“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The kingdom of heaven is within us and all around us, it is now and it is to come, it animates this horizontal realm and yet is beyond it. The kingdom of heaven is more of a reality we enter, abide within, and see from than it is a place we must get to. Yeshua is saying ‘blessed are they’ and ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ who ‘are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.’ When we explored ‘righteousness’ from the perspective of Neil Douglas-Klotz and Cynthia Bourgeault several weeks back, we looked at it as an inner and outer quality of justice and connection to a force field, an energy-charged sphere of holy presence, a vibrational field of God’s own aliveness that we may be anchored in.
As I have meditated on living for righteousness’ sake - cultivating an inner and outer justice and an awareness of our connection to this vibrational force field of holy presence and aliveness - it seemed that one way of adding to the understanding is through the lens of complex systems theory. This is a theory describing the reality that we are operating as complex systems on both an individual and collective level. Speaking about complex systems, my teacher Steve Hoskinson, in a model called Organic Intelligence, says that they are self-organizing under the right initial conditions and we can become co-creators and shepherds of these conditions if we know what they are. I am paraphrasing but in short these initial conditions involve: 1) being present in the here and now, and responding to what is happening here and now rather than reacting based on old associations; this involves allowing our biology to be oriented to our surroundings through our senses, not thinking about our surroundings but just taking them in without commentary and 2) the ability to orient towards the substances of goodness, mercy, abundance, patience, joy, peace, etc. always available regardless of circumstance; keeping attention on what is 'right' rather than solely on our default mode of focusing on what is 'wrong'; and finding three-centered enjoyment in the simple non-addictive pleasures in every day life.
From this perspective part of living for righteousness’ sake may be living with the questions: ‘what is going to be most organizing for the system(s) involved in this situation?’ and ‘how might I foster the co-creation or shepherding of those initial organizing conditions?’
Cultivating these initial conditions requires gaining agency over our attention rather than allowing it to be pulled impulsively by everything which beckons it. In her book Wisdom Way of Knowing, Cynthia Bourgeault talks about the twin banks of spirituality being attention and surrender. We must be able to have agency over our attention and work toward building the capacity to place and hold our attention. But we must not only effort in this way, we also must surrender to the Divine intelligence embedded and pulsating throughout the cosmos. When we effort our attention toward establishing the initial conditions that support self-organization, we can trust that as we surrender we have a better chance of actually surrendering to the intelligence of this vibrational force field of holy presence and aliveness rather than to our own small self’s passing whims.
If we work toward co-creating and shepherding self-organization for righteousness’ sake, we will likely experience a degree of persecution because it is counter-cultural at some level in every culture. No matter our particular identities and backgrounds, as humans we all have survival mechanisms that can become rigid and disoriented; ways we behave that come more from our disordered desires and attempts to attain excessive amounts of power, control, affection, esteem, safety, security; tendencies toward clinging to identifications i.e. “I am someone who…fill in the blank” and hoarding resources of any kind. Our many small selves or little i’s’ agendas, likes and dislikes, narratives and meaning making will be persecuted. The invitation then becomes that of the variation of this eighth Beatitude as it is in The Gospel of Thomas,
“Blessed are you in the midst of persecution who, when they hate and pursue you even to the core of your being, cannot find “you” anywhere.”
This is really what we are training for in our practice of centering prayer, a practice of surrender, as we access the part of us that is beyond all the small selves and our passing narratives and agendas, beyond that which we surrender over and over again as we return to Divine Mercy using our sacred word. Real freedom comes from our egoic selves not being able to be found in the midst of persecution. Again, we do not need to minimize the toll on the egoic self and many little i's that will inevitably experience persecution and hate as violent and even as a death of sorts. And we begin to live from that deeper sturdier witnessing place beyond the narrative self in time. This of course is the invitation and work of a life time.
We near the end of our exploration of the Beatitudes. Most scholars consider there to be eight Beatitudes, however there are two statements that follow and we will conclude with a reflection on these. This week, hold inside yourself and meditate on the final lines as well as a few alternative translations from Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflecting on the Original Meaning of Jesus’s Words.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Renewal when you are reproached and driven away by the clamor of evil on all sides, for my sake. . . Then, feel at the peak of everything and be extremely moved, for your natural abundance, already in the cosmos, has multiplied all around you (from the blows on your heart): Do everything extreme, including letting your ego disappear, for this is the secret of claiming your expanded home in the universe.
When you are covered with insults like a sticky web, pulled apart at the seams and wrongly labeled immature, for my sake. . .Drink a drop-or drench yourself. No matter where you turn you will find the Name inscribed in light: it’s all the One Creation.
Spend some time with these allowing them to make their way in you.