Mid-Course Corrections

Out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
– Rumi

There are several models of spiritual/social/emotional development, e.g Fowler’s Stage of Faith, Ken Wilbur’s Integral Psychology, and Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God. The number of stages, names, and focus may vary, but by and large they agree. Fowler’s Stages of Faith is one of the earliest descriptions and the canonical text later writers worked to improve on. Ken Wilbur talks in terms of earlier and later stages, avoiding the implied value judgement in higher and lower stages. Chopra’s How to Know God gives the most approachable descriptions of the later stages.

Comparing their stages and my own experience, I find stages in adults earlier than my own appear naive and simplistic. Stages later than my own appear radical, even crazy, and naive in a different way, usually prefaced by, “in the real world.” Jesus’ Beatitudes is this way. It’s so out radical that the institutional church’s interpretation rarely does it justice.

Wilbur is an academic and writes for a very educated, literate audience. Chopra writes for a broader audience, a more “low church” audience.

The usual path through stages in childhood result in the bulk of the population in one of two stages. The earlier stage is focused on fear, safety, security, the past, tradition. The later stage is more focused on hope, improvement, and the future. Generally, people have a home stage. Stress and hard times can move them temporarily into an earlier stage. Good times can push them into a later stage.

Most people stop developing as adults. Some continue on their own. Others are pushed by circumstances to resume development. Transitions between stages are painful. The “old” rules no longer apply.

Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

Tony Robbins

The earlier of the two stages most adults end up in is usually rule or “law” based. To these people, the Rumi quote is nonsense, criminal, anarchy, and chaos. Right and Wrong they understand, live by, and rebel against. Thousands of years ago, the Rule of Law was a great advance over Might Makes Right. Too often the Law is taken too literally and too legalisticaly. It has become an idol to worship and an obstacle to seeing your suffering neighbor. This is what the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures rail against. They hold the powerful and privileged accountable for not living the teachings on charity and restorative justice.

The Good Samaritan parable is an example of this in Jesus’ teachings. Samaritans were the Jews left behind in the Babylonian Exile. They were the least and the last, not even worth taking as slaves. When the Jews returned 60 years later with new ideas and rituals adopted and adapted from and in Babylon, the new orthodoxy declared apostates, worse than even non-believers (pagans). A Samaritan is the hero of Jesus’ parable, someone beyond legalistic notions of right and wrong.

In moving to the later stages, right and wrong (binary or dualistic thought) becomes less helpful. A more nuanced approach is like steering a car or ship. Where am I? Where do I want to be? What course corrections are needed? A ship at sea doesn’t have landmarks to go by, so direction replaces location. While steering corrections are frequent (changes in direction caused by waves and wind, needed for curves, debris, and other cars in the road), all require course corrections. Right and wrong aren’t helpful.

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