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James Loder, Mystical Spirituality, and James Hillman


Eolene Boyd-MacMillan

Transformation is a desired outcome of Christian spirituality. Christians pray, trust, and hope that their responsive embrace of God will transform them. Interdisciplinary study of this process, as journey and as significant movements, hits upon key philosophical, theological, and psychological debates. Are all spiritualities the same core with an overlay of traditional practices and beliefs? How is the Holy Spirit involved in human life as the potential for this transformation process unfolds from birth? Can psychological theories of transformation that do not affirm divine reality have explanatory and descriptive power for Christian understandings of transformation?
These areas of focus and related questions encompass broad landscapes. This book places a magnifying glass on one piece of the terrain by engaging the work of philosopher, theologian, and psychologist James Loder, mystical spirituality scholars Andrew Louth, Bernard McGinn, Denys Turner, and Mark McIntosh, and archetypal movement founder James Hillman. Without denying differences, this work is the first analysis to identify connections among these thinkers. The significance of the connections is both substantive and methodological for intra- and inter-faith (broadly understood) spirituality discussion, as well as for the engagement of the Christian church with the culture of the twenty-first century.


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Chapter One Ego-Relativization in the TransformationTheory of James Loder 31


Chapter One: Ego-Relativization in the Transformation Theory of James Loder 1. Introduction If my thesis is that the transformation theory of James Loder connects with mystical spirituality as presented by four contemporary authors, then this chapter must set out Loder’s arguments for his theory. A central feature of Loder’s transformation theory is the paradox1 of the ego, which he understands as a potentially self-replacing mechanism. Not self-eliminating, but an agency that functions simultaneously to deny and find its replacement to which it can be related. The centered, ‘ruling’ ego might be understood as a transitional object for human- divine relationality via ego-relativization. That is, the ‘centered’ ego might function as something that helps us transition from being oriented around our parent or primary caretaker to being drawn into the life of God. As mentioned later, Loder calls the ego a ‘truth- producing error.’ But full discussion of the centered ego as transitional object is for another text. The point here is that this language about the ego qualifies and critiques the assertions of those writers on Christian spirituality who identify generic ego-strengthening as spiritual deepening or growth.2 Perhaps their assertions of ‘graced 1 Loder and Neidhardt, KM, p. 96; Loder, LS, p. 37. Fundamental in all his texts, is Loder’s engagement with the writings of Søren Kierkegaard in his exploration of paradox and ‘union in opposition’ (bi-polar relational unity) embodied in Christ as articulated by the Chalcedonian formual. 2 E.g., Ruth Holgate writes about an aspect of spiritual growth,...

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