Sunday, November 7, 2010

Faith Illustration: Healthy Dialogue Anchored in Knowledge of Self and the Divine

Yesterday's blog entry dealt with the notion that stability within one's self requires some form of interiority. Today's entry expands on this idea by proposing that healthy and fulfilling dialogue (and, by extension, relationships) must be "anchored" in knowledge of self and the divine (I use the word "divine" to include persons of all faiths). Before dealing with the illustration, I need to explain two key concepts: dialectic and projection.

In today's complex and diverse world, there is much mention of the need for dialogue. Dialogue is basically a conversation about some topic or topics that requires openness and receptivity on the part of the "dialogue partners". As much as this is no doubt needed, by beginning with dialogue, we may be "putting the cart before the horse." Prior to any fruitful dialogue taking place, a person must know to some degree, where they've been, where they "are", who they are, and who they hope to become/where they hope to be going. The art of being aware of these things and being able to articulate them has to do with dialectics or dialectical method. The aim of dialectics/dialectical method, in general, is to enter into dialogue with another person with the hope of being able to come to an appreciation of both perspectives and to establish common ground.

Obviously, to be able to be a good "dialectician" (no, this is not someone who teaches you how to eat healthily, that would be a "dietician" :) or dialogue partner, one must know one's self and where one "stands" in relation to some of the more important questions that comprise the mystery of life. Furthermore, when a person enters into dialogue or relationship with another, they "project" or "put their ideas or themselves out there" in various ways, whether consciously or unconsciously. The trick to healthy dialogue or relationship is to become aware of our consciously/unconsciously held ideas, presuppositions, biases, etc... and to "project" them or ourselves in as conscious and deliberate a manner as possible.

The above model suggests that there are two fundamental ways that a person "projects" themselves: in a non-dialectical, largely unconscious way and a dialectical, conscious way. The three "layers" of each circle corresponds to three strata of the mind and heart theorized by Carl Jung (a famous psychologist who was an associate of Freud). Without going into too much detail about Jung nor each layer, suffice it to say that the dark layer represents the totality of gifts, talents, hopes, fears, biases, convictions, etc...that a person "carries" within them. The blue layer pertains to the capacity to give and receive love, to be creative and productive, and to bring forth/nurture life (whether literally or figuratively). The innermost, yellow circle, pertains to one's capacity to mirror or reflect the "divine" spark within: to give, to serve, to love in an unconditional way, and to receive/give "fullness" of life.

When a person has little awareness of the above areas, they "project" themselves in a largely unconscious way (see circle above). This means that they may see in others (good, bad, ugly, glorious) what actually or potentially exists within themselves. They may also seek out in another (for example, the "divine spark") what they should be looking for, and can only realize, within themselves and in healthy relationship with others. Notice how all the layers in the above illustration are mixed, confused, and unintegrated. In contrast to the upper diagram, the below one represents a person who has clarity, depth and breadth of self awareness and awareness of the divine. Each layer is separated and integrated. At the core of their person and awareness of the divine, they are anchored, solid, and steady (notice the "anchor symbol" which is also a symbol of the Cross) The lines going out from the core and going through each layer represents communication that is deliberate, direct, clear and suffused with self-awareness.

This "faith illustration" represents a goal and a process. I'm not sure if any of us ever "arrive" at complete clarity with regard to all that makes up the mystery of our lives (bottom circle). However, to enter into healthy dialogue and to nurture healthy, fulfilling relationships, to some degree we must be anchored in the knowledge of ourselves and the divine and continue striving to realize these more fully within ourselves and in our relationships. Pat, TOR