Lenten Observance, Day 37, 2013

Though I finished up with Dark Night of the Soul yesterday, I thought I’d continue for a few days more to get my 40 days for Lent. Of course, those 40 days don’t include Sundays in Lent, but my postings did go up daily, including Sunday.
First of all, how did I think the reading of Dark Night go? Well, that’s tough. I found certain passages almost unintelligible. And others I think I got, but as St. John is a mystical writer, perhaps I did not. There is the whole problem of overconfidence and pride — thinking my way is God’s way. And I’d have to say that certain premises of St. John I’m not willing to accept. For instance, there is a lot in Christian saints on mortification of the flesh, and a suspicion of the body which is separated out from the soul. So much of this goes back to the binary opposition of Manichaeism, which St. Augustine followed before becoming a Christian. And so his Christianity has a Manichaean tinge. But that denial of the senses and the joy one gets from sensual pleasures seems to me false. And the idea that there is a greater reality in the soul (whatever that is) than in the body puzzles me. Surely if there is something called the soul, it is incarnated. It is tied up with our bodies and our senses. That is not to say that senses can be wrong — as I get older, my hearing, sight certainly get vaguer. So the input is a bit muddled. Does that mean my thinking is also muddled? In as much as thinking is tied up with the physicality of the brain and circulation within the brain, yes it must be muddled somewhat. On the other hand, I’m more experienced and so can take input that is muddled and make some corrections. And I don’t believe that we are nothing more than our physical stimula — there is the construct of the ego and superego, which may be mental constructions, just as dreams are, but that does not mean they lack reality, even if we cannot touch them in the same way as we can touch ears, nose, eyes. And the idea of mortification of the flesh I find troubling. We see this in our physically focused world — women and men both wonder what if they were thinner, and take that fixation to unhealthy levels. St. John does address that somewhat, as he notes early in the Dark Night that some people get fixated on these techniques and so mistake that for the real thing.

I was reading something about Mother Teresa the other day, a suggestion that some of the miracles that have been attributed to her, and pave the way for sainthood, may have been manufactured. And I read that her treatment of the poor was based on an assumption that suffering was good for the soul. It’s true that she chose to live among the poor, but if she advocated prayer, or even conversion of these poor souls, over making sure they got proper nutrition or medical help, that’s troubling. I do not know that such is the case, but such is what does come from valuing the soul over the body, and looking beyond to some truth, rather than looking around one in the world.

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