Book Notes – Spirituality and the Awakening Self

Posted: January 29, 2014 by Todd in Books
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Spirituality and Awakening Self


Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation

David G. Benner – 2012, Brazos Press

Finished April, 2012.

Follow David Benner on Twitter at @drdavidgbenner

Recorded metaphors of spiritual journey in “Structures and Reference Points” in Sermon Ideas notebook (107)
Emphasis will be on mysticism and transformation.

Chapter 1: Human Awakening
Emphasizes being awake and aware to the now, not our judging, categorizing, internal experience of the world.
Psychological symptoms can function as the voice of the soul.
Listen to your dreams for what they say about yourself.
Aging and breath can speak to us from within as well. Also, conscious love. [more…]

Chapter 2: Mapping the Unfolding Self
Two maps: Ancient and Religious (Great Chain of Being) and modern one from history and anthropology.

Great Chain of Being goes from “dust to divinity” (Wilber)
Matter (physics)
Life (Biology)
Mind (Psychology)
Soul (Theology)
Spirit (Mysticism)
“Human unfolding does not mean abandoning lower levels of existence, but no longer being limited to them”

Anthtropological view sees major epochs such as magic, mythic, and modern.

Chapter 3: Growth and the Lines of Development

Chapter goes through lines of development (ala Wilber), with Fowler’s faith stages as example.
Chapter 4: Transformation and the Levels of Development
Transformation means:
  • increased awareness
  • a broader, more inclusive identity
  • a larger framework for meaning making (how we understand and make sense of our self, others, God, and the world)
  • a reorganization of personality that results in a changed way of being in the world
“God comes to us disguised as our life.” (1297)
Thomas Keating’s 4 “yous”
  1. the you of ordinary awareness
  2. the you of your personality and character
  3. the you that is in relationship with those who love you for exactly who you are
  4. the you that at the deepest level is not separate from God – distinct, but not separate
“Although some contemporary writers speak of this as a journey toward Christlikeness, I prefer to describe it as an increase of Christ-consciousness. Too easily becoming like Christ gets reduced to changed behavior.” (pg 66)
Chapter 5: Learning from the Christian Mystics
Four gifts of the mystics:
  1. Trust in the darkness
  2. Alignment of head and heart
  3. Healing the wounded self
  4. Unifying a divided consciousness
Benner uses body, mind, soul, & spirit as Wilber’s gross, subtle, casual, and nondual states.
Chapter 6: The Body-Centered Self
Experiential Focus: bodily impulses, sensations, and needs
Self & Identity:
Body self – I am my body.
Public self – I am my image.
Material self – I am  my possessions.
Role self – I am my role.
One strategy to emerge from the body phase is to get to the role stage and engage the mind from there.  The mind is an incredible resources for expanding the role.
[Todd Question: How does body, mind, soul, spirit fit into the stages of development.  Benner makes them seem almost like you could view body, mind, soul, spirit as stages or groups of stages, whereas Wilber says they are independent.  Are these “states” or “stages”?  Are Wilberian states more than modes during meditation?  Are mountaintop highs a form of a state?]
Chapter 7: The Mind-Centered Self
Experiential Focus: thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, morality, and meaning
Self & Identity:
Mental self – I am my thoughts.
Ideological self – I am my beliefs.
Communal self – I am my community.
Individual self – I am myself.
Chapter 8: The Soul-Centered Self
Experiential Focus: experience, authenticity, actualization, and fulfillment
Self & Identity:
Reflective self – I am my experience.
Shadow self – I am my shadow.
Divided self – I am not always my true self. 
Chapter 9: The Spirit-Centered Self
Includes brief bios on Hildegard of Bingen, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Matthew Fox and their understanding of the Cosmic Christ.
Experiential Focus: ultimacy, mystery, being, and union
Self & Identity:
Essential self – I am.
Divine self – I am one with God.
Cosmic self – I am one with everything.
Chapter 10: Spirituality and Awakening
Openness requires that we might get hurt.
Awareness requires that me might have to change.
Growth happens incrementally.
Transformation happens to you.
Growth doesn’t cause transformation, but facilitates its possiblity.
Spirituality is a line within human development (consistent with Wilber).  Uses work of Daniel Helminiak.
Chapter 11: The Communal Context of Transformation
Our communities (churches, families, etc) hold us and act as facilitators or that which we unfold against.  Sometimes we outgrow these communities, which shouldn’t be seen as negative.  Unhealthy holding keeps us from developing.
Chapter 12: Transformation & Transcendence
Both the male (differentiation) and female (integration) contribute to transformation.  Transformation doesn’t happen in a neat linear pattern.
Appendix A: Tips on using dream work for transformation.  Hold the dreams loosely and be aware rather than interpretive.  See what the dreams might be saying about parts of yourself.  Dreams can be compensatory for imbalances or disowned parts of our conscious self.  They can also be efforts at providing meaning to our understanding of experiences.
Appendix B: Contemplation, which should always involve the surrender of thoughts contributes towards growing in consciousness.  Yet, it doesn’t directly work on the shadow.  While it can illumine the shadow, the shadow must be worked on consciously outside of meditative experience.

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