Reflections on Spirituality - Part 3
Last week we continued our ruminations on the spiritual life, or rather life itself, an observed life, a life over which we ponder and ruminate, allowing the "now" of our lives and the lives of those around us to be in contact with our inner Truth. We briefly alluded to the fact that this observed or contemplative life is not the prerogative of the few. And this fittingly introduces the beginning of our ruminations on "perception".
Last week I used the words: "It's just a matter of perception." The word just is a very wrong word and I apologise. There is nothing simple about perception. Perception is about seeing. How we see and define reality, how we sift and see through our beliefs, upbringing, emotions and pain. How we interpret the actions of our lives and the lives of others. So while there are deep truths and values that are held in common amongst humans, it is also true to say that in some there will be different ways of seeing. A Hindu and Jew may perceive differently about certain issues. Males and females perceive differently through their gender filters. African culture which is more communitarian may see an issue through different lens than, say, an American culture which may be more individualistic. Once again we must be careful not generalize. The same sex issue that is rocking Anglicanism has African peoples on both sides of the issue.
Getting back to spirituality not "being the prerogative of the few" we must acknowledge that this is a relatively new thinking (new perception). For many centuries this was not the case - it was left to clergy and religious. This came about as a result of a perception change amongst the Disciples of Christ which occurred after Constantine "legitimized" Christianity in the early third century and took it out of the era of persecution. The Christ as understood until then spoke into a spirituality of descent. This perception began to change and disciples sought silence and prayer in the desert (who became known as the Desert Fathers). In a short time monasteries began as communal places of prayer and study. (Monks and nuns became known as religious and the rest us became known as layman, a derogatory term as in "I have layman's knowledge of something" - Rohr speaking at John Main Seminar 2006. In other words spirituality was left to the experts!)*
However, for many reasons, a perception change has occurred. We are rediscovering our own spiritual realities and a new consciousness is evolving. Perception, how we see and understand and interpret, is changing.
And this tells us that there is nothing static about perception.
This wonderfully exciting dynamic is open to us all. From a Christian perspective, Robert Barron in his excellent book "And now I see… a theology of transformation" sums it up with these opening words: "Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows around the transformation of vision"
An observed life is about opening oneself to this transformation of seeing. And opening oneself to the Divine Energy of the Spirit.
*(We don't denigrate the Monastic Movement at all. And certainly not modern religious who are wonderful people).
Read Part 4