Greetings! My name is Chuck Dunning, and I welcome you to The Mystic Way of the Heart. Among other reasons, I write this blog because I have a great feeling of compassion for Christians who find themselves drawn toward what many in the mainstream might call “the fringes.” I’ve been out here for decades now, and I know how lonely and hostile the Christian world can sometimes feel when many of the flock don’t think you belong.
I consider myself a Christian of a very liberal and progressive sort, and I find affinity with much of what I see in the emerging church movement. Christian existentialism also has a significant place in my thinking. I was christened, raised, and baptized in the Methodist Church, and for a while I was active in the Liberal Catholic and Independent Orthodox movements. While I love the traditional sacraments, I currently have no desire to be involved with dogmatic and authoritarian religious organizations, and so I enjoy participating in small private groups.
While I have serious concerns about fundamentalist and conservative movements in the Church, especially in the USA, I do not consider myself at war with anyone but rather striving to meet all in the spirit of the Beatitudes. I definitely do not believe that (1) the Bible is inerrant, (2) that being a Christian is a requirement for being a good person, (3) that Christianity is the “best” religion for everyone, or (4) that God is sorting people out for either eternal bliss or torment. Significant traditional influences on my understanding and practice of Christianity include the works of: the Desert Fathers & Mothers, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, Jakob Boehme, and John Wesley. More recent authors include: Soren Kierkegaard, Paul Tillich, Evelyn Underhill, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King Jr., Matthew Fox, Elaine Pagels, and Marcus Borg.
I’ve identified as a mystic since my mid-20s, but didn’t begin publicly discussing my mystical life until my mid-40s. To me, the Great Mysterious Truth we refer to as God or Spirit as nondual. Somewhat like Spinoza, I conceive of the material universe as God’s physical body, and so God and God’s creation are thus essentially one. For me, the Divine can therefore be related to in a very personal and even romantic way. So it is that much of my poetry is addressed to the Beloved, the Cherished One, although I would hardly claim that an anthropomorphic concept, let alone a gendered one, is adequate. Even so, I am a man on the Way of the Heart, and thus there is no better word I can use to describe my deepest spiritual experiences, understandings, and aspirations than “Love.” In keeping with 1st Corinthians 13, and the Great Commandment from Jesus, it has been said, and I agree, that Love is more than knowledge, which is only the lamp of love, and the lamp is less than that which it enlightens.
Here, then, is a kind of creed or manifesto I wrote in November of 2006:
After all these years in the study and practice of philosophy, psychology, and other crystallizations of human knowledge, after thousands of meditations and prayers, and countless dreams in both night and day, I have fallen in love with Love. After so long lightly kissing Her hand with the lip service of sophistication, I find myself reeling head over heels into the grand romance, to be seduced by the sacred Lover that is Love and Light and Life Herself. For long enough now, I have been coy with Love and settled for fascination with Her many adornments – the jewels of science that rest upon Her flawless breast, the silky rainbow of arts that are the garments veiling Her blinding perfection. I long to no longer fear being a fool for Love, and I wish to abandon myself in Her, for She is the essence of all wisdom. All the most precious sentiments and noble passions stirring in our hearts, all the most illuminating ideas within our minds, are these not the echoes of Her holy voice?
The great virtues of body, mind and spirit are nothing more than reflections of Love’s transcendent beauty. No mortal can hope to cultivate or command Her, for She is the Supreme Virtue to whom we can only surrender and serve. No mystic realizes union with the Divine but through Love’s unfathomable grace. St. Paul was right that faith, hope and even miraculous works are nothing without Her. Yet few of us are able to keep the eyes of our souls upon Her at all times, with all people, in all things. In our moments of failing vision, faith and hope are means by which we open ourselves to once again fall into the immediacy of Love’s embrace. To have faith in each other, to trust, to give our fidelity, to have hope for our mutual benefit, to cultivate optimism and confidence that together we can give birth to peace and joy, are these not the caresses of Her fingertips?
Join me and let us be lovers of Love. Let us find Her even in those we might hate for their ignorance and fear of Her. Let us sacrifice our own ignorance and fear that we might see Love’s singular light even in the distorted reflections we call evil. In Love we need not conquer or destroy, but nurse all harm into healing, and nurture all suffering as the pains of rebirth. Join me and let us be lovers of Love.
Finally, I am semi-retired and work part-time in mental health at Texas Christian University, and I am a member of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education. My spouse and I live in a semi-rural area near Eagle Mountain Lake, where I enjoy spending time on the back porch listening to my muse and a wide variety of birds. In addition to writing, I enjoy camping, hiking, photography, meditation, and I am also a Freemason and author of the book Contemplative Masonry. I’m a bit of a foodie and enjoy trying new cuisines, dishes and restaurants. Social justice and inclusiveness are important to me, and so I am an LGBTQIA+ ally and involved in various interfaith activities.
Once again, welcome to The Mystic Way of the Heart. Please feel free to use the Contact page to drop me a note.