Reflection on Healing and Curing

September 30, 2009 - 1:52 pm 27 Comments
What Defines Spiritual or Religious Maturity?
As an interfaith minister, spiritual director and transpersonal counselor, over the years, people have come to me with a wide variety of probing and earnest questions. Among those that are the most commonly asked, are the questions about “Am I on the right path? How do I know that I am making any progress?Depending on the person, the path, and the practice, my answer can vary…
But here are some general guidelines, from trusted sources, that most people asking these kinds of questions find to be most helpful:
One of the better ways to assess our growth or depth comes to us from the renown psychologist, Gordon Alport. He developed what could be called a spiritual maturity scale by which we can begin to assess or measure where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be going next… Here is my summary of his conclusions, and I will ask you to compare them with your own insights and understandings. A religiously mature person is someone who has:
1) A well differentiated sense of yourself; You are willing to explore, and you readily acknowledge that being genuinely religious or authentically spiritual in today’s culture is a complex challenge- one that comes at you from all sides, and tests how well you can keep centered, resilient, free… A more mature assessment of yourself begins by admitting that your current state of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are ongoing, fluid, and in need for further refinement.
2) One’s religious outlook and one’s spiritual awareness is dynamic, and never static. It realizes fully and for the most part, gratefully, that our comprehension of faith (what we trust or have confidence in- what gives us courage and/or solace) comes from a combination of sources. It comes to us from our parents and formative religious experiences, from our personal desires and needs, and it also can come from our adult aspirations and opportunities.
3) A mature understanding or religious expression is one that functions as a moral compass that directs your behavior. The experiences gained for the choices and from the consequences of your choices act as a reliable ongoing reference point for your life.
4) A more mature religious expression or spiritual affirmation has an interpersonal and social component that makes it accountable and makes it complete. Self concern, while important, cannot be one’s only focus. To be mature and more aware involves us directly in social justice issues, human rights, and ways that affirm the worth and dignity of each person.
5) A mature spiritual outlook or a deeper religious understanding is effective; to promotes problem solving on both the personal and interpersonal levels. While the personal quest is important, often it is when we are working in relationship, being involved in community, is when we can discover answers that the individual search alone may not perceive. Being together serves or blesses us.

The relationship between religion and health is an ancient one, going far back in human history to shamanism, medicine wheels, and incantations. More recently, Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science has had many adherents.

In a conversation on a theology of healing at a U-U minister’s gathering, pointed me in an intriguing direction- the distinction between the two words, often mistakenly used as synonyms, curing and healing. Curing has to be with the elimination of disease. It is primarily the province of medicine and surgery. Healing has to do with a more inclusive view of the human being, its relationship with the whole of life, not merely the health ( or the lack of health) of an individual. The achievement of a whole (holy) relationship with all of life, healing, is truly the province of religion.

Between these two, lies another realm- an interface between psyche and soma. Perhaps an interpenetration is a better word. Here are located the functional or psychosomatic ailments in which the body is made ill by the state of mind or emotions. It is also the realm of curative powers of the mind ( a la Norman Cousins Anatomy of an illness or The Biology of Hope) play a role in restoring the body’s health. One recalls William James, and his “religion of healthy mindedness.”

So four possible outcomes may arise from our efforts at healing and curing. We may be cured and healed, neither cured nor healed, cured but not healed, or healed but not cured.

Writing a last letter to be read at her memorial service, to “neighbors and fellow creatures” one woman beset by an incurable cancer wrote:

“I am writing from enormous pain and sickness and fever and fatigue. It does come to us sometimes to feel a change, a rearrangement in the heart’s geography where we find that our longings face not the mornings but the evenings, when our thirst for sleep, rest, peace, and not for the golden beginning of the day. This at least is what I have now, and at this gathering together the bad times are over for me, and there is no more pain, and there are no more tears.”

She was obviously healed but not cured. It reminds me of my own aspirations: ” to die at 95 in perfect health” not cured, but healed.

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