Thursday, August 8, 2013

A spiritual typology

Walter Hilton, a fifteenth century English monk and spiritual guide, in his book, The Ladder of Perfection, described three men standing in the light of the sun. One is blind. He can believe in the sun only through the word of another person. The warmth he experiences may be from a fire or an unknown source. Atheists, for example, are among the blind. They may encounter the warmth of God's love without knowing from whence that life-giving force comes.

A second man is aware of the sunlight, but has his eyes closed, sees only a glimmer of light through his eyelids. Most of us are this second man: we know that the sunlight exists but find the light too intense, preferring to hide behind our eyelids. We, to be blunt, prefer living a self-centered and selfish existence to walking the Jesus path.

The third man sees the sun clearly, eyes open. This person knows and embodies the Jesus way. Saints are men and women who have lived the Christian life writ large, individuals who have walked the Jesus path further and more closely than most people do.

Hilton's choice of three men instead of three persons reflects the masculine and patriarchal language and worldview of his point in time and history. However, his typology of those who cannot discern, those who decline to discern, and those who discern spiritual realities and powers seem more timeless.

Which of the three best describes you?

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