Friday, April 17, 2015

Ontological Polarities of the Spirit (Nouwen's "Movements of the Spirit")

Monarch butterfly in my backyard.

After reading Henri Nouwen's Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit I see  how indebted I have been to him regarding my own idea of "ontological dualities of the human spirit." Nouwen calls them "polarities." They have a vectorial, from-to movement. They help us understand the directionality of spiritual formation and spiritual transformation.


My original eight ontological dualities are:

i.      From PRIDE/SHAME to -------------- HUMILITY
ii. From CONTROL to -------------------- TRUST
iii. From REJECTION to ----------------- AFFIRMATION
iv. From EVIL to -------------------------- GOOD
v. From FEAR to --------------------------- FAITH (RISK; OBEDIENCE)
vi. From MATERIALISM to -------------- SIMPLICITY
vii. From DEATH to ----------------------- LIFE
viii. From PROTECTIONISM to ------- SACRIFICE (From SELF-CENTEREDNESS to... SELFLESSNESS)

Michael Christensen, in "Nouwen’s Place in Spiritual Development Theory" (Appendix), identifies twenty-six such "polarities" in Nouwen's writings. They include:

From LONELINESS to----------------------SOLITUDE
From HOSTILITY to-------------------------HOSPITALITY
*From ILLUSION to----------------------------PRAYER
From SARCASM to--------------------------CONTEMPLATION
*From OPAQUENESS tp---------------------TRANSPARENCY
From LONELINESS to----------------------SOLITUDE
                From LIFE'S ILLUSION to-----------------THE PRAYER OF THE HEART

                From FATALISM to-------------------------FAITH
From WORRYING to------------------------PRAYER
From MIND to--------------------------------HEART
From DISSIPATION to---------------------HOMECOMING
*From RESENTMENT to--------------------GRATITUDE
From FORGIVEN to------------------------FORGIVER
From PROFESSIONALISM to------------CREATIVE MINISTRY
From ALIENATION to---------------------COMMUNITY
From COMPETITION to-------------------COMPASSION
From ANGUISH to--------------------------FREEDOM
*From SORROW to---------------------------JOY
*From THE HOUSE OF FEAR to----------THE HOUSE OF LOVE
From AGING to------------------------------DYING
*From EXCLUSION to----------------------INCLUSION
From DENYING to--------------------------BEFRIENDING DEATH

(Christensen, Appendix in Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, Kindle Locations 2119 ff.)

*In Nouwen's work, seven of the Spirit-movements predominate (indicated by *).

As we dwell in God's presence the Spirit of God meta-morphs our hearts, with a "from---- to" movement. We are changed from, e.g., a HATEFUL HEART to LOVING HEART. In this way our subhuman heart takes on the form of Christ's heart. (Galatians 4:19).

Christensen writes:

"These movements of the Spirit may vary with the individual and with one’s season of life and community of faith; yet no one’s spiritual life is static, absolute, or perfectly completed, as if we must graduate from one movement to another before continuing our journey. Rather, we remain in motion and in the process of discerning which way the wind of God’s activity is blowing in our life. The process involves becoming aware of and naming the subtle movements of Spirit. To live spiritually is to seek to breathe with the Spirit’s rhythm and move in a God-ward direction on the long walk of faith.”