A spirituality for the two halves of life
This review of a book by Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest, New Mexico is an edited version of one I did for the APA blog.
This little book encapsulates a lot of the essence of modern psychology and most religions.
Essentially we spend the first half of life creating the psychological ego and learning to live within the boundaries set by society – the laws, rules, traditions and conventions by which society operates. We seek the approval of others or seek to oppose them – essentially with a dualistic right-wrong viewpoint.
In the second half of life our task is essentially to move beyond and dismantle that ego and discover our true inner essence, operating from position of true authenticity. We are no longer bound by the rules of society but operate from a higher inner self. Our concern is no longer the little self, the ego, but the good of the whole. We exhibit wisdom.
As a member of the catholic church, Richard is at pains to point out the dangers of religion in freezing us into the first part of life rather than encouraging us to step forward into this second. Most religious organisations essentially operate in first-half-of-life terms and have lost the impetus to move beyond to that inner essence – the search for which has in many times and places had to move underground.
Society itself also encourages us to stay in the first half of life and not develop beyond. This is particularly so in the modern age with all the wonderful technological devices available to us. Is there not evident a lack of wisdom in the leaders around us? Such that we revere the few who do exemplify this, such as Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King.
The journey from first to second halves is paralleled in the hero’s journey of myth and legend, for example the trials of Odysseus. And failure, and coming to terms with that failure and our own ‘shadow’, are an essential part of the process. Many of the bible stories tell also of this process – how the prodigal son is fêted on his return, to the disgust of the one who stayed at home (in the first half ).
Richard relates all this to the aging process, and suggests that the true goal of the aging process is ‘falling upwards’ into this state of wisdom and the real self that is beyond the little ego. He speaks of the radiant older people that he has met who are true exemplars.
This is truly a wise and thought provoking book.
Do read ‘Falling Upward’ for the inspiration it offers; more important, take the next step on your own journey there.