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So I had an interesting (if incomplete) conversation with a seminarian last week, and we got onto this subject: that sin, darkness, shadow stuff, difficulties, separation - all these can be explained by psychology. That satan and demons and so forth are just a symbolic way of talking about those things.

So, I asked him, why not explain all the good stuff (God stuff) in psychological terms, too? Why divide it there? If you want to chuck the "supernatural" stuff that relates to the dark parts of life, why not chuck all of it?

That's, unfortunately, where we had to end our conversation and get back to work, but I've met others who think similarly and thought I'd throw it out there for discussion, even in this as-yet-simplistic form.

Posts: 60 | Location: Brazil | Registered: 13 July 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I was thinking along similar lines the other day. I happened to be reading the public-domain (1911) Catholic Encyclopedia article on the prayer of quiet. It talks about the prayer of quiet as a "gift," as something "given." That divides prayer into only two possibilities: one produced by voluntary effort, the other a supernatural gift of God. But what about the middle category, that which is involuntary (not under control of the individual will) but natural? How would anyone differentiate between the wholly psychological effects of long periods of Shikantaza and divine grace?
Posts: 1010 | Location: Canada | Registered: 03 April 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Maybe the results of Shikantaza are not "wholly psychological" either?
Posts: 60 | Location: Brazil | Registered: 13 July 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Derek, the prayer of quiet is considered the first stage of contemplative prayer. It is "given" as gift to one who is in a state of recollection, which is either acquired or habitual, and therefore "active" in some manner, even though simplified. But you do bring up a good point -- that spiritual practices can become habits of the mind and will, even becoming deeply rooted in the unconscious. That's the whole idea behind the Jesus Prayer and other repetitive prayer forms.

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Ona, I had no idea we still had such liberal seminaries! I thought they had gone the other way -- discounting psychology as a consideration in discerning evil.

But I'd say he is wrong in so absolutizing psychopathalogy as the explanation for all evils. The Church does teach that Satan exists and interacts with our human consciousness, even taking possession of much of it in certain cases.
Posts: 3941 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yeah, I ran the same question by an archbishop yesterday and he kind of rolled his eyes and said he thought that although certainly some kinds of problems are mental illness and so forth, discounting all difficulties, evil, sin, etc as merely psychological was not productive, and that spiritual warfare was still a fundamental and important part of spiritual life.
Posts: 60 | Location: Brazil | Registered: 13 July 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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