This is the first post from our frequent commenter Howard.
Joseph declared, “Mankind [is] naturally selfish, ambitious, and striving to excel one above another.” We need look no further than the best economic system in the world to see that this is true. Without question Capitalism is King, socialism is dead! But why? Because Capitalism efficiently rewards greed! As a result much of the world agrees to a system that rewards adults who haven’t emotionally progressed much beyond that of a toddler tightly grasping a toy in their hand raising it in the air while defiantly declaring “mine!”. Why? Because given humankind’s immature state this is the best way to efficiently *produce* an abundance of great goods and services. Of course this system is far less good at *distributing* those goods and services resulting in large imbalances that cannot be morally defended without disguising the greed inherent in the defense attempt.
Clearly we are naturally selfish, possessive and jealous and most of us crave and lust for more at the expense of quality time we could be spending with loved ones or increasing our connection with God. Because we inhabit animal bodies our sense of fight or flight is greatly exaggerated given the relative safety of living in most developed nations. So instead of animals relaxing in the wild unless hunting or being hunted we live under the chronic stress of a work a day world spending as fast as we earn and sometimes faster, over time it prematurely ages us and makes us sick. We worship our craving by shopping for the objects of our lust in glorified temples of spending. Our craving and lust drives us to mortgage up our lives and we spend most of it on the hamster wheel of stress paying off our lustful choices. Add to this genetically inherited dysfunctions and compulsions and fetishes created in childhood and you have the current state of the natural man!
So how do we *put off* the natural man? The church doesn’t know and as a result they make no attempt to teach it. Instead they teach perfecting the natural man by restricting undesirable behavior and creating admirable behavioral habits which in the end is impossible for most people to actually do. A level of material lust is accepted by the church even embraced as long as it is disguised as some form of provident living or with a wink and nod as it approaches a prosperity gospel philosophy. The natural man simply cannot be perfected by will power, discipline or obedience unless one doesn’t have much natural man to perfect.
If you were raised in a relatively healthy family with a lot of love you are one of the lucky few who have a much better chance of appearing to perfect the natural man LDS style than the majority who weren’t and chances are you don’t understand dysfunction or why obedience and becoming a little more disciplined like you just doesn’t work for them. Why? Because compulsions easily overpower habits! So in spite of good intentions we repeat the behaviors we wish to change and stress exacerbates this tendency increasing our failures. Intervention in some form are required to change this. Interestingly deep repentance and regressive and insightful psychotherapy are very similar processes. I’ve been through both, I spent 18 months in daily deep and thorough repentance guided by the Spirit and 4 years in weekly psychotherapy with confrontational therapists. They are both a process of introspection and remembering what we once blocked from our consciousness as an ego defense because our actions didn’t match the image of who we want to be or believe ourselves to be, so we in-authentically deny and block the truth of who we really are to ourselves and present that fictional character to others. Being psychologically blocked and being “locked in our sins” are largely the same problem!
Deep repentance and/or psychotherapy prepares us for a more efficient spiritual connection with the divine because God speaks to us through our subconscious (our spirits?) not through our ego created and ego contaminated personas. An efficient spiritual path is created by raising the subconscious to the conscious level while resolving the conflicts that this process uncovers along the way. By doing so we become authentic and we are removing our ego defense filter that blocks, muddies and mutes the Spirit’s signal. By removing these ego created psychological blocks we improve our access to that portion of our minds we once thought to be subconscious. This improves the signal to noise ratio of the Spirit’s message making it much clearer and easier to hear and receive. Creating new habits admirable or not are in some ways the opposite of this because it adds new blocks (habits) on top of old blocks thickening our filters. Interestingly dysfunctional people will be more motivated to take this path than the happy and healthy because they have more to gain from it allowing some dysfunctional people to leap frog functional people when it comes to spirituality. So in this way the last shall be first, and the first last.
I believe the church once had a powerful process to refine much of the natural man out of it’s people over several generations; it’s called *sharing*. Isn’t that what we teach selfish 3 year olds? But it was introduced in the now failed forms of Plural Marriage and the Law of Consecration. Sharing your stuff and especially sharing your spouse sexually with another by divine directive would provide great opportunity and motivation for the faithful to eventually get over themselves and work through their selfishness, possessiveness and jealousy!
Meditation completes the journey from natural man to walking in the Spirit. Meditation is the discipline of idling the mind allowing you to better hear your internal process, your intuition and divine messages. Be still and know that I am God. By engaging the Spirit in your normal way you then meditate on his signal amplifying and clarifying it. By staying with his signal as long as you can you gain experience identifying and hearing him.