Scripture As Template For Individuation

…Walter Brueggemann, one of my favourite Scripture scholars, discovered that the Hebrew Scriptures, in their development, reflect the development of human consciousness. Before we delve into the first half of life, it is helpful to use this model as an overview of the whole of life.

Brueggemann says there are three major segments to the Hebrew Scriptures. The first five books, or the Torah, correspond to the first half of life. The Torah is the period in which the people of Israel were given law, tradition, structure, certitude, order, clarity, authority, safety, and specialness. It would define them and give them their identity and hold them together.

You have to begin with some kind of Torah in normal healthy development. And it sure helps to believe that you are the “chosen people.” That’s what parents are giving their little ones—security, safety, specialness. The possibility of divine election is first mediated and made possible through the loving gaze of your parents and those around you (even neurologically).

The second major section of the Hebrew Scriptures is called The Prophets. This introduces the necessary “stumbling stones” that initiate you into the second half of life. Prophetic thinking is the necessary capacity for healthy self-criticism, the ability to recognize your own dark side, as the prophets did for Israel. Without that, most people (and most of religion) never move beyond tribal thinking, which is the belief that they and their group are the best, and really the “only.” It creates narcissism instead of any possibility of enlightenment.

If the psyche moves in normal sequence, the leaven of self-criticism added to the certainty of your own specialness will allow you to move to the third section of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Wisdom Literature, represented best in many of the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job. Here you move into the language of mystery and paradox. This is the second half of life. You are strong enough now to hold together contradictions, even in yourself, even in others. And you can do so with compassion, forgiveness, patience, and tolerance. But we don’t move toward the second half until we’ve gone through the other two states. The best sequence, therefore, is order-disorder-synthesis…

~ Richard Rohr