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The Ecstatic Structure of Human Spirituality

blessing-prayerLast week I posted on What is Spirituality?”. This was my attempt to get a handle on what it might mean to call something “spiritual.” While spirituality is certainly a subjective phenomenon, I believe there is a way of talking about it and analyzing it, to some extent. I said:

Human spirituality is self-transcendence. A spiritual experience is something that lifts us beyond our selves. The true essence of spirituality is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind; and our neighbor as much as we love our own self. (See Luke 10:27, etc.) There is both a vertical (God-ward) axis and a horizontal (other-ward) axis to this. But, spirituality is always being lifted out of ourselves. Spirituality connects us with God, with the community of faith and with the needs of other people outside the community of faith. These vertical and horizontal axes correspond roughly with the idea of God’s transcendence and God’s immanence. Traditionally, Christian theology has affirmed both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence.

Here is another way of saying it: there is an ecstatic structure to human spirituality. A spiritual experience is something that lifts us beyond ourselves. It may provide us a sense of connection to a higher reality or it may provide us with a sense of connection with other people. Or, it may do both. But, in any case, it lifts us beyond ourselves — outside ourselves.

I realize that this assertion (especially the language of “ecstasy”) is very much open to misinterpretation, so I feel the need to say more about it. (more…)

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Praise and Silence – Psalm 106:1, 2

In spite of the fact that it comes out of a deep sense of the failure of the nation, Psalm 106 opens (literally!) with a “Hallelujah!”:

הַלְלוּיָהּ הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי־טוֹב כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ

 “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His loving-kindness is everlasting.” (Psalms 106:1 NASB).

Hebrew_bible_4It is an exhortation. The “hallelujah” is an imperative. We are being told to praise.

I don’t think this is an attempt to command an emotion. This is not the same as: “Don’t worry, be happy.” I think I am being told to turn my mind toward the God who alone is worthy of praise.

Emotion cannot be commanded. But, emotion arises when I turn my mind toward something that awakens that feeling. To feel an emotion, I must find the object that arouses it.

Sin, guilt and failure cannot be allowed to be the last word. It leaves me in despair. (more…)

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