following is an excerpt from Jim Pender's doctoral thesis from the University
of Calgary, published 2000.
... changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
- W. B. Yeats, Easter 1916
THIS THESIS IS about the spiritual
journey. Specifically, it concerns itself with the journey taken by
those who can be called seekers. Those people who are looking for an
experience of authenticity in their spiritual lives and who have had
the courage to keep searching until they found the answer to their heart's
longing. At the dawn of the third millennium, there is a renewed interest
in spirituality. A quick perusal of most any bookstore will reveal not
only numerous titles dealing with spiritual subject matter but, also,
whole sections devoted to this topic.
In addition, interest in spirituality is reflected in the popular media
through a number of primetime television programs as well as in feature
length motion pictures. The presence and popularity of so-called seeker-oriented
churches, too, attest to a tangible and burgeoning interest in the area
of spirituality. Today there is a broad array of spiritual possibilities
that include eastern religions, evangelical and fundamentalist teachings,
mysticism, so-called New Age beliefs, Goddess worship and the revival
of other ancient religious rituals, twelve-step groups dealing with
a wide range of issues, environmental concerns, and holistic health
(Roof, 1993 , p.5). The past decade has also seen a growing dialogue
and literature pertaining to the link between work and spirituality.
this speaks to the reality of the spiritual life being both broadly
based and impacting virtually all of us on many levels. This quest,
which ultimately speaks to nothing less than existential meaning is
nothing new it is, in fact, as old as humanity itself. The spiritual
journey has been variously referred to as the Long Search (Smart, 1981),
the Holy Longing (Rolheiser, 1999), and the Great Search (Wilber, 1999).
These references to the spiritual journey are attempts to articulate
a process that engages and affects us in the most intimate, and personal,
of ways. It is an experience of the heart that is compelling
even irresistible it is a journey that is often filled with pain
but, too, holds that great promise of a peaceful heart. This quest for
meaning, and an accompanying spirituality that facilitates an experience
of authenticity, is an issue of universal concern. It is an acknowledgment
that, as Morton Kelsey puts it, "we are immersed in the spiritual
world" (1982, p.33).
I should tell you, I have always been something of a spiritual junkie.
My interest in this subject, then, is a personal one. As a consequence,
this thesis is unavoidably confessional in nature my own story
and experience is inextricably woven throughout this study. This forms
something of a two-edged sword: it provided a passionate basis for the
study but, too, contributes to its limitations.
I was born into one of those large and loud Irish-Catholic families
the sort of collection of souls where our familial imperative
was "wherever two or more Penders are gathered, there shall
be a party!" My family was this stew of boisterous love, seasoned
with large doses of teasing. Like many families, we cycled through times
of deep personal challenges, some of which were painfully tragic, and
times of wonderful, abiding joy. The unusual closeness which my seven
siblings and I enjoy to this day is a testament to my parents' own native
ability to provide a model of family life that was flexible enough to
include and encourage both the individuality and the uniqueness of eight