Your soul is not a passive or theoretical entity that occupies a space in the vicinity of your chest cavity. It is a positive, purposeful force at the core of your being. It is that part of you that understands the impersonal nature of the energy dynamics in which you are involved, that loves without restriction and accepts without judgment.
If you desire to know your soul, the first step is to recognize that you have a soul. the next step is to allow yourself to consider, "If I have a soul, why is my soul? What does my soul want? What is the relationship between my soul and me? How does my sol affect my life?"
When the energy of the soul is recognized, acknowledged, and valued, it begins to infuse the life of the personality. When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul, that is authentic empowerment. This is the goal of the evolutionary process in which we are involved and the reason for our being. Every experience that you have and will have upon the Earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul. Every circumstance and situation give you the opportunity to choose this path, to allow your soul to shine through you, to bring into the physical world through you its unending and unfathomable reverence for and love of Life.
~ Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
A door opens in the center of our being and we seem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us; all eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact.
God touches us with a touch that is emptiness, and empties us. He moves us with a simplicity that simplifies us. All variety, all complexity, all paradox, all multiplicity cease. Our mind swims in the air of an understanding, a reality that is dark and serene and includes in itself everything. Nothing more is desired. Nothing more is wanting. Our only sorrow, if sorrow be possible at all, is the awareness that we ourselves still live outside of God.
For already a supernatural instinct teaches us that the function of this abyss of freedom, which has been opened out within our own midst, is to draw us utterly out of our own self-hood and into its own immensity of liberty and joy.
~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
Justice as fairness begins with one of the most general of all choices which persons might make together, namely, with the choice of the first principles of a conception of justice which is to regulate all subsequent criticism and reform of institutions. Then, having chosen a conception of justice, we can suppose that they are to choose a constitution and a legislature to enact laws, and so on, all in accordance with the principles of justice initially agreed upon. Our social situation is just if it is such that by this sequence of hypothetical agreements we would have contracted into the general system of rules which defines it.
Moreover, assuming that the original position does determine a set of principles (that is, that a particular conception of justice would be chosen), it will then be true that whenever social institutions satisfy these principles these engaged in them can say to one another that they are cooperating on terms to which they would agree if they were free and equal persons whose relations with respect to one another were fair. They could all view their arrangements as meeting the stipulations which they would acknowledge in an initial situation that embodies widely accepted and reasonable constraints on the choice of principles. The general recognition of this fact would provide the basis for a public acceptance of the corresponding principles of justice.
No society can, of course, be a scheme of cooperation which men enter voluntarily in a literal sense; each person finds himself placed at birth in some particular position in some particular society, and the nature of this position materially affects his life prospects. Yet a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair. In this sense its members are autonomous and the obligations they recognize self-imposed.
~ John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
We search for meaning, we search for belonging, and that means that we are all exploring God-territory. But that territory is so vast that you can go on forever and ever exploring one part of it and never meet other groups that explore other parts. There are certain crossroads where you choose to go in a certain direction. After that, you are not likely to reach the territory others are exploring who took a different turn.
One of those crossroads is the discovery that belonging is mutual. If we belong to God, God belongs to us; we are in a relationship. This is mysticism of course, but any one of us can experience it daily. God is related to us in a personal way. That's the experiential basis for the notion that God must have all the perfection that makes me a person and none of the limitations.
~ David Steindl-Rast, in Fritjof Capra, David Steindl-Rast
with Thomas Matus, Belonging to the Universe
Where there is mystery, there must be faith. Faith, you cannot change no matter how you look at it. Either you have it, or you don't. For us, it is very simple because our feet are on the ground. We have more of the living reality. There was a time when the Church had to show majesty and greatness. But today, people have found that it does not pay. They have found the emptiness of all that pomp so they are coming down more to the ground, and in coming down there is the danger that they are not finding their proper place.
God has created all things. All butterflies, the animals—the whole of nature He has created for us. To them God has not given the will power to choose. They have only an instinct. Animals can be very lovable and love very beautifully, but that is our of instinct. But the human being can choose.
That is the one thing that God does not take from us. The will power, the power to will. I want to go to heaven and I will, with the grace of God. If I choose to commit sin, that is my choice. God cannot force me to do otherwise. That's why when we become religious we give up that will power. That is why the sacrifice is so great: the vow of obedience is very difficult. Because in making that vow you surrender the only thing that is your own—your will power. Otherwise my health, my body, my eyes, my everything are all His and He can take them. I can fall, I can break, but my will power doesn't go like this. I must choose to give it and that is beautiful.
~ Mother Teresa, in Desmond Doig's
Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work
The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion.
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.
I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifest itself in nature.
~ Albert Einstein, The World As I See It
Non-violence is not passivity in any shape or form. Non-violence is the most active force in the world. Non-violence is the weapon of the strongest and the bravest. The true man of God has the strength to use the sword, but will not use it, knowing every person is the Image of God. Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of humankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction.
Literally speaking, non-violence means not-killing...but it really means that you may not offend anybody... This is an ideal which we have to reach and it is an ideal to be reached even at this very moment, if we are capable of doing so. But it is not a proposition in geometry, it is not even like solving difficult problems in higher mathematics—it is infinitely more difficult...
You will have to pass many sleepless night, and go through many a mental torture, before you can even be within measurable distance of this goal... Under the rule of non-violence there is no room for organized assassination, or for murders openly committed, or for any violence for the sake of your country...or even for guarding the honor of people that may be under your charge... This doctrine tells us that we may guard the honor of those under our care by delivering our own lives into the hands of those who would commit the sacrilege. And that requires far greater courage than delivering blows.
~ Mahatma Gandhi (from Essays and Reflections on his Life and Work)
He who practices charity is not jealous, nor envious, neither does he speak evil of his neighbor. He does not rejoice at the fall of others; he does not incriminate the fallen, but he sorrows with him, and does what he can to comfort him. He/she does not pass by his brother/sister in hard times; but he/she helps them, and even dies with them.
He who performs charity does the will of God, and learns of Him; for our own good Master Himself said: 'By this shall all people know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.' He that has charity thinks no one a stranger; but he looks upon all men as his own kindred. He that has charity endures all things, is long-suffering, and kind to all... Truly may we say that 'God is love, and that he that dwells in love dwells in God.'
St. Ephraim Syrus (c. 306-73)
(from A Day Book from the Saints and Father, ed. J. H. Burn)
What I am concerned with at present is not the question whether God is dead or obsolete, but with the question of what resources of language may be dead or obsolete. The metaphorical and metonymic phases of language have been in large measure outgrown because of the obvious limitations that they imposed on the human mind. But it seems clear that the descriptive phase also has limitations, in a world where its distinction of subject and object so often does not work. There is no question of giving up descriptive language, only of relating it to a broader spectrum of verbal expression.
The word "God" is a noun, and so falls into the category of things and objects. For metonymic writing this is not an insurmountable problem: what is beyond all things and objects can still be a noun, or at any rate have a name. For most writers of the second phase, God represents an immutable being, set over against the dissolving flow of the world of becoming in which we are; and practically the only grammatical device for conveying this sense of the undeniable is the abstract noun. For third-phase writing, founded as it is on a sense-apprehended distinction between objects that are there and objects that are not, "God" can go only into the illusory class. But perhaps this kind of noun-thinking is, at least here, a fallacy of the type that Whitehead calls a fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
In Exodus 3:14, though God also gives himself a name, he defines himself as "I am that I am," which scholars say is more accurately rendered "I will be what I will be." That is, we might come closer to what is meant in the Bible by the word "God" if we understood it as a verb, and not a verb of simple asserted existence but a verb implying a process accomplishing itself.
This would involve trying to think our way back to a conception of language in which words were words of power, conveying primarily the sense of forces and energies rather than analogues of physical bodies. To some extent this would be a reversion to the metaphorical language of primitive communities, as our earlier references to a cycle of language and the "primitive" word "manna" suggested. But it would also be oddly contemporary with post-Einsteinium physics, where atoms and electrons are no longer thought of as things but rather as traces of processes. God may have lost his function as the subject or object of a predicate, but may not be so much dead as entombed in a dead language.
~ Northrop Frye, The Great Code
We sometimes ask, 'What of the good men and women who lived before the time of Christ or in pagan lands, and never had the opportunity of being Christians?' Here is the answer of one writer.
We must believe that the possibilities, provided by God of learning through suffering in this world, have always afforded a sufficient means of salvation to every soul that has made the best of the spiritual opportunity offered to it here, however small that opportunity may have been...
A pagan soul, no less than a Christian soul, has ultimate salvation within its reach; but a soul which has been offered, and has opened itself to the illumination and grace that Christianity conveys, will, while still in this world, be more brightly infused with the light of the other world than a pagan soul that has won salvation by making the best of this world, of the narrower opportunity here open to it. The Christian soul can attain, while still on earth, a greater measure of human goodness than can be attained by any pagan soul in this earthly stage of its existence...
It is this individual spiritual progress in this world for which we pray when we say, 'Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven'. It is for the salvation that is open to all people of good will—pagan as well as Christian, primitive as well as civilized—who make the most of their spiritual opportunities on earth, however narrow these opportunities may be, that we pray when we say, 'Thy Kingdom come'.
~ Arnold J. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial
A person who has a knowledge of doctrine and theology only—without religious affection—has never engaged in true religion. Nothing is more apparent than this: our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it. There are thousands who hear the Word of God, who hear great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet all they hear has no effect upon them, makes no change in the way they live.
The reason is this: they are not affected with what they hear. There are many who hear about the power, the holiness, and the wisdom of God; about Christ and the great things that he has done for them and his gracious invitation to them; and yet they remain exactly as they are in life and in practice.
I am bold in saying this, but I believe that no one is ever changed, either by doctrine by hearing the Word, or by the preaching or teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. No one ever seeks salvation, no one ever cries for wisdom, no one ever wrestles with God, no one ever kneels in prayer or flees from sin, with a heart that remains unaffected. In a word, there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart filled with deep affection for those things.
~ Jonathan Edwards
Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being. Between the silence of the world and the silence of God. When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves, because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.
Truth rises from the silence of being to the quiet, tremendous presence of the Word. Then, sinking again into silence, the truth of words bears us down into the silence of God. Or rather God rises our of the sea like a treasure in the waves, and when language recedes his brightness remains on the shores of our own being.
The Greek word which we translate as 'virtue' or 'excellence' meant primarily 'efficiency at a task'. It was the philosopher Aristotle, Plato's greatest pupil, who defined it as 'the right condition of the soul'.
Human beings have bodies, minds, and characters. Each of these is capable of what the Greeks call 'virtue'. The virtue or excellence of the body is health and fitness and strength, the firm and sensitive hand, the clear eye; the excellence of the mind is to know and to understand and to think, to have some idea of what the world is and of what the human has done and has been and can be; the excellence of the character lies in the great virtues.
This trinity of body, mind and character is our humanity: the human's aim, besides earning a living, is to make the most of all three, to have as good a mind, body and character as possible; and a liberating education, a person's education, is to help them to this; not because a sound body, mind and character help promote success, or even because they help promote happiness, but because they are good things in themselves, and because what is good is worthwhile, simply because it is good.
~Sir Richard Livingstone, The Future in Education