Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Divided Self

Parker J Palmer, in his wonderful book "A Hidden Wholeness" suggests that many of us suffer from "a failure of human wholeness."  We are not, he insists, integrated but have a disconnect between who we are internally, and who are are externally.  This happens because we deny our true self, in part because we can't embrace the parts of the inner self that are problematic and dark, and thus put on an exoskeleton of morality (I would say pretense) which is the person we present to the world.  The problem is that the divided life is, as Palmer notes, a "wounded life."  Being pathological it is marked by symptoms.  Palmer notes the following
  • We sense that something is missing in our lives and search the world for it, not understanding that what is missing is us.
  • We feel fraudulent, even invisible because we are not in the world as we really are.
  • The light that is within us cannot illuminate the world's darkness
  • The darkness that is within cannot be illuminated by the world's light
  • We project our inner darkness on others
  • Our inauthenticity and projects make real relationships impossible, leading to loneliness
  • Our contributions to the world, especially through the work we do, are tainted by duplicity and deprived of the life giving energies of the true self.  (p.16)
Sadly those symptoms have been all too present in my own life, and are present in the lives of many I talk with.  Many of us, including me, need wholeness.  We need to rejoin the inner and outer person, or as Palmer puts it, the "soul and role."

How does this happen?  There are perhaps many paths to wholeness.  One path is likely to be community.  Finding people with whom I can be real.  Whom I can trust enough to let my light shine, and whom I trust enough to share my darkness.  Perhaps we might call this community.  Can it be the church?  Ah, that is a scary thought, for often the church is not a safe place.

I think community is key, but I would suggest that the real starting place is the Spirit. "The secret is this, Christ in us. . . "  Christ in us, the Spirit, in us.  It is when the Spirit is in us that we have the capacity to be new people.  The Spirit illuminates, it helps us see the good and the bad.  The Spirit empowers, it gives us a capacity to begin to move beyond old patterns of behavior.  The Spirit moves us like wind, impassions us like fire. The spirit burns away the division between the external and internal and allows us to be whole.  And as people "becoming whole" (do we ever really get there?) we can connect in a new way with others on the same journey.  And thus we have community.  And perhaps, in wonderful moments, thus we have the church.

This is scary for me, this idea of being my true self.  For it is much safer to hide.  But I need to let my inner world shape my outer.  And I need to let the outer world impact and touch my inner world.  For in that way I become real, and truly touch others, and am touched by them. It is then that the walls come down.

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