Father Thomas Keating defines Original Sin as “a way of explaining the universal experience of coming to full reflective self-consciousness without the inner conviction or experience of union with God.”[i] For Keating, this is another way of naming the human condition. Simply put, sin refers to the separate self, the sense of being disconnected from our true nature, our image of God.   In a talk that Father Keating gave in San Francisco on November 3, 2007, he explained further that the Adam and Eve story and the tasting of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge refers to this separate sense of self.   The temptation is to want to become God on our own terms, and this is depicted as Adam and Eve take the fruit even though they are already in paradise. This Genesis story reveals the human capacity for sin and unwholesome desire. We are meant to become one with God, as Christ, St. Athanasius, and St. Thomas Aquinas affirm, but on God’s terms and through surrender (more on this in later chapters). Thus, the spiritual journey is a return to Eden, a return to wholeness, a return to our center.

[i] Keating, Thomas. Open Mind, Open Heart (New York: Continuum, 2006) 189.



An excerpt from the Chapter 1 – Oneness

“We are full of paradise without knowing it.” – Thomas Merton

“They look at life which never lost the communion with the divine ground of all life, and they look at a life which never lost the union of love with all beings.” Paul Tillich

“Truth is one, sages call it by many names,” the Hindus tell us.  This is one of the most famous expressions of Truth from India, from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest scriptures of the great world religions.  Of course, many would make the case that this is in fact NOT true.  I can still remember being in high school in the 1980’s and being told by my Theology teacher at the Jesuit school in Houston, TX, that the Catholic Church is the One True Faith.  Now, this is a different version of oneness and truth than the Hindus express.  Interestingly enough, my friend in class that day was Samir, a Hindu, and I remember asking him how he felt about the comment.  Was he going to convert?  Why is he attending a Catholic school?  One of my earliest discussions on religion ran its course and by the end of it, Samir referenced the above scripture passage and for the first time I saw the truth more clearly in another religious tradition.  How could God be so narrow, so exclusive in the one True Faith of the Catholic Church?  Christ himself was never part of the Catholic Church.  He was a Rabbi and part of the Jewish tradition of the 1st century.  Perhaps, like the Hindus see Jesus, Christ points to and embodies a oneness with God that we are all called to embody in our own time and place.  This is all-inclusive.  No one tradition has the monopoly on oneness.   As Thomas Merton states, “Our idea of God says more about ourselves than it does about God.”  If we really allow ourselves to take this in, we realize how much our sense of the divine is conditioned by our own limited perception.  Thus, there arises a need to refer to the spiritual masters of our traditions and hear what they have to say.

Thomas Merton explains oneness in his own Christian language:

If the deepest ground of my being is love, then in that very love itself and nowhere else will I find myself, and the world, and my brother (and sister) in Christ.  It is not a question of either-or but of all-in-one,…of wholeness…wholeheartedness and unity…which finds the same ground of love in everything.

So much of Thomas Merton’s theology rests on the fact that God is love, God is at the core of who we are, and when we realize the core of who we are, we will find God, or rather be found by Him.  In every Roman Catholic liturgy, the language during the Eucharist calls us to our oneness with Christ, and thus we take into our bodies Christ’s body and blood, as a way of reminding us of the presence of God already in us. Theophilus of Antioch says the following during the 2nd century, “God has given to the earth the breath which feeds it.  It is his breath that gives life to all things.  And if he were to hold his breath, everything would be annihilated.  His breath vibrates in yours, in your voice.  It is the breath of God that you breathe – and you are unaware of it.”  This reality of the presence of God already perfectly and completely with us is not mentioned enough in Christian worship and practice.   The human predicament comes through in our unawareness of this reality, and thus sin, hatred, delusion and evil result from this critical lack of awareness of our own oneness with God and with all things.  There is a oneness with God that is already perfectly present here and now.  Nothing is missing in this moment even as I write these words. God is simply loving us into the present moment.


One spiritual master still with us, Jim Finley, who spent his early adult years with the late Thomas Merton, has helped provide structure for this book. In our conversations together, he helped to clarify a certain understanding that the great mystics of all traditions have seen consistently. When I use the term mystic, I do not mean other-worldly, visionary, or beyond human. One of the main invitations of this book is to ask all of us to really take ownership of our humanity and by doing so, take responsibility for our own awakening to Truth. Each of us has the capacity to see clearly, love more tenderly and live out of our true nature. This is not just for the so-called mystics and saints, why would we think Truth/God/Ultimate Reality was reserved for just some of us? We must really shed this belief if our transformation is to happen in this life. The following structure forms the chapters of the book – the Six Stages of the Soul’s Journey:

1. Oneness – Oneness with God is already perfectly present. God is loving us into the present moment.

2. Forgetfulness – We tend to forget this union with God and this causes much of our violence, sadness, despair, and disconnection.

3. Glimpses – There are moments of experience where we see as God sees all of the time.

4. Holy Longing – We do tend to forget but in those glimpses, a holy longing, a dis-ease awakens us. We despair, go unconscious or we go deeper.

5. The Path – True Self/False Self – We seek out a path that allows us to live habitually in awareness of the oneness with God. Each day, each moment, we are cultivating an attitude and awareness that leads us to what is true or false about who we really are. This is the fork in the road in all of our lives, in each moment that we are living.

6. Love – At the most basic level we are loved through and through no matter what. Love sustains all things regardless of what we do. Oneness and Love are two sides of the same coin.

Snowmass MonasterySnowmass Monastery



From Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, the Perennial Tradition is the name given to the core teachings of all major religions and indigenous peoples:

1) There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things.

2) There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity to, and longing for this Divine Reality.

3) The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.

As I enter my 40’s, I find the simpler teachings more profound, and this one sums up so much for me.  If we could only see our common ground, our common longing and the Divine Reality in all things.

Due to 2 major moves in 1 year, I have vowed to begin my website reflections again, so here goes…

“And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32

I read this passage the other day and reflected on the powerful message this calls us to embody.  On some days, kindness, compassion and forgiveness seem to flow through me, and on other days, I stumble in ways that surprise and humble me.  The author of this letter to the Ephesians (most likely not Paul but someone influenced by his thought) seems to understand the need for kindness in the ancient world…I guess not much has changed in 2000 years.

“So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us….” Ephesians 5:1-2

Communion with God

“We are met in a great task when we meet in worship, no less than to realize the Divine Presence and to create an atmosphere in which that Presence and Power can touch us into fuller life.

“Once we remember this, we cannot but approach the occasion with reverent humility and the desire that nothing on our part may hinder or disturb.

“It is something holy and wonderful we are trying to build up together— the consciousness of the Presence with us here and the reality of communion with God.”

Quaker Press of FGC

As we enter the 2nd week of Advent of 2012, I am drawn to finally post again after a long delay due to a recent move from CA to PA.  Above is the quote that I found outside the William Penn Charter School, in Philadelphia, PA, founded in 1689 by William Penn, making it the oldest Quaker school in the world.  You pass this quote as you enter the Meeting House for Worship inside the main building.  Presently, I am teaching at Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school founded in 1799 in West Chester, PA.   I am hoping Westtown will post something similar to this outside or inside their Meeting House.  I have not been able to find an author other than Friends General Conference.

I am struck by the profound simplicity and truth of these words during this time of Advent, this time of waiting for the Divine Presence to enter fully into the world in the person of Jesus Christ.   By entering into the world fully, Divinity becoming human flesh, we are all made Divine.   I think these words could be posted on the entrance to almost any house of worship that uses the language of God and Divine Presence.  Is it not the task of worship to “realize the Divine Presence?”  I am a Catholic Christian now teaching at a Quaker school and though I miss the liturgical structure of my Catholic tradition at Westtown, I am very much appreciative of the Quaker recognition that God is found in the silence of community worship.  We are called to nothing less than the communion with God.  I can take this message with me on Sunday as I take the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, to make real this communion with Christ, with God.  My prayer during this Advent of 2012 is for all beings (a nod to my Buddhist brothers and sisters who use such wonderfully inclusive language) to awaken to the reality of Divine Presence and help build a community that reflects this reality.

In the Peace of Christ

There is Only God.

“There is only God.”

I was reflecting on a theme from our faculty Ignatian Evening last week: “Finding and Serving God in others.”  I remembered a 3 stage process that Father Thomas Keating talks about in our spiritual journey.  In my own words, paraphrasing him from memory, it goes something like this:

  1. We discover that there is God in the world and in us.
  2. We discover that there is God in everything we consider “other”.
  3. We discover that there is only God and no “other”.

Rumi, the great Muslim poet wrote:

“Sometimes afraid of reunion, sometimes of separation:  You and I, so fond of the notion of  a You and an I, should live as though we’d never heard those pronouns.”

 You can see how both Keating and Rumi are saying the same thing.  Sometimes I think this is mystic mumbo jumbo and it does not really apply to my life as husband, father of a 2 year old and teacher of adolescents.  Then, I pause….  This is how the world is really wired according to 21st century Trappist Father Keating and 13th century Muslim Jalal ad-Din Rumi.  In other words, if we had eyes to see and ears to hear the world in this way, we would act according to the Golden Rule – “love others as yourself,” because you really see others as yourself.  What would this mean for me as a husband, father, teacher, son…what would it mean for you?  If you don’t see the world this way and you can be honest about that, how can you act in such a way that brings this awareness from the periphery to the forefront.

How would I respond to my wife or friend when I am frustrated?

How do I respond to my tennis partner or opponent?  Do I really see my opponent as not an “other”?

I often think of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and their deep respect for each other.  I wonder if they do not see each other in themselves, if they sense the reality that they really are God playing God on that tennis court and what is displayed is the brilliance of the game.  I know this may be a stretch, or not, but I do think we sense the presence of God in each other when there is a real respect exchanged.  We are being present to Presence and that Presence senses that in the exchange.

What would our daily life look like if we lived from this awareness that there is nothing but God and there is no other.  My sense is the mystics are trying to tell us something…the big secret we keep missing.  Is it really a secret anymore?  We can buy any book from any great teacher in history from Amazon.com or any bookstore (give your local bookstore support).  The secret is out, it’s just up to us to have the courage to carry it out and see what world we can create.  As Jesus says in his famous prayer:

“Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  

I will try to go to bed tonight, seeing my wife and son as God reflecting back to me. 

There is Only God, There is no Other.

Reflections on Liam – March 5th, 2009 – 6 months – His first 1/2 Birthday

Mary and I are up late.  It’s 1:47 am and Liam is sick with a cold and cough.  I walk him in the Ergo (baby carrier) back and forth through our condo until he falls asleep on my chest and in my arms.  He makes loud grunting sounds to soothe himself to sleep, until the grunts fade out and he rests completely on my chest and lets go into a  sleep we hope will last.  I am beginning to realize what all parents must do with their children, put their own rest, desires, and conveniences aside to be present to their child.  I cannot heal him or make the cold run its course quicker.  I can help be there as he goes through it and allow him the trust to fall asleep in my arms.  I am keenly aware of the deep and profound interconnectedness we are all caught in through this experience of walking my son to sleep.  My presence meets his presence and something magical takes shape.  I feel his head in my hand, his lungs and chest on my chest, while I massage his little feet.  

On retreat last summer, I was asked to recite John 10:30 during Mass, the passage states: “The Father and I are one.”  I know this is a reference to Jesus and his relationship to G-d, and yet I am drawn to this passage again with my son.  We are one, in so many ways, flesh of my flesh, made in love and this reality keeps penetrating my consciousness more each day.  We forget that our Christian tradition claims that this oneness with G-d through Jesus is for all of us to see, realize and embody.  We can overcomplicate this theology in so many ways, but I keep coming back to the oneness of things.  These first 6 months in Liam’s life, or rather 16 months if you count the life in the womb, have been such an experience of joy, grace, exhaustion and a love I have not known.  From the infancy days to the playful boy that is emerging now, I am in such awe of his growth and his love.  I also want to acknowledge the presence that Mary has been as a mother.  It is extraordinary to see the love and care and devotion she has shown to him for these past 16 months and she knows that more than anybody.  Thank you Liam Francis for your presence in our lives.  You are the teacher, we are the students.  I love you and I hope you sleep well on your first Half Birthday!

Peace be with you, now and always,