Sunday, 3 August 2014

Coping Is Not Living

          Over these recent weeks it has become increasingly clear to me that we are ill-served by spiritual teachers and writings that can appeal to the non-religious reader. People beset by problems of a psycho-spiritual nature are often, and all too readily perhaps, placed in the hands of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors who adopt an approach to healing that is nothing more than the integration of dysfunctional personalities into a society which is itself dysfunctional. This can never be a healing procedure but one in which further suffering is imposed by the 'washing of hands' rather than 'the laying on of hands'. The genuinely 'spiritual' approach to healing is almost overwhelmingly in the hands of the Church whose leaders all too often may be classified as the blind leading the blind. Thankfully, there are exceptions.
          But it seems to me that if we would undertake the task of panning for the gold nuggets that can be found amongst the dross of religious teaching, the rewards could be very worthwhile. If that endeavour is to attract those who search unavailingly, or who are unaware of the psycho-spiritual benefits that are available, then, to change the metaphor, the banquet must be prepared and served in a more mouth-watering, appetising manner than that which is all too often adopted. The dishes need to be adapted to modern tastes. We in these modern times are educationally ill-equipped to understand religious mythology. We need some plain speaking.
          And this banquet is not simply for a few who just happen to have an interest in matters psycho-spiritual, an activity which may be gently condemned by 'normal people' (God preserve us from normality!) as a waste of time indulged in by cranks, eccentrics and others of highly dubious mental capacity. It actually goes right to the heart of the activities of a dysfunctional world living under the false glow of excessive materialism on the one hand, and the equally false, fundamentalist religiosity on the other. The banquet must be laid for everybody; yes, even for those who are unaware that there is nourishment to be had at the high table.
          Humanity is never going to experience genuine growth and psycho-spiritual maturity until we as a species are forced to face a worldwide crisis with which we are unable to cope. So long as we can merely cope, that is continually to adjust our management of an ever-increasingly dysfunctional life, we will never experience what it is to truly live. So long as we settle for coping strategies, there will never be any impetus to change. It starts with the individual, not them 'out there'; it starts with me.....'in here'.


  1. your last paragraph echoes what i've been hearing from several quarters - the lack of clarity, lack of higher purpose that afflicts our society. we have become nothing more than consumers, and it has become an all encompassing obsession and focus for us all - to consume, to think of consuming, to plan to consume and to produce the mountains of waste from our consumption.

    i may not be hungry for any sort of spiritual fulfillment, but i do think that we do need something more than what we have embraced right now as a species. and i fear that you are right - a crisis might be the very thing. frankly, it terrifies me when i think about it.

  2. Excellent essay. Although I have found coping strategies quite helpful --not just from psychologists but from co-workers, friends-- getting through daily puzzles, I wholeheartedly agree that real social improvement and reverence for life comes concerted individual adjustments.

  3. What vision Tom. I am so glad to see you here. Sorry i came late to your last post. Might drop you a line on that and the one that disappeared... I have a copy of it.
    So, you too would imagine a banquet of spiritual truth that can be laid out for a world so burdened with mental and physical need and pain. One that is universally available and understandable.
    Knowing in my soul that it could exist is not enough and is hard to bear.
    Seeing that your crisis already is upon us but goes unrecognised among all the material conflicts is even harder to bear at times.
    So much love surrounds us, in the midst of diseases, and rockets and greed and ignorance.

    In a gentle way, you can shake the world

  4. After centuries of conditioning telling us that we are merely cogs in a wheel, lacking any inner purpose or inner value it's difficult, if not impossible, to change that view. The search for deeper truth has always been by individuals and likely always will be. Although I'd love to see it I understand we'd need an unimaginable global epiphany to shift course. Meanwhile, we talk to one another and we cope.

  5. Hi Tom,
    No one can give a definition of the soul. But we know what it feels like. The soul is the sense of something higher than ourselves, something that stirs in us thoughts, hopes, and aspirations which go out to the world of goodness, truth and beauty. The soul is a burning desire to breathe in this world of light and never to lose it--to remain children of light.
    ― Albert Schweitzer

  6. Thank you all for your interesting comments. I have decided that rather than try to respond to each individually, and perhaps run out of space, I would base my next post on your comments - going a little more deeply into matters maybe.

  7. Bright thoughts for dark times, Tom.
    It's hard not to let cynicism and despair overtake us when faced with the human capacity for evil in all its forms and its ongoing power to hurt everything that's good, innocent, wise and true in the human heart. As you say, all we can do is to strengthen and exercise those qualities in ourselves.