Gospel story is well summed up in Darryl Ducote's lyric:
is a great tendency to resist the call of Jesus to be with him and to
follow him: to be like him as bread; to be called, blessed, broken and
given for others. It is so easy to opt out of the race or to settle
for a halfway house along the way.
his recent book FURTHER ALONG THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, Dr. M. Scott Peck
describes four stages of spiritual growth. I would paraphrase him by
calling the stages 1) the self-centered, 2) the religious, 3) the searcher
and 4) the spiritual.
to him about 20% of the population are in Stage 1. These people have
no sense of the spiritual, are focused only on themselves. They can
pretend to be loving but all of their relationships are self-serving
and manipulative. These people are antisocial; society exists only for
what they can get out of it. Being unprincipled they can also be chaotic
and deceitful. They can be creative in getting out of the problems they
are ever getting themselves into. Some of them can actually be quite
disciplined when it suits them, and even work in the apparent service
of others. They may rise to positions of power and prestige. They may
even become presidents or preachers! If these people come in touch with
the emptiness inside themselves they may find life too painful to live
and end it, or they may cover their pain by drugs or some other means
or they may progress quite dramatically to Stage 2.
people in Stage 2 are labeled as "formal/institutional." They
need an institution for their governance. For some this institution
could be a prison. Dr. Peck mentions that in his psychiatric practice
in prisons it was not unusual to have a prisoner who was a model and
a leader inside. When paroled he was back to crime in a short time and
then back again in prison. The military and big business can also give
an ambiance that is structured and organized and many people feel comfortable
working within the limits that are set by these institutions. The majority
of churchgoers would fall into the Stage 2 category to a lesser or greater
degree. Some use church and its structures as an optional extra, others
take it very seriously - in a helpful or non helpful way. They can vary
from those who get upset when some changes are made in rituals and liturgy
to those who become fundamentalist and lock themselves into little boxes
where, according to them, all truth is held.
thing that characterizes Stage 2 people is that their vision of God
is almost always a "God out there." They have very little
understanding of the immanent God, the God whose temple each of us is
and who is met in silence. Their image of God is often masculine and
punitive. While God, at times, may be benevolent, he can quickly intervene
and punish us even for offenses of which we may not be conscious.
Stage 3 people are those who begin to question the box that the organization
has put them into, or to which they themselves have clung for some kind
of security. They become individualists who are searching for truth
and not hemmed in by past structures. They can be very socially involved
and committed to action for the poor rather that to mere do-good talk.
If they seek deeply enough and widely enough they will find what they
are looking for. As they get glimpses of the truth they will find that
it strangely resembles the primitive myths and superstitions that their
parents or grandparents in Stage 2 believed in. At this point they are
beginning to convert to the 4th or spiritual stage.
in this stage have a greater appreciation of mystery. They can see a
kind of cohesion behind the surface of things; they are at ease with
paradox and are not upset by truths that for others seem to be contradictory.
Where people in Stage 2 need to have things cut-and-dry, they are not
put off by open endings. Seeing the connection between things and people
and a world beyond, mystics move towards unity and community.
Peck points out that these phenomena or stages can be found in all countries,
cultures and religions. They can also be found inside ourselves. While
we may be predominantly in one stage, we may temporarily advance or
regress to another stage. The mature person will be aware of the potential
criminal and the potential mystic that is within all of us at all times.
explains these stages further as a kind of fixation at different levels
of human development. During the first six years the child tends to
be self centered and manipulative. It then moves on to a stage where
it accepts a lot of institutionalization. It is filled up with the wisdom
of elders and accepts the structures that they propose. Moving into
adolescence young people will question the beliefs and the authority
that has been imposed on them. Flexing their muscles as they move toward
adulthood, adolescents will reject parental and church authority and
begin to defy their parents and resist practices like going to church.
If this stage is negotiated satisfactorily the person will move on from
being an individualist to a new acceptance of society and responsibility.
have taken time to summarize these theories because they make a lot
of sense for me and help to explain some phenomena I have experienced
in my own life and in the lives of those with whom I minister. The people
with which I deal are mostly married people and professional religious
people: priests, brothers and sisters. Amongst the married, the problem
encountered is the difficulty of establishing real communication with
one another and of holding a lasting exclusive relationship. The noticeable
phenomenon amongst religious people is that where you have a group that
has strict structures, an exclusive garb and an ordered way of life,
many will be attracted to the group and many will persevere in it. But
the groups that work to set the inner person free and do not impose
strict dress and structure do not attract and keep their members.
think that the problem has to do with negotiating Stage 3, the questioning
/critical/ fighting-back adolescence stage. Unfortunately, in Philippine
culture there is little understanding of what is happening here. To
talk back to one's parents or to the authority figure is one of the
gravest sins and is dealt with severely by most parents. Few have the
insight and wisdom to look on with good humor at the normal development
of their child. This means that the child is made to feel guilty about
being normal. It is scolded and punished for being normal. He or she
is not allowed to individuate; to become a person in his or her own
right. It is only when one has established one's own identity that one
is capable of choosing to love or not love parents or any body else.
If parents either cling or coerce, the young person cannot become an
individual, and therefore cannot be capable of responsible commitment
and love. There will be no growth from stage 2 to stage 4.
a person may choose marriage to escape from the prison of the home but
will inevitably bring prison-like structures into the marital relationship.
Such a person may choose religious life because of the protective structure
that it provides. If the process of formation challenges one to move
to Stage 4 the person may be afraid to face that inner freedom and leave,
or the person may discover that having found their inner selves they
do not need the structured life any more and fly the nest!
discussion of fixation in Stage 3 is relevant to the topic of meditation.
About ten years ago I began to meditate twice daily and expected that
it would bring me to greater peacefulness quickly. However, the contrary
was my experience. As I continued to meditate I experience much turmoil
in the area of sexuality and relationship for about two years. Looking
back on it I think that this is what was happening. I spent my adolescent
years in a seminary setting and there were certainly some aspects of
that environment that were not conducive to working through adolescent
conflicts. What was happening when I created the space in meditation
was that I was catching up on that development and sorting out unresolved
conflicts of years before.
Jesus asked the disciples "Will you also leave me?" The work of meditation can be painful and frustrating. There are two possible responses: abandon in anger or persevere in patience. In the latter is the secret of life, here and hereafter.
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