What litany you use I leave to you, but let it he the
testament of touch however tentative. A Mass to keep the cold out. At the breakfast table
or your dresser altar. Let us now proclaim the new religion real after far too many
I believe there is a great need for re-examining and reshaping theology in the local church today. Three opinions support this belief. First, I believe there is a wide gulf between New Testament theology and the prevailing theology of today. Secondly, current theological understanding often works against the mission of the church in today's world. And thirdly, common theological assumptions hinder rather than support the process of individual salvation.
This pressing need for theological restructuring is endangered by several factors. To begin with, the average layman perceives theology to be relatively unimportant. He is more concerned with "practical matters." Secondly, the whole theological endeavor suffers from a long history of serious abuses. In the past, theology has been reduced, in practice, to mere ideas or mental "beliefs," which in turn have been used to manipulate and control people, as well as become a basis for discrimination and rejection. The church has used theology to repress thought rather than to encourage thinking. Many of the cruel abuses of history have been perpetrated under the banner of theology. Small wonder that theology has fallen into disrepute in the mind of the average person.
A third factor that hinders a re-look at our theological premises is the disenchantment of the average parish minister with theology. With due respect for seminaries, I think that theology must in the final analysis, be "done" at the grass roots level. However, few ministers (of those I know) either have time or take time to work at theology. After seminary we mostly "live with" what we have already learned. Furthermore, dealing with theology in the local church has proven largely non-productive in the ways we commonly measure success. All of this leads to the prevailing disenchantment with the subject itself. In fact, "tampering with" traditional theology can bring the established powers to bear on one.
Even so, I consider a theological revolution to be one of the most pressing needs in the church today. External reforms not based on an accepted theological foundation are finally bound to fail. Small groups in the organized church, such as groups of ministers, laymen, councils of churches and denominational leaders, have made heroic efforts in bringing about needed reforms in such areas as ecumenism. Social action, human rights, and political and ecological responsibly. For awhile each of these efforts may do some good in the world and make ripples on the waters of the larger church, but they cannot finally succeed while they are at odds with the prevailing theological premises out of which the church functions.
The church will tolerate these brief flurries as fads, but will not be basically changed itself until its theology changes. Until our theological premises are revised, I believe that all major thrusts of the church in the world today are doomed to defeat. Furthermore, I think that the very survival of the organized church itself may depend on this revolution.
Now, I will attempt to characterize the major theological problem, as I see it, and suggest some courses of action. The most destructive element in current theology is a deeply ingrained "other worldly" understanding in the mind of the average churchman today. The focus of organized church remains on "another time, another place." The after-life is still the primary emphasis. This focus is not always conscious. In fact, there is much rational emphasis on this world, and even conscious rejection of "other-world-ism." However, at critical times such as crisis or death, our trite colors are usually seen. In spite of our protestations, we still maintain a deep allegiance to the idea of heaven and hell elsewhere and later.
This theology, though often unconscious, naturally undermines any serious efforts toward becoming responsible in this world. After all, if "this world is not my home," and "I'm just a' passing through." why should I be bothered with such temporary issues as politics, population control, or ecology. How can one who looks for fellowship in another world be very concerned with ecumenism in this world? If heaven is reserved for the after-life, why get serious about working out one's salvation in the here and now? We cannot adequately deal with any of the major issues facing the church until we experience a fundamental change in the prevailing theological stance of the average layman.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR "THIS WORLD" THEOLOGY
To begin with, I believe that the major thrust of Jesus' ministry was toward the here and now. Organized religion was largely "other worldly" then, even as it remains today.
"Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand."' (Mark 1:14-15). Paul later voiced the same emphasis (II Corinthians 6:2) in his quotation from the Old Testament: "...now is the accepted time behold, now is the day of salvation." (See Isaiah 49:81; 60:1; 61:1-4; Ezekiel 34:24-28: Luke 4:14-21).
The emphasis on salvation now is further revealed in the present tense used in the following passages (italics mine):
John 10:10: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
John 3:36: "He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life."
John 5:24: " hath and shall not but is ."
John 7:47: " . he that believeth hath everlasting life."
II Corinthians 5:17: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation."
I John 3:14: "We know that we have passed from death unto life "
Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation "
(See also: John 6:35; 7:54; 8:51; and, 11:26).
Certainly the point is stated most clearly in Luke 11:20. Jesus said, "...the kingdom of God is come upon you." When the Pharisees pressed for an answer to the question, "When will the kingdom come?," he replied, "...behold the kingdom of God is within you."
Current theology circumvents this plain emphasis on salvation now with the idea of a promise of salvation now, but the real thing coming only after physical death. Being saved (present tense) is ignored in favor of getting a ticket to be saved later. "Be prepared to die" has become the watchword, rather than "get ready to live."
That the "death" referred to in the Bible is present tense, and of the spirit rather than the body, is plainly revealed in the following passages. In the Genesis account the word is: "...in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (2:17). Note that the warning was "in the day," or "at the time." Not that man would "die some day," but that he would die at then time of his eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Obviously this refers to a present spiritual death, since Adam and Eve remained physically alive, were cast out of the garden, and went on to raise a family. Paul in the New Testament also expresses this inevitable result of sin when he states, "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23). He wrote to the Ephesians "who were dead in trespasses and sins (2:1). "When we were dead in sins, Christ made us alive together." (2:5). To the Colossians he wrote, "and you, being dead in your sins ... hath he quickened together (made alive) with him (2:13)."
John referred to the people of Sardis thusly, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." (Revelation 3:1). The reference is obviously to people physically alive, but John points to the deeper truth, namely, that they were also spiritually dead at the time. Jesus referred to spiritually dead people when potential disciples made the excuse of waiting until their parents died before following him. He said, ".... Let the dead bury their dead..." (Luke 10:60).
The Bible plainly speaks of a kind of living death that precedes salvation in this life.
In speaking of the coming kingdom, Jesus describes the traumatic events of the process in Matthew 24-25:13 and Mark 13. Although traditional theology takes these to be future prophecies, Jesus plainly stated, "Verily I say, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." (Matthew 24:34). On another occasion he spoke of the coming of the kingdom and then concluded, "Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matthew 16:28). Obviously Jesus thought and taught of the kingdom of God in the here and now.
This fact is further confirmed in the promise of resurrection in this lifetime. The entire New Testament vibrates with this hope. After Martha confronted Jesus with the empty comfort of the hope of some future "resurrection at the last day," he plainly declared: "I am (present tense) the resurrection ...he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25).
Paul reflected this clarion call for new life now throughout his writings. To the Corinthians he wrote, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (II Corinthians 5:17). To the Romans he wrote, "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead...even so we also should walk in newness of life." (6:4). "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit..." (8:11).
In his letter to the Ephesians he confirmed the experience of those who had already been resurrected: "when we were dead... He made us alive. He raised us up together with him." (2:5-6). For we are God s handiwork, recreated in Christ Jesus...living the good life which he prearranged and made ready for us to live.'' (2:10 Amplified). To the Colossians he wrote, ".... you were also raised with him to a new life...and you who were dead...brought to life together with Christ." (2:12-13 Amplified).
Obviously these affirmations referred to an event which had already occurred. Paul was concerned with an immediate resurrection. That he was not writing about a mere post-mortal, historical happening for some ghost-like "soul" residing in the body is pointed out in these statements: "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (I Corinthians 15:53). He did not hope for escape from the mortal body, but "...that mortality might be swallowed up in life." (II Corinthians 5:4). "...that the life might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (4:11). His desire was that "the inward man" might be "renewed day by day." (4:16). "...not that we want to put off the body, but rather that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life after the resurrection." (5:4 Amplified).
Another event in the salvation process is the "judgment" or "final judgment" of God. The Bible confirms the reality of the judgment event in such passages as Romans 2:16; I Corinthians 4:5; II Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 7:2; Jude 6; Revelation 14:7, 18:10. The Old Testaments likewise, contains many references to judgment time.
Obviously the final judgment event is confirmed in the Bible. The critical question is: When is the event to occur? The easy solution to facing this traumatic possibility is to assume that the-judgment of God will be delayed until some distant time after the end of the cosmos. This futuristic assumption allows us to ignore Paul's plea to resurrected man, namely, "now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." (II Corinthians 5:20). The call is to "'we reconciled," present tense. Paul begs that we be reconciled now. Certainly we cannot be reconciled to God without standing in the judgment.
When Jesus' disciples were grieving over his impending departure, he promised the coming of the Spirit of truth, and assured them that "the Comforter will reprove the world of judgment....because the prince of this world is judged." (John 16, 7-8, 11). Note that he said, "is" judged, present tense. On another occasion he voiced the truth even more clearly: "Now is the judgment of this world." (John 12:31).
The point is that although traditional theology has shifted attention away from this time and this world, the ministry of Jesus calls us back to a theology of the here and now. Perhaps the biblical case for the nature and time of the kingdom is best summed up in an encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-33). The Sadducees were a group who did not believe in resurrection or personal immortality, and they confronted Jesus with a question perhaps intended to amplify the unreasonableness of his doctrines.
The Question was this: If a man died, leaving his wife behind, and she married again, and if the second husband died leading to a third marriage...and so on through 7 husbands, after which the wife died also, then in the resurrection, which husband would have the wife?
The question was a good one for probing the idea of resurrection as a cosmic, historical event. If heaven is only a geographical location for resurrected entities, then personal relationships may reasonably be questioned. Unfortunately, this idea was not the doctrine of Jesus either, so he told them that they did not understand either the scriptures or the power of God. Modern religious liberals who do not believe in resurrection also make this same error. Jesus reminded them that in the kingdom of God such divisions and distinctions do not exist.
However, he understood that they were referring to some supposed event that would happen to dead bodies, so he quoted from their scriptures as he asked if they did not recall God saying, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" Then to explain, he added, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
"And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine." (vs. 33).
And they still are.
WHAT IS THEOLOGY? Theology is religious understanding or spiritual insight. It is knowledge about life, or "how things really are," expressed in words. It is the language of religion, a way of talking about ultimate issues in life, the things that truly count. Technically, the word comes from "theos," a Greek word for "God," and "logos," meaning "word." Theology is the word or knowledge of God.
WHAT IS THEOLOGY ABOUT? What is the arena of theology? The ultimate issues of life. That which matters the most to man. Of all the specific things, theology is about those that are more important to man in finding the best life. It deals with the essential issues in living an ideal existence in the real world.
This means that its primary focus is on the here and now, this world and the best which is in it. The arena of theology is the universe; not some other world above, below, or beyond the tangible world, but this present place and this particular time. Theology is about man's ultimate existence in this universe.
Specifically, theology is about "what's really going on," rather than "what might happen." It is about "what is."
WHAT IS THE PRIMARY VOCABULARY? The language of theology includes many uniquely religious words as well as some secular words that are given expanded meanings. The following words make up the primary theological vocabulary:
GOD: "God" is the most basic theological word, standing for the Ultimate in Reality, for the essence of all that really is. It is a name for the heart of existence. "God" is not a particular part of reality, existing separate or over against the remainder of reality. Rather He is the essence of all reality. If we personify this concept we may think of God as the Spirit which permeates all that is.
So far as we know, there is no such thing as "a" God, like a cosmic magician, living outside of the universe and managing it. This idea is an extension of every child's early relationship with his parents. To have an all powerful "father of the universe" is certainly a reasonable wish for those who have had a good earthly father, but so far as we know, this remains a wish rather than a fact.
In either case, the "God" of theology is the Ultimate in Reality, not the ultimate fantasy.
Unfortunately, this idea of the ultimate fantasy, also called "God," has often been brought into the organized church and accepted by churchmen. When this has happened, religion has lost its focus on reality and come to place its emphasis on magic. It has shifted from dealing with the real, to propounding imaginations about the unreal. It has placed its attention on some fantasized "other world'' "beyond the sunset," rather than this world with its sunsets. It has escaped the here and now, in favor of some "there" later on.
This fantasized father figure is not the subject of basic "Now Theology." "God" is.
SOUL: "Living soul" is what man, the highly developed animal, essentially is. In the biblical account, the Genesis message is: ".... and man became living soul." Every person exists with the potential for becoming spirited or "living soul." Soul is not an entity residing in the body and capable of a separated existence, but rather that which anybody may become through embracing his or her human capacities and living in communion with God, the Ultimate in Reality.
SAVED: One who has become "living soul" is "saved." Salvation is the process of becoming spirited or "with soul."
HEAVEN: A geographical word to describe one who is living soul. The spirited person, described from the perspective of space, is said to be in "heaven." Heaven is not a specific geographical location, but is anywhere a saved person happens to be.
LOST: This word is drawn from secular speech but is given a distinctly religious meaning. "Lost" refers to the condition of a person who is not in contact with God, or who has ceased to be spirited, or "living soul." Such a one is "lost" from what he could be. He is not existing as that which he essentially is.
HELL: A geographical word to describe one who is totally lost. When one has lost soul or ceased to be in any contact with God, he may be described from the perspective of space and said to be in "hell." Hell is not a specific location, but is wherever a completely lost person happens to be. To be totally out of contact with the Ultimate in Reality is to be in hell.
SIN: As a noun, "sin" names any deed which a person does to escape God or sever contact with that which is. "Sin," as a verb, is the action of ceasing to be "with it." The losing contact is the sin. The deed is only the way it is accomplished. Thus no deed is innately sinful, but any act whereby one loses touch with the Ultimate in Reality becomes a sin.
DEATH: The result of sin is spiritual death. As Paul stated it, "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 3:23). Through sin, one dies as living soul. The common word for physical demise is adapted in theology to speak of the non-living state of one who is lost. Although physically alive, one may be dead in spirit. This condition is described geographically as "being in hell."
RESURRECTION: One who is spiritually dead may be "raised" or "born again" to become living soul. This movement into newness of life is called "resurrection." The spiritually dead person is "resurrected" into life as a spirited person.
JUDGMENT: Before a resurrected person can achieve his fullest living as a spirited person in heaven, he must stand in what is called in theology the "Judgment." He must face himself openly, that is, naked or completely revealed as he is, in fact, before God, and be found acceptable in the process. Before moving into heaven, he must completely accept being acceptable as he is, in the presence of the Ultimate in Reality.
The basic human process may be expressed in theological language as follows: Through the in-breathing of God man becomes living soul. He is separated from God by sin, which results in his spiritual death. The final culmination of the living death is hell.
In the salvation process, spiritually dead persons are resurrected into newness of life. After they stand in the judgment and become acceptable, they enter heaven, the kingdom Of God.
Salvation is the process of coming to live the highest and best possible life. To be saved is to exist in the ultimate way. One who is being saved is moving toward this essence of existence. In a phrase, salvation is being human.
In religious terms, such a person is coming to "know God." He is acquiring "eternal life." He is "entering the kingdom of God" or "getting to heaven." Psychological phrases for this process include "acquiring mental health," "self-actualization," "self-realization," or "becoming a mature person." In every-day terms, he is "finding the good life" or "reaching happiness."
Where and when is the "good life" to be found? Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is among you. (Luke 17:21). Paul reminded us that "...now is the accepted time, behold, today is the day of salvation." (II Corinthians 6:2). Here and now is the place and time of salvation. One can know God, enter his kingdom, be self-actualized, find happiness in the here and now. The "water of life" is freely extended. The Bible concludes with this still timely appeal: "...whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17). (See also - Is 61:1-2; Mark 1:14-15 Luke 4:16-21, 11:20, 17:20-21).
How does one "get to heaven" or "find happiness?" In theological language, salvation is through "belief in Christ," or more specifically, through coming to be in Him who is the way, truth, and life. In common terminology this process may be described as coming to "be one's self," to embrace all human capacities, or to "become fully human." To "be saved" is to "become fully human." The path to heaven is through being human in the here and now. Man comes to be in Christ, to find fullness of life, as he comes to embrace his own capacities for being human.
What does it mean to "become human? How can we summarize the human capacities that are to be embraced in the process of salvation? The saved person exists when one has embraced the following six human possibilities: sensitivity, emotionality, rationality, sexuality, responsibility, and transcendence. The human capacities are related to one another in this way:
The three basic aspects of humanity are the senses, feelings, and thinking. The senses represent one's ability to take in stimuli. Through emotions one responds to the messages received on a deep-brain level. With the mind one may think reasonably about the messages, utilizing his upper-brain.
Embracing these three basic capacities allows one to be sexual, that is, to reach out toward the external world in a positive fashion. Reaching out leads to encounter, which in turn makes possible further responding. This is the capacity for being responsible.
When all five of the bodily possibilities are actualized, one then comes to exist as a spirited creation and embraces his capacity for transcendence. Through transcendence one comes to "have soul," to "know God," and to "find happiness."
Summarizing: the activation of capacity #1 leads to the possibilities of #2 and #3. 1, 2, and 3 together allow for #4, which then opens the door to #5. When all 5 bodily capacities are embraced, the culminating spiritual capacity, #6, is then possible. That one who has become fully human, through embracing all 6 areas of his potential, is then saved. He enters the kingdom of God and finds eternal life in the here and now.
The first and most basic of the human capacities is the ability to receive messages, to be aware of specific aspects of reality. This reception is accomplished through the bodily senses. Primarily the eyes, ears, nose, and senses of touch and taste. Messages are picked up by these receivers and transmitted via the nervous system to the brain. Senses are directed both inside and outside of the body. That is, one can receive messages from within his own skin ("My stomach hurts.") and from the external world ("I see the sky.").
In addition to the five primary senses, there is a sixth which is a result of the five working in coordination with mind and emotions. It is commonly called "a sixth sense," intuition, or extrasensory perception.
Through these six avenues one is able to receive or be in contact with reality. They combine to make the first human capacity, the ability to sense. This most basic of all the capacities is the information gathering system for the operation of each of the other capacities.
When man exists with his sensing capacity activated, he consciously perceives the messages that reach him and are transmitted to his brain. He is alert and aware of that which comes to him. He knows what he is seeing and hearing, as well as what he is sensing within his body; that is, he is alert to both external and internal messages.
To say that one is aware implies that one can also be unaware, that one can have messages strike his sense organs and yet not perceive them in his conscious mind. One can have visual stimuli fall on his eyes and yet not see. One can have sounds strike his eardrums and yet register no hearing. One can have hunger pains and yet be inattentive to them. Many fathers do not hear the baby cry at night. Although the sounds fall on their eardrums, they register no hearing. A mother may also ignore many other night noises when her husband is home to protect her. And who has not had the experience of finally "seeing" some object or building which had often been in his presence before?
This condition of being inattentive, unaware or unconscious of messages, is the result of failure to activate the sensing capacity. The stimuli are there; missing is the conscious person to receive them. This condition of sensual irresponsibility occurs in many degrees. One may have only occasional periods of partial inattentiveness, times when he gets so involved in one activity that he fails to be sensitive to other things. Or one may have systematically excluded the use of one sense for so long that he now fails to utilize it. Thus one may, for example, become oriented around vision, to the exclusion of hearing. He will then be very alert to things that he can see, but inattentive to sounds. Of such a person one might say, "He just does not listen to what people say." Or in reverse, one may be ear-sensitive and trained to ignore what is to be seen. He may seldom look at other people, leading to the observation, "but you never look at me," while actually he is paying close attention by his ears only.
Finally, there is the condition of being generally insensitive with all the senses, of simply not being at all attentive. Lessor degrees of this state may be described as "not being with it," "not paying attention," "being out to lunch," "out of touch," "on cloud nine," "...having the curtain drawn," or being dull. The culmination of insensitivity is the catatonic condition of being totally out of contact with reality.
Being insensitive or existing with this capacity inactivated is to be distinguished from the selective ignoring of stimuli. The condition here described is a state in which one is actually unconscious of the messages. Although the impulses may be received and transmitted to the brain via the nerves, there is no awareness of reception. Physically the senses may be functioning, but the person is separated from the messages they record. He does not "get it."
On the other hand, one may be extremely sensitive and yet choose to ignore certain of the messages that are consciously received. In the economy of life, the quantity of stimuli available requires selectivity of response. Man is not capable of individual response to the wealth of messages that his senses are able to receive. Discernment in reacting is always required of the sensitive person. However, selective ignoring (not-knowing) is not synonymous with ignorance (actual not-knowing). In the first instance one hears but chooses not to answer. In the second, one does not hear. In the first case one sees, but does not give himself to that which is seen. In the second, he does not see.
In regard to internal messages the same is true. The sensitive person receives the hunger pain. He may choose, for practical reasons, not to eat at that time, but he does know his stomach is hungry. The insensitive person, on the other hand, may be unaware of hunger until his stomach steps-up the message to the ache level.
When the sensing capacity is activated, one gets all messages within the range of his given physical senses. He sees all that strikes his eyes and hears all that falls on his ears, yet his responses are chosen in relationship to his goals and purposes at the time. When the capacity is inactivated one does not knowingly get the various messages. His ignoring is not chosen, but the inevitable result of his own ignorance.
Certainly, each of the senses of man is constructed to receive a limited range of messages. Human ears and eyes are only capable of picking up certain wave lengths of sound and light. Dogs hear sounds which people miss, and bees see colors not receivable by humans. Furthermore there are range differentials between various persons. Heredity and brain damage may limit or eliminate one's physical capacity in each sense area. Not only are some born blind or deaf, some can actually see and hear more than others. However, each person does have a given range of abilities within the scope of each sense.
The goal is that one comes to exist with his entire range of sense capacities activated. Others may be able to sense more or less in any given area, but the saved person has embraced his own given potential for being sensitive. He moves through life with his sense switches turned on. He is alert to what he can see and hear in each situation. What he gets may be different from that which is received by another, but he remains sensitive to those stimuli that come to him.
He may be described as "a sensual person" in the deepest sense of the word. He senses all that he can. He sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes, and intuitively grasps that which is beyond the range of any single sense. At each moment of life he is sensually alert within the areas appropriate to his goals at that time. At various times individual senses will be deactivated for practical reasons, as when vision is interrupted for sleep, but in the normal course of life activities his total range of sense capacities will be activated.
The goal of one who would enter the kingdom of God is to embrace each aspect of his sensing capacity and to live sensually alert. Common problems in this process include: 1. Developing senses that have been avoided in the past. 2. Overcoming patterns of habitual ignoring, and 3. Learning to tolerate the excitement of being sensual.
1. Developing Senses: Most lost people have systematically avoided the activation of one or more of their senses in its fuller dimensions. Perhaps they seldom touch, generally do not listen, or avoid looking deeply into things. Each underdeveloped sense may be compensated for by an excessive dependence on another sense. One who does not trust his ears may have to see it before he believes. In such a case there is an over-dependence on vision, compensating for undeveloped hearing.
Once one has developed strength in the use of particular senses, the tendency is to rely on them, leaving the others weak. When this is so, one should embark on a program of rounding out his sensual development. Poorly developed senses must be exercised. If one has avoided touching he may begin to develop his tactile sense. If one is a poor listener he may exercise his ears. In this process one may find it helpful to avoid his stronger senses while developing the weaker ones. If he has a tendency to look rather than listen, he might practice closing his eyes and being more attentive to hearing.
The sense of smell is commonly undeveloped. One may exercise it by seeking out olfactory experiences. When intuition is weak, one may practice by greasing the outcome of particular situations or otherwise exercising extrasensory perception. Whatever the slighted area may be, one being saved may practice embracing it through repeated exercises in its use.
2. Habitual Ignorance: Many who actually have well-developed sensing equipment have learned habits of disuse in particular situations. For example, one who can see well may have developed the habit of not looking at people when he is talking to them. Others who normally hear well may, in effect, turn off their ears when someone else is speaking. Others "freeze up" completely in certain types of situations. They become inhibited (held in) or self-conscious, resulting in the cessation of certain sensibilities.
Whatever the areas of habitual ignoring of sensations, one being saved will seek to wipe out these blind spots. Again, the procedure is practice. Wherever one tends to be inhibited or insensitive, he will seek out experiences that allow him to unlearn the patterns of ig-noring.
3. Tolerating Excitement: Stimulation normally produces excitement. When one is existing with all senses activated he is subject to the reception of e vast amount of stimuli. Many persons have not yet learned to tolerate excitement without being overwhelmed by the emotions produced or else acting in such a way as to impede reaching other goals. The threat of the emotions, or "doing something foolish," then serves to inhibit sensual alertness. This is particularly true in areas where one has had bad experiences earlier in life.
Problems may exist in two dimensions: one, avoiding stimuli so as to keep the overall excitement level at an acceptable low; and, two, avoiding particular kinds of stimuli which have resulted in trouble in the past. For example, if one has had difficult experiences with sexually related stimuli, he will tend to avoid sensing in that area. If one has acted foolishly or been teased or punished for revealing prior sensations, he will tend to avoid reaching that level of excitement.
Whatever the reasons, one being saved must learn to tolerate the full extent of his capacity for sensual awareness. Where the threat is localized, one must learn to stand sensing in that particular area. When it is a general fear, the overall tolerance must be expanded.
In summary, the sensing capacity, composed of the five primary senses plus the "sixth sense," must be fully embraced before one is able to exist with the other capacities activated. Being sensitive opens the door to being emotional, rational, sexual, responsible - or human. Being fully human then allows one to know God. First, however, one must be sensitive.
A second aspect of the human potential is the capacity for being emotional, for responding on the "feeling level" to that which is sensed. Emotions or "feelings" may arise in response to external stimuli, such as sights and sounds, or internal stimuli, such as thoughts, memories, or an aching stomach. In either case they are pre-rational, occurring below the level of rational thought. One may feel in response to a certain thought, but he does not decide in his conscious mind how he will feel. Emotions are given. They come.
The physiological conditions named emotions may be generally divided into two areas labeled plus and minus. The positive emotions are names for various stages and ways of perceiving "being drawn toward." The negative emotions name the feelings related to being threatened or repulsed by. We can summarize those on the plus side under the words "attraction," or "like," and those negative feelings as "repulsion," or "dislike."
The degrees of "liking" vary from intense attraction, a deep feeling of being magically drawn toward, to mild interest or casual curiosity. The physiological condition is characterized by openness. The parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system holds the edge over the sympathetic branch. Heart action is slowed, blood pressure decreased, peripheral blood vessels are opened, the pupils of the eyes are dilated, musculature is relaxed, salivary glands are stimulated, and, in varying degrees, the body is open for positive response. Names given to these states of liking include: pleasure, affection, attraction, love, desire, warmth, tenderness, compassion, sympathy, interest, curiosity, fascination.
Conscious perception of the positive emotional responses usually includes the sensations of warmth, flowingness, and an overall sense of peace, wholeness, happiness, participation, well being, and self-extension. Accompanying thoughts often take the form of a desire to possess or encounter the object that provides the stimuli. One may think of these emotions with such phrases or expressions as: "I like...," "I feel drawn to...," "I want...," "I'm curious about...," "I am interested in...," "He turns me on."
Positive emotions are often expressed in terms of compliments or favorable statements about the object that stimulates the feeling. If one feels warmth in response to another person, he may say, "She is beautiful." If the colors of a sunset evoke a positive emotion, the person may say, "What a lovely sunset." The plus feelings arise when one perceives stimuli discerned to allow for incorporation or encounter. They are the body's way of preparing to take in or extend itself in meeting. The negative emotions also come in many degrees between mild dislike and intense fear or hatred. Closedness characterizes the physiological condition. The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system leads in stiffening the musculature, accelerating heart action, increasing the blood pressure, constricting the peripheral blood vessels, constricting the pupils of the eye, inhibiting the salivary glands, and in general, preparing the body for negative response to the stimuli.
These internal conditions may be perceived in any of the following ways: pounding heart, hard breathing, butterflies in the stomach, beady eyes, clammy hands, pressure on the bladder, loss of skin color (due to constricted blood flow), sweating, stiff neck, or tension in various parts of the body.
The negative emotions arise when one receives stimuli that are discerned to be threatening in some way. They are the body's manner of preparing to cope or respond to the perceived threat. Internal activities such as digestion are stopped so that energies can be directed externally. The two most primary negative emotions are anger and fear.
Anger represents the body's best preparation for instinctive coping. Muscles are hardened for action; blood pressure and breathing are increased for extra energy; sweat glands are stimulated for cooling power. The body is ready to do something about the threatening situation. Sometimes, however, the preparation is overdone, and fear is the result. Muscles may be so hardened as to become stiff and inoperative. The overly constricted body gets too cold instead of becoming extra warm as it does in anger. Breathing becomes too labored and one may faint. Excessive bladder pressure may lead to involuntary urination instead of the mere cessation of the digestive functions. Excessive sweating drains fluid, rather than merely cooling. Whereas anger mobilizes the body for action, fear tends to immobilize one.
All the other negative emotions are degrees or outgrowths of these two basic feelings. Common names include hostility, rage, pain, jealousy, hatred, disgust, dislike, resentment, "hurt," and grief.
Negative emotions may be expressed personally as "I can't stand...," "I am upset," "I am mad at...," "I am afraid," "I am bothered by..." or they may be voiced in disparaging remarks about the threatening stimuli. "He is ugly." "Those people are bad." "The weather is terrible." "She is a bitch."
All negative feelings represent the body's response to that which is perceived as threatening in some way. They prepare one to protect himself by eliminating the threat or getting away from it. Simple emotions are to be distinguished from overall states of being which are sometimes associated with certain feelings and are even given emotionally related names. Depression is one such state of existence. Although one may describe this state by saying, "I feel depressed," depression itself is not a particular feeling. In fact, it is more accurately described as a loss of feeling. The person who is depressed is literally "pressed-out," and apt to be completely non-emotional. Depression is an overall state of existence, involving every other aspect of the human capacity, as well as the emotions. More accurately, the depressed person might say, "I am depressed," rather than "I feel depressed."
Love is another overall condition. To be loving is to exist in a certain way with all one's capacities. Although one may say, "I feel love for him," love is far more than a "certain feeling." More accurately, one would say, "I feel warm (or tender) toward him." Love allows one to feel in response, but it is more than feeling warm.
Frustration is a similar example. One can refer to the condition of frustration by saying, "I feel frustrated," but this state of existence involves the whole person - not merely his emotions. More correctly, he might say, "I am frustrated."
Such names speak of what the total person is, at the time. They define the entire being, not merely an emotion he happens to feel. "Depressed," 'loving," or "frustrated," name who he is. They define his identity. He, the whole person, is literally depressed. Depressed is who he is at the time--or loving, or frustrated.
Other examples of these overall states of existence that are to be distinguished from simple emotions include: joyful, hating, lost, peaceful, miserable. There may be particular feelings more commonly associated with each state, yet the condition is more than the feeling.
All emotions are morally neutral. No feeling is innately right or wrong. There is no emotion within the scope of the human capacity that is good or bad, virtuous or sinful, within itself.
Good and evil are related to what one does with his feelings, rather than to the feelings themselves. One may respond to any feeling in either a virtuous or sinful way. In either case, emotions do not fall in the same dimension as sin. One may have feelings about sin, but no feeling is sinful in itself. Or one may have feelings about virtue, but there is no such thing as a virtuous feeling.
All feelings, positive and negative, are a part of the human capacity. No person can be fully human, and thereby know God, without embracing the entire range of his emotional possibilities.
Every person has three choices in responding to his emotional capacities. He can act them out, rule them out, or live them out. Acting out is probably the most widely used response. It consists of dissipating the feeling through immediate translation into some action. Fear may be acted out through running away. Slamming doors, having a tantrum, or fighting--either physically or verbally can dissipate anger. Warm feelings may be dissolved in sexual activity. Admiration may be dissipated in efforts to possess.
The procedure in this response is: 1. Sense a feeling, 2. Do something about it. The strength or power generated by the emotion is immediately drained from the body by some particular expression or activity. If one gets mad at a child he punishes him or "tells him off." If one feels attracted to a particular person he attempts to seduce or win the favor of the stimulating person. The newspaper recently reported on a man who came home to find his supper was not ready. He got angry and ordered his wife out of the house. When she did not go fast enough to suit him, he got out a .32 caliber revolver and started shooting. When he missed, he was further angered. Then he picked up a .12 gauge shotgun and, holding the revolver in his left hand, blasted it to smithereens with the shotgun. He also blew three fingers off his left hand.
This is acting out one's anger. Just as the actions can be directed toward other people, so acting out can be turned inward on the person who feels the emotions. Any form of hurting oneself, physically or spiritually, can be a way of dissipating the energy generated by an emotion. Biting one's fingernails or lips, self-punishment (as refusing to allow pleasure or continually judging oneself to be bad), self-abuse (as not caring for one's physical or mental health), are all possible ways of acting out emotions on oneself. Suicide may be the final act of an emotional drive turned inward.
Ruling out emotions is the second possible choice. In this course the individual simply refuses to feel. He tries not to be emotional. If he senses an emotion arising within, he suppresses it. He attempts to rule out the feelings that come to him. Common ways of accomplishing this suppression of the emotional capacity include exaggerated focus on thinking or doing things. One may divert his mind to thinking of something else when he senses the possibility of becoming emotional. If he begins to feel angry, he may start thinking of happy thoughts or of reasons why he should not feel that way. If he begins to feel attracted to a person (warm feelings) he may try not to think about the individual, or to think of reasons to dislike and hence neutralize the positive feeling. If he feels afraid, he may reason with himself. "Oh, there is probably no reason to be afraid." If he begins to feel emotional in a movie or t.v.drama, he may start thinking about the techniques of production, such as flaws in the camera angle or poor acting abilities. Analyzing, motive probing, and explaining can be effective ways to use the mind in the escape from feeling.
The second way is to get busy doing something. Clean the closets, take a cold shower, read a magazine, or go for a walk. By doing some activity that tends to absorb one's interests, the emotion itself may be avoided. Whistling in the dark may divert one from his fear. Singing a happy song can cloak sadness of heart. Emotional avoidance work is often referred to as busywork. The goal is not to accomplish some specific task, but to use activity as an escape from being emotional.
The third possible response to emotions is to embrace the capacity and live out the feelings. This means to be emotional, to exist as an emotional person, to feel the full force of the feelings without resorting to acting out or ruling out. This response could be called "contained emotionalism." Emotions are allowed their fullest activation, yet the person remains a contained being. The emotion may be revealed in its natural physical expression, such as tears, laughter, goosebumps, sweating, or shaking, but the person remains himself. At that moment he exists as someone who happens to be afraid, angry, affectionate, or sad, yet he is still a contained person in his own right. He is living out his emotions, rather than trying to avoid or escape them. He is a feeling person.
The person who is living out his emotions will, of course, continue to think and take appropriate actions. His thoughts and deeds will not, however, be an escape from his feelings. They will be the responsible results of his being a feeling person. Emotions contribute to the wealth of information available for thought and decision. They convey to the person the sum of his previous experience in similar situations. They reveal the total learning of the past. This is needed information for any wise decision concerning what to do now. Such thought, which weighs the value of the emotional response, is not an escape from feeling via the mind.
Certainly the emotional person who is living out his feelings will also be involved in doing things. Rational decisions will be made, considering the emotional information, and appropriate action will be taken. If a child is cross and irritable at 10 p.m., the parent may feel his own anger at being interrupted in watching t.v. He will recognize his own feelings, weigh them with other information, such as, what time the child woke up that morning, and then take appropriate action. Depending on the circumstances, this might involve ignoring the child and continuing to watch t.v., inviting the child to sit in his lap, or sending him to bed. In either case the action would be the result of a responsible decision using all evidence at hand, including the emotional information, and would not be a way of avoiding the parent's own feeling. He would feel and contain his emotion, decide, and act responsibly, rather than escaping his emotion by "taking it out" on the child or repressing it within himself.
All actions of the person who chooses to live out his feelings will be in the above manner. He will act when it is appropriate to the occasion, but will never do something to avoid the risk of being emotional.
These are the three choices: to act out emotions, either on others or oneself; to rule out emotions, suppressing them from awareness; or to live out emotions, feeling their full intensity and choosing to act responsibly. Which is the appropriate choice? What should one do with this emotional capacity?
These factors are to be considered in answering this question: What can the person stand to do? How able is he to contain the power of his emotions? Secondly, what will the circumstances bear? What will be the effect of acting out, repressing, or revealing his own emotional response?
Obviously the third choice - living out emotions - is the ideal. Whenever one is able, this should always be his response. If one is to be Christian, he will become diligently involved in embracing his full capacity to be emotional. No person can become himself, be human and Christian, until he has accepted his ability to be an emotional person and yet act responsibly.
In the process of achieving this goal, however, one should recognize his current condition and take steps that are appropriate to where he is. Whereas some have learned well how to act out all emotions, others have become professional at ruling out. Any change in these long-standing patterns is apt to be difficult and to provoke other threatening emotions. Any change should be undertaken only with great care. One who has a history of acting out emotions may use the controlling device of repression as an aid in learning not to do something with every feeling. Another person who has always repressed emotions may do some acting out in his process of learning containment. The point is, any attempt to change to choice three should take into account one's current pattern. Options one and two may each be appropriate under certain circumstances. Breaking a dish or slamming the door may be appropriate for one who has always swallowed his anger. On the other hand, biting his tongue and remaining silent may be in order for a long-term tyrant.
As one is able, however, he should make the third choice in each situation. He should allow the full scope of the feeling to move within him. Without doing anything, and without trying to stop the feeling, he should let the emotion emerge fully into his consciousness. Whether the feeling is positive or negative, it should be entertained with equal respect. No feeling is to be judged because of what it is. Remember, no emotion is inherently good or bad. Although some have learned to rule out feelings by the device of judging them to be evil, this is a commentary on the person rather than the particular emotion.
The first thing one must do is learn to feel the feeling, to allow its existence in the light of awareness, to tolerate its full reality in the present situation. Many have avoided being emotional so long, by acting out or ruling out, that they suspect their feelings are larger than they themselves are. It is as though the emotion were a terrible monster which must be immediately driven out, or else kept under lock and key, lest it turn and consume the person. The fact that in reality the person is larger than the feeling remains an unknown truth.
Perhaps in early encounters with the particular emotion one was threatened and did have bad experiences. He may have concluded early in life that the emotion was more powerful than he was, and hence established a pattern of avoidance or dissipation. Whatever the reason, many still function as though they are inadequate to experience their own emotions in a responsible way.
The first thing to be learned is if the early experience continues to be valid. Granted that grief was perceived as overwhelming at some point in the past, the present question is, does it remain so? Granted that anger led to trouble in early life, does it now exist as an all-powerful enemy? Are tender feelings really such monsters that they must be avoided at all costs?
The results of a pattern of either acting out or ruling out leave the individual unable to answer these questions. If one has always escaped the full weight of a particular feeling by some activity, he does not know but what the emotion is heavier than he is. Suppose he has always escaped tender feelings by relieving them in sexual activity. The result is that he does not know if he can stand being tender. His wife's tears may be extremely threatening since he has not embraced his own capacity for being emotional in this way.
On the other hand, his wife may have learned to avoid the full weight of her own feelings through the immediate release of tears. Crying can also become an escape from feeling the emotions that arouse the tears. In this case she is left uncertain of her ability to contain the feelings of joy, sorrow, or tenderness which give rise to the tears.
In like manner, one who has always repressed a certain feeling does not know but what the emotion is more powerful than he is. If, for example, one has avoided anger by ruling out the feeling, he has no way of knowing whether he or the emotion is actually the larger. Perhaps his limited experience at getting mad has led to the conclusion that his anger is stronger than he is.
Although ruling out an emotion gives one the illusion of control, the results of suppression are actually the opposite. As previously stated, emotions are given. They happen naturally. The emotional responses are neither chosen nor denied by the rational mind of the person. Although one thinks he is ruling out the feeling, he is, in fact, merely removing himself from awareness of the feeling. In effect, he rules himself out or away from the feeling, and thinks that he has ruled the feeling out.
It is as though one were driving a wagon (his life), and a fox (a feeling) appears in the wagon beneath the driver. If the fox threatens the driver, he may thrust him under a blanket. Then a cat (another feeling) comes, followed by a dog, a ghost, and a bird. Each in turn is thrust under the blanket. The driver may then think he has ruled out each creature, when, in fact, he has only elevated himself out of the driver's seat and is left riding atop all the creatures he has thrust under the blanket. Thereafter, most of his attention must go to carefully keeping each lively feeling in its place, and only the remaining energies can be given to directing the wagon which is his life. He thought to avoid the creatures by ruling them out, while actually he only thrust himself further from the driver's seat.
So it is with the person who attempts to eliminate the risks of feeling by the device of repression. The emotions do not actually go away. Left unattended in the dark of his own unconscious, they end up controlling the life of him who wished it otherwise.
Thus the first step of learning to be emotional will involve, for some, unlearning the old lesson - that one's emotions are larger and more powerful than the person who experiences them. This will involve ceasing to act out or rule out any emotion, and learning to feel the full intensity of all feelings without taking any particular action. This may mean burning with passion, seething with anger, shaking with fear, or melting with delight. Whatever the feeling, one must first learn that he can endure the complete physiological state without resorting to any form of escape.
The next step, deciding what to do while being emotional, involves the use of the conscious mind and will be discussed after a consideration of thinking. First, one must learn to simply be emotional.
To illustrate this process two emotions will be considered in greater detail. The first is the general feeling of affection that includes various gradations called warmth, tenderness, attraction, sexiness, and desire. The physiology of attraction includes bodily openness. The peripheral blood vessels open, allowing the blood to flow freely, leading to good skin color, flushing or even blushing, and an overall sensation of warmth. The pupils of the eyes dilate. Erogenous zones of the body tend to fill with blood and expand somewhat. This may be perceived as heat or tingling in the pelvic area, breasts, or around the mouth. The heart muscle also tends to relax and expand, giving a sensation of bigness or swelling in the chest. If one feels threatened by these bodily changes be may constrict his chest cavity causing the heart to beat faster and breathing to speed up. Fear of speaking may also result in tightening of throat muscles, with the sensation of a lump in the throat.
According to one's previous training and experience, any type of stimuli may serve to arouse the emotion of affection--scenery, food, people, situations, sounds, smells, touches, thought or inner body sensations. Although attention is usually focused on the source of the stimulus, the essential issue in being emotional is allowing the bodily condition without being threatened or overwhelmed. In order to be affectionate one must learn to tolerate the full range of bodily changes associated with this emotion. He must learn that all the above-described conditions are normal, natural, and tolerable without either acting out or repression.
Acting out and ruling out are escapes from containing the emotion of affection. Three common forms of acting out are falling in love, possessing the stimulating object, and engaging in sexual activity. Falling in love relieves one of containing affection by giving life over to the emotion. The feeling is granted possession of the person. One literally "falls in" the emotion and thereby escapes being a responsible person who happens to feel affectionate.
The second way of acting out the feeling is by gaining possession of that which arouses it. The energies generated by the emotion are dissipated in getting and managing that which stimulates it rather than in containing the emotion itself. The feeling is projected onto the object of the affection and managed externally. If the stimulus is an object, such as a painting, it may be purchased. If one has a passion for art he may relieve it by becoming a collector of art objects. If the stimulus is a person, he or she may be "won" as a friend or spouse. The projected feeling may then be controlled externally. If the stimulus is some bit of scenery, such as a sunset, it may be "captured" in a picture or painted on a canvass if the affectionate person happens to be an artist.
Another escape is to dissipate the feeling in intercourse or so called "making love." Orgasm, by nature of its function, partially drains off the energies created by the emotion of affection. Thus one may relieve himself of being tender in this way by masturbation or sexual intercourse. Many sexual affairs include no love whatever, since they are unconsciously intended to help the individual escape feeling the emotion which is a basic aspect of being a loving person. That which might become an expression of deepest love is prematurely used to escape one of the emotions involved in loving.
The previously mentioned devices of repression accomplish ruling out affection. One common addition is the use of judgment. The feeling itself may be judged wrong or sinful in particularly threatening circumstances. For example, affection for one's spouse is judged virtuous, but affection for any other person may be classified as evil. This opinion (judgment) may thereafter be used as an aid in repressing the feeling. If one concludes that everlasting punishment or hell fires will result from misplaced affections, he is naturally reluctant to experience such emotions consciously. Certain bible passages are often misquoted in support of this aid to repression.
Unfortunately, ruling out affectionate feelings from one's awareness only serves to exaggerate the emotion and leave the person victimized by his own feeling rather than the master of it. Persons using this device often find that by suppressing it in certain circumstances they also become unable to risk it even where they think it acceptable. One who rules out affection for his neighbor's wife may find himself losing affectionate feelings for his own wife also. Those who practice this procedure over long periods of time may become unable to risk being warm and tender under any circumstances. Complete loss of affection and sexual frigidity or impotence may be the end result.
One who is concerned with becoming Christian will seek to avoid either acting out or ruling out affectionate feelings under any circumstances. He will allow himself to feel warm, tender, and affectionate whenever the feelings arise within him. His focus will be on learning to be affectionate, that is, to feel the feeling in a contained way at any time, place, or with any person. He will learn to be an affectionate person whenever he feels that way.
A second example is the feeling of anger. This emotion arises naturally whenever one finds himself in circumstances perceived as frustrating, threatening, or dangerous. It is a normal, healthy, feeling which functions to prepare the body to take appropriate action. Without this natural emotion the human animal would be seriously limited in managing life.
However, the energies generated by the emotion of anger can also be used in destructive rather than helpful ways. The angry human is a powerful force. One who would be Christian will learn to contain his anger and utilize the strength generated thereby in productive rather than destructive ways. He will, as Paul wrote in the bible, learn to "be angry and sin not." (Ephesians 4:26). He will, like Jesus, "look on others with anger," on certain occasions (Mark 3:5), but he will still act responsibly.
Contained anger is, however, a demanding experience. Many have never learned to seethe with rage or burn with anger, without acting irresponsibly. They quickly escape the feeling by either acting or ruling it out. In acting out anger one either seeks to hurt or destroy the provoking object or person, turns the feeling on himself and vents his rage on his own person, or throws a temper tantrum, and dissipates the energy into the atmosphere. Acting out on the frustrating object may be done by either physical destruction (kicking the chair over which one stumbles, or hitting the offending person), or spiritual destruction. The devices used in the latter activity include the hard or murderous look, "cutting the other person down'" with words (name-calling, criticism, or argument), or "killing him with kindness." When the offending object or person is inaccessible to attack (as one's boss) the feeling may be displaced and acted out on safer objects. If the husband is angered at his boss he may hold the feeling and take it out on his wife ("Why isn't my supper ready?"). She may in turn direct her own anger on to the children ("Get those toys picked up immediately."'), who in turn kick the cat or forget to feed the hamster.
Devious ways of taking out anger on one's self are too numerous to mention but include all forms of self-denial, punishment, or self-destruction both physical and spiritual. Refusing to allow personal pleasure is one of the more common ways. Certain biblical passages are often misquoted and used to support this device also (such as making a virtue out of self-destruction, as in the "martyr complex.").
Ruling out anger, the second form of escape, is accomplished by mental repression. Feelings are denied access to consciousness and often covered over by pretended positive feelings. Many an angry parent suppresses her natural anger toward frustrating children by pretending excessive love, which is then acted out by over-indulgence.
Denial of anger may be aided by the judgment, "it is wrong to get mad." Often the bible is misused in support of this personal judgment.
Contained anger is the goal of the would-be Christian. He will be learning to experience the full force and power of this emotion also, without acting out or ruling it out. Whenever the feeling arises, he will recognize it as the natural response of his body to situations perceived as threatening. He will be thankful for the information and preparation, yet will use his rational mind in the decision concerning any particular action. Often the feeling will stimulate thoughts of destruction. He may think about cutting the throat of the one who provoked him. He may think of drowning the children. He may consider blowing up the frustrating object, shooting the threatening people, or at least think of telling them where to go. Whatever thought the mind chooses to express, the strength of the anger will be accepted as appropriate. With the feeling and its accompanying thoughts, he will still use his mind to choose an appropriate course of action. Often this will be to simply contain the emotion to "be angry, but to sin not."
To summarize, each person is given the capacity to be emotional, to experience a wide range of feelings. If one is to be saved, he will embrace this capacity freely in his own life.
The third area of the human capacity is the potential for thinking or being rational. Although some aspects of the brain function automatically, others involve the conscious choice of the individual. These are the capacities that must be activated before the person can be saved. Each one functions naturally and without conscious effort when one is knowing God, but when one is lost, the thinking functions are made inoperative in various degrees. Salvation includes the activation of these denied capacities also.
The rational capacities that are of primary concern in the salvation process are MEMORY, REASON, IMAGINATION, and DECISION. Underlying these four capacities of the mind is the human ability to be conscious, that is, to both think and be aware of thinking.
Since consciousness is the basis for the four functions, it will be considered first. The size and construction of the human brain allow man to not only be rational, but also to know of his rationality. He can think, and think about his thinking. He can be himself and be self-conscious. He can be aware and be aware that he is being aware. He can contemplate his own contemplations.
This ability to be conscious is the source of both the blessing and the curse. When used to enhance and expand man's being in the world, it is the avenue to blessing. When utilized in denying man's humanity it becomes the basis of the curse. Embraced consciousness allows man to become fully human or to reduce himself to being sub-human. Salvation is the name of the first process; sin is the name for the second.
To be conscious is to be aware. Automatic brain capacities allow man to function without being consciously attentive to his functions. He can operate on automatic pilot. He can move through life living by his instincts and the primitive emotional responses of his lower brain. He can exist without being conscious, but without consciousness he cannot be fully human.
Through consciousness one functions as the human animal while at the same time he watches himself function. He receives a sense message, such as a sight or sound, and is aware of himself as receiving it. He feels pleasured by the reception, and knows of the pleasure. He is reminded of previous sights or sounds, and is alert to the process of remembering. He thinks about the stimuli, and observes himself thinking. He chooses to act, knowing of his choice, and while he acts, he can see himself acting. Through consciousness he is both himself and yet separate; he is both involved and detached; he is "in the world, yet not of the world."
Without consciousness one is limited to heredity and prior experience. He does what his glands and early learning dictate. He does not decide because he is pre-decided (prejudiced). He does not act; he reacts. He remains only a highly developed animal. He does not learn to wait, and thereby become human. He does not learn to plan and promise, and open his avenue to God.
The opposite condition, in which man can be equally lost, is when he escapes being present and takes flight into the realms of consciousness. Rather than being a self and conscious of being self, he becomes self-conscious. He flees the risks of presence with awareness for the supposed safety of heightened awareness without presence. He uses his capacity to be outside himself in an escape from himself. He becomes so conscious of personhood that he ceases to be a person. He gets lost outside himself. In extreme situations he may get "completely beside himself" and go "out of his mind."
While the ability to be conscious is subject to misuse, it remains an essential necessity for embracing the capacity to be rational. Neither part of the mental capacity can be fully activated without ones being conscious in the process. With this understanding, we may proceed to examine the four aspects of thinking.
MEMORY is the initial function in the mental apparatus. The reception of any stimulus - be it external, such as a sight, sound, or smell; or internal, as an emotion, pain, or thought - prompts the mind to recall, to being reminded of. "That makes me think of..." is this capacity in operation. Stimuli are recorded in a form that we call memories. Even if the stimulus itself is forgotten, the response of the person is apt to be kept in that storehouse called the memory.
This capacity is activated when current stimuli are allowed to prick the wealth of past experiences, called the memory, in a conscious way. When MEMORY is working, every stimulus received activates this box of captivated prior experiences, bringing something to mind. Even if the current stimuli are completely new, such as an object one has never seen, still they can bring thoughts to awareness from the past. It can remind one of something, if he risks activating the MEMORY. In this case, the capacity might more clearly be called ASSOCIATION. Here the connection with past experience is not so obvious, but the function is the same. A stimulus prompts a thought image. This is MEMORY at work.
For example, if one looks at a cloud and allows his MEMORY to function, he will be reminded of something from his past, perhaps a similar looking cloud, a feeling, a situation, or a person - but a cloud can stimulate this capacity of the mind into activity. Conversely, one can choose to deny MEMORY and say, "It doesn't remind me of anything." Even if one had never seen a cloud, the sight could initiate this ability in the form of ASSOCIATION. "I don't know what it is, but it makes me think of sheep in a meadow."
So it is with every sight, sound, smell, taste, feel, inward sensation or thought. Any stimulus can initiate this capacity when the person is willing to so allow it.
REASON is the second dimension of the mind. Growing out of MEMORY, this capacity allows one to consider one thought over against another, to compare mental notes, to make new thoughts fit in with old ones in an orderly way. REASON allows one to make sense out of things perceived, to be logical and maintain a rational system of ideas. It lets one keep a consistent mental landscape, made up of named and properly trimmed memories. By the use of REASON, one screens incoming thoughts. If "reasonable" they may be incorporated; if threatening ("unreasonable") they can be rejected.
REASON, being the intake capacity, is that part of the mind utilized in formal learning or education. With it one considers additional aspects of reality and concludes to either accept or reject the impression. If the information is incorporated, one is said to have "learned" it. Doubting is a name for the negative aspect of reasoning. In order to properly assess any new stimulus one must weigh it pro and con. When this consideration seems to be negative, the process is called doubting. When positive, it is called approving. Both doubting and approving are essential aspects of activating the capacity to REASON. One must weigh the positive side - grant temporary approval, and the negative side - doubt, before he can properly assess any thought that comes to him.
Suppose one sees an object in the sky. MEMORY may allow a quick association with air crafts, but REASON, through comparing memories, may lead to the conclusion that the object is not an ordinary airplane. By the weighing process of doubting -approving, doubting -approving, one may settle on the deduction that it is a space ship. The process might be: "I think it is a plane" (approving), "No, it has no wings so it must not be a plane" (doubting), "But it is obviously man made," (approving), "Yet planes do not go straight up" (doubting). "It must be a space ship" (conclusion).
This is REASONING - relating one thought to another, "Making sense out of things." Once the conclusion is reached, the idea may be called learning. A common expression for this process is "using your head."
IMAGINATION is the third aspect of the mental capacity. It goes beyond REASON and puts thoughts together in new or unusual ways. MEMORY selects from the past. REASON organizes the selections in traditional ways. IMAGINATION reorganizes thoughts in novel or creative ways. It is MEMORY projected toward the future. Other names for this capacity include fantasy, daydreaming, speculating, and wishing.
With IMAGINATION man answers the question: What would happen if...? He makes things up, speculates on what might be. He uses his mind to devise other ways. He dreams. He imagines Utopias and Hells. Inventors, writers, artists, and creative persons in all spheres utilize this mental capacity in their endeavors.
Night dreams are a special function of the IMAGINATION. In them the mind embraces its own capacity for creative assimilation. Under the cover of sleep, when the censor's hand of conscience is not so heavy, this capacity may come alive. Memories and thoughts are freely fitted together without obedience to traditional REASON. Deep experiences are given form in the fantasyland of the IMAGINATION.
The culminating mental capacity is DECISION. This is the synthesizing of MEMORY, REASON, and IMAGINATION, into a commitment of the whole person. When each of the first three capacities is fully embraced and they are functioning harmoniously, DECISION is then possible. MEMORY selects appropriate associations from its repertory. REASON weighs them in varying degrees and proportions. IMAGINATION tries new and different combinations. In consort with REASON it speculates concerning the "what ifs" of various possibilities. If no feasible conclusions are reached, MEMORY is probed for additional possibilities. These are evaluated in relation to other options, and finally, out of the cooperative interplay of all three, a decision is reached. "I will wear green socks today."
This capacity is also referred to as "will." It is the ability "to will" one thing. WILLING or DECISION can only function properly when each of the other mental capacities is adequately activated. Many persons find decision making difficult because they have not learned to reason, are hesitant to utilize their full memory, or fear being imaginative. To the degree that either of these is so, the ability to decide will likewise be impaired. Decision-making is the highest and most complex of the four mental capacities.
The previously discussed possibility of existing as a conscious person, which underlies the full activation of the four mental capacities, also has its negative counterpart. Man can exist unconsciously. By choosing not to be conscious he can effectively tone-down, stiffle, or eliminate the functioning of parts of his mental capacities. By eliminating degrees of consciousness he can turn over the direction of his life to those portions of the brain which function automatically. Principally this includes the body and the emotional system with its conditioned training from early life. One who abandons consciousness gives direction of himself to his feelings, past training, instincts, or other people. He does what he "feels like doing," "What he has learned to do" by rote, what his glands dictate, or what he is told. As such, he may exist as a high-grade animal; but he can never become a humanized being.
Sin is one name of the process of denying consciousness, refusing to activate the components of the mind, and existing merely as a highly developed animal. It happens when, for example, one concludes that an emotion is too great for him to stand and he seeks to avoid the feeling by denying the associated thoughts in his mind. If he fears the feeling of grief associated with the death of a loved one, he may try to avoid the feeling by refusing to think about death. If he is threatened by the pleasure feelings associated with sexual activity, he may avoid thinking about attractive people. If he fears the power associated with anger, he may avoid thinking about hurting or killing others. Such avoidances can be accomplished by squelching both MEMORY and IMAGINATION. By refusing to remember previous experiences or to fantasize about possibilities, one may avoid or at least suppress the feelings that are threatening.
The same can occur with the capacity for REASON. Most groups tend to exclude those who hold ideas threatening to the common group thought. Catholics exclude Protestants. Americans exclude communists. Liberals exclude conservatives. Young people exclude those over 30. If one fears the possibility of isolation, he may avoid the threat by refusing to be reasonable about ideas which are sacred to the group which matters most to him. This process is commonly referred to as being a true believer or not doubting. It is easily accomplished by crippling or denying the capacity to REASON (which necessarily includes doubting), particularly in the critical areas. Thus intelligent Catholics may refuse to think about birth control or doubt papal infallibility; youth may refuse to think of the necessity of law: churchmen may not doubt God.
Unfortunately, the denial of particular thoughts is best accomplished by denying the function of the brain from which that kind of thought arises. If ideas of death reside in the memory, the best way to avoid thoughts of death (which might raise the supposedly intolerable grief feelings) is to avoid remembering, to "try not to think" about the past. If doubts about the accepted ideas of the in-group pose a threat, the most effective way to avoid such doubts is to avoid the function of REASON. By learning to not be reasonable, one naturally avoids the risk of doubting the accepted ideas. The point is, elimination of risky thinking very easily comes at expense of all thinking.
Whatever the reason may be, lostness is the result of closing the mind, refusing consciousness, and searing the mental capacities of MEMORY, REASON, IMIGANATION, and DECISION. The goal in becoming human is to reactivate every aspect of one's thinking abilities, to be a rational person. This means to exist in the state of being open to all one's memories - to have the walls of the unconscious lowered so that all prior experiences are free to stride into the light of the present without threat of rejection; to have the computers of reason constantly at work - weighing all incoming data, both from the external world and the storehouse of memory; to have a paved road to the land of imagination so that all fantasies and dreams can cavort easily into the city of awareness; and to be constantly allowing the natural synthesis of decision to take place. In a word, this means to go through life thinking, "using one's head," or more specifically, being one's head.
At the same time one is sensing and being emotional, he is also to be rational - if he would be human, and saved.
The activation of the three basic components of man's capacity - being sensual, being emotional, and being rational, allows for embracing this fourth capacity, namely, being sexual.
BEING SEXUAL means to exist with an activated capacity for ecstasy, with an open path to "being beside oneself." One can become so involved-in reality, so fully participating, that he becomes ecstatic or "beside himself." The culmination of this capacity is realized in orgasm, when one, for an instant, exists beyond his self. Hence the name, being sexual.
Ecstasy begins with man's reaching forth with the three basic capacities, when he extends himself to that which is outside his own skin. With his senses he is grasping; with his emotions he is feeling for; and with his mind he is thinking about. Perhaps a Latin word, spondere, which could be translated as spond , best describes this state of being. To be sexual means to be sponding. The Latin word means to promise or speak forth in commitment. In the English language we are familiar with the combined form of the Latin, re (meaning back), plus spondere, as re-spond, which is the fifth human capacity. Sponding, although uncommon in English, means giving forth of oneself, making personal commitment, promising. The word, spontaneous, comes from the same root and conveys the sense of self-arising or reaching forth. The word, spouse, also from this root, indicates the degree of commitment implied in the Latin word.
Re-sponding is "speaking" back: sponding is speaking forth. When one is sponding, he is spontaneously extending himself into the world about him. He is "out-going" or reaching forth with his senses, emotions, and mind. His senses are open he is looking, listening, and smelling. His emotions are active and moving. Fits mind is alert and creative. He is "turned on." Inside his body the parasympathetic branch of his autonomic nervous system has a slight edge over the sympathetic branch, leaving him in a generally open condition.
Recognition of this state is described as pleasurable. One "feels good," is "having fun," or is, to some degree, excited. It begins with a slight degree of self-extension, a little pleasure, as one begins to spend or reach forth, and culminates in total self-extension (ecstasy), when one literally goes beyond himself.
The capacity for existing openly along this path from minimum to maximum self-extension is called BEING SEXUAL. It is not defined by actually existing at any particular point along the course to ecstasy, but rather by the condition of being open to movement on the path. When this capacity is activated, one is open to ecstasy. He may be a long way from being "beside himself," but he is openly subject to this possibility. He is freely participating in reality around him, and is thereby subject to ecstasy at any time.
The condition of being sexual, of existing with the capacity activated, is a personal state and has no direct connection with any particular outside circumstances. Sponding is out-going and may be in the presence of anything, anywhere. It is a sponse rather than a re-sponse, an activation rather than a re-action. One is simply being sexual, not being made sexual. Thus it may be in the presence of nature, people, any kind of situation, any particular person, any thing, any place, any time. The point is one's existence as an open, outreaching person, rather than as a closed, non-participating person. That which the extension is toward is totally irrelevant. It may or may not be that which is commonly considered sexy or pleasure-provoking. One can be sexual with any person, without people, or in any and all circumstances.
Most often, however, the capacity is recognized when it is projected onto some specific object or person, such as a painting, pet, or loved ore. When the condition is limited to the circumstances of a particular object or person, one may perceive his own state of being sexual only as it is reflected in the external circumstance. He may even think that he gets his condition from the loved object. When this is so, he may perceive his own state of being sexual in terms of want, desire, or attraction for that that is loved.
Romantic love is the classic example of this projection of the sexual condition. In this circumstance one exists with senses, emotions, and mind activated, and is therefore able to be sexual. The state of being is, however, seen only in reflection in the loved person. Thus the person "in love" may think that he "gets" his own condition from the loved one. Naturally he is attracted and feels a deep desire to possess the loved person, lest he lose his own condition of being sexual. The desire to possess will usually be in direct proportion to the extent of one's projection of his own capacity on to the other person.
Even so, the essential element in romantic love, as in all other such projections, is the state of being of the one who experiences the "love." He exists with his senses activated: he sees and hears the loved one. He has his emotions turned on: he feels warm and tender toward his love. His mind is activated; he remembers prior meetings, imagines future encounters, reasons about how to get together, and decides to act. Having his capacities thus activated, he is able to be sexual with his sweetheart.
The same conditions exist when one "loves" a sunset, a drama, a French Poodle, a red rose, or a favorite uncle, that is, when one is being sexual.
The most natural expression of sexual capacity is the biological sex process, beginning with flirtation, courtship, and ending in the sex act itself. There is, however, no inevitable connection between this capacity and any particular form of expression. Being sexual may be expressed or revealed in sexual intercourse when that is appropriate, but it may also be expressed in social intercourse--conversation, or in the communion of silence. The possible forms of expression are as diverse as the human potential for self-revelation. It may be "said" in a single glance, a touch. a gift, a word, or any act. Indeed, the capacity can be fully activated and yet not expressed in any way. One can be sexual without doing anything. Certain physiological conditions, such as, dilated eye pupils, may reveal this state of being. But the person need not be engaged in any specific activity in order to have fully embraced the capacity for being sexual.
In fact, all activities that can express the capacity can also be used to diminish, dissipate, or escape the fuller activation of it. Logically, one might wonder: Why would anyone wish to decrease or avoid the state of being pleasured? Theoretically we are supposed to avoid pain and seek pleasure. There are at least five valid reasons for experiencing threat in regard to activating the sexual capacity. First, there is the threat of pleasure. Being sexual is normally experienced as pleasurable. Unfortunately many persons have had more experience at being displeased than with being pleased. When this is so, they naturally feel more comfortable when not experiencing the sensations of pleasure. Pleasure itself, being a relatively strange condition, can be a serious threat to one who is not accustomed to it.
Then there is the threat of power and confidence. Being sexual generates physical power. Strength and energy are created within the body. Power is perceived as confidence, nerve, or the ability to perform or control. Many persons are so unaccustomed to this sense of power that they immediately feel threatened by any surge of confidence within themselves.
Pleasure and power lead to the third threat of personal containment. Will one be able to stand being excited without doing something foolish? Will one be able to tolerate being powerful without doing something harmful or destructive? Can the person contain pleasure and power without being taken over and destroyed by them? Paul raised the Question in the bible, "Can a man take fire into his bosom and not be burned?" Can a person stand being sexual without translating the condition into some dangerous sexual activity? The uninitiated individual will not know if he is able to experience and manage these two forces. This unknown can be perceived as an overwhelming threat.
Should one proceed with the natural expression of the sexual capacity, namely, sexual intercourse, then the risks of pregnancy and responsibility arise. This threat may be greatly reduced by the effectiveness of currently available contraceptives, but there is usually some chance of pregnancy with all its extended responsibilities for both woman and man.
Finally, there is the ever-present threat of public approval and rejection. The child may experience disapproval from parents for any sexually related expressions, such as, playing with his own or his sibling's sexual parts, or saying words with sexual connotations. Later one may experience disapproval in the form of teasing about interest in the opposite sex, or punishment for such activities as masturbation, group sex games, or fornication. The near universal taboo against incest serves to squelch sexual feelings in the family setting. Although public standards are undergoing some change, there remains the prevailing disapproval of sexual intercourse before and outside of marriage. Sexual virginity and virtue are still quite synonymous in much of the public mind. The association between "sex" and "dirty" are deeply imbedded in the public conscience. Explicitly sexual language is usually considered vulgar. Laws prohibiting certain sexual activities, such as rape and "unnatural sex," carry severe penalties.
Coupled with these facts are the common prohibitions on sex, which are maintained by traditional religion. Often not only sexual acts, such as adultery, are condemned, but also sexual thoughts or feelings for anyone other than one's spouse are considered equally sinful.
There and other facts contribute to the fifth major threat on being sexual, namely, the risks of public disapproval and rejection.
Although BEING SEXUAL is most fully culminated in the climax of the sexual orgasm, the capacity is to be distinguished from common connotations of the word sex, that is, thinking, talking, doing, or having sex. One can be sexual--exist in this physiological state of openness--without engaging in any of the above, or one can have sex thoughts, speak of sex, or participate in sexual activities without being sexual.
In fact, in our society the correlation often is reversed, that is, the more sexual one actually becomes, the less "preoccupied with sex" he is. Reduced sexuality may be concealed in much talk about sex. Very "masculine" men may be quite non-sexual, while "sexy" women are often relatively frigid.
So called "sexual" activity, including orgasm, can be but an escape from the condition of being sexual. Much sexual activity, both heterosexual, homosexual, and autosexual, is not so much an expression of the capacity as it is an effort to avoid the fuller activation of it. Since orgasm provides a release of the power generated in the experience of being sexual, it is a natural vehicle for escaping the condition when it is perceived as being intolerable. One may avoid the threat of being sexual by either refusing to activate the capacity--by being frigid or impotent--or by dissipating the energy as soon as possible in specific orgasm-producing activities. This escape may occur when individuals engage in sexual intercourse without personal involvement, as in rape or prostitution.
The same is true for many other activities commonly associated with physical sex--flirtation, courtship and the myriads of verbal and non-verbal encounters normally considered "sexy." Each of these can either be an expression of being sexual, or an escape from containment of it.
The goal in becoming human is to fully embrace the capacity for being sexual, that is, to move through life as a sexual being, to participate in all activities as one who is open to self-extension to whatever degree is appropriate at the time. The capacity is denied when one exists as a closed, withdrawn, non-participating person who is not subject to positive sponding. The sexual person exists "turned on."
His activated capacity is fully contained and will be revealed or expressed only in such ways as are consistent with his life goals. He is sexual, but his sexuality does not rule his decisions in the practical matters of living. All his encounters and activities will be essentially sexual, in that they take form from the power and pleasure generated in the activation of this capacity. However, the forms will include work, hobbies, leisure activities, conversations, meetings, etc., as well as physical sex, as it is appropriate to the circumstances.
He will have no fear of the ecstasy that culminates being sexual, nor will he be compulsive in seeking it. He will experience ecstasy in the economy of full living.
Among the problems that may be involved in embracing this capacity are the following: 1) Developing a tolerance for sexuality--pleasure and power. Contrary to their conscious efforts of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, many persons have established patterns of avoiding pleasure on the deeper levels. They actually have a deep-seated fear of fun. Although consciously looking for pleasure they are programmed to avoid the actual situation. Before such individuals can embrace this capacity they must learn to tolerate the sensations, emotions, and thoughts associated with it.
Certain exercises in each area may aid in this process. With sensations, one may seek out those sights, sounds, smells, and situations that are perceived as pleasurable. The exercise is simply to learn to risk experiencing the sensations. Next is the area of emotions. That which produces pleasurable feelings may be sought out and utilized in learning to stand feeling good. For example, if one enjoys reading poetry or certain types of stories, he might spend time with such reading and try to experience his full range of emotions in the process.
After emotions comes thinking. The exercise here is learning to tolerate pleasure-producing thoughts. One may make the conscious effort to allow such thoughts to move freely through his mind whenever they arise. He may imagine pleasurable situations or develop provocative fantasies, while learning to tolerate this type of thinking.
Often the deficiency lies more in the area of being sexual with others than in private. One may be able to tolerate sexuality when alone, yet function non-sexually when in the presence of other people. In this situation one must learn to tolerate being sexual in public. The above exercises may be practiced when one is with people. In addition one may add exercises of talking and deeds.
He may practice talking of that which he enjoys and giving voice to sexual sensations, feelings, and thoughts as-they arise. He may likewise seek out such activities as bring pleasure to him. Of course social attitudes must be considered in all such speaking and action. Still, without being improper, obscene, or obnoxious, there are numerous acceptable circumstances for talking about pleasure and learning to experience being sexual with other people.
At this point one should keep in mind that the goal is learning to accept one's own sexuality, not requiring others to do so. Sexuality is a private gift, like vision or understanding. The suggested exercises are for learning to tolerate the capacity, rather than demonstrating it for others. Thus one will practice judiciously, not talking to shock others, but speaking with those who can tolerate sexual talk. Certainly pleasure-producing behavior will only be practiced with discrimination.
Particular attention may be directed toward learning to experience being sexual in areas previously considered wrong or evil. Common among these are sexual feelings or fantasies toward members of one's family, of one's own sex, or persons other than one's spouse. Evil does not lie in the dimension of feeling or thinking, wherever it may be directed. Thus one may learn to risk pleasurable feelings for brothers and sisters, parents, children, friends, neighbors, and strangers.
A second problem, following the risk of feeling sexual, is learning to tolerate the condition without dissipating it in activity. This means being sexual without doing anything about it. Many people have learned to feel sexual without threat, at least the lessor degrees of sexuality, but have not developed their ability to contain the feelings. The proverbial cold shower is one example. One presumes that he cannot tolerate the heat and must "cool off" in some way. Another common escape is the effort to gain possession of that toward which the feeling is directed. If it is an article, such as a suit, one may buy the article. If it is a person, one may attempt to "have" him as a friend, sweetheart, or spouse.
Sexual intercourse or other orgasm-producing activity, such as masturbation, is a third way to dissipate the capacity. When one senses the activation of his sexuality, he may proceed immediately to seduction, an affair, or to hop in bed. The individual who has developed such patterns will learn to stop the dissipation before he can more fully embrace his own capacity.
Exercises in this process will include focusing on pleasurable sensations, emotions, and thoughts, without taking any action. this means simply experiencing the capacity. One might try to stand the feelings or thoughts and pretend to be uninvolved. Certainly he would learn not to speak of what he is experiencing, and not to engage in any dissipating activities.
Summarizing: the fourth human capacity, being sexual, is a culmination of the first three. When sensuality, emotions, and thinking are activated, then the door to sexuality is opened. No person can be fully human without embracing his own sexual capacities. The non-sexual human is prevented from knowing God to the extent of this negation. Therefore, it behooves one who would be saved to become sexual.
The fifth aspect of humanity is the capacity to be responsible. Through the activation of the senses, emotions, and mind, one becomes able to spond or be sexual. This ability to reach forth from oneself opens the door to the capacity for reaching back to that which one encounters in reaching forth. Sponding makes possible re-sponding.
Being responsible means to have embraced one's capacity for sponding-back. Re-spons-ible means able-to-respond (Re=back; spons=speak forth; ible=able)--thus, able-to-speak-back, capable of giving forth to that which one receives. In sponding or reaching out from oneself, one naturally encounters outside reality. In responding, the person "speaks back" to that which he received in the meeting.
For example, sponding might involve the single sense of looking. One can reach forth with his eyes. But in looking, one is apt to see something, some outside reality. If he is response-able, he takes in that which he sees, via his eyes, and gives back of himself to the object that is seen. If he sees a beautiful painting, he might respond to it with his own warm feelings.
Being responsible requires that the person first be sexual. Without this initial self-extension, via the senses, emotions, or mind, there is no basis for sponding-back. First, one must spond: then he is able to respond.
The capacity for being responsible can be broken down into two parts: receiving and replying. Assuming that one has extended himself (been sexual), he can then receive messages through his extended self. He can gather in the stimuli, which has come to him. He can grasp, "get the picture," or receive the message. He can understand. This receiving involves digesting or assimilating the stimuli. The message that is taken in by the senses is encountered by the emotions and mind. The person allows himself to feel about what he has gotten. He also allows his mind to meet the message. He lets it remind him of the past; he weighs it with reason; he fantasizes about its possibilities.
Through this process he incorporates that which is received into himself. He is thereby transformed into a new and greater being and is then ready for the second part of being responsible, namely, replying to what he has gotten. Now he can spond again or speak-back to the other reality. The external reality has been met by the entire scope of his reality. It has been sensed, felt, and thought about. He has "made sense" of the message and can now respond with the sense he has made.
For example, suppose one saw a kitten. He may have expanded his sensing to include smelling the fur and hearing the purr. This may have triggered an immediate feeling of warmth and tenderness, which set his mind to work recalling a kitten named Muff which belonged to Mrs. Jones, his next door neighbor when he was 6 years old. He may next fantasy about tucking the kitten under his coat and keeping it. Reason enters the picture as he recalls that he is on his way to the office, and realizes that the kitten belongs to the little girl on the tricycle. He has now received the message, incorporated it, or "made sense" of what he has gotten.
This prepares him for the second part of being responsible: Replying back to what he has received. This sponding in return may take any form, depending on how he has received the message. The range of forms for re-sponding includes body movements, such as facial expressions or hand signs; sounds, as laughter, grunting, moaning, whistling, or speaking; and action, such as a touch or deed. In the case of the kitten, perhaps he would have stroked the fur, spoken to the little girl, and smiled in pleasure before quickening his pace to the office.
Although response is usually given in some particular form, responding is not bound to any outward expression. One could be completely responsible without registering any form of reply.
In certain instances one may decide that the most appropriate response is silence. Suppose one hears a challenge to fight, assimilates the message, and concludes that fighting would be inappropriate under the circumstances. He could spond back to the message with a negative or neutral reply - no movement, sound or action.
The point is, being responsible is an inner state or condition of the person. When the capacity is embraced, it becomes a way one is. This state of being will often be revealed in some outward form, but the condition is never tied to a manner of expression. One can be totally responsible, in particular circumstances, without doing anything, speaking, or even moving. The nature of the expression, whether it be physical encounter or calculated ignoring, will be determined by the fullness of the response itself, that is, it will be decided by the totality of the one being responsible.
The opposite of being responsible is being unresponsive. The irresponsible person exists and functions as though the other (person, place, or thing) did not exist. He goes on his way as though the other were not there. He takes no account of what is out there. He ignores and is therefore ignorant in the true sense of the word. His is not the response of calculated ignoring, sometimes given by the responsible person, but the unaware ignoring of the blind person.
For example, a responsible person might read the newspaper and choose not to do anything about a particular community problem. An irresponsible person would ignore the information. Perhaps he would not even read about the problem; but even if he read, he would not allow himself to become personally involved through his feelings or thoughts.
One who is ultimately irresponsible ignores everything and is essentially "out of it" or "in another world." When one is irresponsible in regard to any particular other, this is his condition. To the degree that one is irresponsible in a general sense, he is proportionately out of contact with reality. And to be out of contact is to be irresponsible.
Reaction is one deviation from being responsible which does contain some of its components. In reacting one partially responds. He does get some of the message and he does spond back, yet the response is limited to learned patterns from the person's past. He does not bring his total, present self to the current other, only his programmed past, his unconscious mind. Such reaction might be termed partial responsibility.
In reacting one short-circuits the process of total response by eliminating some of his own capacity, either sensing, feeling, or thinking. A common example is acting on feeling alone. Perhaps one sees an article in the store, feels warmed by it, and immediately sets about to purchase it without including his capacity for being reasonable. Prejudiced responses are also common. If a white person sees a black and immediately concludes that he is a second class citizen, he has reacted on the basis of past opinion alone. He has short-circuited his whole range of current sensing, feeling, and thinking in favor of a single recollected thought from the past.
Reaction is one step up from total irresponsibility, but is often only a short step.
One form of reaction that is often given high social approval is that which is called "doing one's duty." Duty is a set response to a current situation that is shaped from some accepted concept of moral obligation. With duty one is responsible in the sense that he does react to the other in a generally approved way; yet like all reaction, the response may ignore large portions of the person's capacity.
For example, suppose one has accepted the concept that it is his duty to give to the poor. If a beggar approaches such a person he would not ignore him, as would an irresponsible person, nor would he respond as a fully responsible person. He would automatically reach for a dime (or dollar), as he had been trained to do. In reacting to the beggar he becomes partially responsible, yet he ignores a part of his capacity for being reasonable, which might lead to the conclusion that either he should give more, or else that he should not give, lest he contribute to continuing the problem.
Duty, or "doing what one ought to do," is sometimes viewed as the total meaning of being responsible. Thus, one who "does everything he is supposed to do," "lives up to all his obligations," and "never does what he ought not to do," may be considered fully responsible. Actually this is a very limited definition and only points toward that meaning which is being explained here. Certainly the responsible person may do many things which are commonly considered as duty, but his doing will always be freely chosen from the wealth of his current response to the situation and never an automatic reaction which limits his other capacities.
Responsibility can never be defined in particular ways of reacting to situations. Although any person can come to be responsible, there is never, in fact, a "responsible thing to do." People can be responsible, but no "thing" or action can ever define responsibility. Any action, no matter how productive or helpful it may be to others, can be done by rote. When this happens, the person is not being responsible.
For example, telling the truth may be one form that the responsible person uses. However, telling the truth cannot be identified as the universally "responsible thing to do." One could by habit tell the truth as merely a reaction and thereby be largely irresponsible.
Certain guidelines like the Ten Commandments, plus other religious and civil laws, may generally reveal the most common ways of expressing responsibility. The responsible person is more likely to tell the truth than to lie. Even so, the form of expression is not synonymous with the condition of being responsible. One can be responsible and act contrary to the accepted laws, or live by all the laws and still be largely irresponsible.
Two problems commonly encountered in becoming responsible (embracing this capacity) are: 1) learning to contain the fullness of one's response without reacting, and 2) deciding what to do. Since being fully responsible requires that one respond to the message received with all his capacities, it follows that one must be able to engage in this process without short-circuiting it by reacting or dissipating the energy in some action. In other words, one must be able to contain the wealth of his sensations, emotions, and thoughts that arise in response to the other. He must be able to stand responding internally without doing anything externally. He must be able to sense, feel, and think without doing anything foolish, disruptive, or destructive. In fact, he must be able to respond fully and not do anything, not move, make a sound, or take action.
Before one has embraced this capacity he may not know that he is capable of containing his responses. He may fear getting excited, lest he act foolishly. He may fear getting angry, lest he hurt someone. He may fear remembering, lest he recall feelings that he believes to be too painful to bear. He may fear being reasonable, lest he have to deny his wants. He may fear fantasying, lest he get lost in his dreams. He may fear further sensations, lest he be distracted from his goals. His previous experiences with chancing a normal response may have led to pain or problems. Perhaps he has even been taught that certain normal responses are wrong or sinful.
Whatever has happened, many people actually fear risking their own natural responses to that which they receive. Before such a person can learn to be responsible, he must first learn to stand responding. He must learn to tolerate all possible sensations, to feel every potential emotion, and to think every wild idea--all without outward expression.
Life offers innumerable exercises for this education. One wishing to learn to contain his own responses need only choose appropriate circumstances and begin practicing. Any time and place is acceptable, but there is more safety when one is at some distance from his normal life activities. For example, one might practice containing emotions by letting his feelings go in a movie or t.v. drama. He would try to let himself feel his natural responses to the story, and yet not do anything. Sensation containment can be practiced by seeking out attractive and repulsive stimuli. One might risk looking at strangers in a crowd, listening to repulsive music on the radio, or touching animals. Thinking can be practiced whenever one is at a distance from people or significant work assignments. Then one might he attentive to night dreams, try to reason out difficult problems, or imagine wild fantasies, while keeping a straight face and proceeding with whatever he is doing.
A second problem lies in deciding what to do with that which one has received, and out of the responses that have come to him. Assuming that one has fully sensed the other, felt all his feelings, and allowed his mind to consider as much as time allows, what will he do now? Will he make some bodily movement? Speak to the other? Take a specific action? Or choose to contain his response without any revelation?
When one has fully received (sensed and responded), this answer will be given to him as a distillation of what has occurred within. The decision will come as a summary of all his sensations, feelings, and thoughts. God will speak to him through the wealth of his own responses, giving the answer concerning what is to be done.
However, before one has learned to trust God's revelation through himself, the process of decision can be exceedingly difficult. When this is so, one may be guided by the religious, civil, and social rules, as well as his own past experiences. For example, "honesty is the best policy," is one such practical guideline. If one finds himself frustrated and unable to decide what to say in a particular circumstance, he may lean on this rule and simply tell the truth, until such time as he does learn to respond from his wider capacities.
The social convention of shaking hands is another acceptable rule for guiding one through introductions, until he is able to be fully present and choose his own expression. Speed limits may help one decide how fast to drive, until he is able to be fully responsive to the particular situation.
Actually the problems with deciding how to express one's responsibility are most often related to a lack of being fully responsive. That is, the second problem, what to do?, is usually a result of the first problem, not being able to fully contain one's response to the message. When one has not gotten the full picture, felt all his feelings, and thought all his thoughts, he lacks the essential material for forming a decision. The difficulty in deciding is inevitable in the face of this lack.
For example, suppose one receives an invitation to dinner on Friday night. What should he do? If he receives all the stimuli (gets full information about the invitation), allows all his feelings about the person who is inviting, and thinks his natural thoughts--remembers previous such invitations, speculates on what the evening might be like, reasons about his own plans and goals, that is, if he fully responds, then the answer about what to do will arise naturally out of this wealth of information. If, however, he negates the process at any point - if he fails to understand the invitation, disallows his emotions, or prevents his mind, then to that same extent he will find deciding difficult.
The best way to practice deciding is to practice allowing a fuller response to the stimuli received and then risk hearing God through that larger response. Such responding may be enhanced by getting more information about the subject (expanding sensing), being alone and risking one's greater feelings (What do you really want to do?"), taking time to think through the ramifications ("sleeping on" the message), and sometimes through talking to trusted friends who will listen without giving advice. When this is not possible, talking aloud to oneself may be helpful. The point is, by allowing a wider range of responses to the other, one gives God more leeway to guide the decision.
In summary, being responsible is the apex of the human capacities. It can never be embraced except as one has activated his full potential for being sensual, emotional, rational, and sexual. Stated in degrees, one can only be responsible in proportion to the extent of his embraced sexuality, which is in turn dependent on the degree to which he is sensitive, feeling, and thoughtful. Thus the best practice for becoming responsible lies in working to embrace the lower aspects of humanity.
When one has become fully responsible, he opens the door to the culmination of all humanity, namely, being transcendent.
The highest human possibility, transcendence, is the culmination of the five bodily capacities, namely, sensuality, emotionality, rationality, sexuality, and responsibility. Through embracing each element of the human potential, man becomes fully human or totally immanent. Completed immanence then becomes transcendence. One who truly becomes himself, becomes more than a self. In becoming himself (who he is), his self dies, and he exists as a transcendent being.
He ceases to be "just a man" and comes to be Man. He is born again as living soul. Through embracing the human, he transcends the merely human and enters the realm of the divine. He returns to Eden, the Garden of Pleasure. He enters the kingdom of heaven.
Accepting finitude, he is allowed to participate in the Infinite. By becoming a coordinated portion of reality, he is granted knowledge of the Ultimate in Reality. Through being I am, he comes to know God.
Knowing God is only possible by the whole person. Ultimate Reality cannot be grasped singularly by the senses, emotions, or mind. One cannot see or touch God. He cannot feel God. Nor can he rationally comprehend God. Only when man becomes a sensual, emotional, rational being, who is sexual and responsible, can he know God. Only living soul, that culmination of the coordinated creature, can walk and talk with God. Then he can, in truth, both see, feel, discern, and respond to God. He can know the Ultimate in Reality as revealed in each single bit of reality. He can see God in a leaf, hear God in a birdsong, feel God in the wind, discern God in an idea, perceive Him in a fantasy, and respond to God with his whole being at every step along the way. In this Garden of Pleasure where there is no shame or guilt, the spirited person lives life being fruitful, multiplying, subduing, having dominion, and enjoying God eternally.
When one is transcendent he exists fully in the world, yet he is not of the world. He lives a life of total involvement in the here and now, but does not draw his ultimate being from the immediate situation. He is fully participating but never captured in that which he does. Although this statement is not logical within our language structure, he is both involved and detached at the same time. In fact, he is only able to become fully involved because he is completely detached. As a separate, single, individual One, he can be close and intimate precisely because he is not dependent on that which is immediately around him.
To say that the transcendent person is not of the world does not mean that he is "out of the world" in the sense of being out of contact with reality. The opposite is true. He is in intimate touch with the Ultimate in Reality. Transcending the body does not mean that one gets out of the body, as a ghost might leave a cage. It rather means that in truly moving into his body in each here and now, one also rises beyond, yet not out of the world.
One who embraces this final human capacity enters the kingdom of heaven in this present world. The transcendent state of being is not an escape from reality, but the culmination of reality fully encountered. Through transcendence, one reaches the apex of the human potential. He becomes all that he can be as he comes to know God.
How is transcendence to be recognized? What are the characteristics of this culminating human capacity? Although the experience is an overall state of existence, involving each aspect of humanity, it can be viewed from a number of different perspectives. Like a multi-faceted diamond, transcendence may be experienced and reflected in numerous ways. As the faces of the one diamond reflect many colors, so the aspects of transcendence may appear different while mirroring the one state of single existence.
Six facets of transcendence are worship, prayer, fellowship, caring, hoping and joy. Each is but one of the forms of transcendent experience, a different name for the shapes of the single life in the kingdom of God.
In worship the transcendent person is experiencing the worth-ship or ultimate value of each single aspect of reality. The Ultimate in Reality, God, is realized in each particular part of reality. The person is at one with all that is, and hence perceives the ultimate value of everything. The meaning and purpose of life are revealed to him. Being no better and no worse than any other person or thing (all judgment is stopped), he is freed to be a part of all that is, to experience the ultimate worth of reality.
He stands in awe. He feels like removing his shoes because he knows that even the ground is holy. A vast awareness of the wholeness and worth of reality permeates him. He senses the ultimate unity of creation and himself as a worthy participant in the entire scheme of things. He possesses what has been called a "reverence for life."
God is seen and known in each form of life--a leaf, an evening wind, a thrush call, or a person. In worshiping, one discerns and respects the sacredness of all things.
Prayer is another facet of transcendence. In prayer one communes with God who he encounters in worship. He both speaks and listens to the Ultimate as He is revealed in each aspect of reality. Prayer is the communion that develops out of worship. In praying one expresses himself and responds to that which he receives in his experience of worshiping. In his encounter with the Infinite in the finite, the Essence in the particular, the Ultimate in the immediate, he speaks forth from himself and listens to that which is given back to him. Depending on where he is, he may commune with God through a sunset or a spider web. The prayer may be verbal, that is, a rational type of encounter. It may be emotional, sensual, or a combination of the three. The essential element is man's communication with God through some form. When this communion occurs between persons, the transcendence appears as fellowship. In fellowship man communes with God as revealed in another person. In this form of communion one speaks to and listens for the essence of the other. The "speaking" and "hearing" may be by words and ears, by eyes, by touch, or by smell; but honesty and openness characterize it. Such an encounter may be described as "heart to heart" or "person to person." The spirit of one reaches out and responds to the spirit of the other.
In fellowship there is understanding, not merely as mental comprehension alone, but as one stands-under the umbrella of the existence of the other person. In this experience of transcendence, man steps beyond the mere fact of physical proximity, and comes to actually be close to the other.
All the walls that are commonly erected between people--race, color, religion, creed, nationality, political allegiance, sex, roles, age--are put down and persons come to be together as persons. That which is called the "brotherhood of man" is realized in fellowship. In this communion people are together not as male and female, doctor and patient, parent and child, black and white, but as living soul with living soul.
A fourth facet of the single experience of transcendence is caring. The person who is knowing God is one who cares. Things matter to him, all things. He exists realizing the worth of all creation, being in communion with that that is around him, and hence caring.
Caring is a personal condition, a state of responsible self-extension, which reaches forth to whatever is around the person who cares. If he is alone in the presence of Mother Nature, he cares about the various forms in which She manifests herself. If he is with a French Poodle, he cares about the animal. If he is with another person he cares about him. Whatever comes to his awareness becomes the object of his concern. All things, people, and circumstances matter to one who cares.
Although the word, love, has lost much of the depth that it potentially conveys, it can also name this facet of transcendence. The caring person is one who loves in the truest sense of the word. To be caring is to be loving. A transcendent person loves God as revealed in all things and people.
Caring merges with hoping, that lively expectancy for life. Hoping is the anticipation for happenings, the enthusiasm and buoyancy of spirit which gives a zest to living. Experiencing transcendence in the form of hope allows one to move from one event to another with an air of contained excitement, optimism born of knowledge. Hoping involves the mental capacity for fantasy, yet is far more than empty wishing. Whereas wishing may be but an escape from reality, hoping is the confident anticipation of entering yet more and greater degrees of reality.
Hoping is confidence personified, the fulfillment of promise. It places one squarely in the context of time, adding an element of looking forward even while being present in each here and now.
Joy is a sixth face of transcendence. It is an abiding peace in the presence of all circumstances, both calm and turbulent. Joy is a foundation of stability birthed from the learning of participation. It is a fulfilled knowledge of the eternal in the presence of all the temporal. In transcendence one moves beyond creaturely existence that is dominated by all the dualities--pleasure vs. pain, happiness vs. sorrow, good vs. bad--and embraces that which is the source of the dualities, namely, Being Itself.
Before transcendence, one is caught in the endless struggle of grasping for one arm of each duality and avoiding the other. He seeks to find pleasure and avoid pain, to get happiness without sorrow, to be good and not bad. But in his rebirth as living soul, this struggle is abandoned as he comes to know the ultimate source of each. This knowing is the basis of his continuing joy in the presence of both pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, good and evil.
In his freedom from the pointless cycle of seeking one and escaping the opposite of each pair of extremes, he experiences the abiding joy that is granted only to the transcendent person.
To be sure, there are many more faces for this eternal state of being transcendent, yet these six: worship, prayer, fellowship, caring, hoping, and joy, can give a perspective on this culmination of all the human capacities. That one who has fully embraced his ability to sense, to feel, and to think, to be sexual, responsible, and hence fully human, is thereby granted access to the transcendent state of being living soul and knowing God in the kingdom of heaven in each here and now.
This is the final goal of one who would be saved and find fullness of life: to become a transcendent person, to exist in each moment of time with all bodily capacities embraced and operative as is appropriate to the occasion, thereby becoming transcendent.
Although one may wish for the rewards of transcendence without the faith required for being human, there is, so far as I know, no other way. There are no short-cuts, no magic, in the quest for eternal life. Each person finds fullness of life only in proportion to the degree of his embraced human capacities. Only by becoming Man, the fully human being, can one know God, the Ultimate in Being. Wishing for it won't do; imitating historical religious personages won't do; working to earn it won't do. Only through faith in being who one is and thereby dying to himself can man return to Eden and the tree of life.