What About Theosis?


Q:
Thanks for your time and patience. Your response was informative. It is good to know that this is a continual process. Mostly, when I get upset because things are not 100% painless (which is almost always), I now reflect on how all of the emotion, thoughts, judgments, etc. are actually not what is real and permanent. Only awareness is. Sometimes that thought places a soft glow in the part of my body where the emotion is located and it seems to fade faster. Sometimes I just ask who is having this emotion, thought, etc. So, what you said confirms for me that my inner dialogue, unique to me, still follows some sort of template.

I guess the amount we do this, the percentage of self-inquiry can always increase because the mind is almost always active - maybe not while operating "heavy equipment" and such. Also, I think the essence of Centering Prayer is knowledge that you are awareness, and awareness is all there is, and awareness is God. The goal of Christianity, according to the Desert Fathers, is Theosis - to become God! This was before Christianity became corrupted but it can still be found and revealed. It’s just not as well explicated as Vedanta.

I will just keep on keeping on!

A: You're reminding me of all of this stuff I loved – Theosis, the desert fathers, early Christianity. Indeed, I spent a lot of time (not as much as you!) rooting around in this material looking for an end to suffering. I wasn't aware, or didn't glean, that the Centering Prayer was saying that I am awareness and awareness is all there is. I think I knew deep down that people like Jeanne Guyon and Miguel de Molinos had the knowledge of their true nature as God, and were free of suffering, but I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to get that for myself.

Wiki says: "Theosis, or deification, is a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God, as taught by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches." Okay, so where
Vedanta would take issue with that is that it is a transformation, a process. I would be seeking union with God, to become God, as you said. That's a beautiful notion, and it's the best longing there could possibly be. But we already are that! We have never not been one with God. Liberation is only a matter of knowing this to be the case. This becoming thing is a big misconception that Vedanta has to knock down. As long as we are trying to become something – to be joined, to transform, to have union – then we are believing that we are separate from God, from awareness, and have to become unseparate. It's a false belief. It's simply that the belief has to be inquired into to see that it is false, NOT that any joining or union has to take place. We don't become God – we already are, and that just has to be recognized as true.

So I think that is what finally was my dead end with the early Christians. Just that first exposure to
James' book where he debunks the myths. That really blew me out of the water. But like I say, I still went back repeatedly to those beautiful writings. "Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ" was very influential in my path.

Q: I think much of the original Christian spirituality is a yoga, an experienced based process as described by James in his book. It is a worthy path in as much as it prepares the mind for Enlightenment. However, just like yoga may end up at Enlightenment, so too can Theosis. I do not have direct experience so I can only use my intellect to make suppositions.

Centering Prayer, at least as I practiced it for 12 years, fits James' description of meditation as preparation of the clarity of mind needed for self-inquiry, that much I know from experience. There has always been some debate about what happens to the "personal self" when Theosis happens. Am I God? Is there "At-One-Ment" with God? Is my consciousness Unitary?

Language is dual so it will always fail to describe what IT is. The limits of language come into play when trying to parse the meaning of "Union with God" or Theosis and then arise the arguments about complete merging vs. maintaining some sense of self, and this boots you back into duality again. Long ago, I had to come to the conclusion that God is immanent and transcendent at the same time and I decided not to worry about it until I was actually in a position (again duality) to know for myself. Perhaps true Theosis is the knowledge that we were God all along?

The two things that helped me along the way were the writings about and by Daskalos (A modern Cypriot Christian Mystic) and Putting on the Mind of Christ, by Jim Marion. Jim helped me by emailing me for about 2 years with help and support and prayers. I ask you to pray for me as well – we are all one so it should work! (yes that is quasi-dual as well). Self-inquiry is the essence of what Daskalos prescribed as a spiritual path, except he called it Introspection which was to be done nightly. It is a review of the day and is a way of letting go of the ego, personality, attachments, etc. Thus, you see your tendencies and psychological complexes more clearly. Eventually this review process takes place spontaneously as you continue to muck out the stables.

Anyway, I think that within the limitations of language, my intellect tells me that Enlightenment is also a "process" because there is a "before" and "after." If this weren't true, then there would be nothing to teach, or write about, or develop a science about. I asked James Braha about this and he was forced to admit as much, although he quickly said that there is an immediate realization that nothing is different. But there is a difference, there is a before and after which means it is experienced, in part, as taking place in time which makes it a process and dual.

I don't know what I am talking about as I have not "gotten it" but the mind and intellect are tools so I am using what I have. It is circular and paradoxical to pray for knowledge of what/who you already are but after decades of searching, I am okay with paradox and not searching so much anymore. Thanks for listening. Just writing this to you has helped me today.

A: Your "yoga" of the centering prayer definitely prepared your mind. You are probably quite sattvic, and I would guess you have the lifestyle needed for moksha as well. So yes, all of this is great preparation.

James talks about yoga – he defines it as “union,” or yoking – and explains how that notion can be misleading because of the implication that one thing will join to another. That this person will yoke or merge with Oneness. I know this sounds like a picky point to make over and over, but it's at the crux of the truth of who you are, so it needs to be understood. There is only awareness.

Something has drawn you to non-duality and Vedanta after a long period in the desert, you mentioned. I believe the "dark night" happens when we hit a dead end, and we start thinking that we will never be free. It's the darkest place possible – terrifying. Like Hell, really, almost literally. And then you came across this teaching that has revived your spirits and given you hope again. James says Vedanta is the last place people come. That's certainly true in my experience.

You are totally correct about this being a dualistic thing we're doing. Vedanta is words – all dual – and it's all for the apparent person. Everything appears to be unfolding in time for the apparent person, including the gradual removal of ignorance, so indeed this seems like a process. Well, you could say it IS a process, from the standpoint of the apparent person. Everything in Maya is.

And I think your memory may also present moksha as a process, after the fact, as well. From the
jiva's point of view, that is. After moksha, the jiva's point of view still arises as always, so you will say, "I went through a process." But just shifting in that moment from the jiva's point of view, which will seem quite insubstantial, to the point of view of yourself as awareness, the whole "process" will only be a thought, appearing in the mind right now, and then resolving back to awareness.

You are an intelligent person, and this can be difficult for intelligent people. We want to compare, and use our minds, of which we are so proud, to doubt, to be vigilant, to make sure we are not being sold a bill of goods. But the mind is a limited tool, and it will always be seeing the jiva as the center of this. This is the problem with yoga and theosis. If theosis was going to free you, it would have already. I hate to be so blunt.

Your description of Daskalos' work reminds me of Byron Katie's, and yeah it's all good, seeing what the vasanas are and how they operate. You eventually see the whole mechanism of how the idea of a personal identity in a body comes to be.

You said: “There has always been some debate about what happens to the ‘personal self’ when Theosis happens. Am I God? Is there ‘At-One-Ment’ with God? Is my consciousness Unitary?”

Vedanta answers all those questions. Pretty quickly, actually. It's very satisfying! Doesn't it seem weird, in your example, that there would be a debate about things at the end? That's always going to happen when it's viewed from inside Maya. Vedanta puts you where you belong in the big picture. No questions remain. Woo hoo!!!!