Reflecting on the spiritual journey of which every human being embarks (or ignores) Richard Rohr says the following:
“As I see it, the human task is threefold. First the human spirit must connect to the Eternal by turning toward God’s immanence and ineffability with yearning. Second, each person must explore the inner reality of his or her humanity, facing unmet potential catastrophic failure with unmitigated honesty and grace. Finally, each one of us must face the unlovable neighbor, the enemy outside of our embrace, and the shadow skulking in the recesses of our own hearts” (Center for Action and Contemplation, Daily Meditations, December 19, 2018).
As I reflect upon these words of Rohr it seems to me that the achievement of this three-fold task requires a process of dying and of being resurrected (spiritually speaking.) As we grow in our spiritual awakening we grow by experiencing various ontological deaths. We must experience these deaths so that a truer more authentic spiritual experience can be resurrected. The first death that must experience is the death of our false sense of God. The second death we must experience is the death of our false sense of ourselves. The third death that we must experience is the death of our false sense of others. These false understandings – of God, of ourselves, and of others – are the understandings that we have created and these self-created understandings must pass away so that they can be replaced by a truer, Spirit-given understanding.
So we must let our false understanding of God pass away so that there can be room to receive from the Holy Spirit a truer and more authentic, God-given understanding of who God is. We must allow our false sense of ourselves to pass away so we can create room to receive from the Spirit a God-given sense of our own identity and personhood. And similarly, we must let our understandings and false-constructions of others pass away so that they can be replaced with a Spirit-endowed understanding of others.
As you might expect, this is a continual and always deepening process. Our false sense of God/self/others is always being replaced by a Spirit-given, more authentic sense of God/self/others only to then be contorted by our imperfect and limited self back into our own self-created, false understanding of God/self/others. So the process must begin again; we must continually unlearn our self-constructed sense of God/self/others and allow the Spirit of God to grant us the grace to more deeply perceive God’s understanding of the reality of God/self/others.
It seems to me that in this life our imperfect knowledge of God/self/others is never replaced with perfect knowledge. It is a myth to expect we could ever arrive at perfect spiritual knowledge of God/self/others in this lifetime. Therefore, there can only be imperfect spiritual knowledge joined with the constant pursuit of God’s deepening revelation through the power of the Holy Spirit. In some ways, only when we realize that our understanding of God/self/others is and will always be imperfect have we found perfect spiritual knowledge. Or as Richard Rohr often says, it is only by unknowing that we can truly know.