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Divine Therapy

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Part Two

Divine Therapy
Sunday, December 15, 2019

Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step Seven: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. [1]

Thomas Keating (1923–2018), one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach which promotes the practice of Centering Prayer, explained how meditation is linked to the healing of our shortcomings. He called it the divine therapy:

The only prayer you need to say is, “Help!” It’s right to the point. It describes what we need. And when it comes from a heart that is broken by its own failures, it moves God to the very roots of the divine nature and God responds. It is not a question of forgiveness, because [God] has already forgiven us as soon as we want to change, but to give us the ability to be free of the straitjacket of the emotional programs for happiness based on those instinctual needs [for security, control, and affection]. . . .

The purpose of ordinary psychotherapy, as I understand it, is to help a person lead a normal life when he or she is hampered by psychological problems. The purpose of the divine therapy is the healing of the roots of all our problems and to transform our attitudes and, indeed, the whole of our human nature into the mind and heart of Christ. In other words, to introduce us through grace into the interior life of God. This involves a transformation of our attitudes, faculties, and bodies so that we can receive the maximum amount of the transmission of divine life that is possible given the limits of human nature.

The Fathers of the church who wrote about this subject called this process deification. In other words, the purpose of this journey, even the Twelve Steps of [Alcoholics Anonymous], is not just to become a better person and to maintain recovery, as important as these are. It is to change us into the divine way of being human. This is a much bigger and more comprehensive project and opens us to the full extent of human possibilities and capacities. You cannot do much better than to become God by participation. [2]

I, Richard, believe that these are critical steps on any spiritual journey. God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will also use just about any circumstance to get invited. God’s totally positive and lasting way of removing our shortcomings is to fill up the hole with something much better, more luminous, and more satisfying. Then all our old strategies, including the addiction itself, are exposed for the false programs for happiness they really are.

[1] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 55. (A Simple Program is a gender-neutral translation of the original Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.)

[2] Thomas Keating with Tom S., Divine Therapy and Addiction: Centering Prayer and the Twelve Steps (Lantern Books: 2009), 102, 105-106.

Image credit: La Soupe (detail), Pablo Picasso, 1902-03, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: These were moments when it all made sense and we knew we were good, God was good, it was all good. We were in touch with our true source of power, our spiritual desire, the indwelling Holy Spirit. —Richard Rohr
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