Read an Excerpt
The Four Worldviews
Your worldview is not what you look at. It is what you look out from or look through. (page 241)
During our formative years, each of us has unique experiences that shape not only what we see in the world around us but also how we see reality. Our parents, our friends, our religious community, and our society all help to provide boundaries so that we can grow, develop, and make sense of our world. But, over time, as we mature and experience life in new ways, our original worldview is challenged. This can be painful, and if we’ve overidentified with our religious community and local cultural experiences, we can feel trapped: If I continue to see the world through these lenses, I’ll stagnate; but if I move on, I’ll feel like I’m leaving my close friends, my church community, or even my family for good. This binary “in-or-out” approach is common the first time our worldview is challenged.
As we begin to reflect on Fr. Richard’s book The Universal Christ, it’s important to take some time to explore the lenses that we use to perceive reality. Neuroscientific research shows us that we simply do not have the processing capacity, through our five senses and our brain, to take in all the data that is available to us each moment of our day. So we reduce our moment-by-moment experiences to a manageable level. For example, we avoid thinking about how some of our economic pursuits are damaging our environment, or we generalize that certain politicians are always wrong, to the point where we can’t hear them when they say something right. When groups agree upon these pictures of reality, very powerful worldviews ensue.
In The Universal Christ, Fr. Richard outlines the four worldviews through which we engage with life, faith, and spirituality at different points in our journeys. “There are good things about all four of them,” he wrote, “and none of them is completely wrong or completely right, but one of them is by far the most helpful” (page 242):
1. “Those who hold the material worldview believe that the outer, visible universe is the ultimate and ‘real’ world. People of this worldview have given us science, engineering, medicine, and much of what we now call ‘civilization.’ . . . A material worldview tends to create highly consumer-oriented and competitive cultures, which are often preoccupied with scarcity, since material goods are always limited” (page 242).
2. “The spiritual worldview characterizes many forms of religion and some idealistic philosophies that recognize the primacy and finality of spirit, consciousness, the invisible world behind all manifestations. . . . But taken too far, it can become ethereal and disembodied, disregarding ordinary human needs and denying the need for good psychology, anthropology, or societal issues of peace and justice. The spiritual worldview, taken too seriously, has little concern for the earth, the neighbor, or justice, because it considers this world largely as an illusion” (page 242).
3. “Those holding . . . the priestly worldview are generally sophisticated, trained, and experienced people that feel their job is to help us put matter and Spirit together. They are the holders of the law, the scriptures, and the rituals; they include gurus, ministers, therapists, and sacred communities. People of the priestly worldview help us make good connections that are not always obvious between the material and spiritual worlds. . . . This view assumes that the two worlds are actually separate and need someone to bind them back together. . . . It describes what most of us think of as organized religion and much of the self-help world” (pages 242–43).
4. “The incarnational worldview [is one] in which matter and Spirit are understood to have never been separate. Matter and Spirit reveal and manifest each other. This view relies more on awakening than joining, more on seeing than obeying, more on growth in consciousness and love than on clergy, experts, morality, scriptures, or rituals. The code word I am using in this entire book for this worldview is simply ‘Christ.’ . . . In Christian history, we see the incarnational worldview most strongly in the early Eastern Fathers, Celtic spirituality, many mystics who combined prayer with intense social involvement, Franciscanism in general, many nature mystics, and contemporary eco-spirituality” (page 243).
Over time, as we embrace the external changes that life brings, we need to make room for and pay attention to internal changes we experience. We let go of some aspects of one worldview and include other aspects from a different worldview. We slowly learn to hold the tension of embracing different worldviews at the same time.
Spend some time reflecting on your own experiences of the four worldviews and the lenses through which you see reality today.
1. In a journal or on the page that follows, write out or circle the words that describe the aspects of each worldview with which you have resonated in the past.
• The outer, visible universe is the ultimate “real” world
• Gives us: science, engineering, medicine
• Consumer-oriented, competitive
• The “real” world is found in our inner, spiritual selves and the invisible world
• Gives us: some psychology, esoteric New Age, reality of spirit world
• Can be disembodied, denies the need to act on social justice issues or care for the earth
• The “real” world is found in structured practices and sophisticated rituals that bring matter and spirit together
• Gives us: gurus, ministers, sacred communities, self-help, organized religion
• Assumes a separation between matter and spirit
• The “real” world connects our inner lives with all that is visible and invisible, with others, and with the whole cosmos
• Gives us: awakening, ways of seeing, growth in consciousness and love more than clergy, experts, morality, scriptures, or ritual
• Amalgamates all three other worldviews, engages in everything from eco-spirituality to social involvement, “Christ”
2. Time Line of Worldviews in Your Life
Plot which of the four worldviews most resonated with you at various points in your life. The time line begins with your first memory and ends at your current age. You may find it helpful to write down a few words that summarize what was going on in your life at each of these stages.
Patrick’s Time Line
0 5 12 16 26 30 Today
• Birth–age 5: Incarnational—Safe, loving upbringing
• Ages 5–12: Priestly—First church experiences
• Ages 12–16: Material—Teenager, driven
• Ages 16–26: Spiritual—Depression, seeking meaning, reading Bible
• Ages 26–30: Spiritual + Incarnational—Relational loss and career disappointment, reordering of spiritual and life priorities
• Age 30—today: Incarnational—Embracing paradox, more comfortable with not knowing
Your Time Line
3. Notice the transition points on your time line. What experiences precipitated your moving from one worldview toward another? Journal as much detail as you can remember.
4. Reread the passage on the incarnational worldview, with Fr. Richard’s note that “the code word I am using in this entire book for this worldview is simply ‘Christ.’ ” Then journal your reflections on what it would be like to predominantly experience life from within this worldview.