We concluded conference 12 with a quote from James 4: 7 on giving in to God. This goes well with Rom. 12: 2, where Paul says:
Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.
Christian spiritual growth calls for a transformation of consciousness effected through our ongoing cooperation with the workings of grace. Put another way, we can say that Christian spiritual growth means allowing our human consciousness to be transformed by the Holy Spirit so that we become living images of Christ, working in the creation to bring God's loving presence to all.
In many earlier conferences, we have spoken of the human spirit and its properties of awareness, intelligence and freedom. This is a good description of spirit per se, but, of course, we experience spirit operating not only in its pure form, but in and through our psychological and bodily levels as well. To speak of a transformation of consciousness, then, we must consider how all the levels of our being are brought into the governance of the Holy Spirit.
There are many ways to consider this, and we have already made a good start in earlier conferences. The resource book on Pathways to Serenity also provides a good working structure, as it takes the approach of spiritual disciplines applied to the various activities of consciousness. Briefly, we might summarize these activities as follows:
1. Attending/Perceiving -- using the senses and awareness to assess what happens to be the case . . . to see "that something is." Such attending includes, but is not limited to, simply being present to the moment and experiencing "what is."
2. Desiring -- the longings of the will.
3. Questioning -- using the imagination and reason to inquire of the meaning of things. What? How? Why? Our responses to these questions.
4. Reasoning -- using the logical and feeling aspects of reason to evaluate the truth of an issue. Verifying one's responses and hypotheses.
5. Decision-making -- deciding what ought to be done based on our values and priorities.
6. Behavior -- what we actually do; how we interact with the outer and inner world.
This approach echoes, again, of the approach taken by Bernard Lonergan, whose works we have referred to throughout this series.
The Drunk Man and the Snake
Consider the story of a man who is drunk coming home late at night. He notices a long, serpentine form on his lawn, becomes fearful, and rushes to his toolshed to get an axe to chop it up . . . which he proceeds to do. The next morning, when he goes outside to get his newspaper, he sees that his garden hose has been cut into pieces and wonders how that happened.
We can use this story (or any other) to identify the most common movements in our consciousness, and in doing so, we note the following:
1. Everything begins with perception, which forms the basis for all that follows. If you see a snake, then your inner deliberations and actions will be very different than if you saw a garden hose.
2. Our drunk man chops up the snake. Why? Because that is what he decided to do. The mere perception of a snake does not explain his behavior. Obviously fearing the snake and considering a threat, he nonetheless could have chosen to do something different.
3. What we know or believe about something makes a difference. If you think all snakes are dangerous, this moves you to different feelings and actions than if you think they're pretty cool, or interesting, and you know that very few are poisonous (and these you can identify).
The drunk man's behavior is a good example of mindlessness -- of not seeing clearly, and of acting robotically or unreflectively in reaction to outer circumstances. In contrast, Christian spirituality invites us to live attentively, reasonably and responsibly, as led by the Spirit. Our future sessions will go more into this.
Reflection and Discussion
- What questions or comments do you have from this session?
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