Monday, April 22, 2013

Finishing Further Along the Road Less Traveled

I finished M. Scott Peck's Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth.  In this post, I'll use as my starting-point two passages.

On pages 225-226, Peck states:

"As a friend of mine once put it, 'The sexual and the spiritual parts of our personality lie so close together that it is hardly possible to arouse one without arousing the other.'  I do not think it an accident that when this woman became able to give herself wholeheartedly to God, in very short order she became able to give herself wholeheartedly to a human partner, praise the Lord!  I have another friend, a priest, who actually uses this phenomenon as a yardstick of conversion.  He tells me that if a conversion occurs in a previously sexually repressed individual and is not accompanied by some kind of sexual awakening or blossoming, then he has reason to doubt the depth of the conversion."

On pages 247-248, Peck talks about a woman he knew who had schizophrenia:

"When I left my consulting position at the clinic, she continued to drop by my home twice a year for a free visit of fifteen to thirty minutes.  Today, at age fifty, she demonstrates all the signs of moderate, well-entrenched, chronic schizophrenia.  The course of her disease over eighteen years has been consistent and stable.  From a traditional psychiatric point of view, she has neither deteriorated nor made any progress whatsoever.  It would be easy to regard her as a chronic lost cause.  However, over the course of those years, she has moved from skepticism to a tentative interest in religion to a deep faith.  She now attends Mass at least weekly.  Her theology is not in the least bizarre; it is, at best I can ascertain, not only traditional and sound but quite sophisticated.  In return for my extremely minor ministrations, she regularly prays for me.  I think I have, by far, the better part of the bargain.  Many would regard her as a wasted sort of life in which there has been no progress.  From my point of view, while there has been no improvement in her schizophrenia or growth in her social skills, there has been an immense growth in her soul.  Something very profound has slowly been happening within her."

I hated the first passage and loved the second.  Regarding the first passage, I don't believe that I have to justify my conversion to another human being.  Sometimes, my religious passion and sex drive are strong; sometimes, they're not so strong.  Whether there's a correlation between the two, I don't know.  But I will say this: They have nothing to do with God's love for me, and the privilege that God gives me to take refuge in God.

Regarding the second passage, I like it because Peck is saying that spirituality has provided a woman with depth of soul, even though people may judge her as inadequate and her social skills leave much to be desired.  So a person doesn't have to be a social butterfly to have a legitimate spirituality?  I hope that's the case!

At the same time, I think that it's beautiful when spirituality can lead a person to give himself or herself to another.  It's also beautiful when spirituality can give a person deep thoughts about life.  I can't entirely say that my religion does these things for me, though, but rather it provides me with entertainment as I discuss with myself the meaning and ramifications of biblical passages.  It's like the Wallace Shawn character said in My Dinner with Andre: he enjoys reading reviews of plays, and then reviews of those reviews.  There are many times when I feel too dead inside to move beyond that point.  And feeling dead inside, in my opinion, is much better than having bitterness and resentment----or at least it feels better!

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