Few thinkers have influenced me as profoundly as Robert L. Moore, a scholar who has spent almost 50 years studying human energy from the perspective of psychology, anthropology and spirituality.
Few scholars are his equal in linking human energy, even when it is raw and grandiose, to the image and likeness of God inside of us. He merits an audience.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending an institute at which he keynoted. I share with you a couple of his insights.
On our growing anxiety and our need to build "an arc" so as not drown in it:
Our lives today, Moore says, are awash with anxiety, and this is wreaking psychological and spiritual havoc everywhere. We are being assailed by "unregulated anxiety," and as this anxiety is rising, our capacity to handle it is simultaneously going down. This is causing, in his words, a "pan-tribal regression," that is, we are seeing most everywhere groups huddle together in paranoia and self-protection. And what are the consequences of this?
Studies have shown that when we feel threatened, our capacity to listen to each other begins to shut down, even biologically. In brief, when we feel anxiety our brains instinctually move towards a more primitive place, namely, towards the reptile, more cold-blooded, part of us.
This is further compounded by the fact that we have less cultural and spiritual vessels to help contain our anxiety. Many of our former cultural and spiritual rituals to deal with anxiety have either deteriorated or died.
Hence, it is no surprise to see so much paranoia and violence in our world today. We are drowning in anxiety and lack the psychological and spiritual resources to deal with that. This, for Moore, can be called "Noah's flood" in our time, the world is drowning in anxiety and we need to learn to build a "spiritual arc" (an "inner psychic temple") in order to not drown and, like Noah, help preserve life on this planet.
But, Moore warns, this won't be easy. We are still very much in a state of denial and, ironically, at one level that denial is actually healthily protecting us. As Moore puts it, if we punch through our denial and other defense mechanisms without first building an inner psychic temple, we can fall into psychosis because we can be overwhelmed by our archetypal energies.
Our defense mechanisms are needed, at least for a while, to help safeguard our sanity. Fundamentalism is one of those safeguards. People are turning to rigid ways in order to try to remain sane.
On our fear of God, our attempts to block off God from our lives, and our naïve religion:
We have many defense mechanisms against the "numinous," notes Moore, but that is understandable. When we are standing before God and trying to access that energy, it is somewhat akin to a person standing before an electrical wire carrying 200,000 volts and trying to plug in a coffee-maker. That's an image for our struggle to try to access and contain Godly energy.
We are constantly pressured by this energy, from within and without, and need, inside of us, to construct a psychological chalice, a holy grail, an inner temple, to consciously hold our God energies. This psychological chalice is too the cup of the Eucharist.
Beyond that, we must also ask the question: Why is there such a resistance in us regarding being aware of the great presence? Why our habitual refusal of the awareness of God? Why do we prefer to walk alone, without God?
For Moore, this is really a key part of the mystery of iniquity. We habitually shut out a gracious God, preferring darkness to light.
On the difference between science and theology:
The difference between science and theology is the difference between a jet-engine and a rocket-engine. A jet engine needs oxygen and can only fly to a certain height; it has to remain inside our atmosphere. A rocket engine is powered in such a way that it can fly outside of the atmosphere.
On how we are to build an inner psychic temple:
We all have amazing potential, but are forever shooting low. It is possible to learn to walk in the way of beauty, to live elegantly because we are already sitting in radiance. There is a radical compassion already inside of us, but we must "awake" to it. We are already living in a huge love. The road home must already be home.
And so we need to be really suspicious whenever we feel alone, because we are never alone. When we are feeling lonely, we are being tricked.
What are some steps towards living the way of beauty and compassion? In brief: Cut through your denial, recognize what you lack. Eliminate "the waffle" from your life, learn to hold the tension, balance opposites, and consciously (through prayer) try to abide in the Great Presence. Employ a "holy fierceness" in doing that.
Few spiritual writers exhibit Moore's combination of depth and balance. He merits an audience.
Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Ronald Rolheiser is a specialist in the field of spirituality and systematic theology. His website is www.ronrolheiser.com.