||For information on how to buy the latest edition
of Philip St. Romains book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, go
The following essay and the discussion it provoked can
be found at Shalom
Place discussion thread.
I have a problem with statements like "no one
exists" and quibbled with Bernadette Roberts many times over her, "God is
everything that exists . . . except the self." What I would like to suggest is that
enlightenment is only a perspective on reality, but it is not the whole truth. Because the
created human soul is spiritual and interfaces with God cosmically, enlightened people
(who are very few, by the way) are given to experience -- generally for a brief period of
time -- a perspective on reality from the vantage point of this cosmic interface. Because
this perspective is not mediated through the mind, a profound non-duality becomes
manifest, and a moral perspective from the vantage point of unity begins to inform one's
actions. In many ways, Christian contemplative experience is similar, but it is also
What I would like to opine, here, is that enlightenment, though a wonderful experience, is
not the real goal of Christian spirituality. I would also suggest that the kind of
practice one embraces moves one toward enlightenment or, in the case of Christian
spiritual practice, toward a relational union with God. So one must ask oneself what
one is really seeking, and why? Do you want enlightenment? If, yes, then you will need
to deconstruct your human consciousness so you can eventually perceive reality without the
inconvenient mediation of the mind and will. That's possible, as the Buddhists and
advaitan Hindus give witness to, but you're doing to have to pay a huge price. You're
going to have to sustain an intense spiritual practice to keep your
"illusion-bound" human consciousness deconstructed--counting breaths, repeating
mantras, doing yogic postures, and all sorts of other exercises intended to frustrate the
re-integration of the mind with the body and spirit. If that's what you want, go for it.
Christian spirituality is not about all that, however. We are about renewing the human
person in Christ, and of finding the divine in our ordinary human experiences. The essence
of Christian spirituality, even in its most apophatic contemplative manifestations, is
relationship: with God, other human beings, creation. Relationship implies duality--a very
ugly word, I know, but we take it for granted that creation is real, that I am real, that
my wife and children are real, that I am not them, that they are not me, that we are not
God, and in the end, that this is all very good, for it makes possible relationships. Even
the God we worship is essentially relationship, as are all things in the universe in
relationship. Goodness is not unity, but quality of relationship. When this quality is
unimpeded by selfishness and infused with active willingness, unity emerges on its own.
This unity is not of the sort where existents lose their identity in "The One,"
but where they are more themselves than when they are isolating in selfishness. Unity in
love differentiates. Duality is real, but it is duality in God, who is also duality, or
Trinity, even while Being One.
What this all means is that one must be careful about the kind of faith/beliefs one brings
to spiritual practice, for these set up a kind of a-priori receptivity that disposes us to
receive from reality what we're really asking for. You want to lose yourself and be one
with the universe? That's what will probably happen, then, with lots of hard work at
repressing some basic human inclinations. You want to relate with God? OK, but you'll have
to watch out for all kinds of crazy beliefs that dispose you to see God as naught but an
extension of your ego. In other words, in Christian spirituality a proper theological
formation is indispensable, and that's hard work. Healthy Christian spirituality and
theology go hand-in-hand; you can't have one without the other. Sorry, it just won't work,
which is why I've spent so much time writing about that in my life. This is the last thing
people seeking enlightenment really want to do, however, as that's all b.s. going on at
the level of mind. And that seems to be the impasse between East and West, in my opinion.
It's a pretty big one!
What we need to ask is if we want to know what Jesus Christ came to reveal to us? If
the answer is yes, then you're on the Christian pathway, and you'll have to embrace those
"ugly realities" like Christian community, learning the Bible, etc. If no, or if
you think Jesus is saying the same thing as Sri Ramana Maharishi, Buddha, Krishna, etc.,
so it really doesn't matter which one you pick--they're all the same, just using different
language--you're going somewhere else and I can't be of assistance with regard to
kundalini or anything else on those other pathways, because I don't know them and am not
Perhaps this all helps to clarify some of the limitations I have concerning advice to
those on advaitan pathways. I don't really understand what kundalini is doing in that
context, as I'm not of those traditions and have only experienced it in the context of
Christian spirituality. In some ways, I guess, kundalini is kundalini and is always doing
the same kind of work. So I can speak of that, but not much more.