Are some Christian scholars changing their opinion of divinity? |263|

Alex Tsakiris of Skeptiko interviews Christian mystic Albert LaChance and religious scholar Rebecca Goodwin on experiencing spirituality, and the gap between science and religion.

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ThirdCovenantJoin Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Christian mystic Albert LaChance and religious scholar Rebecca Goodwin. During the interview Goodwin the third covenant:

Alex Tsakiris: …Rebecca, you say we’re shifting away from fundamentalism/polarized thinking [about Christianity and religion], and towards an integrated understanding of who we are, and who we must become…

Rebecca LaChance Goodwin: Well, you mentioned Harvard and I think one of the greatest gifts that I was given at that University is/was a view of whatever you want to call it, the Divine, or God, Yahweh, Allah. A view of the Divine that is enormous in its breadth. And I think too often individuals…and I think I’m prone to it, I do identify as a Christian…it’s easy to sort-of become over-specialized in how we view the Divine. I think in the way that our technology, in the way our culture, and our community – globally – is ever moving in the direction of unity. Spiritually speaking we’re still so divided and you know…a huge gift of being at Harvard is being able to interact with people from every faith, and finding that common ground. And my hope is technologically we become more connected. Economically we become more connected as a global community. That is the direction we’ll also head personally. My dad is fist pumping in the background here because I know he agrees with me. So that’s sort of the vision that I hold dearly and I think that the book is…if I were to have a hope for what the book would be it would be to provide a roadmap for that future. One we’re less divided spiritually and more aware of where we agree rather than where we disagree.

Alex Tsakiris: …But the point is, I think we’re all trying to wrestle with this, and I’m not quite satisfied with — Oh Well we can just transcend by saying here’s the third covenant, here’s the book, here’s the way, here’s how to do it… we can, but when we’re sick we’re gonna head back to the [materialistic/reductionistic] doctor. So, we’re constantly trying to balance this [transcendent reality and the materialistic reality]. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, we just have to face in a more direct way.

Albert LaChance: It can’t happen cognitively. It has to happen experientially. So…it’s a categorical error to say that we can do this with the cognitive brain. We can’t do this with the cognitive brain, which underscores exactly what you’re saying. We can only do it with what I call the fourth voice…

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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Albert LaChance and Rebecca LaChance Goodwin to Skeptiko to talk about a new book they’ve co-authored titled the Third Covenant; a book that seeks to offer a new and unique bridge between the gap of science and Christianity…and offer a new way of looking at religion, ecology, and the big-picture questions we talk so much about in terms of who we are and what we are and our place in the world. So, Albert, Rebecca, welcome to Skeptiko, thanks so much for joining me.

Albert/Rebecca LaChance: Thank you Alex, happy to be here.

Alex Tsakiris: So we’ve had a really nice invigorating email exchange prior to this interview. And there’s a lot of great topics that I hope we have time to get into. But I think we should start with a little bit of the basics, background. Albert, do you want to tell folks a little bit about your fascinating, interesting, rich background, and then specifically how you came to write this book with your daughter Rebecca.

Albert LaChance: OK. Well, first of all it’s important that the subtitle of the book be put right out there. So it’s not seen as another “Jeeeesus” book with four-E’s. You know what I mean? It’s understood to be a larger and a paradigmatic shift towards something completely new and it’s not just new in the sense of comparative religion, but in integration of all the traditions as a single global tradition. So, the subtitle of the book is “The Transmission of Consciousness and the Work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and Albert J. LaChance.” The reason that I see it now as a single tradition…it’s obvious to me that there are many people who think, write, and read about de Chardin, about Thomas Berry, but what I’ve seen is because of the note to the reader, and the peculiar experience that that was, which followed upon a vision in 72’ that I never much talked about but now seems more important to me as the years go on.

That vision, the first vision was a cosmic Star of David. That happened after I read, because of insomnia in 1972, I read an essay by Teilhard de Chardin called “How I Believe”…following the reading I fell back onto my bed in the predawn light and my ceiling opened to the cosmos and I can’t explain that other than the fact that space – whether inner-space or outer-space – the space between atoms and molecules is the same space. And the ceiling opened to me and I could see the Star of David – two triangles breaking into a different symbol, which is two triangles joined at their bases…what I saw there was the emergence of the universe, what de Hardin called Christ Alpha, the development of the universe along this long diamond-shape projected…then lastly Christ Omega, the fulfillment of completion of the universe. I was caught up in the vision…I was in my twenties and what happened was  I got scared. I wasn’t prepared spiritually for what was going on and I shut it down and I couldn’t get it back. But I never forgot it.

I continued to look for that kind of spirituality in a Western as well as Eastern context…I’ve been reading Buddhism for all these years too since 1972.  So I was looking for the next piece, the next way in which I could make this my own. And it happened on February 8th, 1984 with a two-year-old Rebecca sitting on my lap. When this guy came out to speak in California, it was in the Bay Area. It was Thomas Berry. By the time his talk was done, I was holding her and sobbing. And I simply asked him to study, if I could study with him. We were both on the East Coast and he already knew who I was but I didn’t know that. He said you sure can Albert. And we went off from there in 1984 to a six year study. Becky was brought up with this whole understanding of what she calls a new story as a basis for faith, a basis for life, a basis for living. So now she’s studied and continued to develop this whole idea until it was obvious to me that it was time for us to join forces and get her vision out there because at this point I’m 67 and it’s time to pass it on…

Early in the dialogue, Albert, Rebecca, & Alex explore the purpose of The Third Covenant as well as the nature of consciousness — [8min.16sec – 16min.56sec]:

ReligionWheel

Can the planet’s spiritual traditions be reunited under a “Third Covenant”?

Alex Tsakiris: …Rebecca, in the introduction to the third covenant you talk about the purpose of the book in your introduction. And you say shifting away from polarized thinking and fundamentalism and towards an integrated understanding of who we are, and I like this, who we must become. [That’s] a very broad, bold…statement…tell us more about what you’re thinking there.

Rebecca LaChance Goodwin: Well, you mentioned Harvard and I think one of the greatest gifts that I was given at that University is/was a view of whatever you want to call it, the Divine, or God, Yahweh, Allah. A view of the Divine that is enormous in its breadth. And I think too often individuals…and I think I’m prone to it, I do identify as a Christian…it’s easy to sort-of become over-specialized in how we view the Divine. I think in the way that our technology, in the way our culture, and our community – globally – is ever moving in the direction of unity. Spiritually speaking we’re still so divided and you know…a huge gift of being at Harvard is being able to interact with people from every faith, and finding that common ground. And my hope is technologically we become more connected. Economically we become more connected as a global community. That is the direction we’ll also head personally. My dad is fist pumping in the background here because I know he agrees with me. So that’s sort of the vision that I hold dearly and I think that the book is…if I were to have a hope for what the book would be it would be to provide a roadmap for that future. One we’re less divided spiritually and more aware of where we agree rather than where we disagree.

Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about that because what I’d like to do in this interview, really I think I want to make it more of a dialogue between us because this is a topic that in various forms I’ve touched so many times and I feel this burning desire to dig into some of these issues that seem to linger and never get resolved. I think with you two occupying this wonderfully spiritually open, but yet grounded kind of middle-ground of being spiritual but Christian, and inclusive, progressive in all those ways. There’s a lot of touchstones. Here’s where I’d like to start that integration of your book The Third Covenant and some of my investigations on Skeptiko, and you can help straighten me out if you will. So let’s start with consciousness. You write in The Third Covenant, “Whether or not we can measure consciousness, or even know what it is, we know experimentally that it is,” Well gosh, you could have saved me about three years worth of research right there because I know that, you know that, but I’ve had I can’t tell you how many interviews with Ivy League scholars. Some of the leading “consciousness researchers” in the world who would object to that, and would hold on to this moronic idea that you are a biological robot; that you’re experiencing only the illusion of consciousness, and even though I agree with you that that has been experimentally falsified as well as being just kind-of dumb from a philosophical standpoint. That is still the dominant scientific paradigm so pull that part for me a little bit and tell me what you’re thinking when you say that.

Albert LaChance: First of all, I just finished reading perhaps…one of the greatest essays I have ever read. In a book that was published in New Delhi called Concepts of Space: Ancient and Modern. This particular one, it was from a conference that was held there a number of years ago…it is the kind of essay that is efficacious in the sacramental sense, in that it creates what it signifies. As you read it, you become aware of the depth and the truth of it in your own being experientially…[the author], he’s a Hindu, in the same way that I’m a Catholic. But I really don’t even call myself Christian anymore. I call myself a disciple of Jeshua. Because first of all that’s his real name, and that’s who I really am and…I think [likewise] he’d probably be comfortable being called a disciple of Krishna, in the same way that I think of myself as a disciple of Jeshua. So that’s a long introduction to answering your question. The question is…what he was writing about is the notion of space itself. That when we take the Western viewpoint that consciousness is a product of the brain and we balance that out against the concept in the East that the brain is a function of consciousness; it’s the other way around. Then we get in touch with de Hardin meant by Christ Alpha. What Thomas Berry meant by ultimate mystery. And what I mean by originating mystery.

Prior to matter, prior to energy, prior to the fireball consciousness is. And so you could call consciousness “being”. We know that being is, because here we are, the three of us who are “being”. And your audience is “being”. And they’ll be with us when they hear this. So we know somewhere in us, because we are “it”, not because we can measure it. Not because we can prove it in the sense that one and one are two. But that we know it because we are it, and when we come across “it”…we just know it’s true. And there is no defense of it. It can’t be defended in the way you would say one and one are two, where you take two objects; you set them down and say OK now it’s two. It’s not like that. So he pulls in the whole notion of “sunyata”, the concept in Buddhism and Hinduism of emptying so that when we empty and empty and empty ourselves of various identities we wind up in touch with what I call the mono-sacred.  That consciousness is what everyone has considered sacredness. It’s not a scientific word. It’s not caught in that paradigm. So when we look at the various traditions, be they Chinese, Indian, Indigenous, Middle-Eastern, we can recognize that the fundamental truth of human culture is the experience of the sacred. That is different from monotheism. Mono-sacredness is the recognition of mind in Buddhism, of Brahman Hinduism, of Tao In both Taoism and Confucius…whatever it might be in the native traditions globally. Humans have always thought of an experience of the sacred. So, there is a mono-sacredness present in all of culture and that is what we can call consciousness. Consciousness is whatever it is…God as we understand God, well it comes to the same thing. As we experience sacredness, we understand that there is sacredness in all traditions including science at the quantum level.

Later, Alex & Albert discuss what it means to transcend/bridge between paradigms — [25min.37sec – 31min.06sec]:

BuildingBridge

Are we building a bridge to nowhere between science & spirituality?

Alex Tsakiris: Since you brought up the Christian angle lets move on and talk about Christianity because I think it’s an important part of this. And I guess…what I’m pushing on is the real day-to-day skirmishes, battles that go on among all of us to balance these ideas, to balance the world that we live in. You’re going to the doctor. You’re going to the neuroscientist and neurosurgeon because ultimately you’re going to try everything you can to maintain your health. I recently wrote about my experience with having a medical condition…heart palpitations…I didn’t know what to do. I went to the doctor and like you I was very dissatisfied with the way, the ideas, the treatment and all this. I said screw this I’m gonna go do energy healing. I went and did energy healing and dietary change because of Skeptiko and this guy named Dr. William Bengston who did this amazing research, scientific research on energy healing. I became convinced that there’s something to it. I tried it and it was efficacious as the physicians and researchers like to say. But the point is, I think we’re all trying to wrestle with this, and I’m not quite satisfied with the Oh Well we can just transcend it just by saying here’s the third covenant, here’s the book, here’s the way, here’s how to do it. No! We live in a world that confronts us with all these absurdities and contradictions all the time. So the contradiction between the different departments at Harvard is a reality. We can’t just transcend that by saying OK I choose to move beyond it. We can, but when we’re sick we’re gonna head back to the doctor. We’re constantly trying to balance these things. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just think that’s a reality that we have to I guess face in a more direct way. That this bridging, this transcending, this unifying isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Albert LaChance: It can’t happen cognitively. It has to happen experientially. So…it’s a categorical error to say that we can do this with the cognitive brain. We can’t do this with the cognitive brain, which underscores exactly what you’re saying. We can only do it with what I call the fourth voice…and neuroscience has come to that. In fact you might want to really get in touch with this guy and interview him. His name is Joseph Chilton Pearce…[his book is] called the Biology of Transcendence and one of those books where I got to the last page and went back to the first page and read it immediately again. And had I still had my radio show I would have done whatever I could do to get him into the studio…there is another methodology, and without that methodology, and it is mindfulness, it is meditation…the scientific pull of this futile argument between science and spirituality would hold those interventions aren’t real. Well they are real. And as soon as we see it we can’t unsee it ever again…once you see it, there’s no way back from being. That’s what awakening is. So it’s a question of a category of research, and the research is an interior research through meditation, through prayer, taken seriously. Not some cheap piety thing. Not some in “Jesus is going to do this for me” [sort of thing]. Not that. But a nakedness; an emptying as we face the cosmos, and going on the revealed truth that is presented in that category. That is where quantum mechanics is at. So most of the scientists…what’s his name…Albert Einstein (laughing)…Albert is his name…Albert Einstein once said, the only conflict between science and spirituality is by those who don’t know any better. [It’s] that simple. It’s a matter of spiritual ignorance to think that we can understand something that is ultimately non-logical. It’s not illogical, but it’s non-logical. It’s experiential. And it is consciousness, and once we’re there we say, “Oh this is what they meant.” This is what they all meant. But convincing anyone else of that is a futile attempt. The only thing you can do is share your experience. That’s a great wisdom of the addiction programs. You share experience, strength, and hope, and the other person even discovers it or they don’t. But there is no final definition cognitively that will do. It’s a fourth voice, what I call the fourth voice methodology. It’s not cognition, it’s not affect…

Later, an effort is made to analyze the utility as well as the limitations of direct experience/personal revelation/subjective interpretation… [33min.00sec – 41min.50sec]:

DirectExperience

Can subjective direct experience trump “objective” scientific data?

Rebecca LaChance Goodwin: …It’s experiential, it’s not cognitive. The only way we can get it done is by doing it ourselves and then hoping that the next person comes along, we share our experience, and we help them. I don’t think there will be a top-down approach where it’s like, “OK we have the answer now, here it is, let’s do it.” It’s bottom-up. It’s each person willing to do the interior work and then bringing the fruits of that interior into their daily life.

Alex Tsakiris: …I have much, much more faith in science than you do. Let me tell you all a story about something I experienced. I’ve done a lot of interviews and shows on near-death experience science because I think it’s the most concrete scientific way that people can wrap their arms around the reality of these spiritually transformative experiences. [As well as] the idea that you survive death, that you are more than your brain, more than this biological meat-sack that you are. So I’ve done a lot of shows [with] top researchers in the world. Most of these people have never had a near-death experience, they’ve just researched it clinically in other people in hospitals and this and that. I have also, in the last couple of months, interviewed people who’ve had distinctly Christian interpretations of their near-death experience. One guy I had on…this scripture-quoting preacher named Ian McCormick. So Ian comes on and says, “Hey, I experienced Jesus. I experienced Christ Consciousness.” Great, you experienced Christ Consciousness. Wonderful…he says if you don’t experience it the way [he] did, [the experience] could be Lucifer, could be Satin, [you] could be deceived; only through Christ, only through Jesus. We can laugh but it’s not a laughing matter. He’s serious. And that is his experience. And that experience is trumped because it was an experience that we can medically say came at a time when he wasn’t supposed to have any experience. And he further says that he has experienced, that he has shared this experience with thousands of Christians who have shared similar experiences. I have to tell you, in the research I’ve done in near-death experience, it is unquestionable that many, many people have experienced Christ consciousness in this altered state. In this state where they don’t have any brain. But what the researchers will tell you is when they carefully look at experience in the way that I think we have to look at experience, not by just this “Hey what was your experience? Did it resonate with me?” But by saying, what are some of the standards we use in science?

The guy I point to a lot is Dr. Jeff Long, radiologist in Louisiana, compiled the most comprehensive near-death experience survey – 150 questions, medically sound. The guy’s a doctor. He knows how to do this. It’s medical science, [and] that’s how science gets much of the starting point for its research is through surveys. You go out and ask people, “Did this happen”? And then we start seeing patterns. That’s what Jeff Long did. What is his conclusion? The primacy of Christianity falls apart. There’s a bunch of different people from different traditions that have different experiences. So, this experiential part…it has to be looked at very carefully with a very skeptical view.  Otherwise we would immediately go to someone’s experience and take it at face value. In this case we can’t even take Ian’s experience at face value. We have to really deconstruct it in a way that I think would…totally go against what you’re saying. We have to really go to Ian’s experience and say, OK, you saw Jesus. We accept that. But what does that mean? What does the scripture mean? What does all that mean? And we have to integrate that with all the other things we know in terms of the historical records of the Bible. What scripture quoting means. The archaeological records that are being turned over at every shovel that’s in the holy lands now. So does experience really trump this kind of scientific investigation that we can do to find out what’s really going on?

Albert LaChance: Do you think we’re arguing against that? Because you haven’t understood the argument if you think anything you just said isn’t perfectly acceptable to me as a methodology, but ultimately what you accept as true…comes from an experiential dimension of yourself. I’m not saying, “Well I felt the presence of Jesus and therefore I know I’m loved, and I know I’m safe…” That’s not what we’re talking about here…

Alex Tsakiris: …Albert let me just interject and then I’ll let you talk because I talked for a long time. I don’t mean to denigrate that spiritual experience. When the ceiling opened up and you saw the Star of David – I accept that. I just want to go past that and understand what might mean. Similarly I accept that Ian saw Jesus, and Jesus quoted scripture to him. I think we have to dig deeper though, and say “What does that mean”? I think that’s where the journey begins…

Albert LaChance: …that’s The Third Covenant. Really. I know you think that I’m just an author who’s defending his own book. I’m really not. What I’m saying is everything that you’re saying is exactly…either you haven’t read it deeply enough or enough of it, but there is no argument with science. None.  I’ve been studying science since I met Thomas Berry in 84’. Our whole six years face-to-face was science, cosmology, ecology, biology, anthropology, archaeology – it was all science. The whole thing.

Alex Tsakiris: But Albert you’re not hearing what I’m saying. The bridge to science doesn’t work because science is stuck in this other paradigm…

Albert LaChance: You keep telling me you have more faith in science than I do. I don’t think you do. We’re possibly both on the same journey.

Alex Tsakiris: I think we are both on the same journey. I’m overemphasizing the points of disagreement or conflict. What I’m really trying to do is get to that next level of conversation. Because I hear this stuff all the time – this kind of flowery talk about unifying religions…with science. Then I get down to the nuts and bolts of it, and I just don’t see it happening. I’ve talked to the neuroscientists. They have no interest in unifying with you. I’ve talked to Ian McCormick, and his scripture-quoting near-death experiences, they have no interest in unifying with your, he would call it, “New Agey” religious ideas…

Albert LaChance: So would I. So would I. I would call it that myself. But there are other scientists. There’s Rupert Sheldrake, and there’s Carl Jung…a slew of scientists who came to a different conclusion because of the experiential truth that they came in touch with through their research. Precisely through their research it opened the door of a portal to an understanding that was unitary. By understanding, they could no longer…because their very research brought them to that, they bumped into what I’m calling the third covenant. There are people everywhere saying there’s this big new consciousness that’s coming. And we’re all going to be part of [it]…the confusion now and the destruction of the planet is leading up to it…and what I’m saying is that’s true. There is a consciousness coming, and it’s coming in all traditions. Part of it is by a different lens on the traditions…the idea that there would be a conflict between the deep truths of science…its one universe. That’s why it’s a “uni” and not a multiverse. It’s a universe, and if we study it physically we’re going to ultimately come to quantum mechanics. If we study it spiritually, we’re going to ultimately come to the same conclusion. That there is no break in the fabric of the cosmos from the fireball to the present…

As the conversation evolves, Alex & Albert drill into the question of historical Jesus as it relates to the question of “Christ Consciousness” … [45min.00sec – 52min.15sec]:

CosmicChrist1

Does the question of a historical Jesus even matter in comparison to the question(s) surrounding Christ Consciousness?

Albert LaChance: …It’s all sacred…consciousness precedes it, and consciousness succeeds it. It’s all consciousness in material and energetic form. I would agree with people using “New Age” pejoratively, I feel the same way. I feel it’s flakey and too facile.

Alex Tsakiris: I don’t know, I think the New Age gets a bad rap. I think it was a major turning point in consciousness raising, consciousness changing. But let’s not go there; let’s talk about religion, because I have with me a self-identified Christian and a self-identified disciple of, not Jesus…Jeshua. So let’s talk about religion, because it’s also a topic I’ve explored pretty deeply in this show. And when I start with the Bible, and start deconstructing, and start looking for the history. The whole thing unravels pretty quickly…as you know. So what are we to make of the reality, the history, of Jesus…and we can say that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe that matters in terms of ones ability to tap into Christ consciousness because that’s what the evidence tells me.

Getting back to your point about experiential; I’m not approaching this from an experiential standpoint. I’m just going and following the data the best I can. And the data I follow says people can experience Christ consciousness. It just seems to be out there. I don’t know what that means, or how they do it, but its true. So what [we are able to] make of the reality of a historical Jesus is very flimsy, very hard to really figure out at all. It all unravels, and yet we can understand that people do have this experience with Christ consciousness. And don’t we need to understand that history a little bit better before we say, like I said at the beginning, it doesn’t matter because you can still experience Christ consciousness right now…

Albert LaChance: Well the reason it unravels is because you’re running evolution backward. That there is an evolution to the movement of Abraham…and the settling in Israel, and the emergence of the various phases of the Hebrew unfolding, which led to the emergence of this renegade prophet and rabbi called Jeshua. He left, for a few of his buddies, some understanding of it. And from there it unfolds until 4th century, 325 or whatever…where it becomes an imperial religion called Christianity. It was never called Christianity first of all by the Jews. It was called the people of the way. The first time the word “Christian” was even used, was in the first or second century…which is part of Turkey now…called “Christ-Ian”…and then the church becomes imperial and you have the unfolding of a certain magnificence…the magnificence of these consciousness frozen in stone that we call cathedrals, and the sculpture, and all the stuff that emerged. I mean, this has its own magnificence, and it has its own value. But at the center of it all is an Eastern teacher, a middle-eastern teacher, who experienced divinity in his own being. Is he still present? Well of courser he’s still present, because the cosmos is still present, and he realized his unitive experience with the cosmos. That he and the cosmos were one. He called it father. If you run it backwards it simply has to unravel because evolution…things move forward…

Alex Tsakiris: …Maybe we’re using the word unravel in a different way. What you talked about, hitting the high points, I think I probably agree with. But there’s a lot of controversy there in terms of who was Jesus? Who was this breakaway group? What was their relationship to the Jewish tradition that was occupying Jerusalem at the time? Did Jesus even exist as a human being…or were they always talking about Christ consciousness? I was brought up in the Greek Orthodox tradition, though I don’t consider myself a Christian now, there’s many in the Greek Orthodox tradition, that Easter tradition…that always saw Jesus as this Christ consciousness being. Never saw him as a human manifestation of it. So for question number one: Does the history matter? Should we be not talking about Christ consciousness, but talking about the Nag Hammadi library, and what we know about Jesus, and what we know about that imperial religion. My buddy Joseph Atwill who wrote Caesar’s Messiah and does a wonderful job of showing the literary parallels between the historical accounts of the Roman historians and how that worked its way into the Bible. So, does the history matter? Does that need to be the starting point?

Albert LaChance: I’d like to address one or two and hand this over to Rebecca…I want to ask you a personal question, and it’s not a challenge or anything. It’s just a legitimate question. Have you ever considered your search, and what you’re doing right now with us and the other authors and people who you’ve interviewed and studied, worked with, read, all of them. Have you ever considered that as an extension of your orthodox baptism?

…Have you ever considered that in the time developmental universe, what you’re doing at this very moment is your baptism? Is your predisposition to truth? Is your search that is leading to the third covenant, to the next expression of this middle-eastern triad that has been ruthlessly nasty to most of the Earth, certainly the native people, certainly the other members of its own triad. You are searching and that search I would say is what your baptism actually is, as an orthodox Christian…

Photo by Mikey G

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