In Cosmic Consciousness, published in 1901, the Canadian psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke made this prophecy: “our descendants will sooner or later reach, as a race, the condition of cosmic consciousness. … In contact with the flux of cosmic consciousness all religions known and named to-day will be melted down. The human soul will be revolutionized.” And when this happens, “Churches, priests, forms, creeds, prayers, all agents, all intermediaries between the individual man and God will be permanently replaced by direct unmistakeable intercourse. Sin will no longer exist nor will salvation be desired. Men will not worry about death or a future, about the kingdom of heaven, about what may come with and after the cessation of the present body. Each soul will feel itself to be immortal.”
These are extraordinary words, written many years ahead of their time. However, there are some signs today that this prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled. For instance, at the Synthesis Dialogues in Rome in 2004 organized by the Association for Global New Thought and attended by the Dalai Lama, the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast said that one of his great concerns is that the Western God-view is warped and makes us sick. The idea of God as being separate from us is an extremely dangerous view. And as the Jungian therapist Anne Baring wisely writes in her lyrical magnum opus The Dream of the Cosmos, we urgently need a new image of God, different from that which we have inherited from the patriarchal religions, which portray a transcendent God creating the world from a distance, distant and separate from the created world and ourselves.
Many, realizing that their inner experiences do not match the traditional teachings of the monotheistic religions, are turning to the mystical traditions of both East and West. These spiritual seekers are often associated with what is known today as the New Age movement, which is very heterogeneous, far from forming a coherent whole, working harmoniously together with a common vision.
Sadly, however, the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, is vehemently opposed to people becoming free of suffering by living in union with our Immortal Ground of Being. For instance, as recently as 3rd February 2003, the Vatican published a report on the Catholic view of the New Age movement, Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’, the title being an obvious reference to the Age of Aquarius, prematurely following on from the Age of Pisces.
The central issue of this report is “man is essentially a creature and remains so for all eternity, so the absorption of the human I in the divine I will never be possible.” Christians claim that the word of God, as expressed by the authoritarian priests, has a higher claim than people’s direct experience of the Divine. According to this Catholic pamphlet, such a divine experience “results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words”. But aren’t priests human? Why do they claim that they know better than we ordinary folk?
In a similar fashion, Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Fides et Ratio ‘Faith and Reason’ on 17th October 1998 that if reason is to be fully true to itself, it must be grounded in the “fear of God”. But why be afraid? As John wrote in his first Epistle: “God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him,” words that Pope Benedict XVI took as the text for his first encyclical ‘Caritas Deus Est,’ published on 25th January 2006. In the words of the Sufi poet Rumi, “Love is the sea of not-being and there intellect drowns,” ‘not-being’ being Anatman in Buddhism, experienced when Brahman and Atman are realized as one, as Advaita teaches.
Therein lies the central purpose of Project Agape, intended to stimulate today’s Spiritual Renaissance. When we can all honestly say, “I am Love,” free of the sense of a separate self, just as Nisargadatta Maharaj said I am That, one of the most profound spiritual books of the modern age, we shall have returned Home to Oneness, at least.