Weary Trickle of Love
“A human’s best chance at finding God is to look in the very place they abandoned God…God is waiting there” — Richard Rohr, OSF
Our group’s focus is finding its center at a discernibly shared crux undergirding our chosen texts — Primal Wound, by John Firman & Ann Gila, and The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and The Theology of Life, by Jurgen Moltmann — that is, to explore how dynamic engagement with trauma is the necessary mechanism that shifts us toward profound and comprehensive healing and wholeness (at-one-ment) that is resurrected life.
Firman and Gila label earliest inflicted trauma as the stage-setting primal wound for the lifespan sequelae of cognitive distortion, dissociation, affective and somatic dysregulation, and addiction. Moltmann, quoting Augustine, describes this malady, as a twisted, “miscarried” love that results in doing acts of atrocity to oneself and others. Founder and Director of The Center for Action and Contemplation, Richard Rohr, OSF, puts it this way: “our pain we do not transform, we will transmit!” Each author is describing symptoms of a spiritual malady; a severing of the soul from the Spirit.
This topic is of special import for those hoping to work in helping or pastoral professions. It is axiomatic that we can only give what we have, so it follows as the threat and the promise that we do give what we have. This spiritual malady claims universal and perennial import in all its descriptions; and, fortunately, looking through the lens of theology and/or transpersonal psychology, a well-worn, heavily-trod pathway from trauma toward healing is revealed. There is a patterned structure and format that, with all its cultural and traditional variances over time and space, follows the same essence of interior investigation that has been suggested in all wisdom traditions, as well as practiced by modern-day recovery group members, as the path to recovery; a thoroughfare for congruent living in the here and now. As reflected in the Kenotic Hymn, Jesus’ self-emptying can be seen to impart an embodied mechanism that reveals to humankind the Way through fracture, to soul retrieval, and on resurrected life (Philippians 2.7).
Moltmann suggests Western Christianity, especially in its the forms of mysticism, has fed an ideological primacy placed on individual preoccupation ahead of the greater good of the commonweal (79). Moltmann’s concern that “mystical hope for the redemption of the inner world of the soul keeps its eyes shut; blind” (40). This, however, is not the fruits of wholeness of which we speak, but rather an example of what Firman and Gila refer to as being possessed by the “higher unconscious” as one outcome of original trauma (127–132).
The primal wound splits the unconscious — tearing Soul from True Self — leaving the individual to operate out of either their higher or their lower unconscious, both of which prove dangerous to self and others. This split is “transpersonal” as it “separates us from our deepest spiritual potentials…from Ultimate Reality,” giving us “broken lenses through which we perceive life” as fractured in discrete parts (107). This split leaves the personality vulnerable as it represses both positive and negative material in the unconscious to the same degree so to guard against “knowing” the extremity of the primal wound (118). When operating out of higher unconscious, the effect is the ineffectual and artificial “spiritualism” of which Moltmann speaks in his critique.
Possession by the higher unconscious is as much a danger as possession by the lower unconscious which typically sets bitterness and resentment as its compass. Possession by lower unconsciousness can fuel maladies such as depression, addiction, and suicide. Possession by higher unconscious fuels maladies such as anxiety and perfectionism and can manifest in a pathological need to fix and help others for one’s own anxiety reduction.
Engaging the original trauma is what brings these split sectors of the personality back into relationship with one another. Becoming present to oneself is becoming present to the Presence that was always there, is always there, and will always be there. Any in-depth self-examination is not to be taken in isolation but instead safeguarded by another(s) able to stand in the “tragic gap” who know to invite [Holy] Spirit to anchor, protect, and guide the journey through this darkness and mystery toward resurrection. It is instructive to compare this journey with the kind of death that a pupating caterpillar undergoes as it turns to ‘goo’ inside its chrysalis…
The essence and matter is still us, but we die to the form and shape of our bondaged selves in order that our pain is transformed rather than transmitted. We are being invited to pupate!
A surprise waiting is when we see what we thought was a pit (death/hell) was actually a tunnel through which to access our ultimate wholeness. Immanent and emanating, the Holy Spirit supports, draws, and impels us deep into our interior, into the heart of communion with God, in Christ, whereby our lens is no longer split. This interior unity can then become what we transmit. The place from which we operate — lower and higher unconscious integrated into our consciousness — becomes safe for ourselves and others, buffered by the wisdom and grace of the Holy. This is a place where we may finally see there is no separation between God, the individual, and the community: the all is the one becomes the new vision we are invited to live into.
Firman, John and Gila, Ann. The Primal Wound (New York, NY: State University Press, 1997).
Moltmann, Jurgen. The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and The Theology of Life
(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1997).
Rohr, Richard. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (Internet Archive: The Crossing Press, 1999).