Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.’

-John 6:12


But if by God we mean a reality far surpassing our own fullness of being we must envisage the divine as total realization, abundance of life and actuality, energy unfailing, of which our mode of being is a pale reflection, and at best a symbol. Yet people persist in asking whether or not God exists. As Dostoyevsky pointed out, their question never finds an answer, because it is wrongly put. Its proper context is the experience of active loving, but it is confined within the narrow limits of a notion of existence which is as irrelevant to life as it is unreal and reductionist. The concept of God as a remote entity which does nothing served as a postulate for some philosophers of the eighteenth century, but it is foreign to all the great religious traditions of humankind. For these the question-and it is a burning question-is not of Gods existence but of his presence, and this implies his power or energy. Yet even today deism is not dead. The reductionist notion of God, which was formerly the preserve of academics, is uncritically accepted by ordinary people in our society, who on the whole do not reject belief that God exists but have little sense of the divine presence and of communion with him. This reductionist point of view is in direct opposition to the religious instinct and mystical impulse, which suffers widespread atrophy in our times.

In spite of all this, the human heart senses that God” is not a mono­syllabic blob but the Ever-present One. How are we to understand, and live, this sense? Christianity is sometimes seen as nothing but a collec­tion of moral duties and soothing reassurances about salvation, rather than as a summons to the deification of the human person.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a pillar of orthodoxy during the fourth century, insisted upon the divine being’s exuberance. The divine being, ineffably more alive that we are, cannot be self-contained and barren but has to be Father, forever bringing forth his son from the womb of his

own substance. This continual begetting is a movement of being which is essentially fruitful. Our human experience of parenting is only an analogy for the perfect generation in the divine being, where there is no before and after, no differentiation into male and female, and where the one brought forth is not inferior to the parent. This vision of God continually pouring forth his very being would inspire Meister Eckhart a millennium later to speak of God in terms of molten metal which is always boiling over. The sons coming forth from the Father is a non-stop act of both begetting and giving birth.

Thus for the Christian tradition the divine reality is essentially per­sonal. The three are not merely aspects of some impersonal substrate, nor are they separate individuals. The doctrine of the Trinity states that ultimate reality is a communion of persons, each dwelling in the others. Here relationship is of the essence. And this communion of persons is the truth and exemplar of all being. In particular it is the hope to which we human beings aspire. We come alive when our eyes meet those of the one who loves us, for we then find our center outside ourselves in the other, and in so doing we touch the mystery of transcendence. By falling in love we leave behind our own isolation and break away from our old, limited way of life, which is now revealed as loneliness and incompletion. And, even more, in the unromantic daily struggle of active loving, in relationship, we find out who we really are. That is the context in which we can ask about God for it is then that we most resemble God. The Trinity goes beyond both solitude and the mutual opposition of Dual­ism, for God, as St. John says, is love.


–father symeon burholt


Jim. What kind of audience do you see for this marriage of East and West?

Bede. Whether I come to America or Europe, I’ve recently been to Australia, everywhere I find people, lay people, deeply interested in a more living kind of prayer. You see, many Catholics today no longer go to Mass. In Europe 10% is considered normal, even in Spain where I was recently. It isn’t that they don’t want the Masses. They want a more living liturgy, and we feel that the liturgy we are developing in India has a life in it, a vitality and a beauty in it which could revive the liturgy in the West, you know. So we are trying now to see how people in the West could live a contemplative life, not so much in monasteries, as in ashram. An ashram is different from a monastery. It is a place where there is a guru, normally, a teacher who has disciples who gather around him, and share his knowledge of God, his knowledge of the world and of the spiritual life. So it is much more free and open. You have both men and women, you can have married people. You can even have non-Christians, so you are open in a way that monasteries normally are not, and at the same time it has to be firmly rooted in the Christian Catholic tradition with Mass at the center, you see, so that is really what we are working for.

Jim. You spoke of the tension in Fr. Le Saux’s life between advaita and Trinity. Do you think that as people begin to embrace these two contemplative paths they are experiencing the same tension?

Bede. Well, I think not. Personally I have not had the same tension. The crux of the matter is advaita, you see, nonduality, and Fr. Monchanin once said the aim of our life is advaita and the Trinity. And I believe that advaita is not one, and it’s not two. It is really relationship, and the Trinity to me is the perfect example of nondual relationship. See, the Father is not the Son, the Father and Son are not the Holy Spirit. It’s not one. Neither are they two. The Father is not simply separate from the Son. The Father is in the Son, the Son in the Father, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, so it’s a nondual relationship which for me is a model of all nonduality. The whole of creation, actually, is this interweaving of beings in relationship, in communion.

You know, Western science, today, says that the whole universe is a field of energies where everything is interrelated and interdependent, and so this kind of relationship is not simply dualistic dividing everything, nor simply monistic, making everything simply one, but all things, and all human beings, are all interrelated, interdependent and woven together, as it were, as a whole, and the Trinity is the model and the principle of the whole. To me nonduality understood in a Christian sense is the answer to theology today. That’s how I would see it. We’re only gradually coming to it.

Jim. In your recent book, A New Vision of Reality, you talked about the difference between a Christian mysticism based on love, and a Hindu or Buddhist mysticism based on a transformation of consciousness. Can you comment on that?

Bede. It’s a very interesting point. In the Hindu tradition the name for the godhead as far as it can have a name is sat-chit-ananda, being, consciousness, and bliss, and the Hindu aims at reaching that state where you become one with the supreme being through reality in pure consciousness, and that produces a state of absolute bliss, transcendence, but it is not exactly love, so there is no relationship in it. I feel the danger of Hindu mysticism is to retire into an inner reality of infinite riches and beauty and so on, but it doesn’t relate you to others, and the danger of the sannyasi in India is he is not really concerned with other people. That’s why you can meet people dying in the streets of Calcutta and not worry much about it. It’s part of karma, it’s part of samsari, the way of the world, and you believe that eventually these people will come to a better state, but you are concerned with this union with the supreme in the depths of your being. It’s a wonderful experience, but it’s not love, you see. I think they teach us much about the inner life of the spirit, and so on, but I think we also can bring this principle that it’s not simply a communion with God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, in jnana, as they say, it’s also a communion in love, and a love which goes in and through God, through Christ, to the whole creation, to all humanity. If you do not love your brother who you see, how can you love God whom you have not seen? So I think that is something the Christian tradition can bring. Though mind you, I do feel that they have a depth of God realization which very few Christians in the West have today.

–Interview with Bede Griffith



The primary mystery is the birth of God in man (who includes the world in
himself and the birth
of man in god. In our imperfect language this means
that there is in God a need for a responsive creative act on the part
of man.
Man is not merely a sinner; the consciousness
of sin is but an experience
which moves him as he treads his path; man is also a creator. The human
tragedy from which there is no escape, the dialectic of freedom, necessity,
and grace, finds its solution within the orbit
of the divine Mystery, within
the Deity, which lies deeper than the drama between Creator and creature,
deeper than representations
of heaven and hell.

Here the human tongue keeps silence. The eschatological outlook is not
limited to the prospect
of an indefinable end of the world;
it embraces in its view every moment of life.
At each moment
of one’s living, what is needed is to put an end to the old
world and to begin the new. In that is the breath
of the Spirit.’

-Nicholas Berdyaev