“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the lyrics of a country song: without a wife, […]
I do my fair share of whining and griping here on Beyond Blue about my New Age friends who don’t get my depression. Not at all. And how they can be incredibly condescending and hurtful with their comments about how I just need to evolve into a more spiritual human being in order to suffer less.
I’ve shared these complaints over and over again to my friend, Michael Leach, a lifelong Catholic who practices Metapsychiatry, what he defines as “a way of being in the world that understands problems to be psychological and solutions as spiritual.” Says Mike:
Founded by Dr. Thomas Hora, a psychatrist who passed away in 1995, Metapsychiatry is based on the biblical insight that we are made in the image and likeness of God. “The meaning of life,” wrote Dr. Hora, “is to come to know Reality.” The characteristics that tell us we are making progress on this path are peace, assurance, gratitude, and love (PAGL). The first principle of Metapsychiatry is: “Thou shalt have no other interests before the good of God, which is spiritual blessedness.”
Mike has helped me to understand that my friends don’t mean any harm. They don’t mean to be condescending. They honestly want to help and have good hearts. Back in May, Mike gave a talk on the 11th Principle of Metapsychiatry: “Do not who your pearls to unreceptive minds for they will demean them.” He paraphrases it this way: “Shut up and sit down.” As the director of the PAGL Foundation he gives a talk at their annual conference.
When I read his speech, I was better able to forgive those in my life who say mean things with absolutely no agenda to do so, and also to be more careful with my words. I realized, after reading his piece, that I was also guilty of speaking at times in which I had no right to open my mouth. Here is his talk–which, in essence, is about learning compassion, something Mike has an abundance of.
The 11th Principle of Metapsychiatry
(The One We Don’t Talk About Because We Think We Got It Down):
“Do Not Show Your Pearls to Unreceptive Minds for They Will Demean Them.” – (Or shut up and sit down.)
By Michael Leach
The Eleven Principles of Metapsychiatry are like ornaments on a Christmas tree. They have different shapes and colors and sounds but they all blend together for beauty, harmony, and good. Sometimes it’s nice just to hold one of those ornaments up to a window and slowly turn it and see how the light shifts and glows in different ways. Sometimes, if we just look at a principle with nothing on our mind, we see something we never saw before.
“Do not show your pearls to unreceptive minds, for they will demean them.”
Seems crystal clear, doesn’t it? If we share a pearl of wisdom with someone who isn’t ready, they will demean it. But there’s another way of looking at it. It’s not just that the unreceptive mind will demean the pearls, but that we will sometimes demean the listener by tossing her a string of costume jewelry! It’s insulting. It’s showing off. It’s trespassing on someone’s heart. And it can hurt both of us.
Let me share two personal stories, one that illustrates the point, and another that is a spiritual counter-point.
Decades ago when I first got into Metapsychiatry I felt like I had entered Aladin’s Cave and discovered a treasure trove of golden words and insights. I also fell into a trap that all students, new and practiced, are heir to. I became a “knower.”
About a year into Metapsychiatry, I went to a reunion of twelve old friends in Chicago. We had all studied to be priests together and hadn’t seen each other for a long time. Tom was my best friend in high school and always the best and brightest of us- smart, athletic, creative, handsome. But now, years later, he was a shadow of the star we remembered. Tom had suffered a nervous breakdown, was hospitalized many times, started a fire in his parents’ home, got thrown out, lived on the streets, didn’t bathe much or change clothes, lived by his wits. We were sitting in a living room with few lights and Tom, sitting at the end of a sofa, began to read us an epic poem he had written about his sufferings, about what went wrong, and who was to blame. We listened patiently for 45 minutes. Some of the guys comforted Tom. Others were just still.
Me, I showed Tom my new pearls.
I told my old friend that what he had experienced wasn’t real and if he knew who he really was – God’s special child — it would all dissolve. After a few minutes of hearing me preach, Tom got up, walked across the room to where I was sitting, and pulled out a knife. He put it at my throat, his face and hot breath right in mine. “Is this real?” he said. “What if I cut your throat? Will that just go away?”
“You won’t,” I managed to say. And he didn’t. He was my friend. But Tom’s pain, and my words, taught me a lesson. I had demeaned my friend with unsolicited solicitude. I hadn’t shown him wisdom that was really mine; I had shown off pearls I didn’t even grasp. I was not only a knower, but a braggart whose words were like a knife at my own throat.
Yes, a principle is like an ornament on the tree of life. But if we show it to anyone for the wrong reason it will shatter and break, and pieces will fly off and people will be hurt, including our selves.
The counter-story: the first time I met Dr. Hora, a year before Tom, was in his office overlooking Central Park. I had read Dialogues in Metapsychiatry and wanted to see if this wise man was the real thing. And he was, better than classic Coke. Dr. Hora hardly said anything at all for 45 minutes, but I did. I told him how lost I was. At the end he looked at me with his smiling blue eyes and said, “You are God’s special child.”
Dr. Hora had said to me what I later said to Tom but it was completely different, wasn’t it? It was what he didn’t say, what he knew for me and about me that had made the difference.
I remember leaving his office and standing on the corner of Central Park West and 72nd Street, waiting for a bus. I stood there, not moving, and it was like the world wasn’t moving either, but it was, at just the right speed. It was a bright October afternoon and you could see the veins on the leaves of trees a block away and feel the warm breeze and hear the silence amidst the noise of the street. I looked at the people walking on this side and that, and strolling in the park with their dogs or sitting on a bench with their books and it was a moment like Thomas Merton must have experienced as he stood on a street corner in Louisville, Kentucky and thought: “There is no way to tell people that they are walking around shining like the sun!”
You can’t. You just know it. And that’s what happened to me in Dr. Hora’s office. He didn’t tell me anything other than a cliché – “You are God’s special child.” – but he knew it for me. He was a beneficial presence, and that is what made the world stand still and come alive. Dr. Hora didn’t show me pearls. He just saw that I shone, and the glow in his eyes was a reflection of the light in my eyes, and that was what lit up my life – at least for a little while. I, too, suddenly knew: “everything everywhere was already alright.”
Isn’t it interesting how one principle not only leads to another, but also to other spiritual principles we learned long ago in the spiritual tradition in which we were raised?
“Do not show your pearls to unreceptive minds, for they (the pearls) will demean them.”
Or as St. Francis of Assisi said centuries ago to a young brother eager to save the world: “Preach the good news at all times. If necessary, use words.”