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* This article was published in BETTER WORLD magazine *
* (formerly Meditation), Vol. I, No. 1, December, 1991, *
* pages 60-65. It is copyrighted material, and all *
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William J. Beckwith, M.Div.
Erwin Rousselle, a Chinese specialist, once took a course in
Eastern spirituality with a Taoist Master. At the end of the course,
the Master gave special presents to each of his students in order to
help them continue their spiritual growth. The oriental students each
received a carefully selected Chinese book. Rousselle, however, was
presented with a copy of the Bible. In this way, the Master expressed
silently his opinion that "Western" Scripture was better suited to
nurture the Western psyche.<1>
Rousselle's teacher was right. Authentic spirituality is not
absent from Christianity, only buried under years of forgetfulness,
neglect, and the willful determination to follow the "way of the
world". The Church, in all of its denominational manifestations,
has failed miserably to pass on the diversity of spiritual
experiences that have historically been at the core of its
Recently that has begun to change. Dominican priest Fr.
Matthew Fox has almost single-handedly brought about a new reforma-
tion in Western Christianity by advocating a "Creation Spirituality."
The thread of creation spirituality runs throughout the
Christian mystical tradition. It is especially apparent in the
writings of the medieval Rhineland mystics such as Meister Eckhart,
Hildegaard of Bingen and Teresa of Avila. It can also be seen in
the openness of St. Francis of Assisi to the goodness of the natural
Fox believes that the contemporary emphasis on guilt, sin,
and the need for personal redemption in the Christian church stems
from dualistic, patriarchal beliefs of the Dark Ages. This
"Fall/Atonement/Redemption" theology replaced the older biblical
tradition of our divine call as co-workers with God. As the title
of one of his best-selling books, <><2> indi-
cates, Fox is more concerned with the positive aspects of life and
our ongoing work of Creation.
The message of creation spirituality is a return to a living
Christian faith. Rather than the three-fold emphasis on personal
salvation, it speaks of that bring us collectively closer
to God. Fox, following traditional Catholic categories, calls them
the , the , the , and the
The paths themselves are fascinating. What is even more
fascinating is that their number, four, has a recurrent and universal
significance for human spiritual diversity.
For the modern Hindu, God is worshipped primarily through
the four .<3> is the way of selfless action.
is the way of loving devotion to the Supreme Person-
ality of the Godhead. is the way of disciplined
concentration and meditation. is the way of wisdom
and oneness with God.
In the Sufi mysticism of Islam, there are four principal
orders.<4> The worship God through music, dance and
poetry. The emphasize the induction of altered states of
consciousness to produce religious ecstasy. The teach
methods that allow "direct perception of Reality" in ordinary events
of life. The , or "Masters of the Design," are the least
mystical of the four, tracing their origin to the teachings of
Mohammed and a rather austere pietism.
Even in the older traditions of shamanism, four stands out
as an important number. The four cardinal directions lead to the
paths of the South (physical mastery and purification), the West
(darkness, death and fear), the North (self-knowledge and empower-
ment), and the East (rebirth and the attainment of higher unitive
This four-fold division is not only found in the mystic
traditions. The contemporary Western counterpart of the shaman---the
psychiatrist or psychologist---has also divided people into four
basic types based on "personality." In fact, the idea that there
are types, categories, or temperaments among people is a very old
idea going back at least twenty-five hundred years to the Greek
philosopher Hippocrates and his phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric
and sanguine temperaments.
One of the most influential personality theories of modern
times is that of Carl G. Jung. In his book, <5>,
he suggested that there were innate predispositions in people toward
various personality traits. If a person were raised under ideal
conditions, fully accepting these tendencies and allowing them to
develop completely, discrete personality types would be seen.
Jung, the son of a Lutheran Christian minister, was fas-
cinated by the psychology of religious experience. His studies
included both Western and Eastern mystical traditions. Indeed, he
thought that Western Christianity had much to learn from an open
dialogue with other faiths.
Jung codified his observations about personality differences
and outlined a basic framework into which they fit. After much
observation, he decided that there were two basic attitudes toward
life, and four basic components to personality.
The two attitudes are very basic. It is from Jung's work
that we get the terms "extravert" and "introvert." The extravert
(E) is conventionally pictured as a boisterous, outgoing people-
person. The introvert (I) is stereotyped as the shy, quiet bookworm.
In Jungian theory, these terms do not have the same meaning that
popular thought gives them.
For Jung, this attitudinal preference determines where we
invest our energy: the outer world of people, action and things,
or the inner world of thoughts, ideas and concepts. Extraverts gain
energy through interaction with the world around them. Isolation
and solitude can make them feel anxious and drained. Introverts,
on the other hand, gain energy by retreating to the privacy of their
inner world. Being in a crowd, or over-stimulation of their senses,
can leave them feeling jangled and tired.
In spirituality, the attitudes of extraversion and intro-
version primarily affect whether we will seek God beyond ourselves
or within ourselves. The Divine can be found in both ways, but our
preference for the external or internal "worlds" will direct which
search will seem most natural to us.
In Western cultures, approximately seventy to seventy-five
percent of people are extraverts. Studies of Oriental cultures have
shown that a similar majority favor introversion. The centering on
God Beyond or God Within is one of the major differences between
Western and Eastern religious practice. and . Rouselle's
Taoist teacher was indeed correct.
Ironically, sometimes the most powerful spiritual experiences
come when the extravert-introvert attitude is over-ridden. In
today's Christian church, this can be seen in two ways. First, there
is the explosive growth of the Charismatic movement. Here, pre-
dominately extraverted people experience the interior reality of God
through the "baptism" and gifts of the Holy Spirit---God Within.
Second, the development of the House Church movement has allowed
introverts as well as extraverts to come in contact with a God Beyond
external to themselves in a more intimate way than formal Sunday
Extraversion and introversion point us toward an experience
with the Divine. That experience may come through many paths. Which
path we travel will depend on the four functional aspects of Jungian
Crucial for Jung was the way in which we discern the world
around us and gather information about it. In his theory, this is
called the , and is a key to understanding basic
human differences and interpersonal conflict. The two modes of
perceiving are termed Sensing (S), and INtuition. (N is used to
indicate INtuition in Jungian personality typology because I is
already used for Introversion.) Although all of us take in
information about the world around us in both ways, we choose one
of them early in life as our primary mode of perception. In other
words, we decide whether to place the greatest trust in sense data
or our hunches.
Sensing people prefer to rely upon information as it comes in
through their five senses---sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
They perceive things in as realistic and factual a way as possible.
Hunches or "feelings" are suspect. Cold, hard facts that can be
demonstrated or documented, and practical experience, are of primary
Intuitives, on the other hand, are more interested in seeing
connections and possibilities that link or integrate facts. People
who prefer intuitive perception are always alert for patterns. They
see the world around them holistically and imaginatively. What has
worked or prove true in the past is never as interesting as what the
future may hold.
After information is gathered through perception, decisions
must be made about that information. This is the role of the . Jung, through observation, determined that people made
decisions based on either Thinking logic (T), or Feeling values (F).
As with the perceiving functions, all of us are called upon to use
both judging functions in life. During early childhood, however, we
choose whether we will give primary trust to objective logic or
Thinkers make decisions about the world and people in it by
examining available data, then coming to an impersonal conclusion
based on general rules or guidelines. The T approach to life is
analytical. They tend to stress the greatest good for the greatest
number rather than individual needs.
Those who prefer Feeling judgement, in contrast, will choose
to ignore facts, logic and precedent if these get in the way of
important personal values or commitments. F's are always more
concerned with the one individual who will be harmed or hurt by a
decision than with the multitude. They are the champions of the
The Jungian functions of Sensing or Intuition, and Thinking
or Feeling combine to form four "core personality types" that
research, type theory and pastoral experience have shown to be
important. They also relate directly to the four paths of creation
The Sensing-Feeling (SF) person tends to focus on provable
facts, but makes decisions about them according to personal values.
They are very concerned with people and their immediate problems.
SF's are the volunteers and helpers of the world. Individual
decisions are based on specific exceptions to the rule.
Creation spirituality's is the path of Nature
and Blessing. In the Christian tradition, it is seen in the God of
Genesis who looks at the material universe at the culmination of
creation and proclaims: "It is good.!" This insight is important
for the person with an SF preference. In the final analysis, God's
good will prevail. They can honestly see the suffering of the
present moment and work to overcome it without losing hope.
The Sensing-Thinking (ST) person also likes to focus on facts
but handles them in an objective, impersonal way. Concrete details
and previous experiences are important guidelines for present and
future actions. Events have a cause-and-effect relationship; if
something is wrong, there is a definite reason for the problem and
a definite solution. This combination of preferences makes ST's
consistent and rule-oriented.
The is the path of Abandoning and Being
Abandoned. It recognizes honestly and openly that while Creation
was originally good, it is now fractured and broken. Why? For the
ST, that question has an obvious answer. The "rules" laid out by
God were not, and are not, followed by humanity. We do not "love
God and love our neighbor as ourself." If everyone simply obeyed
the rules and did their duty, the world would be a perfect place.
(It is somewhat of an oversimplification, but ST's tend to focus
on sin and the problem of evil, while SF's prefer to concentrate
on forgiveness and the problem of suffering.)
The Intuitive-Feeling (NF) person values relationships and
people. Unlike the SF, who wants immediate, personal involvement,
the NF individual focuses on future possibilities for people.
Communication is important to this personality type, and is one of
their main strengths. The NF is a visionary leader pointing others
persuasively and enthusiastically forward.
The is the Path of Unity amidst Diversity.
Here, we experience our ultimate connection with each other and
with the transcendent Godhead. Humanity, created in the Image
of the Creator God, is creative as well. Nothing could better
describe the thinking of the NF. They are the poets and artists
who paint their visions in words as well as colors and shapes.
Connection and communication with God and people is at the heart of
The Intuitive-Thinking (NT) person, like the NF, also looks
to the future. Here, however, the emphasis is on planning and
organization. The strength of the NT is the ability to logically
and carefully assess a situation and implement a practical strategy
for change. In fact, NT's almost change. They are the
reformers and transformers of society.
The fourth path of Creation Spirituality, the , is the path of the Prophet. By this, I mean
"prophet" in the sense of one who speaks for God. This is not a
FOREteller of the future, but rather a FORTH-teller of what will
happen if humanity does not actively join as co-workers with God
and each other to change the brokenness of Creation. This is the
role of the NT change-agent. The vision of this personality type
sees the way to the future clearly as well as the consequences of
following another way. As mentioned above, they reform as well as
transform; for them, change is a divine mandate.
Then which of the four paths is best? . Each individual is gifted by God with, among other things,
a unique personality. Western society still is infected by hier-
archical thinking which sees a need to "progress" from one path to
another. This leads to valuing one path as "higher" or "better"
than the others. I prefer the image of the wheel that comes from
our oldest spiritual traditions. No path on the wheel is "higher,"
they simply lead in different directions. All paths inevitably
meet in the Center in the presence of the Spirit.
FOUR STYLES OF MEDITATION
Jungian personality types do not limit us in our approach
to God, nor do they force us to choose only one path among the many.
The four core function types do, however, strongly affect the direc-
tion of our spiritual growth. Each type perceives and makes spiritual
decisions in a distinctive way.
This is the basis of spiritual direction in both eastern and
western religious traditions. A wise teacher chooses the method of
spiritual discipline which will most benefit each individual student.
. Spiritual growth often comes most
powerfully when our everyday habits and preferences are overridden.
The four examples below are Christian meditations that build
on the chief gifts of the four Jungian core types. Don't be surprised
if the method that seems least attractive to you at first yields the
THE SENSING-FEELING PATH
This approach to meditation is adapted from the traditional
teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church. To start, choose one of
the questions or statements spoken by Jesus in the gospels such as,
"Come, follow me", "Do you love me?", "Who do you say that I am?",
or "Feed my sheep." Begin your meditation by simply reading that
short phrase to yourself.
Now, imagine that the risen Lord is speaking these words
directly to you. Hear the words over and over in your mind, and
let their meaning for your life at present sink in. As you meditate,
focus your thoughts on solutions rather than problems. Keep God's
love firmly fixed in your mind, assuring you that you can make a
Continue to repeat the phrase you have selected, allowing a
response to form inside of you. Ask God to give you the strength
and the will to live those words in your thoughts and deeds.
What will you say? What will you do? Allow God's power to
tug at your heart and mind and lead you to an answer. Do not let
preconceived notions direct you; listen for the answer that comes
THE SENSING-THINKING PATH
A method that many ST people find particularly powerful is
attributed to St. John Climacus. Begin by choosing a favorite prayer,
a psalm, or a short section from one of the speeches of Jesus recorded
in the gospels. As a demonstration, consider Psalm 23.
First, recite the psalm out loud from start to finish, paying
careful attention to every word. If you are interrupted or distracted
at any point in your recitation, start over again from the beginning.
If you find that your mind is wandering from the words, force yourself
back to your task and begin again. Continue in this slow, careful
fashion until you have said the psalm once with total attention.
After that first, successful, recitation, go back and repeat
the psalm again. This time, pay close attention to the literal
meaning of each word that you are saying. Focus on the psalm
line by line. What does it mean that the Lord is my shepherd?
What is it that I will not want today? How does God's authority
---the divine "rod and staff"---"comfort" me? Proceed in a slow,
careful fashion through the entire psalm.
You may find that it takes several days to meditate on even
a short passage in this way. It may even take weeks, once you
become experienced in this form of meditation. In any event, you
will discover a renewed richness in your devotional life that leads
you in a better appreciation of exactly what "familiar" portions
of the Bible are saying.
THE INTUITING-FEELING PATH
This meditation method for NF's focuses on relationships
and the possibilities that they present. It comes from the
writings of Saint Teresa of Avila.
Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and imagine that
Jesus is standing in front of you. Try to build up as detailed a
picture of him as you can. Imagine the color of his hair and skin,
the kind of clothes that he wears---even try to see the color of his
eyes. As you concentrate on this mental image, allow yourself to
become aware that Jesus is also looking at you.
(Most people can conjure up a mental image in this way.
If you are unable to visualize, then allow yourself to feel the
loving presence of Jesus or hear his voice speaking to you softly
Imagine that Jesus is looking at you with complete love and
acceptance. He knows your failures and your shortcomings and he
wants your life to be transformed---but he loves and accepts you
as you are right this minute. You do not have to do anything in
order to win his love. You already have it. Continue watching
Jesus watch you for fifteen minutes.
Try this meditation daily and build up gradually to thirty
minutes over the course of six weeks. This meditation is a form of
what is called "Inner Healing." It is often incorporated into a
worship service, but is valuable for private devotions as well.
THE INTUITING-THINKING PATH
This method for NT's is based on ideas in the writings of St.
Augustine. Imagine that you are sitting on top of a mountain
overlooking a large city. It is sunset and lights are beginning
to come on in the houses below. Points of light spring up here
and there until the whole city is glowing.
After a while, you hear footsteps behind you. Intuitively,
you know that they are the footsteps of a holy man who lives on the
mountain. He is a hermit who has devoted his life to prayer and
meditation. The hermit comes up next to you as you continue to
look at the beautiful lights of the city and speaks to you gently.
He says, "If you go down to the city tonight, you will discover a
message from God." Then he turns around and walks quietly away.
Inwardly, you feel certain that the holy man has spoken the
truth. You get up slowly and begin to walk toward the lights. As
you come to the city, you choose a street and start to walk among
the shining houses. You feel safe and tranquil.
As you walk, you notice a misty patch of fog forming ahead
of you. The fog begins to glow softly and gently and you sense that
something is taking shape within it. As you look into the glowing
mist, you begin to make out a vague form. The image in the mist
becomes sharper and clearer, a dark image that stands in stark
contrast to the peace and perfection of the shining city. You
realize that you have stopped walking. Your quest is at an end.
You have found God's message.
Allow yourself to gaze at the image in the mist. Think
about what it means to you. How may it be changed for the better?
Stay for a while in silent contemplation of the message, then allow
it to fade back into the fog. As it fades away, let yourself return
to full awareness.
Publishing, 1987) dealt with active listening and caring
communication. He is completing a new book on Western
spirituality and Jungian psychology.>
<1> Hans Schaer, <>, Translated by R.F.C. Hull. (New York:
Pantheon, 1950), p. 127.
<2> Matthew Fox, <>. (Santa Fe: Bear &
<3> The best source for information on the ways of yoga is
probably A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, <>. (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta
Book Trust, 1968, 1972, 1981).
<4> For an excellent discussion of Sufi traditions, see Indries
Shah, <>. (New York: E.P. Dutton &
Co., Inc., 1970).
<5> C.G. Jung, <>. (New York: Harcourt
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