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Our Spiritual Journey—The sojourn from animal to human, from human to divine.(Part One)

By Michael Ketterhagen

 “There are three pre-rational energy centers

that derail our contemplation of God.”

-Rev. Thomas Keating, Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance

In our spiritual journey, our journey to wholeness and the journey to returning to our union with The Divine Father/Mother, it seems to me that there are two major stages; namely, the movement from our animals to our human nature and then the movement from our human to our divine nature. Each of these journeys seems to involve different levels of consciousness/awareness in our bodies that correspond to our different “pre-rational” energy centers, the words of Thomas Keating, a Catholic Cistercian monk, or three lower “chakras” of Yoga.

Each of the seven “chakras” has a specific responsibility that leads to balancing the consciousness of our physical existence, which happens at the heart center. In the esoteric aspects of Christian mysticism this heart center corresponds to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In the Yoga science and philosophy, the “anahata,” the heart center, culminates in the Buddhist Lotus of the Heart, or Yoga’s Cave of the Heart.

Our first efforts on the spiritual journey for most of us is to work through and put into active functioning the three lower chakras—the “muladhara” (our root chakra), the “svadhishthana” (our sacral chakra), and the “manipura” (our solar plexus chakra).  These chakras house the consciousnesses that become obstacles along our spiritual journey. Thomas Keating calls these our three “pre-rational energy centers” because there is really no thinking involved in these. They automatically present feelings and actions without going through the thinking/rationalizing processes of the brain.

Let’s look at each of these briefly so we can understand the operation of these centers throughout our life.

The muladhara chakra is the center of consciousness that is concerned with our security and safety concerns and is often governed by our natural animal urge for self-preservation, our need to survive harm or death. All of us humans are

connected with the 4 animal urges—food, sex (to continue the species), sleep and survival which shows up as fear of death. This consciousness is instinctual and automatic. The is no deciding involved with these. We just act when our security is threatened. We count on the powers of the next two energy centers to move us beyond those animal instincts.

The svadhishthana center connects us to our relationships with people, especially family and friends. As we grow up, we realize how important these relationships are and begin to act in accordance with their dictates. We begin to nurture those relationships, mainly out of need to move beyond the selfish stages of childhood. This activity is also quite pre-rational.

The manipura center, our third chakra, begins to bring us into the rational world where we start setting up the “right-thinking” patterns that not only move us out of childhood but give us the experience of making decisions that are good for our safety and security and the well-being of lasting relationships. We move into the moral integrity dimension of ourselves as humans.  This movement to moral thinking is often non-thinking as well because we sense that it is part of our urge to preserve ourselves from the threats that might come to our own ego in the form of punishment or rejection.  These decisions are often not free ones.

From there, we begin to move beyond the subtle aspects of our “fearful-relating-secure” beings to the open, free, and loving decisions of the heart. We begin to see that the selfless sharing of one’s self puts us more and more firmly into our humanness and even begins to nudge us towards acting divinely, as God/Christ/Krishna/Rama would act.  Our love decisions begin to be unconditional.  We begin to reach our full human potential and become energized by our heart center, the “anahata chakra.”

All this growth is truly a journey from selfish “baby-hood” to our goal as other Christs, or Saints, or other Buddhas or advance yogi(ni)s. All this growth happens slowly and throughout our lives, when we let ourselves enter the spiritual journey.

Yet, it takes personal effort and self-discipline on our part to mature into the being that we long for—one that is in union with God.

Part two will explore this necessary discipline.

I bow to the divinity within you!

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