I write, speak, invest, network, and question to stimulate fruitful conversation. Let's talk about human flourishing! It begins with freedom. Holy leisure is the key to human being, freedom and generativity. Please join me in the adventure of realizing Christ!
This article first appeared in Gilbert Magazine.
I hope every Chesterton fan has a G.K.C. Christmas ornament. Mine reminds me to give glory to God ‘in profundis,’ per Chesterton’s Christmas poem, and also to ‘Be Spherical’.
Chesterton was ‘spherical’ in more than the obvious sense. To be spherical is to move freely in the vast sphere of your own being. This is the quality of being at ease with oneself that Josef Pieper (in Leisure, the Basis of Culture) called true leisure. In contrast to the worker, (dubbed ‘organization man’ by some, and ‘mass man’ by others) whose scope seems reduced to a flattened disc-world cut out of the middle of a sphere, the man at leisure with himself lives whole-ly in a much larger Reality.
This sense of the spaciousness of man’s true being collapsed with the Enlightenment ‘demise’ of God. Absent a Creator in whom he could live, move, and have being, man took up residence in the tiny space of his own mind, as a disembodied concept. He went right on serving his appetites, and wound up largely enslaved to them without the guidance of reason. Man now finds himself disintegrated, with no center to hold him in coherence.
The bad news is, man now has a greatly reduced capacity to appropriate that which can heal him. Medicine may do him as much good as a hamburger does a man with a tapeworm. The good news is that any movement toward his own freedom helps to knit him back together, and increases that capacity. It’s our job to attract him to return to himself, to come to his senses, to say yes to a freedom that may be terrifying to him. There is something wonderfully attractive about someone who dwells richly in, or fully inhabits his own being. He may also scare people. We’ve got to be ‘that guy,’ even if the flattened men around us hate us for it. To rescue the perishing, spherical human beings are needed – desperately.
Who makes you want to live larger, more boldly, with abandon? St. Francis, Chesterton himself, and Chesterton’s Innocent Smith affect me that way. King David, dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, comes to mind. For you, it may be Father Barron bearding the talk show host in his den, a tap dancing priest or singing nun, or an athlete with the guts to go for the glory or die trying. Whoever inspires you also invites you – not only to follow an example, but to find your own voice, passion, vocation, or yearning. As you grow, you become an inspiration – and an invitation to freedom – for others.
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “Therein lies the nobility of the Faith: that we have the heart to dare something.” Saint Teresa’s “Life is an adventure, dare it!” might be the anthem of spherical living. By your own free acts you expand the sphere of your freedom. The problem is, even we Christians are flattened to some degree. We can’t help but be affected by the persons and culture around us. We are pressured to conform to a subset of reality instead of to the whole of it – to fit our great spherical selves into very small, square holes and windowless bunkers.
How can you become the kind of enormous, authentic, venturesome being who lives abundantly in the glorious freedom of the children of God when you are also a small, fractured, fearsome creature of your times? How can you hold on to the spherical spaciousness of Self under the pressures of a world hostile to such a person? The answer is to get out of your attic and act! Fulton Sheen said, “Free will is a gift, but freedom is a conquest.” If the Promised Land is the beautiful territory of your own being, you’ll have some giants to slay to occupy it. In addition to moral virtue and the Presence of Christ, you’ll need skills, tools, and weapons to dwell there richly. Here are a few examples:
- You’ll need to be a Sabbath-keeper – not just a drive-through Eucharist taker, but a sit-down-restaurant, whole-day-of-leisure, buckets-of-leftovers Sabbath-keeper. Holy leisure is the key to human being because you’ve got to thoroughly appropriate Christ in order to become who you really are. Acedia is the disease of flat men, and Sabbath is the cure.
- You’ll have to stay standing in the midst of turbulence. Free people fight to occupy the via media – where they are assailed by winds, waves and words from both the easy extremes. Stay on the narrow way, where only Christ can keep you.
- Overcome your sense of separation between your adult self and the childlike qualities of a person animated by the playful and surprising Spirit of God.
- Enter into the practice of art, in some form. It should help you identify with God as an artistic Creator who wants His highest ideals placed into forms. As a plus, if you have very little skill, this will help cultivate humility, humanity, and a sense of humor in you.
- Be interested in many things, and then explore or study or discuss them. Don’t seek a disembodied, conceptual holiness, but cultivate a lively connectedness with all things real. Be attentive to and interested in your own real self, thoughts, desires, feelings, and needs.
- Try to have more and better conversations – challenging ones, stimulating ones, ones about great ideas and deep emotions, ones that are not derailed by knee-jerks and legalism, ones that begin with listening or research.
- You need life lived in community – celebration, shared meals, serving together, and conversation. It is characteristic of flattened men to believe they don’t.
There is one very simple formula for becoming spherical: “Grow up in all things unto Christ.” (Eph. 4:15) The best kept secret in the church may be that growing up is a thrilling adventure. Grown-ups who live it with childlike joy will attract others to the ascesis by which we help to make ourselves whole.
I’m not a fan of extreme sports. All that youthful energy and money spent on dangerous thrill-seeking seems wasteful and presumptuous to me. How much more surprising, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run – stayed up into the wee hours, in fact, turning the pages with rapt interest!
What captured my attention in the stories of a tribe of Running People was not the athletic prowess of these seemingly superhuman ultra-distance runners, but their evident ease and delight in the simple act of inhabiting their own bodies as those bodies hurtled through space over dangerous terrain for hundreds of miles.
Joy, as I have said, is the fruit of freedom. I feel in their exhilaration a perfect resonance with the three-dimensional, not-of-this-world, utterly abandoned, glorious freedom of the children of God. The freedom made possible by the indwelling of Christ is as far beyond mere human freedom, rich as it can be, as the running of the Tarahumara is from the injury-prone, time-focused, effortful exertions of typical distance runners.
How I would love to attract readers to running a race that is an order of magnitude greater than any marathon they have yet tried! May you find freedom infused with Rest, in contact with both earthly reality and limitation and with time outside time, where your soul takes flight.
There is tension inherent in the process of appropriating Reality.
The imperfection of Persons and Forms causes tension.
The attraction/delight and vulnerability/repulsion felt in the encounter with Form cause tension.
The need to resolve the implications of multiple goods, or multiple Realities causes tension.
In order to grow better able to handle tension, we need practice.
Growth in the capacity to bear and resolve tension is growth in freedom, interior spaciousness, maturity, correspondence to Reality.
Higher Forms cause higher tension. We need them in order to grow.
Lower Forms are more likely to be flawed and de-formational. We need them in order to grow.
I’ve been asked what’s wrong with youth culture. I don’t like to complain, and in the spirit of constructive criticism of well-meaning youth-oriented offerings, answer with a comparison. I don’t need to justify my preference for the qualities I feel distinguish the ‘adult’ from the ‘youth’ model, and only present them to start interesting conversations.
The Youth Model aims to entertain me, perhaps to lift me higher in the company of my peers. The Adult Model attracts me by the power of my interests toward those quite different from myself.
The YM strokes me and embraces me in mother-like goodwill. The AM challenges and critiques me, embodying a more father-like and bracing call.
The YM may be a help in preparation toward personal freedom, but the AM is an actual experience – maybe even an experiment! – in freedom.
The YM is safe, the AM risky.
The YM offers activities we can do together. The AM offers work.
In the YM, self-development may be the goal. In the AM it is the means. In the one, we seem to be trying to attract people to take up the task of cooperation in their own becoming. In the other, we take people who are engaged in the work of becoming, and link their self-work into community-work.
A Youth Model seems to need a leader – someone who represents God, organizes the activities, understands the goals (and praise God for the people who do this work!). An Adult Model should expect that we can come together as free agents and generate something by the power of our own interests, desires, passions, actions, agency.
I honestly don’t know which comes first: the dearth of adults, or the dearth of Adult Models. I’m always saying we will all be children, youth, and adults at once, as we grow up. I have nothing against Youth, but just a longing for opportunities to grow further into adulthood with others attracted to that stage. I think many Youth might actually be more attracted to adulthood than they are to what is offered up in the Youth Model.
I wish we were not all so age-segregated, and that more young people could participate in some meaty, adult conversations and work. I am told they would feel judged and inadequate, compared and found wanting. Amen! How else do any of us grow except by finding giants who show us our smallness? I’m also not above being instructed by young people.
Anyway, this is my response to the charge that I am snobbish in my preference for the Adult Model of things. I hope I am not, and that the more I grow into an adult, the more I’ll be able to attract and welcome people to that possibility.
By the way, the Youth Model should not be confused with the Child Model, which is delightful and which every true adult should be capable of enjoying thoroughly.
In my Freedom Trilogy (You, Free, Full Spectrum Freedom, and 3D Freedom), I speak of the human person as ‘three dimensional,’ rather than as the flattened, linear being he has been reduced to by post-Enlightenment scientific materialist reductionism. I’m not the only one talking about the reduction of man. Joe Dispenza has been called to my attention because he, likewise, speaks of our being ‘dimensional,’ and ‘non-linear’. I was familiar with Dispenza, having read his book The Placebo Effect and found it fascinating. I’ve now spent hours listening to him to see where we might resonate with one another. When he sticks to new scientific discoveries, it’s a thrilling ride. I fall away as he makes a new religion of it all.
I want to be on record as cautioning Catholics against uncritical acceptance of his (and similar) work. He and I, it would seem, both are interested in inviting people to find greater health, coherence, free agency, and happiness. The appeal of his work is, in part, the truly fascinating documentation of the scientific basis for the claim that our thoughts have tremendous potential to change our physical, emotional and relational experiences.
My problem with his approach, though, is that it offers escape from, rather than correspondence to reality; manipulation for power and gain, rather than glorification of God; and self-making rather than co-operation with God’s work in the human person for His own, greater, purposes. While I find much to disagree with, there are a few points of cautious agreement. I would definitely not recommend his work to those without mature, Catholic discernment. By ‘Catholic’ I mean, ‘actually Catholic,’ and not just ‘Christian,’ because it is clear to me that any fragment of the full deposit of faith will not be a sufficient ground for (and might be a dangerously shaky ground for) engagement with ideas like his that so closely approach received truths before bending them. In fact, much of the force driving uncritical acceptance of ideas like these is coming from a fractured Christianity looking to the quantum field for coherence instead of to the Church.
I, like many writers today, speak of ‘freedom,’ ‘energy,’ ‘hopeful futures,’ ‘resonance,’ ‘transcendence of past emotions,’ ‘cognitive restructuring of habit patterns,’ ‘neuroplasticity,’ and ‘wholeness.’ Unlike most, I do not believe that the ‘possible human’ is possible without God, or that there is any place in thought or on earth to stand as secure as His Church, for the full realization of human beings.
My ‘3D Free’ human person is coherent as one single personality over time, within the being of God, and may not look ‘highly evolved’ or ‘successful’ or even ‘healthy’ here on earth. His soul develops along with his virtue, his correspondence to reality (not his projection of self onto reality), and his love of God. Love (a Person outside him, not a feeling inside him) is the context of his being, and Love reaches toward him whether he reaches toward higher consciousness or not. His destiny is to be raised above the angels into eternal communion with the Person who made him. He will never be God, thank God, but will have opportunities while in time to grow better able to enjoy the adventure of life in co-operation with God. The only point of entrance into the divine mind is His own Word, Jesus Christ, who spoke definitively from the Cross the words continuously resounding through His Body to this day: Thy will be done.
I actually think that some of what quantum physics is probing is the ‘matrix of Holy Wisdom,’ pre-material structure of correspondences between the persons of the Trinity – a ‘web’ of law pulsing with the light generated by the Love flowing ceaselessly between them. If man is made for correspondence to reality, then it would seem he would eventually arrive at, at least, the outer boundary of this interior life of theirs to find his own earthly reality limited by comparison. It may be that in growing toward our destiny we will, collectively, come into possession of laws that supersede without negating all we know as natural law.
The havoc we’ve wreaked as we’ve learned to manipulate the laws of the material creation should teach us not to grasp too quickly for more. I believe that the protection of the Church, of Sacraments, of Christ’s interior presence and of clear doctrine is a necessary support even for approach to what may be a ‘dimension’ of seemingly incomparable ‘power and glory.’ The phrase, “To God be all glory and power” has never been so clearly needed as now, when man is on the verge of hacking his own brain. Those who enter this new territory unprotected and naively believing they are alone there, without non-material enemies who may more readily take advantage of them the more they dissociate from concrete reality may find it very difficult to maintain self-coherence and sanity as they pursue ‘possible futures’ that glitter with wish fulfillment.
Sadly, there are those I would love to reach who will discount my books out of hand because I approach this territory of self-realization, realization of hopeful futures, full human dimensionality. I use, for instance, the words ‘quantum shift’ to discuss the amazing power of the moment when a man becomes an actor, able to respond to reality, instead of an object being crushed by reality. Some won’t make it past the word ‘quantum,’ and such is life.
What follows are more specifics about the things that repelled and those that attracted me in Dispenza’s work. I believe that his intentions are good, and that he is dangerous not because of all his errors, but because of so much that is right in the mix, thus causing confusion. These are my own listening/reading notes and thoughts, and have not been formalized into full arguments. Take them as suggestions about what to consider, rather than as systematic documentation or proof. Please avoid his teachings unless you clearly understand the ‘red flag warnings’ below.
JD offers the possibility of gaining access to higher consciousness, enlightenment, divine mind via special teaching, initiation, spirit guidance; notice that the speaker, once famous, offers himself to an increasingly narrow in-group of higher-paying true believers; if you currently have a ‘lesser evolved spouse,’ for instance, you might need a change to fit your new higher consciousness Note: Catholic teaching is available and accessible to all and is life-changing, life-supporting and life-giving to a degree never matched in history.
The Guru overrides the wariness of his listeners
JD subtly groups those who are ‘in’ and ‘out’, constantly asks “Are you with me?” cautions listeners against their feelings of wariness, a non-believer in the group might ruin the vibe for everyone in the collective mind…chilling cutting out of those with ‘lower consciousness’ Understandably, when the message is ‘believe rightly’ and you will get what you want, it’s important that our desires don’t clash (I can’t give you this power if you’re liable to use it to get something I don’t want you to have.), thus our beliefs can’t clash or we won’t evolve. Note: Jesus welcomes all, isn’t threatened by those who don’t believe. It’s interesting that the best support in the world for a society with respect for a plurality of beliefs is…drumroll please…Christianity. It wasn’t even a possibility in the pre-Christian world.
anything will be possible to those who believe and cultivate the power to create reality, the escape of the limitations of personality, past, concrete reality is a constant theme here; Note: true freedom is possible because of limitations. In the ‘reality’ the Church is talking about, the concrete/natural is woven together beautifully with the ideal/divine in such a way that we do not escape from, but rather reconcile our persons to, God.
Escape Dogmas, Doctrines
JD wants to achieve a direct connection to the divine; he is decidedly anti-religion and I have an article of his in which he advocates getting rid of the ‘big three’ by any means necessary…clearly we are interfering with man’s evolution; Note – God (a person, not an impersonal ‘divine mind’) has made Himself known through the incarnation of His Son, who is now present to the world (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) through the mediation of His Body, the Church.
Evolution of Super-Man as Dogma
JD et al understandably seek divinization, but without a god to bow to. Man will become his own god, create himself, sustain his own being by use of knowledge, power, technique. Note: growing up in all things unto Christ is the hope of the Christian and the path toward his divinization – it requires the person’s co-operation with the action of God upon the person; co-operation involves seeking knowledge of God as He is, in His Church, in His Eucharistic Presence, whereas this self-evolution sounds more like grasping at the possibility of the risen self without going through the identification with the crucifixion of Christ; I am not evolving to become a superman, but growing up to become, at my ‘highest’, a unique and unrepeatable realization of Christ, through whom I will continue to live as an individual not because of my highly evolved being, but because of His atoning sacrifice. So this desire for divinization is awareness of a possibility God himself designed…but to approach it outside his own ‘way’ of approach is dangerous.
the experience of the ‘highest consciousness’ is one of utter abandonment to the experience of being, but this is a human person ‘angelicized,’ transcending the actuality of matter; Note: we are meant for surrender only to the Lord God Jesus Christ. Our souls long for this union with Him and then are prey to offers of surrender-experience that get around the actual surrender to Him. Such substitutes can be overwhelmingly positive as physical or emotional experiences (like concerts, drug use, illicit sex, etc…) and thus prevent our reaching out for the only thing that truly satisfies the soul’s longing for him. Self-generated gamma-wave states are not necessarily bad, and may do the body or mind some good, but the danger is that people are accepting them as the ultimate experience. The ‘enlightened ones’ are less and less able to turn and bend down to the reality of the life they lead on the ground, with actual people, serving unenlightened ones, or experiencing tremendous distress or difficulty.
Leaving the Self Behind
the utopia of ‘higher consciousness,’ even when it seeks physical health, seems aimed at the unmaking of individual selves; the teachings hit at the very notion of a single coherent self and lure listeners toward the ‘possibility thinking’ of continuous self-reinvention and merger into the collective mind; Note: the self is meant to be coherent over time, into eternity; so many voices are suggesting to people that they can be any number of selves/personalities and can write any story…I am not meant for ultimate mergence into some universal mind, or being, or force, but to become fully myself, inhabiting the destiny God has held for me in His own being since the moment in time when I was conceived and He gave me being.
Creating the Future
sounds like the ‘name it and claim it’ gospel…yes, we affect the future by our ideas and actions now, and yes, through prayer the Holy Spirit can “untie knots” caused by past events, but this sounds more like an attempt to control the future, or to have power over the future…I prefer to be truly peaceful by finding perfect trust in God to bring the self into encounter with whatever reality will help open my path into the future that leads to my destiny IN GOD…If you combine JD’s ‘great future’ with his ideas that religions should be squashed at all cost and that the less-evolved deserve whatever they get and you have a recipe for some very non-loving acting-out of people who’ve been taught they should get whatever they want in life.
Contempt for Means
I think protestant and secular culture have in common a ‘contempt for means’ that makes the Catholic, Sacramental way of being seem muddied with intermediaries and material stuff that interfere with ‘direct experience’ of God. So, the world is crying out for ‘experience’ and every marketer is feeding it to them through star intermediaries and material, imagistic, sensorial contexts crafted to be so immersive only the ‘direct experience’ remains embedded in the brain as pleasure-connected-to-product without the interference of the verbal, judgemental mind. People are sitting ducks for im-mediacy.
lots of love and spirit and ecstasy and mysticism in these teachings; no allusion at all to any kind of angelic beings also operant in the ‘quantum field,’ so either the angels are not playing this game, or the demons are hiding until the boundaries of self are utterly broken down..Materialist vs Trans-materialist/spiritual are opposite extremes that could lead to worship of mammon, worship of …the quantum field? The possible self? An angelic guide? A guru? Note: no dogma, no doctrine = no ground, no foundation. All of this can be easily spiritualized to fit with any religion except ‘the big three,’ which may be why they seem so hostile and need to be gotten out of the way.
the process JD teaches is the cultivation of an image of a desired-for Something, so vividly that the emotions of having received/achieved it are generated in response to the image. This is an amplification of the common, garden variety process by which people realize imagined ideas every day. One’s idea must touch the desire/emotions in order that the will be engaged to move toward the good. This is not a bad thing in itself, but how many people have the maturity necessary to both focus so intensely on an imagined good and also relinquish attachment to it? That detachment is a further necessity that brings even a great idea into tension with the will of God and the resolution of that tension is what actually ‘grows’ the person.
I worry about the greater context made possible by the extension of self imaginatively into the ‘quantum field,’ the future, or the field of all possibilities. Unless it becomes a vessel for the light of God, or an structure that leads upward to Truth, a context can become a trap (such as music, imagination, systematic theology) that serves for temporary expansion, but ultimately limits your horizons. In my Freedom Trilogy, I try to show, graphically, how the imagination can extend us forward, but also be a dangerous limitation in our encounter with reality.
I worry that your strongly imagined, filled-with-the-requisite-emotional-assent, intention may become a demand. If you demand to have what you imagine, you are not free. Your interior disposition prevents your acting in freedom to realize that idea, or move toward that desired good. I would never counsel you to fixate on developing a better mental image of what you want, because of this danger. You can become a slave to a strongly held idea.
People are understandably fascinated by the scientific proofs that science doesn’t explain everything. A window has been opened in the bunker of materialism and a fresh breeze is blowing in. The romantic reaction to the scientific reductionism of the modern world has a new voice in quantum physics. Christians need to speak this language, but offer the necessary correctives I perceive in the one word, Church. With Jesus in John, Chapter 17, I pray that his people will be one – united under His headship to serve the world with clarity and confidence born of the Spirit’s protection of our doctrines and our unity.
Thanks for your attention to this. Please let me know what you think. I am very much open to cordial discussion of all these thoughts, and of those in any of my books.