Much Ado About SomethingA vision of Christian maturity
rn(For publication by SPCK on 17th September 2015: see www.spck.org.uk)
The Holy Spirit, although made of nothing, far from being nothing, can be experienced. It is therefore definitely something. When felt at a deeply personal level, this ‘something’ is often life-changing.
It is hard to credit rationally that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin, turned water into wine, walked on water, quelled a storm, and performed many other miraculous feats; and harder still to acknowledge as fact his resurrection after death. From the perspective of rational science, these are absurd propositions; but that is only the first part of the definition of paradox: ‘An absurd proposition which, when investigated, may prove to be well-founded or true’. Accordingly, riddles like these merit not dismissal but intense further examination and radical elucidation.
Spirituality for a psychologist is ‘where the deeply personal meets the universal’. Being personal and subjective, the spiritual dimension of human experience is better thought of as an adventure playground to explore – a vibrant place of fun and learning – rather than a specimen to kill off, dissect, analyse and discard. Furthermore, being universal, this is an adventure park we are all already in.
This book on Christian maturity is about building understanding, developing faith and growing as a person, whatever your background. It is aimed not only at Christian clergy and lay people not too entrenched in their ways and ideas, but also at anyone interested in a psychological and spiritual interpretation of Christianity, including spiritually-minded people from non-Christian traditions. After all, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Taoist, or a worshipper from some other religion; whether a Pagan, an atheist, a humanist, a decidedly ‘can’t know’ agnostic, or simply a ‘don’t know’ agnostic; like everyone else, you will have been affected at some level by the dominant impact of Christianity on the Western mind for the last two thousand years. This is the powerful legacy we have all inherited.
‘Much Ado’ may be of special interest and value to Christians who are reviewing their beliefs and practices, questioning their faith; people who may have lapsed from religious practice, but who remain prepared to reconsider their religious bearings. There is an obvious need, too, to reach out to those whose faith is challenged by scientific rationalism and secular materialism, appealing to them with ideas such as that spiritual development involves facing rather than evading doubt, and that there is a way forward; proven to scientific degrees of satisfaction for those prepared to undertake the lifelong experiment, to commit personally to regular spiritual practice and investigation. In many ways, though, this book is for ordinary people consciously – and conscientiously – seeking peace, hope, courage, wisdom and the great truths of existence with which to enrich their lives.
‘Much Ado about Something’ is aimed at helping you – whoever you think or hope you are; whoever you aspire to become – to get clearer in mind what all the ‘ado’, fuss, passion regarding human spirituality and the Holy Spirit is about. Interest in Christianity will be stimulated by the clearly explained ideas here, fostering re-consideration of both that religion and your own deepest intuitions and beliefs from a perspective broadened by the insights of neuroscience and the psychology of personal development.
Growth occurs more often through adversity than by avoiding it; through the emotional healing that accompanies grieving and the eventual acceptance of loss, allowing us to set aside both over-ambitious hopes and crippling fears; to release us from previously distorted perceptions, from desire for control and security; enabling us to relinquish the strength of our attachments and aversions to things: to people, possessions, places, activities, ideas, and even beliefs.
Let go of everything and follow the indwelling Spirit: this is how to become free to live with increasing spontaneity ‘in the moment’, more attuned also to the sufferings of others. This is how we grow both wiser and more compassionate, our lives richer and more rewarding. It is also, therefore, how we become of increasing value and benefit to others.
Commendations for ‘Much Ado about Something’
Larry Culliford writes about spirituality with the profound knowledge and insight of being one of the country’s leading psychiatrists. This book has much to teach Christians, those of other faiths, and those of no faith. Strongly recommended!
Sir Anthony Seldon, Author, Educationalist and Historian, Master of Wellington College.
This thoughtful and challenging book asks the all-important questions that must be addressed by those who want to find the true meaning of Christian maturity.
John Moses, Dean Emeritus of St Paul’s Cathedral, author of ‘Divine Discontent: the Prophetic Voice of Thomas Merton’.
It is vitally important these days to lead people toward religious life in a different way. Not by pumping religion into them – the old way that has failed – but by drawing religion out of them: the new way that seems to be our only possible spiritual future. To do this requires skill, simplicity and compassion for the divine element in all beings. Larry Culliford demonstrates this skill, simplicity and compassion in Much Ado About Something, making him a leading voice in the new religious quest of our time.
David Tacey, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University, Australia and author of Religion as Metaphor.
With his intimate knowledge of the writings of Thomas Merton and his acute expertise in the field of psychiatry, Larry Culliford invites his readers to embark upon a profound encounter with the second half of life, inviting nothing less than authentic spiritual transformation.
Robert Wright, Canon Emeritus of Westminster Abbey and former Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
With great charm and clarity, Larry Culliford integrates Christianity with the wisdom of modern psychology and Eastern spiritual traditions. As a non-Christian, I found the insights of this book gave me a deeper appreciation of the spiritual foundations of the faith. Highly recommended for Christians and non-Christians alike.
Steve Taylor PhD, researcher in transpersonal psychology, author of ’Out of the Darkness’, ‘Back to Sanity’ and ‘The Calm Center’.
As the fruit of many years of deep thought and reflection, Larry Culliford’s unique book deserves to find an appreciative readership.
Dr Andrew Powell, Psychotherapist and Founding Chair of the Spirituality & Psychiatry special interest group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
‘Much Ado About Something’ integrates the eternal human search for wholeness and holiness with creativity, wisdom and maturity.
Dr Paul Pearson, Director and Archivist, Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY.
Larry Culliford is an important voice in the world of spirituality. He brings a lifetime's experience from his professional work as a psychologist, integrating this with his understanding and commitment to Christian theology. He has a clear, crisp and easy style of writing, a skill he describes as a 'gift'. Read this book and your journey towards spiritual maturity will grow. I am so pleased that Larry sees Christian maturity as involving the decline of dualism and a strong move towards holism.
The Venerable Arthur Hawes, Archdeacon Emeritus of Lincoln Cathedral and Vice-President of BASS (British Association for the Study of Spirituality)
Being a Christian in a secular world is never going to be easy. But that just makes it difficult, not impossible. Larry Culliford offers to act as a guide who will lead his readers into a form of Christian maturity that is warm, peaceable and transformative. In this book Culliford offers a fascinating spiritual and psychological interpretation of the Christian tradition, aimed at encouraging both growth and maturity. His openness and awareness of general spiritual needs opens up interesting vistas of spirituality and spiritual change that make sense for liberal Christians, but which may well also touch those engaging in other traditions and ways of looking at the spiritual dimensions of life. This is a most interesting and helpful book.
John Swinton, Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at Aberdeen University.
‘Creatively engaging his considerable knowledge of psychology with Christian spirituality, Larry’s exploration of growth into spiritual maturity from a specifically Christian perspective is insightful and challenging. He sets the individual’s journey of growth and spiritual exploration within universal insights about the human mind and psyche, also the richness of the Christian spiritual tradition.’
The Revd Canon Rebecca Swyer, Director for Apostolic Life (Chichester Diocese).
Reading Dr. Culliford's clear conversational prose, I realized I was hearing the voice of a psychiatrist who has mastered wise insights into the day-to-day spiritual experiences of being human. His book embodies the goals of Great Britain's Scientific and Medical Network. His prose "provides a safe forum for ideas that go beyond reductionist science." He successfully "integrates intuitive insights with rational analysis." His theory of human development "emphasizes an holistic approach." Dr. Culliford provides practical paths to continue the great adventure of our living more joyfully and courageously. I value his new book very highly.
Jonathan Montaldo, former President of the International Thomas Merton Society and Director of the Thomas Merton Center in Louisville.
Larry Culliford is to be congratulated for writing a book that is both simple and profound. It is refreshing to read about theology and spirituality from someone trained in the scientific discipline of psychiatric care, who is both rooted in his own spiritual tradition whilst appreciating the riches of others. This book looks at the human condition struggling to find meaning and significance in life. Bringing together insights from religion and psychology, it strikes a chord with all who long for spiritual growth and full humanity.
Bishop Dominic Walker, OGS.
I so enjoyed this book! Larry Culliford’s timely and important study of Christian maturity is a richly compelling read. Elizabeth Holmes, Author, Religious Education specialist and Lecturer on Spirituality Research.