Wrestling with the False Self.

Recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about the “False Self”. The Thomas Merton qoute that I posted a few posts ago has been ricocheting around inside of my being and it can sometimes lead to severe mind melt! Here’s an excerpt from that quote that reminds us of what we all contend with day in and day out:

“All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honour, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real.”

So then this leads me to ask the question, “What am I using to clothe my false self?” What I do? What I own? Approval from others?

For example, I play drums in a rock band. This rock band is somewhat successful and enjoys the benefits of many loyal fans who come to our concerts, buy our t-shirts and listen to our albums. My false self is affirmed nightly by loud cheers and clapping hands. Yet, if I am consider that there is a very real distinction between my false self and my real (S)elf, then I need to somehow rearrange how I identify with myself. I need to ignore or shed the validation my false self receives from the value systems of this world. And while this aspect of my false self that is wrapped up in what I do is a very big hurdle, it is only one aspect. It’s daunting. I find myself wondering if whether or not even the “noble” things that I do are to simply bolster my false self. Do I do good deeds in order to consider myself that I am a good deed doer? The line between selfishness and selflessness becomes unclear.

And if this distinction is real, then what in me constitutes my true Self? Merton writes, “My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love.” If this is the case, then my true self must in some way not be me but God in me. Pastor Shane preached about this several weeks ago. In Romans 8, Paul paints a picture of two opposing forces within each of us: Flesh and Spirit. As Shane put it, ego and essence. Or maybe we can say it this way: our true identity is our identity in Christ. Everything else, what we do, what we own, what we want to achieve, the way we look, how hard our band rocks, how many people attend our churches…….it’s all a myth. We can only be in tune to God’s will and freely receive God’s unconditional love for us if we stop allowing the value systems of this world influence our motives. To shed the ego and the world’s framework in which the ego thrives is to come face to face with the love of God already in you. Your true Self.


“What could you want that forgiveness cannot give? Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset?

All this forgiveness offers you and more. Forgiveness offers everything I want. Today I have accepted this as true. Today I’ve recieved the gifts of God.”

Course in Miracles

Sullivan Quotes Peter Rollins

Check out Sullivan’s post here. Here is the quote, which I think deserves a re-post:

Fundamentalism can be understood as a particular way of believing one’s beliefs rather than referring to the actual content of one’s beliefs.

It can be described as holding a belief system is such a way that it mutually excludes all other systems, rejecting other views in direct proportion to how much they differ from one’s own. In contrast, the a/theistic approach can be seen as a form of disbelieving what one believes, or rather, believing IN God while remaining dubious concerning what one believes ABOUT God (a distinction that fundamentalism is unable to maintain). This does not actually contradict the idea of orthodoxy but rather allow us to understand it in a new light…
This a/theism is not then some temporary place of uncertainty on the way to spiritual maturity, bur rather is something that operates within faith as a type of heat-inducing friction that prevents our liquid images of the divine from cooling and solidifying into idolatrous form,” – Peter Rollins, “How Not To Speak of God”

False Self

“Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.
This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.
My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.
We are not very good at recognising illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves – the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honour, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface….”

— Thomas Merton, “New Seeds of Contemplation”

Skating Ministries in Phoenix Area

I saw this article on azcentral.com and I couldn’t resist a bit of commentary on what I read. First, let me say that I know that these kinds of niche ministries are started with good intentions and that they do provide some good to the community and for that they should be applauded. But what I find so fascinating about this is how out of touch the leaders of these ministry leaders present themselves to be. They are doing their best to reach the younger, “gnarlier” generations but they act as if these kids were born yesterday. One of the ministry leaders makes the claim that “If you expect kids to clean up, sit on a pew and listen to a message, you’re going to miss them.” But I wonder why he thinks entertaining them and then having them sit in a bleacher and listen to a message will yield a different result. Do these leaders not understand that these kids are seeing their sales pitch from a mile away? They tout big numbers of kids “receiving an invitation”, but I wonder if that’s more than some commitment cards that kids are filling out in wake of some emotional plea. I mean, if these events are truly that fruitful, then how could the Church still be hemorrhaging youth? If it’s THAT easy, then every evangelical church in the country would have installed a skate park by now.

Is the Christian message so lame and unexciting that we need the equivalent of circus clowns to spice it up? Stephen Baldwin is the face of one of the organizations that employ extreme sports to get kids in the door and then when all the tricks are done, they take the opportunity, while he has a captive audience, to share his version of the Gospel. His ministry is also receiving corporate sponsorships in order to pay for his events. Does his ministry not realize that selling out and involving corporate sponsorships in an event that is designed to ultimately share essential spiritual truths is a BAD idea? Here is what Daniel Southern, the head of the head of Baldwin’s ministry, had to share in regards to what’s happening in the skating culture today: “We see a cultural wave going through right now. This is an international phenomenon. It’s for boys and girls. It’s a cultural thing like hip-hop has been.” What does that mean? Seeing as Southern is the former CEO of the American Tract Society, you’d think he’d be a bit more coherent and on message. Judging by his personal website, dude is seriously out of touch and totally not as “gnarly” as he needs to be 🙂

Baldwin also says in the article that, “”I’m here to reach the youth culture of America that is dying, every day, spiritually.” If that’s the case, and I’m not saying it’s not to some degree, then why was Baldwin’s big extreme sport event in Phoenix booked for December 2007 get pushed back an entire year? Could it be they are waiting for more corporate sponsorships? Well, even though Baldwin has outlined the very high stakes of “losing kids daily”, I guess we can’t expect them to lose money, right?

And we wonder why we are losing the youth. It has nothing to do with how extreme or gnarly you look. It has nothing to do with being cool with tattoos or piercings. Kids see Baldwin’s seemingly phony drive-by evangelism from a mile away. What’s really getting lost here is that is has everything to do with authenticity of your message and how you practice your message. One of the skate ministry heads makes the claim that, “A lot of churches want to entertain kids. We don’t want to entertain. Kids want the truth. The world’s given them such a platform to entertain them. When they go to church, they don’t have anything for them.”

The question remains that if you AREN’T there to entertain, then what else are you providing that the Church isn’t? But then again, maybe he’s dead on. Kids want the truth and they aren’t exposed to authentic representations of the Gospel lived out in their daily lives in their Church community. Maybe that’s where evangelicals can begin addressing the issue and can put away the ramps, helmets, and corporate sponsorships.

Making Sense of Wilber (Altitude)

In addition to Wilber’s AQAL approach that he’s written much about, his idea of “Altitude” is equally as helpful. Altitude simply describes the spectrum of human awareness or consciousness that can be traced throughout human history and also throughout the life of any single human being. The territory that Wilber covers in this approach is not new. What Wilber has done is combined and expanded on several different but similar models from other leading psychologist.


As you can see, there are various levels of consciousness displayed above with the help of three different models (Maslow, Gebser, Graves). The Graves model of Spiral Dynamics on the right hand side sees to be the most comprehensive model. This may seem like gibberish at first so one thing that is helpful for us is that we can divide these various stages into three general categories to help us get our feet wet. These three categories are egocentric, ethnocentric, and world-centric.

Egocentric stages are stages where a person is only concerned with themselves. We see this stage is new-born babies who cry when hungry, tired or uncomfortable. We also see this in the earliest human beings who sought to satisfy their needs whether it be food, sex, shelter from the elements, etc. Egocentric stages of awareness are found in the bottom three levels, Infrared, Magenta, and Red.

The next category is ethnocentric which indicates a progression from egocentric in that you are now concerned not only with yourself, but with your tribe, village, city, nation, denomination. I like to think of this as the “We are the Champions” stage. “We kick ass and you suck”. The stages of awareness that display an ethnocentric world-view are typically found in the red and amber stages or when I’m watching Cardinals football.

The third category is world-centric which transcends both ego and ethnocentric because it not only is concerned with “I” and “Us” but it also is concerned with “ALL of Us”. I like to call this the “We Are The World” category. It can be found in institutions like the United Nations and NATO, environmentalist groups, civil rights and various other human rights movements. It communicates an empathy for different cultures and beliefs. It seeks to repair the division that both the ego-centric and ethnocentric world-views have thrived on for centuries but finds this task difficult because the lower levels of awareness “just don’t get it!”. The world-centric value system is found in both orange and green.

So that is a very basic overview of the various stages within the first tier levels or awareness. There are two things to keep in mind here. First, in describing the various levels, I realize that I’m over-generalizing. My intention is primarily to give you an basic idea of how this fits together and I’m fully aware that in doing so, we are sort of skipping the nuances of human life. Although we all have our center of gravities at a certain level, we can find ourselves operating at different levels based on the various life experiences we face. For example, I view myself as someone who’s center of gravity is in Green but if someone harasses my wife or daughter, I have no problem dropping down to red and getting dirty.

The second thing to consider are the different tiers listed on the right side of the graph (First, Second, Third). The reason that all the stages from Infrared to Green are considered first tier is that within this tier, each level firmly believes that it is the only right stage. For example, Green environmentalists will blow up a bunch of Hummers at a Hummer dealership because the use of hummers obviously doesn’t line up with their worldview. Orange capitalists hate green higher environmental standards because they require costly changes that will hurt the bottom line. Red foreign policy leaders will despise the green multinational organizations like the UN and NATO because they limit Red’s autonomy. Again, this is a bit of over-generalizing, but I think this holds true with the various trends we see in our culture today.

At the second tier levels of awareness, something interesting starts to happen. At these levels, one recognizes that all first tier levels are necessary. Second tier sees that within all the first tier levels, there are both good and bad, benefits and limits. Teal awareness, the first of the second tier levels, honors the desire of green to restore the division of the lower levels, but unlike green, it begins to reintroduce healthy hierarchies. So while green has lots of good intentions and desires for the world, it generally lacks the ability of orange and amber to get organized and solve problems. Second tier awareness is able to recognize this and begin to address the problem from a much more integral perspective. On this subject, it’s going to be fascinating to see if Al Gore can achieve any real success on his initiatives to merge the environmental and wall street crowds to make alternative energy a business that can last. That would truly be the marriage of the Green and Orange world-view.

In a christian context, this applies really well to what’s happening in and around the Emergent/emerging Christianity issue. As the green Emergent or progressive Christians seem to be growing in number, the Amber conservatives are living up to their level’s description of fighting for the “truth”. I pray, as we move forward, that we can step back and see each other’s benefits and not live in fear of each other. We’ll see what happens. Until then, onwards and upwards.

If any of this interests you, look up Spiral Dynamics and tweak out……haha. thanks for reading.