music, theology

Song of The Day — Peter and Andrew

Song of The Day — Peter and Andrew from A Stranger Named Peace.

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Andrew — Larry Spatz

beyond creed, messianism, self

Dynamic. Transformative Selfhood in the New Testament

Discussions of the self can become unnecessarily complex, leading to the balkanization of conversations. I think the following description of the dynamic or transformative self is one of two general descriptions of selfhood that, taken together, are more than adequate as a foundation for an “integral” understanding. But then, who am I? “Beyond Creed” seeks to hammer out a preamble to a theology for the Third Millennium.


Dynamic. Transformative Selfhood in the New Testament

In the New Testament there are two dominant notions of the self, just as there are two dominant notions of the self extant today.

Here we shall discuss the dynamic or transformative view of the self in the New Testament. In this view:

The self is a spectrum embracing everything from a sublime freedom to entrapment by what the New Testament refers to as principalities and powers.

These drag the self into patterns of self-destruction and enmity toward other selves.

Ken Wilber, in The Spectrum of Consciousness, describes this self as a spectrum ranging from primordial infantile urges to various stages of psychosocial adaptation to participation in subtle and causal spiritual realms.

While many have been partisans of this dynamic view of selfhood, Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis, was one of the first to map it out.

Assagioli’s map followed Freud in acknowledging a subconscious where id-like desires and repressed infantile trauma might reside, an ego-band of relative consciousness where will and reason could come into play and, most original, a super-conscious area where promptings of a wider conscience than mere super- ego and a wider spirituality than narcissistic self-affirmation could be registered.

This is not the place to elaborate Assagioli’s psychological system. For our purpose it is enough to reiterate the notion of a self, which is a spectrum, potentially open to every nuance of life and thought.

Such a self necessarily possesses faculties of will in greater or lesser degree and the capacity to harness the will to greater or lesser visions and purposes. Such a self is multi dimensional, free within certain bounds and, above all, open to change and growth.

One paradigm in the New Testament for such a self is the woman with the flow of blood who pursues Jesus shamelessly after suffering from the misdiagnoses of the medical profession for over a decade. When she is healed by his energy, as the story suggests, Jesus cuts her short in her expressions of gratitude.

He offers the suggestion that her faith has saved her. This can mean nothing but the notion of an inherent predisposition within the woman — an act of single-minded will, if you will — as an integral part of the dynamic of healing that Jesus brings.

Such an interpretation is borne out by the fact that where this disposition does not exist, he can do little in the way of healing.

Whether Jesus or the woman comes first is a question that falls more properly within the realm of philosophy than this interpretation of creedal messianism. Suffice to say that the participation of both is necessary to this healing and that her participation is more than the passive presentation of an ill person to a healer who is responsible for mobilizing not only the healing itself but her will as well.

In the context of Jesus’ use of terms like belief and faith in the Synoptic gospels, the conclusion must be that the faith (or faithlessness) which he attributes to those around him is faith or lack of faith in God’s power and closeness — in God’s imminent rule over the earth, in the changed human environment which this transparent (to Jesus) fact creates.

The sort of self who would gravitate toward such an interpretation is less likely to be ensnared in messianic delusions, religious authoritarianism and the substitution of creedal institutions for advocacy of a universal way of living.

Hear Excerpts from Beyond Creed and Other Podcasts

The ground-breaking book Beyond Creed: From Religion to Spirituality can be bought from any major online bookseller and also from iUniverse in paperback and ebook formats.

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