June 21, 2010
Pilgrimage of a Soul, Part Three
Third in our series of discussions with Phileena Heuertz, author of the new Likewise book Pilgrimage of a Soul.
(SD) Can you give a quick glimpse into the seven movements you describe in Pilgrimage of a Soul? How do they intersect, and how do we recognize them as we're moving through them?
(PH) Awakening, longing, darkness, death, transformation, intimacy and union are seven movements that I've experienced in my personal spiritual journey. I believe these movements of the soul are universal to those who are attentive to them, and they support ongoing Christian conversion and growth. These movements can certainly be found in the Scriptures, but when they are personally acknowledged and experienced, we are on our way toward living the abundant life of which Jesus so often spoke. Though we can know about these movements, the better is to experience them. Experiential knowledge is the greatest knowledge. We can argue and debate head knowledge. But who can dismiss what one experiences? Pilgrimage of a Soul attempts to help us connect our head to our heart that we might be more aware of and experience more of the living God.
These seven movements or signposts in the journey are not really linear but more circular in nature. We could be in and out of one movement in almost any order. The spiritual journey is not so much about progressing from one point to another as it is about surrendering to ongoing transformation and union with God. These seven movements support us in that objective; and though these experiences are quite internal and symbolic, they have very concrete, external expressions in our daily life--this is the place where contemplation meets action.
To try and summarize these, "awakening" is the point in our journey when we see more clearly particular illusions in our life--more specifically, parts of our false self that we had previously been asleep to. "Longing" symbolizes the discontentment in us that desires more--more connection to God, self, others and the world in which we live.
Ancient Christian mysticism has always affirmed the gift of "darkness," which essentially clouds our senses of the consoling presence of God that we might be purified and grow in the spiritual faculties that relate to God on a deeper level. "Death" is the experience of final surrender to the illusion(s) we've awakened to. Though the illusory false self is just that--an illusion--our identity clings to it all the same. To let go of it is frightening because it's all we've known and we are less acquainted (if acquainted at all) with the true self. So there is no comfort in what is coming--it is too unknown to us. Death (in the spiritual journey and the final material death when our body dies) is the ultimate act of faith because it is a final gesture of trust and love in the One who is greater than us and knows us better than we know ourselves. By surrendering to the death of our illusions, we trust that new life--resurrection--will come, though we have no concrete guarantee of it.
"Transformation," then, is that long-hoped-for new life. Transformation is the period of living into greater truth--into greater awareness of the true self. "Intimacy" is the experience of growing deeper in love with God, self, others and the world. Anxieties, turmoil, defense mechanisms, pretensions and pathologies that previously plagued us have been settled--healed--and we are freer to know (God, self, others, the world) and be known (by God, self, others, the world).
"Union" is the experience of the fragmented parts of ourselves (identity, confused perceptions of God, broken relationships, misaligned vocation) coming together. In union we experience these previously broken places now restored, redeemed, made whole. We experience greater centeredness in the love of God--which permeates all of our life actions.