Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Real Sin: Withholding Consent to Life

"Adult faith is fidelity to our own intuitive experience ..."
~ David Richo, Catholic Means Universal

One of the books I've been reading the past while is entitled Universal Means Catholic, by David Richo, who in the prologue describes himself as "a formerly active Catholic priest, now a Jungian psychotherapist and teacher on a Buddhist path." I have read a couple of his other books, and I am finding Universal to be even more thought-provoking, especially as I have recently embarked on a new path in my spiritual journey.

The basic thrust of Richo's book is that disaffected Catholics can look at Catholicism in new ways, ways which are reflective of an "adult faith." In his first chapter, Richo addresses those who may have felt abused, in various ways, by the Catholic Church in their youth. I have found that discussion to be extremely interesting, not because I was abused by the Church, but in connection with the abuse I encountered at home.

But Richo's discussion also resonates with respect to my experience of being in the Mormon Church for almost 30 years. The following passage, in which Richo writes of Catholics who may have defied the church's strictures to forge a new path, also spoke to my own departure from Mormonism:
“We have stepped out of line, taken power into our own hands. To do this is scary because it entails risking the loss of approval or endangering the means of survival. Actually, we have explored or exposed a part of ourselves that reveals us to ourselves. We have come to the frontier of a new identity: one that allows us to say no to an external voice in favor of an inner intuitive voice. Identity for adults begins precisely at the point where blind obedience to external imperatives comes to an end and new steps beyond the safe horizons begin. A common theme in myths is that of the hero or heroine who enters the secret room, opens the locked box, or eats the forbidden fruit of knowledge. This knowledge is power, and reclaiming it may be what scares us most of all. The hero is the personification of our urgent desire to individuate no matter what it may take.”
Of course, when I read this, I immediately thought of my coming out. When I had that visceral reaction to LDS Apostle Boyd Packer’s talk a little over three years ago, a very big part of my identity was revealed to me. I came to the frontier of my new gay identity, allowing me to say no to external voices and embrace my inner intuitive voice. I left behind blind obedience to external imperatives and stepped beyond the horizon into a whole new world. 

The inner intuitive voice is the articulator of "inner liveliness." Writes Richo:
“Healthy community enterprises [such as churches] are aimed at serving individual wholeness. This means encouraging our lively energy to be released. Lively energy is our exuberance, our brightest enthusiasms, our imperishable passions, our irrepressibilities – what becomes our bliss. This energy is meant to open more and more in the course of life in the service of our deepest needs, values and wishes. It makes us capable of giving joy to others. This is the very same elemental energy in the universe itself. It is what raises a storm at sea or erupts as a volcano … 
“A personal relationship to God means honoring the organic unity of ourselves, nature and God. This happens when we are in touch with our liveliness. Nothing can annihilate it, but can only divert it. We can get it back at any time by our program of recovery: grieving the past, feeling our feelings about it, and letting go of it while preserving its riches. 
“Our lively energy makes us able to dare and to defy. Recovery from our religious past may mean defiance of its power over us in the present. Morality is not moral if it contradicts good psychological sense or the healthy inclinations of nature. Morality was never meant to interfere with the full activation of our human powers and possibilities. When we remain afraid to say no to violations of our liveliness, we are at the mercy of them and eventually even inflict them on ourselves. If we are afraid to laugh or weep or sing because of prohibitions, our lively energy is blunted and even dispelled. Once religion is recognized as a tool for liberation, withheld consent to life is the real sin.”
To quote Mormon founder Joseph Smith, "This is sound doctrine. It tastes good." It resonates. It feeds. It inspires.

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