Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tallon, Andrew


There is a great deal that is wrong with our society at present. Violence, crime, substance abuse, dysfunction, and litigation run amok are just some of the more visible symptoms that fill our newspapers and newscasts on a daily basis. These ills--whether they are discussed under the rubric of Family Values, diversity, equality, or something else-equally imply that we have lost a certain sense of solidarity and security that we once possessed but now have lost. The comfort and orientation once so strong in family, neighborhood, and other social institutions has weakened or even disappeared The lack of these supports comes, moreover, at literally the worst possible time, given the unprecedented demands and changes that modern life subjects us to. The combination of these two trends has been lethal, and has stressed us, both individually and corporately, to a severe degree. We have not held up to this stress, and that is why cracks have appeared. Commentators generally agree that community is what we have lost and what we must restore in order to ease our distress, and a body of good, useful work addressing this problem has been produced. Much of this material shies away from religious and spiritual discourse, however, unless it is done from the point of view of a "neutral" social or anthropological analysis. I suspect the reason for this is that religion is one of the more contentious issues that plagues us, whether directly or less so in the guise of dispute over neuralgic moral issues. In short, religious discussion of community is avoided because religion is part of the problem. In this essay, I reverse this trend by explicitly discussing community from a spiritual point of view. I do so because I believe that a spiritual approach is the only one that will restore our civil well-being. The key to such an enterprise is to find a neutral spiritual approach: one that is not religiously divisive and that, at the same time, possesses sufficient scope and explanatory power to rationally order religious and spiritual discourse across any given polity. I believe I have found such an approach. Transpersonal psychology has taken the solid foundation of the perennial philosophy and successfully updated it by incorporating newly gained knowledge into its theoretical and practical framework Transpersonal psychology offers us a sound view of human nature that prominently recognizes the centrality of spirit. Its efforts to responsibly unify the psychological, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual wisdom of all cultures and traditions makes it a natural tool to use in an effort to cope with the situation we find ourselves in. In the pages that follow, I show how the perennial wisdom can be applied today to move us into a better tomorrow. I demonstrate that the things we all agree are lacking in our society--those things that we say constitute community--can only be found through a personal commitment to spiritual self-transcendence. This, then, is an essay on community written from the point of view of the philosophy of religion. The structure of the work is quite simple. I lay the philosophical foundation with a discussion of the work of Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan, the renowned Transcendental Thomist, offers a strong critical explication of subject and society that appeals to universal and spiritual elements. I then extend Lonergan's work with that of Ken Wilber, the noted transpersonal psychologist. I utilize Wilber to extend the universal and perennial aspects of Lonergan's method, greatly fleshing out concepts that exist in the latter. Finally, in the last chapter I complete the presentation by appealing to the work of religious psychologist and social critic M. Scott Peck Peck's value lies in having actually used the ideas Lonergan and Wilber discuss to build community. Peck shows that the theory works. This three part exposition proves that a spiritual approach to building community is feasible. The methodology I use to establish this conclusion is comparative, synthetic, and integrative. This tack mirrors the axiom that social integration and intellectual integration go hand in hand The basis for this proposition will become clearer as the argument unfolds. I summarize that basis here by stating that comparing with a view to integrating is how we must proceed in order to rebuild our culture. We need a very big tent to shelter all parties in these trying times. I hope these efforts help to erect it.



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