Kathryn Damiano began her presentation asking for a time of silence as a response to the Mystery of God as creativity. She thanked Gordon Kaufman for his faithfulness in being a bridge between the academy and the church. Unfortunately bridges are walked on and occasionally bombed. Kathryn commented on the process of the gathering so far that involved the participants offering their questions and comments. Gordon obviously had fun traveling from table to table in response. Perhaps envisioning God as creativity lends itself to a community hermeneutic? Incidently, Matthew Fox points out, that “Dabhar” usually translated from the Hebrew as “word” (as in the beginning was the Word) actually conveys a sense of play that characterizes the Divine creative energy.(1)
- Concern for expanding limited epistemologies
We need to expand ways of knowing beyond but including the rational/cognitive. Gordon seems to emphasize the rational/cognitive ways of knowing. If creativity is an integrating force, we need to include an integral approach of body, mind, and Spirit. This would extend our epistemologies to include the affective, the intuitive, the body as an instrument of discernment and the mystical. Research indicates that humans have a variety of intelligences such as mathematical, musical, emotional, and spiritual. The views from these various intelligences would expand our experience of God as creativity. They would also more likely include the input of those who tend to be marginalized by the church and the academy. The creativity of the Spirit uses the unconscious, irrational, the transpersonal as well as science and technology to incarnate. Different ways of knowing operate and predominate at specific times in the human change process.
- The importance of mystical experience for healing the ecological crisis
Gordon states that he is “tone deaf” (p. 109) to religious experience and he further describes a “category mistake” in reference to the experience of God. It is awe and wonder in fact that allow us to feel connected to creation. We can experience that we do not end with our skin but extend to include all that surrounds us and more. We become an interconnected dance of energy. Throughout human history people have experienced that which includes but is beyond humanity in nature. It follows then, that “I do not destroy nature because I experience that I am part of it.”
This is the stance of the deep ecology or transpersonal ecology movement. So instead of solely a moral or ethical approach to ecology there is a major developmental component. It is because we have developed a worldcentric consciousness that we can spontaneously appreciate and defend against the destruction of our planet. This response is a natural consequence of the shift in our consciousness from egocentric (focus on basic needs) or ethnocentric (focus on family, tribe, and nation) worldview. Transformation of consciousness occurs when a person’s worldview no longer answers what’s happening in a person’s life. The previous worldview is shattered and we are invited to shift to a new meaning structure for transformation and eventual healing to take place.
How has Gordon related in the Buddhist-Christian dialogues in which he has participated, encountering descriptions of non-dual awareness in traditions of the East?
There is a need, particularly among the Protestant traditions, to reclaim the Christian approach to spirituality called the Via Negativa. Since the Enlightenment, most western spirituality has emphasized the Via Moderna. The latter holds up discipleship as activity, and knowing God through words, fullness, and human completeness. On the other hand, the Via Negativa is iconoclastic – acknowledging the limitations of all symbols for God. The response is silence, unknowing, emptiness, solitude, being rather than doing, and Mystery. Such an approach is usually not addressed in most churches. But as we mature on the journey, we more likely experience broken relationships, the limitations of human justice, illness, death of a loved one, the sacrament of failure, and the hypocrisy of the church. We are then called into a mature Christianity that asks us to live into the paradoxes of having to die to live, to give to receive, to recognize pain as a pathway to joy, and to find strength in weakness. The disciple is drawn to move from imitating the life of Christ to participating in the life of Christ. The Way of Jesus becomes our way. We move from external to internal authority listening to the guidance of the Inward teacher in all areas of life.
- Implications for therapy, therapists, and the image of God
All therapies have inherent meaning structure. What would it look like to include the understanding of God as creativity in our therapeutic approach?
How can we more intentionally bring awe and wonder into therapy?
As therapists our call is to savor, attend, behold, and companion (counterintuitive to problem solving). Therapists are to create a container for the client’s experience. According to the chaos theory that Gordon refers to, our task as therapists would be to watch with active receptivity for the new form that is emerging organically in the person’s life. How does therapy invite people to shift reliance on external authority to internal authority rather than solely helping their client to adapt to their present circumstances?
As clients find new meaning in chaos, how can therapists encourage a process approach rather than a product approach? A product approach says, “I am going to climb this mountain to the top.” A process approach says, “I am going to have the experience of climbing a mountain with a friend.”
Therapists have a responsibility to change the system. How do institutions promote a dualistic understanding of health and healing? How do the limits of the health care system hinder the need for a person to have companionship on the journey over time?
How do therapists learn to be shape shifters themselves so they can be present without their own agenda in the process of their client’s reconstruction?
In the process of transformation a person can be taken forward only 5% at any one time. A worldview cannot be deconstructed too quickly.
Research shows that mental help professionals regularly encounter God talk from their clients. We have the opportunity to reframe the concept of God from judgmental—one that offers no grace—to a living God who suffers with us. The client can be helped to see the sacramentality of the process that she/he is undergoing. The client can be reassured that God is present in this repatterning.
Most of the clients we will encounter in this section of the country will conceive of God relationally, that is as Father, Creator, or Almighty. The experience of God as relational continues to be present in some of the deepest mystical states described by saints and seers. Again our descriptions of God are limited by our language and symbols. God as object or relation may be noetic rather than ontological in deeper levels of consciousness. These are metaphorical and poetic way of describing God but cannot possibly capture all that God is. On the other hand, our language does create our reality. How can we increase our repertoire of images of God to include God as the process of creativity? How do we acknowledge the continuing revelation of Christ that is this process of Divine creativity?
- Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Company, 1983).