Jump to content

Renunciation And Discipline


Recommended Posts

I've always had a bad taste in my mouth towards renunciation and ascetism. It seemed to me that the attitude of renunciation was man's pronouncing as evil and tainted, what God had pronounced as "very good." My days as a neo-pagan with it's "hug a tree" mentality furthered this idea in my head.

 

It's is fair to say that some groups practice renunciation because they DO see this world and the human body as evil, to be crushed and to be overcome. I still don't agree with this premise. I don't see this world or humanity as evil (which isn't to be confused with being "fallen").

 

However, I've come to realize that not all groups that practice renunciation do so with the premise that the body is evil, in need of punishment. In this view, renunciation is more of a "spiritual house cleaning." It is also a way to wake ourselves up, to move ourselves out of the rut of being on auto-pilot.

 

To quote Jack Kornfield:

 

"We live in disordered times, complicated, distracted and demanding, yet to sustain a spiritual practice demands our steady attention. The first task, then, in almost any spiritual voyage, is to quiet ourselves enough to listen to the voices of our hearts, to listen to that which is beyond our daily affairs. Whether in prayer or meditation, in visualization, fasting or song, we need to step out of our usual roles, out of the busy days on automatic pilot. We need to find a way to become receptive and open.

 

Great spiritual traditions offer us a hundred good ways to do this. Some practices use the breath to quiet the mind and open the heart. There are meditative disciplines of the body that transcend the grasping of our small self, and lead us to openness. There are mantras and rituals of devotion, prayers and rosaries, daily practices of sacred attention; there is the silent inquiry of the heart."

 

What are your thoughts about renunciation, ascetism and discipline? Have you read any of the Desert Father's writings? Do you practice any form of renunciation daily or yearly (like at Lent and Advent)?

 

Talk to me people! :)

Edited by AletheiaRivers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 64
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I do practice Lent; but mostly I'm a wuss who wants to practice more renunciation but doesn't do it.

 

Once upon a time, I wrote some Advent and Lent reflections which I distributed to my friends via e-mail. As it turns out, I believe I had just read Gerald May's Addiction and Grace when I wrote this, so it probably comes out. But I don't think that's a bad thing. As I recall, nobody ever told me to stop, so I guess they were ok.

 

B)

 

Here is Ash Wednesday 2000:

 

As I write, it is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Across the various Christian churches, the response to the season of Lent varies rather widely.  Some traditions regard it as the center around which the church year revolves; others don't pay it any attention at all.  Ash Wednesday was always something I saw on the calendar, but I didn't have any idea what it was.  I thought maybe it was a Jewish holiday, like Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.  And rarely did I ever hear the word Lent growing up, except in the context of jokes about "giving up this or that for Lent."

 

Well, it is this practice of "giving up this or that" that I want to focus on in this reflection.  It has become fashionable in modern criticisms of the Christian faith to condemn it for its other-worldliness and ascetic, life-denying morality.  Especially popular is the straw man of "Puritanism" -- a pleasure-denying philosophy of life where enjoyment is supposedly to be rigidly shunned. And here is Lent -- one more example of morbid Christian self-denial, propagated down through the centuries.  When are these Christians going to wake up and realize that pleasure is not a sin?

 

I won't deny that these criticisms have some element of validity.  It certainly has been taught by many down through the ages that bodily (sense) pleasures are inherently questionable, and that to indulge oneself in them is to open the door to the downward spiral of temptation.  Critics like to single out St. Augustine for his excessive self-denial about sexuality; however, that label can be stuck on hundreds of teachers, and it's not limited to Christian morality.  The great Mohandas Gandhi in our own century believed and taught similarly. Many believe, as I do, that an inadequate body-soul dualism has played a major contributing role in the formation of these beliefs and practices.  Certainly Augustine inherited just such a dualism from his Manichean past (and inadvertently helped to smuggle it into Christian morality).

 

But Lent is about an entirely different matter.  Lent is about fasting. Now, let's be sure that we understand fasting in the broad sense.  I'm not talking about wandering off into the wilderness and not eating for forty days (though that is technically a fast).  By fasting, I simply mean engaging the cycle of restraint and freedom.  Rest and activity.  Fasting and feasting.  The point of fasting is not to "give up" something that is bad or harmful to oneself.  In fact, quite the opposite -- fasting, while applicable in principle to just about anything, is in its specific sense understood to refer to food.  Food, as we all know, far from being harmful, is a basic requirement for life.  We can go without it for some time (our primate metabolism evolved to be able to store food for some days in the event of scarcity), but that would not be our first choice.

 

Even more importantly though, in this society of instant gratification, we seek everything (food included) frequently and in quantity because we have the resources to do so.  If we see a commercial for something we want, we go out and by one.  If we don't have the money, no problem, we'll just charge it.  We are so used to having what we want instantaneously, that we are robbed of the joy of anticipation.  Psychologically, as well as physiologically, we have come to accept the ease with which our needs and wants are met.  The joy of anticipation is a joy I think we all sorely lack, myself very much included.

 

So how does fasting address this situation?  In the case of physical needs, we acknowledge our deep dependency on them, and are sometimes met with our own harsh defenses when we attempt to go without.  Sometimes we succeed; probably more often than not we fail.  But in either case we confront our dependencies and come to know ourselves better.  Realizing our dependency on the simple things like food and drink keeps us from thinking too, too highly of ourselves.  In the case of our luxuries and wants, we also acknowledge a deep psychological dependency on acquired things, and even on our own patterns of acquisition, that we don't realize lurk just beneath the surface of our daily routines.  We may discover that some of these "luxuries" are actually addictions, and we may need to learn how to renounce them on more than just a temporary basis.  Additionally, we may confront seemingly harmless habits that mask deeper needs we have learned to neglect.  We may find that we engage in certain eating habits, for example, to drown out the voices of other needs or pains that are too difficult to address.  By fasting from those "harmless" habits, we may open the door to more healing than we imagined at first.

 

Perhaps this season is a good time to take stock of the things we take for granted.  Not necessarily the things that are harmful, but more subtly, the things that are not.  Perform a little experiment, and remove one or two of them from your life for the next six weeks.  Perform a little experiment called Lent.  See what you learn about yourself, and about what you depend on for survival.  Revel in the joy and anguish of anticipation.  Revel in the cycle of fast and feast.

Edited by FredP
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Awesome thoughts Fred. You should put that on a Blog somewhere. :)

 

Even more importantly though, in this society of instant gratification, we seek everything (food included) frequently and in quantity because we have the resources to do so.  If we see a commercial for something we want, we go out and by one.  If we don't have the money, no problem, we'll just charge it.  We are so used to having what we want instantaneously, that we are robbed of the joy of anticipation.  Psychologically, as well as physiologically, we have come to accept the ease with which our needs and wants are met.  The joy of anticipation is a joy I think we all sorely lack, myself very much included.

 

Delaying of gratification is one of the "tools of suffering" espoused by M. Scott Peck in "The Road Less Traveled." In it he says "Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live." Food for thought, eh?

 

Additionally, we may confront seemingly harmless habits that mask deeper needs we have learned to neglect.

 

This sums up nicely the main point of my post: "harmless habits that mask deeper needs." Living on auto-pilot.

 

I gained deep respect for the Jewish law and what it means from reading the book "To Life!" by Rabbi Kushner. Rather than seeing the law as a curse and a burden, designed to point out imperfection and sin, Jews view the law as a blessing and as a way to make every action sacred. Food is sacred. Days are sacred. Washing is sacred. Everything becomes ritual and filled with holy meaning.

 

The Law isn't renunciation, per se, but it highlites what's poking around at the back of my brain: WAKING UP! And "renunciation" is something that I'm considering, in some form, maybe, perhaps ... :rolleyes:

Edited by AletheiaRivers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wonderful thoughts here AR and Fred.

 

As I have gotten older I have naturally relied more upon ritualistic behavior patterns to get me through the weeks and months without despairing. Life seems to do this to us quite naturally over the years since we simply do not always have the reserve energy levels required to seek out spontaneous and surprising activities to try and fill our time with. Work, self-care, care for others all become a familiar pattern that carry us forward through time with not much time left for other things.

 

But that all brings a sadness as we age because life's most meaningful, memorable, and pleasurable moments are those of spontaneaity and surprise. I notice this alot more these days since I am the primary care-giver for my parents who are 90 and 89. While they can do very well for themselves at home, I must often direct things when it comes to outside activities such as shopping, the doctor, and entertainment. Some months our monthly visit to In-N-Out Burger is the high point, except for visits they enjoy with friends and relatives. And say what you will an occasional buffet and an hour so of nickel video poker gives them a visible lift in spirits.

 

They have ritualized their lives to such an extent that any surprise or spontaneous occurrence causes them alot of dismay and upset. So as we age it is a good thing to delay gratification in order that the good times are more meaningful, but often looking ahead in anticipation is not always advisable because we come to experience over time that too much anticipation can and does sometimes spoil the event when it does not meet expectations. So one of Peck's other principles comes into play, balancing.

 

flow.... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always had a bad taste in my mouth towards renunciation and ascetism. It seemed to me that the attitude of renunciation was man's pronouncing as evil and tainted, what God had pronounced as "very good." My days as a neo-pagan with it's "hug a tree" mentality furthered this idea in my head.

 

It's is fair to say that some groups practice renunciation because they DO see this world and the human body as evil, to be crushed and to be overcome. I still don't agree with this premise. I don't see this world or humanity as evil (which isn't to be confused with being "fallen").

 

However, I've come to realize that not all groups that practice renunciation do so with the premise that the body is evil, in need of punishment. In this view, renunciation is more of a "spiritual house cleaning." It is also a way to wake ourselves up, to move ourselves out of the rut of being on auto-pilot.

 

To quote Jack Kornfield:

 

"We live in disordered times, complicated, distracted and demanding, yet to sustain a spiritual practice demands our steady attention. The first task, then, in almost any spiritual voyage, is to quiet ourselves enough to listen to the voices of our hearts, to listen to that which is beyond our daily affairs. Whether in prayer or meditation, in visualization, fasting or song, we need to step out of our usual roles, out of the busy days on automatic pilot. We need to find a way to become receptive and open.

 

Great spiritual traditions offer us a hundred good ways to do this. Some practices use the breath to quiet the mind and open the heart. There are meditative disciplines of the body that transcend the grasping of our small self, and lead us to openness. There are mantras and rituals of devotion, prayers and rosaries, daily practices of sacred attention; there is the silent inquiry of the heart."

 

What are your thoughts about renunciation, ascetism and discipline? Have you read any of the Desert Father's writings? Do you practice any form of renunciation daily or yearly (like at Lent and Advent)?

 

Talk to me people!  :)

Aletheia....I like what Kornfield says about "The silent inquiry of the heart". And I like what you said about the danger of being on "spiritual auto pilot". The only way I've found to keep that from happening in my own life, is to constantly be

dissatisfied with my spiritual progress. Is that a bad attitude? What do you think?

Good Post!

 

Jerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aletheia....I like what Kornfield says about "The silent inquiry of the heart". And I like what you said about the danger of being on "spiritual auto pilot". The only way I've found to keep that from happening in my own life, is to constantly be

dissatisfied with my spiritual progress. Is that a bad attitude? What do you think?

Good Post!

 

Jerry

 

What I meant about living on auto-pilot, in the context of renunciation, is that too many of us go through life without thinking about the world around us. We take everything for granted. Everything is at our fingertips.

 

Fred's ruminations about Lent and fasting really summed it up nicely.

 

Ironically, our spiritual practice should help to wake us up from living a "tuned-out life," but too often it becomes part of the rut.

 

I don't think being dissatisfied with our spiritual progress is a bad attitude to have, unless that dissatisfaction itself, hinders the growth process. There is such a thing as being too hard on yourself. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is another quote from JK that I thought I'd throw out there for comment.

 

 

"A true practice leads us into the silence of the forest. Wherever we begin, we have to stop and listen. ... Whether taken through ritual, prayer, or mediation, these first steps into the forest bring us small amazements and tender revelations ... We also begin to see how much our unnoticed interior states and unrecognized beliefs control our life.

 

A traditional Swedish story gives a sense of the next phase of the spiritual journey.

 

Once upon a time, because of the mishaps of her parents, a young princess named Aris must be betrothed to a fearful dragon. When the king and queen tell her, she becomes frightened for her life. But recovering her wits, she goes out beyond the market to seek a wise woman, who has raised twelve children and twenty-nine grandchildren, and knows the ways of dragons and men.

 

The wise woman tells Aris that she indeed must marry the dragon, but that there are proper ways to approach him. She then gives instructions for the wedding night. In particular, the princess is to wear ten beautiful gowns, one on top of the other.

 

The wedding takes place. A feast is held, after which the dragon carries the princess off to the bedchamber. When the dragon advances toward his bride, she stops him, saying that she must carefully remove her wedding attire before offering her heart to him. And too, she adds (instructed by the wise woman), must he properly remove his attire. To this he willingly agrees.

 

"As I take off each layer of my gown, you must also remove a layer." Then, taking off the first gown, the princess watches as the dragon sheds his outer layer of scaly armor. Though it is painful, the dragon has done this periodically before. But then the princess removes another gown, and then another. Each time the dragon finds that he too must claw off a deeper layer of scales. By the fifth gown the dragon begins to weep tears of pain. Yet the princess continues.

 

With each successive layer the dragon's skin becomes more tender and his form softens. He becomes lighter and lighter. When the princess removes her tenth gown, the dragon releases the last vestige of dragon form and emerges as a man, a fine prince whose eyes sparkle like a child's, released at last from the ancient spell of his dragon form.

 

The journey is not about going into the light. The forces of our human history and entanglement are tenacious and powerful. The path to inner freedom requires passing through them." - After the Ecstasy

 

Any thoughts?

Edited by AletheiaRivers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wish people would just say what they mean. I don't think I'm metaphorically challenged, but maybe someone else would explain such a wish that way.

 

I find my first reaction to this story is that there are no dragons, and if there were why would they want to mate with yet another princess? Have they no imagination?

 

My second thought is OK, this is about someone shedding a false self, and it is interesting that it's not exactly voluntary. It is brought about by a desire, a romantic desire maybe being a common form of how this happens. It is brought about by buying into someone else's arbitrary rules, not just anyone, but the object of desire.

 

My third thought is how do you know that it's the true self in the end? Just because the author stopped there? Do you know when the baby comes that at least something is real?

 

The world is full of people who see some things as false and some as true. I do. I gave up on Christianity as a teenager because its claims are ridiculous and contrary to experience. Then when I wanted God again in my thirties, I was ready to be led anywhere, including the most orthodox Chrstianity. I wasn't led just anywhere. I was led to where I am now, where God is not like most people's God, I am not like most people, and the world is best understood by science, except the spiritual world, which is hard to understand at all, but which I trust God for. I find I need time for contemplation and to be with God. It happens without my forcing it. I need time for various sustaining things in the physical world, where God is with me, but in a quieter way. There are all sorts of false things in that world, but does it make me more true to keep away from it. I don't think so. There is also something false about staying away from the secular world, as if God would abandon the truth of the secular world for the mind games of separating ourselves from it.

 

In the end, maybe the most important thing is what does God want? Does He want me to shed skin after skin? I am sure at this pont in my time with Him that I would do just that if He wants. I think God wants something else. It's not transcendence. We already have that, no matter if some wonder if they can't have some greater degree of transcendence. I think God wants to fill the world with love and truth and has no instruments but humans to do that, as flawed as we are. Maybe that's not right. Maybe I haven't spent enough time alone yet or surrendered to the right guru. My bride can get me to do that if she wants. Men are so simple.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wish people would just say what they mean. I don't think I'm metaphorically challenged

I thought perhaps we (the board) could explore what the metaphor might mean. Perhaps each person could offer their "take" on it.

 

I find I need time for contemplation and to be with God. It happens without my forcing it.

Yeah, I agree. This story made me go "hmmm" with no force whatsoever. I find that parables are a rather common theme in religion and that if not dismissed as being stupid, can help in contemplative practice.

 

I think God wants something else. It's not transcendence. We already have that, no matter if some wonder if they can't have some greater degree of transcendence. I think God wants to fill the world with love and truth and has no instruments but humans to do that, as flawed as we are.

So does this mean you think the story is talking about gaining transcendence? Interesting. I didn't interpret it that way at all. The story actually made me think of learning to know ourselves better, layer by layer. That with prodding and help from our beloved (who I view in this story as God), we can shed the crap that this world has layered upon us and we can "fill the world with love and truth."

 

Maybe I haven't spent enough time alone yet or surrendered to the right guru. My bride can get me to do that if she wants. Men are so simple.

 

:huh:

Edited by AletheiaRivers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought the story was pretty straightforward, I guess.

 

I found the last statement interesting:

The journey is not about going into the light. The forces of our human history and entanglement are tenacious and powerful. The path to inner freedom requires passing through them.

I can see how "passing through" could be read as "transcending." I think there is a certain sense of transcendence that applies here. It's not that we become literally able to rise above physical (or even psychological) necessities like eating and drinking -- though it's often expressed mythologically and/or in New Age circles to that effect, astral and light bodies and such -- but that in our consciousness we actually experience these "layers" as things we possess or have control over, rather than as what we are. Much like a child learns developmentally that she can manipulate her own body, and thereby transcend identification with it. It has become an object upon which she can operate. The transcendence occurs in the fact that body, mind, etc. are integrated into the higher orders -- not detached from them. That would be taking transcendence too grossly.

 

Anyway, to tie it back into renunciation, it seems to me that practices of restraint and discipline are the tools which enable us to disentangle the various layers of perceived identity, and integrate them into higher forms. There is, by the way, a lot of good science about the way these practices work, meditation for example -- not formulas and equations, but very specific states and types of experiences that are broadly reproducible, even across cultures. I'm leaning heavily on Ken Wilber's research on cross-cultural spirituality here.

 

I am a little wary of saying that we simply "shed our layers," though, and eventually arrive at some core, central, individual self. It seems to me rather that all manifestation, all form, is layers. (It's turtles all the way down.) When the layers are removed, there is only pure Emptiness, the pure Unmanifest -- and we realize that, to do anything at all, we must put the layers back on, and descend back into manifestation. Which is, of course, what we did in the first place. Don't take that chronologically, please.

 

I guess what I'm saying is, transcendence doesn't mean leaving the layers behind -- it means living in them, transparently, consciously, boldly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What inspired me to start this thread in the first place, was thinking about mankind's being "fallen." It's been my experience that most progressive Christians don't "believe" in original sin or the fall as traditionally taught by the Church, and so, the whole idea of living in a "fallen" state is ignored.

 

The ideas I hoped to explore in this thread were, in my mind, meant to be pragmatic, grounded in the world we see in front of our eyes. I didn't intend this thread to become overly "metaphysical" or "transcendent" in it's content. (However, that said, if that's the way the thread ends up going, I don't have a problem with it.)

 

Anyway, as I've been reading over the past couple of months (Scott Peck, Keith Ward, Huston Smith), I've come to appreciate a different interpretation of the fall, one which I've been able to get my head around. Ironically, it's not necessarily a "progressive Christian" view. It is somewhat orthodox. The difference, really, is it comes from viewing the Genesis account as parable (metaphor?) rather than literal history.

 

The following is a little longer than it probably should be, but not as long as it could have been. ;)

 

"We are created by a God who has designed the universe so that we can grow to maturity in freedom, be responsible for one another, and learn to understand and appreciate the wisdom and beauty of the universe.

 

It is that freedom, however, which has been misused. Sin is a turning away from the call of love towards egoistic desire. We fall into hating and fearing others, because we are not prepared to value them for what they are, and seek their good as much as we seek our own.

 

We become trapped in our search for personal pleasure, so that we cease to think of others at all, and come to see them just as means to our own gratification. That is the 'fall into sin' which Christians see as marking the whole of human existence. The desire for personal gratification causes us to stop seeing others as persons, and just regard them as things.

 

Human persons are meant to become channels of divine creativity, wisdom, compassion and loving kindness. But that means that people must freely center themselves on God and God's will, and not on themselves and their own desires.

 

Actual sins are the selfish choices we continually seem to make. But Christians talk of 'Original Sin', as the state into which we are born, which makes actual sin ... almost inevitable.

 

Over thousands of generations, so many human beings have made selfish choices that human society has been corrupted. We are all now born into society where greed and egoism is encouraged by the structures of society, and where the sense of God has been so repressed that it has almost been lost altogether."

 

 

So, here I am, being contemplative, wondering what I can do to more fully "center myself on God." What can I do to move from being "self-centered" to "God-centered" and "other-centered"?

 

I visit other bulletin boards, not all of them Christian, and I'm impressed by the importance that PRACTICE is given in so many religions. I just don't see much of it in Christianity, outside of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Why is that?

Edited by AletheiaRivers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

AR and Fred

 

I appreciate your metaphors and insights. They move me in powerful ways.

 

I think we are all flummoxed by the abstract nature of modern protestant worship procedures. There are reasons that some time ago I went on and on about the spiritual worship rituals of the ancients. The way I see it the farther back we go in all this, the closer we come to the origins in which G-d instilled truth in the hearts and minds of humans of all kinds and they chose to worship that moment in many, many ways. You might call that the initial conditions of the beginning of a complex system that we call G-d worship.

 

All complex systems are extremely sensitive to the initial conditions of its beginnings, and in the case of religion we are still trying to scope that out through our scientific examinations of ancient places of worship and burial procedures. But one thing is clear these days. Modern church practices are very abstract and mostly mirror the business and trade-oriented world in which we all live, and hence the truth is further hidden from us. Again, there's a reason for the story of Jesus' anger as he drove the money changers out of the Jerusalem temple. I believe that this touches on it.

 

Modern orthodox services and rtituals are extant remnants of the ancient ways, and thus more fulfilling to us in terms of spectacle. They also reflect the celebration aspects of the ancient ways, and also the awe accompanying our realizations that we are in the presence of the spiritual forces. Not much of this happens when we hear a sermon delivered in bland settings by bland people using neutral and bland words. Religion has, from its beginnings, been an emotional adventure when entered into fully and in a committed fashion. That's how televangelists are able to bring in so much money these days.

 

As a final comment I would prefer to use the term transformation rather than transcendance. A transformation is another term that is used in discussing the study of complex systems, and it is sometimes referred to as a "phase change". Ice into water into steam would be a good example of a string of transformations or phase changes. So in the case of religiosity in humans it is easier to understand how the different phases of spiritual belief come to us throughout our lives as we continue to believe and grow through that belief.

 

We are organic beings. So must be our religious beliefs, or they become more false to us over time. To me this is the meaning of being "reborn" in countless ways, countless times over our lifetimes if we are "doing the belief thing" the "right way".

 

flow....:rolleyes:

Edited by flowperson
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What inspired me to start this thread in the first place, was thinking about mankind's being "fallen."  It's been my experience that most progressive Christians don't "believe" in original sin or the fall as traditionally taught by the Church, and so, the whole idea of living in a "fallen" state is ignored.

 

The ideas I hoped to explore in this thread were, in my mind, meant to be pragmatic, grounded in the world we see in front of our eyes. I didn't intend this thread to become overly "metaphysical" or "transcendent" in it's content. (However, that said, if that's the way the thread ends up going, I don't have a problem with it.)

 

Anyway, as I've been reading over the past couple of months (Scott Peck, Keith Ward, Huston Smith), I've come to appreciate a different interpretation of the fall, one which I've been able to get my head around. Ironically, it's not necessarily a "progressive Christian" view. It is somewhat orthodox. The difference, really, is it comes from viewing the Genesis account as parable (metaphor?) rather than literal history.

 

The following is a little longer than it probably should be, but not as long as it could have been.  ;)

 

"We are created by a God who has designed the universe so that we can grow to maturity in freedom, be responsible for one another, and learn to understand and appreciate the wisdom and beauty of the universe.

 

It is that freedom, however, which has been misused. Sin is a turning away from the call of love towards egoistic desire. We fall into hating and fearing others, because we are not prepared to value them for what they are, and seek their good as much as we seek our own.

 

We become trapped in our search for personal pleasure, so that we cease to think of others at all, and come to see them just as means to our own gratification. That is the 'fall into sin' which Christians see as marking the whole of human existence. The desire for personal gratification causes us to stop seeing others as persons, and just regard them as things.

 

Human persons are meant to become channels of divine creativity, wisdom, compassion and loving kindness. But that means that people must freely center themselves on God and God's will, and not on themselves and their own desires.

 

Actual sins are the selfish choices we continually seem to make. But Christians talk of 'Original Sin', as the state into which we are born, which makes actual sin ... almost inevitable.

 

Over thousands of generations, so many human beings have made selfish choices that human society has been corrupted. We are all now born into society where greed and egoism is encouraged by the structures of society, and where the sense of God has been so repressed that it has almost been lost altogether."

 

 

So, here I am, being contemplative, wondering what I can do to more fully "center myself on God." What can I do to move from being "self-centered" to "God-centered" and "other-centered"?

 

I visit other bulletin boards, not all of them Christian, and I'm impressed by the importance that PRACTICE is given in so many religions. I just don't see much of it in Christianity, outside of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Why is that?

 

 

I wonder.....does all this talk about 'sin'...original or actual,really fit well in a progressive christianity? Just wondering.....what are your thoughts about the

the fact that we 'recognize' the existence of sin at all....does this very recognition keep us mired in spiritual infancy?

 

Jerryb

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great parable AR - hadn't seen this one before. I was struck most by the idea that it hurt to shed the dragon layers but then there are sparkling eyes and a release from a spell.... I guess it makes me think of "dark nights of the soul" and false selves. It is painful to look deep within and to change but as your skin becomes softer (less ego separating you from all else???) you become free....

 

Anybody else see it like this?

 

 

Jerry - I don't know that sin conceptualized has anything to do with stages of spirituality. The "you did something bad and have to be punished" version perhaps... I see sin as things I do that push me away from God. They tend to be small, ego-driven things; choosing a good thing over the best thing; putting worldly or selfish concerns ahead of eternal things. Make any sense????

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great parable AR - hadn't seen this one before.  I was struck most by the idea that it hurt to shed the dragon layers but then there are sparkling eyes and a release from a spell.... I guess it makes me think of "dark nights of the soul" and false selves.  It is painful to look deep within and to change but as your skin becomes softer (less ego separating you from all else???) you become free....

 

Anybody else see it like this?

 

 

Jerry - I don't know that sin conceptualized has anything to do with stages of spirituality.  The "you did something bad and have to be punished" version perhaps... I see sin as things I do that push me away from God.  They tend to be small, ego-driven things; choosing a good thing over the best thing; putting worldly or selfish concerns ahead of eternal things.  Make any sense????

 

Hi Cynthia.

 

Yes, actually, "dark nights of the soul" was exactly what I thought of when I first read it. Deep pain and depression that brings about TRANSFORMATION (thanks Flow).

 

As I read further along in the story and in the book, and as the author offered his take on the story, I realized it could be interpreted in a couple of ways. (Metaphors are tricky that way. :) )

 

I think the "bride" could represent anything or one that creates a desire to change. And yes, in the story, the object that forces change is an object of devotion and love. I might go so far as to say that the bride offered the dragon "grace." I also appreciated that it was painful for the dragon to peel away the layers. It wasn't an easy journey. Grace may give us the desire to change, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee smooth sailing.

 

 

 

Jerry,

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "sin" not having a place within progressive Christianity or that recognizing sin keeps us in spiritual infancy. I understand not wanting to talk about sin from the perspective taken by traditional Christianity. However, as I stated in my post, this is not what I mean.

 

I would argue that all spiritual traditions and paths offer some guidance that leads away from self-centeredness and toward God (or other) centeredness.

 

The only view that I can think of that would teach that there is no such thing as "sin" (selfishness, greed, ego) would be philosophies that teach that all the world is illusion and that we just need to realize it to wake up. In this scenario, no, there is no sin or evil. There is just God, experiencing. Is this where you are coming from? :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jerry: I confess I have no idea how "recognizing" sin keeps us mired in spiritual infancy. Is a person spiritually infantile because they "recognize" murder, or greed, or oppression, or injustice? We can use whatever word we like, but there has to be some way of speaking about the fact that something about the world is fundamentally "off" -- we perceive existence as being separate, fragmented, and competitive, and act as such. The biblical word translated "sin" in the NT is actually an archery term (hamartia), meaning to miss the target. Broadly, "original sin" -- sorry for the brief excursion into metaphysics Aletheia! -- is the notion that the very structure of the cosmos, whether in its original design or through some fault, veils the truth in such a way that this illusion of separateness is impossible to overcome without a complete awakening and reorientation of consciousness.

 

Cynthia: thanks for the observation that sin often manifests itself as "choosing a good thing over the best thing"! It's important to point out that we're not just talking negatively about "not doing bad things" or "not doing wrong things," but about making God our highest love and acting accordingly. The same action or intention can be directed downward or upward, depending on the circumstance. This isn't a "relative" or "permissive" morality; on the contrary, it calls us to move beyond acceptable but "safe" actions, to actions that require sacrifices -- even sacrifices of good things. It's just like I had observed about fasting -- you don't fast because food is evil, but because contemplating the nature of your dependence on food stretches you spiritually.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Broadly, "original sin" -- sorry for the brief excursion into metaphysics Aletheia! -- is the notion that the very structure of the cosmos, whether in its original design or through some fault, veils the truth in such a way that this illusion of separateness is impossible to overcome without a complete awakening and reorientation of consciousness.

 

Bad Fred! Bad Fred for talking about metaphysics! ;)

 

I appreciate your using the term "reorientation" and "hamartia." The term (hamartia) was used a lot when I was a JW to indicate that we "miss the mark of perfection." But just like "sin," hamartia doesn't necessarily mean that. The term "perfection" has been tacked on.

 

So, if sin is "failing to hit the target," the question arises: What IS the target that we are failing to hit and how can we be reoriented to come closer to living truly authentic human lives?

 

As a Christian, I deeply appreciate the concept of "grace." I'm reluctant to go down a path that makes it sound as if I believe that I can make all these changes to myself without some help. The concept of Holy Spirit plays in here and I believe that Holy Spirit is universal and not just "Christian." Anyway, this takes us off topic, but I felt the need to throw that in. I'm not intending to advance the idea that we can "save" ourselves.

 

Cynthia: thanks for the observation that sin often manifests itself as "choosing a good thing over the best thing"!  It's important to point out that we're not just talking negatively about "not doing bad things" or "not doing wrong things," but about making God our highest love and acting accordingly.

 

Exactly. As Keith Ward said (that I quoted earlier and failed to say who I quoted): "Sin is a turning away from the call of love towards egoistic desire ... We become trapped in our search for personal pleasure ... Human persons are meant to become channels of divine creativity, wisdom, compassion and loving kindness. But that means that people must freely center themselves on God and God's will, and not on themselves and their own desires."

 

"Egoistic desire" doesn't mean running out and killing someone. Egoistic desire simply means that we are not oriented toward God or other. This can manifest as living a relatively harmless life, not necessarily doing evil, but also not moving outside ourselves and our own lives.

 

The same action or intention can be directed downward or upward, depending on the circumstance.  This isn't a "relative" or "permissive" morality; on the contrary, it calls us to move beyond acceptable but "safe" actions, to actions that require sacrifices -- even sacrifices of good things.  It's just like I had observed about fasting -- you don't fast because food is evil, but because contemplating the nature of your dependence on food stretches you spiritually.

 

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Edited by AletheiaRivers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Egoistic desire" doesn't mean running out and killing someone. Egoistic desire simply means that we are not oriented toward God or other. This can manifest as living a relatively harmless life, not necessarily doing evil, but also not moving outside ourselves and our own lives.

Right, and this is why the notion of "sin" and "perfection" as breaking and not breaking rules can only take you so far. Being told what not to do doesn't help me figure out what I should do, to bring about the best good. This is why deontic forms of ethical reasoning sound so convincing and so logical, yet it ultimately can't move me to do anything beyond the path of least resistence that doesn't involve doing any harm.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This discussion reminds me somehow of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churchs' agreement some years ago to recognize both "good works" and "grace" as the primary goals of a Christian's life orientations.

 

For centuries there was conflict because one believed exclusively in Grace and the other in Good Works; it escapes me at present which advocated which. It fueled bitter animosities over the centuries.

 

In my way of thinking living one's life each day as an believer would be impossible without both concepts. But realistically there are always others who would look at us and judge our activities in an unfair way (in our view) and say that we were sinners. My belief is that missing the mark or sinning, like beauty, is always a matter that is in the eye of the beholder.

 

And I for one do not believe in a concept of original sin or the "fall". That's all just another good myth as far as I am concerned.

 

Or perhaps just a good, ancient metaphor to restrain exhuberant behaviors within the community. Or as Ben used to say, in all things...moderation. But then again, he was also a renowned womanizer and boozehound.

 

flow.... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great parable AR - hadn't seen this one before.  I was struck most by the idea that it hurt to shed the dragon layers but then there are sparkling eyes and a release from a spell.... I guess it makes me think of "dark nights of the soul" and false selves.  It is painful to look deep within and to change but as your skin becomes softer (less ego separating you from all else???) you become free....

 

Anybody else see it like this?

 

 

Jerry - I don't know that sin conceptualized has anything to do with stages of spirituality.  The "you did something bad and have to be punished" version perhaps... I see sin as things I do that push me away from God.  They tend to be small, ego-driven things; choosing a good thing over the best thing; putting worldly or selfish concerns ahead of eternal things.  Make any sense????

 

Hi Cynthia.

 

Yes, actually, "dark nights of the soul" was exactly what I thought of when I first read it. Deep pain and depression that brings about TRANSFORMATION (thanks Flow).

 

As I read further along in the story and in the book, and as the author offered his take on the story, I realized it could be interpreted in a couple of ways. (Metaphors are tricky that way. :) )

 

I think the "bride" could represent anything or one that creates a desire to change. And yes, in the story, the object that forces change is an object of devotion and love. I might go so far as to say that the bride offered the dragon "grace." I also appreciated that it was painful for the dragon to peel away the layers. It wasn't an easy journey. Grace may give us the desire to change, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee smooth sailing.

 

 

 

Jerry,

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "sin" not having a place within progressive Christianity or that recognizing sin keeps us in spiritual infancy. I understand not wanting to talk about sin from the perspective taken by traditional Christianity. However, as I stated in my post, this is not what I mean.

 

I would argue that all spiritual traditions and paths offer some guidance that leads away from self-centeredness and toward God (or other) centeredness.

 

The only view that I can think of that would teach that there is no such thing as "sin" (selfishness, greed, ego) would be philosophies that teach that all the world is illusion and that we just need to realize it to wake up. In this scenario, no, there is no sin or evil. There is just God, experiencing. Is this where you are coming from? :)

 

 

Gosh...I don't know. But I don't think that's where I'm coming from. I guess I just had such a 'steady dose' of "I'm worthless and a poor lost sinner who deserves to go to hell",when I was a fundamentist ,that I'm hoping for a better way to express my desire for communion with God. And I guess what I'm trying to express is my belief that ,as Wayne Dyer wrote,"where you place your attention and maintain it"is what ultimately manifest itself in my life.

I stand ready to learn from all the great souls I've found on this board. As you have said Aletheia,"Talk to me people"!

 

Blessings to all my mentors,

 

Jerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This discussion reminds me somehow of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churchs' agreement some years ago to recognize both "good works" and "grace" as the primary goals of a Christian's life orientations.

 

For centuries there was conflict because one believed exclusively in Grace and the other in Good Works; it escapes me at present which advocated which. It fueled bitter animosities over the centuries.

 

In my way of thinking living one's life each day as an believer would be impossible without both concepts. But realistically there are always others who would look at us and judge our activities in an unfair way (in our view) and say that we were sinners. My belief is that missing the mark or sinning, like beauty, is always a matter that is in the eye of the beholder.

 

And I for one do not believe in a concept of original sin or the "fall". That's all just another good myth as far as I am concerned.

 

Or perhaps just a good, ancient metaphor to  restrain exhuberant behaviors within the community. Or as Ben used to say, in all things...moderation. But then again, he was also a renowned womanizer and boozehound.

 

flow....    :)

 

I'm with you on this Flow. I don't believe in original sin either.Here's why...a new born baby is born...fresh from the hand of God....the baby dies two days later...with no chance to understand what sin is...that it needs to repent...or accept a Savior. Are we really going to even THINK about that baby being 'lost'? Not Me!

 

 

Blessings,

 

Jerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...a new born baby is born...fresh from the hand of God....the baby dies two days later...with no chance to understand what sin is...that it needs to repent...or accept a Savior. Are we really going to even THINK about that baby being 'lost'? Not Me!

Well, nobody suggested that a two day old baby was going to be punished for not being able to understand sin or accept a savior. Even the most conservative of Catholics and most fundamentalists believe in the notion of an "age of accountability." But in any case, knocking down a straw man doesn't prove anything.

 

I had written more about this, but I decided not to go off topic any further. :) Plus we're not in the debate section. B)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I just had such a 'steady dose' of "I'm worthless and a poor lost sinner who deserves to go to hell",when I was a fundamentist ,that I'm hoping for a better way to express my  desire for communion with God.

 

I TOTALLY understand that. I had the same daily dose of guilt too. What I'm trying to flesh out is a way of talking about "sin" that DOESN'T mean "You're worthless Jerry."

 

And I'm trying to talk about ways to "express the desire for communion with God" that can be incorporated in everyday life. These are ways that orient us toward God, so that we are "aiming" closer to the target.

 

I don't believe in original sin either.Here's why...a new born baby is born...fresh from the hand of God....the baby dies two days later...with no chance to understand what sin is...that it needs to repent...or accept a Savior. Are we really going to even THINK about that baby being 'lost'? Not Me!

 

Again, it is NOT this concept of sin that I'm speaking of. And actually, I don't think the traditional interpretation of "original sin" is explicitly (or implicitly) implied by the Genesis account. I don't think humans were created perfect and then fell from perfection (but that's a whole other thread).

 

:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry if my last comment came out crankier than I meant it. Aletheia's response was a lot better than mine anyway. The only point I was trying to make was that the view suggested by the two-day-old baby example is too simple a characterization of the doctrine of original sin -- even the orthodox view isn't that harsh. I think the reality this doctrine is trying to point to is fairly simple: we know in our own hearts that we don't always strive for God as we ought, that we frequently let the demands of less important things drown out the call to go beyond. There's no self-loathing and worthlessness going on here, just the simple realization that we find ourselves often unable to choose what is best, even though we desire to. The only "punishment" is that God allows us to make poor choices, and inflict the pain of those choices on ourselves and those around us.

 

I really do understand the strong need to distance yourself from the obsessive guilt and shame that fundamentalism heaps on you. It's quite liberating to get out of it, and I think a necessary step in the journey. But it's also important to be realistic and radically honest with oneself. The journey into God is a journey of intense self-understanding, that exposes the deepest and darkest corners of our motivations, and shines the blazing light of transformation on them. Is it much wonder that most of us don't want to get too close?

 

Peace,

Fred

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aletheia's response was a lot better than mine anyway. 

Why thank you. If true, I think it may actually be a first. :P

 

we know in our own hearts that we don't always strive for God as we ought, that we frequently let the demands of less important things drown out the call to go beyond.

 

Recognizing this, I can see why so many feel the pull of renunciation and asceticsm. I've never particularly wanted to be a nun ;) , but I have felt the pull to a simper life, one that won't "get in the way" of my quest. Then I remember that we are called to be in the world (if not of the "world").

 

The journey into God is a journey of intense self-understanding, that exposes the deepest and darkest corners of our motivations, and shines the blazing light of transformation on them.

 

That was why the dragon and the princess story jumped out at me. Self-understanding andself-transformation, are not easy journeys and are often painful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service