By David Benner
Many people who speak of personal transformation do so in the context of impactful experiences. But experience in itself is never transformational. It all depends on how we respond to it. While losses, medical crises, spiritual experiences and many other things can lead to an awakening, this is far from automatic. All can easily be ignored as we respond in our default mode by returning to the status quo.
Properly understood transformation always involves deep changes in two things – our identity and our consciousness. In terms of Christian spirituality, this involves much more than merely becoming like Christ. It involves nothing less than taking on the mind and heart, identity and consciousness of Christ. It is not just seeing Christ but seeing through Christ. Nor is not just experiencing a relationship with Christ. It is allowing the Christ in whom we abide and who abides in us to be such a deep foundation of our identity that everything we experience is experienced through what I would call Christ consciousness and identity.
St. Teresa spoke of transformation as finding one’s self in God and God in one’s self. At the core of this discovery is taking on the mind and heart, identity and consciousness of Christ.
In Christ consciousness, the boundaries between me and God will become somewhat blurry. But relax. This is as it should be. This isn’t psychosis. It’s unitive vision. And this too is part of authentic transformation. As we move toward our center, our own being and the divine being become more and more mysteriously interwoven. Meister Eckhart speaks of a place in the depths of our soul in which God alone can dwell and in which we dwell in God. Meeting God in this place, we are invited to sink into the eternity of the Divine essence. However, we never become the Divine essence. Christ consciousness does not, therefore, involve a confusion of us and God. In union with God, human personality is neither lost nor converted into divine personality.
Movement into deeper awareness of our being in God may be part of the transformational journey of Christian spirituality but oneness with God is not supposed to be a private experience. It is not just me and God that are one because all people live and move and have their being in God. Even beyond this, because everything that exists is held in the unity that is Christ (Colossians 1:15-17), everything that exists is one in Christ. The old joke about the mystic who walks up to the hotdog vendor and says, “Make me one with everything” misses the point. I am already one with everything. All that is absent is awareness. This awareness is the gift of Christ consciousness and identity. Slowly we begin to see that both the one and the many are held together in The One – The Eternal Godhead. And as we come to know our self within this One, we also come to know our oneness with all that is held by the One.
Christ consciousness and identity allows us to experience and engage the world through and in Christ. So doing, we see and recognize our self to be much more than the separate individual we normally take our self to be. We know ourselves to be one with Christ and one with all that is. And this allows us to engage with God in God’s transformational work in the world making all things new in Christ. This work must start with us but should never end there. The whole point of this work is God’s love for the world – a love that should now be ours as we have taken on not just the mind but also the heart of Christ.