Integration

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2) For some time now, I have been interested in the integration of what we commonly refer to as mind and heart, or intellect and emotion. More recently I could add to that a growing interest in the power of practice, or what we could also call habitual choice. Over the years I have come to see that, at the deepest level, these three aspects of our selves are connected: we rationalize with emotion, we feel according to our deepest held ideas about reality, and what we choose shapes our thoughts and emotions in surprising ways.

Here is what I would like to point towards: the integrated life of spiritual maturity will have a place for seriously reasoned thinking, properly responsive emotion, and wise decision making. The spiritually mature person will sense within themselves a proper relationship in all three aspects of their personhood.

Try this for a mental model: in philosophy, we talk about a thing having properties. Usually a thing will have more than one property, perhaps many. The properties of a sugar cube, for instance, are “sweetness”, (usually) “whiteness”, and most probably “squareness”. What is useful here, for our purposes, is that the one thing (the sugar cube) is not limited to one property. A sugar cube is not only sweetness, but whiteness and squareness at the same time. Co-inherence, we call it: one thing has multiple properties. Sweetness, whiteness and squareness are not mutually exclusive.

It was Dallas Willard, the American philosopher and student of the soul, who first pointed out the spiritual relevance of this philosophical descriptor. I have come to see that co-inherence is an apt description of the spiritually mature person, the person who is learning integration in their intellect, their emotion and their choice. True spiritual life is not a war between what we can know rationally and what we can experience. In essence, spiritual maturity is knowledge of the deepest kind, the kind that is fully reasoned while also deeply felt and freely chosen. True Christian knowledge is holistic. In the words of my friend Charles Nienkirchen, “what I know, I really know”.

And so my interest in the text above. Here, Paul is making another of his “since/then” arguments. He says, in effect, that since God through Christ is in the process of healing our humanity, we can move past the split and become fully integrated persons. Mind and heart set on the same things. Spiritual co-inherence, I now call it.

Of course, we need God’s help in this. But whatever your starting point, please realize that the goal is to move towards integration.

Bob Osborne