Walk into any American convenience store, select a pack of chewing gum, step up to the register and offer the clerk Mexican pesos to pay for it and you will mostly understand what I mean when I describe different “spiritual” economies.
Never mind the fact that most convenience store clerks in America would be surprised that there other forms of currency in the first place, all they need to understand is that what you are handing them in exchange for chewing gum is worthless.
The clerk need not understand anything except that if they were to take your pesos in exchange for gum, and in turn, take those pesos to the local Hot Topic store to buy a pair fake ear gauges, they would be sadly disappointed…
These are the essentials of understanding different economies.
I have been living under one kind of spiritual economy for many years. The currency in which I have mostly traded has been sensations. I pursue God, obey Him, seek Him and extend trust to Him, and in return, I received back certain sensations: Peace, well-being, exhilaration, contentment, acceptance, love, approval and more. Even unpleasant sensations have resulted: conviction, guilt, challenge, grief…but the point is: the currency of exchange was sensual. My “pay-off” was a feeling.
But as I read some of the older saints, they seem to support the idea that there is more than one spiritual economy:
Teresa of Avila describes an economy of “spiritual sweetness”, but references a higher, more sophisticated, advanced economy of “spiritual consolations”. Merton draws a similar distinction between “right intention” and “simple intention” and many other great mystics allude to an advanced economy of life but with less precise language.
In recent months, I have begun to question the value of the currency I trade in. Simply receiving a sensation (spiritual or not) is rapidly losing it’s appeal. I’m losing my “sweet-tooth” to co-opt Teresa’s economy. In Merton’s terms, I am longing for a more “simple” intention. More precisely and to use the colloquial: I’m not feel’n it.
This…change…whatever it may truly be… is largely unpleasant, which makes sense because up until now sensations have been my stock and trade! So their departure is bound to be experienced as unpleasant. I am experiencing what I might call depression. Apathy. Lack of motivation. George McDonald hit it on the head for me when he said,”… [my] being seems athirst for Godless repose…” I just want to sleep. I don’t want to pray, study, grow, stretch, adventure, experience or any other verbs. Yes – some of it is physical; seasonal. I am very much a bear and wish to hibernate right now. But that is by no means all of it, or even most of it.
It seems that in the absence of a trustworthy currency, there is a kind of anarchy which would take it’s place. Faith and a certain amount of discipline keep it at bay while this new economy is being sorted out. But my enemy is no doubt afoot in the midst of the confusion, committing acts of sabotage, terrorism and all forms of treachery.