Earthy monks know what all mystics know: that all are one and all are from and will return to the One, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Earthy monks know that the truth is the truth regardless of its source [that God can indeed speak through whomever, however and whatever he desires]: whether it comes from the Vatican, a monastery, a Revival, a bar stool, the Koran or the Talmud, we know we are more connected that not, more alike than not, more one than not.
From The MANIFESTOS
Every once is a while I will take a ‘nugget’ from the MANIFESTOS and write more about it. As a side note, I was asked by someone if the MANIFESTOS were written by me or someone else; they were written by me, but inspired by much research and contemplation. So, for this blog, I am focusing on the mystical bent and desire of earthy monks.
Deuteronomy 33:27 is a verse that many earthy monks could use as their life verse (along with Micah 6:8), “The eternal God is my dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Living this way, seeking every moment saturated in God – living with God as your dwelling place – is an earthy monks’ hunger and calling. This calling is not necessarily a specific calling to “do something” but a lifelong vocation of dwelling in Divine Love and embodying that intimacy with God we experience.
The earthy monk’s journey is a journey towards holiness/wholeness…in seeking God in all things and in all ways is what leads the earthy monk to knowing, sentiently and innately exactly just what “wholeness” is. However, never confuse wholeness with perfection or with the absence of pain and brokenness. The earthy monks’ journey into God is based much more on the Law of Contrariety: the Law stating that two opposites can not only seemingly co-exist but in fact need each other for their respective existences to be fulfilled. Some examples being night and day, darkness and light, etc. Wholeness and brokenness in truth “need” each other…but I digress.
Living in and under the “the everlasting arms of God” can be understood as more of an unfolding into God and into our truest selves. And this reality involves a deep metanoia experience. Metanoia is from the Greek word that describes a 180 degree turning, a complete turning away from the false and a turning towards the True. This metanoia experience, or conversion, is almost universal across the spectrum of people who are earthy monks. After these “turning and returning experiences” of metanoia, the claims of many are ubiquitous: a feeling of oneness with all created beings and the created order, a sense of tasting God in all things, people, and circumstances.
Marsha Sinetar wrote a book on mystics (synonymous with me to earthy monks) and quotes a person attempting to live the life of a mystic/earthy monk said:
My transcendent experiences continue to transform my life over and over again, like reverberations that do not end. I’ve come to accept the fluidity of my life. I’m learning to live a life of faith, trusting I’ll be provided for – not in a passive way, of course, but in a way that fears less and less. My work [mission] becomes ‘proving’ God in every action, every event, even in the difficulties of life. Not I but Thou, because ultimately there’s nowhere else to turn. The union of this sort is healing. What creates insanity is separation.
Sinetar writes of mystics and earthy monks having what are called ‘peak experiences’ – the continual conversion that all mystics and monks lay claim to having. And this process includes having one’s eyes opened to see all as it is. One of the fruits of perpetual and continual conversion is having a new set of eyes and therefore a new way of seeing: seeing the world and our circumstances as God sees them not as we want to see them.
I know there is a subtle arrogance of saying that I am an earthy monk, there is always a potential snag when calling oneself anything (i.e., poet, writer, spiritual director, healer, etc.) for often interpret self-proclamation as negation. But if God has called me his beloved child, then it is not such a big leap for me to say I am an earthy monk. For I have indeed had many experiences that would be defined as mystical and they all led me closer to God and to people.
I am an earthy monk in that I seek to live a monastic-like, mystical life that is grounded in the here and now, grounded in God, grounded in community and in service to the most vulnerable and marginalized. Do not confuse me naming my “calling” or vocation with me saying I have somehow “arrived” or that I am “perfect.” Far from it (just ask my enemies and my lawyer). The naming is not a destination but a way of journeying back home to God.
The beauty and attractiveness of the earthy monk’s calling is that it is a journey of the “Already and the Not Yet”: of having already arrived but not yet arrived and thus still on the journey. I may have and continue to have peak experiences – deep moments of divine love and transcendence – and still not be perfect, still have a long way to go. Truth is, I can still be an altogether ass and have a long, long way to go before I embody my faith with any level of integrity – that is what grace is for. But still I try and still I live with arms outstretched in joy and calloused knees.
Being an earthy monk is not a call that is exclusive, but inclusive. As the late Brother Wayne Teasdale has said, “everyone is a mystic.” Being a mystic and an earthy monk is within reach of everyone wherever you are or whatever circumstances you find yourself in. The Ineffable is from the All and for all. Another quote from Marsha Sinetar captures the essence of what I’m trying to say:
I’m not sure that the desire for oneness with God gives [the earthy monk] a corner on being a “better” person, or a higher species…[earthy monks] by definition, dedicate their lives to striving for union with [God]; the peak experience fuels and energizes their desires, while in most it…enriches, heals, and makes more whole their lives.
We in the West, and especially the United States, have gown suspect of transcendent experiences. We have combined technological advancement with human hubris thus creating no need for God or spiritual depth and all the while blaming religion for this vacuum. We have a love-hate relationship with media-based pastors, megalomaniacs, prophets, seers, workers of the miraculous and even claims of the miraculous. But earthy monks do not feel a need to have their experiences validated or substantiated by any organized religious body, nor do they feel the need to “defend” their faith to the technocratic assassins.
Earthy monks have come to know in a way that is different from the dominant consciousness. They see differently because they have adopted a lifestyle that intertwines prayer, contemplation, work, and service to the poor, the vulnerable and the outcast into an undivided way: a way of life that is a way of living, a way of deep intimacy with God.