Daily charity as a spiritual practice
Charity calls for a closer look. It is about an inner connection with others as life partners, in whatever form. It is not about firing up passions, but about a conscious change of behavior, which in turn initiates a change of consciousness: an active and effective interaction between our behavior and our consciousness. The important thing here is growth. In order to become a bigger person, the ego must get smaller. The smaller it gets, the more room this creates for the soul. Charity can also be viewed in this light.
I don’t know if the first Christians who left us the gospels and other stories also viewed charity this way. I can simply speak from my experience of the gospels, from the viewpoint of a modern spiritual seeker. I can hear echoes of Buddhism in these aphorisms and other universal teachings; which is not surprising if you acknowledge the unity of religions.
Striking quotes: ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’
and ‘nothing will be impossible for you’. Such statements are very far removed from the conservative ecclesiastical view of mankind: a flock of helpless sheep that can do nothing without their shepherd. Indeed, the sheep does feature in the gospels, but only to serve as a metaphor for part of the personality.
In the original Christian spirituality, man is a complex creature and it is not the image of the sheep that should be our most important takeaway: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is’.
Be perfect. In other words: overcome your limitations, develop the divine within and put it into practice. That is the direction and the goal for a shift in consciousness that any Christian should work hard to reach. This effort is not only necessary for themselves but also for the world. Synergy is a notion which is used in Christianity as well as in the natural sciences.
In the academic vocabulary, synergy means the unification of impulses, forces and energy in one complete action. In Christian mysticism (for example, in Hesychasm, among others) synergy refers to the co-operation between God and mankind in the creation of the world. In order to do so, the individual would have to break the boundaries of its ego and see others as partners.
Partnership in Creation of the World is an underlying reason for charity and has far-reaching religious implications. What it does not include is a self-abnegation – ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. No less, but certainly no more.
If ‘I’ and ‘you’ are not of equal value then the distinction between ‘I’ and ‘you’, that in which the ego is rooted, simply remains.
As long as this distinction exists, which of the two is valued more or less is immaterial, because it fundamentally separates people’s inner worlds, thus preventing the flow of synergy.
Moreover, Christian self-abnegation practiced from the perception of one being more important than the other, easily turns into the servitude of the interests of the one ego. Isn’t it fascinating how Christianity in its original form denied either offering: go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.