The balance between reason and spirituality
Sunday my wife and I went to church at Warwick Long Bay. We put the coffee in the Thermos. We grabbed a couple of apples. I also took a banana. We each took a book we wanted to read, and then we drove over the hill, past Astwood Park, and then down the hill into the parking area. The wind was blowing and the temperature was cold, but we rolled down the windows. The water was fairly calm, with lazy swells barely perceptible. The colours on the water and the rocks were, well, cool. Dark clouds on the horizon never brought any rain, but they looked exciting.
My wife started reading from a book about the Catholic Mass, The Eucharist. Every once in a while I would stop her and make a comment about the Protestant understanding of some practice or concept. Every once in a while she would editorialise and tell me how such and such related to Vatican II. She is not actually Catholic, but then she is also. I think it would be best to consider us both as being Heinz 57 when it comes to our various church experiences.
Eventually, reaching out to gently touch her leg, I said, Thats it. Im done.
She replied, Had enough?
I had reached that point in which my mind began wandering, and I began to itch for the book I had brought.
I reached for my book on spirituality and read something about mysticism and how Biblical mysticism is the middle ground between classical mysticism and rationality between an understanding and interaction with the Spirit, on the one hand, and a total reliance on ones intellectual ability to figure things out philosophically on the other.
That reminded me of an observation I made a while back in which I noticed that some Christians believe that all the principles we need for living are in the Bible. So, if we just study and rightly interpret the Bible, we can dig out those principles, and then all we have to do is use them, apply them, and then we will have victory after victory and the overflowing life. I suppose one could say that the failures associated with that approach result because a person just didnt get the principle right or wasnt exacting enough in his or her application of it. Its not that the Bible is lacking; it is entirely sufficient for faith and practice, but the Bible alone, without the Spirit of God to open up ones understanding of the Bible, is just a bunch of paper and ink. With rationality alone the Bible is a myth, a socially constructed piece of literature reflecting, somewhat, the cultures of ancient peoples, and that is how it has been studied by many academics.
I had also observed that there are some Christians who so yearn for Gods presence that they want to experience God in the moment, right now, instead of waiting in faith to go home to heaven. They lean on that experience, and mine it like precious metal, developing what they regard to be truths out of their experience of God and using their hunches and impressions to speak for God into the lives of people. The problem with that is that a person may have one kind of experience today but another tomorrow, and that person is rather rudderless on a sea of things happening if he or she does not use the revelation that God has given in the Bible.
So, these are the two extreme ways to approach living the Christian life: rationalising and spiritualising. Biblical mysticism is the middle ground between them.
Is there something in existence beyond our abilities to think it up? Does the world push back against our puny understanding of it? Some cognitive scientists believe that our experience is a product of being aware, embodied entities moving about in a real world. That makes sense to me. Thus, what I know, and what its like to know it, or even to find it out, emerges through my contact with a world that does, in fact, push back, and upon which I actually rely. According to the embodied cognition ideas of Margaret Wilson (as quoted in Wikipedia), "We offload cognitive work onto the environment. Because of limits on our information-processing abilities (eg limits on attention and working memory), we exploit the environment to reduce the cognitive workload. We make the environment hold or even manipulate information for us, and we harvest that information only on a need-to-know basis." This is evident in the use of calendars, agendas, computers, or anything to help with everyday functions. This, by the way, is what people with attention deficits need to do even more of.
So, if God exists, then how do we experience push back from God? Some people talk about God as if He were an idea, something not aware of us and how we think of Him. Someone who does not, and cannot, push back. Yet, if God is part of the environment, as the Bible clearly indicates He is, then people should be able to co-create their lives in tandem with Him. We should be able to learn from and depend upon Gods push back.
God has pushed back on humanity in history. God has given various forms of revelation (through angelic presence, through fire and smoke, through miraculous events, through direct expression, through incarnation, and through inspiration of scripture). God continues to push back with people through direct contact with the Holy Spirit. People can off load with God through prayer, and they can hear directly from God in regards to contemporary life events through the guidance of the One who is called the Paraclete one who comes alongside for comfort and help.
Biblical mysticism is the balance between reason, what our God-given minds can produce, and spirituality, the capacity to respond to God with heart. In psychotherapy, I am always mindful that for me both are going on, even though I most often do not mention God at all and certainly do not intrude on my clients way of understanding things by demanding that we consider what God has to say about it.
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