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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spirituality: "The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism" by William Johnston

That detachment - which at first sight seems a cold and inhuman virtue - is in fact of primary importance for normal human development, is an ordinary finding of modern psychology. Erich Fromm tells us that detachment is something so vitally linked to human growth that it must begin at the moment of birth and proceed over one's whole life - which, when all goes well, is nothing more than growth through a series of crises. "The aim of life," he writes, "is to be fully born"; and he goes on to say that some people "cannot cut the umbilical cord completely, as it were; they remain symbiotically attached to mother, father, family, race, state, status, money, gods, etc.; they never emerge fully as themselves and thus they never become fully born. Here from a psychologist is a program of detachment as ruthless as that of John of the Cross; showing that the human perfection aimed at by the psychologist is not alien to the Christian perfection of the saints. Indeed, John of the Cross uses words reminiscent of those I have quoted from Fromm, for he complains that some people, retarded in their spiritual life "still think of God as little children and speak of God as little children, and feel and experience God as little children." In other words, he wants people to get rid of children's ideas of God and to grow up.


  1. Interesting indeed. In some respects I question his reference to little children because there is a dichotomy or paradox here. Many adults do cling to a childish vision of God and yet Jesus told us to come to God as little children. We need to be careful to differentiate between childish faith and child-like faith where we retain the absolute awe and surprise of the faith of a child. Am I getting this right?

    1. You certainly are getting it right. The idea is to mature and to let illusions in life die. We need to keep wonder alive to bring us through those really difficult times in life.