Reflections: The False Self and the United States

I just came back from a wonderful Centering prayer retreat. One of the important concepts of Centering Prayer is the False Self and the 3 programs of happiness that are obstacles to our relation with God. I would like to apply those insights not just to me but to the country I live in and love.

The True Self is the self that God made, and is made in the image and likeness of God.
The False Self is the self we made from our sins and short comings. It is expressed in three energy centers. These energy centers are good things in themselves made evil by going to extremes.

The power program of happiness:

Power can be exercised appropriately and indeed must be exercised by parents, businesses and governments for the world to work. It becomes a false program of happiness when it goes to an extreme. We have all seen the effects of over controlling parents. The outcome for their children can be devastating.

The security program of happiness:

Security is certainly important. It is prudent to save money for such things as college for children. However security can be taken to extremes. Security can become an end in itself. This can lead to people being stuck in boxes and not willing to take needed risks. It can also lead to paranoia and lack of trust.

The pleasure program of happiness:

Pleasure taken appropriately is a good thing. We need recreation to be whole as humans. But taken to an extreme it is horrible. I worked for 17 years with alcoholics and drug addicts who literally entertained themselves to death. I am overweight, and certainly am abusing the pleasure program of happiness.

Now let us look at how the false programs of happiness affect our beloved country.

The power program of happiness:

Certainly this is an obviously false program for happiness. In our relations with weaker countries our approach is often that we know best, and in Latin America, Iraq, and Afghanistan we have seen how false this program is. It has been an abject failure.
We also see the abuse of power in our domestic politics. Rich men like the Koch brothers have an inordinate control over our country. They elect our leaders and write our laws. I fear we have lost our democracy.

The security program of happiness:
This obviously false program arises out of concern for security after the horrible events of 9-11. We committed the sin of a preventive war with Iraq which had no relations with Al Qaeda and no weapons of mass destruction. This false program of happiness is so strong there are those who want to intervene militarily in Syria where we really don’t know who the actors are.

The pleasure program of happiness:

This is best exemplified by President Bush’s admonition after 9-11 to go shopping rather than become more actively involved in our country (enlist in the military, donate blood, help in soup kitchens etc,) This was continued when under both the Obama and Bush administrations we allowed one and a half percent of our country to bear the burden of both of these horrible wars while the rest of us shopped.

The only way to defeat the false self is true prayer and repentance. Even then it is hard.

Father Mike Van Cleve

Father Mike is a priest for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston 

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