Len Sperry

Transforming Self and community,

The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2002


Contemporary trends suggest that there is considerable overlap among the moral, spiritual, and psychological do­mains, even though history reveals concerted efforts to sepa­rate the disciplines of moral theology and spiritual theology and psychology and moral philosophy. As noted in Chapters 3 and 4, moral and spiritual theology in the Christian tradition were a single discipline until they separated in the late six­teenth century. While several factors influenced this split, the result was that morality became the province of the common­ers, while spirituality became the province of a small elite. Fur­thermore, morality became associated with rightness—instead of goodness, moral codes, sin, and living in the real world with daily duties and responsibilities—while spirituality was associ­ated with holiness, altered states, contemplative prayer, and liv­ing an other worldly existence in a monastery or cloister. In short, the moral dimension is about goodness, while the spirit­ual dimension is about holiness. Everyone was expected to manifest goodness but only a few would achieve holiness. It should be noted that there was no such split between morality and spirituality in the Eastern religions.

Since the late 1960s there has been a gradual “reconcilia­tion” among Western moral and spiritual theologies. Aspiring to both goodness and holiness is now viewed as possible both

inside and outside the cloistered life. Nevertheless, consumerism, materialism, and unbridled individualism seem to be fuelling a counter-cultural movement for the pursuit for spiritual development. Many contend that the spiritual journey requires that the spiritual and moral domains be pursued simultaneously and integrated with the other three dimensions of human experience.1 (1) It appears that many so called “New Age” spiritualities place a premium on the pursuit of holiness while downplaying the pursuit of goodness. Whether spiritual seekers pursue the journey of both goodness and holiness or only the holiness journey is and should be a basic consideration in spiritual direction and pastoral counselling.

Similarly, the discipline of psychology became separated from moral philosophy and from spiritual theology. Adopting a value-free stance was one way in which psychology distanced itself from moral philosophy. Denigrating the construct of character and disavowing its early focus on the empirical study of virtue were other strategies for separating from moral philosophy. At the outset of the twentieth century, academic psychology rou­tinely studied religion and religious experiences. As noted in Chapter 5, just as psychology separated itself from moral phi­losophy it also decisively dissociated itself from the spiritual do­main, particularly the study of religious and spiritual experiences. Nevertheless, there is considerable interest in “positive psychol­ogy,” and the scientific study of virtue and its application to clin­ical and social concerns. Similarly, increasing interest in the study and application of transpersonal psychology, and particularly transpersonal psychotherapy, to both clinical and social concerns.

These trends toward an increasing rapprochement between moral theology and spirituality moral philosophy and psychology, and between psychology and spirituality are heartening. A basic assumption of this book is that the spiritual, moral, and psychological domains are intimately related, and that the aca­demic fields of spirituality, moral philosophy, moral theology, and psychology should encourage interdisciplinary study.

The following section further describes the relationship among the three domains by focusing on their relationship to the meta-domain of transformation

The Meta-Domain of Transformation


What exactly is transformation? How is it related to the spiritual journey? What is its role in practical theology? How does it differ from self-transcendence? These and other ques­tions are addressed in this section.

While the word transformation literarily means a “change of form,” it has a variety of meanings and applications in chemistry economics, cultural anthropology, and consciousness studies. In the spiritual dimension of human experience, transformation is often used synonymously with conversion. Transformation is a common theme in the Christian Scriptures (i.e., John 16:l3ff; i Cor 15:51-52; 2 Pet 3:8ff.), as it is in other world religious and spiritual systems.2 In the Christian tradition transformation in­cludes both self-transformation and social transformation of the community and world under the reign of God.

This dual focus of transformation is central to practical theology. For instance, the mission statement of the Associa­tion of Graduate Programs in Ministry describes practical theology “as a mutually interpretive, critical and transforming conversation between the Christian tradition and contempo­rary experience . . . directed towards individual and social transformation in Christ.”3

Transformation of consciousness is a more recent term used to describe changes impacting a person’s somatic, intellectual, moral, socio-political, affective, and religious dimen­sions, which reflect a radically new self-understanding and world view. Transformation is described by Bernard Lonergan as the heart of conversion.4 Conversion is a radical transforma­tion in all the dimension of human experience: affective, moral, socio-political, intellectual, somatic, and religious dimensions. Since the spiritual dimension is central to all the other dimensions of human experience, transformation is es­sentially spiritual transformation. In short, the goal of the spir­itual journey is transformation, and the purpose of prayer and other spiritual practices is to foster transformation.

Six dimensions of transformation are described in the fol­lowing section. They articulate the meta-domain of transfor­mation and serve as useful “markers” of progress on the spiritual journey. These six dimensions are: somatic, affective, intellectual, moral, socio-political, and religious/spiritual.

A Taxonomy of the Dimensions of Transformation


When transformation is used as a synonym for conversion, it means a turning away from something, and a subsequent turn­ing toward something else. Donald Gelpi describes conversion as a turning from irresponsible behaviour and a turning toward responsible behaviour in some realm ofexperience.5 His theology of conversion is based on the foundational theology of Loner­gan6 and the pragmatic philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce. Because of the evangelistic connotations associated with conver­sion, the term transformation will be used instead of conversion throughout this book. In Lonergan’s theology, there are two types of transformation: initial and ongoing. Initial transforma­tion is defined as a preliminary shift from irresponsible to the responsible behaviour in one or more dimensions of human experience, such as affective, moral, intellectual, or religious. Ongoing transformation refers to continuous, persisting devel­opment in all six dimensions. Transformation can also be thought of as integral, meaning that there is conscious commit­ment to living out these fundamental changes in all dimensions of life. Authentic transformation is described as movement be­yond personal conversion to a living out of conversion in the socio-political world.7 Gelpi and others have extended Lonergan’s original formulation of intellectual, moral, and religious trans­formation to include the affective and socio-political dimensions. Len Sperry added the somatic dimension.8

Following is a brief description of these six dimensions of transformation.

1. The Religious/Spiritual Dimension of Transformation


Religious transformation, from a Christian perspective, challenges the individual to live for the one true God rather than mere idols. The goal of Christian transformation is a commitment to unconditionally finding God’s will revealed in the person of Jesus, and his vision of the kingdom of God. Strategies for ongoing religious transformation include a regu­lar prayer life, fasting, spiritual reading, and almsgiving.

2. The Affective Dimension of Transformation


Affective transformation means taking responsibility for one’s emotional life with all its feelings, passions, and intentions. Emotional healing requires the willingness to acknowledge and forgive past hurts. It presumes some measure of repen­tance, particularly the renouncement of the rage, fear, and guilt that separates the individual from God. As these negative af­fects are brought to healing in faith, individuals need to learn to own and express their positive affects and virtues, including love, friendship, compassion, sensitivity, and enthusiasm.

Ongoing affective transformation may require “sound spiritual direction and psychotherapy when necessary or help­ful.”9 It demands a willingness to face one’s own unconscious capacity for violence and destructive behaviours. Furthermore, forgiveness is essential in this type of ongoing conversion as it inaugurates a new level of conscious integration.

3. The Moral Dimension of Transformation


Moral transformation challenges the person to move from simple gratification of immediate personal needs to living by consistent principles of ethics and justice. Essential to this type of transformation is a formed conscience based on Chris­tian moral principles. Subsequently, it involves the capacity to deal with moral dilemmas and challenges faced in everyday life. Ongoing transformation requires that the individual grasps the practical consequences of dedication to the common good as well as develop the requisite moral virtues. It also re­quires an increasing capacity to criticize false value systems that corrupt Christian conscience.

4. The Intellectual Dimension of Transformation


Intellectual transformation requires individuals to be able to understand and express their relationship to God and Jesus Christ in personally meaningful terms. It is not simply the ca­pacity to recite a passage from Scripture or a catechism in re­sponse to theological questions. Intellectual transformation also requires individuals to relentlessly pursue the truth and confront any form of false ideology and personal prejudices that rationalize sinful conduct. They should easily recognize beliefs that are inconsistent with Gospel values and eliminate self- deceit and self-righteousness . Furthermore, intellectual transformation “should inform every aspect of Christian growth and development such that individuals know and understand the dynamics of ongoing repentance and sound emotional growth in faith.”

In the process of ongoing intellectual transformation, they should have moved beyond mere knowledge of religious beliefs and tenets, and have come to a personal appropriation of these beliefs. It requires that individuals acquire a sufficient grasp of the theological issues and controversies surrounding their faith tradition to formulate their own position or re­sponse to these issues.

5. The Socio-political Dimension of Transformation


Religious, affective, intellectual, and moral transforma­tion are considered types of “personal” transformation, which Gelpi notes is insufficient for authentic transformation. Au­thentic transformation requires that a person move and grow beyond personal transformation to socio-political transforma­tion. This form of transformation de-privatizes personal transformation by confronting the individual with the world, that is the corporations, institutions, and vested interest groups that promote other value systems. Beyond personal moral principles, socio-political conversion generates its own moral principles. These include the “right of all persons to share in the good things of life, and the principles of legal, distributive and commutative justice.”



6. The Somatic Dimension of Transformation


Somatic refers to the human body, to body structure, and to bodily sensations, feelings—including sexual feelings—and memories. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), and is the physical expression or manifestation of an individual’s spirit. Subsequently, when the body is injured, as in a motor vehicle accident or by a cerebrovascular stroke, this somatic expression may become distorted or limited. Likewise, if the individual’s soul and spirit are pained, such as in mourning the loss of a dose relative, a predictable somatic expression may be experienced as symptoms of grief.

Somatic transformation is primarily about wellness. Wellness is similar to, but not synonymous with, health, be­cause wellness can coexist with chronic illness, disease, and even terminal illness. Individuals with a high level of somatic transformation can be expected to experience a high level of wellness irrespective of their health status.’2 To experience a high level of wellness, individuals need ongoing transforma­tion in the somatic dimension. This includes the development of virtues such as temperance and physical fitness. It also in­cludes preventive measures such as proper diet, exercise, and sleep, which can contribute effectively to one’s degree of vitality, somatic wholeness, and transformation. However, preven­tive measures do not guarantee wellness, since wellness is not dependent on health status. Finally, individuals with a high level of somatic transformation are likely to have life-affirming attitudes toward their bodies—including sexuality—and will have integrated these attitudes into their philosophy of life.

Dynamics and Counter-Dynamics of Transformation


Furthermore, Gelpi describes the dynamics and counter dynamics of transformation, where “dynamics” refers to the way in which the different forms of transformation mutually reinforce one another and “counter-dynamics” refer to the ways in which the absence of transformation in one dimension tends to undermine and subvert transformation in another di­mension.13 He then describes these seven dynamics. Affective transformation animates the other forms of conversion. Simi­larly, intellectual transformation informs and orders the other forms. Personal moral transformation helps orient the other four forms toward principles that make ultimate and absolute ethical claims. Affective, intellectual, personal moral, and reli­gious transformation help authenticate socio-political conver­sion by providing norms for judging the justice or injustice of human institutions. Initial Christian religious transformation mediates between affective transformation and the two forms of moral transformation. In addition, “ongoing Christian transformation transvalues the other four forms of transforma­tion.”14 Finally, somatic transformation energizes and vitalizes all other forms of transformation, while at the same time visibly reflecting one’s overall level of wellness.


Self-Transcendence and Transformation


But what about self-transcendence and its relation to transformation? Self-transcendence has been described as the most basic human drive, which is the radical desire for a rela­tionship with God. That is, the fundamental desire of the self is to transcend itself in rela­tionship: to the world, to other, to God. But only a developed powerful self has the strength to realize significant transcen­dence. . . . The desire to be a self and to reach out beyond the self must be understood together. . . . This dual desire of the human heart is. . . self-transcendence.15

Although Walter Conn describes self-transcendence as having both a theological and psychological basis, his articulation of self-transcendence is heavily dependent on theoretical constructs from both object-relations and self-psychology.

Is self-transcendence the same as self-actualization or self-fulfilment? Citing Vicktor Frankl,’6 Conn contends that an individual is actualized or fulfilled only to the extent to which that person is committed to life’s meaning: “Self-actualization cannot be attained if it is made an end in itself, but only as a side effect of self-transcendence.”17 Furthermore, Conn suggests that self transcendence is related to conversion and, thus, to transforma­tion by describing the dimensions of conversion as “special instances of self-transcendence that transform our lives in fun­damental ways.”8 The position espoused in this book is that the dimensions of conversion, i.e., the six dimensions of transformation, reflect the transformation meta-domain of life, rather than being simply “special instances” of self-transcendence as de­scribed by Conn. Furthermore, this book views self-transcen­dence as only one element of transformation—albeit an important element. Finally, transformation, rather than self transcendence, is the common designation used in the great world religious and spiritual traditions. In other words, as used in this book, transformation is inclusive of self-transcendence.

An Integrative Model: Spiritual Practices,

Virtues, Self-Capacities and Transformation


In Chapter 2 the relationship of the dimensions of trans­formation to the three domains of life was described. The holistic, integrative model described here further extends that discussion. The proposed model correlates and specifies rela­tionships among the taxonomies of self-capacities, spiritual practices, and virtues with the six dimensions of transforma­tion. Each of these taxonomies is briefly described and the interrelationships among the taxonomies and the dimensions of transformation are briefly noted.



Across the major religious and spiritual traditions, trans­formation is considered the endpoint or outcome of the spirit­ual journey. As noted earlier, transformation is a considerably broader construct than self-transcendence. In the Christian tradition transformation includes both self-transformation, or conversion, as well as social transformation of the community and world under the reign of God. Transformation is a process of change into a mature relationship with God that has reper­cussions for human relationships and human actions. As such, it involves grace. According to William Spohn, “transforma­tion is primarily attributed to the grace of God, but it also involves human cooperation.”9

The taxonomy selected for transformation is adapted from the works of Lonergan,2° Gelpi,21 and Sperry,22 and reflects both transformation of self and community. This taxonomy involves the six dimensions of transformation: somatic, affective, religious/spiritual, moral, intellectual, and socio-political. It is noteworthy that Howard Clinebell describes six nearly identi­cal dimensions in his highly regarded “revised model” of pastoral counseling and, by extension, spiritual direction.23

As used in this book, the taxonomy of the dimensions of transformation articulates the meta-domain of transformation, and can be thought of as outcomes or “markers” of the three other taxonomies which articulate the moral, spiritual, and psy­chological domains. Clinically, such “markers” are most useful in assessing a client’s overall level of life functioning, particularly in the context of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. Table 6 . i briefly describes these dimensions of transformation.

Tabie 6. 1: Types and Descriptions of Dimensions of Transformation

Dimensions of Transformation

Description ofthe Dimensions


Refers to body structure, bodily sensations, and memories. It is primarily about achieving and maintaining a relatively high degree of wellness despite a disability disease, or terminal illness.


Involves taking responsibility for one’s emotional well-being. It requires the forgiveness of past hurts and the replacement of anger, fear, and guilt with love, compassion, sensitivity and enthusiasm.


Challenges the individual to live for the one true God instead of idols such as reputation, wealth, and power. The goal is a commitment to unconditionally seek God’s will and vision of the kingdom of God.


Challenges the person to move from simple gratification of immediate personal needs to living by consistent principles of ethics and justice. It involves the capacity to deal with moral dilemmas and challenges faced in everyday life and to criticize false value systems that corrupt Christian conscience.


Involves the pursuit of the truth amidst ideolo­gies and personal prejudices that rationalize sin­ful conduct. Beyond a knowledge of religious beliefs and tenets, it requires a sufficient critical grasp of theological issues and controversies in order to respond effectively.


Involves moving beyond self-transformation to bring about the reign ofGod in one’s community and the world. It requires a commitment to chal­lenging corporations, institutions, and vested interest groups that promote other value systems.




The moral domain of life is quite broad and includes character, virtue, sin, moral precepts, and asceticism to name a few. Traditionally, moral theology has emphasized character since it provides orientation and direction to life. The time honoured maxim “plant an act, reap a habit; plant a habit, reap a virtue; plant a virtue, reap a character; plant a character, reap a destiny” makes this point and indicates the requisites of char­acter.24 Since character emerges from a constellation of an individual’s virtues and vices, virtue was selected as the basis for developing a taxonomy of the moral domain that would be germane to the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. Unlike psychological constructs such as personality and self which focus primarily on the individual, character is a construct which focuses on the individual’s relationship and responsibility to both self and community. Thus, character and virtue are principally social rather than personal constructs. The taxonomy was derived from the listings or “taxonomies” of James Keenan25 and Bernard Haring.26 Selection was based the extent of correlation with the six dimensions of transfor­mation. The following virtues are ordered in this taxonomy: temperance, physical fitness, compassion, self-care, charity, holiness, trustworthiness, fidelity, prudence, and justice. Table 6.2 provides capsule descriptions of these virtues.


Table 6.2: Types and Descriptions ofVirtues


Brief Definition


Moderates the attraction of pleasures and bal­ances one’s desire to achieve good through food, drink, or other sensual pleasures.

Physical fitness

Taking responsibility for one’s own physical health and well-being


Enables one to understand and respond with car­ing and concern to the other’s frame of reference.


Ensures taking responsibility for one’s own psy­chological health and well-being, which is the expression of the virtue of self-love.


A freely given gift of God which unites us to God and enables us to curb our self-centered­ness and reach out to others.


Enables one to mediate the presence of God in one’s environment.


Enables one to relate to others with honesty, fairness, truthfulness, loyalty, dependability and humility.


Ensures treating those to whom one is closely related, i.e., friends, spouse, children, community members, etc., with special care and concern.


Disposes an individual to discern true good in circumstances and to choose the right means of achieving it.


Ensures treating others equally and fairly, as well as about recognizing unfairness and inequality in the world around us.


Ensures firmness in difficulties, i.e., facing fears, trials, sacrificing for a just cause, and constancy in the pursuit of the good.


Spiritual Practices

While the spiritual domain of life is also very broad, the actual practice of spiritual disciplines or techniques is one of the most personal and tangible aspects of spirituality. The challenge was to find or develop a taxonomy of such spiritual practices. Roger Walsh has described seven classes or catego­ries of spiritual practices which he derived from the major spir­itual and religious traditions.27 These classes of spiritual practices correlated highly with the six dimensions of transfor­mation, and appear to be germane to the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. The resulting taxonomy also correlates with the taxonomy of virtues. The classes of spiritual practices are: transforming cravings, healing the heart and learning to love, awakening spiritual vision, developing wis­dom and understanding, and expressing spirit in service. Table 6.3 provides examples of these practices.

Table 6.3: Types and Examples of Spiritual Practices

Types of Spiritual Practices

Examples of Spiritual Techniques and Methods

transforming cravings and redirecting desires

fasting; single pointed attention; custody of the senses; exercise regimen; commit­ment to simple living

healing the heart and learning to love

forgiveness; reconciliation; inner healing work; reframing fear, hurt, and anger

awakening spiritual vision

centering prayer; meditation; mantra; community worship; mindfulness in eat­ing, walking, listening, and speech

living ethically

practicing right actions, giving up gossip, practicing truthfulness, confession and making amends

developing wisdom and spiritual understanding

spiritual reading, committing time to silence and solitude, recognizing the sacred in all things

expressing spirit in service

almsgiving, tithing, voting regularity, involvement in volunteer activities, advo­cating justice for the poor, etc.




The psychological domain, especially when viewed from a spiritual perspective, has traditionally emphasized self-theory. This emphasis, or overemphasis, on self-theory has been the source of considerable criticism and concern. Nevertheless, the construct of self is intimately related to the construct of char­acter, and both can be conceptualized as representing two sides of a coin. The most tangible aspect of self is self-capacity. Self capacities are defined as requisite abilities that are essential for adequate personal functioning and adequate functioning in relationships and in the community. James Masterson described ten such capacities derived from research in the areas of object relations and self-psychology.28 These were supplemented with three additional self-capacities in order to establish a taxon­omy that correlated with the dimensions of transformation and the taxonomies of virtues and spiritual practices. These self-capacities are: self-activation, self-mastery, self- acknowl­edgment, spontaneity, self-soothing, intimacy, self-continuity creativity, autonomy, self-surrender, commitment, critical reflection, and critical social consciousness. Table 6.4 briefly provides capsule descriptions of these self-capacities.

Table 6.4: Types and Descriptions of Self-Capacities


Brief Description


Capacity to identify one’s unique individu­ality, goals, and wishes, and then to be as­sertive in expressing and achieving them.


Capacity to achieve a balance of pleasure and self-control over needs, desires, wishes, and cravings.


Capacity to renew belief in one’s own wor­thiness and to acknowledge having effec­tively coped with a crisis or concern.


Capacity to experience a wide range of feelings appropriately, deeply, and without biocking or deadening their impact.


Capacity to limit, minimize, and soothe painful affects without recourse to emotional numbing, depersonalization, or de-realization.


Capacity to express the self fully in a dose relationship with minimal anxiety or fears of rejection.


Capacity to recognize and to acknowledge that the inner self persists and is continuous through space and over time.


Capacity to use the self to replace old familiar patterns with new, unique, and different patterns.


Capacity to regulate self-esteem and to be alone with minimal fear of abandonment or engulfment.


Capacity to forego self-interests that are ob­stacles to being caring and compassionate.


Capacity to commit to a personal, commu­nity, or career goal or to a relationship and then to persevere in that commitment.

Critical Reflection

Capacity to objectively analyze ideas, ideolo­gies, and situations and related underlying as­sumptions.

Critical Social Consciousness

Capacity to analyze social situations in terms of ethical and moral assumptions and conse­quences.


Table 6.5 depicts these four taxonomies—the three domains of moral, spiritual, and psychological—and their articulation for the six dimensions of transformation, spiritual practices, and virtues.

Table 6.5: Correlation of Aspects of the Moral, Spiritual, and Psychological Domains to Transformation

Moral Domain

Spiritual Domain

Psychological Domain

Transformation Meta-Domain


Spiritual Practices


Dimensions of Transformation

temperance, physical fitness

transforming cravings

self-activation, self-mastery


compassion, self-care

healing the heart, learning to love

self-acknow-iedgment, spontaneity, self-soothing, intimacy, self-continuity, creativity, autonomy


charity, holiness

awakening spiritual vision

self-surrender (autonomy)

Religious/ Spiritual

trustworthiness, fidelity

living ethically

commitment (intimacy)



developing wisdom and understanding

critical reflection


justice, fortitude,

expressing spirit in service




Relationship of Transformation and Virtue

Virtues can be defined as “developed dispositions that real­ize particular dimensions of our lives so that we live and act rightly.”29 Dispositions, dimensions, and acting rightly are three characteristics emphasized in this definition. First, unlike spirit­

ual practices which are techniques and activities, or self-capaci­ties which are abilities and skills, virtues are the development of dispositions. Dispositions are inclinations or innate qualities. Virtues are dispositions which must be developed by practice, i.e., repeatedly acting courageously results in the virtue of courage. If not developed, a disposition will atrophy. Second, virtues help us realize the six dimensions of transformation: somatic, affective, moral, intellectual, religious/spiritual, and socio-political. Third, when compared with self-capacities and spiritual practices, “acting rightly” is a characteristic unique to virtue. It reflects a norm or standard of rightness. Furthermore, there are two classes of virtue: acquired virtues (i.e., those at­tained by practice) and infused virtues (i.e., those given as gifts from God).

More specifically, how do virtues facilitate transforma­tion? Keenan notes that “virtues, then, transform our disposi­tions. The acquired virtues transform a person by prudential guidance into right exercises that eventually shape and rightly order a person’s inclinations or dispositions; the infused virtues transform by God’s working on our own disposition.”3°

The relationship between the dimensions of transforma­tion and virtue is illustrated in Table 6.6.

Table 6. 6: Dimensions of Transformation and Virtues

Dimensions ofTransformation

Related Virtues


Charity, Holiness




Self-Care, Compassion


Fidelity, Trustworthiness




Temperance; Physical Fitness


Relationship of Transformation and Self-Capacities


As noted above, self-capacities are abilities and skills rather than dispositions or activities. They are instinctual or inherent abilities that appear to be “hardwired” in the central nervous sys­tem. Whether these capabilities are actualized and expressed de-pends, in large part, on early environment experiences, such as being exposed to supportive parents and caretakers who both model such capacities and expect and challenge the child to ex­press these capabilities. Thus, given a reasonably supportive en­vironment infants and young children who experience some degree of distress will be observed to utilize the self-capacity of self-soothing when no one else is available to soothe them.

How do self-capacities facilitate transformation? Self­capacities function as the substrate or requisites for the develop­ment of the healthy self. To the extent to which there is suffi­cient effort and the expectation that a given self-capacity be actualized and expressed, it is likely that a specific dimension of transformation will result. For example, critical reflection is the requisite self-capacity for developing the intellectual dimension of transformation. Furthermore, the development of this di-mension can be facilitated by practice of the virtue of prudence and spiritual practices that develop wisdom and understanding, such as spiritual reading, life review, corrective visualization, etc.

The relationship between the dimensions of transforma­tion and self-capacities is illustrated in Table 6.7.

Thbie 6. 7. Dimensions ofTransformation and Self-Capacities

Dimensions of Transformation

Related Self-Capacities


Autonomy, Self-Surrender


Critical Reflection


Intimacy, Spontaneity Self-Soothing




Critical Social Consciousness


Self-Activation, Self-Maintenance


Relationship of Transformation and Spiritual Practices


As noted earlier, spiritual practices are techniques and ac­tivities rather than dispositions or abilities. They are tech­niques and activities which strengthen and support the seeker on the spiritual journey. Spiritual writers view spiritual prac­tices as means to growth and transformation, rather than ends in themselves. For instance, St. John Caspian says that “Fast­ing, vigils, the study of scripture, renouncing possessions and the world—these are the means not the end. Perfection is not found in them, but through them. It is pointless to boast about such practices when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow humans.

What is the relationship between spiritual practices and transformation? Spiritual practices “are about transforming our habitual states of mind and awakening our new spiritual con-sciousness.”32 For example, activities such as fasting and custody of the senses are age-old spiritual practices of transforming cravings that facilitate transformation of the somatic dimen­sion. The relationship between the dimensions of transforma­tion and spiritual practices is illustrated in Table 6.8.

Table 6.8: Dimensions ofTransformation and Spiritual Practices

Dimensions of Transformation

Related Spiritual Practices


Awakening Spiritual Vision


Developing Wisdom and Understanding


Healing the Heart, Learning to Love


Living Ethically


Expressing Spirit in Service


Transforming Cravings

To recap, the proposed model highlights and describes virtues, spiritual practices, and self-capacities. As “markers” or measures of clinical reality, virtues, spiritual practices, and self capacities can be assessed and serve as the basis for the session­ to-session practice of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction.

The Value and Utility of the Integrative Model


The integrative model is centered on the dimensions of transformation and the three taxonomies. The hope was that this model would have considerable value and clinical utility to assess, select goals and focus, and plan interventions for the course of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. This sec­tion describes both the conceptual value and the practical value

of this integrative model.


Conceptual Value


Conceptually, the value of the integrative model can be demonstrated. First, the integrative model addresses the criti­cism that most current theories underlying the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling are essentially reductionistic in that they “reduce” the life concerns of clients and directees to psychological and/or spiritual constructs, and avoid the moral domain. The integrative model, however, encompasses the moral domain as well as the spiritual and psy­chological domains. Furthermore, the integrative model con­ceptualizes spiritual development, psychological development, and moral development as separate lines of development that can and do overlap but cannot be reduced to a single line of development.

Second, the integrative model addresses the criticism that most current theories are over-reliant on psychological con­structs and tend to foster individualism and/or spiritual narcis­sism. The integrative model, however, emphasizes constructs from all three life domains, i.e., the moral, the spiritual, as well

Practical Value

as the psychological. Not surprisingly, the individualistic perspective of psychological theories and constructs emphasizes the goal of self-transformation. On the other hand, the inte­grative model emphasizes and advocates for social transforma­tion in addition to self-transformation. Furthermore, the integrative model articulates the process of self and social transformation in terms of virtues, spiritual practices, and the self-capacities.

                        Practically, the value of the integrative model can be demonstrated. First, the integrative model facilitates a holistic assessment of the clients’ or directees’ levels of spiritual, moral, and psychological functioning, the dimensions ‘of transforma­tion, as well as of virtues, spiritual practices, and self-capacities.

Second, the integrative model facilitates the process of selecting a focus and goals for the course of spiritual direction or pastoral counseling based on deficits or developmental delays noted in the holistic assessment. Third, the integrative model facilitates the process of planning interventions and monitor­ing changes in the course of spiritual direction or pastoral counseling.

Finally, the integrated model also has the potential for ensuring that the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling does not become overly parochial. This means that it is unlikely that utilizing the integrative model in spiritual di­rection will limit its focus primarily to the religious and moral dimensions of transformation, nor that utilizing the integrative model in pastoral counseling wiil limit its focus primarily to the affective dimension of transformation.

For most individuals on the spiritual journey, personal de­velopment and spiritual growth do not proceed at the same rate on ali five dimensions. Often one or more dimensions will lag behind the others. Presumably, discerning spiritual direc­tors and pastoral counselors will be able to recognize these developmental lags in their holistic assessment and address them with clients.

Utilizing the Integrative Model in the Practice of Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling


The integrative model can be effectively utilized as a framework for guiding the course of spiritual direction or pas­toral counseling, including specifying a focus and targeted goals as well as for establishing an intervention plan. Using the model, particularly the dimensions of transformation, also sen­sitizes the spiritual director and pastoral counselor to the fact that ongoing transformation is multi-faceted, rather than single-faceted, such as focusing primarily on the affective do-main in pastoral counseling or on the religious/spiritual dimension in spiritual direction.

Protocol and Practice Guidelines


A simple protocol, consisting of a set of practice guide­lines, for utilizing the integrative model in the practice of pas­toral counseling and spiritual direction is described in this section. These guidelines provide pastoral counselors and spir­itual directors strategies for facilitating process and outcomes. Seven steps or strategies are involved:

1.Establish a relationship of mutuality~ Through the use of ac­tive listening, respect, and unconditional positive regard, en­gage the directee or client in the counseling or direction process. Elicit the directee’s or client’s concerns and expecta­tions for spiritual direction or pastoral counseling, and com­mitment to the process.

2.Begin an assessment of the dimensions of transformation. Involve the directee or client in the assessment of the six di­mensions. This orients the directee or client to transforma­tion—both self-transformation and social transformation—as the goal of the spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. To­gether estimate the level of functioning for each dimension.

3.Assess levels of virtues, spiritual practices, and self-capaci­ties. Note the absence of virtue and spiritual practices for the dimensions of transformation with low levels of functioning. Some counselors and directors may find it useful to share the descriptions of the self-capacities with clients or directees and seek their input. It may be necessary to extend this assessment end beyond the initial meeting or session. The purpose is to identify any developmental lags or deficits for each dimension of transformation.

4.Highlight deficits in virtue, spiritual practices, self-capaci­ties. Based on this assessment of the dimensions of transfor­mation, self-capacities, virtues, and spiritual practices, highlight or underline those dimensions of transformation with deficits or lags, as well as corresponding self-capacities, virtues, and self-practices. These will become the focus of the counseling or spiritual direction.

5.Specify a plan. In collaboration with the directee or client, decide on a plan for the course of counseling or direction. The plan will include both focus and goals. The focus may be the client’s or directee’s presenting concern or expectation for the outcome of counseling or direction, or it may emerge from Step 4, analysis of the matrix. Then specify and prioritize goals which are the end points or outcomes of the focus. This may include virtues to be cultivated and practiced, a specific spirit­ual practice, or therapeutic goals such as symptom reduction, increased assertiveness, etc. Finally, indicate specific ways of achieving these goals such as prayer methods, therapeutic in­terventions, or referral for goals beyond one’s competence and scope of practice.

6.Implement the plan. Implement the plan utilizing methods or interventions targeted to the focus and goals.

7.Assess and monitor progress. Targeted “markers” of progress may be helpful in determining growth or change. For example, “the number of days per week and time spent per day in center­ing prayer,” or “reduction or absence of insomnia and anxiety symptoms when alone or feeling conflicted.” Again, collaborat­ing with the directee or client about choosing markers and monitoring progress encourages commitment and involvement.


Examples and Applications


How would this protocol actually be used? For example, consider the situation in which a pastoral counselor assesses all dimensions of transformation and finds some deficits in the af­fective dimension. The counselor would then assess for the presence or absence of requisite self-capacities (e.g., low in au­tonomy), the extent to which the clients has mastered requisite spiritual practices in this dimension (e.g., deficit in healing the heart), as well as the extent of requisite virtues (e.g., low in self-care). Initially or sometime later, the counselor could then focus on increasing autonomy, emotional healing, and the acquisition of the virtue of self-care. Intervention strategies would then be considered, including the prospect of referral for areas outside the counselor’s area of competence. Strategies and methods as well as time frames could then be discussed and established with the client. In this example, these might include focusing on forgiveness regarding certain circumstances or relationships, prescribing specific spiritual practices to facilitate healing the heart, the virtue of self-care, and possibly a formal psychother­apeutic focus on an emotion such as anger.

If the client lags on the intellectual dimension, the coun­selor or director must assess the nature of this lag. If the indi­vidual client has considerable theological illiteracy, specified readings or formal instruction might be suggested. If the client has yet to integrate family, career, and finances within the con­text of a balanced philosophy of life, these may be an appropri­ate counseling goal.

If the client lags on the socio-political dimension, an as­sessment of the nature of this lag is needed. This, of course, is a two-pronged dimension with both a personal component (e.g., resisting prejudices, overcoming the urge to security and refus­ing personal luxury at the expense of the poor) Accordingly, some counselors and directors may be uncomfortable with the thought of mixing the personal and therapeutic with the social, or the religious with the politi­cal. And that is understandable, given the training and values of most pastoral counselors, especially those influenced by psycho­logical and psychoanalytic theories. On the other hand, pastoral counselors trained in a more anthropological and cross-cultural model will tend to be more sensitive to the sociopolitical dimension of transformation. Whatever one’s training or political persuasion, the Gospel message does address both personal sin and socio-political sin. Accordingly, transformation requires the socio-political dimension.


Concluding Note

                It was noted that the meta-domain of transformation subsumes the moral, psychological, and spiritual domains of life. Six dimensions of transformation were described: the intellec­tual, affective, moral, socio-political, religious, and somatic.

                A holistic, integrative model for the practice of pastoral counselors and spiritual direction was presented. It was derived from the disciplines of spiritual theology, moral theology, and psychology and their corresponding spiritual, moral, and psycho­logical domains. From the discussion of the spiritual dimension both spirituality and spiritual practices were highlighted. From the discussion of the moral dimension both character and virtues were highlighted, while the discussion of the psychological di­mension highlighted self-theory and self-capacities. A case wasmade that the constructs of self-capacities, spiritual practices, and virtues, as they relate to corresponding dimensions of transfor­mation, are essential elements for an integrative approach to the practice of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction.   Finally, the clinical value of the integrative model was demonstrated in assessing client needs and functioning, select­ing goals and a focus, planning interventions, and monitoring progress throughout the course of spiritual direction and pas­toral counseling. Chapters 7 and 8 will further illustrate the value and clinical utility ofthis integrated model with two full­ length case studies.



  1. 1.Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Ther­apy: A Synthesis of Premodern, Modem and Post modern Approaches (Boston: Shambala, 1999); Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation (New York: Continuum, 1998); Donald Gelpi, The Conver­sion Experience: A Reflective Guide for RCIA Participants and Others (New York: Paulist Press, 1998).
  2. 2. Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind (New York: Wiley, 1999).
  3. 3.Quoted in Maureen O’Brien, “Practical Theology and Post-modern Religious Education,” Religious Education 94 (1999) 316.
  4. 4.Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (New York: Herder & Herder, 1972).
  5. 5.Gelpi, The Conversion Experience; Donald Gelpi, Committed Worship: A Sacramental Theology for Converting Christians, vol. 1 (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993).
  6. 6.6 Lonergan, Method in Theology.
  7. 7.Gelpi, The Conversion Experience, 48.
  8. 8.Len Sperry, “Spiritual Counseling and the Process of Conversion,” Journal of Christian Healing 20:3 & 4 (1998); Len Sperry, “Leadership Dy­namics: Character and Character Structure in Executives,” Consulting Psychology Journai49 (1997) 268—80.
  9. 9.Ibid., 199.
  10. 10.Ibid., 45.
  11. 11.Gelpi, Committed Worship, 197.
  12. 12.Len Sperry, “The Somatic Dimension in Healing Prayer and the Conversion Process,” Journal of Christian Healing 21:3 & 4 (1999) 47—62.
  13. 13.Gelpi, The Conversion Experience.
  14. 14.Ibid., 42—3.
  15. 15.Walter Conn, The Desiring Se(f Rooting Pastoral Counsellng and Spiritual Direction in Seif—Transcendence (New York: Paulist Press, 1998) 5.
  16. 16.Vicktor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logo therapy (New York: Knopf 1955).
  17. 17.Conn, The Desiring Self 175.
  18. 18.Ibid., 36.
  19. 19.William Spohn, Go and Do Likewise. Jesus and Ethics (New York: Continuum, 2000) 40.
  20. 20.20 Lonergan, Method in Theology.
  21. 21.21 Gelpi, The Conversion Experience.
  22. 22.22 Sperry, “Spiritual Counseling and the Process of Conversion”; Sperry, “The Somatic Dimension in Healing Prayer and the Conversion Process.”
  23. 23.Howard Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, rev. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1984).
  24. 24.Richard McBrien, Catholicism, new ed. (San Francisco: Harper San­Francisco, 1994) 926.
  25. 25.25 James Keenan, Virtues for Ordinary Christians (Kansas City, Mo.:Sheed &Ward, 1996).
  26. 26.26 Bernard Haring, The Virtues of an Authentic ~ A Celebration of Christian Maturity (Liguori, Mo.: Liguori, 1997)
  27. 27.27 Waish, Essential Spirituality.
  28. 28.28 James Masterson, The Reai Se(fA Developmental Self and Object Relations Approach (New York: Brunner/Mazei, 1985); James Masterson, The Personality Disorders (Phoenix: Zieg/Tucker, 2000).
  29. 29.29 James Keenan, “How Catholic Are the Virtues?” America 176 (June<7, 1997) 17.
  30. 30.30 Ibid.
  31. 31.31 St. John Caspian as quoted in Timothy Freke, Encyclopaedia of Spirituality (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2000) 56.
  32. 32.Ibid., 54.