one, asking others to join him as he walked the countryside, entering tiny villages, speaking out about the experience, healing through it, teaching by it, giving out of his internal abundance of it. The Apostle Paul is so spiritual in his essence that he was seen by first- and second-century Christian Gnostics to be a conduit to the spiritual world. The Evangelist John emphasized in his gospel and letters a transcendent spiritual Knowledge and Love.

The Depths of Mystical Experience

     Mysticism is the experiential element of religion. Though it begins in the internal spiritual experience of the individual, the ultimate destination for mysticism is the Sacred Presence of God. Mystical Christianity holds that there is a way to experience the Heart of God, for full moments, in the midst of daily existence. It suggests that human beings were created to experience the spiritual presence of God, to live within it, to share it and so their joy.

     Until such inner sense of joining occurs, according to the psychology inherent in mysticism, the human being will feel incessantly empty and deeply dissatisfied. Underneath thousands of everyday feelings and opinions, there may somehow be sensed access to a lost state of beatific original grace. Mind and heart sense that they have fallen from it because they cannot conceive of such grace, though they are told by religion and sometimes by intuition that it is available. But such grace—the illumination from God—can be more truly known through experience of it than from any exposition.

     How does one open to spiritual experience? It involves becoming more individual but also more than individual. The individual accedes to his or her heart for guidance, for an inner light to shine upon the way. The interior world takes on more importance than the world outside and, with grace, everything inside and out begins to shine with supreme significance. God must be near enough to know. Prayer and meditation become means of communicating with God and reaching Him directly. Simply being with Him becomes a way of knowing Him, and knowing Him becomes a way of sharing more deeply in Being.

~ ~ ~

A Church Not Made with Hands:
Christianity as Spiritual Experience

by Michael Roden

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