Having read your articles on the Developmental Soul (and related), I have struggled to understand how this flows with Richard Rohr’s (and many others) alternative orthodoxy. At the age of 13 I was placed under the teaching that told me that I was fundamentally separate to God. I believed this fully and it has taken me years to recover from the impact it had on my life. Having come to the realization that the truth is I was and have always been in fundamental union with God but had “forgotten” and thereby stepped into the deep illusion of separation (unconscious union) thereby experiencing the fruits of this (sin, a life lived as if I was separate) I have grown enormously.
It may very well be that my level of consciousness has meant that I have misinterpreted what you’re saying. However, it seems that what you’re saying is highly exclusionary. There is an enormous amount of people in this world who haven’t had the opportunities, abilities or circumstances that people like yourself have had in order to “develop a soul”. It seems that you are saying that, rather than be given further opportunity beyond this life to develop a soul, those people dissolve back into the universe (something much along the lines of annihilation). Is this what you’re saying? If so, it seems no different to what I got brought up with, that our destiny is mostly up to us. I find the idea of universalism far more biblical and coherent with alternative orthodoxy. That essentially, and as Richard Rohr has said, “it is not a matter of if but when”. One way or the other, either via the hard road of consistent refusal to wake up to our fundamental union with God and everything and experience the pain and suffering that results from that or by choosing to live more and more in conscious union and experience the transformed pain and joy, we will arrive back home. Why is this life the cut off? Again, I may simply be misinterpreting what you’re saying.
This is an excellent, hard-hitting question that penetrates right to the heart of the dilemma. Thank you for asking it.
Without, for the moment, trying to argue which side is correct or incorrect, I’d simply point out that right down through history this tension between “grace” and “works” has always existed—indicating that the apparent stand-off can only be solved by embracing both sides of the paradox and allowing something new to emerge.
There HAS been a certain, consistent, “hard-edged” teaching—and you see traces of it even in Jesus, certainly so in the Gospel of Thomas version of these teachings, but in canonical parables such as the Talents and the Bridesmaids as well—that claims there is indeed something we have to DO here, something we have to alchemize and stabilize within ourselves, upon which not only our individual fate but the cosmic good depends. To fail to do it here is a serious omission, not simply in terms of our personal destiny, but in terms of our accountability to the divine ecosystem.
There are many ways to soften this hard edge. Reincarnation is one of them—we get many lifetimes to make the grade. Grace is another (the Rohr option) —nothing can fall out of God, nothing can be separated, we all get there eventually. A third, more Zen route, is simply to renounce all these metaphysical speculations in the first place and learn to live awake and aware in the moment.
For me, the qualifiers that I’d offer to the objections you’re raising here are a) it’s not a matter of “privilege,” advantages in education, theological preparation, etc. In fact, as Jesus frequently observed, this all-important quality of BEING is more likely to emerge among the poor than among the entitled, for privilege tends to build complacency, and it is beyond our comfort zones that we must be transformed. And, b) “dissolving,” as it were, into a “lower”cosmic life form—the earth, a worm, speck of dust—does not mean that one is “cast out into utter darkness.” Each and every speck of the cosmos is alive and suffused in the beingness of God. Nothing can fall out. Everything belongs. “So then whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s,” in the words of St. Paul. It is only our anthropocentric habit of identifying consciousness with SELF-REFLECTIVE consciousness—i.e., human consciousness operating at mid-spectrum—that makes us fail to spot the circular logic here. And we know that at the upper end of the spectrum—FULL ENLIGHTENMENT or nondual attainment— consciousness dissolves as well. Top and bottom, it’s simple, bare Oneness. So then nothing is lost, nothing remains separated.
But in our willingness to fully engage the developmental invitation so prominently dangled before us in THIS sphere– i.e., to transform our souls from something hard and nucleated to something wavelike and flowing, we HELP. We express gratitude. We announce our solidarity with the whole evolving cosmos and with the secret yearnings of the divine heart. Like those laborers in the vineyard, we enter not to be paid or collect our presumed reward, but to participate in the dance of the divine aliveness. To say yes to what was entrusted to us, like a talent, and to give it back, “pressed down, overflowing.” In the final analysis, it’s not about paybacks and punishments. It’s about joy.