Last month we spoke with Larry Culliford, author of 'Much Ado About Something: A Vision of Christian Maturity'. Here's our Q&A with him on his latest book:
'Finding Spiritual Maturity' - Dr Larry Culliford
The debate over religion and rationalism is one that has raged for centuries and has shaped much of the writings in apologetics and spirituality over that time. With Much Ado About Something psychiatrist and author Larry Culliford offers a fresh and unique perspective using the principles of psychology to examine how we may develop from childhood innocence to spiritual maturity, via a series of psychological stages. In the book he argues that growth will most often occur through adversity and the emotional healing that accompanies acceptance of God’s Will.
What was your thinking behind writing Much Ado About Something?
A young psychiatrist, I began writing (in the 70’s) by addressing the question ‘What is mental health?’ realising then that the usually accepted biological, psychological and social aspects needed an additional ‘spiritual’ dimension to make proper sense. All my books have been informed by this idea, and in Much Ado I am addressing human spirituality (the ‘Something’ of the title) from a Christian perspective, exploring this particularly in the light of recent findings from neuroscience and developmental psychology.
Do you think it possible to believe the supernatural claims of Christianity in a world governed by science and rationalism?
In seeking a yes/no, true/false type answer, this question betrays its dualist origin, thereby risking disagreement and a premature end to the discussion. Less important than what I think is the opportunity this book gives readers to explore Christian spirituality (and some aspects of other world faith traditions that are included) from a new, holistic perspective according to which belief is informed and balanced by experience. Many people, including children, have experiences which appear supernatural or spiritual in some way.
How would you define Spiritual Maturity?
Attaining maturity, like the ripening of fruit for example, is a natural phenomenon. Spiritual maturity is considered better as a developmental process than an end-point. In Much Ado this process is described according to six stages while acknowledging that, for reasons given, relatively few people proceed very far. What prevents progress and how to move forward are both discussed in detail, with reference to other spiritual writers and psychologists, illustrated by numerous engaging anecdotes.
You identify Dualism as a problem in Christian spirituality. What are the negative effects of this?
To make progress towards spiritual maturity (past ‘conformist’ stage three in the scheme described) a person must get beyond primarily dualist – either/or, right/wrong, good/evil, us/them – type thinking and embrace equally a more holistic type of experience and interaction with the world. This encourages a move away from the self-seeking pursuit of comfort, power, wealth and fame towards embracing more spiritual values like honesty, humility, tolerance, generosity, kindness, compassion, wisdom and love.
How much of the common arguments about faith (sexuality, heaven/hell, gender, ecclesiology etc) can be attributed to what you describe as ‘Childhood Spirituality’ and ‘Adolescent Religion’?
The two chapters referred to in the question describe research showing that most young children exhibit some form of spiritual awareness, but that it fades into the background as they approach adolescence. This may reflect prevailing secular cultural attitudes, also that children are seldom taught any meaningful kind of spiritual vocabulary (religious or otherwise) with which to share their thoughts and experiences. Arguments about faith etcetera, uninformed by any degree of genuine ongoing personal spiritual experience, are therefore often sterile and misleading, being based upon a profound and tragic form of spiritual ignorance by which people don’t know that they don’t know what they need to know.
What do you hope people will take away with them from Much Ado About Something?
The book has been described as a, “Rewarding, authentic, up-to-date, holistic new vision of the timeless message of Christ”. I am delighted that one of several positive endorsements reads, “This book has much to teach Christians, those of other faiths, and those of no faith”. My hope is therefore that all manner of people will seek to engage fruitfully with the ideas presented in a way that results in their feeling both heartily encouraged and usefully guided on their spiritual journey through life.
Buy ‘Much Ado About Something’ for just £8.50 (RRP £12.99)
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Join date : 2015-02-17
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