A Pneumatic and Personal Perspective on Time and the Future
Let’s first ask some background questions: Why is knowing, or at least being more aware of the future, so compelling? What makes this kind of inquiry either a curious preoccupation or a vital psychological need? Our Millennial shifts or changes in our awareness can happen any moment. Now is the only time we shall ever truly have. So any over anxiety or sense of dread about what the future could bring is outside of our control, and maybe even outside a good portion of our concern.
We constantly reap from the past, as we live, learn, change, and grow in the present. As a continuum, it is by our present thoughts and daily actions, that we sow the potentials and possibilities for the future. Theologically, when reflecting on how we humans approach the future, we can center our focus on the connections between faith and time. The theologian Paul Tillich summarized that theology can be seen as the structure and content of one’s beliefs about life, and that theology flows from or follows closely aligned to or attuned to one’s life experiences.
Whether we enjoy the future and what it might bring or just accept the future and what it might hold for us, we can all agree that whether we like it or not, there are very few things we can know for certain. It might be that there is one overarching fact: Things will change. The crucial concern is this; How we respond in faith to those changes will likely determine our attitudes towards change and risk in our lives, and what the future has in store….
Since a pneumatic ( or spirit filled) world view is a vitally alive, ever changing, and potentially transformative one, what would be the importance of having a faith that is grounded in archetypal imagination? How would having a faith that accepts and entertains both the sacred and the profane possibilities that lay beyond either pious orthodoxy or the strictly rational become essential to us?
Remember, when examining the motivations for having or retaining a sense of faith in the future, Spirit leads and directs our desire for having faith away from its safe or serene perch above any troublesome doubts. Spirit asks us to fly bravely into the encounter with our emotional need for certainty and control. How one handles uncertainty and doubt in their lives will often correlate to the extent that they understand their connection to spirit, and that they have a true companion for life’s journey. From that relational recognition, they are able to cherish their doubts and still affirm the ultimate value of their lives without having all the answers in place. As the poet Rilke so cogently speaks of it, to have an active, pneumatic faith requires that you have all the courage and the willingness necessary to “live in the questions.”
However, valid or true, there is another side to faith that is worthy of our consideration. Psychologically and theologically speaking, the opposite of having faith in the unfolding processes of life, relationships, etc., is believing that you personally have to be in control of what happens to you. The quality of having faith is closely allied with how much trust, courage, or the willingness to risk we possess. The all too prevalent attitude of needing to always be in control displays clearly our lack of faith. In turn, this outlook has become one of the central rationalizations we use for our many insecurities our acquisitiveness, and our possessiveness. It is one of the principal reasons why we humans seek to have power over others. In contrast, a genuine and compassionate faith contains a freedom and a dignity that fosters an equality of relationship; a heart centered trust and promotes a refined relational equipoise that can be healing and joyous.
Faith is too restless to be lived out fully without acquiring the anchoring sense of an inner authenticity that gives us a source for our abiding sense of confidence. Faith frames our fullest and most complete understanding of our own motives and guides our decisions. Faith can be reliably demonstrated by how sincerely we choose to believe in something or someone. (The verb to believe comes from the Greek- to be wholeheartedly committed to- that is, without reservations!) From that radical trust, we can learn how best to shape and to live out our ethical actions honestly. From such a faith, we can accept our consequences graciously, and we can continue to trust in the good that can be found through our willingness to engage in that vulnerable and shared process.
As a contrasting consideration, we humans will consider our ability to think critically and employ rational judgment as our highest human faculty. While reason is assuredly God’s gift and/or the highest evidence of the evolution of intelligence, it has been, since the time of Aquinas’s teachings, also regarded as being an incomplete approach to intelligence. 1
We need a sense of faith, trust, and courage to complement and complete our reasoning. Additionally, we have come to know that reason alone is an inadequate or incomplete guide for all of our human decision-making. There are many instances where being supremely rational lends itself to becoming robotically attached to rules, and by such allegiance, we become unable to move beyond our egos and our protective concerns for pesonal security and safety. Furthermore, this intellectual rigor mortis keeps us from moving beyond our unwillingness to act altruistically, offering genuine heartfelt compassion towards others. This rigid and heartless reasoning can easily degenerate into an awful array of convenient rationalizations that will attempt to explain and excuse some of the most heinous and depersonalizing behaviors. 2
Each of us also understands that there are also valid and trustworthy emotional, aesthetic, experiential, and visceral ways we can know something as being good, real, true, etc. These less rational but no less important approaches, while admittedly being more unruly and wild within us, yield a vital Eros and positive sense of being more fully alive. These transformative ways befriend The Spirit and can accompany her in ways that can give us positively directed passion for creativity that offers us important and insightful ways to gain the necessary and transformative amounts of life’s wisdom.
A pneumatic faith has many dimensions to it- not the least of which is finding both the enduring strength and the lasting sense of vision that keeps one’s sense of purpose alive. Spirit then asks us to discern carefully and wholeheartedly. When a sense of confidence is reached, we are to trust it viscerally and intuitively. This walk around our hearts guides us, and acts as the signposts of the necessary risks and the courageous steps that move each of us towards authenticity.
From such a first century and truly timeless faith, Spirit asks us to have courage to choose the unselfish path that leads beyond the ego desires and satisfactions and towards the higher Self, that releases the elevated qualities of Soul. The core of our lives consists of this essential lesson: we are to learn how to incarnate Spirit, learning best to embody the values and virtues of the Spirit- led life. Lastly, we are to live in an applied accord or clear alignment with the God/Spirit of your experience and your knowing.
As I currently comprehend its process, a more complete understanding of a pneumatic faith occurs when there is a direct correspondence between your life experience and an inner truth. This quality of faith appears when there is a distinct connection between professing certain values, and then being able to align those values to one’s actions in life. This inner correspondence, is were one finds a generative sense of peace and hope. This is one of our reliable sources for a sustaining sense of individuation or wholeness.
Often, one’s inner truth corresponds to an archetypal, universal virtue, value, or vision, but not always…. Sometimes we have to wait, and let whatever wisdom there is to be found unfold itself as we find ourselves being broken down, mixed up, and stirred around in the crucible of our hearts. The rebalancing or restorative calm we need comes only with time, with prayer, and with a trust that eventually holds and then reveals any answers we seek.
When I become personally perplexed by life’s questions or when my ability to understand reactions or foresee the outcome becomes blinded by my stubborn thinking, I find that my most reliable source for my solace, and eventually for my best answers, lie outside of the scientific, the mundane, or the logical. It is my lifelong working and unfinished conclusion that it is in the Mythical and the metaphorical, in the imaginative and in the romantic, that we find our expression for what our heart knows or needs. From the ideals I cherish, and the possibilities I accept, more of the truth of my life experiences can be known, resolved, understood. Over my life, this has been proved to be more true that when I would appeal to any logical conclusions based in a detached, aloof, and more methodical approach.
As I see it, no amount of common sense, no measure of practicality, efficiency, balanced ledgers, or mathematical proofs will ever yield a complete answer for any of us. The human need for certainty and to find something or someone trustworthy goes beyond appraising external facts. No such secular or soulless approach will suffice! There will always be a need for the spiritual dimension as the crucial and indispensable part of us. The Holy Spirit requires our faith, our trust, and our hope. Then the qualities of Spirit are released to assist us synergistically in finding what is genuinely right and true.
The times of our lives can be perplexing and confounding for us. Sometimes it seems as if luck or chance operates easily and that chaos appears inevitable. We protest the loss of our outer sense of control as the social and materialistic creatures we have become. We moderns will make a vigorous appeal to science or banking, medicine or mathematics, for some important foundational answers. Yet, even the best knowledge found in those disciplines does not offer us the kind of concrete assurances we would like them to have for our lives. When we are honest with ourselves, and with the possibilities each of us has for our future, we have to bravely admit that there are too many uncertainties, too twists, turns, too many unintended consequences, etc., that can shape our life experiences in frustrating and disheartening ways. We find that no hard boiled approach to life’s answers can satisfy the yearnings of soul or give the inquiring heart its assurances. Facts are no substitute for truth!
While we all occasionally can say life has surprised us, or that we were not ready to change, that outlook brings to mind this wry and telling advice from the Hassidic masters who affirm that we live faithfully in two time zones: in world time, and in God’s time. They long have observed that “only in those who are blind or fearful, does the need for change ever seem abrupt.” We have to admit that change and risk might be the only constants we humans can reliably experience on a daily basis! Potentially, each day will have a component in it that will ask us to deal with risk and then to trust in what we cannot know for sure. Begrudgingly, we know that happenstance and coincidences occur, that accidental events and baffling situations can be seen to work their mischievous synergistic magic to confirm to us that we have limited control over many of the outcomes of our lives. Science and our desire for certainty often blanch or balk at this, and yet reluctantly many of us have to accept that it is true.
Personal stories follow…