Lesson 4: Longing for Oneness

Barbara inspired me to read John Phillip Newell, who writes about the need to reconnect with compassion in Rebirthing God, Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings. He echoes many of my friend’s concerns that we have a fossilized church that talks about God but fails to provide spiritual experiences of the divine.

Newell focuses on Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he calls the greatest prophet of compassion in our world. Lady Suu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after leading a nonviolent movement for democracy in opposition to the brutal military rule in Burma.

She speaks about compassion as longing for oneness. We love every person “like a mother caring for her only child.” She sees this as a three-step spiritual revolution in which we find the courage to see the suffering all around us, feel that suffering in our own hearts and minds, and finally act upon it. Her program is based on meditation that overcomes our fears at each stage.

The goal is to come to the place where we are willing to bear the responsibility for the needs of others and make decisions based on their effect on all people. Although she has spent much of the past 25 years under house arrest, she claims if she had started hating her captors, she would have defeated herself.

Newell compares her thought to Simone Weil’s, speaking of our being made from the holy longing for love and of Jesus allowing himself to be conscious of the needs of others.

It took me a while to realize Newell was using the Buddhist Lady Suu, the Jewess Simone Weil, and Jesus to make his point. That brought to mind Karen Armstrong’s contention that compassion is the common ingredient of all religions.

It also provided insight into understanding the meaning of the crucifixion as a compassionate act. Jesus can be seen as longing for oneness when he bears all things and endures all things in love.

My friend Gene Outka wrote of Christian love as equal regard for all, as illustrated by God sending the sun and rain on good and evil alike. Newell is more experiential when he speaks of the Beloved Disciple hearing the heartbeat of God that resides in all people when he leaned against Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper.

In many ways, religion can be regarded as a response to the suffering in this world. In that sense, compassion offers the healing we need to find wholeness.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. paul wildman says:

    I am intrigued does equal regard for all mean what? loving the evil? then do we loose the ability to distinguish good and evil and how then do we speak truth to power as power in this world seems predominantly evil IMO?

    Thanks Fritz a most thought provoking lesson
    thx ciao paul

    • Frita Foltz says:

      Gene used “equal regard” to express God’s love for all people. Although I’ve always appreciate his careful philosophical reasoning, I ‘d like more passion in describing agape.


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