VIEWPOINT: Unity, devotion, works and harmony

by Rev. Ann Schranz, Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Why bother comparing and contrasting religious exemplars? It is a way to appreciate their wisdom more fully, to understand ourselves more deeply and to grow by stretching ourselves in possibly uncomfortable directions. 

In his book Four Spiritualities, Peter Tufts Richardson relates different expressions of spirituality to different personality types as described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). 

There are four basic types of spirituality: journeys of unity, devotion, works and harmony. We tend to gravitate toward the type of spirituality that suits our personality.

The journey of unity tends to appeal to those who lead with intuitive thinking (type NT in Myers-Briggs terms).  The journey of devotion tends to appeal to those whose personality is oriented toward sensing feeling (SF in Myers-Briggs terms.) The journey of works tends to appeal to those geared to sensing thinking (ST). The journey of harmony tends to appeal to those whose intuitive feeling predominates (NF). One type of spirituality is not better than the other. Each approach has much to offer.

The journey of unity (NT), represented by teachers such as the Buddha, Socrates and Margaret Fuller, engages spiritual growth in searching for truth, universal principles, mystical experience as clarity, and systemic social justice. According to Richardson, the journey of devotion (SF), represented by leaders such as Mohammed, Ramakrishna and Mother Theresa, focuses upon the immediacy of direct experience, piety and hands-on service to others. 

The journey of works (ST), represented by leaders such as Moses, Confucius and Julia Ward Howe, begins with identity, covenant and order, evolving through work as spiritual practice and stewardship as its ethical focus. The journey of harmony (NF), represented by Jesus, Rabindranath Tagore and Lao Tzu, embarks on a quest for self-actualization as its message, fostering mystic gratitude, healing, idealism and a concern for humane processes in human relationships. 

The first part of life is often about playing to the strengths of our personality. To keep life fresh, it is worth exploring and strengthening any underdeveloped parts of our personality in the middle and later years of our life.  This might mean learning about religious exemplars to which we are not naturally drawn, as well as expressing our spirituality in new ways. 

For example, midlife stretching for NT (intuitive thinking) people, those who tend to have a minimalist spirituality, might mean adding things (fabric, color, texture, taste) to their spiritual expression. For SF (sensing feeling) people, those who tend to have a dense and textured spirituality, midlife stretching might mean simplifying and shedding, literally subtracting things to make space for new spiritual insight.  Whatever our personality or spirituality, may we find a wellspring of affection and connection.

Rev. Ann Schranz serves Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 9185 Monte Vista Ave. in Montclair.  The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the congregation or the Claremont Interfaith Council.



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