Friday, April 1, 2011

"A New Heaven and a New Earth"

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . ."
-- Revelations 21:1 --
The Book of Revelations is perhaps the most understood work in the entire New Testament. First, it is the revelation of a dream which the Apostle John reportedly had; and, second, it, like the rest of the New Testament, deals with thought rather than future events. And, perhaps, the well known verse of "a new heaven and a new earth," to me, aptly describes how our perceptions and 'world-view' are radically shifted when we let go of that near-universal affliction, the human "ego" - not "ego" as in pride, but "ego" denoting the sense of  individuality and "separateness" that Einstein referred to as "an optical delusion of consciousness."

Nearly every individual has "two selves" - the small, false "self" of the ego, and the real, expansive "Self" of our true being. It is when, through spiritual practice, 'self' gives way to 'Self' that "a new heaven and a new earth" manifest in our consciousness. We then become, or are becoming, a part of the Whole, a part of the 'Ground of Being,' a part of the "new earth." (It is no mere coincidence that the best-selling spiritual author, and enlightened teacher, Eckhart Tolle, titled one of his books, "A New Earth.")

The renowned 20th-century theologian, Paul Tillich, talks about our two "selves' and the 'reality' of  St. John's "new earth"' in the following passage from his book of sermons, "The Shaking of the Foundations," pp. 100-101:
"Where can we feel this new reality? We cannot find it, but it can find us. It tries to find us during our whole life. It is in the world; it carries the world; and it is the cause of the fact that our Self and our world are not yet thrown into utter self-destruction. Although it is hidden under anxiety and despair, under finitude and tragedy, it is in everything, in souls and bodies, because everything derives life from it. The new being means that the old being has not yet destroyed itself completely; that life is still possible; that our souls still gather force to go forward; and that the good and the true are not extinguished. It is present, and it will find us. Let us be found by it. It is stronger than the world, although it is quiet and meek and mild."
The "new earth" is a profound psychological metaphor for the change in our attitudes and conceptions - indeed, the change in our entire mode or way of thinking - as we shift from a narrow self-consciousness to an expansive and inclusive higher consciousness. The following video interview with Father Thomas Keating by integral theorist Ken Wilber amply illustrates this shift in perceptions and attitudes, as well as its implications for personal and collective well-being.

No comments: