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Understanding Scriptures

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 Blooming Stars

Spiritual Living

            Christ said: “Your heart is where your treasure is”. No one can dispute this statement. From our own experience we know this statement is true. So the remedy suggested in the Holy Scriptures (New Testament of the Bible) is to store our treasure where moth and rust will not destroy, where thieves will not steal. Where is this storage place? It is the inner cave of our heart where our heart, mind, and the Holy Spirit meet. And what is our imperishable, most precious treasure? It is doing God’s will. How is this will revealed to us? This will is communicated to us through our conscience constantly, instantly. Conscience is our innermost self that is the most essential part of our self, is our bridge with God, and makes us who we are.

            Sigmund Freud, who more than anyone else gave psychology a distinct identity and brought it to the modern era through his psychoanalysis called conscience, super-ego. According to his psychoanalytic theory, superego is one of the three components of our personality. Super-ego gives direction to personality. It is the reservoir of internalized ideas consciously or unconsciously absorbed or acquired from our environment from the moment of our conception and birth till about the age of five when superego emerges. Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist with a psychoanalytic background, extended psychosocial development over the entire lifetime. His eight stages of human growth are extremely helpful in understanding human personality. For our purpose here, a well-formed conscience would consist of consciously acquired and accepted internalized ideas from the environment beginning with parents, teachers, religious preceptors, universal moral and ethical principles, and human rights, all of which help form a world-view and a definite way of living. A person with that kind of conscience is never in doubt as to what he/she is supposed to do in any given situation. I give great importance to conscious and thoroughly examined acquisition of ideas and values that guide one’s formation of conscience because the overwhelming majority of persons have conscience that is programmed for them in an unexamined way by their contemporary culture, religious affiliation, and various loyalties.

            When I left institutionalized, formal religious life in the Society of Jesus after about 25 years, a set of very valid questions that came from very well-intentioned persons, who really had my welfare in their hearts, were: “How can you do it? How can you be so disloyal after such an expensive education? And my consistent answer was that in my discernment the same God who called me to the Jesuits allowed me to leave the Jesuits, and follow the Lord outside the Society of Jesus. My desire to serve God and God’s people has not changed. I said I am more determined than ever to follow God’s willed. In other words, I am always doing my hard homework to do God’s will. Also Mother Teresa had her critics when she left her religious order to work for the destitute. The simple truth is that our conscience is formed according to unquestioned and unexamined values and thoughts imposed by authority figures and our traditions and cultural milieu. Thinking changes with the times, so do us. The calamity is not to leave a situation due to fear, insecurity, or disapproval of significant others when leaving is appropriate for that person.

            Young men who fled their own country (USA) and went to Canada to dodge being drafted into Vietnam War due to their conscience were proved to be right at the end. Hitler who eliminated about 6 million Jews exclusive of many others could not have done the holocaust without the active or passive support of fearful or unthinking Christians (Catholics and Protestants). Thus our programmed conscience can get numbed by fear or false loyalties. No parent can own his/her children. No state or organization can own the loyalty of its members against one’s conscience. Everyone is sovereign while everyone needs to obey legitimate authorities and legitimate laws promulgated by democratically elected officers. Even here no one can be coerced to obey a legal law that is immoral. Examples of legal laws not too long ago that were immoral were laws related to untouchability, caste system and violations of rights (India) slavery and violations of rights (USA).

            A person living a spiritual life would not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, color, race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, class and physical gifts or accomplishments. This person will not violate any human’s rights. For that person there is one overriding thing. That is to do God’s will. That alone is holy and spiritual living. Everybody has connection with God. No mediation such as a saint or a God-man or God-woman is required for this special connection. It is our own ignorance and spiritual poverty that is exploited in commercial, misguided, market spirituality. If we are ready and disposed, God is always ready to connect with us for spiritual living. Doing God’s will and serving humanity whom God embodies with all its distortions are the only two things worth doing in life.


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