Holy Indifference


It is one of the great ironies or paradoxes of religion or spirituality that the more one grows or matures in holiness, the more indifferent they tend to become to the issue of their own salvation or survival after death. We see this in the great Apostle of Christianity, St. Paul, who expresses his willingness to be damned if need be the price of his own people's salvation. It is almost as if genuine holiness involves becoming wholly indifferent to the fate of one's own "soul" or self. How explain this?


When one considers the history of religion or classic stages of spiritual growth it becomes less of a puzzle.


At the beginning, religion at its most primitive level has mostly to do with basic issues for survival like finding enough food to eat, warding of disease or having enough rain to allow crops to grow. Naturally, at this stage, there is also likely to be a lot of concern over what happens after death. Will there be reward or punishment? Will the future be happy (heaven) or miserable (hell)?


But take away these more basic concerns, particularly the physical ones regarding food, shelter, and health, much as has happened in modern industrialized society, and what is left? Mostly concern for the spiritual self-survival. It is at this point that religion (which has mostly to do with keeping ones promises or obligations to God) tend to morph into "spirituality", which from the looks of much of the spiritual literature being written today, has mostly to do with the perfection and enhancement and preservation of ones "spirit" or self. I suppose this is all fine. Certainly it is natural. But does it produce holiness?


It seems to me that genuine holiness has a lot more to do with the whole scheme of things, the overall plan of the Creator for creation, what religion calls "the will of God". From this point of view, self-concern takes the back seat as much as possible, leaving God wholly to be God. Not that the sense of self disappears entirely at this final stage of spiritual growth, but the focus of concern ceases to be oneself almost to the point of self-forgetfulness, not about our present conduct, but in terms of expecting any praise from others or reward from God. It is reward enough that whatever is right be accomplished or God's will be done.


But I think there may be one other factor as well, and that has to do with the personal experience of God. For those who have actually have (or think they have) "tasted" God, worry about where they are going to spend eternity largely disappears. This is because, at the moment they had this experience, time itself seemed to no longer to exist.



R W Kropf 1/21/06



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