On “Recognising and Healing the Wounds of Spiritual Abuse”. Flora Slosson Wuellner, Presence, Vol 22,No1, March 2016

Flora’s article resonates like a clear bell chiming through years of relationships, encounters and self-questioning. It weaves through the spiritual meanderings; with stops and starts; rejections and affirmations. How blessed I feel. There are no festering wounds or requitable guilts and unsettled business. I have been more a spectator and sponge in the journeys made by other psyches. I had an areligious childhood, a Catholic education, and the privilege of formation in a diverse ethnic, religious and secular society. Like a butterfly, browsing, with only vague commitments; cherry picking and establishing a ground compatible with the modern world, yet essentially based on accepted understandings of the scriptures. A spirit free on anchor where guided by faith and conscience. Being pragmatic, with no dogmatic attachment, I could escape deep-seated wounds of guilt and shame.

Someone very dear has been a victim of the negativity of religious fundamentalism. What he heard from the keepers of wisdom, and their admonishments, stirred in an impressionable young person, obsessive feelings of guilt. It affected his attitudes and self-worth. No amount of absolution and reassurances at the confessional could change the morbid propensities. About the same time came the tsunami of liberal opinions attributed to Vatican II. Confusion was further compounded when confronted by irrefutable facts and seductive logic of empiricism, modern science and technology. They challenged the foundations of his religion and attitude to God. Readings and obsessions expanded to take up the space of beliefs, so far enjoyed as gospel, further and further into recesses of irrelevance. The new position offers comfort and relief; scarring over the deep wounds inflicted by a misplaced spirituality.

There is an elderly lady who comes from God-fearing parents and studied under nuns who were brought up in a tradition that remained unbroken for hundreds of years. Very definite rights and wrongs were inculcated in childhood. She has nurtured her cocoon of spirituality despite the opening of windows and airing of Catholicism’s cobwebs. Family and friends allow her to continue in what could be a blissful relationship with her God. Only. Among the solid chunks of Faith there are traces of fragile hope. If she misses mass, through no fault of hers because she dependent for transportation, she will not receive communion unless she has had an opportunity to confess this “sin”. She carries the load of several innocuous slips and misses as though her salvation were at risk. She has not yet come to terms with the idea that Jesus, as the Lord of the Sabbath, constantly challenged those seeking to imprison others within the letters of the law. Her wounds though apparently self-inflicted, date back to the obsequious acceptance and entrenchment of a dated spirituality.

Having understood the condition, apportioning responsibility is academic. One could, for example, point at archaic, insensitive systems, or simply ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Without remedial action the victim continues to be captive of an “us and them” situation. More meaningful than looking for a mote, it’s more rewarding to remove the log from one’s own eye first. Then, facing the dilemma, one could flee, fight, place one’s hope in time’s opiate of forgetfulness. Or. Learn to recognize and assimilate. The choice also takes cognizance of the fact that one lives with the consequences of the decision and results. For spiritual progress one chooses the way that leads to progress and perfection in the object of the search. A sincere mea culpa could set up the right path – “This is the situation and I am ready to resolve it in order to obtain healing and to make progress on the Way”? The act of humility affirming the desire for healing and moving forward on the spiritual journey.

Defining the cause and objective clears the path for action, having due consideration of the topography and likely hazards ahead. The world view has been turned upside down within a single generation. Gone are the props and pillars that generations had relied on for guidance and comfort. God is no longer in His heaven and all does not seem well with the world. All is shrouded in confusion. Progress through the labyrinth is based on the infallibility of empirical tests and laws of physics. But, for the sensitive mind there are more transcending things than this world dreams of. It is important to find a sensible and morally balanced perspective for both things of the flesh and things of the spirit. Preferably in a seamless pattern.