Visions of Daniel
The Question and an Answer
Everybody is talking about spirituality. In a former generation, when modern science was to save the world, religion was very much a private affair. And spirituality, in contrast to organized religion, was hardly even considered. Now many belong to no religion, but they openly insist they are deeply spiritual.
At the present moment in history in the United States of America , all the mainline Christian churches are declining in membership—except the Roman Catholic, because of the influx of Hispanic Catholics. Yet people are clamoring for inspiration and spiritual insight. Interest in Eastern meditation techniques, curiosity about Native American rituals, the emergence of New Age Religion, fascination with crystals and channeling, the popularity of movies like Resurrection , Ghost , Flatliners , Dying Again , and Heart and Souls , popular articles like Newsweek's December 27, 1993, "Angels" and November 28, 1994 "The Search for the Sacred," all attest to contemporary spiritual sensitivity. The insistence is that there must be a further dimension to life, and people more and more want to experience it.
It is now okay to talk of such things in the midst of secular culture—over business breakfasts and lunches, at the gym or spa, in the bar and disco, at the supermarket check-out line. TV shows and sitcoms are built around spiritual themes, and interview and talk shows repeatedly discuss spiritual questions. Even on university campuses spirituality is an acceptable topic. Of course, proselytizing fundamentalist religion among students has contributed mightily to this phenomenon. But even in academic courses spirituality components are being built in. Schools of medicine (Hiatt, 1986), nursing (Shelly & Fish, 1988; Rogers, 1970), and health education realize that humans are more than living bodies, so meeting the health needs of a person means being open to spiritual issues. This is especially so in the case of terminal illness like cancer and AIDS and other long-term and tragic diseases. Psychology courses on human development cannot avoid spirituality when late adolescence, adulthood, or aging is the topic. Indeed, explicit treatment of moral development (Kohlberg, 1981)—and now faith development (Fowler, 1981) and even spiritual development (Bee, 1987)—is becoming a regular part of the curriculum. Likewise, training in psychotherapy (Butler, 1990; Chandler, Holden, & Kolander, 1992; Dan, 1990; Patterson, 1992; Shafranske & Gorsuch, 1984; Shafranske & Malony, 1990) and social work (Canda, 1988a, 1988b; Weick, 1983) no longer shuns questions about the meaning of life and the values worth living for. And educators at large, concerned about the increasing decadence of late twentieth-century civilization, are again attempting to make room in the curriculum for those same big questions (Martz, 1991; Orr, 1991; Woodward, 1991). No one may be quite sure what "spirituality" means, but it is increasingly becoming part of the picture.
So people talk of attention to the "heart" or the "soul" as well as attention to the "mind." Not just understanding but also "love" and "commitment" are seen as critical. Now "intuition" and "broader awareness" stand alongside scientific explanation.
But what are those things? What do those words really mean?
Rabbi Neil Gillman of Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City acknowledged the current state of affairs in these words: "Here, at an institution that always prided itself on its intellectual rigor and steered clear of the mystical side of religion, we can now talk of what everybody calls 'spirituality.' I don't know what the word means, but to students today it means they don't want to be Jews and rabbis just for the rituals, just for the symbolism, but in order to come closer to God" (Wilkes, 1990, p. 71).
In the minds of many—certainly most in the Judeo-Christian Western world—God is an essential of spirituality. So we hear, "That we are spiritual beings means a relationship with God is basic to our total functioning" (Shelly & Fish, 1988, p. 29. Cf. Bergin, 1980, 1991; Bergin, Masters, & Richards, 1987; Chandler , Holden, & Kolander, 1992; Ellison & Smith, 1991; Kass et al., 1991; Moberg, 1984; Moberg & Brused, 1978; Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Yet Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and much Western humanism have obvious spiritual intent without any reference to God (Assagioli, 1965/1976; Chandler, Holden, & Kolander, 1992; Ellis, 1980; Hiatt, 1986; Manaster, 1990; Maslow, 1971; McFadden, 1991; Miller, 1990). The haunting matter really is complex, and it can be confusing.
The Promise of an Answer
This book addresses this matter head on. More than that, it claims actually to answer the questions at stake. That there could even be firm answers in this realm or in any other, is itself up for debate. So the reader should not expect a glib, popularized statement in the chapters that follow. Anyone serious about these issues will find his or her seriousness taken seriously here. The reader will be led step by step into the profound heart of the matter. The treatment below is rigorous. It even claims to be scientific. If this treatment is not facile nor piously inspirational, as much spiritual writing tends to be, this book does sort out with precision many of the issues surrounding spirituality. It says what "spirit" is and how spirit relates to God and how spirit also relates to psychological health.
Spirituality is supposed to relate to the deepest meaning of humanity. So what you think of spirituality actually depends on how you answer this question: What is a human being? The title of this book suggests its answer to this question: there is a core of spirituality that is common to all people just because they are human. Spirituality is part and parcel of being a human being. Why? Because human mind is double, and one dimension of human mind is actually spirit. Humans are spiritual by nature. Of course, we humans are not merely mental but also bodily or organic. This goes without saying. So the proposed answer to the question, What is a human being? is this: a complex of organism, psyche, and spirit. (See Figure 1.1.)
But explanations of the human are numerous, and they are all different. They come from various religious and philosophical traditions and from an array of sciences and academic disciplines, and these all have their own points of view. The task is to come up with the one explanation that will hold.
The suggestion here is that human mind entails spirit, so human beings are spiritual by nature. If this is actually the case, spirituality is not a concern proper to religious studies, and it certainly does not depend on belief in God. Spirituality is not a specifically theological topic. Much more basically, it must be a psychological topic. Of course, this is not to say that belief in God is not or should not be a part of the picture. Most people nurture their spirituality through some kind of religion, and in the West religion usually includes belief in God—theism. So for most people God is a central part of their spirituality. Still, if spirituality is first and foremost a basic human thing, the various religions must be different ways of expressing human spirituality. And to some extent talk of God is a kind of short-hand way of talking about very elusive spiritual but human matters.
In any case, that is the approach presented in this book. The goal is to explain the human core of spirituality apart from talk of God or use of the spiritual vocabulary that comes from the different religions. That is, the goal is to say what spirituality actually is on its own terms.
The present chapter introduces the matter and summarizes my understanding of it. At the same time, this chapter also outlines this book to provide a preview for you, the reader.
The Confusion and the Need for Clarity
Traditional Two-Part Models of the Human
One's understanding of the human being is central to the matter of spirituality. So, what is a human being? The traditional answer in the Christian West is that we are body and soul. Psychology and the human sciences in general give a parallel answer: we are body and mind.
This two-part understanding of the human being is one of the oldest notions in Western history (Choron, 1973; Petrement, 1973). The pre-Socratic philosophers, Pythagoras and Empedocles, are the earliest known representatives of this idea. From Pythagoras comes the suggestion that the body is a tomb in which the soul is imprisoned.
Plato elaborated that idea as part of his conception of the Idea World. There the soul, like every idea of everything else, supposedly existed before entrance into this world, free from the inadequacies of physical matter and independent of the body. According to Plato, things in this world are but imperfect copies or expressions of the realities in the world of ideas. How did Plato develop such a notion? The experience of insight and universal concepts—more on this in Chapter 5—so awed Plato, it seems, that he deemed ideas to be the really real and demeaned this world of the senses. A similar understanding characterizes Eastern philosophies and, as a result, much of contemporary spirituality.
In contrast, the Hebrew mind behind the Bible has a firm grasp of the psychosomatic unity of the human being (Badham, 1983; Miles, 1983). So much so is this the case—except, for example, in the book of Wisdom, where Greek influence has entered—that the Hebrew Scriptures can hardly conceive of life after death, for life apart from a human body is not human life at all. Christian belief in resurrection of the body is an attempt to meet this same issue. So Saint Paul 's contrasts between "flesh" and "spirit," for example, are grossly misunderstood when taken as parallels to our "body and soul." For Paul "flesh" simply means the whole human being insofar as one is sinful, and "spirit" means the whole human being insofar as one is open to God.
In the same vein, Aristotle's doctrine of matter and form insisted on the unity of the human being and of every earthly reality. Thus, to a large extent, Aristotle overcame Plato's splitting body and soul. Even more so must this be said of Thomas Aquinas at the high point of medieval thought. And a similar understanding of the unity of the human runs throughout this book and is treated in detail in Part Four.
However, Platonic influence, especially through Saint Augustine in the late classical era and Descartes during the Renaissance, carried the bipartite understanding of the human being into the mainstream of Western thinking. Descartes insisted that in its nature the soul is entirely independent of the body. He posited two basic kinds of reality, res cogitans and res extensa , thinking stuff and spatial stuff, minds and physical realities. This understanding of things is related to Descartes' famous argument, Cogito ergo sum , I am thinking therefore I exist. Descartes could think of himself as not having a body, but he could not think of himself as not having a mind, for his very thinking required a mind. So he concluded that his being as a thinker—his mind—must be independent of his being as a physical body. Mind and body must be separate realities. Of course, there is a flaw in Descartes' argument. He might well have been able to think of himself as having no body, but his very thinking process was nonetheless dependent on his body. He was using his brain when he came to his notorious conclusion. Be that as it may, Descartes' influential position, at the beginning of the modern era, is the immediate source of the now pervasive understanding of the human as body and mind or body and soul.
Recently people have become dissatisfied with those two-part explanations of the human. People find the modern understanding of mind too narrow. Mind has been taken to be a thinking machine. It deduces and concludes and derives answers. Its prime work is logical. If that is all the mind is, no wonder there is serious talk about computers actually being able to think ( Gardner , 1985). But our experience shows that our inner working is much richer than that. Not deduction nor conclusion nor logical reasoning, but insight, intuition, leaps of understanding, creativity, wonder, marvel, contemplation—these are the significant stuff of the human mind. So the body-mind model appears to have lost something essential.
Likewise, the body-soul model has its problems. It carries the seal of religious approval, but it does not stand up to questioning, and it suggests unacceptable notions. It suggests that we are really souls somehow encased in bodies. Then the body seems inferior, and the goal of life seems to be somehow to free ourselves from the body and from this world. Supposedly, when we die, our bodies go into the grave and our souls go to another life. But if this is the case, where do I go when I die? For, supposedly, I am both body and soul.
And why should my body be an inferior element only to be used here but then surrendered once I die? As far as I can determine, I live in my body. I certainly know no life apart from my body. Indeed, in some sense I am my body. Moreover, recent biological and neurological knowledge shows that without a healthy body, my mind—my soul?—cannot function. Injure the brain, drug the bloodstream, and my inner working, my soul, is clouded or even obliterated. My body is precious to me. If I am not at home with my body, I suffer mental distress, and my very soul is not a peace.
And as for the world, the cosmos—it is mystifying, it is fascinating. It is filled with wonder and magic as well as with challenge and heartache. The world can inspire me to heroic, intimate, godlike things. Why should I believe it good to get away from the world?
The body-soul model may be useful to suggest that somehow I survive my biological death, but the model is not very useful for explaining that eventuality nor even for understanding my present life. Today many people are willing simply to admit we do not really know what happens after death (Hick, 1983; Klinger, 1970). They are willing to live with a question, to live in the face of mystery. Those who are believers are willing to trust God and their religious faith and to stop speculating about this question.
Still, an understanding of the human being ought at least to be able to help us deal with the present life. Future life must flow out of the present one. To explain the present life is the minimal requirement. So like the body-mind model, the body-soul model is also found wanting.
Multi-Part Models of the Human
Many new models of the human have appeared recently, models that were either created anew or imported in whole or in part from other cultures or other eras. These models were to improve on the old bipartite models of religion and psychology. So it is now said that the human is body, mind, and spirit. Or the human is body, mind, soul, and spirit; or body, mind, soul, spirit, and consciousness; or body, psyche, soul, and spirit; and so on.
This multiplication of models suggests that little precision is available on the question. Fervent proponents of each model will argue that theirs is certainly correct. An air of sectarian religion surrounds the discussion. But explanation of anything beyond body tends to be fuzzy. What is the difference between soul and spirit and consciousness and psyche and mind? Cogent answers are not usually forthcoming.
Even Western philosophy had long proposed multi-factor understandings of the human, but these have generally been forgotten or dismissed. In a chapter called "The Intellect and the Senses," Mortimer Adler (1985) summarizes this matter. The classical and medieval world often understood the inner or mental aspect of the human being to be double. The debate centered on the possibility of humans having abstract (or universal) concepts. The senses and the imagination, it was argued, could only apply to concrete particulars; but the intellect could grasp abstract universals. At stake is the difference between "Fido" as a particular instance and "dog" as a general notion. If human mind really does grasp universals as well as know individual instances, then human mind is dual, it entails a number of different aspects. In early modernity philosophers like Locke, Hobbes, Berkeley, and Hume somehow convincingly argued that all mental content is sensible, that concepts are made up of images and percepts. The lamentable result is the "mistaken view of the human mind as constituted by sense and imagination and devoid of intellect" (Adler, 1985 p. 50). This very view is at the roots of modern psychology (Keller, 1973). It explains why psychology now speaks of the human simply as body and mind. It also explains why psychology has for so long focused research on sensation, perception, and other such physiological phenomena. And it also explains why this "mind" implies nothing that could be called spiritual. In contrast, Adler and a long line of pre-modern Western philosophers talk of mind as sense/imagination and intellect. This talk is a close parallel to my notion of mind as psyche and spirit throughout this book.
Some people attempt to settle this discussion by appeal to some ultimate authority. They look to the Bible for the final word on what a human being is. But the Bible also offers a variety of models. For example, the human is body, soul, and spirit, for 1 Thessalonians 5:23 reads, "may your spirit [ pneuma ] and soul [ psyche ] and body [ soma ] be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." But 2 Corinthians 7:1 speaks of defilement "of body [ sarx ] and spirit [ pneuma ]." 1 Corinthians 7:34 also speaks of being holy "in body [ soma ] and spirit [ pneuma ]," but the original Greek terms differ. And Ephesians 4:23 enjoins the believers to "be renewed in the spirit [ pneuma ] of your minds [ nous ]."
In the Greek, those passages from the Pauline tradition list five different supposed components of the human, and no two of those passages offer the same combination. So how could simple citation of a biblical text answer the question, What is a human being? Apparently, the concern in those texts was practical, not theoretical or scientific; the mentality of the Bible was functional, not ontological (Helminiak, 1986d, pp. 47-55, 87-90, 284 n. 21). That is to say, each text was written to address a particular situation, and an appropriate formulation was used to make the point that was needed in each case, but there was no overall concern for rigorous explanation. So, despite the protestations of biblical fundamentalists, the Bible evidently intended no answer to the technical question our age poses.
The Need for a Scientific Answer
The question here is a technical one. It expects a scientific answer. It calls for explanation, not simply for description or intimation or inspiration. It calls for a listing of all that is both necessary and sufficient to account for human experience—necessary in the sense that omission of any factor would leave something unexplained, and sufficient in the sense that nothing more needs to be said to have complete explanation. The further requirement is that each of the proposed factors be distinct; none should overlap the others.
Why require so precise an answer? Because only coherent explanation will meet the present need—and this, because only coherent explanation is ultimately worthy of the human mind.
On the one hand, it is already clear that a multiplicity of accounts, as listed above, lends itself to sectarian dispute and merely adds to the confusion. Supposedly good-willed attempts to lead people to true human fulfillment bring proselytizing, demagoguery, and more division. The times are difficult. The scaffolding of Western civilization seems to be giving way. A new era, sometimes called post-modern, is emerging. As people scramble to find new meaning in life, the current legitimacy granted to the spiritual lends credibility to bizarre, weird, silly, misguided, and even downright dangerous notions. And established religions, apart from the fundamentalist, seem to have decreasing impact; their message is not being received. The late Medieval period in European history, when a similar breakdown and restructuring of civilization was taking place, saw the same phenomena. Today, although good will and openness are abundant, society continues to grope for a coherent, sane, and widely accepted understanding of things. In all this the central question is about the meaning of life. The issue is clearly spiritual or religious.
On the other hand, with the emergence of the human sciences in the past two centuries, the issue falls within another realm, too. The issue is also scientific. Two different approaches seem to vie for control—the scientific and the religious. Any appealing voice in the current chaos tries to combine the two. But how do religion and science relate? How do they combine to give one coherent and accurate presentation of things?
Those questions need to be answered, and no merely suggestive response will do. When for centuries the Judeo-Christian tradition informed Western civilization, everybody held the same basic values, everybody believed more or less the same about how things were and why. Then merely suggestive and inspirational answers could easily enough carry the day. Now the situation is changed. The world has become much smaller. Not one tradition, but many, propose different understandings and different sets of values. And unless a religious opinion can be bolstered with sound argument, one opinion is as good as another, and all are equally shallow.
The fact of the matter is that science, and no longer religion, sets the standard of acceptable explanation. In the face of quantum mechanics, faith in the certainty of science itself may be shaken. Atomic and environmental irresponsibility may have exposed science to ill repute. Clever preachers may use the current scientific crisis to further that "old time religion"—and, in the process, augment their following and their bankroll. Nonetheless, the valid fruits of science are well established, and the scientific mentality is widely diffused. What does not stand up to rigorous criticism and square with "the best available opinion of the day" is not given real credence and cannot long stand. Just "taking it on faith" is no longer acceptable. Granted, no religious position is thoroughly rationalizable and provable. But then, again, what is? Yet any position that seeks acceptance must at least be rigorous and reasonable (Helminiak, 1986d, Chapter Two). If religious and scientific issues are to form one coherent explanation, that explanation must be systematically formulated. That is, it must meet the criteria of scientific thinking.
Confusion of the Spiritual with the Divine
There is another complication in the matter of spirituality. In the West "religion" means theism, it entails belief in God. The same is not true for the bulk of humanity, but our Western tradition continues to color our thinking and our use of the term "religion." So spirituality, a "religious" matter, is not conceived apart from explicit commerce with God. Now, Judaism and Christianity clearly insist that the human is created and, so, cannot possibly be divine. But Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, and Hinduism suggest that part of being human is to be somehow divine. This latter idea, its origin and implications unbeknown to many fervent but unschooled spiritualists, becomes part of contemporary New Age Religion and colors supposedly Christian religions (Helminiak, 1986d, pp. 41-46, 97-123, 132-133). And the notion of spirit currently in vogue is sufficiently fuzzy to accept and bear such an idea. Then, if to be human is to have spirit, to be human is also somehow to be divine. The religious question, which in fact is primarily a human question, becomes inextricably entangled with the God question. And since the nature of God is surely beyond even the broadest empirical methodology, the possibility of an adequate scientific explanation of things human appears utterly doomed.
The human sciences dismiss the spiritual, because it is supposedly theological, and so they neglect what is essential to the human being. The religions denounce the sciences for being irreligious and so reject whatever science does not square with their "revealed" credos. This sad state of affairs is not unrelated to the clumsy separation of "church and state" that reigns in the United States of America and keeps all profound questions of meaning and value from affecting public life. Nor is this state of affairs unrelated to a narrowly empirical "scientism" that would make the human sciences "hard" like physics and chemistry by limiting consideration to what is publicly observable and numerically measurable. On all fronts, the deep things of human life get overlooked. This state of affairs is most unfortunate. Spirituality was wrongly deemed a theological, rather than a human, issue, and as such, it has been understandably neglected by science. For their part the religions have maintained a claim to special insight about the meaning of life and so have often ignored challenging information produced by the sciences.
The Explanation Proposed Here
Granted the complexity of the issues and the rigor an answer must preserve, is an objective account of spirituality even possible? Obviously, I believe it is possible, and this book even dares to say how. From where does such optimism come? From the work of Bernard Lonergan.
Lonergan dedicated most of his life to an analysis of human consciousness. What Lonergan (1957, p. 519; 1972, pp. 13, 302) calls human consciousness, he sometimes also calls "spirit." His major work, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding , presents that analysis. His subsequent major contribution, Method in Theology , applies that analysis and expands it in the case of theological scholarship and the human sciences. Lonergan's work appears to be a breakthrough.
As methodical physics emerged with the formulation of the Newtonian synthesis and modern chemistry began with the discovery of the periodic table of elements and explanatory biology had a beginning in the idea of evolution, so theology—and all the human sciences—may find a breakthrough and take-off in an understanding of human consciousness or spirit. For it is consciousness that distinguishes the human sciences from all the others. Human consciousness and its products, meanings and values, determine both the objects of human science and the workings of the human researchers. That is, consciousness pertains on both sides of the enterprise of human science, on the objective side and on the subjective. Understand consciousness and you achieve a pivotal point from which to approach all the human issues.
Working in the classical philosophical tradition of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, responding to the thorny epistemological questions raised by Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, and addressing the scientific issues at stake in Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, and Gödel, Lonergan claims to have understood human consciousness. Whether he is right or wrong—and I believe he is right—he presents a position that is unique, one that deserves a hearing. That position is the substance of the answer proposed in this book, the answer to the double question before us, "What is a human being?" and "What is spirituality?"
Human Science and Religion
Religion and spirituality are not the same thing, but they do get mixed together—for two reasons. The first is that religion is generally taken to involve God, and the second is that in some vague way the human spirit is taken to be divine. So spirituality gets identified with (theist) religion.
In that familiar approach, the human spirit is said to be a "spark of divinity" within us. Supposedly, humanity's innermost core is divine. So it becomes impossible to talk of spirituality without talking of God. Spirituality and theology become inseparable.
Sorting Out the Issues
The identity of human spirit and divinity is a basic Hindu belief. The two well known maxims of Hinduism make this very point: "That thou art" and "Atman is Brahman." That is, as a human being, you are the Ultimate Reality of the Universe; and your innermost self, Atman, is the Ultimate Reality, Brahman. Relying on this tradition, Ken Wilber, the well-known spokesperson for the transpersonal psychology movement, states the matter unabashedly: "The core insight of the psychologia perennis is that man's 'innermost' consciousness is identical to the absolute and ultimate reality of the universe, known variously as Brahman, Tao, Dharmakaya, Allah, the Godhead" (Wilber 1980, pp. 75-76). The Judeo-Christian tradition also notes a relationship between the self and God. According to Genesis 1:26-27, God created the man in God's own "image and likeness." The Western spiritual traditions make much of this key biblical teaching.
Nonetheless, the Judeo-Christian understanding differs significantly from the Hindu. Image and likeness of God is not the same as identity with God. Philosophical speculation about this matter clarified the point in terms of creation. The human is a creature, brought into existence by God; therefore, the human cannot be God, the Creator. For creature and Creator are defined in contrast to one another. Unless a human being has existed eternally—and to make this point one would have to ignore the obvious this-worldly facts of the matter—a human being simply is not divine, not even in his or her "innermost self," whatever this phrase means. Understood in these terms, the matter is not merely one of different religious traditions. The matter is one of reason and logic.
For that reason and with good logic, it is taken for granted here that the human spirit is not divine. So spirituality will be discussed apart from discussion of God. (See Figure 1.2.)
This is not to oust God from all consideration. It is merely to place the question of God in its appropriate place. If God is understood as Creator, what can discussion of God add to an understanding of human spirituality? Granted that God created us human beings and granted that God gave us the human nature we have and granted that part of being human is to have a human spirit, what more can appeal to the Creator-God of the Universe add to the discussion? To understand human spirituality, one would have to look to this created human reality and examine it in itself. Noting that God created it helps not one bit in understanding its nature. The nature was, indeed, given by God; but to understand the nature one must look to it, not to God. Just as an astronomer must look to the sky, and not to God, in order to understand the universe, though the sky and the universe are created by God, so we must attend to human spirit itself, and not to God, in order to understand spirituality. Once this state of affairs is clear, treatment of human spirituality must proceed apart from discussion of God.
The human is not the divine, so spirituality and theology are two different things. This distinction between the human and the divine is an important beginning point for sorting out the issues surrounding spirituality. Once this distinction is made, other issues start coming clear. This distinction suggests the need for further distinctions—now on two fronts, the divine and the human.
On the divine side of the matter, there is the further question about human deification or divinization. The question is this. Granted that the Creator-God of the Universe does exist and did create human beings with a spiritual nature, what is the possibility that humans could in some way become divine? Could the human image and likeness of God allow humans to become very God-like, indeed? Certainly, as created, human beings could never become God, uncreated. But could humans somehow share in at least some aspects of divinity? This question is important because it sets a common topic in spiritual circles.
The term for deification, coined by the Greek Fathers of the Christian Church, is theosis. So I call discussion about the possibility of human deification "theotics," the study of deification. This special term points out that discussion of human deification is not the same thing as simple discussion of God the Creator. Judaism and Islam, for example, believe in God, but they pursue no discussion about human participation in divinity. They present a theology without a theotics. Human deification is a question different from the God question. Theotics is another specialized discipline in comparison to theology.
What has already been said about Hinduism might suggest that it is a theotic religion. Hinduism may seem to propose an explanation of how humans can share in divinity. That explanation turns on the supposition that at their core human beings really are divine. Then, to achieve perfect deification, people need only free themselves from involvement with this material world. According to this understanding, the spiritual path is a pursuit of ever more subtle experiences of one's spiritual (and divine) nature. Such an understanding is also familiar in the West, where an other-worldly spirituality has reigned for centuries.
However, as also already indicated, there is a flaw in that line of thinking. It would explain human deification by denying the distinction between the human and the divine in the first place. If Atman is Brahman, if the human is really the divine, talk of deification is out of place. The notion of becoming somehow divine or of sharing in divinity makes no sense, for one already is divine from the start. So Hinduism does not really propose a theotics; rather, it sidesteps the question. By obscuring any precise distinction between humanity and divinity, Hinduism can avoid the question.
Classic orthodox Christianity is the only true theotics I know. So much is this the case that I used to speak of concern for deification simply as "the Christian viewpoint" rather than "the theotic viewpoint." But my personal knowledge is limited. I have done some investigation into the matter, but I could not have turned over every possible stone. It may well be that other religions, understood on their own terms, do indeed propose an account of how humanity, distinct from divinity, can nonetheless attain deification. The generic term "theotic" leaves room for that possibility. Still, in what follows my treatment of deification will always rely on the Christian (I do not mean Fundamentalist) account. It is the only coherent theotic account that I know.
To deal with human deification, Christianity adds significant complexities to theology. It speaks not just of God but of a Trinity. And it accounts for human deification by appealing to the action among humankind of different Members of the Trinity (Helminiak, 1986d, 1987d)…. The distinctive doctrines of Christianity—Trinity (God), Incarnation and Resurrection (Christ), and Indwelling of the Trinity through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Grace)—account for the possibility of human deification. More than a theology, Christianity represents a true theotics. Now, these doctrines of Christianity may be difficult to accept. They certainly move in a realm of sophisticated religious subtlety. All that aside, what should be noted here is that the intent of these doctrines is to explain the possibility of human deification. Whether or not one accepts the explanation, Christianity has proposed a complex and coherent theotics.
On the divine side of the matter, there is the necessary distinction between theology and theotics. This distinction makes clear that there are very different issues at stake in the doctrines of the different religions. These issues cannot all be lumped together as "religion." Especially if a scientific account is the goal, as it is here, these issues have to be sorted out.
On the human side of the matter, there is also need for sorting out further issues. There is need for the distinction between the authentically human and the neutral or noncommittally human.
Spirit is an intrinsic part of humanity, so all truly human activity is somehow spiritual (Helminiak, 1989a). Yet, people are good and bad; they can be correct or mistaken. These are important differences. What kind of person one is and what one believes, have a lot to say about how one's life will unfold. Evil and falsehood eventually self-destruct; this is their nature. Evil and falsehood preclude full human growth. So a person invested in wrong-doing and given over to deceit is not on a path of open-ended fulfillment. Even if the evil and falsehood are not deliberate, the eventual outcome is unfortunately the same. People may be sincere in their beliefs and ethics but still be mistaken. They may be doing "what people do" and acting "as is expected" and following "what was taught." But at the same time, they and their kind may also be wrong. If they are wrong, culpably or not, their spiritual growth will eventually come to a dead end. Yet all the time they will have been exercising their spiritual capacities, the distinctively human capacities to be aware, to understand, and to decide. All the while they will have been constructing and living in a world of meaning and value.
The religious traditions have always understood "spirituality" to deal with open-ended human unfolding. Spirituality has to do with the farther realms of human advance. Yet, if spirit is inherent in humanity, every human activity is in some way spiritual. So there is need for another distinction to sort out concern for what is really right and good from concern that takes no stand on the matter. There is need to sort out spirituality from other kinds of human (and so, spiritual) activity.
What is an example of concern for human, and even spiritual, things that takes no stand on issues of good or evil, truth or falsehood? The human sciences offer the most obvious example. They claim to be "value-free" (Myrdal, 1958; Richardson & Guignon, 1991; Weber, 1949). As science, they study human beings and human society; they determine accurately what people believe and how they live. In doing this, they are actually dealing with spiritual things, people's beliefs and values. But the human sciences tend to make no judgment about the validity of people's beliefs and values. In their attempt to be "scientific" and "objective," the sciences take a neutral stance.
I speak of that approach as "positivist" (Abbagnano, 1967). This term is common in philosophical circles but not well known otherwise. The term suggests limitation of concern to "actual experiences" and "real things"; it implies "empirical" and "practical" matters. The contrast would be the "speculative" or "theoretical." In other words, positivism is concerned about hard-nosed science dealing with down-to-earth things. Issues like truth and falsehood, good and evil, are supposedly too airy-fairy to fit in here. These more subtle human issues are thought not to be really real. Positivism describes a kind of science that avoids asking about these matters.
In contrast, I call the approach that would be concerned about truth and goodness "philosophic." Etymologically the term "philosopher" means "lover of wisdom," and this is the meaning intended here. The philosopher is the seeker of wisdom, committed to the true, the good, and the beautiful. So concern for things human in terms of whether they are true or false and good or evil is called "philosophic."
Another way of speaking about philosophic concern is to speak of authenticity. I use this term in the sense defined by Bernard Lonergan, and it will be explained in detail in Chapter 7. Though related, this is not the same sense as that among the existential philosophers (Heidegger, 1927/1962). There authenticity might mean things like speaking one's mind or acting on one's feelings, but whether doing so would be good or evil may hardly come into question. Authenticity in the existential sense has no explicit reference to objective truth and goodness. Similar qualifications apply to Charles Taylor's (1991) use of the term in The Ethics of Authenticity . However, Taylor very insightfully insists that the "culture of authenticity" actually embodies a positive "moral ideal," and highlighting this ideal moves one beyond ethical relativism and narrow individualism. Lonergan's usage is precise on this very matter. For Lonergan, authenticity implies on-going personal commitment to openness, questioning, honesty, and good will across the board. In this sense, commitment to authenticity is exactly what characterizes the philosophic viewpoint.
So, on the human side of the matter of attention to the spiritual, there are two basic approaches. One is concerned to understand accurately how things actually happen to be. The other is concerned, over and above that, to understand how things ought to be and to measure them against that ideal. That is, one approach is within the positivist viewpoint, and the other is within the philosophic viewpoint. The human sciences, as generally conceived today, work within the positivist viewpoint. Though they do treat of spiritual things, human beliefs and ethics, the human sciences are not doing spirituality. However, if the sciences were to shift to working within the philosophic viewpoint, they would then be actual instances of the scientific discipline, spirituality. For then they would be concerned about human beings in light of the open-ended implications of the human spirit. Then the human sciences would be studying people in light of authenticity.
These statements are made in summary fashion here. Their full implication will unfold as this book develops. Especially Chapter 7 will explain in detail what authenticity is and how it relates to spiritual growth.
Four Viewpoints on the Human
Sorting out the issues has resulted in four different approaches to studying the human. Study might focus on the human as sharing in divinity, the human as created, the human as authentic, or the human as it happens to be in this or that instance. Each of these approaches is actually quite different. Each depends on a different focus of concern, so each will rely on a different set of presuppositions, and each will attend to different aspects of the human data. That is, each approach will have its own appropriate methodology. Moreover, if each of these approaches is actually an attempt to explain some real aspect of the human data, to the extent that each does achieve explanation, each is a kind of human science. And interlocking with one another, together the four provide a comprehensive explanation of human reality.
Science concerned about the human as it happens to be in particular instances would be human science as generally conceived today—psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics. Science concerned about authentic humanity would be spirituality, an explanatory account of human unfolding along the lines of the spirit inherent in humankind. Science concerned about the human as created would be theology, focused wholly and solely on questions of God and God's relationship to the created universe. Finally, science concerned about human participation in divinity would be theotics, as exemplified in the specifically Christian treatises on Trinity, Christology, and Grace.
Said in more technical terms, human science can operate within four different viewpoints. Pursuit of systematic explanation that takes into account only the status quo is science within the positivist viewpoint . Pursuit of systematic explanation whose focus is authenticity is science within the philosophic viewpoint . Pursuit of systematic explanation whose focus is the Creator-God of the Universe is science within the theist viewpoint . And pursuit of systematic explanation whose focus is human deification is science within the theotic viewpoint . (See Figure 1.3.)…
This book is about spirituality. It is about human science within the philosophic viewpoint. It treats of the human with an eye to authenticity. It explores the possibilities of human becoming in light of the spiritual potential that is inherent in humanity. In examining this human spiritual potential and its unfolding, this book will actually be dealing with human spirituality as a lived reality. It will be explaining what it is that makes a person spiritual and how this spiritual component unfolds in a person's life. At the same time, insofar as this book will be a treatment of this lived reality, this book will also be an example of spirituality as a science, the explanatory account of the lived reality. The account will proceed with virtually no reference to God. The topic is the human core of spirituality, not spirituality in its many religious expressions or spirituality as explicit relationship with God. Still, nothing is being lost in so limiting this study, for this study is presented within a comprehensive account of how the human sciences, now including spirituality, and theology relate. What is presented here is fully open to expansion within the theist and, then again, the theotic viewpoints (Helminiak, 1987d). The overall framework is the system of four viewpoints on the human. With all the issues sorted out, this study will focus on the central one and present an elaborate scientific account of the human core of all spirituality….