DYNAMIC OF THE BLACK HOLE THAT THREATENS TO SWAMP US ALL
“The highest knowledge is to know that we are surrounded by mystery. Neither knowledge nor hope for the future can be the pivot of our life or determine its direction. It is intended to be solely determined by our allowing ourselves to be gripped by the ethical God, who reveals Himself in us, and by our yielding our will to His.”
Albert Schweitzer (Doctor of philosophy; M.D. concert organist and licentiate in theology)
In the book of Job we are given a back story of a cosmic battle
There is a cosmic dispute taking place between the devil and God, with Job caught up in its web. Job’s so-called friends come along, ostensibly to comfort him, but they have no light to shed on the situation, with all except Elihu making superficial judgments about his motivation. They are totally blind to the forces that are at work outside of their consciousness. Even Elihu makes no mention of the dark forces opposing Job. Elihu has a different motivation from the others. He says “Speak up for I want you to be cleared.” Job 33:32
Throughout Elihu’s interaction with Job, although he certainly doesn’t agree with all Job has said, he is certainly not vindictive. Quite the contrary! He displays an engagement with truth, beauty, goodness, and a profound respect for the Divine Being, who he believes is listening in. Nevertheless there is no recognition of the dark but invisible shadow that hangs over the whole book of Job, which is probably as it should be, because if you’re walking toward the light the shadows will always be behind you.
This ancient book brings to the surface one of the great philosophic questions of all time, the question of the existence of evil in the world – that rational man knows to do good but is drawn to choose evil.
The problem of evil
One of the main problems for psychology and sociology is that their starting point is the belief that all behaviour is caused. In most cases this is a sound place to start, however the spiritual dynamics that lie behind evil behaviour elude rational examination. In the words of Isaac Newton, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.”
Why did the country that produced Goethe, Beethoven, Bach, Luther, Schiller, Einstein, Kant and Hegel , allow itself to be led to the edge of oblivion by a psychological misfit? Perhaps there was more to it.
Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect said, “We were all under his spell, blindly obedient and with no will of our own – I wondered what the medical term of this phenomenon might be. I noticed during my activities as architect, that to be in his presence for any length of time left me tired, exhausted and void.”
Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao and all atheistic agents of death, cannot be explained away as a problem of education. They were not an expression of an intellectual deficiency but of an ill will, a moral black hole – a void.
Evil is evidence of a moral, not an intellectual void
While some philosophers and theologians may wrestle with the topic, there are very few sociologists and psychologists who have attempted to deal with it. One of the few is psychoanalyst Erich Fromm who was touched personally by it, when as a Jew he had to flee from Hitler’s Nazi regime. Fromm spent much of the rest of his life studying the evil nature of Nazism with a large part of his study on Nazi leaders from the Third Reich and the holocaust.
It is generally accepted that he was the first and only scientist to clearly identify an evil personality type. He attempted to examine evil people in depth and suggested that even more study was needed. Not many researchers took him up on the recommendation. In his book People of the Lie psychiatrist Scott Peck attempted to wrestle with understanding some of his own most difficult cases. For him, naming some situations as evil became the only effective analysis. He observed that good people often find themselves overtaken by evil circumstances.
It is often good people that evil is most inclined to fall upon
Scott Peck wrote that “It’s often the most spiritually healthy and advanced among us who are called on to suffer from evil in ways more agonising than anything experienced by those more ordinary. Great leaders, particularly when they are wise and well, are most likely to endure degrees of anguish unknown to the common man.” It is as if evil is threatened by goodness and therefore targets good people. Job had been a very good man and was therefore an obvious target. We see him in great distress yet he cries out, “Though He (God) slay me yet will I trust Him.”
Scott Peck went on to say, ”Stress is a test of goodness, the truly good are they who in times of stress do not desert their integrity, maturity or sensitivity. Nobility might be defined as the capacity not to regress in response to degradation, not become blunted in the face of pain, to tolerate the agony and to remain intact.” Peck believes that the capacity for suffering is the clearest evidence of greatness. As he says here, “One measure and perhaps the best measure of a person’s greatness is their capacity for suffering.”
It’s what J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was alerting us to
In Lord of the Rings we see a hero going through immense suffering. Frodo, the real hero of the story, is a pure hearted little person who takes on the task of destroying the powerful ring with its evil capacity to corrupt. Frodo sees it simply as a burdensome service that somebody has to face, while it becomes clear that the others, who have ego needs for power and recognition, cannot be trusted.
Diminishing evil is not simply a question of more education as some want to believe. We have seen highly educated people lead great atrocities in our own time, one of the most notable, a trained psychiatrist who designed the atrocities in the Balkans conflict.
The late great Archbishop Fulton Sheen said “All you do when you educate a devil is make him a cleverer devil.” The apostle Paul called it the “mystery of iniquity.” Only the humble willing and spiritually aware are in a position to come to terms with it.
Every day is a Winding Road
“I’m just wondering why I feel so all alone
Why I’m a stranger in my own life
Every day is a faded sign
I get a little bit closer to feeling fine
I’ve been wondering if all the things I’ve seen
Were ever real, were ever really happening.”
(Excerpts from song by Sheryl Crowe)
What is the human spirit’s role in shifting the consciousness of a culture?
We have misunderstood the significance of spirituality. The activity of the human spirit is not just about what happens in privacy to individuals. Those who thought they were cultural elites have taught us to see it simply as some kind of New Age personal disposition, which seems a bit airy-fairy. This is probably why the man we used to know as Cat Stevens was not inspired by it. Most of the Millennials (born between early 1980’s and early 2000’s) are wanting a dynamic vision that can show how their life can make a difference. We have forgotten that the strongest drive inside most adolescents is to make a difference by their existence.
Young people who are willing to lay down their lives
The Western world has been shocked by the number of sensitive young men who have been willing to blow themselves up to assure themselves of both a sense of significance and a place in heaven. At the very time Western Christianity seems be losing its confidence in the public square there is a rising tide of spiritual hunger. The Millennials are looking elsewhere.
Those who are studying approaches to de-radicalisation recognize the adolescents’ deep need for purpose and community as the key. Perhaps this underlies the current attraction to radical Islam for many young people, which bewilders an older generation, most of whom grew up believing spirituality and religion was just one of the many hobbies and interests of the leisured class. We confused religious ideology with spiritual belief. However the spirit, without our recognition, has been at work all around us, bringing into focus our yearnings for completeness.
Rising from within is our spirit’s quest for completion and meaning.
Looking back at the past 30 to 50 years it is now clear that we in the 21st century are in the midst of a profound shift of consciousness. The human spirit has been powerfully at work in ways that are invisible to most of us. Things that once seemed unthinkable have become law. While many of the older generation see most of these changes as a bewildering shift of morality, others – for good or ill – see them as a shift in human consciousness.
How did it happen?
Author Steve McIntosh is a leader in the integral philosophy movement. He is an honours graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. In his book Integral Consciousness he attempts to show the flow of change in a culture and society. He likens it to the gentle, almost imperceptible flow of an incoming tide. Today’s cultural shifts are however, quite unlike anything seen before in human history. For those who can see, change is more like a raging tsunami than the gentle ebb and flow of what would have been expected in the past. A new consciousness is threatening to burst the banks of institutions and social arrangements that have in the past given us some kind of certainty and cohesion. According to McIntosh the raging tide of change is threatening to sweep away the structured certainties of our communal existence.
When the scaffolding goes will the building be strong enough to stand?
Respect for the social arrangements of marriage, family, church, government, law, and almost all internal and external authorities, is fading. The arrangements that had us limit our behaviour for the sake of others are now being questioned, often in the name of personal freedom. It seems to be uncharted territory.
Where have we come from? Is this where we really want to go?
McIntosh references one of the most influential philosophers in the Western intellectual tradition, Georg W.F Hegel (1770-1831), who believed – in direct contrast to the left brained mechanists of the Enlightenment – the human spirit is more engaged than most of his contemporary philosopher
s or our cultural elites would want to acknowledge.
Hegel sensed that God and spirit were invisibly and powerfully at work, having significant influence in shifting human consciousness and shaping the emerging culture. Those able to perceive what he called “the dialectical process at work in the development of history,” saw the unfolding of a fascinating story.
Most people are blind to the most important aspects of developing culture.
Hegel believed that most people cannot discern the meaning of significant events in their moment of history – that it is only in hindsight that understanding dawns. He showed that when wars and catastrophes come, would-be leaders react to their perceived situation, yet few of them are able understand the full meaning of their time, in their time.
Hegel’s understandings born out
How many leaders really got beyond their ego to see clearly the factors in play that produced the catastrophic 1st and 2nd World Wars? Even now the truth of the so called weapons of mass destruction that triggered the Gulf War and all that followed, is still unfolding.
Clarity and wisdom only come on reflection, often years after the events. In Hegel’s view, a shift of consciousness can provide a rare opportunity for a durable kind of wisdom to rise if people are helped to go beyond their cultural horizon and prejudices.
The search for durable wisdom
McIntosh believes that while this historical phenomenon is true, there is something of a unique spiritual process at work in our own time. This quiet but profound revolution has been at work while we were thinking about other things. And Hegel shows that it is a process has changed the way we see ourselves personally, collectively and internationally.
We have a limited field of vision.
It all happened while we focused on hot and cold wars, missiles, bombs, technological advances and social threats like television, computers and telecommunications. The threatened wars between communism and capitalism and the so-called wars on drugs and terror diverted us, so we missed seeing the real threat of economic and social melt-down that eventually took the world to the brink and has left us there.
Have we emerged with a new level of human consciousness?
McIntosh calls it the rise of integral consciousness and subtitles his book, How the Integral World View is Transforming Politics, Culture and Spirituality.
After the collapse of the Berlin wall, along with atheistic Communism, spirituality was free to come out of the closet. Even Albania, the most atheistic country the world had ever seen, was able to bask in its new found spiritual freedom.
The only place where spirituality is viewed with hostility and is under attack, is in Western Universities where the so called cultural elites, have conveniently tucked it away on the fairy tale shelf, labelled religion. They think they know, and feel they have grown beyond what they view as the source of Western spirituality – Christianity. These so-called educators are woefully ignorant about the dramatic shift in spiritual consciousness that is sweeping the world. They have as noted in the previous chapter, been left behind.
The ex-atheist philosopher who upset his Level 3-thinking colleagues
One man who was on the fore-front of the anti-God battle was the brilliant academic Antony Flew, whose 1950’s work Theology and Falsification became the bedrock that most later atheistic writing was built on. However, much to the horror of his former colleagues, he has now come out and openly said he has changed his mind.
He has co-authored a book with Roy Abraham Varghese called There is a God, subtitled, “How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind.” Author Francis S Collins said of this book, “It is towering and courageous … and Flew’s colleagues in the church of fundamentalist atheism are totally scandalised.”
“I am not an atheist.” Albert Einstein
Flew spends some time in his book putting the record straight about Albert Einstein, whom atheists had gone about dishonestly distancing from any form of belief in God. He quotes Einstein: “I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child only dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is.”
He went on to say, “That seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
It is true that Einstein had some difficulty in comprehending what he called a personal God. But he clearly maintained that “God manifests himself in the laws of the universe as a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Einstein
Einstein is only one of the many significant minds that helped produce the new era in scientific thinking, along with the likes of Max Plank, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schroder and Paul Dirac. All have made similar comments to Einstein.
Max Planck, who first introduced our age to the revolutionary world of quantum physics said, “There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for one is the complement of the other.” He also said, ”Religion and natural science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never relaxing crusade against scepticism and against dogmatism, against unbelief and superstition – therefore on to God.”
Paul Dirac, who complemented Heisenberg and Schroder with a third formulation of quantum theory said, “God is a mathematician of a very high order and he used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”
Having smacked out of the park the old furphy about science disproving the need for spirituality, we can now see the remarkable results that are achieved when they respectfully work together.
THE FORCE THAT DRIVES OUR LIVES FORWARD
There is a little poem that captures our innate duality:
“Within my earthly body there’s a crowd,
One of me that’s humble, one that’s proud
One that’s sick and sorry for its sin,
One that’s unrepentant; sits and grins.
From much corroding care I could be free
If at once I could determine which one’s me.”
Of all the inner voices, which one is me?
According to Victor Frankl the illuminating spirit that is reaching out to God is the “constant unconscious.” It may frequently be swamped by our lower nature, but it has a permanent and dynamic desire to make itself and the exciting real meaning of the world, known. It is the distinctive treasure of our humanity that is constantly drawing us toward truth and transcendence. It is the dynamic and real source of the art and science that draws humanity forward. As a plant is drawn to the sun to nourish its need for growth-promoting light, so too our spirit draws us toward that which beckons us to our completion. We sometimes experience it as the tearing up in a movie we’re being deeply touched by, or a beautiful sunset that inspires a “Wow,” from deep within, or the trusting love of a small child.
We are told By St Paul in 2 Cor. 4:7 (A.V.) “We have this treasure in earthen vessels…..”
The spirit yearns to rise from the subconscious and makes visible the illuminating hope, that reveals what the Psalmist called “The path of life.” Psalm 16:11. The feelings that rise from the spirit will sometimes surprise us with what will rise from deep within, and often, simply, yet dramatically, dawn upon our awareness. Sometimes it will take us in a whole new direction.
This is how it happened for famous British actor Alec Guinness.
He had been an avowed atheist, quite settled in his view of the world when he was overtaken by an event that radically changed his thinking. It was long before we came to know him as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars sagas. Back in the 50’s he was playing the lead character, Father Brown, in the series written by G.K. Chesterton. At the time he was also wrestling with the personal tragedy of his son’s polio, which had paralysed the young man from the waist down.
Filming in France, one evening in the golden glow of sunset, he walked back to his hotel alone, still wearing the cassock for his part as Father Brown. Suddenly his hand was seized by a small boy he’d never seen before. The boy looked up at him cheerfully and calling him “Môn Pere,” chattered away in French as they walked along together.
Something provoked reflection
From then on, as Guinness walked home each night from the film set, he began to visit a small Catholic church to sit alone. Initially he thought it might help him feel at home in the part he was playing, but eventually in spite of his atheism, he thought he would make a negative deal just to check whether God might exist after all. “Well God, if I am not simply talking to the ceiling, and If my son Matthew recovers I promise never to stop him from converting.” Soon the boy was walking, and the very next year Guinness went on the first of many retreats to Mount St Bernard Abbey.
In his book Blessings in Disguise Guinness wrote of another moment of illumination. “ I was walking up King’s Way in the middle of the afternoon when an impulse compelled me to start running. With joy in my heart and in a state of almost sexual excitement until I reached the little Catholic Church there, which I had never entered before. For 10 minutes I was lost to the world.” Later he was at a complete loss to explain his actions but finally decided it was, “A rather nonsensical gesture of love – an outburst of thanksgiving for the faith of the ages”.
On the 24th of March 1956 Alec Guinness ended his pilgrimage from atheism to Christianity. By 1957 father, mother and son had become Christians, something they would have never dreamed of seven years earlier.
Illumination is much more than a moment of inspiration
This sense of enlightenment is much more than a profound existential moment. It has been shown to inform our consciousness with a sense of what is right, and to imbue our feelings and dreams with a sense of which way is forward. This sense of the eternal will, if we remain open to it, sensitize us to the profound nature of beauty, justice and truth, the very things animals seem unaware of.
The late Robin Williams in the opening soliloquy of the film Patch Adams said, ” All of life is coming home – salesmen, secretaries, coalminers, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us, the restless hearts of the world, are trying to find a way home.” He then defined home as the dictionary defines it: “A place of origin or goal of destination.” Of course one wonders if he really made it home.
He was able to play Patch Adams yet he needed help to find his own way home.
It is as if the whole of humanity has been on an incredible journey and is now trying to find its way home to its intended pattern of life. Home is not necessarily a geographical place; it is a spiritual place where we can come to a settled understanding of what really matters. It is a place where we know and are known deeply, and share a sense of alignment with the Divine Being’s unfolding purpose, which leads us to what is called a state of shalom.
Peace is about coming home.
Peace is not about the absence of conflict, but about all things integrating and moving into the pattern they were originally designed for. Some believe an outcome of the move to shalom is that many of us are subconsciously moving upwards to what is called an integral consciousness. As people reach out for new spiritual frameworks from which to recognise and understand their experiences, a growing number are reviewing their lives in the context of non-materialistic values.
Prayer is more common than most would expect.
80% of Australians say they pray while only 70% say they believe in God. Makes you wonder who 10% of them are praying to? While it might be true that fewer than half of all Americans regularly attend religious services, (43%) 90% pray, and 96% believe in God or a universal spirit.
Deborah Howell, Washington bureau chief of Newhouse News Service recently commented on the television industry, “The news media is finally getting it. Religion and spirituality are the most important aspects of most people’s lives.” It seems as the baby boomers get older and are confronted by their own mortality they too are becoming sensitised to the spiritual dimensions of life.
This spiritual part of us wants to get beyond appearances to its deepest yearnings for love, truth and beauty.
It cares about that which is beyond; that which is more than itself. This is why it is drawn to love, truth and beauty. Where has this part of us come from and what does it look like? When we explore the tie up between our conscience and our spirit, we also see the source of the delightful impulse that prompts us to move from self-absorption toward that which we – unlike the animals – recognise as good and true, and beautiful. This is where that unique human phenomena called awareness, choice and responsibility come into play.
The unique human capacity for a sense of responsibility
Richard Court on becoming Premier of Western Australia asked his father Sir Charles Court who’d previously been a long serving Premier of Western Australia, ”What is the secret of political leadership?” His father replied “Remember son, leaders look for responsibilities; leaders accept responsibilities; and leaders meet their responsibilities.”
Our uneasy relationship with responsibility
In J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we come across this dialogue ”I feel I owe you another explanation Harry,” said Dumbledore hesitantly. “You may, perhaps have wondered why I never chose you as a prefect?” He went on to say,”I must confess that I rather thought you had enough responsibility to be going on with.”
Many of those who hunger for power, fail to realise that with real authority comes the burden of responsibility. While authority enhances the ego, the burden of responsibility confronts the ego with inevitable fear and anxiety. It produces stress, the kind of stress that can make the most strong and courageous, buckle at the knees. However, from procrastination to avoidance the ego has a multiple arsenal of ways to distance itself from the burden of responsibility.
Animals may have highly refined instincts, but these are not the same as a value based sense of responsibility, that is distinctively human. The unique human capacity for responsibility is one of the most remarkable features of the spirit’s role in the human psyche. Have you ever noticed our complex relationship with responsibility? It’s fascinating to observe how profoundly we grow when we learn to handle responsibility consistently and well.
Managing responsibility develops esteem and can repair damaged esteem.
Helping children learn to carry appropriate responsibility well, repairs and develops self-esteem. On the other hand most of us, almost as a reflex, are inclined to distance ourselves from the pain and stress of accepting the burden of responsibility for failure of our own behaviour? If we are successful in something, we are quite sure it is because of our gift, our genius. If we fail we are tempted to make an excuse or lie. We quickly look outside of ourselves for someone or something external to blame; may be a bad teacher we had at school, bad parenting or some structural injustice.
The capacity for responsibility is often a sign of spiritual maturity.
We often use “it” language to distance ourselves from the stress of personal responsibility. If we drop a piece of crockery we’re drying with the tea towel we are inclined to say “It slipped out of my hand,” rather than “I dropped it.” If we miss the train we’re likely to say “It went without me,” instead of “I didn’t turn up on time.” We have the unique capacity to accept and carry significant responsibility, but too often we use our intelligence to protect our ego by avoiding, denying and excuse making. These regular patterns of behavior become obvious to others and affect trust.
We can’t see our own behavior – the predicament of our personal existence
One of the most embarrassing aspects of our personal existence is that we can’t see our own behavior and how it impacts others. We always judge ourselves by what we see of our motives but we tend to judge others by what we see of their behavior as we read it through our filters.
We all have significant blind spots – things that other people can see about us but we are blind to. It requires an intense commitment to truth, and the support of loving honest relationships, to grow beyond our personal delusions.
The unique aspect of our humanity to which our spirit brings life
If as Elihu said, “It is the breath of God in a man, the spirit in a man,” that gives us our unique capacity for seeing and knowing, where did it come from, and what are its characteristics? What are the things that inspire personal responsibility and develop our individuality?
There is a generic term for all negative emotions – unhappiness.
I have seen whole corporate cultures become destabilized, unhappy and therefore unproductive when infected by negative and destructive emotions. Because the ego is driven by a need to look good and be right, these situations are difficult to turn around without significant attitudes of humility in key opinion-formers. If this doesn’t happen because of the inflexibility of these people with frail and sensitive egos, the prognosis won’t look good. Those driven by frail egos with hyper sensitivity to their own esteem will tend to blame everything except their own frailty and blindness for the situation. If they have the courage to look, they will soon discover that Scapegoating will never bring resolution and peace.
But what of positive emotions?
Do positive emotions have the opposite effect on the physical body? They do indeed, but there is a difference between short-term positive emotions that are ego-centred and ego-generated, and the deeper emotions that emanate from our natural state of connectedness with our spirit.
The ego is always looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Happiness for the ego comes when happenings are going the way the ego wants them to go. In contrast, our spirit always wants to lead us to joy. Joy comes through our spirit harmonising with – and finding its place in – the divine narrative that is continually unfolding. It is an experience with a unique quality.
Why ego happiness is always anxiety prone and contaminated
What appears to be positive emotion generated by the ego already contains its opposite, which it can too often quickly become – what the ego calls love is often possessiveness and an addictive clinging that can turn into hate within seconds. Anticipation about an upcoming event that looks like hope is really the ego’s infantile overvaluation of the future. It easily turns into its opposite – feelings of anger, or of being let down if the event doesn’t fulfill the ego’s expectations – which in turn becomes bitter disappointment.
Whichever way you see it, the ego’s happiness is always conditional. Praise and recognition may have you feeling alive and happy one day, while being criticised or ignored will have you dejected and unhappy the next. The attention paid to you by a member of the opposite sex might send you to cloud nine, but the removal of that attention can let you down badly.
The ego’s pleasures are always vulnerable to a change of circumstances.
The pleasure of a wild party can quickly turn into the bleakness of a hangover the next morning. The ego’s so called happiness is transient because it stems from the mind’s ego-centred identification with external factors. These external concerns are all unstable, being tied to circumstances that are liable to change at any moment.
Joy and peace are unconditional spiritual states of inner being.
What we call the deeper emotions are inner conditions that are not really emotions at all but spiritual states of being. These are the states of being Jesus taught his followers and tried to lead them into.
Jesus, along with all the most significant spiritual teachers, taught the need to escape ego.
The first lessons he attempted to teach his new followers were in The Beatitudes found In the gospel of Matthew chapter 5:1-12. In the Greek, from which they are translated, is a remarkable psychological paradigm. It’s a shame Freud didn’t take the time to study and learn from the Master Teacher. There is nothing in the Beatitudes that will, if integrated, inflate the ego. Just the opposite! They are all about living a life detached from the powerful demands of the ego.
Happiness is when happenings are going the way our ego wants them to go.
While the emotions that the ego pursues as pseudo-happiness all exist within the realm of opposites, there is sharp distinction in the spiritual states of being which have no opposites, because they emanate naturally from deep within the wellsprings of our own spirit. Joy is not dependent on circumstances.
From within the spiritual state of being come its fruit – love, joy, hope, peace, patience, and endurance. These are all expressions of an ego free of the need to look good and be right because the spirit that transcends the ego know it is ok.
Integration and authenticity without a drivenness to be something else, are clear hallmarks of a spiritual state.
As love, truth, creativity and our sense of agency are thwarted we become unstable. If these four aspects of a healthy will become inverted we go close to the edge of becoming crazy. They are the means of our becoming more alive and whole. They are the expressions of our distinctive humanity that clearly separate us from the animals.
Love, truth, creativity, and autonomy through responsibility are not only the four pivotal attributes of the human spirit without which life has no joy but they become the platform through which, if we’re spiritually healthy, we quest for goodness and beauty, through truth.
These are the unique aspects we’ve been shown about the Divine Being’s essential nature
This is why theologians tell us that God is Love, God is Truth, God is Creator and God is Supreme Ruler. These expressions of the divine nature are innate aspects of our human spirit initially breathed into our spirit by God himself at our creation. Sadly this part of us went missing when we humans left our relationship with God. We are now left with the exquisite yearning and unsatisfied ache of the spiritual absence. It is this spiritual vacuum that drives our obsessions and shapes our despair.
American wartime president Harry S Truman used to say “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” The reason so many of us are phoney is that we use a mask as our best attempt to fill the gap between what we subconsciously fear we are and what we feel we need to be, in order to draw love and respect from others. When truth punctures our inflated persona, the psychological pain moves some people to anguish and others even to contemplate commit suicide. Most of us are more interested in ego comfort than truth.
The exquisite ache that blinds us all
It was the apostle Paul who said “sin deceived me.” He went on to talk about the “mystery of iniquity” which is about the poor souls who though empty, still have their ego convincing them of their own moral superiority. It is they who are most easily deluded. They lack the will and spiritual intelligence to see past their ego needs to face the depth of their sub-conscious and exquisite ache from which comes their distorted motivation.
This is why the husband and wife philosophers, Werner and Lottie Peltz said “Your ultimate desire is your ultimate delusion unless your ultimate desire is to fulfil the words of God.” It is these words of God that bring a focus to the distinctive yearnings of the human spiritual that give life its illumination and meaning.
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.” Rachel Carson
The scientific community has provided all sorts of cures for our ills – pills to help addicts overcome addiction, antidepressants for the depressed, sleeping tablets for the sleepless, stimulants for the tired – and so on. Until recently it was not able to offer a great deal of help to understand our emotional and inner life. In fact, professors of psychiatry have been known to tell their students, “If you want to understand the interior world of a human being you’re better off reading Shakespeare rather than Freud.”
The scientific enterprise that began in the period of the Enlightenment was founded on a particular approach to knowledge that could not be applied to emotions. It was positively cynical about the idea that anything called spiritual, could be included in the discussion.
The heart went missing.
Everything had to be linear and predictable – cause was followed by effect, stimulus by response. There were orderly laws that governed the universe, and the task of scientific discovery was to reveal those eternal and predictable laws. It was believed emotion would only muddy the waters because it was not seen to be a source of wisdom or to be predictable or measurable. Emotion seemed to have little or nothing to do with the technical advances believed to be necessary to significant scientific inquiry.
Understandably, this left hemisphere super rational approach seemed to be the perfect antidote for the superstitious medieval worldview that had held sway since before medieval times.
The rise of reason and the advent of modern science – a new era
The Spanish inquisition and constant religious battles were almost always about power and control rather than truth. Tragically, they all led the shaping of what we now call the Enlightenment. Because the 17th century was dominated by the drive to find a practical way out of hunger, discomfort and early death, it then became rightly focused on the need to improve the material conditions of life. Science and technology came up with inventions that were remarkably successful to this end, but fell prey to their own myth of invincibility.
The scientific method will never give us the most important answers.
The problem with the scientific method is that it can show us how to feed the hungry of the world, and it has done that so effectively we can currently feed 15 times the world’s population. But we still don’t do it! African countries currently spent four times as much on paying back their debts to the West as they do on healthcare for their people. Science can show us how to build a bigger and better bomb, but not whether we should.
After two World Wars, a Cold War, a global financial crisis – not to mention a man made global warming crisis – the greatest human discovery is that science can show us how, but not why.
Science cannot give us values that cause us to commit ourselves.
Science alone cannot shape values, because values require a deep heart commitment, not just intellectual understanding and acknowledgment. The question most often on the lips of a young child is “Why?” How many people can help the young person answer the most fundamental question of all, “Does my life have a meaning?” It was Victor Frankl who asserted that this is the most important question of all. Of course life either does have meaning or it doesn’t. We are now confronted with the question that neither materialistic science nor philosophy can answer: If life does have meaning, who or what designed the meaning?
The human existential questions
Meaning and the quest for meaning, are the profound human existential questions. The philosopher Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” He was actually saying, I know I’m thinking and I know it is me who is thinking; there is a me, I therefore know I have a personal existence. He then became convinced he had used reason to grasp his existential dilemma but had he? He did not go further and ask, what drives this existence and where does the me come from. Why is it here?”
What is the real me and where does it come from, and where does love come from?
It is fascinating to see how a healthy sense of self emerges in small children. They come into this world with only two instincts sucking and grasping.
Have you seen toddlers in the terrible twos and threes – the mine and me do it – phase? This is when the ego, the sense of me, is going through an important self-shaping process. Paradoxically the more unhealthy this process, the more ego-centred a person will grow up to be. In fact, it is now believed that the narcissist is produced by a mother who needs the child’s love and attention. Inevitably her attention will swing from being too focused on, and too indulgent with the child, to becoming preoccupied with other things and emotionally distant from the child.
Unconditional love that respects individuality is the secret.
Consistent values and the kind of unconditional love that respects the child’s individuality has its roots beyond reason. It is this love and respect that lays the best foundation for a healthy person to grow.
The great secret of all productive relationships is centred in our need to learn how to be free of our ego needs. We all have to be secure enough in ourselves to loosen our ego’s grip, and move from an immature grasping orientation to a self-giving and sharing orientation. Being free of the distortions of one’s ego is a spiritual activity and skill, not an intellectual one.
Paradoxically, as we learn the spiritual discipline of emotional detachment from the ego’s inclinations, we have the chance to re-encounter the place where heart and mind connect, and make connection with the spirit. This is the source of our innate capacity for spontaneity, intimacy, awareness and wisdom.
There can be danger in having a person with a clever mind and a dark heart.
It is why the great sages and spiritual teachers say we have to learn detachment from our inclination to grasp, and develop our capacity for compassion – as does every socially developing young child. Trust rather than control then becomes the dominant and dynamic driving motivation within the human soul.
Small wonder we have been told that we have to “become as little children” if we are to develop true wisdom and spiritual intelligence.
There is a little girl or boy inside each of us, wanting to transcend itself.
Too often this little boy or girl inside of us gets tucked away, along with its love of life and adventure. It’s true, you can have safety or adventure but you can’t have both at the same time. Talking about his time in the SAS Mark Donaldson said,“I loved it from the start and I’ve loved it ever since. It is my privilege to be doing what I’m doing. He goes on to say, “I got the V.C. for simply doing what I thought was the right thing to do.”
You can’t have safety and the spirit of adventure at the same time.
What he did was amazing, but like C.S.Lewis’s Lucy, this particular digger was led by his heart – his spirit – and what he calls his “little boy inside.”
Our most normal response is to withdraw from threat, but every now and then something comes up from somewhere within that enables us to rise above the ordinary – to transcend the normal animal instincts of fear, greed and self-preservation.
It is the retelling of the story of these moments that creates heroes, because it reminds us of the deep yearning we all have, to live a life less ordinary. But why don’t we?
I seem to remember that Jesus said something about our needing to become as a child, if we are ever to enter into all we are made for.
When the sparkle in our eyes is replaced by blinkers
For too many of us, the part that brings life to our personalities and a sparkle to our eyes goes missing as we are growing up. We think we have become sensible, but usually we have simply become boring, yielding to the illusion of safety.
This happens when we are driven by fear rather than led by hope. Sadly by age 25 to 35, most of us are so blinkered and unaware of the source of our motivation, that our spirit will knock at the door of our awareness in protest – first with a low level sadness, then a fully fledged depression. Why? Because, by then, the tide of life will be carrying us along to a future in which our spirit feels unrecognized. Many of us will be in a career that doesn’t fit. We are likely to have a growing number of responsibilities and too often, a lack of transcendent purpose.
If we just put off the nagging feeling, it is likely to blow out to a huge midlife crisis between ages 45 and 55, when we’re inclined to fall in love with 18 year old females, buy red sports cars and learn tap dancing! Of course we’re trying to return to when we were 18, before life’s patterns claimed us.
The healthy and well adjusted middle aged person will have come to terms with their spirituality.
Jung said he had not come across a happy middle aged person who’d failed to come to terms with their spirituality. Authentic spirituality keeps spontaneity, intimacy and awareness alive in our soul – in other words the little boy and girl alive in us. We need to face the things in us that may produce confidence but that also produces blinkers. They are in fact psychological drivers and they inevitably become blinkers that filter awareness.