Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church


Editor’s note: In his doctoral dissertation, Pastor Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church is claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. This blog is part of a long-running weekly series.

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

Spiritual experience as experience of the Spirit is vast and hard to define; so, little wonder the inadequacy of any attempts to define spirituality.

Bergmann’s orthodox and liberation approach begins his theology of the Spirit by “replacing the question of the Spirit’s immanence in nature with the question of the place where the Spirit is at work and is transparent.” He then limits that transparency as Nature being transparent to the Spirit’s activity of liberation confined for the most part to experiences of social praxis.

Griffin’s process methodology proposes that God’s influence is constant through prehension, which is felt as “conformal feelings” in the various bodily centers of experience, but tellingly, he does not provide any practice by which one might focus or develop the receptivity or quality of such experiences.

Wallace’s post-modern, rhetorical approach, by figuring Spirit as enfleshed in Nature, asserts that one can experience God in everything, yet he also lacks any recommendation of personal practice beyond social activism.

These three theologians, Bergmann, Griffin, and Wallace represent something of a map of my own journey in relation to theology and spirituality.

It has been a journey of consciousness that makes sense to me as a movement from mythic to rational to pluralistic worldviews and beyond. One of the key points in Ken Wilber’s integral spirituality, and I would say in my perspective of interdwelling as well, is that whatever stage one is operating from, all the stages that have preceded it are still present. Even if much of their claims have been rejected, prior stages are nevertheless integral in forming the consciousness that now is operative. Stages of development or consciousness are related to the four quadrants of experience (I, We, It, and Its) in that each consequent stage involves an expansion of one’s awareness of and concern for the four aspects of one’s experience and engagement. This represents a general movement from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric consciousness and concern.

One of the significant events in my own spiritual development has involved contemplative experiences of encounter.  These were powerfully transformative experiences largely within the I quadrant.  They were a first-person view of my own interiority. The experiences proved very effective in helping me to move from a rational to pluralistic consciousness.  They were not, then, a move backward to an egocentric worldview, but an expansion of inclusive consciousness.  As a result of these experiences, my spirituality and ministry began to focus on contemplative forms, practices and forms that I found lacking in Protestant Christianity as I had experienced it.

What I have come to realize, however, is that a focus on the I quadrant alone cannot render a full and mature spirituality.  Development in all the quadrants is needed. Development in the I quadrant, nevertheless, is essential to development in the other quadrants and accordingly has been the main focus of spiritual practice and development in many traditions.

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